Posts Tagged ‘training’

Learning the Copy Me Command

February 23, 2016
Dog Pierson Sitting

“Okay, I’m game. But only if I get lots of cookies.”

I know I said I wasn’t going to do much blogging anymore, but I found another great article I wanted to share. Today as I was doing yoga, I recalled a video of a dog who was copying his person and I thought it would be so much fun if I could teach my dogs to copy me. Pierson is already a great candidate since he is intensely interested in me when I do yoga. But I had no idea how to teach him how to copy me, so I googled it. Here is the article I found – “Training ‘Do-As-I-Do’: Fun and Efficient“. The training tips seem simple enough. I’m pretty sure we¬†can do this, so I’m going to give it a try and let you know how it goes.

Spoiled but not Spoiled Rotten

August 8, 2014

Big Bone Jones Natural Chews 003

Do people tell you your dogs are spoiled? I hear it so much that I’ve actually told people my dogs are spoiled. But I think the word ‘spoiled’ when referring to our pets can have two different meanings. The Google definition is to “harm the character of (a child) by being too lenient or indulgent.” I imagine that this is what some people mean when they tell me I spoil my dogs. But when I say it, I simply mean to care for in a generous way. And I think this less harsh (albeit incorrect) definition of spoiled is what most people mean. Here’s why.

By the standards of many non-dog-lovers, it can certainly seem that I go overboard with all the things I do for my dogs. Maya and Pierson have lots of dog toys, nice plush beds, get quality food. They get plenty of exercise and mental stimulation with learning tricks. And I buy lots of dog products to promote their health and safety.

Dogs Maya & Pierson on Pet Dek in Car

This kind of treatment is easily perceived as spoiling by those who only get their dogs the basic supplies. But I am not lenient or indulgent with Maya and Pierson.

Spoiling My Dogs with Food?
For one, my dogs are not overfed. They have set meal times and are only fed a certain amount. They get treats ever so often, but I don’t overdo it. Sometimes I give treats to be indulgent. But most other times, Maya and Pierson get treats when we do fun training time.

Spoiling My Dogs by Training Them?
That’s right, I train them. It can’t be called spoiling by the true definition if I’ve taken the time to train my dogs manners. Maya and Pierson don’t get to run amuck. They are not allowed in certain rooms. They sit and stay in certain situations. And they come when called.

I can be lenient (or lazy) when it comes to certain training aspects. I am terrible about being consistent with leash walking habits. While I do cross the street when we see another dog in order to help with Maya and Pierson’s leash reactive behaviors, I do not make it a point to specifically train for modifying leash behaviors on a daily or even weekly basis. Because I still try to be responsible about their behaviors, I do not see this leniency as spoiling my dogs.

Maya and Pierson Cuddle on Couch 2

Allowing Dogs on the Furniture?
Some people believe that allowing your dogs on the furniture is spoiling them. They say this could lead to certain behavior issues. I’m not going to dispute that here. While Maya and Pierson are not generally allowed on the furniture (a personal preference), I’ve allowed it in the past and on some special occasions. And it certainly hasn’t harmed their character.

Spoiling with Love?
Perhaps allowing my dogs to live in the house where I can pet them every five minutes if I want can seem indulgent. Maybe it is, in a way. But this action does not harm their character. It is actually a benefit for both of us. They get to relax. I get to relax.

Maya Getting Nails Cut

Cutting doggy toenails.

Spoiling with Care?
While I do spend a lot of quality enjoyment time with my dogs, I also do things to them that they do not enjoy. Things like brush their teeth, cut their nails, and comb their hair. Is this spoiling? I think not.

Dog Toys All Over the Floor 001

Spoiling with Lots of Dog Toys?
When I buy Maya and Pierson a bunch of toys it can be perceived as spoiling. I beg to differ, though. Having toys to stimulate the mind and to get exercise is not going to harm their character. It’s going to help it.

Spoiling with Dog Clothes?
If your dog wears cute clothes, people will probably stop and tell your dog in a cooing voice that he’s spoiled. But they certainly couldn’t mean spoiling as in harming their character because how can dog clothes harm their character? Dogs don’t get the uppity attitude that some people can get regarding attire. They don’t think, “OMD, that dog looks like she’s wearing a hand-me-down. What a loser.” Right?

Buying the Best for My Dogs?
Spending money on quality dog food, safety gear, and veterinary care can be seen as spoiling a dog by people who do not do these things for their own pet. But it’s not spoiling them if these things are beneficial.

So if someone tells me I spoil my dogs and they mean I spend a lot of money on them, then yes, I do spoil my dogs. But if someone tells me this and they mean I overdo it to the point of harming my dogs’ characters, then I completely disagree. Maya and Pierson have their faults (who doesn’t). But overall they are very good dogs. Pampered, yes. Spoiled, perhaps by my less harsh definition. Spoiled rotten, no way!

What do you think most people mean whey they say your dog is spoiled?

Poor Maya – Sometimes Stuff Happens with Our Dogs

August 1, 2014
My Sad Dog Maya in a Cone

Poor sweet Maya. She had to wear this cone for a few weeks. You’ll see why below.

Stuff. I’m putting it nicely here because I don’t like to curse. If you have dogs, you understand what I mean by stuff. It doesn’t matter how much preventative action you take, how much training you do, or how responsible of a pet owner you are. Stuff happens. And it happens when you least expect it.

Let me tell you about the bad stuff that happened to my poor Maya during her first couple of weeks in our new home in Iowa. Maya was attacked on two separate occasions by two different dogs and two different owners. Sounds terrible, right? It was traumatizing for us both, especially Maya.

The funny thing is, we don’t live in a neighborhood of irresponsible pet owners. Our neighbors don’t let their dogs run loose. There is almost no trouble here. It just so happens that Maya was in the wrong place at the wrong time… twice.

The first incident was when we were on a walk. And it was as a result of a pet owner who had a momentary lapse of judgment. She went from the back yard to the front in order to put something in the trash. It was only going to take a few seconds so she didn’t close the gate. A few seconds was all it took. Maya and I happened to walk by at that moment and her dog ran out the gate and attacked Maya.

It happened so quickly. I was too shocked to react. Thankfully, the owner reacted right away. Maya’s feelings were hurt, but she was otherwise unharmed.

The woman was very apologetic. I didn’t lose my temper or give her a lecture about how she should have known better. The truth is, it could have just as easily happened the other way around. I get complacent with how well my dogs behave and sometimes I don’t think. Seriously, what are the chances of another dog walking by in that less-than-30-second span?

In the second incident, a Jack Russell Terrier let himself outside when he saw my dogs. Jack Russells are extremely intelligent… and devious. Although the owner knew how smart her dog was, the act of him opening the door like that took her completely by surprise. The Jack went mostly after Pierson and it was an ugly fight. But Pierson has thick fur and he defended himself, so he was fine.

The other dog owner and I struggled to get everyone separated. It wasn’t easy. Jacks are fast and agile. Pierson would not back down but I managed to grab him and get him away. When I did, the Jack went after Maya. Maya didn’t fight back. Her skin is thick around her neck, but the little dog got her around the leg and tore off a quarter-sized patch of skin.

My Dog Maya and Pet First Aid Kit

I used the pet first aid kit from Kurgo for the first time when Maya was injured by another dog.

The owner was extremely apologetic and took full responsibility. She helped me tend Maya’s wounds and took care of her medical needs. The injury on Maya’s leg looked terrible. But no arteries were hit. There was very little bleeding. Her hair will probably never grow back in that spot.

Maya limped badly for the rest of the day. But by the following morning, she was back to her chipper self. She wore a cone for a while, took some antibiotics, and had some nice pain relieving ointment. Her wound is now healed nicely, although scarred.

I know my Pierson is dog aggressive. And as such, I am very careful with him. But stuff can still happen. I can see the possibility of Pierson getting out or getting away unexpectedly and going after another dog. It has actually happened once while on a walk. He jerked the leash right out of my hand. We were very fortunate in that I got a hold of him before he could do anything to the other dog.

If Pierson had done what these dogs did to my Maya, would that make me an irresponsible dog owner? Would it label Pierson as a vicious dog? If it had been Pierson who had done these things, how would I have wanted the other parties to react? Angrily? Accusingly? With hostility?

Let’s face it, sometimes dogs do doggy things. It could be easy to judge these other dog owners and their dogs. And I think sometimes we tend to do just that, especially when we are the victims. But it is important to look at the entire situation. We are not perfect. Our dogs, angels though they might be most of the time, are not perfect either.

This article is not to say that being responsible doesn’t matter because stuff is going to happen anyway. Always be responsible with your pets. Never be careless. Because that one moment when you’re not is when stuff will happen to you and your dog too.

Maya Under My Desk

Maya loves to lay under my desk when I’m working. If you look at her front left leg, you can see her injury.

Help Working with Different Leash Reactive Behaviors

March 3, 2014

Does your dog react when he’s on a leash and sees another dog? The first thing to do is admit you have a problem.

Dog Pierson Sitting

Hi. My name is Pierson and if you’re a dog, I’m probably not going to like you. (Well, unless you’re Maya. I love Maya.) It’s nothing personal. If you’re a big dog, I go into protect-mode. If you’re a little dog, my prey-drive kicks in.

Dog Maya on the Chair

Hi. My name is Maya and I love other dogs. Well, except Pierson. Okay, I like him most of the time, except when he’s being a pest. Then I just tolerate him. But anyway, when I see another dog, I just get so happy that I start barking and lunging.

Pierson not liking dogs and Maya loving them both cause a leash reactive behavior. But because the causes are different, they require a different approach. To be honest, I have had more success dealing with Pierson’s aggressive behavior than with Maya’s excitement behavior. Just how do you deal with a crazy Labrador with GLS, anyway? (BTW, GLS stands for Goofy Lab Syndrome.)

If I see another dog while walking either Maya or Pierson, the first thing I do is cross the street. Because it has been more difficult for me to get their attention with the look command while still walking, I also make them sit. I give the look command and reward. I do this a few times until the other dog is passed.

This method works very well with Pierson unless the other dog reacts. He has made a lot of progress. However, this method is not working as well for Maya. When Maya gets excited about something, it is very difficult to distract her. She is so intent on what she sees (the other dog), that I couldn’t tempt her with a big juicy steak.

With Maya, I need to add another element to her training. If I see that she is going to start reacting, I need to turn her around and go the other way. So far, this is working, but it is not always possible for us to turn around. And I’m curious to know how doing this will eventually help her learn not to react. Any ideas on what training methods I can use for Maya? Keep in mind that when Maya gets excited, nothing, and I mean nothing can distract her. Not treats, not collars, not commands, nothing.

Pierson’s Bark Control Collar Experience

December 2, 2013
PetSafe Bark Control Collar

I bought this bark control collar, PetSafe brand, from Petco.

I really don’t like the idea of using “shock” collars in training. I don’t necessarily disagree with the use of a static correction collar so long as they are used responsibly and not exclusively. But I just haven’t been able to bring myself to use one. At least, not until this week. On Black Friday, I gave in and bought a bark control collar for Pierson.

I’ve been trying several techniques, including these tips on how to get your dog to stop barking. But Pierson just doesn’t get it. He wants to bark and when he wants to bark nothing has been working to stop him. Since I have roommates with a three-month old baby, I realized that I’ve got to take more drastic measures. I can’t imagine what it’s like for my roommate to finally get her baby to sleep, only to have Pierson bark at a falling leaf or some other trivial sound.

Another situation where it will be important for Pierson not to bark so much will be when I move. In a year or two after I get my degree, I will likely need to relocate for a new job. And I’ve decided that I do not want to live in a house. I want to live in an apartment where someone else is responsible for maintenance and for mowing the lawn. In order not to annoy neighbors, it will be important to keep Pierson from barking so much.

Pierson Petco Antlers Why

On Black Friday, Petco was giving away free antlers. I got a pair for Pierson along with his bark control collar. Pierson usually likes getting stuff from Petco, but not this time.

So now I have a new bark control collar with six levels of static correction. It is a PetSafe brand and I bought it at Petco. A testimonial printed on the box says it helps to dramatically reduce barking by the second day. Yeah right, I thought. We’ll see about that. But believe it or not, it has really helped.

It was so funny the first time Pierson barked and got a mild static correction. The box says the static correction does not hurt the dog, but may startle them. Startle is right. He jumped straight up in the weirdest fashion. I know I shouldn’t have laughed at him, but I just couldn’t help it.

By the end of the day, Pierson was being more careful about what he barked at. He still barks at certain things, but only once or twice, three times at the most. Or he would whine or give a quiet yip instead. Such wonderful improvement compared to his usual barking fits.

I don’t necessarily recommend a bark control collar except in extreme circumstances or when all other methods fail. In fact, I feel a little guilty about resorting to it. I keep asking myself, Is this method really necessary? Am I taking a shortcut to proper training? But on the other hand, I am really enjoying the peace and quiet. And he doesn’t seem adversely affected by it. He is still his happy go-lucky boy.

Have you ever used a correction collar? Tips? Advice?

Please note, this review was not sponsored in any way. I bought this product with my own money with the only expectation that it would help curb Pierson’s barking. Sorry I don’t have a photo of Pierson wearing the collar. It is difficult to see through all his fluff.

Emerging from Rescue Dog to Family Dog

April 6, 2013
Pierson Rolling in the Grass

Happy Rescued Boy, PIerson.

This post is appropriate for spring as it is an article about growth. It is a story about the development of a rescue dog into a loved and cherished family dog.

I’ve been in contact with a new friend lately about her new rescue dog. And her story made me think about when I first got Pierson. He was so shy and nervous back then. I assumed I would have a calm and quiet dog on my hands. But then over the course of a few weeks, Pierson came out of his shell. He is a different dog today than he was back then. Here are his experiences and some things you can expect when you rescue a dog.

Shy to Outgoing
Pierson is still shy around strangers, but even that shyness is relatively mild compared to the shyness he expressed when he first came home. After spending time socializing him, he now allows most people to pet him. I don’t think he will ever be outgoing because of his breed tendencies. But it may be different with other rescued dogs. You might start out with a very shy dog and end up with one that absolutely loves to meet new people.

Unsure to Confident
When Pierson first came home, his walk was slow and deliberate. His tail was held low and his eyes were constantly on the lookout for a way to escape in case things went wrong. Today, he prances around with his tail held high. He knows this is his home and we are his family and he is completely at ease. When we go out, he is still confident because he knows I will take care of him.

Quiet to Loud
This may not be the case with all dogs, but it is definitely the case with Pierson. It was a couple weeks before I heard him bark. Now, not only does he bark (at every little thing), but he howls with excitement too. You should see him in the morning at feeding time. He wags his tail so hard that his cute little fluffy butt wiggles, he spins around in circles, and then he promptly sits and howls. It is the cutest thing!

Calm to Playful
I remember trying to play with Pierson after only having him for a couple of days. He didn’t understand that it was a game and still wasn’t too sure about me. The first time he ever played, it was with Maya. After a couple of weeks, he started to play with me too. I imagine my laughter when I tried to play with him scared him at first. Now he associates laughter with good things and we play and laugh all the time.

I use laughter now as a way to put him at ease. When Pierson heard a loud noise while we were out the other day, he got really scared. I purposely laughed at him playfully because the loud noise was nothing to be frightened of. He immediately calmed down.

Behavior Issues
Pierson developed a few behavior issues as he got more comfortable. When he first came here, he was too nervous to come out of his corner to do naughty things. But as Pierson got more comfortable going about the house, he started chewing on things, putting his paws on the counter, and digging holes in the yard. Expect some of these same things to happen when you rescue a dog. Remember, they don’t know what is right and wrong yet. As they come out of their shell, they will be investigating their new surroundings more often and may sometimes do things you don’t want them to do.

Pierson's Rescue on Facebook

Pierson’s rescue documented on my Facebook Timeline in January 2012. (Sorry it’s blurry. I don’t know how to make it sharp like the larger image file is.)

Watching Pierson slowly come out of his shell has been a wonderful and rewarding experience. I love Pierson so much and am very proud of the dog he has become. A rescue dog requires time, patience, and training, but that dog is worth every effort. Pierson’s rescue story sort of reminds me of The Ugly Duckling story. Has your dog emerged from an ugly duckling into a swan?