How a shelter dog is made

Ian Dunbar talks about how dogs become shelter dogs.

The message in this short video is vital for anyone who is getting or has a puppy, works with shelter or rescue dogs, or anyone considering adopting a shelter or rescue dog.

Creative Commons License (Photo credit: bk2000)

Teach your dog to Shake Hands

This is a great trick to teach your canine companion; what better way for him to greet a new human friend than with the shake of a paw? Shaking hands is a relatively easy trick to train, but as with everything else it may take a little patience. There are a few ways to train the behavior.

Method One

If your pup likes to use his paws to get to things, this method may work the best for you:

Step One: Place a treat in your palm and pin it down with your thumb. Allow your dog to investigate.

Step Two: Your dog may sniff, but just ignore this. As soon as he paws at your hand, mark the behavior with a click or a word such as “Yes” or “Good,” then give a treat with your other hand. This is important!

Step Three: Repeat step two until he is automatically pawing at your hand every time you offer it.

Step Four: Now try offering your hand in the same position, minus the treat; if he paws, great! And remember, keep giving your dog his treat with your other hand. If he doesn’t paw at your hand this time, go back to step two until the behavior is a little stronger.

Step Five: Once your pup is pawing at your hand without the treat, try moving to an open, flat hand. If he paws, mark it and treat as always! He’s getting the hang of it now.

Step Six: When he’s comfortable with this, you can add a verbal cue such as “Shake!” to the behavior by saying your cue then offering your hand.

Step Seven: Reduce the treats he gets gradually, until he’ll shake your hand on cue with no reward.

Don’t forget to treat once in a while to keep the behavior strong!

Method Two

Another way to teach this behavior is by physically taking the dog’s paw into your hand.

Step One: Say your cue (such as “Shake!”), gently lift your dog’s paw with your hand and immediately mark this with a click or a word such as “Yes” or “Good”, and give her a treat.

Step Two: Repeat step one; this can take a different amount of time depending on your pup, but expect to do a few sessions of just step one.

Step Three: Eventually, your dog will respond to your cue word by raising her paw without your hand!

These two methods should help you on your way to teaching your pooch this classic trick. Enjoy!

Creative Commons License photo credit: Bob B. Brown

Best Pets Guide to Crate Training Your Dog

Guess what? Dogs have to be taught to like their crates! Here are a few ways we get new dogs settled into their crate homes:

  • Feed all of your dog’s meals and special treats in the crate. This includes stuffed Kongs, bully sticks, bones and chews, as well as any “just because” treats or table scraps. (If your dog is refusing to enter the crate, don’t force her in or close her in while she eats — just put the food in the back of the crate for a week or two, then gradually start closing the door while she eats.)
  • For the first 2-3 weeks after getting a new dog or puppy, expect lots of whining and crying while she’s in the crate. Do NOT open the crate door if the dog is barking, whining or pawing at the crate door. Wait for even one second of silence. If your hand is on the crate door and the dog puts her paws on it or begins barking, withdraw your hand and wait for one second of silence/paws off before attempting to open the door again.
  • Always leave your dog or puppy with as many stuffed chew toys (Kongs full of kibble and canned food, sterilized bones with peanut butter, etc.) as possible when you put him in the crate. Save an extra-special treat or Kong to deliver right as you’re walking out the door, so he associates you leaving with wonderful things.
  • Unless you have a puppy with poor bladder control or an adult dog who eats blankets and stuffing (which could create a medical emergency), provide a soft bed or blanket in the crate. Test an older dog or puppy by leaving a blanket in the crate while you’re home to monitor them; if they chew or destroy it, go without. Very young puppies can have a towel the first few days as they settle in — but be aware most WILL use the towel as a “diaper” for accidents and you will need to remove it eventually to achieve housetraining.
  • Pick up whatever toys/treats/food your dog hasn’t finished when you arrive home, and quietly put one in the back of the crate later in the day for your dog to find.
  • Use the crate. Keep crate time short and pleasant (lots of GOOD food and treats) at first. Many people give up after a week of listening to their dog whine and bark, declaring, “The dog doesn’t like the crate.” This creates a dog who not only won’t stay in a crate, but has a difficult time being boarded, and who is less welcome on your travels. We have to teach the dog that being in the crate is a good thing.
  • New dogs and puppies should stay in the crate at least one hour per day while you are home. Otherwise, the puppy or dog learns that you only put him in the crate when you leave — not a good thing! This also teaches your new dog or puppy that he doesn’t have to be in the crate when you’re there — not good if you ever need to crate your dog because of visitors or for a medical reason.
  • If your dog is uncomfortable in his crate, but you must leave him there while you’re gone, have someone come every 3-4 hours to let the dog out to relieve itself, and provide re-fills of the tasty treats in the crate. Never leave a puppy under 14 weeks in a crate longer than 1-2 hours, and no longer than 3-4 hours until six months. From there, you can gradually increase crate alone time to 8 hours, if need be.
  • RED FLAGS: If your dog is barking in the crate for a solid two hours or longer (use an audio or video recorder to verify if you’re out of earshot), drooling excessively or damaging the crate or herself (bloody nose or paws), STOP using the crate and contact both your veterinarian and a qualified dog behavior professional. Continuing to crate a dog who is severely anxious can result in both physical and psychological harm to the dog!

Tip: What to look for in the parents of your puppy

French Bulldog mama and trio of pups 11 days oldCreative Commons Licensephoto credit: janiejonesmt

So you’re ready to get your next puppy, and have done your research in choosing a breeder. Or maybe you’re about to pluck a puppy from a [intlink id=”44″ type=”post”]shelter or rescue[/intlink] out of a litter that arrived with its mother. Of course you will want to know as much about your new puppy’s upbringing as possible, and when purchasing from a breeder, this includes meeting the sire and dam in person. As puppies aren’t ready to be placed into their new homes until eight weeks or so, that should leave you plenty of time to visit with the litter and parents, when possible.

Here’s what to watch for in the sire and dam of your new pup:

  • Are they friendly? By friendly, we don’t mean tail wagging and sniffing and jumping all over you. That’s arousal. We mean, is the dog eager to be held, petted by you or interested in playing a game with you after an initial greeting? Or does he or she wander off and ignore you? (Or worse, stay in a corner and bark?) A dog with little social reaction to humans often won’t tolerate handling. If the dog is interacting in a gentle, attentive way with the breeder or foster person but not you, that’s fine — so long as the dog isn’t actively avoiding you or displaying overt signs of aggression, such as barking or growling.
  • Do they live in the house? If either the sire or dam lives primarily outdoors, or in a kennel, beware. There’s usually a reason the breeder or foster parent doesn’t want the dog in the house — regardless of what he or she tells you.
  • Are they mature? An immature sire or dam (younger than 2 years) may have hidden health problems that haven’t yet surfaced. When buying from a breeder, be sure the stock has been health tested for diseases common to the breed, and that the breeder’s contract covers the pup for inherited diseases for a minimum of two years.
  • Do they appear to be in good health? Of course you will take your new puppy to the vet almost immediately after bringing him or her home, but picking a puppy whose sire or dam is ill or in poor condition means your pup’s immunity may also be compromised.
  • Do you like the parents? Listen to your gut — if something seems off about either parent, or you find yourself worrying about either parent’s behavior, look elsewhere. While training and environment certainly play a part, your puppy will inherit traits from both parents! Don’t feel pressured to take a puppy whose parents you wouldn’t take home.

Free puppy training download from Dr. Ian Dunbar

martywoodswebtmDr. Ian Dunbar is giving away his book, “After You Get Your Puppy,” as a free download during the month of January!

If you are thinking about getting a puppy, or already have a puppy, be sure to download your copy today.

Halloween Adoption Event, Pet Costume Party on Oct. 25

There’s no need to wait until Oct. 31 to celebrate Halloween! Come watch local adoptable pets show off spooky and spectacular Halloween costumes at the University Mall on East State St. in Athens, Ohio on Saturday Oct. 25, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Local pets will have an opportunity to strut their stuff in this year’s most pet-acular Halloween fashions during the University Mall’s Pet Halloween Costume Contest at 1 p.m. The entry fee is $5 and half of the proceeds will benefit the Athens County Humane Society. All dogs, cats and other small animals are welcome. Prizes will be awarded. Applications to enter the contest can be picked up at the University Mall in the main entrance. Event day registration also accepted.

Trainers from Best Pets Dog Training LLC will be available to answer your dog or puppy training questions from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. A cat behaviorist will also be on-site to answer questions and give tips on how to introduce your new cat to your household, other pets, etc., and how to stop unwanted kitty behaviors. Local pet groomer Courtney Tuck will also be in attendance to offer guidance and information about grooming.

Athens County has many cats that are looking for a “forever home.” Adoptable cats can be viewed at the ACHS Petfinder site and some will make an appearance at the event dressed in Halloween attire.

As Halloween nears and the weather gets colder, kitten season is fortunately coming to an end. Everyone has heard of the dog days of summer, but you are probably not familiar with kitten season. According to The Humane Society of the United States, “Kitten season is the time of year when cats give birth, flooding animal shelters across the nation with homeless litters. Kitten season starts in early spring and runs through fall, lasting from March to November.”

Kitten season places a lot of strain on humane societies and poses many challenges for staff members, volunteers, and cats in their care. Resources such as food, space, and money are always limited especially during kitten season when shelters are often filled to capacity.

Fortunately you can help support the Athens County Humane Society and possibly adopt a cat too. If you are looking for a four-legged companion who will stay by your side through thick and thin, then you will definitely want to come to the Athens County Humane Society adoption event sponsored by the University Mall and WOUB on Saturday, Oct. 25.

Friends of the Dog Shelter (Athens County) will also be at the event with a few of their adoptable dogs. If you intend to adopt a cat please bring a carrier for safe transportation to your home. No cats will be permitted to leave the event without a carrier.

If you wish to volunteer with ACHS, you will be able to sign up during the event. For additional information: Visit the ACHS website at, e-mail (Subject: Adoption Event) or call (740) 592-6047 and leave a message.

Teach your dog to lie down

269/365 Sleepy Heads

Teaching your dog to lie down is a relatively simple task. Start with some tasty treats your dog loves, and in a location your dog is already comfortable. Smaller dogs can first learn this task on a sofa or soft chair, if need be.

Grab a big handful of treats. Ask your dog to sit or lure her into a sit by holding a treat above her nose, just out of reach. As soon as your dog sits, feed one little treat, then put your fist with the remaining treats right on her nose. (It’s OK if she sniffs or licks the treats — that’s the goal!)

Keeping your fistful of treats touching her nose, slowly lower your hand down — not out — to the ground. It’s important that you don’t pull your hand out away from your dog, or she will stand up and follow your fist. Try to draw a straight line from your fist down to the ground.

When your dog’s elbows touch the ground, say “Good down!” and open your hand and feed the treats. Repeat until your dog will lie down with your fist full of six, five, four, three, two, one and then no treats. You will still feed treats even when your dog is lying down for an empty fist — you’ll just pull those treats out of a pocket, your other hand, or off a nearby table, instead.

What if your dog stands up while you’re trying to teach Down? Say nothing, and show her the treats, then start over with your hand on her nose. As soon as her back feet go up, your fist with treats should go away. She’ll soon figure out to keep the treats where she can sniff them, she needs to stay down.

Creative Commons License photo credit: stuartpilbrow

Adopting your dream dog

Whether you choose a puppy, adult dog, purebred or mixed breed, male or female, here’s a quick checklist to help you find the dog of your dreams:

  • Make a list. Write down all the qualities of your favorite dog of all time, both good and bad.
  • Rank these qualities in order of importance, from “must have” to “can’t stand.” This will help you narrow the field of choices.
  • Think about what you want to do with your new dog. Will he or she primarily be a companion? Agility dog? Hiking partner? Spend some time envisioning what life with your new dog will be like, both indoors and out.
  • Insist on good health. Regardless of where you acquire your dog, make health among your top priorities. Even the most beautiful, sweet, athletic-looking dog can be a heartbreaking and wallet-draining experience if his or her health is poor.
  • Choose a breeder or rescue with care. Do your research before visiting the shelter or calling the breeder! After you’ve seen your potential new fur friend is not the time to be negotiating on issues such as temperament, health, and ethical breeding practices.
  • Get expert help. When in doubt, ask a professional trainer or behavior consultant to accompany you to meet your new potential family member. A professional trainer can help you weed out unscrupulous breeders or rescuers and head off any potential behavior issues.

Teach your dog his name

Let’s teach our dogs the most important word they’ll ever hear: their names. The good news is, this simple, life-saving word can be taught in literally a matter of minutes.

All you’ll need to do is grab your dog, a leash (if you need it to keep him nearby), and 50 or so really, really good treats. I’m not talking about dog biscuits or those pre-packaged, food coloring-filled store-bought treats — we mean business here. I’m talking about hot dogs, chicken, turkey, pieces of salami, roast beef, and the like. The good stuff. The stuff you were always told not to feed your dog from the table. Anything your dog would love to get his little paws on counts. (Obviously, check with your vet if your dog has dietary or medical issues.)

You don’t need to use big treats — slices or bits the size of your pinky nail work just fine for even the largest dogs. This is a treat your dog loves, remember?

If you want to go high-tech with your training, get a clicker as well. Remember to condition your dog to the clicker before getting started, if it’s your first time using one. If you don’t have a clicker, no worries — with this exercise, you can simply skip that step in the following instructions:

  • Place the treats within easy reach for you, but where your dog cannot get them.
  • Say the dog’s name, click the clicker and feed a treat. Do not ask for a sit, do not call the dog from a distance, and do not repeat the dog’s name. Click as soon as you say the dog’s name and feed a treat.
  • If your dog isn’t paying attention, move backwards with the leash in your hand. Wait for the dog to look at you, say his name, then click and treat.
  • Repeat with all treats. Do this exercise at least twice a day in different locations.

Name 1
Name 2Name 3

Once you’ve done this exercise for a couple of sessions, test its effectiveness by saying your dog’s name while he’s not looking. His head should snap up and he should focus his big greedy brown eyes on you in hopes of getting a treat. If he does, congratulations! You’re ready to move him outside and repeat the process. If not, check that you’re still using a super-yummy treat in a non-distracting environment and repeat the exercise a few times before testing it again.