Homeschooling Your Dog: Inquisitive Canine Edition

Welcome to Fido’s Homeschooling DIY training program. Thank you for being an inquisitive dog guardian! As always, we are thrilled to share in your training adventures.

Why Homeschool your Inquisitive Canine?

inquisitive canine DIY dog trainingTraining is a lifetime endeavor – an important, ongoing part of the relationship between you and your dog. Whether homeschooling, participating in private training or online training , we want your learning experience to be fun, rewarding and successful! Both dogs and humans should enjoy working together as you practice your training exercises. So our approach focuses on setting your dog up for success, rewarding the behaviors you want, and using management to prevent unwanted behaviors from being practiced.

The Curriculum:

The upcoming series of posts will present some highlights from the Inquisitive Canine class curriculum. We’ll start by setting down the basics and then build upon these simple behaviors. We’ll also present explanations of important concepts to keep in mind while working with your pup not only during training, but also in ‘real world’ situations.

Learning Objectives:

Our goal is to offer you some homeschooling, DIY training exercises that are simple and doable.
At the Inquisitive Canine, we teach you to teach your dogs the skills they need in order to be happy, well-adjusted, well-behaved family members and companions. We do this through the use of simple, dog and people-friendly training techniques. We will share humane, positive reinforcement, reward-based training techniques, developed from the science of animal behavior. These scientifically based teaching methods are both easy to follow and effective. Plus they make learning fun and rewarding for all!

The FUNdamentals:

Inquisitive Canine Homeschooling Dog TrainingCreating positive learning experiences for both dog and guardian gets impressive results while also enhancing the overall bond you share. So, remember to take it easy and have fun with your dog! Just like us, dogs are individuals, and work at different paces. You’ll notice some lessons are easy to pick up immediately, while some cues may take a few sessions before you get to that aha! moment. A helpful tip here is to always go back to an easier level of teaching if your dog doesn’t understand what you’re requesting at first. With patience and consistency, you will help your dog build self-confidence. After all, learning new skills can and should be enjoyable and enriching. Think recess, not term paper!

Extra Credit:

Of course, if you’d like to go beyond the DIY approach with your Inquisitive Canine, we’d love to hear from you! Tell us about your needs, your goals and your furry friend and how we can help you. In our private and online training sessions, we focus on how you would like your dog to behave, and work towards those goals with guidance and encouragement. Contact us for more information or to get started today.

Tips for Adventuring Outdoors with Your Inquisitive Canine

While the world is continuing to change and present various challenges, many of us are going back to jobs or continuing to work remotely, caring for our human families, and keeping our four-legged loved ones safe too. In the midst of all this (and probably more), you may be looking for ways to maintain a sense of normalcy for yourself and those around you. The good news is that when it comes to our inquisitive canines, keeping indoor adventures fun and engaging, as well as finding fun in the great outdoors will be rewarding (pun fully intended!) for both of you. Here are a few helpful hints and tips to think about while adventuring with your best friend.

Set Yourself Up for Success Too!

First and most importantly, what we wish for you all is good health and peace of mind. For so many of us, things are difficult right now. If you’re making it through the day, doing your best to meet your basic needs -and your dog’s, please know that you are doing great! Now is not the time for perfectionism or self-criticism. Do the best you can. Ask for help when you need it. And remember, our dogs are still thrilled by our very existence!

Familiar, Yet Fun! 

If you’re looking to take things to the next level, it doesn’t require much to bring novelty to your dog’s world. Even if your walking route is familiar to your pup, you can still change it up. Think about what obedience and tricks practice you can add to your routine. For instance, consider cueing a “stay” or “wait” at every blind corner or crosswalk, or working on loose-leash walking for a block at a time, if not more. You can even ask your dog to spin or play dead at every third mailbox! How about a “royalty wave” as a way to say hello to others, from six feet away? If you’re not in the mood for new tricks and manners, what about a new dog walking harness, like the Happy Harness from our sister site, TransPaw Gear? The point is that your dog will cherish the time outdoors engaging with you, whether you’re following the same old neighborhood route or discovering new places.

New Places Can Also Be New!

Dogs don’t generalize especially well. That means it takes practice for them to learn that the behaviors you like are not context- or environment-specific. So, even if pup is rock-solid on obedience behaviors at your favorite park and around your neighborhood, those behaviors may need more work in unfamiliar places. If local guidelines and laws allow it, you can take this opportunity to explore new outdoor spots with your pooch. You can help your dog learn to generalize by going back to basics and rewarding desirable behaviors generously in a variety of locations. Keep in mind, you may need to lower your expectations a bit, at least at first. Don’t worry, you’ll know when your dog ‘gets it’ as you work back up to proficiency. For most dogs though, it won’t take nearly as long to teach a known behavior in a new context. And then, together, you can move on to discover your next new spot. Enjoy the exploration!

No matter if you’re staying put or adventuring outdoors, we wish you, your families, and the pets you love, peace, health, and comfort as we all navigate these unprecedented times together.

Have you discovered new places or new ways to enjoy adventures with your inquisitive canine in these past few months? Please comment below or social share with us!

Fido’s Fall Semester Begins with Back to School Shopping

Here at the Inquisitive Canine when we think Back to School,” we think about four-legged students eagerly and happily learning new skills. Are you preparing for Puppy Pre-School or some DIY homeschooling with your Inquisitive Canine? Wondering what school supplies youll need? As both a certified professional dog trainer and dog mom, I have found the following items to be very useful when training dogs — my own included. Allow me to list and explain:

The All-Important Lunch Box

In this case, its a treat pouch that helps keep training fun, effective, and convenient. Consider investing in something reusable that lasts a long time and is handy for accessing snacks and supplies easily. My favorite, and the brand I’ve been using since before I was a professional trainer, is from the Doggone Good Clicker Company. Of course, baggies and plastic containers are usually lying around the house, and they work fine too in a pinch.

Healthy Snacks

Speaking of snacks, think yummy, but nutritious treats. Remember, using positive reinforcement involves rewarding dogs behaviors with something they find valuable and well, rewarding. In trainer speak, food is considered a primary reinforcer  (something your dog innately loves already). So why not use that to your advantage? Experiment with:

  • Small pieces of vegetables, such as carrots
  • Bite-sized pieces of lean meats
  • Freeze-dried veggies, such as broccoli and potato sticks
  • Whole foods off the ingredient list of your dog’s food
  • Small pieces of lean cooked meats, poultry, or fish

For best results, mix it up and try different things. You might be very surprised to discover what your inquisitive canine considers scrumptious. Reward-based training keeps learning engaging for you and your pet. So have fun and carry treats! (Note: When starting out, its a good idea to check with your veterinarian, especially regarding the number of calories your dog should have in a day. You can then divide training treats, snacks and meals accordingly to help your pup maintain a healthy body condition.)

Fashion Forward Outfit

TransPaw Happy HarnessNext up – exercise gear. As with all students, physical activity each day is just as important as good nutrition. When it comes to walking equipment, we want dogs to be comfortable and safe, so a no-pull harness is my go-to recommendation for outdoor adventures. Harnesses allow the leash to be attached to the body, diffusing pressure. Conversely, attaching the leash to a collar risks intensifying pressure around your dogs delicate neck structures, which is what you want to avoid.  The Happy Harness, available from our sister site, TransPaw Gear is not only stylish and comfortable, but also escape-proof, easy to fit, easy to clean and water friendly.

Games for Recess

Inquisitive Canine Enrichment PuzzleThink enrichment toys here. Dogs, by nature, are scavengers, predators, omnivores, and problem solvers. If we dont give them things to do to channel this energy and curiosity, they will, in all likelihood create their own entertainment” (sound familiar?). Plan ahead by providing better outlets for them. Have you tried interactive food toys? Instead of using a boring, old bowl for your dogs entire meal, you can place some (or all) of your dogs daily kibble in these toys. Encourage dogs to play with their food?? Yes! Absolutely!

A Safe Space

Now that you have snack time and play time covered, what about nap time? Dogs should have choices about where and when to relax and unwind from a busy day or take a cat nap between various activities. Whether training and caring for a new puppy, or providing a safe, sacred space for an adult dog, crates can be great options. For instance, a brief stay at the vets or groomers may require some time spent caged or kenneled. That can be stressful if your pet isnt familiar with this skill yet. And think about fun activities too.  When participating in dog sports, such as agility or K9 Nose Work®, dogs often need to be crated while waiting for their turns on the course. For that matter, crates are even good for safe transportation to and from the vet, the groomer, dog sports or any other adventures. So, even if you choose not to use one regularly, learning to relax in crate is a valuable skill for your dog.

Blankie From Home

Lastly, think cozy. You can use a dog bed, a nice beach towel or a bath rug with nonskid backing. Choose something comfy, easy to transport and easy to clean. Your force-free trainer can guide you through the steps to teach your pup to sit or lie down on a target using a cue such as Go to your place.” This is referred to as a targeting exercise, where dogs learn to target” (place) a body part -or even their whole bodies- on an object. Since dogs can learn to offer this behavior in a variety of places and/or situations, its great for when youd like your friend to settle. Whether youre hanging out at home or away – picture outdoor dining – your pup has learned a handy skill and you look like a genius! Lets hear it for the teachers pet!

Like everything else, back to school shopping may look a little (or a lot) different this fall. Just remember, when it comes to our inquisitive canines we already have everything we really need – the desire to both teach and learn and a relationship based on mutual love. The rest is just gravy!

The Importance of Teaching Dogs to be Independent – Part II

In the first part of this series, The Importance of Teaching Dogs to be Independent – Part One, we discussed broad concepts about teaching puppies and dogs skills that build confidence and promote independence. (In a nutshell, force-free training, enrichment, giving choices, and encouraging dogs to be dogs are key elements.) However, even with the basic groundwork in place, there are situations that can present more of a challenge for certain dogs and the people who love them.

Situation #1 – Adjusting to a new schedule:

Foremost on many people’s minds right now is how to train a dog to stay home alone if you are heading back to the office after working from home for several months. That’s such an important question that there’s an entire previous post devoted to it. To review:

  • Practice. Consider implementing actual dress rehearsals of what ‘back to work’ will physically look like – right down to the “costume changes.” (Work-clothes vs heading-out-on-adventures clothes.) 
  • Every dog is different. So each should be treated as an individual. Dogs with a learning history of, “Oh, yes, I remember when the humans wore those different outfits and left me alone. That’s cool. I guess we’re going back to that routine again” might do better than dogs who have never been left alone in your home (“quarantine puppies,” etc.). But you never know — and we shouldn’t make assumptions without concrete data.
  • Go slow. Err on the side of caution and ease back into routines, no matter the dogs’ learning histories. Assume they might even freak out a little at being left alone again or for longer days. So, go slow; ease them back in gradually. Again, invest some time each day for practice. Leave your pups alone for short periods at first, lengthening the amount of time slowly, so they have a better chance to adapt more easily to the new schedule.
  • Be on the lookout for early signs of stress, so you can try to intervene before the situation escalates. Brushing up on reading your dog’s body language and getting fluent in dog-lish will really help out here.

Situation #2 – My dog hates being outside alone:

First, try to examine the situation from your dog’s point of view. Remember that not all attention seeking behavior is inappropriate. Sometimes our pets truly need us to pay attention! If we haven’t taught and learned specific cues, they only have a few ways of communicating their needs in a manner we notice and respond to (barking, pawing, whining …). The most important thing here is to make sure they’re not scared, hurt, sick, hungry, or thirsty. Are they left outside all day long? All night long? Do environmental factors play a role? Is it too hot or cold?  Too wet or dry? In these cases, it’s the situation and environment that require modification, not your inquisitive canine’s behavior.

Next step. Do some detective work. It will be easier to plan for helping your dog enjoy the great outdoors if you can determine why some dogs don’t like being outside alone in the first place.

  • Fear factor. Is it scary for them? Are they fearful? Is it just in your own yard or anywhere outside your home, as in agoraphobia? If your dog is scared for some reason, you’ll want to find out why. Strange noises? Did something happen that caused them to be afraid? If so, it’ll be best to work with a certified professional force-free trainer for help.
  • Doggy Psych 101. Is it the outdoors or is it that you’re not with them? Do they have FOMO (you are home, indoors, and they crave your company and companionship)? Or are they genuinely scared to be alone? If your dog is suffering from separation anxiety, then once again, your path to helping will involve seeking professional guidance. Otherwise, you can work on making time away from you (almost) as fun and stimulating as time with you. (Read on for tips.)
  • Are they bored? If your dog is bored in the yard, you can take measures to create a positive association with the space so they learn to love it. Make it like their own private amusement park — scavenger hunts, puzzle toys, a digging pit (as long as it’s in a safe area), shallow water features they can splash in without drowning themselves (it’s okay/advisable to check on them from time to time). In this context, so much fun happens in the yard . . . and they’re playing on their own!
  • Is it punishment- or banishment? Train it before you need it. Avoid a Cinderella scenario. Have you banished your dog to the dungeon (yard) because you have company and your pup doesn’t know how to greet guests politely? Rather than punish, or even ignore, unwanted behavior, you always have the (more productive, ethical, and humane) option of teaching a replacement behavior. For instance, why not use positive reinforcement training to teach your dog to greet people nicely? Do a bunch of dress rehearsals in preparation for the big event.

Situation #3: My dog doesn’t like being left alone at night:

Once again, first determine why, by asking many of the questions presented above. Go through the variables and look at things from an inquisitive canine’s point of view. Alone, as in a separate room of the house? Outdoors vs. indoors? Humans home but the dog is left outside to sleep? Is pup bored, frightened or lonely? Here too, are we dealing with a FOMO-type circumstance or is it separation anxiety-related?

  • Rinse and repeat. After you’ve assessed the situation and made the appropriate management adjustments, you can then move on to developing a training plan. As above, first, make sure their physical and mental needs have been met. For dogs who are bored, provide an enriching (but not overstimulating for nighttime) environment for them. Next, desensitize them slowly to being left alone in small increments, so they get used to it. If they do better with a light on and maybe soothing noise in the background, do what you can to create a tranquil, relaxing space for rest.
  • “Me time.” If your dog is frightened when you’re out of sight, you’ll want to work with a professional trainer to develop a more specific plan to help with resolving fear issues. Desensitization is a process to help teach the dog to enjoy being all alone sometimes, rather than fear it. Remember, dogs are social animals; they prefer company. However, with guidance, you can condition them to appreciate a little “me time” occasionally. This time might involve happily being on their own with interactive food toys and games, taking a nap or pondering life (awake but lying down, looking out into the world) or exploring in their own backyards (provided it is safe for them to be on their own in the yard). As being alone for brief periods during the day becomes less of a source of anxiety (and actually enjoyable), being alone at night should get a little easier too.

Ultimately, while it’s great when dogs “check in” with us, it’s also nice to see them being independent, showing us that they know how to make these life choices. You’ll know they are good with being alone when you’re heading out the door and you ask them if they’d like to go with you and they stay put — as if they’re saying, “Nah, I’m good right here. Bye!” It’s almost as if they want us to know, “We’re good right now. Go on and do your own thing.” What a gift! And please don’t feel unneeded. After work -or when the guests leave -or first thing in the morning, you’ll be unleashing adventure and harnessing fun – together! (If that’s what your independent, inquisitive canine chooses, of course.)

The Importance of Teaching Dogs to Be Independent — Part I

As a Certified Separation Anxiety Trainer (CSAT), I frequently face questions about clingy puppies and Velcro dogs. Devoted pet guardians want to know how to help their dogs have confidence and learn to be more independent. Certainly, some are concerned that their pets may be experiencing separation anxiety.

Fortunately, not every pup that struggles to see the value of “me time” is truly, clinically suffering from separation anxiety. For those who are, the safest, best approach is working with a certified professional. But, any pup can get a bit stressed at times if no one’s home or no one’s paying attention to his needs. In this two-part series on shaping confident, independent puppies and dogs, we’ll explore training and management options (with an emphasis on fun and games!) that will set you and your Inquisitive Canine up for success. In Part One, you’ll find general tips for life skills and confidence building first in puppies, then in adult dogs. The second part will address specific situations such as being outside alone, being alone at night-time and will review tips for preparing for transitions like back to school or heading back into the office after working from home.

To begin, let’s say you’re the proud pet parent of a new puppy – or are planning to be. As with most things, preparation is key. Plan ahead. Ideally, consult with a force-free trainer and start thinking about the skills you might want your pup to learn, so you can help your new family member start off on the right paw.

  • Teach your puppies well. Puppies are like sponges, learning everything they can to get more — or less — of what they want. Use this time to your advantage by lovingly teaching them what you want, what you expect, and the skills they will need to be able to thrive in our human world.
  • First things first. Keep in mind that not all attention seeking behavior (whining, pawing, mouthing, jumping) is for emotional needs (“I’m bored!”). First make sure they’re not scared, hurt, sick, or have a biological urge that needs to be met — hungry, thirsty, need to potty, for instance. If you want these needs to be communicated differently, those cues can be taught in time.
  • Good ol’ Life Skills (aka: Manners, aka: “Obedience”) can work wonders. Think about how many times and places you want your puppy to “sit” instead of jumping up, running around, barking etc. Take the time to teach these skills, and in a variety of locations. My favorite go-to outline for list of skills are those that Therapy Dogs need to learn. Love on a Leash outlines their requirements here.
  • Build Confidence. Explore enrichment toys for meals and treats. Chew bones are great, just make sure that they are safe and don’t cause tooth problems (check with your vet). Puzzle toys are problem-solving toys, which help build confidence. Remember, besides scavengers and predators, dogs are problem-solvers — if we don’t give inquisitive puppies “problems” to solve, they’ll find their own — sometimes this can backfire. We all have stories… (Care to share in the comments below?)
  • Socialize them so they learn to like other people and dogs — and other animals too. This way, they’re not always relying on you for everything fun, interesting and stimulating. It’s important that these brand-new interactions are positive and not scary. Consult with a force-free trainer if you have any questions about puppy socialization.
  • Gradually teach them to be alone in a safe place. Start with small amounts of time with you in the same room, but with pups in their own beds. Then move on to you being in another room of the house, building up to longer periods of time with you out of the room and eventually, with you out of the house. Go slow and steady, so puppy learns to trust being home alone. (More on this process in previous and future posts.)

Now, what if you’re not starting from puppyhood? Can adult dogs still learn new life skills? Can they “unlearn” old habits? Of course! As you’ll see, much of the approach to teaching adult dogs to be more independent is very similar to teaching puppies.

  • Think outside of the bowl. The emphasis of meal delivery should be with training or food enrichment toys. We know that bowls have their place, at times, but when possible,  feed meals outside of the bowl. It doesn’t have to be for every meal, but food can be used to allow them to use their predatory skills in a safe and productive way. As with puppies, popular activities such as enrichment toys/interactive food toys/scavenger hunts and games where they have to figure out how to get the food out can help promote independence.
  • Reinforce behaviors you want to see repeated. Reinforcing “independent” behaviors such as playing on their own and just generally being by themselves can also help. If they are constantly pawing at you for attention, do your best to ease up on returning the attention they’re seeking. You don’t want to be cruel or rude, but encourage them to spend time by themselves — even if it’s just in a dog bed in another room, or even the same room- just not your lap or at your feet. (At least all of the time! We get it – we love and appreciate the companionship too!)
  • Teach (and learn) alternative behaviors. If your dog is always in your lap, teach them an alternative behavior such as resting in their bed. Of course, you’ll still want to bond with your dog, but be aware of your own behaviors. It’s nice to have an interruption now and again, a furry reminder to step away from the computer and take a break. However, constant coddling can likely result in an increase in your dog relying on you – for everything – all the time.
  • Dogs are problem solvers. So, give them the opportunity to solve problems on their own sometimes. For instance, let’s say a toy is under a piece of furniture just out of reach. But you can see that if your inquisitive canine attempts at a different angle or uses their body in a different way, they could reach it. Let them figure it out — be their cheerleader! If you just go and get it, your dog has just trained you to do the work for them. Give dogs opportunities to grow and thrive on their own. Constantly hovering, fixing things for them, “doing their homework” for them, and being a “helicopter dog parent” interferes with their own thought processes and problem-solving skills. Trust your dog! They can do it!
  • Give dogs choices. As humans, we gain confidence through life experiences. We learn from them and grow. Being allowed to make decisions and have control over our own choices is what helps us to develop confidence. Even though dogs aren’t human, they are sentient beings, with emotions and a zest for life. Based on this, I would say that giving dogs opportunities to make decisions and have control over outcomes will help them build confidence as well. Even if your dog is well past being a puppy, continue to teach “life skills” that encourage decision making under different circumstances.
  • Unleash adventure! Allow dogs to learn on their own too. Encourage exploration (as long as it’s safe for them and others). Consider “hunting” games or sports that allow them to be dogs — meaning, the types of activities where humans aren’t telling them what to do all of the time. K9 Nose Work, herding, and tracking encourage dogs to use their doggy skills. We are there to give them a ride and make sure they don’t get injured (and marvel at how perfect and brilliant dogs can be).

Teaching skills for confidence and independence are essential to your pet’s emotional and physical wellbeing. However, remember to enjoy your quality time together too. There’s no substitute for unleashing adventure and harnessing fun with your Inquisitive Canine.

Stay tuned for Part Two of this article, where we troubleshoot specific situations that can be challenging for some pets and their people.

Heading Back into the Office? Help Make It a Smooth Transition for Your Dog

As many of us start thinking about venturing back into the office after months working from home, there seem to be more questions than answers. One of those questions for loving pet guardians is, “Will my dog have separation anxiety after quarantine?” While every situation is different and hopefully most pets may not suffer from true, clinical separation anxiety, the transition is likely to present some challenges for the whole family, including your Inquisitive Canine. Here are a few tips to prepare your dog for when you go back to the office, ways to reduce stress, toys to provide, training concepts and advice about when to reach out to professionals.

Practice, practice, practice

A great approach dog guardians can take is to begin planning and implementing dress rehearsals sooner rather than later…as in now. Even if you are still working from home, pretend you’re going to the office sometimes. Go through all the motions as if you are leaving home. Each detail is important – your dog picks up on every cue -that’s what being an inquisitive canine is all about! So, think of all the sights (office attire? uniform?), sounds (car keys clanking?) and even scents (perfume? or- let’s be honest -freshly showered?) associated with heading off to work. This will help get the routine established, giving your dog time to transition gradually to the upcoming changes. Invest some time each day for practice. Leave your pups alone for short periods at first, lengthening the amount of time slowly, so they have a better chance to adapt more easily.  

Expect the unexpected

The truth is, even with advanced preparation, you may need to make some adjustments along the way. This is why it’s important to “train it before you need it.” By accessing remote cameras when you are away from home, you can witness your dog’s reaction to your absence. This information will help give insight into any training steps you may need to take. Your pooch may enjoy the “me  time” at home, without any issues during the work day. On the flip side, he or she might begin to stress out, realizing you’re not around all the time. Again, dress rehearsals can help identify and address some potential issues. 

Harnessing indoor happiness

Using enrichment toys, whether a dog is home alone or not, is key for building independence and self-confidence. For more on enrichment such as nose games and interactive toys, check out this post from TransPaw Gear

It’s okay to ask for help

If a dog truly has separation anxiety, toys and other distractions may not help. Pairing food puzzles with being home alone might even make it so your dog doesn’t want to eat at all when you’re gone. For true separation anxiety, seek out professional help (force-free only, of course).  If you intend to leave your dog home alone for longer periods, consider doggy daycare or a dog walker. Make time to introduce your dog to these outside resources before heading back to the office. This way, you are not rushed and can intervene if your dog seems stressed. Finding the right match for your situation is another place dress rehearsals can make a big difference, both for your pet’s comfort level and your own. 

Remember to have fun

Lastly, pet parents should make sure they are still providing for their dogs’ physical and mental needs at every opportunity. Down time is key, but so is bonding time. Who knows? A little fun and adventure with your bestie might be great for you during this transition too. So, when you are not in the office, here’s to unleashing adventures and harnessing fun with your Inquisitive Canine!

Is a Harness Right for Your Inquisitive Canine?

Why Choose a Dog Harness?

TransPaw Gear Dog Harness Lily

There are several good reasons you might choose a dog harness over a collar for attaching the leash on walks and adventures with your dog. Dogs who pull while wearing a collar can put pressure on their necks, potentially injuring sensitive structures of the spine, throat and neck area. Even without an injury, pressure on these structures can be uncomfortable for your inquisitive canine companion. In addition, dogs can easily slip out of collars that aren’t fitted properly, which is dangerous for them and you. A  great way to overcome these issues is a properly fitting dog harness.

Which dog harness should you choose?

So, how do you find the best dog walking harness? And how do you choose the right product for your pet?  It can be difficult to find the right product when there are so many options available. It’s important to pick one that is easy for you to use but also comfortable for your dog. Beyond that, choosing a harness with multiple adjustable straps will help you create the right fit for your pup. The amount of dog gear for sale can make a pet parent’s head spin! But, hang in there.

Harnessing Happiness

After years of working with dogs and their humans as a certified professional dog trainer and behavior specialist, and seeing the frustrations they experienced with other products, I developed  the Happy Harness.

The Happy Harness:

  • Does a great job of preventing chafing, because the patented design prevents the straps from moving around against your dog’s skin, especially in sensitive areas like behind the legs and belly.
  • Is easy for people to put on and take off their dogs, so you’re always ready for an adventure together.
  • Has two possible leash attachment points: The front clip helps prevent pulling for those dogs who are just too excited to get where they’re going, while the back clip gives you a more traditional connection point that keeps the leash clear of your dog’s front legs on hikes or other outdoor adventures.
  • Is easy to adjust for a custom fit.
  • Is water-friendly, allowing your dog to be an inquisitive canine!
  • Is built to last.
  • Has a nifty handle on the harness to help with dog sports and for those times you need to keep your dog close.
  • Was thoughtfully developed by a certified professional force-free trainer and devoted pet parent.

Dog harness shopping can be overwhelming. Do your research, read reviews, and learn everything you can about the products that interest you. Your canine companion will thank you. Here’s to harnessing happiness with your inquisitive canine!

Do Social Distancing and Severe Weather Look Alike? Dog Trainers Weigh In

Since The Inquisitive Canine is based in California, we realized we don’t really deal with many of the things that keep folks stuck indoors during the winter months. For those who are not as fortunate (in our opinion), we were curious to learn how they are able to find new adventures indoors, when the outdoors is not cooperating. While we recognize that self-isolation during a global pandemic is not exactly the same as inclement weather, there are probably some overlaps!

Could this sheltering-in-place be less challenging for those who endure long, arduous winters every year, since they might be used to having to be indoors? We reached out to colleagues and asked how they got through the winter blues, in the hopes that it will inspire you to soldier on during this more challenging time.

Here’s what we learned:

Maya Kolankowska

Student, The Academy for Dog Trainers, Quebec, Canada

TPG: What type of activities do you engage in with your dog when stuck indoors during the winter? This could be things you do with your dog, or enrichment activities to keep them busy on their own.

dog training fun outdoorsMK: My Boston terrier has arthritis in both front legs, so I cannot do lots of high-intensity play with lots of direction change indoors. We have to resort to training and mental stimulation. I have a lot of Nina Ottosson puzzles, interactive toys that are stuffed and frozen and given each day. I also do mini-training sessions, and I prepare surprise treat/kibble boxes, and up the level of difficulty gradually. Another favourite thing of mine is having her “go find” her food, which I hide. She is really good at it now. Finally, we also do tug sessions where we practice cues like drop, leave it, and take it.

TPG: What are some of your favorite things to do throughout the year?

MK: We enjoy hiking, either on a long lead or off leash, walking in the woods, meeting new doggy friends and practicing positive interactions. I have amazing neighbours who are more than happy to work with me and our dogs.

TPG: Are there any types of activities you save for this time of year? How do you change up your routine, if at all?

MK: I tend to do more mental enrichment during winter months since my dog does not enjoy winters. Once it is nicer, we practice outside with more distractions and do some refreshers on those behaviors.

TPG: How are things different with COVID-19 isolation compared to winter conditions where you are?

MK: We do not frequent dog parks due to my dog’s arthritis, but we are definitely missing out on social doggie interactions on our walks. At other times, I would usually tend to walk with neighbours, especially if their dog is “reactive”; this helps my dog and theirs.

Jennifer Pratt, CTC, CSAT, CPDT-KA

Owner, Wag the Dog and Company, Milwaukee, Wisconsin

TPG: What type of activities do you engage in with your dog when stuck indoors during the winter? This could be things you do with your dog, or enrichment activities to keep them busy on their own. 

Wag the Dog Puzzle ToyJP: I up the food puzzle rotation even more than we already do otherwise, and find new ways to teach him new tricks that are variations of using hand targeting as a base. 

TPG: What are some of your favorite things to do throughout the year? 

JP: Teaching him new tricks that I make up and find entertaining!  Working on husbandry training to up my game for both my dog and my clients.

TPG: Are there any types of activities you save for this time of year? 

JP: Honestly, no. There is just more time to devote to indoor use of feeders.  (We use them outside in the yard to up the hunting factor when it is nice out!)

TPG: How are things different with COVID-19 isolation compared to winter conditions where you are? 

JP: With me having less work coming in, Ed and I have been able to take longer sniffaris. 

TPG: What have you considered doing once the snow melts and you’re able to go outside? If you’re still under quarantine, how will things change for you? Will you keep up the same routine you use in winter, or do something else? 

JP: My dog loves being outside when it is nice out, so we will be adding in trips to go and find new sniffari locations for him to explore, and spending more time outside with me gardening and him sunbathing.

No matter where you are, or the conditions you may be experiencing, you can see that both physical and mental enrichment are important for your dog’s well-being. Maybe now is a great time to set up that indoor obstacle course, train that trick you’ve been wanting your dog to learn, or clean out your t-shirt drawer and make a new toy for them to play with.

Wanna join the conversation? Just head to the comment section below. Care to share pics and videos of your inquisitive or adventurous canine? We invite you to post on our Facebook page or follow us on Twitter – Tweet to us and well Tweet ya back!

Top Tips to Make Training Your Dog a Breeze

Sometimes dogs can seem like alien creatures to us. They eat things we find gross. They don’t speak our language (even though it sometimes seems like they do). Dog training can look like sorcery to the untrained eye. Here we’ve provided you with key tips to decode your dog and get better results from your training program!

  • Know what you want your dog to do. Picture it as clearly as you can. We often focus on what our dogs are doing wrong, but it’s much more helpful to focus on what we would like them to do Is your dog jumping on guests? Perhaps a sit would be better? Begging at the table? Wouldn’t it be lovely if the dog lay calmly on their bed instead? Focusing on the positive, and actually visualizing exactly how you want the finished behavior to look, will help in several ways. First, it will give you a clear goal to work toward. Second, it will let you notice what your dog is already doing right, which you can then proactively reinforce so it happens more.
  • Know your dog. Dogs are individuals, with varied likes and dislikes, and distinct personalities. Knowing your dog really well allows you to create a training plan that caters to their strengths, making it easier for both of you. Seeing what really gets your dog jazzed – liver treats, a game of fetch, a trip to the dog park – can help you select the most motivating reinforcers when you’re working on new behaviors. Knowing your dog well will also help you have realistic expectations for what they can achieve. Your terrier (bred for barking) may never be totally silent at the sound of the doorbell, but three barks followed by a stay on their mat is totally feasible! Your hound may always walk with their nose to the sidewalk, but they can do that while at your side instead of pulling on their leash like a freight train.
  • Reward what you like. It’s easy to miss it when your dog is behaving perfectly, but it’s important that you “catch them in the act” of making good choices or minding their manners. As you reinforce the behaviors you like, they’ll happen more often. When your dog is getting good at certain behaviors, cue the dog to perform those behaviors instead of engaging in behaviors you don’t want.  A solid down-stay on a dog bed can keep a counter surfer under control, and a strong sit is, again, a great way to keep a jumpy greeter from jumping.
  • Set your dog up for success. Dogs are so incredibly adaptable that we often forget how confusing our human world can be to them. We can make things easier by setting clear rules and showing our dogs what is and is not appropriate canine behavior, rather than expecting them to guess. Managing the dog’s environment is also critical. It’s important that a dog’s world is interesting and enriching, but we also need to do what we can to prevent unwanted behaviors. This can include creating a safe area for a new puppy while they’re learning the ropes regarding what to chew and where to eliminate, clearing off kitchen surfaces to prevent counter surfers from succeeding on their quests, and anything else that staves off an unwanted behavior by changing the environment rather than trying to change the dog. In short, make your dog’s world as conducive as possible to helping them “get it right the first time.”
  • Plan ahead! Think about what behaviors you would like your dog to perform, and in what environments it will be important for the dog to perform them, and then practice those behaviors in those environments well ahead of time. Dogs need time to synthesize new information before it is solid, and even once they’ve got it in one context, they will likely need to relearn it in a situation that looks totally different. Have patience and plan ahead to make sure your relationship with your dog remains harmonious.
  • Think hard about the question: “Why is my dog doing this?” First, consider whether what’s happening is a normal behavior for the dog. Dogs eat, eliminate, chew, dig, and bark, and all of that is entirely natural. That doesn’t mean you must throw up your hands and accept whatever is happening. These behaviors can and should be directed to appropriate channels. The next thing to think about is whether an unwanted behavior is being reinforced, either by you, someone else, or the dog’s environment. Understanding the “why” behind a behavior from a dog’s perspective can help you sort this out. If your dog barks for attention and you yell, they may see that as good enough or “better than nothing” attention, and bark more often. Finally, ask yourself if you have taught your dog what you want them to do instead. Your dog may simply be doing the unwanted thing because no one has presented another option! This brings us full circle back to our first tip, figuring out what you want your dog to do, and then teaching them how to do it.

These strategies are the foundation of any good behavior program, and in fact, they are the true foundation of a strong human-canine relationship. If you’re stuck at any point along the way, contact us for help! We want you and your dog to succeed as a team! When you do, everyone will benefit.

Hidden Holiday Dangers for Dogs

People often recognize that the holiday season can present some additional dangers to our pets that they don’t face at other times. And this is true! During this time of year, dogs are more likely to have access to foods that are toxic to them, or larger quantities of nontoxic food than usual, as well as unfamiliar items they may be tempted to swallow. Cold weather can cause physical canine discomforts, and large numbers of houseguests or visitors in the home can increase mental strain on our dogs. Responsible pet owners are generally on the lookout for these dangers. But there are others that are much more subtle, making them easy to overlook entirely.

As a professional dog trainer, I am just as concerned about these three hidden dangers of the holidays:

  • Distracted Humans

With all the hustle and bustle of the holiday season, folks tend to get overwhelmed and distracted. Routines are often disrupted as well. What does this mean for our pets? People aren’t able to pay as careful attention as they would otherwise. Sometimes it’s hard to pay any attention at all! This leads to some more of those practical dangers: food being left around for easy canine access, doors and gates being left open so pets can wander off, pet care arrangements not being made, and more.

This is the time of year when it can be very tempting to cut corners and rush through routines, but your pets need you to be on your best behavior so they can be on theirs. Double-check that the counters and table have been cleared before your dog is allowed free access to the kitchen and dining areas. Make sure that doors are fully latched as you come and go, including crate doors, gates to your yard, and the doors to your home. Confirm your dog sitter knows when to come, and have a backup in mind if the sitter needs to cancel last minute. If there’s any risk of family members giving your dog an accidental double-dinner, have a schedule posted somewhere that allows whoever feeds them to mark off what meal was given and when.

  • Unrealistic Expectations

People expect a lot from their pets, and we often do so without making much of an effort to help them adjust to our world. The holidays bring a number of potentially novel (and therefore potentially stressful) situations to our pets’ lives, including unfamiliar people in the house, travel to new places, or being left in the care of strangers (either at a boarding facility or with in-home care) when the humans are traveling. Folks tend to think animals will adjust immediately to whatever we throw at them, and the truth is that our pets can be very forgiving, so they often adapt easily. But, it’s unfair to expect this from our pets in every situation.

What should we do? Make sure your dog is getting enough quiet time, enough you-time, and enough exercise and playtime to help them shake off some of the more stressful experiences that come with this time of year. Have patience if your dog’s manners fall apart around house guests. And think about the various kinds of upheaval this holiday season will bring to your pet’s world, accommodate your dog however you can, and do your best to prepare them for these potentially stressful times. Which brings me to the last hidden danger…

  • Lack of Planning

Pet owners need to take the time to plan ahead for their pets during the holiday season. Traveling with your pet? Make sure they are accustomed to whatever mode of containment is required for the type of transit you’ll be using, possibly including a special crate if your pet is flying with you. Create and utilize a pet packing checklist so you’re confident you have everything they’ll need while away from home. If you’re using a new pet sitter, make sure the pet and sitter have bonded before you leave them. Sending the dog to a new boarding facility? It’s a great idea to do a practice “sleepover” so the dog gets used to going there, and you can make sure the dog is happy about these accommodations. Teach and rehearse the behaviors the dog will need to know in order to be a good canine citizen, regardless of where you take them or what other environmental changes occur.

Plan to have patience, as well. As noted above, you may need it! The behavior of stressed-out pets – which may include eliminating indoors, vocalizing repeatedly, and seeming to forget every bit of training you ever did with them – can exasperate even the most calm, collected human. Knowing ahead of time that you’ll have to be more patient than usual with your pet can go a long way toward reducing your own frustration, which will in turn help your dog’s stress levels.

Hang in There, and Take Time to Find Joy!

When all else fails, remember that this too shall pass. Try to find some small moments of joy in this hectic time of year. Buy your dog a special toy or treat, and take a moment to enjoy watching them relish your gift. Ideally, the holidays are a time for celebration and merriment. If you need to, you can turn to your canine companion to bring some light into your life. Dogs are good reminders that it’s the simple things – like a game a fetch, a little walk to get some fresh air, and cuddle time – that make life that much more fun.