Having your dog accustomed to being behind a gate (or door, ex-pen, etc.) can be helpful in many situations. It allows the dog a quiet place away from potentially stressful activity and gives you time to remove them when you cannot be fully supervising them. Preparing your dog to feel comfortable when being left alone will prove to be a useful skill throughout their lives. The steps to accustom them to a gate are:
1. Put the gate up somewhere in your house and always have it there to start, so that bringing out the gate does not become a trigger to them that they are going behind it.
2. Occasionally toss treats onto the other side of the gate for your dog to find on their own.
3. Feed the dog's meals on the other side of the gate.
4. After a few days, begin introducing a cue. Say your cue (ex: 'Behind gate'), toss treat. Praise as dog eats treat and then cue him out with another cue of your choice (do not reward the dog for coming out from gate).
5. Repeat step 5 numerous times until your dog enjoys going behind the gate for the treat, without actually closing the gate.
6. Start to cue the dog and encourage them to go in on their own. Once they are in, reward with a treat. Ensure you cue them to come out.
7. If they are hesitant to go in on their own, wait it out. Do not repeat the cue! Stay upbeat and positive and do not force them behind.
8. If the dog still will not go on their own, end the session – stay calm and do not appear frustrated. It was just too much for your dog. Try again at a later time. If the dog does go in, jackpot reward them!
9. After dog will go into gate on cue, begin to shut it when they go in. Treat repeatedly while they are in the closed gate to start. Only do small increments of time to start and then increase.
10. Start to get up and walk around, around room, towards the gate.
11. Take one step over the gate, then two, etc.
12. Start to walk around on other side of gate, while remaining in sight. Ensure you are returning to dog and rewarding.
13. Begin increasing duration by keeping yourself busy while dog is behind the gate. Go back and reward as needed when dog is being quiet. Ignore any crying or whining. Never let the dog out of the gate if they are crying. They need to learn they only come out when they are quiet.
14. Next start going out of sight for short periods. Build this up the same as the above steps. Do not continually make the time longer – vary this. Keep your sessions short!
15. As your dog begins to use the gate more, ensure you are not only using it when you leave the dog home alone. They may begin to pair the gate with isolation and create a negative association.
16. Always teach your dog that the gate is a positive, safe place for them!
There are many important skills that are important to being effective in your training with your dog. These include your handling skills, controlling your own body language, understanding your dog's body language and many other essential traits/skills. However, when you are first starting training, or even if you have been training for some time, this post will cover what we consider to be essential to gaining success in training your dog.
It can be a frustrating and challenging time for us during training, especially with a new or young dog. There are many factors that contribute to this, primarily the miscommunication that occurs between us and our dogs. Dogs communicate mainly through body language and we do so verbally. It presents many challenges. As well, they are learning (and often so are we during this time!). We need to remember this and understand that they are on a learning curve. The behaviour is not going to change over night. Think of it as the same as learning a new sport. Let's say you are learning to skate. At first you learn how to balance on skates and then progress from there. With our dogs we often forget this during the training. We expect that once they learn a skill they should be able to understand and apply it in all situations. We must be patient. There will be frustations, but we must remind ourselves about this and show patience while we teach them.
Dogs require consistency to best understand what is expected of them. We struggle with this as we rely on our verbal language. For example, we can say that you can do something this time because... For dogs we cannot do this. They do not understand that they can jump on us today because we are as happy to see them and are wearing our casual clothes, but they cannot do it another time when we are wearing our nice clothes or their paws are muddy. We have to be clear and teach them rules are always the same. This makes things much more clear for our dogs and less frustrating for us. Another example( and one we see frequently in class) is when an owner may ask a dog for a sit, the dog lies down and the owner thinks the dog is just so darn cute and is trying so hard, so deserves a reward. As a result, the dog hears sit, lies down and gets a treat. They then don't understand when they may do it again and the owner gets upset with them. Consistency is critical and will ensure faster and better success in your training!
By having good timing, we are able to tell the dog exactly when they have performed a requested behaviour. In our training classes, we primarily use a 'yes' in the foundation classes, but this would be the same as using a clicker (both of these are referred to as reward markers). This marker is used to let the dog know they did something good and is another tool that ensures training progresses faster and effectively. It proves to be a key part of communication in training and your timing is important. For example, you ask your dog to sit and they do, then you go to get a food reward and in this time your dog scratches his ear and lies down. You give him the treat when he lies down, so in his mind, he has learned he gets the reward for lying down when he hears sit. However, if you use a marker such as 'yes', you can achieve better timing. In the above example, if you use your 'yes' as soon as the dog's bum hits the floor, you provide the dog correct feedback at precisely the right time.
A reward marker is also a key part of removing food in your training. If you introduce it and associate it with good things early in your training, this allows you a way to still offer a reward once your dog understands a skill. For example, a two year old dog has responding well to a sit cue for most of its life. At this time, the owner no longer offers a food reward to the dog for the sit, but still provides the reward marker to communicate to the dog they did something good!
How we behave and interact with our dog is critical to our training. There are many things to keep in mind, but by paying close attention to these skills, you will begin to see continued success!
Dogs are social animals and they are pack animals. I do agree that we need to guide and take responsibility for them and our family, but why does this have to be so much about being a pack leader? I do teach my dogs rules, structure and manners, but this whole idea of being a leader has become about force and coercion. We used to discuss these as leadership habits, I changed it to relationship building, and now I am leaving out anything to do with being a pack leader. The whole concept has become so misconstrued and to the detriment of the dog. It has created fear in people towards our dogs as we view everything they do as a potential act of dominance and their steps towards taking over leadership of the household. I will discuss this more in part 2, but for now, let's focus on relationship building.
In order to have a dog that is secure, happy, well trained and a great joy to the family, you will need to provide your dog with guidance. Building a proper relationship with your dog is essential to prevent conflict between you or other family members and your dog. This is not about force, but rather about training and activities that enhance the bond between family members and your dog. Majority of the skills we are going to discuss below are about teaching your dogs self-control, which in turn improves their manners and makes them more enjoyable to live with. These are also ways to incorporate training into your everyday life and work with your dogs to teach them the rules and structure of the household.
There are many things that we may do that will discourage relationship building with our dogs. Below are some of the key items and ones that we should actively work towards avoiding when interacting with our dogs.
"My dog is perfect inside the house, but forgets everything and pays no attention to me outside!"
Have you ever found yourself saying this or can you relate to this statement? Every dog owner has felt frustration with their dog at one time or another due to their dog's short attention span. A common mistake that dog owners make while training their dogs is not properly proofing for distractions. We expect that once our dog knows a skill, they should be able to understand how to do the skill in any environment and/or situation. A common example would be when a dog does well at recall from the backyard to inside the house. Then the owner takes this right to the off-leash park and tries to call the dog to come out of play with another dog. The dog cannot handle this level of difficulty and will most often fail at this task.
This is where distraction training becomes a critical part of a training program for our dogs. To gain reliability and have success out in the real world, we need to introduce distractions and condition our dog on how to respond in a variety of situations and environments. We should start indoors in a quiet environment and then slowly begin to add in distractions. We often encourage people to compare the distraction training process to learning a new sport. For example, let's say someone has just learned to jump off a diving board for the first time. If we compare this to what we do to our dogs, we would then immediately expect them to begin performing intricate dives off the highest board.
We need to have a good understanding of distraction training to make faster progress at reliably teaching our dogs new skills. As well, after a few sessions of working on something over our dogs head, both we and the dogs will get discouraged. So distraction training helps to make the whole process more enjoyable for both us and our dogs. By taking the time to properly plan and asking your dog to perform in circumstances that are gradually more and more difficult, you will be leading them to extremely reliable performances in the future.
Below is a sample list of the levels of distractions (varies with each dog).
Experiment with these lists and develop one that provides a scale for your dog. Get out and practice! If your dog does not respond to you right away, remember that it is most likely that they are not being disobedient but rather they are just too distracted and the skill level is too high. Try to determine how to make the situation less difficult for them and remember that it is your job to set your dog up for success!
The 'drop it' cue is one that we consider a potential life-saving skill for your dog. This teaches your dog to release an item in their mouth when they hear you say 'drop it' (or any cue you would like to say such as 'give', 'mine', etc). This could be something that could be dangerous or fatal for your dog, but it is also a good skill for self-control, overall manners or part of games such as tug or retrieve. This can be a relatively easy skill to teach as long as it is set up correctly and your dog has not had lots of practice at playing the keep away game!
Many dogs do learn to keep items away from us because we may have inadvertently taught them that grabbing certain items gets them attention from us (even if it is negative, many dogs still find this attention rewarding!) or that it starts a really fun game of chase! If we handle this incorrectly as well, we may create possession aggression concerns in our dogs. This is because when we finally get the item, we often are angry, yank it from our dogs and take it away. By doing this, we are teaching them that giving us items means bad things for them and that we always take the items away from them. This will often create a vicious circle where the dog begins to try harder to keep the item away or just finds the overall game and attention a lot of fun and continues to grab items. By teaching the 'drop it' cue we are basically teaching our dogs to trade to start; release the item in your mouth and something good will happen.
We are teaching them that giving us the item means good things for them. In the above steps, this was for the treat. While going through these steps during training, ensure that you always have the higher value item to use a reward. As well, by giving back the item to the dog, you are teaching them that when they give you the item, they may sometimes get it back – this does not always mean that they lose access to the item. Remember to always start the training with a lower value item.
After the dog has done the above steps a few times, follow the below steps:
Go through all of these steps and begin to add higher value items. A typical sequence may be a tennis ball, a squeaker toy, their favourite toy, a new toy, a milk bone, a smoked bone, etc. Work at each level multiple times until the dog is happily dropping the item before going to a higher value item. As you increase the value of the item, ensure you are also providing them with a higher value reward. This does not always have to be food. For example, the dog may drop a tennis ball in exchange for a new squeaker toy! During this training you are teaching the dog that you have a great reward for them and that it is worth it for them to drop the item.
With any training, it is important that we set it up to start versus just waiting for the dog to grab onto something they have to drop. This allows us to have better influence over the situation to ensure success. As the dog becomes more reliable with the skill, you will begin to set up 'real world' situations. To do this, always have a reward on you. When your dog picks up an item, you can practice the above steps and offer big rewards for when they drop the item.
So, what happens when your dog grabs something they shouldn't have or you know is too valuable to them so you may not have good success? If it is something that is not dangerous to the dog and they will not destroy or it is okay for them to chew it up (for example, a kleenex from the garbage), ignore the dog. This is especially true for those dogs that have turned this into a game and do this to get your attention. You are no longer going to play this game with them and teach them that you will ignore them, not play the keep away game. As well, ensure you are preventing the dog from grabbing these items by dog proofing your house by putting items out of reach or putting lids on garbage cans.
What about an emergency situation? Your dog has grabbed something dangerous and you need to get it back. These are critical situations that require high value bribes. Do not chase the dog! Instead get a high value item (maybe hot dogs from the fridge!) and toss them towards your dog while you kneel down. Do not make any movement towards your dog. Toss the food and as the dog goes to get it, continue to toss it further away from the dropped item. Continue to do this until you can get the dangerous item and provide your dog with big rewards. Understand that it was not your dogs fault and that you need to do a better job at keeping these items out of your dog's reach.
Halloween is almost here and it can be a stressful time for our dogs, as well as providing ample opportunities for getting them into trouble. One of the main concerns is that they don't get into the Halloween treats! Chocolate and raisins are two of the most common treats a dog can find at Halloween and are potentially fatal. Ensure you are supervising your dog and your child to ensure the dog doesn't ingest anything dangerous.
In addition to the treat hazards, not every dog will find Halloween fun. Seeing their favourite humans' appearances altered by costumes can be very frightening. Let alone having a large number of new humans in costumes showing up at the door. This can even cause some dogs to go into a play time frenzy with barking, jumping and a lot of excitement.
If your dog is the type to let you dress him, have fun with this and let him be part of the night. This helps children not be fearful of your dog when seeing them and respond more positively to them. Ensure you do not leave a dog unsupervised with a costume on.
Have one person supervising the dog while another is dealing with the trick-or-treaters. Ensure dog is feeling comfortable and try to make this as positive as possible. Reward your dog for calm behaviour and let them go to a quiet area, such as their kennel, if you notice they are feeling stressed. Leaving them out in the backyard is not a good idea on this night as there will be a lot of outdoor activity, strange noises and they may even be teased through the fence by the children.
If you are going to have your dog involved with the Halloween activities, ensure they are on leash or behind a gate. It is also advised that you give your dog a long walk before trick-or-treaters begin to arrive and allow them some quiet time beforehand as well.
If your dog is already a nervous dog, keep them away from all of the activity and ensure they have some good chew toys to play with. If you are worried about them being extremely stressed, talk to your vet beforehand. You can even look at some herbal calming supplements like Rescue Remedy. It is advised that you start your dog on this a few days before Halloween for it to be most effective.
When taking your dog out with the trick-or-treaters, keep them on-leash and supervise them to ensure they are not picking up treats or dangerous objects on the ground. For Halloween night, ensure all pets have up-to-date I.D. on them. Keep cats indoors and confined.
But most importantly – have fun!
We get asked this question a lot. Too often, people do not spend the initial time training there dogs thinking that they will just grow out of any inappropriate behaviour. This is when the real problems develop as the dog has had a great deal of time to practice these behaviour, so it makes our jobs more difficult to retrain the dog. It is possible, but it requires much more work on our part. We often don't see the dogs until things have really become a concern. By training and socializing your dog early on, you are preventing many problems from developing down the road. A certified trainer that uses positive methods will show you how to properly teach your dog, help you understand how to better communicate to your dog, learn how they communicate, and overall develop a strong, positive relationship.
Taking obedience classes and training your dog is something that the two of you will do together, as a team. By working together, the two of you will bond more closely, learn more about each other and enhance your relationship. Training is one of the most important things you will do with your dog, regardless of their age, breed or size.
Training is essential in allowing us to understand our canine friends and to help them better integrate into the human environment. By taking obedience courses, you will learn how to communicate with your dog and acquire the tools to understand your dog's behaviour. Through reward based training, your dog begins to understand what is acceptable behaviour, as well as being given the opportunity of socializing and learning some new tricks.
Training builds better behavior. The more reliable the dog, the more freedom he can be given. A trained dog can go camping and hiking, participate in dog sports and activities, volunteer as a therapy dog, enjoy off leash parks as well as go with you anywhere that dogs are welcome. The joys and benefits of training are numerous and far outweigh the time spent doing it. When done in a manner you both enjoy, training has no downside.
Obedience training could potentially save your dog's life. For instance, if your dog is running towards a busy road, a reliable recall can be used to get them back to you. Another example may be having a solid 'leave it' or 'drop it' command for a dog who is about to, or has put something, harmful into their mouth.
Costs for obedience classes range in price. dogma recommends that you plan on taking a minimum of two obedience class sessions with your dog to ensure you both have obtained the appropriate foundation for reliable, life-long skills. The bottom line is that dog obedience training truly benefits everyone and this far outweighs the low cost of training classes.