Is your dog stressed?

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Your dog may not have a 9-to-5, relationship issues or financial worries, but stress in dogs is real, and can have real implications on your dog’s ability to behave appropriately.

4PawsUniversity has a handy visual guide to Stress Signs in Dogs, which can help you read your dog’s signals before a bark, growl or bite happens. Pay particular attention to the avoidance signs. These are warning signs that your dog is not enjoying the interaction! Think of avoidance as a stop sign. When you see it, stop what you are doing and change tactics, or remove your dog from the environment that’s creating the avoidance behavior. There are a number of reasons a dog could be avoiding a particular person, dog or other scenario, but in any case it is a signal that should not be ignored.

If your dog is continually stressed by specific events or situations, behavior modification can help your dog learn to cope with stressful events before a bite, bolt or other unwanted behavior occurs.

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

Why Puppy Kindergarten is vital for your dog

KesselCookiesDo you have a puppy between eight weeks and three months old? Then there’s not a minute to lose: enroll your new friend in Puppy Kindergarten!

The American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior recently released a position statement recommending puppy socialization classes for puppies three months of age and younger. This recommendation is an exciting acknowledgment of what dog trainers and behaviorists have known for years — the first three months of a puppy’s life are too critical to ignore.

“Enrolling in puppy classes prior to three months of age can be an excellent means of improving training, strengthening the human-animal bond, and socializing puppies in an environment where risk of illness can be minimized,” according to the report. “Puppy socialization classes can offer a safe and organized means of socializing puppies and more quickly improve their responsiveness to commands.”

Our puppy classes cover basic obedience commands such as sit, down, stay, come when called; address issues such as chewing, jumping up, mouthing and pulling on leash; and also provide a supervised, controlled environment for continued socialization with other puppies and introductions to new people.

Enroll today and take the first step in a lifetime of enrichment for your puppy. To download your copy of the AVSAB report, click here.

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Is your dog ready for group classes?

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Dogs must be safe and feel safe around people and other dogs before they are ready to learn obedience and basic manners.

Review the categories below to see which best describes your dog:

READY – Is safe with all people and dogs.

NEEDS IMPROVEMENT – Is safe with all people, but requires caution around other dogs (snarling, snapping, growling or lunging at other dogs).

NEEDS IMPROVEMENT – Snarling, snapping, growling or lunging at people or other dogs.

If your dog falls into the “needs improvement” category, he or she would benefit from [intlink id=”4″ type=”page”]in-home training[/intlink] before enrolling in group classes. Only dogs in the “ready” category may enroll in Agility, Basic Manners or Puppy Kindergarten class.

The 15-minute feeding schedule

Kibble faceWhat is the 15-minute feeding schedule?

It’s the simplest way to alter the way your dog interacts with you, with the least effort on your part.

If your dog is already on the 15-minute feeding schedule, pat yourself on the back, go grab some kibble and a clicker, and get to work on Charging The Clicker. If your dog turns up his nose at the idea of dinner as a reward, the 15-minute feeding schedule will work wonders.

What to do:
1. Check with your vet about feeding requirements. Most dogs will survive on the low end of the bag of kibble’s feeding recommendations with no ill effects, but if in doubt, ask your veterinarian. If you’re feeding substantially more than the low end suggestion, and your vet says it’s OK, cut back to the recommended amount over a period of days.
2. Pick up your dog’s food bowl. The days of filling the bowl in the morning and leaving it out all day are over. (“But he likes to eat overnight/while I’m gone/etc.!” Exactly… your dog is determining the food’s value, not you.)
3. Set a timer… for 15 minutes! (Or 20, if you’re feeling guilty.) Then, set out the normal portion for that meal. Whatever is still there after 15 minutes is picked up and returned to the bag. Do NOT save the uneaten portion for the next meal. The regular portion is set out at the next meal.

That’s it! Your dog may not eat at first, but soon he’ll realize there’s an expiration date on the food bowl, and it’s determined by YOU.

Soon you’ll see a happy, engaged response when you reach for the food bag, indicating that your dog views his kibble as a valuable resource. And once you control the resources, you can control the dog.

Creative Commons License photo credit: mrdorkesq

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.

Roundup: Your adolescent dog

A roundup of articles to help you and your pup sail through the choppy waters of adolescent months.

Creative Commons License photo credit: lindyireland

Three simple strategies for training your dog not to jump up

Day 2 of 365: Furry FriendTeaching your dog not to jump up on you or your guests may seem like an impossible task, especially if you have a dog who loves people (and people who love dogs)! How many times have your guests been greeted at the door by your overenthusiastic canine’s nose and front feet, while you haplessly shout “No! Down! Stop it!” in the background? Or you meet a friend while walking your dog, your dog jumps up, and your friend praises and pets the dog, and says, “Oh, it’s OK, I love dogs!”?

Let’s work on changing that scene with three simple strategies for training your dog not to jump on people. You’ll have the most success with your dog if you use these approaches in combination with one another.

Strategy Number One: Ignore the jumping. Unless your dog weighs more than 60 lbs. or is using his mouth when he jumps, ignoring jumping up is the fastest way to permanently make it go away. Dogs jump up to get your attention — so stop giving it to them! Pushing your dog down, yelling “No!”, kneeing him in the chest, stepping on his back toes, bopping him on the head or any other interaction you can think of are a “score” in the needy dog’s book, and make him even more likely to jump next time. (After all, if a dog wants something, what’s the first thing he has to get? Your attention.) To instruct others on how to completely ignore your jumping dog, ask them to turn their backs, cross their arms and look up at the ceiling until all four of your dog’s feet are on the floor.

Strategy Number Two: Manage the behavior (of both people AND dogs). The doorbell rings — where is your dog? Rushing, barking, to the door, waiting to pounce the minute it’s opened? Before you answer the door, grab a leash and put it on your dog. Then use the leash to keep the dog out of jumping up range, even tethering your dog in a secure location if necessary. This strategy is a must if your dog is big, your guests don’t like dogs, or your dog mouths and bites when he or she jumps. On the street, keep enough distance between your dog and anyone unlikely to follow your rules so the jumping isn’t reinforced (and follow Strategy Number Three).

Strategy Number Three: Teach your dog an incompatible behavior. A sitting dog isn’t jumping up — simple as that. Work on improving your dog’s sit or down at the door while no guests are there, and on walks while no one’s around. Then you can ask for and reward a sit or down during progressively more difficult trials: You ring the doorbell, you pretend to greet a guest, enlist a friend or family member to play the guest’s part, etc. When the time comes, have really great treats handy and either you or your guest can ask your dog to sit or down BEFORE the dog jumps. Ask people not to pet your dog unless he is sitting or lying down.

Like everything else in dog training, consistency is key. Teach everyone in your family these strategies, and soon your pup will have one more feather in his good manners cap.

photo by: tentwo.teneight

How old should my puppy be before I start training?

“How old does my puppy have to be before I can begin training?”

This is a question I am asked often. The puppy in this video is 10 weeks old; but you don’t even have to wait that long! “Training” starts the day you bring your new dog or puppy home to live with you — dogs are learning all the time. This is why it is easier to prevent problems and bad habits than to solve them later.

(Check out our Puppy Kindergarten class in Athens!)

But what most people mean when they ask this question is, “How soon can I expect my puppy to start performing tricks and basic obedience behaviors?” Happily, the answer is the same — immediately. Clicker training is an easy and fun way to accomplish this.

Finding the best name for your puppy

Tenze As Pup 1

I had a terrible time naming my latest German Shepherd puppy. She came to me somewhat unexpectedly; all my previous puppies were named well in advance, or at least, I had several good ideas. But this time, only two weeks had elapsed between the time I talked to my breeder about her and the time I picked her up (the advantages of finding and sticking with a good breeder)!

After wracking my brain for three weeks, I asked a friend who is a language buff to supply some ideas. Bingo! We christened her Tänzer, German for “dancer” — Tenze for short. If the idea of foreign names or language appeals to you, Babel Fish Translation is a handy tool. Combing your new puppy’s pedigree, if she has one, is also a great way to come up with names.

Of course, your new puppy does not require a name in the native tongue. There are a few good sites to assist you in choosing a name, such as Bow Wow Meow and Pet Names World, which will allow you to search by gender, type of pet and genre.

Thinking about themes can be helpful, as well. Ask your breeder whether he or she has a theme for this litter. A breeder friend of mine gave her second litter apple-themed names. Science fiction, literature, mythology and history are all good sources of fun and unique names. And don’t worry about choosing a foreign-language name that isn’t directly related to your dog’s heritage; there are plenty of exotic-sounding names in whatever language you like best.

Lastly, when you think you’ve chosen a name, spend some time saying it out loud — even shouting it down the street! Don’t fret if you end up changing it after some time has passed with your new puppy, as they can learn a new name with a little training.