Landlocked in a Trainer’s Nightmare!

Landlocked in a Trainer’s Nightmare!

Oh, sure, they look calm here, but the cycle of dog and cat crazy zoomies repeated itself several times a day while we weathered the snow storm here in Charleston, South Carolina this past week. Locked together in an apartment with no escape other than the occasional trudge through the ice and snow for relief was… OK, I’ll say it, “maddening!” If you came here to read the pretty picture of a Trainer’s life with pets, and how she saw this as the opportunity of a lifetime, to have dedicated time to be with her dogs and cat, switch channels, my friend. Ear muffs if you want perfection or pulled punches. This is a tale of real horror!

Last week, I told you I’d pull back the curtain on real life training, sharing with you my refreshed commitment to enriching my pets’ lives and my own with training them regularly, “Ten minutes minimum, three times a week for each pet” I proclaimed. A no-brainer. Easy, right? …Ehem. It should be made even easier when locked indoors with them. What better way to channel all that excess energy they had from limited physical exercise. My clients hear me preach ad nauseam about the benefits of, even the crucial need for, mental stimulation for our pets. Just like us, they need to work their brains every day to stay healthy and happy. Added benefit, it can be even more tiring than physical exercise! “So, C.C., tell us what kind of training program did you put together for them?! In between training sessions, did you opt for up-cycled items from around the house for enrichment or go with interactive toys for keeping the critters engaged and exercised?” FAIL! No plan. No purposeful execution.

Mamma C.C. was flat in bed with a cold turned bronchitis! Yea! WOOHOO! Party at my house of autoimmune collapse. No, pity, please. Cheers and adulation, instead, for The Boyfriend and his six month old Hound mix, “Freedom.” The Boyfriend kept us all from poking our eyes out, taking the kids out for regular walks and making sure we didn’t starve. I wanted to cry from the mess of shredded dog toy stuffing smashed into every nook and cranny of the house, dogs jumping on me for attention and head ringing from Freedom’s bellowing howl during play and fits of misbehavior. My youngest, 3 year old Jasper, was all too eager to revert to his obnoxious teenage ways partying with Freedom while I was down for the count. Still, I had to admit, he was happily occupied, and Valentino and Annie, my older dog and cat, were relieved to be relieved of their usual sibling duties of keeping Jasper in line.

By day four I was vertical again and something unexpected happened. “Guerrilla Training,” as I like to call it, came into play. Much like “guerrilla warfare” it is the use of hit-and-run training tactics by small, mobile groups of irregular forces operating in territory controlled by a hostile, regular force. See photo above. Surviving in the hostile conditions of my home required Stealth Timing, Capturing Behavior and outwitting Extinction Bursts. I ended up eating my own dog food and training way more than the minimum promised!

It’s been said many different ways, but I was pointedly reminded by these circumstance that with our pets, training is taking place in every interaction. Either your dog is training you, or you are training your dog. Once the fog in my head began to clear, I mustered up the energy to embrace this truth and make the most of all the cuckoo that was unfolding before me. Instead of reacting by pulling the covers over my head and moaning, “Guys, stop!” as they chose to play (of all places in the apartment) on my head, I sat up, softly asked Jasper to “Settle (a skill he knows)” and gently took hold of each dog’s collar with my arms far enough apart for me to keep them from interacting further. Any stillness from either of them was praised heavily, again with a calming voice. Soft, slow belly rubs for a bit followed. Continued calm behavior on the bed was reinforced by letting them enjoy snuggle time. Any return to rowdiness, they were immediately removed.

Quick, real-life training scenario, yes? In that moment, I was glad I had previously dedicated time to teaching Jasper that “Settle” means to toggle his own off switch and relax. Management via separation of the two rascals was key and knowing proper handling skills to not increase excitement or create tension between the dogs or between me and either dog was important. Raising my voice would have simply activated them further. Pushing them away would encourage play. I wanted calm, so I had to be calm, ask for calm and focus on getting that response from the dog who knew how to give me that behavior on cue. Through the “Social Facilitation” I’ve mentioned previously, Jasper and I were able to show Freedom that settling down would be rewarding for him as well. Years ago, Pat Miller pointed  out to me that head petting is far more activating to a dog than softly stroking the body. That tiny difference in how I chose to interact with the guys that afternoon, added up to a big communication win in directing the outcome I was desperately looking for. Thanks again, Pat! Lastly, if and when… oh who are we kidding, when the dogs did eventually start playing again about an hour later, they were removed from the room to show them that their behavior of being rowdy on the bed made them lose access to good stuff, the bed and me.

So, my friends, we are all training our dogs. It’s our choice of what we want them to learn from us. Stay calm, guide them, reinforce (reward) the behaviors you want to see more of. Do not reward behaviors that drive you batty.

Here’s another commonly asked about behavior example. Does your dog Demand Bark? What is Demand Barking? It is when your dog barks at you asking you emphatically to do something. This is the type of extreme barking that can make you develop an embarrassing twitch. Your dog is demanding a response from you, and the vocalizing does usually makes something happen, right? Don’t reward him by engaging with him (facing him, eye contact, talking to him). Make a different choice which will result in what you want him to learn, less barking, more quiet. Turn away the moment he barks at you. Go out of the room if need be and close a door between you. He offers a moment of silence, even the briefest moment, turn back toward him and praise softly. Do detective work next time to be able to predict when he might demand bark again. Set him up for success next time with a pre-planned training scenario. Train him to sit when he wants something instead. Occupy him with something to pre-empt another demand barking episode. Help him get more energy out to avoid boredom; more mental or physical exercise or both. Figure out what is going on ahead of time and decide your plan of response so you will not be reacting in the moment. It’s all choices!

Hope this was helpful!
C.C.

 

Walking the Walk and Eating My Own Dog Food

Walking the Walk and Eating My Own Dog Food

There are certain questions Professional Trainers hear with some frequency. “How in the world will I find time to train my dog?” is muttered often, and usually accompanied by a deep sigh. I feel you here…. Oh, do I feel you here! Trainers are known for not “finding time” to train their own dogs. Yep. There it is. Secret revealed! In the rare times Trainers get together to exchange stories and training methodologies, we often lament the lack of dedication we have to our own dogs’ advancement in the art of training. “A cobblers shoes are always worn,” is the analogy I share with my clients as a sympathetic nod to their feelings of frustration when they wonder how they will fit one more item into their very busy schedules. It’s a no-brainer that, as a Professional Trainer, I deeply feel training a pet is just as important as regular vet visits, mental and physical exercise and even right up there with basic care of feeding and shelter. How in the world then could we Trainers not carve out time to build our own dogs’ skills?! I’ve recently had an epiphany.

“It ends up, peer pressure can be a very good thing.”

“Finding time,” isn’t what’s standing in our way. Scheduling and committing to actually executing it is the answer. Like a diamond of clarity shot to my brain, my business coach put it very succinctly just this morning. It doesn’t have to be perfect. It doesn’t have to be for an hour or even thirty minutes. It just has to be done. “Don’t ruin good with perfect” was also imparted to me years ago by a wise counsel. Want to start meditating? Need to get back to working out? Want to teach your dog a new skill or help him modify a not so pretty behavior he’s developed? Commit and execute. Start simple. Dedicate five minutes. The feeling of accomplishment and the positive results from that execution will motivate you to do it again. A very big part of my work is motivating people and teaching them how to motivate their pets.

Now, I am choosing to eat my own dog food. To take the same concepts I’ve fed others for years and “walk the walk.” I’ve been training animals for a very long time. I naturally stay motivated to gobble up the latest research and techniques around modern dog and cat behavior and training. No planning, commitment or execution issues there, thank you very much. I reach people through my Private Training, Day Training and Growl Classes to impart what I’ve learned and get immense joy from helping my clients and their pets. It’s not enough. This Trainer needs more. This Trainer has been slacking. This Trainer is making a change!

I’m not a routine type of person. Oh, sure, I brush my teeth every morning, make coffee, walk the dogs, feed them, check email. I can even keep my scheduled appointments like an adult. But purposely creating a new ritual or routine and sticking to it (Hear me giggling with a twisted sound of fear in that laugh)? Just take a look here at the dates on my very old former attempt at blogging regularly. Add to that, the fact that I have several new routines and goals I want to implement into my daily life, and now imagine me looking like a deer in the headlights.

This will take immense dedication on my part. I’m nervous I will fail. I’m afraid I will let my pets down, let myself down and disappoint you. BUT, I’m diving in! And I’m doing it very publicly. EEK! It ends up, peer pressure can be a very good thing. We use it in training sometimes. It’s known as Social Facilitation. So, I’ve scheduled out my new routines into the week and am inviting you along for the ride as I sore to new heights, stumble, succeed and even pull the curtain back on training secrets (Hint: there’s no big secret to training. It just takes a willingness to learn, a bit of patience and to actually train). Drum roll! My New Rituals:

  • Train each of my three pets for 10 minutes a day three days a week in total.
  • Share this journey here in hopes of motivating, educating and making you laugh to learn trainers are humans too.
  • Self Care – To bed early and to rise early and working out 3 days a week.
  • Stay motivated and pat myself on the back with every win.

Let’s do this!

Holiday Guests? Pets Trained?

Holiday Guests? Pets Trained?

As you hurry to ready the house for guests this holiday season, have you said to yourself quietly, “I hope the Pets behave themselves when everyone is here.”  Maybe wishing you had brushed up on their Basic Manners skills a bit with a few training exercises?

Don’t panic.  You’ve got this.  It’s great that you are aware of the potential for chaos and possibility of calm.  With this awareness, some minor prep and a few guidelines, you and your Pets will be successful this holiday.  Please re-commit to your Pets that you will help them improve certain skills once the guests leave.  Otherwise, pat yourself on the back for taking a few moments to sort this out and enjoy your holidays.

Now is not the time to insist you and your Pet master whichever Basic Manners are rusty or not refined.  This is the time to come up with a clear management plan to prevent stress, also known as Mr. Buzz Kill, from attending your party.

Take a History
With paper and pen in hand, walk around your home and visually remember which interactions with visitors your Pets have had difficulty with in the past and at which locations in your home.  Record all of them even if your Pet has done better with this behavior outside of the home since then.  Success in some locations does not guarantee success in another.

Dare to Dream
Now turn those memories on their heads and picture a video playing of your Dog or Cat behaving how you want them to in each scenario.  Actually picture the body movements.  Instead of, “I just don’t want her to jump on Grandma again” see your furry girl in a calm Sit as Grandma reaches under her chin to scratch her and say, “Hello, Sweetie.”  This will greatly inform and empower your strategy.  How you ask?

Strategize
Next to each interaction in your list, rate from 1 to 3 which behaviors your Pet has experienced the most and least difficulty.  1 denotes “Little Difficulty” and 3 represents “Extreme Difficulty.”  This is where your plan takes shape.  Let’s use the behavioral issue of a Dog who jumps when greeting as our working example.

Put It on Lock Down – For the 3s on your list, it is your mission to not let this behavioral interaction happen at all using prevention.  Why stress you, your Pet or your guests. Using our above example, a 3 would indicate that a Polite Greeting is not yet possible for our pooch.  One option is to place your Pet in the room furthest away from the front door with no direct view of the door to remove visual and audio stimulus of people entering your home.  Unlock your front doors and place a note outside which tells guests “Please come right in!” so they don’t knock or ring the doorbell (assuming your needed safety and comfort levels for doing this are in place).  This will help minimize stimulation further.  Let your Dog enjoy a quiet room with a frozen, stuffed Kong you give her before anyone arrives.  Have a second one loaded and ready for her should the need arise.  There will be no need to feed her a regular meal at dinner time, she will be quite happy with this fun treat and have a nice nap afterwards from all the yummy Kong-cicle she just enjoyed.

Manage Heavy – For behaviors numbered 2, perhaps you have worked on Polite Greetings but have hit a roadblock.  Your Pet recovers well after the greeting has happened (behaves calm after the initial presentation of this interaction) but gets jumpy when people first arrive in your home. Let’s use the same scenario with your Dog in the designated room with her stuffed toy.  One option to consider is to allow all of your guests to arrive then bring her out on a lead tethered to you to greet everyone.  To tether, attach the lead handle to a belt loop with a carabiner or loop the leash around your waist and through the handle then attach it to her collar.  This frees up your hands but allows you to keep her on a short lead to prevent jumping on guests.  She will have had time to enjoy her Kong and work out some of that extra energy she has from hearing visitors’ voices and footsteps.  This gives you the opportunity to create a structured experience in which you help her succeed with minimal strife to anyone present.  Once she has had a chance to take everyone in with a sniff or petting in a relatively calm manner and displays calm behavior, then remove the lead and return to your fun.  If not possible, then simply return her to the back room with that extra stuffed Kong you were smart to prep.

Manage Light – Our 1s on the list allow us to practice the Polite Greeting skill our girl has almost mastered, but has not yet perfected.  We are going to use a management tool to allow our Dog to be present when merry makers arrive.  As in the above example, tether her lead to you or another adult family member who is the official greeter.  Keep a bowl of training treats just inside the front door or in a bait bag attached to you.  If you are asking guests to enter on their own you may handle greetings one of two ways; find a comfortable place in the main room inside the front door where you stand with her as guests arrive or you could simply go about your socializing in any part of the house and instead have people greet you as they enter.  Either way, ask your Dog for a Sit when each person is saying hello to you.  If this is not likely to be successful, don’t ask for the Sit but use your management tool, the lead, to prevent jumping.  If we ask for a Sit over and over without the proper response being given by the Dog, we will poison the cue and lessen our chance of success later where we do have a chance at practicing this skill in a more controlled environment.

If able to work on Sit, treat for the initial Sit and treat again if she remains in a Sit for greetings.  Remember, people don’t have to actually pet your dog.  The goal is simply to prevent jumping and enable a Sit.  In this scenario, it may actually be preferred to ask people, “Please don’t greet/pet her today since we’re working on Sit.”  Most people are very happy to be a part of the progress.  You can ask them to “Step back if she breaks her Sit.”

There are many ways to use Management in training, but hopefully these ideas will get your creativity brimming with other ways to prevent unwanted behaviors from being practiced and help minimize stress until you can practice in a low stimulation environment.  Knowing from experience which social situations are difficult for your Pet can arm you both with an informed strategy for the holiday’s festivities and further your bond.  Your Pet will appreciate your support and you will understand her needs better too.

 

 

 

Every Dog Should Have

Every Dog Should Have

Kong, Kong, Kong: all Kong toys rock! Blue are for puppies with softer teeth, Red are for normal, adult chewers, Black are for adult, extreme chewers. Buy a whole bunch of them in different shapes and sizes. Fill with treats like kibble topped off with peanut butter or even plug one end with peanut butter and fill with water and freeze for a cool chewing treat in the summer. Great recipes here.

Chuck-It: Indispensable for any dog that fetches! It is a long curved piece of plastic for flinging a ball. You can pick the ball up without getting slimed. The curved shape also allows for further throwing and your arm won’t tire as quickly. See it here.

Busy Buddy: This product line is invaluable at enriching your Dog’s life.  Many people who have more than one Dog must separate them when it’s feeding time to prevent resource guarding or one Dog stealing the food of another.  We simply place about a 1/4 cup of Rocco’s kibble in one of the cone shaped toys for him to play with after he finishes his main meal.  He goes to it immediately when done at his bowl and rolls the toy around with his nose and paws to release the extra kibble inside.  It is the perfect item to occupy him while V finishes his meal in peace.  Times when we forgotten to put it on the floor after filling it, Rocco stares at us until we place it on the floor for him to enjoy.  He gets very excited to play with it.

Everlasting Treat Ball: Amazing! This was first recommended by a vet behaviorist who specializes in dog anxiety as a tool to use in separation anxiety counter conditioning. We use it when we need to get our dog, Rocco, seriously focused on something other than activities that make him anxious, like my husband and I departing the house. It’s great for any dog whenever you want to keep them happy, occupied, and settled down, like when you have several guests over for a visit. Some extremely strong chewers can tear the rubber on this toy apart. For those dogs, I recommend stuffing a black kong instead.

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