- “Adolescent Changes” From Dog Star Daily. No, you’re not losing your mind — the cute puppy who would never leave your side is now blowing you off and stealing from the trash. Learn what to expect, and take heart. A well-behaved adult dog is just around the corner!
- “Surviving Your Puppy’s Adolescence” Trainer Tehani Mosconi provides you with tips and tricks of the trade.
- “How to Calm Your Dog by Playing Tug” Nan Arthur at KarenPryorClickerTraining.com offers a comprehensive look at the game of tug, which many trainers (myself included) agree is a wonderful energy burner for young dogs. Arthur shows you how to choose a good tug toy, rules for play and how to teach a quick, safe release.
- Is Your Dog Ready for Agility Training?” If you’re thinking about agility to keep your young monster occupied, Sarah tosses out questions to ponder before beginning a training program.
- Your adolescent dog and the dog park The Association of Pet Dog Trainers offers three articles geared toward determining whether your local dog park is a good fit for your dog, including “Dog Park Etiquette,” “Pros and Cons of Dog Parks,” and “What Makes a Good Dog Park (PDF).”
- “Safety Tips for Running With Your Dog” A tired dog is more often a good dog. This article from Runtheplanet.com offers a number of health and safety tips for getting your partner into shape.
- “When To Seek Help With Your Dog” Sarah talks about how to tell whether your dog’s behavior is more than just adolescent rowdiness.
Invisible fencing may seem like a good idea on the outset, but I believe the risks outweigh the benefits. Below are five reasons I think these fences aren’t the best option for containing your dog.
- You still have to train the dog. Many people assume an invisible or underground fence is “plug ‘n’ play” — that is, you simply install it, plop the collar on your dog, and let him play to his heart’s content. This is not the case (as the reputable underground fence dealers will tell you). The dog still must be trained to accept the fence’s boundaries. But the assumption that it is an “easy” way to contain a dog makes me question whether the potential owner is really willing to put effort into the dog’s care and training (i.e., regular walks, obedience), as well as make sacrifices (e.g., increased cost and imperfect landscaping) to accommodate the dog.
- Electric shock. As far as I know, all varieties of invisible fencing operate on the premise that the dog wears a collar which produces electric shock when the boundary line is approached. Some dogs are so determined to make it through the fence that the shock level must be turned up unusually high. I have seen instances in which a dog wearing a fence collar was inadvertently shocked by the owner’s television, computer or vacuum. (Think of how healthy this is for the poor dog’s mental state!) I have also heard horror stories and seen pictures of third-degree burns caused by fence collars that have malfunctioned. Beware of the underground fencing dealer who tells you this can’t/won’t happen — after all, he’s there to sell you something, not to look out for your dog’s well-being. That’s your job.
- Dogs can — and will — go through an invisible fence. And once they do, guess what? They won’t come back into the yard for fear of getting shocked; they aren’t stupid. They’re simply willing to take the shock the first time through to get whatever they’re after. And once they’re through, they’re free to chase other animals, get into fights, get hit by cars, be shot at, picked up by animal control, etc.
- Underground fencing does not keep anyone from entering your property. Therefore, children, cats, other dogs, wild animals and the like are free to come onto your property and tease or terrorize your dog. And dog thieves find underground fencing absolutely delightful — all they have to do is take the collar off the dog and go!
- This study linking use of or malfunctioning of underground fencing to serious biting incidents. Do we really need to make dog owners more subject to lawsuits and breed-specific legislation? Further reading: “Train With Your Brain” — Green Acres Kennel
Keep in mind this is my reasoning, and there are plenty of responsible trainers, rescuers and breeders who will place dogs in homes with invisible fencing. Also understand that a “real” fence can be a hallmark of lazy or irresponsible dog ownership and is certainly not a cure-all. But given the fact that regular exercise and training can eliminate the need for a fenced yard (a luxury) and given the variety of fencing options available, I’m inclined to discourage clients from using invisible fencing, for the reasons listed above.
What is “drive”?
Sometimes you’ll hear people talk about different types of drive in dogs, such as fight drive, play drive or prey drive. For our purposes, we’ll lump these together under the description, “the dog’s desire to perform certain behavior.”
Drive is important because it’s what makes the dog go! We can channel a dog’s drive to play with a toy into prerequisites for playing with that toy, such as a sit or down. Dogs who perform with speed and enthusiasm on the agility course are often said to have a lot of drive.
Drive versus arousal
We handlers and trainers love drive, especially in a working dog. However, there is a difference between drive and arousal.
Arousal in dogs means “an excited mental state.” Arousal, while useful in many situations in which dogs are asked to perform, also can be dangerous. Dog bites take place when a dog is aroused. Besides sometimes leading to aggressive behavior towards humans, arousal can also lead to fights between dogs. Leashed dogs that bark at other dogs during walks are often demonstrating arousal as a result of frustration.
Watch the two videos below to see the difference between drive and arousal.
So, if drive requires the dog to be aroused, how do we ensure what we have is drive, and not simply arousal? Answer: We want controllable, focused arousal.
Controllable, focused arousal = drive
By “focused,” we mean “attentive to the handler.” After all, dogs can focus on many things — cats, birds, other dogs — without ever acknowledging the handler’s existence!
Some of our clients have also birds, BirdCagesNow.com offers differen sizes of cages for your bird.
How to get drive
Let’s get started on few exercises to enhance your dog’s focus and drive.
First, we’ll teach our dogs to focus on us, even when something they want is at stake, using the Doggie Zen exercise. This exercise teaches our dogs to perform a required behavior (in this case, paying attention to us), before receiving a treat or other reward.
Second, we’ll show our dogs the benefits of allowing us to control their drive with the “Go Wild and Freeze” game. To play the game, grab some treats and a clicker and get your dog a bit riled — nothing crazy, your typical excited praise should be enough. Then, once the dog is excited, suddenly stop moving, avert your eyes and give your “quit” command (“That’s enough,” “Settle,” or “Take a break”). Click and treat as soon as your dog shows signs of settling. (If the treats rile your dog again, use lower-value rewards or replace them with soft praise and petting.) Then repeat, seeing how quickly you can get your dog riled and how fast he or she will respond to your “stop” request.
Third, we’ll add the “1-2-3 Game” to help lower-drive dogs get excited, and higher-drive dogs to contain themselves! Hold a treat just out of your dog’s reach and count slowly to three. If your dog attempts to jump or grab for the treat, remove your hand, then put it a little farther from his or her nose and start counting again from one. If your dog remains in place and doesn’t try to grab the treat, encourage him to “come get it” using “Go!” or another release cue after counting to three. “One… Two… Three… Go!” Some dogs will need the treat to be quite far from their noses at first.
In Part 2 next week, we’ll look at ways to increase your dog’s focus, as well as how to build your dog’s drive, and make your dog’s drive even more controllable.
This is my friend Tracy Custer (foster mom to my cattle dog Gimli — Tracy has a littermate), practicing with a few of her 11 (yes, 11) amazing rescued disc dogs.
Most of the moves you see here are used in freestyle competition, which involves the handler throwing to the dog, who catches and performs tricks to music. Awesome stuff.
The good news is, anyone with a clicker and a dog with a little bit of drive can participate in freestyle disc (and if you’re more into throwing than fancy footwork, there’s a distance competition, too).