Puppy Parent Tip Sheet

Georgie-with-ball-grassThere is no peak season for puppies, but my experience as a certified professional dog trainer and behavior consultant has shown summer to be one of the busier training times for young inquisitive canines. Any time is a good time for puppy training. Summer, though, has the added benefit of kids typically being out of school, which allows extra time for bonding and training with their pups. Kind of puts a brand new meaning to “dog days of summer,” doesn’t it?

Training is fun for inquisitive canines and their humans. Dogs are social animals. They want to interact with humans. Keeping things pawsitive sets the stage for quick learning on both ends of the leash. Following are pointers to make the most out of your training sessions. You may want to keep it handy on your phone or print it out to post on your refrigerator. 

Inquisitive Canine’s 9 Top Tips for Puppy Parents

Have realistic goals and expectations. Start small and work up to more challenging exercises. This may sound “uh, duh,” but it’s easy to forget in the all cuteness and excitement of puppyhood. Successful eye contact is a HUGE step for a puppy.

Keep training sessions short and sweet. Five minutes at a time! Take a cue from show business and leave ’em wanting more. Your inquisitive canine has a short attention span. Little by little, it will lengthen. There’s no need to try and cover more than a puppy can take in. (Oh, if only some other things in life were kept to five-minute intervals.)

It is best to train when your puppy is hungry – not stuffed after a meal nor famished. If puppy’s motivation is higher, the steeper the learning curve. Waiting until your dog is ravenous is unhealthy and unproductive, who can learn when they can’t think straight because they’re so hungry.

Use a variety of deliciously smelly treats. Mix it up. It will keep your inquisitive canine attentive and curious. *Make sure all foods are puppy appropriate and vet-approved. 

Take frequent “fun” breaks from training with a quick game of “fetch,” “follow me,” or “hide and seek.” Break time is part of a new behavior’s gestation. It allows the brain to refresh and clear itself.

Remember to think about your feedback and your timing. (The clicker really helps with this!) Feedback must be immediate. Period. Humans are capable of understanding delayed gratification, but this concept is often lost on pups. 

You must be present and alert if you expect your pup to be. That’s only fair, right? Clear your decks, turn off the phone, and give all your attention to your puppy.

Speak from your heart. Keep your tone of voice in mind. Positive and upbeat is the training tone. Dogs may not have large vocabularies, but they sure can understand tonal language.

Make training a part of your everyday routine, not a chore. Dogs flourish with learning and enriching their mind. Incorporating their training into your daily routine will yield great pawsitive results.

* * *

Wanna share pics and videos of your inquisitive canine? We invite you to post on our Facebook page.

Training Your Dog Not to Dig Digging

Ever spend an afternoon adding some color to your yard with bedding plants? And, then have your inquisitive canine dig them up before you could finish putting away the gardening tools? It, or something similar, probably has happened to all us canine loving folks. Maybe that fact doesn’t make you any less annoyed with your dog, but maybe the following tips will prevent any further dust ups in your garden. 

Hunting Cesar Chavez - Version 2
Not digging what your dog does to your garden? A few diversionary tactics may help.
  • Reward your inquisitive canine with a treat, praise, petting and/or a round of a favorite non-digging game whenever she/he is in the yard and leaving the dirt alone!
  • Provide enrichment! especially when your dog is left alone, to help prevent boredom related behaviors. Using interactive food toys, scavenger hunts and even creating a special digging pit can help direct energy to specific allowable areas – your dog will be too busy digging through through its own treasure chest or playing with its own games to care about digging in other areas.
  • Review your dog’s exercise routine. If you have an active dog with lots of energy, you’ll want to up the amount of exercise to ensure she/he is more relaxed (and wants to nap) when left alone. This includes other physical and mental activities besides walkies. Similar to humans tiring out after being at a computer all day, dogs can get pooped out after participating in a dog training class or other activity. 
  • Consider other options to being left outside: doggy daycare, pet sitters, dog walkers, getting together with a friend for doggy playdates, or trading dog-sitting duties with other dog guardians.
  • Re-evaluate your home environment: If your dog is more comfortable when indoors, consider creating a safe area of confinement inside your home. You can still use interactive toys for entertainment.
  • Use digging as a reward! Take your dog to an admissible area for digging, then use a phrase like “Go dig!” right before he does. If you put it on cue, you can then use the behavior of digging as a reward in areas your dog likes and that you won’t mind if it’s dug up. It also might come in handy if and when you need help preparing the soil in the garden.

The Inquisitive Canine Doggie Blog is written by Joan Mayer, a certified professional dog trainer based in Santa Barbara, California. Joan is also a human-canine relationship coach and frequently consults with Poncho, her 10-pound mutt who knows a lot about human and canine behavior.

* * *

Wanna share pics and videos of your inquisitive canine? We invite you to post on our Facebook page.

Basic Dog Training – Step #1

Chances are good you are reading this because you have a new family member – an inquisitive canine. Congratulations and welcome to your new family member! 

As a certified professional dog trainer and  behavior consultant, I take a pawsitive approach to dog training as an easy, simple, and fun way to enhance the everyday relationship between dogs and their guardians.

Libby is an excellent eye gazer.
Libby is an excellent eye gazer.

Dog Training Step #1 is a super-simple activity. (Maybe you are already doing it.)

Gaze into Each Other’s Eyes 

Have fun teaching your dog to look you in the eyes. Reward your dog with high-value yummy treats, petting and praise whenever s/he looks into your eyes.

  • Start out with a quick glance and then increase the duration to a few seconds.
  • Prompt your dog to look into your eyes with a happy voice.
  • Practice this in different locations, including while out on a walk.
  • Reward, reward, reward – Every time you gaze into each other’s eyes.

That’s it! I told you it was super easy.

But don’t underestimate its importance. This is the foundation to a long and rewarding relationship with your dog.

Poncho playing the Out of the Box Dog Training game.
Poncho playing the Out of the Box Dog Training game.

Dog Training Step #1 is taken from the Out of the Box Dog Training Game I created. The Out of the Box Dog Training Game enables benefiting from the time you and your dog already spend together by motivating your dog to develop good manners, while limiting and preventing inappropriate habits. You also will discover fun activities that can strengthen your bond and new ways to multi-task in your daily routine so that you can spend more quality time with your dog. The game is perfect for one-on-one with your dog or with your family and friends. Perfect for any number of human and canine players, these training activities are fun for everyone involved. Anyone can play; no prerequisite required. Each activity can be customized for specific needs and adapted to different learner levels to continue advancing your dog’s skills.

* * *

Wanna share pics and videos of your inquisitive canine? We invite you to post on our Facebook page.

Yellow Vest: Service Dog or Canine Fashion Statement?

No matter your politics, I think you’ll join me in saluting the United States Department of Justice for its clarification on service animals – FAQs on Service Animals. As a certified professional dog trainer and behavior consultant, I see SO much inconsistent information on the subject. “I have heard stories  from well-intentioned dog lovers  — and even witnessed — what I would consider law-stretching and boundary-crossing. Some of these actions risk endangering the public, and putting dogs at risk too. Plus, they could create situations where laws would be changed that negatively impacted those that really need services dogs.”  We encourage you to read through all of the FAQs on Service Animals.

This guide dog is considered a service animal because it is trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of an individual with a disability.
This guide dog is considered a service animal because it is trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of an individual with a disability.

Written in clear, concise language, the FAQs on Service Animals starts with the basic questions “What is a service animal?” and moves into the more complex, such as “What does under control mean? Do service animals have to be on a leash? Do they have to be quiet and not bark?” (Yes, that is one question. Question #27, to be exact.)

You’ll find surprising information, too. Check out  Question #17. “Does the ADA require that service animals be certified as service animals?” The answer is: “No.” Well shoot, I got this one wrong! “Covered entities may not require documentation, such as proof that the animal has been certified, trained, or licensed as a service animal, as a condition for entry.” And you may be surprised to learn that service animals don’t need to wear a yellow vest or an ID tag, special harness, or any color vest, for that matter.

See if you know the answers to these questions. Check your answers here: FAQs on Service Animals.

  • #31 – Are stores required to allow service animals to be placed in a shopping cart?
  • #32 – Are restaurants, bars, and other places that serve food or drink required to allow service animals to be seated on chairs or allow the animal to be fed at the table?
  • #33 – Are gyms, fitness centers, hotels, or municipalities that have swimming pools required to allow a service animal in the pool with its handler?

The DOJ clearly spells out the difference between service dogs and therapy dogs. Therapy dogs, sometimes called comfort or companion animals, provide comfort by being with a person and have not been trained to perform a specific job or task. But we think they should be able to pass one of the various 10-step evaluations such as the one provided by Love on a Leash to ensure they have the skills to be comfortable and polite in public. And, by the way, misrepresenting a dog as a service dog is pretty serious business. Don’t do it.

The Love on a Leash nonprofit is a wonderful resource for learning more about therapy dogs. And how your dog can become one. As a certified professional dog trainer and behavior consultant, I am eligible to administer the Love on a Leash. If you would like more information on the process, or would like your inquisitive canine to be tested, we invite you to contact us.

* * *

Wanna share pics and videos of your inquisitive canine? We invite you to post on our Facebook page.

Training Your Dog Not to Jump the Fence

Dogs are beautifully athletic animals and a joy to watch. But, when their prowess compels them to jump the backyard fence, it can be quite nerve wracking and frightening for their humans. Where did my inquisitive canine go? We live on a busy street, will she return safely? Will she return at all? 

small-pic-03As a certified professional dog trainer, I have worked with many dog guardians to find solutions for keeping their globetrotting inquisitive canines safe and secure. The first step to stop fence hopping is to create an inviting environment to motivate your dog to stay home. Here are some ways to accomplish this:

  • While a dog is learning to stay in the yard, it should always be supervised when left outside. Leaving such decisions to its own devices might result in a round of fence jumping. Setting your dog up for success is the best way to avoid disappointment and is key to successful dog training.
  • An enriching environment can include scavenger hunts, interactive food toys, chewies, bones and even a digging pit in your yard. Also make sure your dog is experiencing fun times with family members at home and not just on walks or other isolated times. If you’re so inclined, you might want to arrange doggy playdates at home so your dog doesn’t feel it necessary to jump the fence to set up its own rendezvous.
  • See if it’s possible to build a higher fence or plant a hedge where you live. This is a management step that may help prevent your dog from independently taking a tour of the neighborhood.

Now that your dog’s environment is secure, here are some dog training tips for coaching it to stay in the yard:

  • Teach your dog what the correct choice is and reward it for remaining on your property. Using high-value yummy food treats — ask your vet about pieces of human foods such as lean chicken, steak, fish, pork — or whatever motivation works best to positively reinforce desired behaviors from your dog. While a professional dog trainer can help you analyze the rewards you’re using, there are also some simple things you can do to discover what motivates your dog.
  • Reward this wanted behavior frequently. Once your dog is conditioned to stay in the yard, then reward it intermittently to ensure you’ve acknowledged it is making good choices. Remember, we can never be thanked enough for doing something someone else wants — especially when it’s as difficult as not going out to spend time playing with friends and neighbors.
  • Train necessary behaviors: “Coming when called” and “Leave it!” might be two behaviors that would come in handy should your dog take flight. Using the first one if it takes off, and if it doesn’t come back then use your backup cue “Leave it!” This is the cue I use for when I want a dog to stop what he or she is doing and come to me. If you’ve ever taught your dog to “touch target,” you could use that as well — keeping a target in your hand (or targeting your hand itself) while she or he comes and touches it with its paw or nose.

I’m guessing most inquisitive canines live in homes and neighborhoods that are quite appealing. It’s now wonder dogs want to get out and explore. With a little planning, training, and forethought, you should be able to motivate your dog to stay and play at home.

* * *

Wanna share pics and videos of your inquisitive canine? We invite you to post on our Facebook page.

Water Safety Training Tips for Your Dog

The dog days of summer are right around the corner. Is your inquisitive canine ready for beating the heat? By that, I mean is your dog (and you!) water safety ready?

As a professional dog trainer, I often meet people who assume all dogs possess an innate ability to swim. Not true! Particularly the brachycephalic (short-snout) breed.

To ensure the best-est wettest possible summer ever, here are some water safety tips and reminders.

  • Make sure your dog knows how to swim. If you’re not sure, accompany it into a pool, lake, or ocean, and you’ll know soon enough. Don’t force the dog into the water.

    Water Safety photo
    It’s important that dogs know how and where to enter and exit pools. Teach them where the steps are.
  • Even if your dog is used to swimming in one location or type of water, it’s still a good idea to introduce her/him to new places as if you are teaching for the first time.
  • Be mindful of water conditions your dog can’t judge, such as a pool’s chlorine level, temperature, and high surf. You may want to test the waters first.
  • Rinse your dog after swimming, no matter what the water condition. Take the time to rinse properly. Wipe down the ears and other areas that may be sensitive. And, what a perfect time to check for ticks.
  • Teach your dog how to get in and OUT of the water. Make sure they have easy access to an escape route, especially in a pool or coming onto a boat.
  • For dogs learning how to swim, consider using a life-vest to help them stay afloat and get comfortable in the water. Keep in mind it’s always important to gauge you dog’s comfort level and to use caution by not pushing beyond their threshold. Gone are the old days of being thrown into the deep end to learn to swim.
  • If a dog knows how to swim, its owner should, too. If something should happen, the owner will need to help and avoid to bad situations.

No matter what your summer plans are, here’s to a season of fun in the sun and paw-raising times.

Last one in the pool is a rotten egg!

Wanna share pics and videos of your inquisitive canine? We invite you to post on our Facebook page.

Understanding an Older Dog’s Change in Behavior

Dear Inquisitive Canine,

My dog is is 12 years old and we’ve been best friends since she was a puppy. In the last six months or so, Violet has been acting very strange. She used to love snuggling together while watching a DVD, but now she growls at me if I pet her. We used to love ruff-housing and wrestling. Recently, Violet bit me quite hard and scared me.

As dogs age, it's natural for behavior to change. They slow down, and their senses aren't as sharp. A sharp, sudden change in behavior could indicate a medical issue. Photo by Elizabeth Tuz.
As dogs age, it’s natural for behavior to change. They slow down, and their senses aren’t as keen. A sharp, sudden change in behavior could indicate a medical issue. Photo by Elizabeth Tuz.

Also, it seems she doesn’t listen to me any longer. Doesn’t come when called; won’t follow commands.

It’s not only the bites that have hurt me. My feelings are very hurt. I’m losing my best friend and I don’t know what to do.

-Carole, aka, Violet’s Bestie

Dear Carole,

Thank you for reaching out and connecting with us. We can only imagine how traumatic this situation is for you and your family — including Violet. We know you are in a lot of pain, and I’m sorry Violet has hurt you.

Our first response is to suggest having Violet evaluated by her veterinarian. Sudden changes in behavior in any animal can be cause for concern. Her age, not wanting to play like she used to, and other indicators may point to a medical condition. If it turns out Violet is in perfect health, then behavioral aspects can be addressed.

Meanwhile, if she is uncomfortable or what she once found motivating has changed, you’ll want to follow her lead and interact on her level. Continue your keen observation skills: watch her body language and how she responds and interacts with her environment. Maybe change playtime to more gentle games. How about teaching her some new tricks? She might enjoy learning to wave (paw raise) or hand-targeting (touch her nose to the palm of your hand). It’s important to keep her engaged in mental and physical activities.

Thanks again for writing. We’ll be thinking about you and Violet. And, please keep us posted. We love updates.

Joan and Poncho love making new friends. Post snapshots and videos of your favorite Inquisitive Canine on their Facebook page

Training your dog to make better choices at a Memorial Day BBQ

Memorial Day is right around the corner, and to a lot of inquisitive canines that means one thing – BBQs! Meat morsels and drippings … wonderful smells … gathering around the open fire and cooking just like the domestic dogs’ prehistoric ancestors did.

IC_Memorial Day BBQ_052215
Bella and her human prepare for a Memorial Day BBQ by rehearsing “down-stay.” Bella stayed on the other side of the deck from the BBQ, pictured in front right.

As a certified professional dog trainer and  behavior consultant , I think this is the perfect time to help set the stage for keeping inquisitive canines happy and safe while either attending or co-hosting a BBQ or other summer event.

Reward  for ignoring “forbidden items,” especially the BBQ! Say your dog walks by the BBQ and decides to stay away. Whether you’ve asked them to or not, they should be thanked. Say “thank you” with anything they find motivating, such as praise, petting, a game of fetch or tug, and even a yummy treat to make an impact.

Teach “down-stay” in one location: Train your dog to perform a settle down-stay on a bed, towel or mat. Reward for being on their “magic carpet.” If their nose starts to lead them toward the the BBQ, call them and/or ask  them to “leave it!” As soon as they reverse direction from the BBQ, reward heavily. Praise, petting, fetch, or a treat.  If they opt for pushing the limits, send them indoors, i.e. remove from the “fun.” After a minute or so, allow them to return to their magic carpet and reward them for being there. They should soon learn this distinction: “Hmm, if I stay on my magic carpet I get treats and I get to hang out. If I wander toward the hot thing with all the meat, I end up inside … that’s no fun.”

Dogs are very clever and soon learn what the better choice is.

A second helping of BBQ Do’s and Don’ts:

  • DO spend some time teaching and practicing safe BBQ behaviors with your dog before guests arrive.
  • DO arrange your dog’s environment. Maybe an outdoor enclosure or other barricade to the BBQ is necessary.
  • DO keep your dog inside the house or tethered to those who aren’t manning the grill, if barricading outside isn’t possible.
  • DON’T leave your dog alone with the BBQ – ever. Paws, muzzles, mouths and tongues burn easily and badly!
  • DON’T create an unintentional “time-out” by sequestering your dog to an area without anything to do while everyone else is having fun.

While teaching your dog to be the #1 BBQ Master, remember to combine the basics with an emphasis on rewarding any and all behaviors you want. Also keep in mind that dress rehearsals are key, especially since BBQs and all of the chaos of daily life can keep us preoccupied.

Wanna share pics and videos of your inquisitive canine? We invite you to post on our Facebook page.

When Worlds Collide – Leashed and Unleashed Dogs

Dear Inquisitive Canine,

I always walk my dog on her leash. On most days, while Daisy and I are walking in the neighborhood, at least one unleashed dog confronts us. This bothers Daisy so much she lunges and barks like crazy at the unleashed dog. I’ve worked a bit, so now Daisy is a bit more friendly, but still … Please help!

Daisy’s Mom

Dear Daisy’s Mom,

Thank you for writing in! First, let us tell you that Daisy’s response to unleashed dogs is not unusual at all. We appreciate questions such as these, since there are many in your shoes. The following quick tips can help with enjoying your leash-walks. Poncho and Ferris Out for Walkies

Interrupt and redirect! An easy and fun game you can play is “Find it! Say “find it” when she alerts to another dog, then toss a small treat on the ground in the direction you want your dog do walk. The intention of the game is to redirect her attention elsewhere while making it fun and rewarding – more than barking and lunging at the other dogs. (Using a treat she’d do backflips over would make an even bigger impact!) With proper timing and consistency Daisy should begin to create an association of “other dogs” = “fun”! You’ll know she’s understanding the game when she sees another dog and then looks at you almost as if asking “Are we going to play now?” If your inquisitive canine is more of an obedience expert, you can play the same game, but in lieu of playing “find it,” you can run through Daisy’s gamut of “tricks.” The principle is the same in that every time another dog appears life gets better for her!

Keep it loosey-goosey! Leashes can be restrictive when dogs are trying to communicate with others – dogs and people. However, they’re important when in areas he or she can run off and get hurt or harm something else. Plus, in many areas it’s the law. To allow your dog freedom of speech in her innate language with the other pooch’s, avoid tightening up on the leash.

Allow your dog to speak! Domestic dogs have a language all their own. Allowing your dog the opportunity to speak her mind will help her convey her message to the other dog, and vice-versa. She might be using both her vocal and body language skills. Similar to when any two people are talking, especially in a language we’re not fluent in, it’s best to avoid interrupting. If you’re comfortable with it, drop the leash. Again, this allows her more control over her behavior – which we all want, right?

Learn to “speak dog”! In addition to allowing the dogs to communicate, you’ll want to take a foreign language course in “dog-talk.” This is helpful for watching your own pooch, as well as others you encounter – especially those who are unfamiliar. A dog whose body and face is relaxed and loose, tail wiggly-waggy in movement, mouth open with tongue possibly hanging out while walking towards you using a bouncy gait is more likely to be friendly. The complete opposite – body stiff, mouth closed with tense face, stiff gait, head downward but gazing towards you/your dog – is a dog you’d want to question – it doesn’t mean he or she would want to start a fight, but this type of language might be conveying more of a reserved greeting. When in doubt you can use the little trick of taking a handful of treats and tossing them at the other dog while you head off in another direction.

Paws and reflect: Make the experience fun and rewarding, versus stressful, and be prepared with a plan of action for those times you see another dog while on walks. Also, remember to allow Daisy to speak her mind when other dogs are around.With time, practice and consistency, you can make the experience a walk in the park – or wherever your the leash takes you.

Wanna share pics and videos of your inquisitive canine? We invite you to post on our Facebook page

A Dog Training Pop Quiz: Is Your “Home Alone” Dog Bored or Stressed?

Spring is in the air! Soon the dog days of summer will be here. What do the warmer weather and change of seasons mean for your inquisitive canine? Will he or she be spending more time alone? Will they have to entertain themselves? If there’s a sudden shift to routine and  your dog isn’t used to solitude, and doesn’t like it, there may be some behavioral issues coming down the pike.

Poncho and I developed this Home Alone quiz to help determine if your dog might be bored, be on the brink of isolation distress (a.k.a: separation anxiety), or just hunky dory with some new found solitude.

Q: Going through your ritual to leave for work and/or school, your dog:

  1. Lies on his or her bed, watching you get ready, relaxed.
  2. Begins pacing around back and forth, clinging to you.

    Footer-Testimonial
    Some dogs enjoy catching up on naps or gnawing on chew toys when left alone during the day.

Q: You head out the door and close it. Your dog:

  1. Stays behind, relaxed as if they’re saying “Have a nice day!”
  2. Whimpers, whines, and scratches at the door to go with you.

Q: You come home from being away for only a half hour or so. It appears your dog:

  1. Didn’t appear to care one way or another. He or she was happy when you got home, plus the food you left for them has been eaten up!
  2. Eliminated on the rug, chewed up the door and window frame, and left the bowl of food alone.

Q: You come home from being gone all day. It appears your dog:

  1. Didn’t appear to care one way or another. He or she was happy when you get home, plus the food you left for them has been eaten up!
  2. Eliminated on the rug, chewed up the door and window frame, and left the bowl of food alone, chewed up paws, and according to your neighbors barked and howled all day.
  3. Is excited to see you, as if running to say “Welcome home!” However, you notice that not only is the food in the bowl gone, but your dog went counter-surfing and dumpster diving in your kitchen, redecorated the living room by chewing up the couch and pillows, helped with laundry by dragging it all over the house and chewing up your new socks, and topped it off by re-landscaping the yard by digging up the flowers you just planted.

RESULTS: If you’ve answered mostly 1 for each question, then bravo to you! You’ve done a great job at teaching your dog to be independent and comfortable on his or her own! If you’ve answered mostly 2 for each question then we recommend you consult with a certified professional dog trainer and/or vet behaviorist to discuss signs and symptoms related to canine isolation distress. There are medications and behavior modification plans that can be implemented to help with these issues. If you’ve answered 3 to the last question, then consider your dog might be bored – scenarios such as this means your inquisitive canine is designing his or her own scavenger hunt! Providing enrichment is key to help prevent boredom related issues. Being passionate about this topic ourselves, we’ve blogged about it a lot! So click here to find out more about enrichment for dogs. Keep in mind that our canine companions are social animals. They enjoy the company of others and often do not do well when left alone – unless you condition them to do so. Taking the time to teach them independence and coping skills are key in raising a healthy and happy dog!

The Inquisitive Canine Doggie Blog is written by Joan Mayer, a certified professional dog trainer based in Santa Barbara, California. Joan is also a human-canine relationship coach and frequently consults with Poncho, her 10-pound mutt who knows a lot about human and canine behavior. Joan and Poncho love making new friends. Post snapshots and videos of your favorite Inquisitive Canine on their Facebook page