How to Dog Moms Can Celebrate Mother’s Day With Their Canine Kids

Whether you’re a mom to human children or a parent to a beloved pet, it’s all about the relationship. Mothers share a special love and bond with their babies that’s unlike any other; the care and nurturing they provide deserves to be celebrated every day, and of course, especially on Mother’s Day.

I remember all the celebrations I shared with my own mother. She protested that she never wanted to be fussed over, but I always found Mother’s Day to be the perfect opportunity to do just that. Breakfast in bed, helping out more around the house, going places she enjoyed, and baking a special chocolate chip layer cookie pie especially for her. These are among my favorite memories, as I knew that at least once a year my mom enjoyed being doted on.

Let’s face it, when it comes to the relationship with our canine companions, it’s often maternal-like. Being that I’m a new dog mom again, Ringo and I have been discussing ways we can celebrate this special holiday together. He wanted me to share these ideas with your inquisitive canines to help them plan a fun day for you, too.

Take a pleasant walk in your favorite place. This one is simple, budget friendly, and without time constraints. Plus you won’t need a reservation. To make it even more fun, bring along a couple of treats — for the both of you. You can reinforce your dog for those behaviors you like, and treat yourself because you deserve it! Also, bring your phone along so you can snap some selfies to commemorate your special day together.

Take on a arts and crafts project together. Contact your local art studios to find out if you and your inquisitive canine can schedule a date to create. Whether it is the paint-your-own-pottery or sketching a picture of your dog, there are fun and unique classes to be found around town. The original inquisitive canine, Poncho, and I used to frequent Firefly Ceramics. We created a pretty set of soup bowls and serving platter that we decorated with his paw prints. That’s a gift that keeps on giving – whenever I use the platter and bowls, I always think of my precious Poncho.

Have a traditional Mother’s Day lunch, brunch, tea, or cocktails. Going out to eat on Mother’s Day is a big deal all across the country. You can go out for brunch in the morning, then tea or happy hour in the evening. Call ahead to make sure the establishments you choose are fido-friendly. You might even be able to share a meal, provided the foods you choose are on your dog’s diet, and not those you should avoid.

Do a mother-mutt photo shoot. Nowadays it’s easier than ever to capture each step of your day with photos and videos. But what do you do with all the great content? How about creating a photo album, scrapbook, or framing that that special Mother’s Day selfie?

Make a gift to your favorite canine charity. If you’re not the shopping type, you might want to help your favorite animal advocacy group. Make a donation of your dog’s toys, beds, or blankets that he or she doesn’t use any longer; a monetary donation is helpful, too.

Picnic in the park, on your deck, or in your backyard. An alternative to making reservations is to get a table for two (or more) at a local park, beach, or lake. You can even set up your picnic blanket in the backyard, front porch, deck, or in an indoor fort. The purpose is spending time together. You can also include some hand-feeding, capitalizing on training and reinforcing those behaviors you like.

Take a day trip. Hop in the car to explore a nearby place that you’ve never been before – you might find fido-friendly areas you didn’t know existed! The Bring Fido website allows you to search specific areas for places that are more dog-friendly. You never know, you might discover a brand new favorite destination!

Make this Mother’s Day special by including your four-legged baby in the festivities. Dogs are the embodiment of unconditional love, and we know that your inquisitive canine would love to pamper you with more than just sloppy kisses and snuggles… although that’s a great place to start!

From all of us at IC HQ’s, we wish all the moms out there a pawsitively wonderful Mother’s Day!!


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

Veterinary Nutritionist Dr. Cailin Heinze’s Recipe for Dog Feeding & Treating Success

Ringo-Chewy-2Having a conversation about the best choices for dog food and treats is an invitation to open up Paw-ndora’s Box. So before I begin, let me first make it clear that I am not a vet, vet nutritionist or dog nutrition expert. However, I am a certified dog trainer and dog-mom who happens to be passionate about what she feeds her dog and what she uses for training.

For our new dog, Ringo, hubby and I wanted to start out on the right paw with his dietary needs. Poncho, the original inquisitive canine, had many dietary issues during the last few years of his life. Because of this, we admittedly had some emotional baggage when it came to choosing Ringo’s new diet. But instead of making decisions based on our own learning experience, friends’ opinions and what Professor Google says, we went to the experts.

First we checked with our local veterinarian, whom we adore and respect. She provided us with her recommendations and rationale behind her choices. Because she knew our history with Poncho, she was fully supportive when I asked for a referral to a board-certified veterinary nutritionist with whom we’d worked in the past, Dr. Cailin Heinze. Dr. Heinze is a specialist who teaches at Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University.

In addition to our formal consultation, I approached Dr. Heinze about being interviewed for this post. The following are highlights from our conversation and include some fantastic tips to help you make informed food and treat choices for your inquisitive canine.

Inquisitive Canine (IC): Mealtime is a convenient time to train, but what about other times during the day when someone wants to work with his or her dog? How important is it for healthy dogs to be on a specific feeding schedule?

Dr. Cailin Heinze (CH): Once a dog is house-trained, then it doesn’t matter all that much when meals are given. The biggest exception would be for dogs with a medical condition, such as diabetes, and for those pets that require medication that must be given either with food or on an empty stomach. While a routine can be nice for the household, most dogs will adjust just fine to variable meal times/training. If a dog’s regular food is used for training, I would suggest measuring it out every morning to avoid over or under feeding if the training schedule changes. Anything left at the end of the day can then be fed as a meal.

IC: When it comes to food labels, there seems to be a lot of confusing verbiage out there — everything from valid statements to marketing garbage. What should dog parents be aware of when they read a label on a can of food or on the side of a bag of treats?

CH: There is actually very little information on labels that tell you about the quality or usefulness of the food. We have a lot of stuff on the Tufts Vet Nutrition website about labels and terms. “Natural” is an absolutely useless term that is commonly used for marketing purposes only. It has a legal definition – not synthetic – but that doesn’t mean anything because there are lots of very dangerous natural things, including arsenic, lead, yew and mycotoxins, to name a few. There are also plenty of safe synthetic ones, including some vitamins and amino acid supplements.

IC: When choosing foods or treats for training, is it best to just use the dog’s own food as the first choice? What if that doesn’t motivate him or her? What other options work without having too much of a negative impact on the dog’s overall nutrition?

CH: If a dog will work for his regular food, that’s great. For otherwise healthy dogs, lean meats normally work well because they are lower in calories and of course dogs usually love the taste. There are also perfectly fine options for “tiny” training treats that are only a calorie or two.

Human foods, such as egg, meat, cheese or peanut butter, may also be good options. Just be careful about the salt, fat and total calories! Human baby food can also work, but keep an eye if there is any onion or garlic in the food or too much fat or too many calories.

IC: Are there ways to enhance or “dress up” a dog’s usual foods? Can you add or change anything or will this throw off the quality of nutrition?

CH: If you keep within a treat allowance of about 10% of the dog’s daily caloric intake, then you should be fine. For a healthy pet, you can add meats, fat and definitely fruits and vegetables to the main diet without much risk of causing big issues. This is assuming you are feeding an appropriate amount and type of regular food that is within the range of the feeding orders for your dog’s ideal body weight.

IC: You mention adding “fat” to the diet. Are you talking about fish oils or nut butters?

CHPretty much anything, as long as your dog does well with fat (some dogs can get upset stomachs or even pancreatitis if they eat too much fat) – chicken fat, lard, olive oil, flaxseed oil, tallow and even coconut oil. Keep in mind that a little bit goes a long way – about 135 kcal per tablespoon. There really aren’t healthy vs. unhealthy fats in dogs because they don’t get heart disease related to saturated fat like people do. As for fish oils, I generally give specific amounts.

IC: If a person needs to change up the treats in order to keep their dog motivated, what is the best approach? Keep within the same protein? Or is it better to stick with the 10% rule and watching for signs of tummy upset?

CH: The latter is fine. It’s probably good to use something for as long as it works before switching, just to avoid exposure to too many protein sources. That could be an issue later if any allergies develop. There is no real evidence that rotating or not rotating food choices makes a difference health or nutrition-wise.

IC: Are there any treat recipes that you would recommend? Or is it best to just go with simple commercial items that are easily accessible?

CH: Most treat recipes that avoid things like onions, garlic, raisins and undercooked animal products are probably fine, so long as you keep within the treat allowance.

IC: What top tips do you want owners to know when it comes to treats/foods for their dogs?

CH: Don’t overdo it. Outside of training, treats are often more important to the owner than the pet. Smaller is better! As an example, the first few bites of that cheesecake you eat usually tastes the best. If you stopped there you’d be thinner and healthier.

***

Well, inquisitive pet parents, as we’ve discovered, dog treats, food and training can create a recipe for success, not a disaster. And thanks to Dr. Heinze’s sage advice, we’ve also learned that less is more, keep treats to 10% of the daily caloric intake, and use your dog’s meals to your advantage. And finally, it’s okay to ration out portions and use them throughout the day for training.

When choosing the types of foods, it’s important to read between the lines of the labels and consult with your vet. If you feel like you need additional guidance, connecting with a vet nutritionist like Dr. Heinze is a great option to consider. For additional information, check out their website and Petfoodology blog where you can find a lot of information and resources for making informed decisions about your dog’s dietary needs.

Here’s a question for you, my inquisitive dog friends. How do you use your dog’s food for training? Do you turn mealtime into training time? Take it on the road with you? We invite you to join the conversation below.


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

A Tail Waggin’ Resource for All Your Canine Communication Needs

We recently wrote about understanding dog body language, but are you wanting more? Care to brush up on your Doggish-to-English language skills? Discover reasons for raised hackles, growling, and paw raises? How about learning the differences between your dog’s variety of barks?

Well, have we got a special treat for you! Our fellow certified trainer friends and colleagues have officially launched their iSpeakDog website, and we’re beyond thrilled. (You can tell just by our body language – smiling, jumping for joy, and whoo-hooing around the office!)

The folks who are heading – and tailing – up this breakthrough event are sharing all-things-dog-communication. This FREE informational platform includes everything interactive from Q&A to how-to videos. You’ll find an abundant collection of resources to help decipher what your inquisitive canine may (or may not) be saying.

Starting on March 27, 2017, their kickoff launch has a calendar week filled with free webinars. There are also handy downloadable handouts, including this one: three questions to help you speak dog. You can even join in on the campaign and iSpeakDog-ify your own images – just remember to add the #iSpeakDog tag!

Sydney J. Harris once said, “The two words ‘information’ and ‘communication’ are often used interchangeably, but they signify quite different things. Information is giving out; communication is getting through.”

Thanks to the iSpeakDog crew and their array of resources, information is within reach and readily available for you to become an expert at canine communication.

#iSpeakDog

No Dog Left Behind: Making the Case for Canine Education

Education is important — so much so that it’s written into our law… for humans.

CanineEducation-4In the United States, there are compulsory education laws, which mandate that children attend school (public, private or home) by a certain age, and state they are not allowed to drop out (should they decide to) until a specific age. These laws were developed to help literacy rates, protect against child labor, and to better the population as a whole.

If we, as a society, promote the importance of education for people, then I propose that it’s high time we advocate for a similar system for inquisitive canines. Dogs (and other non-human animals) are becoming more a part of our everyday culture. I submit that we will only benefit if we establish similar requirements for our canine companions in order for them to not only adapt, but also to contribute in positive ways and gain wider acceptance.

According to a 2015 Harris Poll, 95% of Americans consider their pet as part of the family – I know I certainly do! So if this is the case, then why not go above and beyond the birthday present, special homemade treats and spa sessions by giving our dogs an education that not only enhances their home life, but also allows them to become an upstanding member of society?

One reason I became a certified dog trainer was because I wanted to be able to bring my own dog to as many places as possible. My rationale was that if all dogs were well-mannered, then they would be welcomed by more people and into more places, and eventually would help change our “no dogs allowed” culture to “courteous canines welcomed.”

How great would that be? (Bark once if you agree, twice if you enthusiastically concur!)

DogIndoorRestaurantI know there are some naysayers out there gasping as they read this, and I realize that some places might not be appropriate for dogs (i.e. commercial kitchens, operating rooms for humans, etc.), similar to certain places not being appropriate for young children. However, I believe with the right kind of training, many places that are currently considered off-limits for dogs could be perfectly fine, and even preferable with their presence.

But was does “well-mannered” look like? And what education would be necessary to achieve it?

In my opinion, the same guidelines used for therapy dogs would be a great starting point. Unlike service dogs, therapy dogs must hold an actual certification. This is not to say that service dogs don’t perform specific tasks – most do. However, owners aren’t required to show proof. Therapy dogs, on the other hand, go through detailed training with their handler and then have to complete a certain number of supervised visits where they are observed and given feedback. (Yes, this is a test!) Once these steps have been completed, they provide references and more to complete their application. And, therapy dog handlers are required to carry their membership card whenever he or she is “on the job.”

There are several organizations devoted to supporting canines and their humans in the therapy dog certification process including, Love on a Leash, Therapy Dog International, and the American Kennel Club’s Canine Good Citizen. Each of these programs require dogs be proficient in specific skills in order to perform duties to help make people feel happy, relaxed, and safe. These include:

  • Being able to sit, stay, lie down, and come when called around a variety of distractions, and without the use of treats to reinforce them
  • Allowing strangers to pet and handle them, including tugging on ears and tails
  • Being approached by strangers, including those behaving erratically
  • Being tolerant and accepting of loud and/or unfamiliar noises
  • Show no signs of being fearful or aggressive

Wow! Imagine a world where dogs were better behaved than us humans! It seems to me that if these skills are good enough for therapy work, they would be more than sufficient for general public interaction.

And just as children respond best to education with the support of their parents or other loving adults, dogs also thrive when we humans work with them – and in the process, we become better trained ourselves.

CanineEducation-2Many businesses have a “no dogs” policy. However, some might reconsider if the canine in question held a certificate stating he or she has gone through significant training. That might be a good first step for changing our culture. While I’d envision this as a “private school” type of education initially, imagine if there were public options to help teach all dogs how to become more upstanding members of our society. Now that would be something to howl about!

So here’s my question to you inquisitive pet lover: What do you think about mandated canine education – and if we get people and their pups to participate, should society as a whole welcome dogs into places they weren’t previously allowed? I say, no dog left behind!


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

Trust Your Instincts: How to Know When The Time is Right to Adopt a New Dog

InquisitiveCanine-Ringo-CouchLoungingHow do you find love again when your heart has been broken?

Not only is this an eternal human question, but it extends to canines as well.

And it’s a question I’ve been grappling with since the original Inquisitive Canine, Poncho, departed the earth in July 2015. Not only was he my husband’s and my BFF (Best Furry Friend), but he was also the inspiration for and greatest helper in our family business. (If you never met Poncho, you can read about him here.) Losing Poncho to the great beyond was devastating for me, as it is for all other pet-parents out there who have gone through the horrible ordeal of the death of a beloved animal.

I remember so clearly when my husband and I were struggling with Poncho’s condition, and wondering how we’d ever know when the right time would be to let him go.

Many friends reassured me by saying, “You’ll just know.”

And, lo and behold, they were right.

In a very similar way, I often wondered when we’d be ready to take the plunge with a new pet. Even though I knew in my heart someday we would want to be adopted by another inquisitive canine, neither my husband nor I could imagine how and when that would happen.

As time went on, though, despite the fact I’m surrounded by inquisitive canines all of the time, I began to realize how much I missed being a dog-mom. Getting to participate in classes as a student with my BFF at my side, attending working workshops where I could not only have fun with my dog but also get continuing education credits to keep my certification current, and of course family outings and vacations — because it’s always about our dog. It was rough on both my husband and me not being able to do our favorite activities including Nose Work, agility, Flyball, and Therapy Dog classes. In our family, our dog isn’t just our “baby”; he’s also a motivator, guiding light, and joy to have not just in our home, but also in our community at large.

InquisitiveCanine_PonchoClose-Up_BIG-SmileStill, even as recently as five months ago I was still at the point that I never thought I’d be able to love another dog like I did Poncho.

As before, friends told me not to rush, that we’d know when it was time.

This past October we finally reached a point where we both agreed we were ready to begin our search at local shelters and rescue groups. We talked with a few organizations and went to several “meet and greets,” but unfortunately, as cute as so many of the dogs were, we didn’t feel that special spark.

By day 108, I was ready to take a break from looking at all of those forlorn eyes. But knowing there were so many inquisitive canines needing homes, I took a breath and continued on.

Believing in the whole “gut instinct” premise, I knew our special someone was out there and sure enough, as soon as I’d just about given up, an alert from Adopt-a-Pet and the Ken-Mar Rescue team showed up in my inbox: “young, male, small, and active.”

Yes, he was all of that, but it was his big, beautiful eyes of the Papillon/Chi-X that captured my attention – even though initially my husband and I were focused more on a scrappy terrier type. Turned out the stunning boy was found on the streets and was taken to one of the LA county shelters. After being on a hold for 21 days and no one claiming him (yes, he was chipped), Ken-Mar Rescue stepped in, scooped him up, placed him with one of their fabulous foster parents, and immediately posted his information on the Adopt-a-Pet website.

Within two hours of receiving the alert, my husband and I were on a mission. After a flurry of emails, phone calls, videos, photos, and FaceTime calls with the foster mom, we knew we’d found our new inquisitive canine to complete our family.

And sure enough, from the time we contacted Ken-Mar to when they made the home check, we knew we’d found our new BFF. Aside from his good looks, his personality won us over — all eight and a half pounds of him.

Today I’m thrilled, overjoyed, and beyond excited about our newfound love and happy to announce that Ringo Starr Hunter Mayer has officially adopted us. I am also happy to announce that he is a brilliant new addition to the Inquisitive Canine and TransPaw Gear staff as well.

As we embark on our new journey, creating a stronger bond every day, I still think about and miss Poncho. He will always be the original inquisitive canine. But, I’ve come to learn that with similar challenging situations, time does help.

A dear friend also reminded me that we, as humans, are capable of so much love to give — this is so true! My mother loved both my brother and me equally (except perhaps when I was 13… but that’s a story for another day). I don’t spend time comparing Ringo to Poncho, which is good.

This to me is proof positive that I was ready to move on and share my love with another inquisitive canine.

Version 2When I think about all of the joy and new adventures Poncho brought to my life, I can only imagine what little Ringo will bring. I can already see how many fun times are on the horizon. And for now, the cuddles, playtime, and local outings are already bringing more happiness to my husband and me than we could have imagined.

While you can never be ready for the loss of a beloved pet, when you are ready to open your heart to a new animal, I can assure you that you will absolutely know.

Allow us to be inquisitive. How did you know your dog (or cat, or horse, or bird, or bunny, or…) was the one for you?


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

Say NO To Weapons of Mutt Destruction – Choose The Best Dog Walking Gear

There is significant controversy over the use of aversive dog walking equipment such as choke, prong,
electric, and Citronella collars. Although research confirms that there are many negative side effects created by using this kind of punishment-based gear, the use of inhumane training equipment is unfortunately pretty common. Even large pet stores that claim to be animal advocates continue to sell aversive walking and training equipment.

AllisonColetteLamminen_DogTrainerAs an inquisitive dog mom, animal advocate, and certified dog trainer, I often wonder how and why gear that causes, as the ASPCA puts it, “physical discomfort and undue anxiety,” is considered acceptable. Haven’t we figured out that animals (which include us humans!) learn better in an environment that is friendly, trusting, and filled with love — not one that is ruled by anger, frustration, and pain?

Some may ask, “What’s the big deal? Haven’t those kinds of collars worked for decades now? Does it really matter how you get your dog to walk easily by your side, without pulling?”

Well, similar to outdated, ineffective medical treatments, there are high-risk side effects of using aversive equipment, which are absolutely not worth it. According to well-respected industry groups including The Humane Society of the United States, the American Veterinary Society for Animal Behavior, and popular high-profile dog trainers like author and on-air personality Victoria Stilwell and Karen Pryor, world renowned animal trainer and author of Don’t Shoot the Dog, the use of aversives for training purposes must be avoided at all costs.

InquisitiveCanine_Sarah-Penn-LeashWalkingThe implications of using such equipment are enormous: from physical damage and unwanted behavioral problems including aggression to shutting down, learned helplessness and destruction of the human-animal bond, the negative consequences are both likely and also very serious. There is no reason to continue to use aversive gear for dog walking and training, especially now that we know better — because we have better information and better tools to use.

Now, I’m not saying that getting to the desired goal of getting your dog to behave nicely and appropriately while on leash is easy for everyone. It’s clear to see where challenges arise.

First off, dogs weren’t born knowing how to walk while leashed up. Secondly, humans weren’t born knowing how to operate a leash. Thirdly, add up point one and point two, and you often end up with a scene from a Three Stooges episode — but not as funny. With all the frustration coming from both ends of the leash, even I can understand why some of these aversive tools came about and why people continue to turn to them for help.

But wait! Just because I say I get it on some levels, doesn’t mean I think using punishment-based gear is a remotely good idea.

Refining walking on leash is a relatively simple and easily trainable activity that doesn’t require an iron fist. When you get a cold, do you treat it with rest, fluids, and over the counter medicine that takes a little time and patience to work – or do you turn to bloodletting to cut to the chase and get it over as quickly (and brutally) as possible?

We first need to remember that any walking equipment should be considered management tools, not training tools. Empower yourself and your dog to walk together nicely using the bond you share, communication, and a clear message — as opposed to the equipment.

InquisitiveCanine_NellieTeaching your dog to walk on leash is a simple, straightforward process. Our Leash Walking 101 post outlines some helpful tips to get you started.

As for useful dog and human-friendly equipment, I’m a proponent of the harness-leash system. For dogs that tend to pull unnecessarily on a regular walk (so I’m not talking about more complex activities like sports, Search and Rescue or Nose Work), harnesses where the leash attaches to the front is my first choice, as they tend to help reduce pulling. For dogs that don’t pull, or for specific sports and activities, a harness where the leash attaches to the back is ideal. Our TransPaw Gear™ dog harness, which will be introduced in the coming months, has both – and I have designed it such that regardless of your canine’s situation, you will always have your harness bases covered.

In terms of leashes, I prefer regular four to six-foot leads — cotton, leather, nylon or whatever you prefer. Your dog and you should be walking together, so longer leashes should be necessary. Where leashes that are more than six feet long come in handy are for specific training exercises. Even retractable leashes can do the trick, but I’d only recommend them for very specific purposes and places, such as an open field with nothing the leash would get tangled on — including people, other animals, trees, bushes, etc.

As for collars, I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: collars are like wallets — they’re meant to carry I.D. and complement your outfit. That’s about it.

I’m not here to chastise and point fingers. I will admit firsthand that when I adopted Poncho, I was taught to use a variety of training approaches, including collar-corrections. I never felt comfortable doing this — ever. And this was a primary reason I ended up becoming a trainer. To learn better and ultimately, do better. Instead of ignoring this dilemma, I trusted my gut instinct, questioned it, investigated, and turned to using better options that were actually easier to implement AND more effective. Talk about a win-win — for everyone, especially our beloved BFF Poncho. (That’s Best Fur Friend), but also for all of the inquisitive canines that I’ve had the pleasure of working with since then.

A recent L.A. Times article reported that the cancer rate has dropped by 25% compared to that of a quarter of a century ago, due to better diagnostics and treatment. This is a prime example of humans recognizing the treatment was as bad as the problem itself (maybe worse!), doing the research, checking old assumptions, and ultimately rejecting the status quo in order to make better choices and pursue more humane and effective treatments.

So my question to you, inquisitive animal lover, why do we continue to use and promote equipment we know can cause harm — these weapons of mutt destruction — when there are much better options out there for achieving the same goal?

A good friend mentioned there’s an update with one of the Golden Rules. It goes beyond treating others as you would want to be treated yourself. Instead, it now says we should treat others the way they want to be treated. I’m pretty sure it’s safe to say that dogs would prefer to be treated with a kind, loving hand over any other kind of handling.

In other words, you don’t have to be “ruff” to get the best out of your dog – humane and kind trumps ruthless and aversive any doggone day.
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Wanna join the conversation? Just head to the comment section below. Care to share pics and videos of your inquisitive canine? We invite you to post on our Facebook page or follow us on Twitter – Tweet to us and we’ll Tweet ya back!

What to Look for When Choosing the Best Dog Trainer for Your Pet

Recently I was on a run with a friend, and we were talking about how many dogs we saw along the way, as well as the people who were leading them. It was easy to spot the professionals, as they often had several dogs on leash.Inquisitivecanine_PrivateClient

Still, by observing how the animals were being handled, it was apparent even to my non-dog-trainer friend that not all “professionals” are created equal. Knowing that I’m a certified trainer, she innocently asked, “Is it me, or does everyone think they can be a dog trainer?”

In my experience, my friend’s observation was spot on. Many folks out there think that just because they’ve had dogs, grew up with dogs, love dogs, know dogs and/or watch TV shows about dog training, they know all there is to know about training canines.

That would be the same thing as me saying, “I love to bake, and I live for watching the shows on the Food Network. Once I even won a blue ribbon in a brownie baking competition. So I’m clearly a professional baker.” While you might encourage me to donate treats to your bake sale, there’s no way you’d hire me to make your wedding cake.

InquisitiveCanine_LouisVinnyWhen you work in a specialized field, in order to elevate your status from amateur to professional, training and education is a must. To help you make an informed decision about who should train and otherwise care for your inquisitive canine, here are a few tips about how to make the best selection:

  • Ask about training techniques and approach.

Humane, force-free methods for training are the best and only techniques a trainer should use. These go beyond “positive reinforcement,” as there are some trainers out there who use both positive reinforcement (i.e. treats, petting, praise) and “positive punishment” (i.e. collar corrections, alpha-rolls, aversive training collars). This is a contradiction in terms AND in approach, and also sure signs that your pet will at the very least get mixed messages, and possibly be subject to inhumane treatment. Ask specific questions as to which training methods the prospective trainer uses, and under which circumstances.

  • Inquire about education and certifications.

Whether you’re looking for private training for behavior specifics, puppy or basic manners classes, sports-related courses such as agility, Nose Work, and Canine Freestyle, or specialty Therapy Dog courses, professional training is a must. What schools or programs has the prospective trainer attended? Do they belong to groups or organizations that are respected across the industry? Keep in mind that not all dog training organizations are created equal – there are some that anyone can join, whether they are a trainer or not. Others, such as the Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers, literally certifies people in areas of both training and behavior. They require exams and letters of recommendation, along with continuing education credits for maintaining certifications.

If someone says they became a trainer because they love dogs and are good with them and/or got their DIY training from YouTube videos, you really should think twice before hiring that person for professional services. Also, be aware of the self-titled “dog behaviorist.” A true animal behaviorist holds a graduate degree in that field. This is an important distinction to make – and if your pet requires sincere behavioral modification, be sure that the person you are hiring to work with him or her has the education and experience necessary to truly help your pet.

  • Check that your trainer has both transparency and integrity.

Trust and honesty are important in any relationship, amiright? Trainers worth their salt will admit if a specific case is outside their scope of practice, or they are unfamiliar with the situation presented. For instance, when clients ask me about issues that might have an underlying medical origin, I always refer them to their vet. I often get questions about foods a particular dog should eat. Again, this is a question for that animal’s vet. While I can offer up tips for enrichment activities and how a dog should have his or her meal delivered (i.e. food toys, scavenger hunts, training), I refrain from advising what a dog should eat, since dietary concerns, age of the pet, and so on really influences what is best to feed a particular canine.

  • Similar to choosing any professional that you’ll work closely with, personality, graciousness, and communication are key.

While you want to choose someone your dog likes and trust, you have to share the same sentiments as your pet. It’s not the dogs that call for training needs (although sometimes we wish they would speak up!), it is the people. Just like you wouldn’t choose a nanny to watch your child without seeing how well she or he meshes with your family, you should definitely be conscious of how you get along with the prospective dog trainer, as well as how clearly he or she communicates with you, not just your dog. The goal is to have someone in place that you enjoy and can rely upon but who also makes sure you have all the information necessary to reinforce the work she or he has done with your dog.

My tips are just a starting point; here are a few additional resources for you to consider when hiring a dog trainer:

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What do you, or would you, look for when hiring a dog trainer?

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A Pawsitive Attitude is the Only New Year’s Resolution Needed for You and Your Dog

Inquisitive-Canine-Vinnie-LouieHello inquisitive pet parents, and welcome to 2017! I can’t believe we’re starting a brand new year. Time flies when you’re having fun… especially when hanging out with inquisitive canines.

When you think New Year, what’s the first word that springs to mind? If you couldn’t help but jump to “resolutions,” you’re not alone. Because who among us – human or canine – doesn’t desire and deserve a fresh start?

The key to getting your year off in a pawsitive way is to come at your goals with a dog trainer’s perspective: changes in behavior come from acting in a consistent, rewards-based, loving manner, NOT from sporadic, negative, punishing action.

My goal is to motivate, make it fun, and set everyone up for success — humans and dogs alike. So my New Year challenge for you is to shift your attitude towards your dog, and along the way, you might find you can apply some of these strategies in other areas in your life that can use some positive (pawsitive?!) adjustments.

The starting point is to first consider what you’d like to change about your canine, because
even though most of us have our dogs on pedestals and often think they can do no wrong, there’s usually one (or two) things they do that we might find annoying. And then once you hone in on what you’d like to adjust, you have to decide what’s realistic… and what’s not.

For example, do you ever have these thoughts about your pooch: “Do you have to bark at everything?” “Is it really necessary to jump on people?” “Why do you constantly have to chase everything you see, smell, and hear?”

These dog-specific behaviors are common and considered normal for the species, so for most of us, we tend to look the other way when our pets act as expected. But when these behaviors are so pronounced that we find ourselves constantly losing our tempers with our dogs, then it’s time to make a change. Because if we don’t teach them what we want, the annoyance level is likely to escalate, making us more sensitive and shortening the fuse each time they repeat the unwanted actions.

The main downside of this cycle is when you are focused on the negative, you get tunnel vision about your dog and forget all of the wonderful things he does the rest of the time. You also may forget that sometimes you actually want, expect, and appreciate some of the specific behaviors (i.e. barking) that you think you want to eliminate completely.

Here are the steps to take when modifying canine behaviors:

1) Watch what you wish for: This may sound ominous, but it’s actually a literal piece of advice: observe the behaviors you think you want to eliminate in your pet so you can honestly access how you feel about them, and also realistically, what you want to do about them.

We need to remember that these “annoying” behaviors are often what we find cute, endearing and funny. And, it’s also these behaviors that make dogs, dogs! Recognizing these factors can help bring us back to reality.

Conversely, we may be living with behaviors that aren’t serving our pets or us, and it’s then on us to take decisive steps to improve the situation.

inquisitivecanine-levi2) Make a list of realistic resolutions: Once you’ve taken some time to consider your dog’s normal behaviors, write them down divided into two categories: those that are wanted and those that are unwanted. For example:

  • Wanted: Sit, down, stay, come when called, leave things alone when asked, go-to-your-place.
  • Unwanted: excessive barking, jumping up on people (unless cued), pulling when on leash (unless cued), counter-surfing, chewing on forbidden items, digging around inappropriate areas, marking

For all the wanted behaviors, think about where and when you want your dog to perform these behaviors, for example, when sitting at doorways or to greet someone . Now’s the time to re-up your rewards game, and remember to say “thank you” when your animal makes good choices. Barking only once when the doorbell rings, keeping four-on-the-floor when meeting others, using appropriate greeting skills with fellow canines, walking nicely on leash , and eliminating in appropriate places are all worthy of acknowledgment and positive reinforcement. Give her a treat, a loud “GOOD GIRL!” and a snuggle when she is a model canine citizen.

As for the less desirable behaviors, let’s figure out if they are truly unwanted and need to end altogether, or if you need to teach your pooch when it’s okay – and when it’s not.

inquisitivecanine-dogtoyinmouthFor instance, barking. When someone is at the door or too near you personally or on your property, it can be very helpful for your dog to call your attention to the intrusion. My dog Poncho, for example, liked to alert me to “stranger danger,” when I would be loading things into the car and was a bit distracted. In this case, I appreciated his vigilance and would say “Thank you” when he did his job. On the other hand, during the more annoying bark fests, I’d ask him to be quiet, and positively reinforce him for staying silent. If he continued, I asked him to perform a more acceptable behavior, including picking up a toy and holding it in his mouth.

Other examples for teaching alternate behaviors to help keep that positive attitude might include: four-on-the-floor instead of jumping, laying on a bed or mat in areas where there are counters loaded with enticing items, and providing appropriate chew items your dog finds motivating.

3) Cop an attitude of gratitude – when you’re pawsitive, your pooch will respond in kind: What it comes down to is catching your dog in the act of doing what you want, make sure you say thank you. Express your gratitude! This alone could be one resolution that you could easily achieve. The other benefit of it is that when you stay consistent with your positive behavior of reinforcing the positive behavior of your pooch, you are engaging in what TIME magazine calls a “prevention goal.” Prevention goals are all about duties and the things that keep you on track versus “promotion goals,” which are the big, lofty, aspirational goals that are easy to dream about but are much harder to achieve. Your refreshed, pawsitive attitude, clarity and consistency around those canine behaviors that enhance, not detract from, your household are resolutions that are much easier to keep, all year long.

From all of us here at IC HQ’s, we wish you and your inquisitive canine a happy, healthy, doggone great New Year!


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Make Your List (Check It Twice!) To Prepare Your Pooch for Holiday Guests

imgres-1The weather outside might be frightful, but that doesn’t mean your inquisitive canine’s holiday entertaining skills — or lack thereof — need to be.

As a certified professional dog trainer, I am well aware that pet parents’ stress levels go up this time of year as they worry about how their dog is going to behave during the holiday hullabaloo. Will she jump on guests? Is he going to tackle grandma (again!)? Will the pup push over little Paulina? Help herself to the delectable prime rib roast left to rest on the counter? What about the ever-popular neighborhood exploration adventures that happen when arriving guests leave the front door open for a second too long? And then, of course, there are those visitors who just aren’t “dog people.”

What’s a pet parent to do?

In a nutshell: plan ahead, prepare and dress rehearsals!

imgresLet’s start off with planning ahead. When you’re expecting guests, you should consider who are the folks that are coming over, how they feel about dogs, and what reasonably they might be able to do when they arrive at your home to help keep your canine thinking clearly from the first “hello.”

Next, you’ll need to consider how you want your dog to act around company and what outside resources you might need to aid you in getting your desired outcome. For instance, say your dog is an enthusiastic social butterfly and wants to say hello to anyone and everyone, but doesn’t care how he gets the job done: jumping up, licking, barking and, with some especially energetic dogs, the hockey player hip check. As fun and entertaining that can be to some, many might find it annoying.

The solution? Ask your dog to greet people nicely. If you’ve done that training with your pet, then you’re already a winner in the holiday entertaining reindeer games.

Another option is to use the “Go to your place” cue, where your dog goes to a bed/mat/rug when the doorbell rings or there’s a knock at the door. Guests enter, and the reward for your dog is to say hello after you give the release cue that it is okay to do so. The second part of this behavior scenario is having your dog keep four paws on the floor. They can remain on their “place” while guests come to them, or you can give a release cue where they politely go to your visitors. Remember to reward your dog for behaving politely. A chin scratch, toss of a toy, praise, healthy treat or anything else your pooch finds motivating.

For those times when you don’t have time to teach your dog new skills or you’re concerned about the welfare of guests, think about bringing in some help to allow your dog to stay at home while you entertain and/or consider outside resources.

Is there’s a friend who’s happy to host your dog at his her home? Do you have access to a reputable doggy daycare facility that your pup would enjoy going to? Another option is hiring a certified training, petsitter, or responsible family member to come over and be in charge of your dog while you’re entertaining. We did this for our dog Poncho when we hosted an office party, and it worked out perfectly. He was included, taken care of and enjoyed himself, while my stress level was reduced so I could enjoy the festivities, too.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: failing to plan is planning to fail. So make your list and check it twice to ensure your plans to entertain holiday guests don’t go to the dogs. Keep in mind that it’s best not to train a behavior or scramble to make other arrangements for your pet the day you’ve got a party planned. Begin training your pup sooner rather than later, and if necessary, locate and lock in necessary resources ahead of time. I can speak firsthand, as can , that the holidays are some of the busiest times of the year for pet sitters, boarding facilities, and trainers.

Here’s to a pawsitively happy holiday season to you & yours from all of us at the Inquisitive Canine!

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Sure Fire Strategies to Teach Your Dog to Greet People Nicely

The holidays are coming, and one of the best parts of this time of year is having friends and family over to celebrate together.

For inquisitive canine parents with dogs that don’t know how to politely greet people, though, having people over often only adds to the stresses of the season.

As a certified trainer, dog lover, and member of the therapy dog organization Love on a Leash, I find a composed canine greeting, be it at home or along the way, of the utmost importance – everyone appreciates a polite pooch.

So let’s get started!

GREETING NICELY

The goal for Part 1 of this behavior training is to teach your dog that sitting or standing to greet you and other family members is much more rewarding than jumping up.

Jump Control, Part 1Version 2

The goal for Part 1 is to teach your dog Sitting = Attention / Jumping up =Being Ignored

  • First, reward your dog with petting, praise, treats or the toss of a toy whenever s/he greets you with “four on the floor” (all four paws on the floor) or sitting up nicely.
  • Approach your dog, or call him or her toward you, and ask for a sit. Once s/he sits, reward her or him with positive attention.
  • If and when your dog jumps up on you, turn away and ignore.
  • As soon as your dog stops jumping, and his or her paws are back on the ground, turn around to face him or her and reward.
  • When s/he doesn’t jump, pet and praise your dog. If you have treats, give one. If s/he gets too excited and jumps up again, turn your back again and start over.
  • If you turn your back but your dog keeps jumping on your back, try walking away. It’s important that you completely ignore the dog — don’t talk or chide. Pretend like s/he is not there.

Jump Control, Part 2

inquisitivecanine-waltersittingThe goal for Part 2 is to teach your dog to greet other people, including friends and strangers, politely.

Whenever possible, teach family and friends the Part 1 exercise and have them practice with your dog. When encountering people you don’t know who are willing to do the Part 1 exercise, the following will help teach your dog to generalize polite manners:

  • Warm up your dog by having her or him sit for you when s/he wants to say “hi” and be petted. Have family members and friends do the same. Then take it on the road.
  • When a stranger approaches your dog (or when you approach a stranger with your dog, after having ascertained that person wishes to be approached), ask your dog to sit. Your dog must stay in the sit position as the stranger approaches to pet her or him.
  • Give a treat to your dog for sitting as the person approaches. If your dog gets up, stop the treats and ask the person to stop or take a step backwards. Your dog will soon learn that if s/he stays seated (or next to you with four on the floor), then s/he receives attention from you and from the person saying hello. Conversely, if s/he gets up, s/he gets nothing. Your inquisitive canine will soon figure out which is the better choice.
  • Keep in mind that walking away from the person, or not allowing the person or other dog to say hello is not intended as a punishment, so refrain from jerking the collar or using an angry voice. The intention is simply to keep your dog from jumping up (before s/he can scare someone or dirty that person’s clothes), and to communicate that s/he lost the opportunity to greet the person.
  • Throughout these exercises, you can turn to explain to the stranger that you’re teaching your dog not to jump. If the person seems interested in the training process or your dog, you can ask that person if he or she wouldn’t mind helping. If so, repeat the above procedure until your dog doesn’t try to jump. At that point, allow the person to pet your dog and say hello.

Is your dog already skilled at this behavior? Make it more challenging by adding in distractions or asking for a “Down” instead of “Sit.”

Now is the perfect time to practice jump control training so that by the time the holidays are here, your rover will be perfectly polite when people come over!

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