Original article by Angie Pullano, Fusion Dog Training
This game requires patience on the human end at the beginning but the results are worth it! Your dog will think she can make you click and give her a treat for going into the crate and that it’s all her idea! Note that the game does NOT include you giving any commands. Indeed, if your dog has a history of trying to avoiding going into the crate, you saying anything can ruin the game! For a dog with no negative associations of going into the crate the command can start to be added as soon as the 2nd or 3rd session. However, if your dog has shown avoidance previously I recommend that you play the game for at least a week before adding the command. Since you do not walk with the dog to the crate, nor gesture towards it, nor throw cookies into it as a bribe, you will be able to send your dog to her crate from across the room without having to stand up once she learns the word.
It is best to use a clicker for this game, unless your dog is afraid of the sound of the click. If this is the case, substitute the word “Yes” said unemotionally. Every click is followed by a food reward being given to the dog (or at least offered). Being random about how many treats/kibbles are given for each click makes it more interesting for dogs, try to vary how many you give from a single treat to a handful. C/T is shorthand for click & treat. It is ok to praise after the click as well, as long as it doesn’t distract your dog from thinking about how to figure out the game. If your dog is free-fed she may not value kibble enough to put this much mental effort into figuring out how to get it and you will need to use all treats for the game.
Go to your crate game: Set up with about 10 treats mixed in with her meal ration of kibble and your clicker next to her crate. Ignore her and look at the crate pan. If she is suspicious, sit on the floor next to the side of the crate. Click for her approaching you and toss her the treats. Work up to looking at the crate, her head in the crate (try to click as she’s still moving forward), then a paw in the crate, then all 4 paws in the crate before clicking. Once she has a paw in, start tossing the treats into the crate with her. Pause and wait to see if she walks out. If she stands at the doorway and waits, click and toss another treat into the crate. Repeat about 5-10 times or until she walks out of the crate on her own, then click and toss the treat outside the crate and say “get it” to set up for the next rep of going into the crate.
As part of this process change your location. Scoot closer to the entrance instead of sitting on the side. Sit in a chair nearby. Stand next to the side, next to the entrance, towards the pathway where you normally approach the crate. Add distance so you’re standing in the hallway (or as far away as you can get and still attempt to toss treats into the crate). If she gets stuck, she may try barking at you, say “no” gravely and if needed, turn your back or walk out of the room. Rudeness makes the game end that she wants to play. Start again by taking a step closer to the crate and re-focusing on it again.
Add challenges when things are going smoothly. Shut the crate door partway so she has to figure out how to get in to get the click. When she’s in the crate, close the door, C/T while she’s in the crate and then open the door. See if she decides to walk right out. If she doesn’t C/T some more and toss several more treats into the crate before you do a “get it.” While she is chasing after a long “get it” toss, throw a handful into the crate and close the door all the way w/o locking it. Let her get frustrated and when she finally gives up and looks to you for help, open the door. Wait to see if she comes out after all the treats are gone – if she doesn’t and waits instead at the doorway, C/T (tossing into the crate). When your dog has completed these challenges, start to add the word you want to use (like “crate” or “room”) while your dog is already heading towards the crate. This is called “overlaying” of a command but it is basically just telling the dog what it is called that she is doing. Do not repeat the command, and expect that it may cause your dog to pause and forget what she was doing. Just keep looking into the crate and she will resume the game. When saying the command no longer distracts her, start to say it right after she’s swallowed the last treat thrown outside of the crate, so it is actually being said before she starts heading towards it. With a couple more sessions she will now run to the crate on command!
Healthy oral hygiene is important for our pet for multiple reasons. Clean teeth are not only cosmetically pleasing; they also promote good smelling breath and better long-term health.
If poor oral health causes an infection in our pet’s teeth or gums, it can spread to their kidneys. This is especially true in cats. Older cats often suffer from kidney failure, which can be caused by an oral infection spreading to kidneys. Valvular heart disease can also be caused by poor dental hygiene. Bacteria from a pet’s mouth can travel to its heart valves, causing them to change shape and become leaky.
Original article by Marybeth Bittel, Tails Magazine
When I was a young music student growing up in Chicago’s western suburbs, my family adopted an Airedale puppy we named Beethoven. I picked Beethoven out at the shelter because all the other puppies rushed forward to greet me, while he hid shyly in the corner. Most trainers agree that’s not necessarily the ideal benchmark for selecting a furry friend, but we got lucky. Beethoven matured into an outgoing, even-tempered, fun, and affectionate family member who sternly guarded our front yard one minute, and romped through our sprinkler the next.
But then came the Fourth of July. Fireworks went off at random intervals around the clock. We discovered that when it came to loud noises and ear-popping explosions, Beethoven was absolutely terrified.
At first we wondered how this could have happened. After all, we’d never left our beloved boy outside while pyrotechnics peppered the sky. He hadn’t been exposed to extreme noises as a puppy. In all likelihood, Beethoven’s fireworks aversion, like so many pet fears and phobias, was just one of those things that took hold when his sensitive hearing encountered a sudden trigger he could neither see nor anticipate.
So we did what numerous pet parents do when their cherished companion is struggling: we cuddled him, coddled him, and cooed comforting words of reassurance. We also sat, feeling helpless, watching him cower and hide as the problem held steady each year. In fact, through all the years of Beethoven’s life, he never overcame this disabling sense of distress, no matter how soothing or supportive we attempted to make his surrounding environment.
When my husband and I began working with abused rescue dogs, we noticed that most arrived with an array of deep-rooted anxieties acquired over time. One Bichon was terrified of rotary fans. A Shih Tzu mix became a jittery mess during thunderstorms. A sweet and docile Foxhound routinely hid from houseplants. These fears ran the gamut, but they had one thing in common: They were exceedingly real to the dog, and they had a great impacts on the entire family.
We began working with local animal behaviorists, and that’s when we learned an invaluable truth: The way we, as caregivers, react to our pet’s anxieties can actually perpetuate the patterns.
Why would this be? As Abe Mashal, owner of Marine Corps Dog Training in St. Charles, explains, “Dogs form extremely solid bonds with their humans. That means most canines are highly attuned to any type of interaction with their human ‘pack’ members.” So when something a dog is doing earns our attention—whether that attention takes the form of praise, pampering, or peevish irritation— the behavior is often unintentionally reinforced.
“Reinforcement,” a common term in the world of animal behavioral training, is really just another word for strengthening. In reality, a reinforcer can be anything that strengthens a behavior.
So for those of you thinking, “I never reinforce my dog’s non-stop barking! I scold her on the spot,” see if these examples sound familiar:
“Every interaction with your dog has the potential to teach and reinforce, merely because you’re paying attention,” explains Sara Swan, owner of Narnia Pet Behavior & Training in Plainfield. How can you tell if this is happening? Simply observe over time. Dogs continue to engage in behaviors that provide some sort of payoff. If you’re dealing with a fear or anxiety response that’s ongoing—such as Beethoven’s abhorrence of fireworks—some kind of inducement is likely contributing to the pattern. In Beethoven’s case, his reactions earned him almost round-the-clock nurturing.
Fortunately, we as dog parents can leverage these same dynamics when it comes to re-programming undesirable behaviors. Let’s say your 80-pound “lap dog” excitedly jumps on you whenever you come home from work. When you withhold the coveted attention—immediately going back out the door, or turning your back on him—many pups gradually begin to seek out a different behavior.
The same thing can work with a fear response. If your pet is terrified of your Swiffer mop, for example, try propping it against the family room couch and just leaving it there. Then, simply act like it’s no big deal and go about your daily routine, even if your pup exhibits an unsettled reaction. Very gradually, over time, as your furry friend begins to approach the mop with quiet but tentative curiosity, reward that calm behavior with brief praise or a small treat. Keep it up, and eventually your dog can learn that “mop = calm = good.”
Helping your dog manage his stress is one of the keys to having a happy and healthy pet. If your animal companion has specific challenges beyond what you’re comfortable handling, always reach out to a certified animal behaviorist who can help you develop targeted interventional techniques that will work on your pet’s unique needs. It will not only help with unwanted behaviors, but strengthen your bond, as well.
Safe, Drug Free Ways To Soothe Your Pet’s Stress
The Thundershirt. The ThunderShirt leverages the age-old principle of swaddling an infant to promote calming reassurance. Simply fasten this snug, stretchy shirt around your pet’s ribcage. During anxious episodes of panting or hyperventilation, it provides ongoing sensory feedback that suppresses this common panic response. ( Thundershirt.com )
Music or ASMR. As a musician, I can attest firsthand that deep, resonant tones often work wonders on a nervous pup. You can also try leveraging something called ASMR (Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response), which is promoted by many hypnotists and human sleep therapists. ASMR is a subjective, perceptual phenomenon characterized by a distinct calming or scalp- tingling sensation in response to quiet, seemingly mundane sound triggers. Certain pets appear especially receptive, and may even be lulled to sleep. To gauge effectiveness, try playing low, calming music or ASMR audio with your dog in the room. Use a meditation CD, or visit YouTube to access ASMR recordings by reputable “ASMRtists” such as The Waterwhispers.
Calming Sprays. Help create a relaxing environment for your pet by using a calming spray on their bedding or by plugging in a calming spray diffuser. Many cats and dogs experience reduced anxiety and stress after being exposed to these non- sedating sprays, which use soothing scents such as lemongrass, cinnamon, and lavender to encourage relaxation.