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!


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!

Dog Safety at Memorial Day Barbecues

With Memorial Day on the horizon and summer festivities about to begin, Poncho and I thought we’d help set the stage for keeping inquisitive canines happy and safe when attending and/or co-hosting various events, parties, and barbecues.

Reward your pup for ignoring “forbidden items”, especially the barbecue! Say they walk by it and decides to stay away. Whether you’ve asked them to or not, they should be thanked. Acknowledge with anything they find motivating to reinforce that behavior. Use praise, petting, a game of fetch or tug, and even a yummy treat to make an impact.

Teach “down-stay” in one location: Train your dog to perform a settle down-stay on a bed, towel or mat. Reward for being on their “magic carpet” — all good things happen when they’re hanging out on their mat. If they start to wander toward the BBQ, you can ask to come to you and/or for them to “leave it!” – as soon as they come away from it, reward heavily. If they opt for pushing the limits, you can send them indoors (remove from the “fun”). After a minute or so, allow them to return to their special mat and reward for being there. They should soon learn this distinction: “Hmm, if I stay on my blankie, I get treats and I get to hang out. If I wander toward the hot thing with food on it, I end up inside … bummer.” Dogs are pretty clever, and soon learn what the better choice is.

A few additional BBQ Dos and Don’ts:

  • DO arrange your dog’s environment (enclose outdoors or use a barricade if needed) to prevent access to grill.
  • DON’T leave your dog unattended outside with the grill on at any time. Paws, muzzles, mouths and tongues can get burned easily – and badly!
  • DO keep your dog inside the house or tethered to those who aren’t manning the grill, if barricading outside isn’t possible.
  • DON’T create an unintentional “time-out” by sequestering your dog to an area without anything to do while everyone else is have fun.
  • DO spend a bit of time teaching and practicing safe grill behaviors with your dog before guests arrive.

Teaching your dog to be the #1 grill master, remember to combine the basics with an emphasis on rewarding any and all behaviors you want! Also keep in mind that dress rehearsals are key – especially since barbecues and daily-life chaos tend to keep us preoccupied.

Managing Leashed Dog While Off-Leash Dogs Want to Visit

Dear Inquisitive Canine,

How do I handle the situation when I am walking my boxer on her leash and we are confronted by an off leash dog or two? It happens a lot in my neighborhood and my former street dog (she was rescued from a neglectful life of living on the streets of East Dallas) goes crazy and barks and lunges at the dogs. I have worked with her so she no longer lunges at dogs behind fences but she continues to go crazy at the off leash roamers.

Ellen G.

Dear Ellen,

Thank you for writing in! We appreciate questions such as these, since there are many in your walking shoes experiencing the same situation. The following are a few quick tips you can use to help with enjoying your leash-walks.

Poncho and Ferris Out for Walkies

Interrupt and redirect! It sounds as if you’re already initiating this dog training maneuver when encountering dogs behind fences – now you can take it a step further. An easy and fun game you can play is “Find it! All you have to do is say “find it” when she alerts to another dog, then toss a small treat on the ground in the direction you want your dog do walk. The intention of the game is to redirect her attention elsewhere while making it fun and rewarding – more than barking and lunging at the other dogs. (Using a treat she’d do backflips over would make an even bigger impact!) With proper timing and consistency she should begin to create an association of “other dogs” = “fun”! You’ll know she’s understanding the game when she sees another dog and then looks at you almost as if asking “Are we going to play now?”

If your inquisitive canine is more of an obedience expert, you can play the same game, but in leu of playing “find it”, you can run through her gamut of “tricks”. The principle is the same in that every time another dog appears life gets better for her!

Keep it loosey-goosey! Leashes can be restrictive when dogs are trying to communicate with others – dogs and people. However, they’re important when in areas he or she can run off and get hurt or harm something else. Plus, in many areas it’s the law. To allow your dog freedom of speech in her innate language with the other pooch’s, avoid tightening up on the leash. IF (and this is a big IF) it’s safe for her, for the other dog, okay with the other owner (if they’re around), the general public, an

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

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

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

Building Trust with Your New Bashful Bow-wow

Dear Inquisitive Canine, 

Shy Puppy in Class

Our new Shih Tzu puppy hides from us, only coming out when no one is around. She also lowers her head when we pet her. I know it takes time, but I’ve heard some dogs will start interacting with their new environment after 1-3 days, and tomorrow will be her third day here. I just want her to be

a happy puppy. What should I do and how should I do it?

Renee T.

Dear Renee,

Poncho here! My certified dog trainer mom thought it best if I take this one. First off, allow me to say “atta girl!” for being inquisitive, aware of your situation and taking the time to ask questions about your new puppy. I’d also like to commend you for being such a keen observer of her body language and your ability to listen to what she’s “saying.”

Once a young pup myself, I can speak firsthand as to how learning to trust new people, places and situations takes time and practice. I’m happy to pass along a few simple dog training tips you can use to help your wallflower fido become the more confident canine you’d like her to be.

Treats, Love and Understanding

Let’s start with a few knowledge nuggets regarding the topic of fear. I’m talking about fear as it relates to her feelings, her emotional state and her ability to make her own decisions.

The primary stage of your dog’s life when she’s most open to new people and situations is 0-3 months — a very narrow window in which sociability wins out over being afraid. If your pup wasn’t introduced to a variety of people and situations during this time, then chances are it’ll be tougher for her to adapt, since the fear response starts to win the race as she ages. However, not all hope is lost. You can certainly teach her anything she is physically and mentally capable of doing, including trusting and enjoying her new life with you and all that’s in it!

Here are a few steps you can take:

  • Keep It Simple. During this crucial teaching time, you’ll want to keep things simple and fun. All you have to do is pair something your bashful bow-wow might be uncertain about with something she already loves! For instance, since we animals must eat, you and others can provide extra-yummy goodies for her, such as pieces of grilled chicken or steak (I love when my mom does that!), allowing her to approach you. If she’s still hesitant, try tossing pieces toward her, building the trail of trust till she is confident enough to approach.
  • Adjust Expectations, Little by Little. Believe me, you’ll want to take baby-steps when working with her. As long as she continues to advance toward you, accepting your kindness and that of strangers, you can keep forging ahead at a slow-and-steady pace. If and when she decides to back off, respect her wishes and allow her to make that choice.
  • The Triple-P of Giving Treats. Once she begins to show signs of confidence, coming toward you and being close to you, begin hand-feeding her. Others in your home can do this as well. As she gets more comfortable, you can begin the Triple-P Treat Training Plan: Pet, praise, then present the treat. Petting should begin with light touches under her chin, working your way around as she gets more comfortable. And — this is really important — all petting should be followed with a yummy nibble of treat goodness. I recommend making the top of her head the last location, since hands reaching over will cause her to pull back.

As for additional situations and locations, repeat the same steps in places you want her to enjoy hanging out. Over time, she should learn to believe that her new world is a fantastic place and her confidence should build, making it easier for her to accept and believe that novelty is the spice of life!

Paws and Reflect

Fearfulness is a normal reaction across many different species. Your pup is responding in a way that is innate — avoiding in order to survive. It can be difficult to not take it personally, but keep in mind that developing a relationship with strangers, especially those of a different species, is more about building trust and not about liking. With a caring dog-mom like you being patient, allowing her to set the pace, giving her control over her environment and being able to make her own decisions, your bashful bow-wow will begin to enjoy her life with you in time and blossom into that self-assured pup you want!


Dear Inquisitive Canine is written by Joan Mayer and her trusty sidekick, Poncho the dog. Joan is a certified professional dog trainer and dog behavior coach. Poncho is a 10-pound mutt who knows a lot about canine and human behavior. Their column is known for its simple, commonsense approach to dog training and behavior, as well as its entertaining insight into implementing proven techniques that reward both owner and dog.

Joan is also the founder of the Inquisitive Canine and developer of the Out of the Box Dog Training Game, where her love-of-dog training approach highlights the importance of understanding canine behavior. If you or your dog have questions about behavior, training or life with each other, please email them directly.

Does Your Dog Like to Share Their Food and Toys?

When it comes to resources – food, toys, and locations – many animals, dogs included, prefer to keep it all to themselves. Learning to share is just that, a learned behavior. Guarding ones resources, is an innate behavior – and one that is very handy for survival.

Whether it be Dogs or Other Species, Training and Behavior Modification are Same

I love behavior – which is a good thing, considering I’m a certified dog trainer. I also enjoy observing the interactions – behaviors – not only between inquisitive canines, but other species as well.

Recently, I witnessed a conversation between a father and his young son – about 4 years old I’d guess – that could have been written for a behavior modification course. It was textbook! And, I have to say,  it took much impulse control on my part to refrain from offering up training tips that might have helped him reach his goals. This is how it went.

  • Father to son: “Hey, if you want to play, you can’t go past the yellow poles.” (Child had a toy car he was playing with.). Son immediately goes past the poles. “Hey, I said, you can’t go past the yellow poles if you want to play.” Again, son goes past the poles. All this time not making eye-contact with his dad.

Train Your Dog to Utilize the Skills They Were Born With

What does your inquisitive canine enjoy doing? Eat? Sleep? Play? All of the above? I know my sidekick Poncho enjoys doing all of those things, as well as any work-related task I ask him to do. I bring this up because of a great video I came across, that I’d like to share with you.

This video segment stars Jesse, a Jack Russell Terrier and his brilliant and talented handler Heather. Heather was able to really see Jesse for what he is, what he can do, and what he was able to learn. For pet parents, it’s the ideal way to capitalize on behaviors that you like and put them to good use – for both you and your dog. Or, it can be the perfect opportunity to replace unwanted behaviors with ones you want. Continue Reading “Train Your Dog to Utilize the Skills They Were Born With”

Training Tips for Teaching Your Dog Not to Speak

Dear Poncho,

My dog barks enthusiastically, very loudly, over and over. He does it at many different times, including the morning when I’m taking him outside, when I come home from being away, or when we arrive home together from a car ride. He barks in the car, out of the car, and everywhere between!

I don’t know how to stop him. I tell him “No,” but then he usually barks at least two to four more times!

Do you have any suggestions?
Tj’s owner

Dear inquisitive canine parent of TJ,

Your dog barks, you give him attention by saying “no”, he barks again. Hmm, sounds to me you’ve done a great job at teaching him to “speak” – nice work! I have a feeling that wasn’t your intention though.

TJ sounds like one happy enthusiastic pal. But I totally understand about it being annoying when another living being can’t seem to appreciate the sound of silence. Believe it or not, you’re barking up the right tree. I myself am one inquisitive canine who enjoys his own voice now and again, and I’d be happy to share some of the training tips my own mom uses with me.

Here are the four tenets of my Mutt Model:

Know Your Animal!
Guess what? TJ is a dog! And guess what else? Dogs bark. Yep, that’s what we do. Well, at least most of us. Some more than others of course. And similar to humans talking for a variety of reasons, dogs will bark for a variety of reasons. For instance I’ll bark when:

  • Someones knocks at the front door
  • I’m excited
  • Patrolling the yard
  • I’m wanting attention
  • Annoying diesel trucks drive by (I’m a hybrid fan myself)

And the list goes on….Please remember that barking is a main form of communication for us canines. If you didn’t want to live with an animal that barks…well, then you might want to find a roommate of another species. But you’d probably end up with having to deal with other irritating habits and noises. Plus, I’m sure the love you have for TJ outweighs the annoying barking so we won’t discuss that option.

Whaddya Want?
It’s time to hunker down and figure out exactly what it is you want from TJ. Do you want him to bark only at certain times, such as when someone is at your front door? Do you want TJ to be quiet when he’s in the car, when you come home, and when you take him outside?

Once you have your list compiled, you’ll need to take the time to teach him when and where you want him to be silent. Start small and work your way up. Having realistic expectations will make the process easier on you both.

Reward. Reward. Reward.
Now it’s time to begin acknowledging TJ when he makes the choices you want him to make. For you this means any time he is quiet – especially during the more exciting times. Suppressing enthusiasm can be very difficult for us pooches, so using a reward that is more motivating than the reasons he wants to bark is key.

A few ideas that might work for you specifically are:

  • Practice coming and going in and out of the house and car, with TJ in tow, as well as on your own, rewarding with chin scratches, yummy treats and a “good boy” at those moments when he is quiet. Even if it’s just a brief second while he’s coming up for air is better than nothing. Take what you can get when you can get it.
  • Hang out with TJ in your car while it’s parked at your home. Read a book – or the latest Edhat edition. Then while TJ is just chillaxing, reward him for being quiet. This way he learns that being quiet in the car gets him the attention he wants. If he barks, send him inside and take off in the car on your own.
  • If and when TJ barks for attention – that doesn’t involve having to go outside to potty or a stranger is on the property – ignore it! Walk away if you have to.

Know Yourself:
If you’re having one of those days where you don’t feel like dealing with TJ and his being a chatty-Kathy in the car, then leave him at home. If you’re at your wits end and you don’t feel like training him, then redirect his energy to a different outlet. A scavenger hunt in the yard, play-date with another doggy friend, an outing at the local doggy daycare or date with a dog walker can help give him the attention he wants while expending energy, leaving him relaxed and wanting to rest.

Paws and Reflect
Keep in mind that any type of attention is still attention – even if it’s negative attention. So if you’ve been interacting with TJ whenever he barks, even saying something like “no” will increase the risk of his barking more often.

So instead of focusing in on the negative, concentrate on the behaviors that you want, teach TJ in a way he understands, and reward him heavily for making the better choice.

*****

Poncho Mayer is a 10-pound inquisitive canine who knows a lot about human and canine behavior. He and his mom work together running the family business that services other inquisitive canines. For additional dog training and behavior tips, subscribe to their blog. You can also follow Poncho on Twitter and head over to his Inquisitive Canine Facebook page, “like us” and upload pics of your own inquisitive canine. You can also ask us about dog behavior, just email us directly.

Teach Your Dog to Enjoy Alone Time

Dear Poncho,

Our dog Tessa is a wonderful addition to our family. She’s smart, lovable, and very obedient. Our only problem is leaving her alone. She cries, barks, and shreds her bed in the crate. If we leave her in the backyard, she chews at our fences, although eventually she settles down. She has also destroyed my car’s door panels when I’ve left her in there for even short periods of time (with open windows, in the shade, and with water, of course).

We don’t know what to do about her complete agitation when she is away from us, and I don’t have time for long and intense training. Please help!

Thank you,
Cara

Dear Miss Cara,

Sounds like your assessment of Tessa’s behavior is right on track: she’s agitated when left alone, as opposed to being bored or angry. I can totally empathize, because I used to dread spending time alone. Now though, after my folks helped me out, I have the confidence to do so, and actually look forward to it. Sure, it’s great being a mama’s (and daddy’s) boy, but frankly I need a break now and then. Allow me to provide my pooch’s perspective. Continue Reading “Teach Your Dog to Enjoy Alone Time”

How to Get Your Dog to Answer Your Call

Dear Inquisitive Canine,

I like to take my dog to the park to let him play off-leash. However, I’m finding it more difficult because when it’s time to go back home, it takes me too long to get him to come back to me. I never know how long the whole ordeal will take.

In addition, he sometimes runs off so far that I can’t see him. Or, he ends up shimmying under a fence and is off exploring somewhere. I’m afraid he will run onto the street and get hit by a car. Can you help?

Owner of a wandering woofer

Dear Wandering,

Sounds like your dog is a proficient explorer of the great outdoors. Although we’re sure that you appreciate that trait, we can understand that his “selective hearing” can be frustrating, especially when you need to leave. Fortunately, we can help! Just by following a few “coming when called” guidelines, performing some pre-event practice sessions, and  supplying a side-order of environmental management, you’re sure to make everyone happy while staying on schedule.

Set a Course for Action and Adventure

When it comes to calling your dog to you, especially in a stimulating outdoor environment, keep in mind that you’re asking him to stop what he’s doing and leave the amusement park. For him, this means that the fun is ending. Talk about punishment! To entice him away, you’ll need to promise a much more attractive alternative to what he’s doing at the moment so he’ll want to come to you no matter what. The following guidelines provide dog training tips sure to encourage your dog to “take your call”: Continue Reading “How to Get Your Dog to Answer Your Call”