Original article by Virginia Simpson, Unleashed Canine Obedience
Dog Training Starts Right from the Beginning
(It’s all about the prep work!)
There is a lot of time and attention given to healing relationships, saving relationships, creating relationships and growing relationships. And for good reason; we are built to be in relationships. People who have strong, supportive relationships not only live longer, but they are generally happier and healthier while living that longer life. And, studies have also shown that people who own a pet or two are less stressed out than their counterparts overall and tend to live longer. Now, I am assuming that these studies were done with people who owned well-behaved pets! I don’t know anyone that has a poorly behaved pet that does not have some stressed out feelings happening! And there are a lot of people out there trying to figure out how to create the perfect relationship with their dog and thankfully for me, many of them find their way to my door with loads of questions.
I wish I could talk to most people right at the beginning of the process! Dog training starts before you even bring your new pup home. It actually starts with the selection process. The importance of spending some time to really research out exactly what qualities would make the best dog companion for you is an imperative step to creating a good relationship with your prospective pup. This is a relationship you are going to have hopefully for many years and spending some time to set up realistic expectations and “must haves” will save you many headaches and much heartache down the road! And remember, just like in that bad relationship you had once upon a time, at some point those quaint little peculiarities you thought were so cute at first, can turn into hair pulling, skin grating, “I want to end this relationship NOW” defects down the road.
But let’s assume you already have your new pup and you are ready to move on to some actual training. Training starts from moment one. Every waking moment your puppy or new dog is learning from you and the environment around them. They are like the proverbial sponge! So prep work is paramount! First thing to think about is how you need to control the amount of access to the different parts of your home your new dog will have. Too much too soon is not a good idea. If it’s a new puppy, potty training efforts will be thwarted if they manage to pee on the carpet too many times. If it is a dog out of the pound, they may become overwhelmed and stressed if given too much freedom too quickly. (Think in terms of a prisoner getting out of jail. Although it would feel great to be out, it can be stressful too if you aren’t given time to get used to it!) Better to start out slowly and let the dog show you when they are ready for more and more responsibility and freedom. Use a crate in the beginning if possible! Crates are not a bad thing. They will help you keep your pup from engaging in behaviors that you don’t want and if they are feeling a little stressed out with all the changes, the crate will create a den like experience which the vast majority of dogs love! Use baby gates in the beginning if needed to help create physical boundaries until your new pup learns the rules of the house. If you use these things properly in the beginning and train your pup, they should not be a forever fixture in your home.
You’ll need to be thoughtful about what your body language, tone of voice and facial expressions are communicating to your new dog. Remember that they cannot understand all your words. Be aware of what you are rewarding. If you give your new puppy a treat when they come inside after going the bathroom outside, does your puppy think you are rewarding them for going the bathroom outside or for coming inside? Whether you are using treats or praise or a favorite toy, try giving rewards as close as possible to the behavior you are looking for. If your new dog acts frightened of anything or seems shy at first, don’t try and soothe them too much. Your body language and tone of voice may actually end up reinforcing their fear and keep them stuck in that state of mind. Either use what we like to call the “happy jolly voice” or even just ignore them for a bit until they come out of it and then pay attention to them when they are not so worried. That way you are rewarding the behavior you want and giving your new pup a chance to be ok! That also gives them time to notice that you are not overly concerned about whatever it is that frightened them.
So, these are just a couple of things to think about here when choosing and bringing home a new puppy or dog. Have any questions? Please feel free to contact us and maybe think about attending a class or coming in for a private consultation. We’d love to help out!
Virginia L. Simpson
Certified Dog Trainer
Unleashed Canine Obedience, LLC
IACP Member #3141
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.