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

when is the right time to adopt a new dogWhen is the Right Time to Adopt a New Dog

How do you find love again after your heart has been broken? Not only is this an eternal human question, but it extends to canines as well. Choosing to adopt a new dog after loss isn’t an easy decision, but it’s one many pet owners make.

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.

How to know it’s the right time to adopt a new dog?

In a very similar way, I often wondered when we’d be ready to take the plunge and adopt a new dog. 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.

Still, 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. Not the right time to adopt a new dog just yet.

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 and adopt a new dog. 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.

When 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

Here’s How to Avoid Dangerous Dog Walking Gear and Spot the Best Pet Gear for Your Pet

There is significant controversy over the use of aversive dog walking gear 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.

As an inquisitive dog mom, animal advocate, and certified dog trainer, I often wonder how and why dog walking 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?”

Side Effects of the Wrong Dog Walking Gear

Well, similar to outdated, ineffective medical treatments, there are high-risk side effects of using aversive dog walking gear, 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.

The implications of using such dog walking gear 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. Choose the best dog walking gear for your dog, and you’ll get the best results.
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What to Look for When Choosing the Best Dog Trainer for Your Pet

Finding the Best Dog Trainer for Your Four-Legged Friend

Not all trainers are created equal. Finding the best dog trainer for your dog may take a little more research, but your canine is worth the effort.

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 find the best dog trainer for your canine:

  • 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 for finding the best dog trainer for your dog 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 looking for the best dog trainer for your dog?

Just head to the comment section below to join the conversation. And remember, we invite you to share pics and videos of your inquisitive canine on our Facebook page. Or, follow us on Twitter – Tweet to us and we’ll Tweet ya back!

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

New Year's resolutions for your dogNew Year’s Resolutions for Your Dog

As we start another year, you may be considering New Year’s resolutions for your dog. Read this before making behavioral goals for your furry friend.

Hello 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.

New Year’s Resolutions for Your Dog

To create New Year’s resolutions for your dog, start by thinking about 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.

How to Achieve New Year’s Resolutions for Your Dog

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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Pet Friendly Holidays – Make Your List (Check It Twice!)

how to enjoy pet friendly holidays by preparing for guestsEnjoy Pet Friendly Holidays By Preparing Your Pooch for Holiday Guests

The weather outside might be frightful, but that doesn’t mean your inquisitive canine’s holiday entertaining skills — or lack thereof — need to be. Enjoy pet friendly holidays by preparing your pooch in advance.

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 have dress rehearsals for successful pet friendly holidays.

How to Plan Pet Friendly Holidays

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 pet friendly 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

Teach Your Canine – Strategies for Better Dog Greeting

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 dog greeting, be it at home or along the way, of the utmost importance – everyone appreciates a polite pooch.

So let’s get started with strategies for better dog greeting!

Nice Dog Greeting

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

Jump Control, Part 1Strategies for better dog greeting

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 polite dog greeting for other people, including friends and strangers.

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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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 Inquisitive Canine Facebook page.

Watch Me, Walk With Me: Loose Leash Dog Walking 101

Loose Leash Dog WalkingDiscover Loose Leash Dog Walking Tips

Everyone knows you walk with your feet (or paws, depending on your species), but did you know that the secret to successful loose leash dog walking begins with a mutual connection that comes from the head and the heart?

With any DIY dog training, you have to start with an understanding of inquisitive canine behavior. Put your pup on a leash, and s/he’s not going to stop doing what s/he’s wired to do: sniff, explore and investigate. The pull to examine everything that catches your dog’s eye is powerful… literally.

This is why so often we see dogs walking their owners, and not the other way around.

As a certified dog trainer, I appreciate when inquisitive canines trust their humans enough to be able to look longingly into their eyes. I also love to see dogs and pet parents trotting along, side-by-side, enjoying a leisurely walk. These two activities are not mutually exclusive; in fact, building trust through a loving gaze is the first step to training your dog to walk on a leash.

Here are step-by-step instructions to get your pup prepped to be the perfect walking companion:

“Watch Me” ~ Establish Trust
AcademyDog-DalmatianThe first step is to get your dog to learn how to meet and hold your gaze. Eye contact is not “normal” doggy behavior so if your pup takes a while to warm up to this, don’t worry. The following instructions that start with the tiniest glances and increase from there is a process called “shaping.”

  • Have your treats and clicker ready. (To brush up on the magic of clickers and how to establish a Click-Treat [C/T] pattern, click here).
  • Your dog may be sitting, standing or lying down, with as few distractions around as possible.
  • Begin to C/T the moment your dog makes any eye contact with you at all.
  • If your dog doesn’t catch on right away, make kissy noises to prompt him or her or show a treat and then hold it up next to your eyes. As soon as your dog glances up, go ahead and C/T.
  • Shape their behavior by C/T — go from the baby steps of glancing near your face to looking into your eyes.
  • Gradually increase the time your dog looks at you before you C/T.
  • Remember: Once your dog makes eye contact with you, complete each step at least ten (10) times before making it more difficult, such as adding in distractions or asking for a longer time of eye contact.
  • It will be up to you if you want to use the cue word “Watch” or your dog’s name.
  • If your dog seems bored or distracted, lower the bar of what you want and raise the rate of C/T. You can also try using a different kind of treat.

Once you’ve built that trust and your dog is looking to you for more information, you’re ready to move from watching to walking!

“Let’s Go For a Walk!” ~ Loose Leash Dog Walking (LLW)

Taking your dog for a walk should be fun and enjoyable for everyone. Loose leash dog walking means your dog is on leash and calmly proceeding near you, within the length of the leash without pulling, tugging or lunging.

As we all know, this can be challenging for many dogs, especially where there are lots of new places to go, people to meet and other dogs to sniff. It can be challenging for us if we have a dog that enjoys pulling (either to get somewhere or to prevent from leaving a specific location).

With time, patience and consistency, dogs can learn how to walk nicely on leash, making it more pleasant for both of you.

Prep Work

  • Begin by holding the leash with one hand at your belly button – like an ice cream cone – with your arms relaxed. This allows you to use your center of gravity as an anchor to help from being pulled over and to help prevent from pulling back on the leash accidentally.
  • Next, prompt your dog to come to your side. Use a food lure, a happy voice, a verbal and/or visual cue. Say yes, then give a treat.
  • Keep in mind that the leash is used as a safety line, not for controlling your dog. Try not to pull or tug at your dog. Also, it’s best not to wrap the leash around your hand or wrist (prevents injury if your dog does pull).
  • Be sure you’re using appropriate and safe walking equipment, including a front-clip harness.

Practice Walking with Minimal Distractions

  • You may want to do the first few runs indoors, where there are not as many distractions as outside.
  • Give a verbal walking cue, take two or three steps (using a food lure if necessary), stop, have your dog stop (or sit, which is optional), say yes and treat.
  • Continue to practice this step until your dog is offering on his or her own. Then begin to take additional steps, increasing the distance.
  • Add in the “Watch Me” phrase when you stop and also say it intermittently when walking. This teaches your dog to check in with you on a walk and helps remind him or her that you’re out together. This enhances the bond you share.
  • Once your dog understands the concept of loose leash dog walking, increase the pace by walking briskly indoors with him or her on leash If s/he goes to the end of the leash, change direction and keep walking at a quick pace.
  • When s/he comes near you on the side you want her or him to walk, use a cheerful voice to praise. Whenever s/he gets into heel position or puts slack in the leash, say yes and treat. Also, reward for any eye contact.
  • If after a couple minutes you don’t find your dog spending more time at your side or with a slack leash, consider moving to a less distracting area.
  • You may also reward more frequently, delivering the treat in the position you want. The point in doing this is to help motivate your dog to stay interested, as opposed to wandering to the end of the leash, looking for something else to do.

Once you’re comfortable with loose leash dog walking and eye contact, make it more challenging by adding in one distraction at a time.

Before you know it, you’ll be watching your dog walking outside on a loose leash – and best of all, you trained him or her yourself!

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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.

Back to School for Dogs Too – Basic Dog Training Session 2

Basic Dog Training for Your Inquisitive Canine

Hey there inquisitive dog lover! Welcome to session 2 of our Back to School for Dogs Too basic dog training series. If you’re just joining us, check out session 1 for tips and lessons on getting started. If you’re continuing on, we say “Yay!” click-treat, and thank you for participating.

For this specific installment of basic dog training techniques, we will be focusing on “Sit” and “Down.” As a certified trainer, I have come to lump these, along with eye-contact, as the main trifecta of dog behaviors. If your inquisitive canine can master these, then you will not only set yourselves up for success, but will also create a solid foundation for many other behaviors and situations.

Here are basic dog training techniques you can learn from home. Here we go!

Sit

  • Wait for your dog to sit. As soon as his or her rump hits the floor/ground, “click and treat” (C/T) or use your marker word, as explained and outlined in Session 1 of our Back-to-School program.
  • If your dog doesn’t sit automatically, hold a treat at the tip of his or her nose and move it up and over his or her head, back towards his or her rear end. Your dogs head should look up while shifting his or her weight back, ending up in a “sit.
  • Once your dog starts sitting reliably every time, you can add in the cue word “sit.” Practice doing this 5-10 times: saying the word “sit,” pause to see if he or she does, if not use the food lure then C/T.
  • Repeat this until you no longer need the food lure.

Down

basic dog training tips for moves like sit and down
Kona practicing his “Down”
  • Begin with a treat in one hand, placing it on the tip of your dogs nose, slowly move it downward towards the ground, guiding him or her into a “down” position. As soon as your dog lies down C/T.
  • Repeat this “lure and reward” technique until your dog does the motion reliably, without pausing. When he or she does the motion reliably, you can begin to add the cue word “down,” before luring.
  • Say the word “down,” pause to see if your dog lies down, if he or she does then C/T, if not, then use the lure-reward technique to move him or her into the position, then C/T.

Repeat the following sequence for both Sit & Down:

  • Say it:        “Sit” or  “Down”
  • Show it:      Lure
  • Pay it:         Click-Treat

As your dog begins offering the behavior reliably, you can begin to fade out the food lure, using only your hand signal as a prompt. Still C/T after your dog lies down, and reward!

Tips & Troubleshooting:

  • Repeat this sequence until your dog is following reliably, then begin to fade out the food lure, using only your hand signal.
  • Practice “Sit” & “Down” in a variety of locations. Even 2-3 times a day for 2-3 minutes can be very helpful.If your dog jumps up to get the treat, lure him or her back into the down position before giving it to him. (You don’t need to “click” again.)
  • If your dog is having trouble lying down, try starting him or her from the sitting position. An alternative is to C/T for smaller, baby-steps towards the final down position – head focused downward, elbows bent, chest on ground, etc.
  • Remember to use the cue only once!
  • Wanna advance your skills? Use only the verbal or visual cue in different locations with different distractions. To “test” if your dog understands, ask a stranger to give the cue!

For a fun way to practice both “Sit” & “Down” at the same time, try”Puppy Push-Ups”! 

Remember to check back for upcoming Back to School and basic dog training posts (or subscribe to our blog), to keep up with behavior momentum and fluency!

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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.

Harness the Love, for Dogs Everywhere

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Milo

The wonderful Academy for Dog Trainers, and my Alma Mater, is at it again! This time it’s #HarnessTheLove, a week long social media campaign to highlight and promote the use of no-pull harnesses. Hope you’ll join in the fun, take away some useful tidbits, and share the knowledge.

Of course the Inquisitive Canine is participating! As a certified professional dog trainer and behavior consultant, I’m all about force-free training, pawsitive reinforcement, and the use of aversive-free equipment – specifically harnesses that allow for both front-clip and back-clip leash attachment. This special campaign is all about highlighting the use of these types of harnesses, while focusing on educating people what to do, rather than shaming or finger-pointing for choosing other types of equipment.

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Sam

Why do I love harnesses? First, they take pressure off your dog’s neck and distribute it across a larger body area, unlike traditional collars, making it more comfortable for your dog. And a comfortable dog is in position to learn better and often more readily. Harnesses also give you a vantage point in communicating with your inquisitive canine, as it is easier to feel movement, any tension, and energy through the leash.

Let’s take a look at loose leash walking, meaning your dog is walking in a relaxed state on a leash while being allowed to explore and sniff within the length of the leash with no pulling, tugging, or lunging. Sound too good to be true? Well, a harness helps makes this possible. Think about the traditional collar and leash from a dog’s perspective. Many dogs experience sharp pains in their neck, feelings of being choked, not being able to breathe, and what can be perceived as feelings of stress and frustration. There’s no reason for that with such a wide variety of harnesses available.

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Romeo

As a matter of fact, I’m so on-board with harness use that I’ve even started my own dog product company called TransPaw Gear™, LLC and am in the process of launching the official TransPaw Gear™ dog harness! A dog-friendly, user-friendly, multi-purpose harness that puts the FUN in FUNctional! Want more info? Check out our TransPaw Gear™ dog harness webpage – And, if you’re so inclined, “Like” us on Facebook!

But, this post, and the #HarnessTheLove campaign isn’t about self-promotion, it is about educating the community on the importance of using force-free methods and equipment with their inquisitive canines! I’ve always said that dog collars are like wallets: they should be used to carry identification and complement an outfit – or fur. So, what products should you use?

There seems to be a wide variety to choose from. And, I  know the importance of shopping around and making an informed decision. With the many options, it’s best to look for features that work best for you. your inquisitive canine, budget, and resources available. In addition to our very own TransPaw Gear™ dog harness, a few others that I’ve had some hands-on, and paws-on, experience with include:

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    Haley

    The Freedom No-Pull Dog Harness which has front and back clips to discourage pulling. It also has a velvet lining on the strap to prevent chafing behind the legs. Recommended by trainers and inquisitive canines alike.

  • The Tru-Fit Smart Harness has five adjustment points for a great fit plus a chest D-ring. Dogs are assured comfort and protection with its front chest pieces. A great everyday walking harness
  • Softtouch Concepts, Inc. Front-Connection™ harnesses offer a number of sizes, colors, and prices, without the use of restrictive designs. One of Poncho’s favorite.
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Moo

My personal and professional opinion is dogs would most likely rather run around naked than wear any type of collar or harness. But, to adapt to our human world, they’ll put up with our requests for sporting an article of clothing – or two. The least we can do is help make them comfortable.

So, tell me, how do you and your inquisitive canine #HarnessTheLove? Please share your #HarnessTheLove story. It’s easy on Facebook, Instagram, your own blog, and with friends at the dog park!

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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.

Back to School for Dogs Too – Homeschooling session 1

Welcome! And thank you for checking out the Canine Back to School series. Over here at IC HQs we realize that transition periods between vacations and reality can sometimes impact our canine companions too, so we wanted to help ease everyone back into a schedule that includes some home-schooling, ensuring they develop the life-skills us humans appreciate. 

As a certified professional dog trainer and behavior consultant, one of my main goals is to teach you to teach your dog the skills to become a well-behaved family member and companion. We’ll start by setting down some fundamentals. Then, over the coming weeks, we will build upon these initial behaviors in subsequent posts so you can learn how to get your dog to work with you wherever you happen to be. 

We begin our homeschooling program with discovering what drives your inquisitive canine, followed by going over a couple of the basics every dog parent should have in their toolbox. We also share the art of timing, and how important it is to send a clear message of what you want. 

Motivation 

PonchoEnrichment

Successful positive reinforcement begins with discovering what motivates your dog. Food, toys, or “Real Life” rewards such as sniffing a favorite tree, all have one thing in common: They encourage learning and participation through things your dog enjoys.

What motivates your inquisitive canine? Take a minute to create a list – chicken bits, liver treats, a scratch behind the ear …  Remember, like us, each dog is an individual and that rewards are based on personal preferences. 

Anything that motivates your dog can be used to reinforce the behaviors you want. In addition to motivation, timing is critical, as dogs “live in the moment.” Behaviors need to be rewarded or punished immediately, otherwise your dog might not associate the behavior with what you were rewarding or punishing. This is where using the Clicker or “Magic Word” comes in handy. The sound tells your dog that what he or she was doing at that exact moment is what you wanted. 

Clicker-Dog

The Clicker or the Magic Word

The purpose of this exercise is to teach your dog that the sound of the Clicker or the “Magic Word” means something wonderful is coming. You will then be able to use this sound to signal to your dog that what he or she did was what you wanted. Settle yourself comfortably with your dog near you. Have an ample amount of yummy treats in an easy to reach place. Kibble works great for this exercise. Now, try the following:

  1. Make a Click* or say the Magic Word; then give your dog a treat.
  2. Click-Treat (C/T) about 20 times in a row, feeding from your hand.
  3. Repeat the C/T another 15-20 times, but feed from different locations, for example toss treat on floor or away from where you are sitting.
  4. Repeat a few more times until you notice your dog orienting when hearing the sound of the Clicker or Magic Word.
  5. Next, repeat the same steps in different locations. You can also have other family members practice the same exercise.
  6. Dogs are individuals and work at different paces. Some pick it up immediately, some take a few sessions. Remember to take it easy and have fun with your dog.

 * If your dog shies away from the click or leaves the area, stop the session. Muffle the Clicker by wrapping it in a towel or similar soft, thick cloth until you can barely hear it and begin again. As your dog begins to respond to the muffled sound by looking for the treat, gradually unwrap the Clicker.

You will know you have completed this process when your dog alerts to the sound, then looks for the treat when he or she hears the click.

Clicker and Magic Word Rules

  1. The click comes first, the reward follows.
  2. Every click must be followed with a reward! Even if you didn’t mean to click.
  3. The clicker is not a remote–it is used to communicate with your dog that what she or he did at a specific moment is what you wanted, it is not used to get his or her attention. 

For additional information on Clicker Training, check out Karen Pryor’s website.

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Eye Contact or Watch Me

The idea of the exercise is to teach your dog to make eye contact with you. Once your dog is rewarded for looking at you, he or she will offer this behavior more frequently.

First, prepare a large number of small treats (remember, motivation!). Hold them in your hand or a bait pouch or set them in a container near you. Get your Clicker ready. You can begin this exercise with your dog sitting or lying down or standing. You can sit or stand.  It is easier, though, to have your face and your dog’s face a little closer together.

  1. Say your cue word, such as watch, look, eyes, attention, or his or her name. If your dog looks at you, C/T immediately. If he or she doesn’t, prompt your dog by making kissy noises, when he or she does make eye contact, C/T.
  2. If you still need your dog to orient up to your face, you can lure with a treat. Put the food lure on the tip of your dogs nose, then move it up towards your face. His or her eyes should follow it. When your dog looks up, immediately C/T.
  3. Continue this exercise, asking only for a split second glance. Do not ask for or expect your dog to gaze longingly into your eyes. (That will come later.)
  4. Repeat this activity until your dog responds to the cue word without the lure. Then continue to practice over and over again, in different locations.

With that, we are at the end of the first lesson. Fun, wasn’t it? Betcha your inquisitive canine thinks so too! 

This concludes the first session of our Canine Back to School series. We encourage you to practice a little every day. Even working short 5 minute sessions into your daily life can help you reach your goals. Learning is ongoing, and this is just the start of a relationship between you and your dog that will last many years.  We are thrilled you’ve given us the opportunity to share in your adventure!

Remember to check back for upcoming Back to School posts (or subscribe to our blog), to keep up with behavior momentum and fluency!

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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.