Sunday, September 27, 2015

Sept 27th - National Puppy Mill Awareness Day

Today is National Puppy Mill Awareness Day.
Did you know that 99% of puppies sold in pet stores come from puppy mills?  The picture that the stores will show you when you ask where the puppy comes from will be one of a beautiful ranch house, with a family in front with puppies of course. Everyone's happy.  When the reality is this..

Every time that someone purchases a puppy from a pet store or online they are supporting the mills and condemning even more dogs to a life like this.

If you're going to purchase a puppy, do your homework and find a reputable breeder in your area..

Monday, June 8, 2015

Please Pardon Me While I Start The Day With A Rant

Yesterday I took the pups out for their usual evening stroll around the neighborhood.  When we were coming to this one house I saw the owner pull into the driveway and actually hesitated, trying to decide if I wanted to continue past or wait until they went into the house.  You see, these people have a dog and they tend to let her out without a leash.   We've met this dog a couple of times before, not by my choice but because she came running up their driveway and she's been 'ok'. But Doobie has terrible body language - always so stiff - and I've been watchful. 

When I saw the back of the car pop open, she had a look that just zeroed in on Doobie, then jumped out and was coming towards us like she was stalking while the owner was still in her car.  I started going more into the road and then she ARRRGH!  Charged at him and basically bowled him over.  Thank goodness she stopped at that.  She even looked like "Oh Crap! What did I do?"  As I picked Doobie up and headed for home, I heard her owner say that I shouldn't have been pulling the dogs away.   Excuse me?  
Normally, I have dropped the leashes when she comes up.  But she had THAT look in her eyes as soon as she saw him.  So I thought, "Uh-oh, we'll go into the road."  I wasn't "tugging" or pulling them, I just started going that way.   If anyone else had seen that dogs look and the way she came towards us... they may have been yanking and screaming.   It was scary! And they probably would have called Animal Control.  It's a disaster waiting to happen.  And when it does, it will be the owners fault for not taking the right precautions and the dog is the one who will suffer for it.

After I took the dogs home and made sure that Doobie was truly alright, physically,  I drove back over to her house to talk to her about the incident.  I'm amazed at how well I kept my composure. 

The owner knows that her dog reacts to dogs that are on leash being lead away and yet, she still takes these chances.  But what really struck me was when she said that this wouldn't have happened if she had the shock collar on her.  Who knows if that's true.   I have a feeling the shock collar may have been the WHY her dog reacts to dogs being lead away and WHY it happened.  It's very possible that when they were training with the shock collar, she may have been shocked at the exact time that a dog was being lead away.  Or every time a dog was being lead away.  

Picture this.  You are with your dog.  There's a dog near you and the owner starts to lead that dog away.  Your dog turns and maybe starts to follow and ZAP!  you shock it because that was unwanted behavior.  Makes sense in your mind, doesn't it?  

Now picture it from your dogs perspective.  She sees a dog being lead away, perhaps turned to watch or possible follow it and ZAP!  She can then associate the shock with the dog being lead away.  Therefore, to her, dogs being lead away equals pain.  She now has to stop those dogs on leash before she gets zapped.

Think about it.

I offered to work with the owner to see if we can't lessen this dogs reactions using positive methods and I think she's going to take me up on it.   Is there a guarantee that her dog would never react that way again?  No.  But it's worth a try.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

"My dogs are friendly!"

Oh my goodness, yesterday was such a beautiful day, the pups and I went for a walk in the woods behind a local park.  It's quiet, and we're usually alone, they get to enjoy nature, sniff all the new smells, and just 
"be dogs"
Do you see what I see?
Once we were at the turn around point, I saw a man with his dog on leash coming around the corner.  I kept my pups attention while he quietly went in another direction. No muss, and no fuss as we began to head back to the car.
As we were rounding the corner that leads to the main part of the park, I hear those infamous words that can make anyone shudder... "My dogs are friendly" and before I know it, three dogs are upon us, immediately imposing on my dogs space.

I'm happy to say that nothing happened, they really were friendly. And, besides being taken aback and definitely a little irritated, my pups were ok with it. Ok. Not happy. But suppose my dogs weren't "OK" with it? Or were scared of other dogs or people? Suppose I was the one that was scared of dogs? When I told the owner about the dog up the path, he said, "Oh, that's ok. These guys are friendly" That won't do you or your dogs any good if the other dog is not. In fact, that is when something can go terribly wrong.
My point is that just because your dogs are friendly, it doesn't mean that the world will be friendly back. Allowing them to run up to other people, with or without dogs, is rude and can turn into a dangerous situation. So, please be polite. Leash your dogs when others are near. Take them off the beaten path and give your pups treats for paying attention to you so that others may pass you without a thought.
And one more thing, NEVER have your dog off leash unless it's a safe as can be environment, they pay attention to you, and they have a great recall!  Keep them safe.


Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Why would you want to do all that?

I just don't get it.


I was walking my dogs the other evening when I saw someone down the road also walking her two dogs.  While I was watching her I was hearing whirr, click, whirr, click, click, whirr and so on.  She was using retractible leashes for both dogs.   
Now, both of the dogs were small and neither of them were "pullers" but I still heard the whirr (let the line out) Click ( lock it = that's far enough) , Click ( unlock), whirr (out goes the line again), click, whirr, click...  You get the idea.  And let me tell you, she had it down.
Meanwhile, I've got both of my dogs regular leashes in one hand, my hands staying nice and warm in my pockets, free to come out to give the pups a treat for walking with me and paying attention to me with no effort what so ever.
All I could think of while I was watching her was "Why?  Why would you want to make a nice relaxing activity like walking with your dogs into something that requires so much thinking and good mechanical skills?"

Monday, December 1, 2014

A Student Asks About Electronic Fences

Today I received an email from one of my students who was considering installing an electronic fence system in their backyard and wanted to know what I thought.

I'm sorry to sound so negative (again) but I hate them.
I hate electronic (shock) collars.  For one thing, it is way to easy for the human to remove themselves from the act of shocking their pets.  This by itself is a big problem.  Did you know that their use is illegal in at least four European countries (Austria, Denmark, Finland, Germany) and is restricted in three others (Czech Republic, Hungary, Italy)?

In a webinar by Kathy Sdao, The Seductiveness of Shock, I learned of an interesting Behavioral Study of Obedience by Stanley Milgram 1963  in which the participants were instructed to use different levels of shock ranging from "Slight Shock to Danger: Severe Shock" on their human "victims," no matter how much they protested and said it hurt, or even if they fell silent.  The victims were not actually being shocked but those pushing the buttons didn't know this.  My point is that even knowing that the level of shock ordered could be dangerous, some did as they were told, disregarding the poor man on the other end of the wires.

And now, back to the electronic fences.  Companies make them attractive by saying things like
"Your dog deserves the joy and freedom to run and play freely without the physical restraint of a leash always controlling their movement, ..."
"Electronic pet fences and kennels keep your pet safely in your yard"   Until they don't.
"... have won the hearts of over 2 million owners and their dogs & cats"  I think the dogs and cats would strongly object to this statement.
"Most Reliable, Humane electronic fences"  Shocking an animal is humane???

Unfortunately, what they don't tell you about are the problems using these systems can cause.  And electronic fences can cause quite a variety of issues where there would normally be none.

They can cause the dog to shut down and be afraid to be outside.

Not knowing where this punishment is coming from, or being able to understand why it happens, they can start relating the shocks and warnings to anything that is happening around them at the time.  An example is if a dog or human is approaching, and the puppy goes to say hi and gets the ZAP! or BEEP!   The pup can relate it to the approaching dog or human and then becomes fearful of anyone/thing approaching.  This will usually lead to your pup being "reactive" which is often fear based, and acting aggressive because they are trying to get the scary thing away from them since it causes bad things to happen (shock).              
Another problem with that is that the behavior doesn't usually stay in the yard.  The fear will go beyond the invisible fence lines and come inside the house, or while out on walks, in the car, etc.  
A person who lives in my area put in an electronic fence for their smaller dog who is an absolutely lovely sweet dog and loved everyone.. (past tense).  Now, whenever anyone walks past their house, he comes out like Cujo.  He even attacked an unsuspecting dog that was being walked and wandered onto his yard.  This could have gone very badly for him since the other dog was much larger.  My pups and I have always had a good relationship with him, so he doesn't do that to us.  Instead he cowers just at the imaginary boundary line.... wants to say Hi but knows he can't.  Sometimes I'll go over into their yard and bring him away from the boundary line and pet him. You can see the relief flood through his body.  They also leave him outside when they're not home, thinking he's safe.  He's not.  It would be very easy for a dog or other animal to come in and hurt him, for someone to steal him, or for him to break over the line either to chase something or if the collar is not working.  He has run through the line into the road, then he didn't want to come back when the owners were calling him.  Someone once told me that the fence doesn't beep or shock if he's coming back from the other side of it.  I guess they forgot to explain that to their dog.
I currently have two clients whose dogs are reactive to other dogs.. both have an electronic fence.  It might be coincidence, then again, it might not.

It can and often does cause fear of other beeps and noises.  If the dog is in the house and the microwave or something beeps, it can cause the dog to now be afraid of receiving the shock in the house.  How can you reason that away with a dog?   You can't.  And he has just become afraid of being in the one place that he should always feel safe.
I had an 'almost client' that wanted to work on her dog not going over the threshold of the front door. When I arrived, I saw she had a shock collar on her dog. When asked why she said that she had the e-fence installed so he wouldn't go through the front door.  It was in the house!!  I had her remove the collar and got out my yummy treats and my clicker to go over my training methods with her.  One click and the dog ran into the corner of the kitchen and would not come back out.  The poor thing looked like I had beat him when just moments earlier he was so happy to see me.  My heart fell and of course the woman never had me back.  Before I had started I asked her if he was afraid of noises, etc., which is a standard question, and she said no.  Afterwards I talked to other trainers and one had suggested that maybe the collars warning 'beep' was more of a clicking noise or had a click like sound associated with it's activation. Or maybe it sounded like the latch on the door and suddenly that sound was in the kitchen which meant the zap couldn't be far behind.  I don't know and never will.

If you're saying that your dog would never be outside unsupervised, then why get one?  Besides training a great recall - which we do in class - having your dog on a 20 foot lead can be just as rewarding for him.  He'd probably rather have you out there playing with him anyway.

So those are my feelings about electronic fences.  My question to you is, is it worth taking a chance of traumatizing our dogs?

And the student that asked for my opinion?  I’m happy to report that I received this reply: “Wow, I am so glad I asked!!  Thank you so much for dissuading me”

Monday, October 27, 2014

What Are You Teaching Your Dog?

If your dog is pulling you to get to anywhere, everywhere, even if it seems like nowhere, and you follow, what have you taught him?

You have taught him that you'll follow him anywhere, everywhere, even if it seems like nowhere, whether you want to or not.

If your dog is pulling so you take his collar in hand and hold him close to you, practically lifting his front paws off the ground while you're walking and explaining to him that if he doesn't stop pulling he will hurt himself, what have you taught him?

Not one single thing that is good.  No, your dog does not understand you or your actions no matter how many ways you try to explain it.
If your dog is on leash and pulling you to get to anywhere, everywhere, even if it seems like nowhere, and you stop, only to continue the forward motion once the leash is slack, what have you taught him?

You have taught him that he can only get anywhere when the leash is slack.  Yes, it is easier said than done, but when you take the time, be patient and be consistent, it's worth it.  We want the leash to be the safety net, not the controller.  When we use it to pull our dogs or allow ourselves to be pulled, it's not an enjoyable walk for either of us.
If you're out for a walk, and your dog is walking nicely next to you so you slip him a treat, what have you taught him?

You have taught him that being next to you is a good place to be and the more it is reinforced (i.e. treated) the stronger the desired behavior will be.  In other words, your dog will want to be by your side.
If you yell at your dog as he pees or poops in the house, what have you taught him?

You have taught him that it is SCARY to pee or poop in front of you because you yell.  Then he may stop peeing or pooping in front of you anywhere.  Inside or outside.   Instead he may hide where he goes when he's inside, and never want to 'go' when he's out with you.
If you come home only to discover that sometime earlier your dog had peed, pooped, or done something else to upset you, and you yell at him, what have you taught him?

You have taught your dog to be scared of you when you come home.  Your dog will have no idea why you're yelling at him.  And that 'guilty' look?  That's just worry or fear.  Again, it may not be the lesson he learns the first time, but then again, it might.
If your dog poops in the house and you "bring" him over to it, pick up the poop, bring him and it outside, drop the poop then give your dog a treat, what have you taught him?

Lets try to break this down a little.

Your dog poops in the house and you "bring" him over to it, what have you taught him?  Most likely you have taught him to be to be very concerned when you come to him with 'that look' that you know is on your face, scared of you when you reach for his collar, and definitely to NOT want to come with you.
Then you pick up his poop, bring him and it outside, drop the poop and give him a treat.  Huh?  That just doesn't make any sense.  Do you think that the treat at the end would be telling your dog that if he poops outside, he'll get a treat?  The plain and simple answer is, no.  Being with your dog and giving him a treat right after he poops in the yard is what tells him that.

The true scenario above happened with an older puppy that had not had an accident in the house in a while.  It is quite probable that the dog was giving his humans signs that he needed to go and they weren't paying attention.  When you gotta go, you gotta go.
All of the preceding scenarios can be prevented or taught with management, training or both.  If you need assistance with any of them, please find a positive trainer to work with who can guide you and your dog down a path that will help you build a long lasting and trusting relationship.

Before you act or react, THINK   "What am I teaching my dog?"

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Three Simple Questions

There has been a new challenge going around called the World Dog Trainers' Motivation Transparency Challenge that is based on Jean Donaldson's three questions that you should ask any trainer that you are considering having work with your dog... and of course, you.

While I personally have not been 'challenged', I feel that these questions are important and ones that I'd like to answer now.

1) WHAT HAPPENS IF MY DOG GETS IT RIGHT?   If your dog gets it right, I am going to MARK IT, either using a clicker, a noise like a click with the mouth, or a word - such as Yip!, then I am going to REINFORCE your dog by giving him something he likes.  Usually that will be a food reward.  I use a lot of food in my training because it's fast and easy, and dogs love to eat good food.  Sometimes the reinforcement will be play, such as a quick game of tug or throwing of the ball, and other times it will be something the dog wants to do in the environment.  In other words, if they want to go sniff a certain spot, or chase a squirrel, they will either be off of the leash and released to go do it or we will do it together if they have to stay on the lead.  And yes, I have run to "sniff" with my dogs.

2) WHAT HAPPENS IF MY DOG GETS IT WRONG?  In a nutshell, nothing.  I will take a brief pause then give your dog something to do that he can do correctly, no matter how simple, and get reinforced for.  If I am having to many incorrect responses, I will stop training and go back over what it is we are trying to teach your dog, and figure what needs to be changed to make your dog successful.  Generally that will mean breaking it down into smaller steps and/or changing the learning environment.  However sometimes, and for whatever reason, it's just something that your dog cannot or will not do.  Your dog has the right to say "No"

3) IS THERE A LESS INVASIVE WAY OF DOING WHAT YOU DO?  Not as far as I know.  I promise to do my best to have everything set up so that your dog is having fun and is happy to be learning.  There is never a reason to say "No" or "Uh-uh" "Tzz" to your dog, to yell, intimidate, poke with hand or foot, do a leash correction (jerk the leash), use a choke, prong, or shock collar.  Nothing is important enough to warrant those actions.  And I mean Nothing.

So when you are looking for a dog trainer, please remember these three simple questions.  If you do not get the answers you are looking for, keep looking.  There are a lot of wonderful positive trainers out there.

Thank you,
Lisa Arant
Small and tall Dog Training
Rockville, MD

Related Post - Do No Harm