Helen on September 23rd, 2010

Training with treats, praise, and toys is a reward-based system.  Training with such things as collar corrections, ear pinches, and shocks  is a punishment-based system.  Let’s start with you, the dog owner.  Think of what it was like the last time you learned something new.  Or think of something you learned years ago that was not easy.  For me, that would be tennis.

If my tennis teacher had put a shock collar on me and gave me a few volts every time I made a mistake, I would have been plenty bruised, both physically and mentally, and wouldn’t have learned tennis.   I made plenty of mistakes, and I should have.  I was learning!  Even without the shock collar, if the instructor used nothing but language and tone to shout at me about my mistakes, it would be a very disheartening, ugly learning environment and experience.

I had a few tennis coaches, and the one that brought out the best in me was a very positive, upbeat instructor.  He complimented my good shots right then and there as I made them, and when I fumbled, he either passed a quick remark about what I did or said “Oops, next time.”  If next time I still made the mistake, he backed off the big picture, and  we stepped back to focus on the mechanics problem, till we fixed it.  Encouragement and results fueled my motivation.  I looked forward to our lessons and learning.

Now let’s turn this same philosophy to our dogs.  Dogs are a lot like us in many ways, and they accelerate when learning is fair and fun. Thanks to the work of such experts as Karen Pryor and Ian Dunbar, approaches to dog training are more rewarding for both the dog and handler. They have moved us from a mentality of forcing and coercing dogs into submission into creating a partnership with our canine family member.  They have taught us to be fair and encouraging as we facilitate the success of our canine partners and help them work and think through learning hurdles.   That’s a big deal.

Teach your dog by way of encouragement and kindness.  Step back when your dog doesn’t understand and go back to a place where he does get it.  Then move forward at his pace from there.   The worst that can happen is you give your dog some extra treats and praise.  That will never harm your relationship with your dog or your dog’s trust in you.  And that sort of training will never haunt you.  That’s a big deal, too.

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Helen on September 22nd, 2010

Does your dog respond to his name?  All the time or only when he wants to?  When you call your dog’s name, the appropriate response from the dog should be to stop what he’s doing and either look at you, or respond to the command you issue with his name.  Hearing his name should be a wonderful thing to your dog.  He should anticipate good things when he hears it.

If you’ve adopted a rescue dog who doesn’t know his new name, start out by pairing his new name with an immediate treat.   Stand near him and when he looks at you, say his name, “Pooch!” in a happy voice and give him a treat.  Move around a bit and wait for him to look again, and repeat this drill.  When he’s becoming very attentive, try the opposite.  When he glances away, say his name.  When he looks at you, celebrate his success.  Offer him a jackpot of treats and lots of praise.  He will learn to respond to and love his name in no time.  Remember to keep an upbeat, happy tone when teaching your dog his name.

To elicit consistent responses from your dog and to keep him sharp, carry on the following exercise.   As you go about your day, say your dog’s name.  Be prepared with a treat.  Carry them in your pocket, and have one handy for an immediate reward for the exercise.  When your dog looks, either click or say “Good!” (or whatever your verbal marker is) and toss him a treat.  Keep this up inside the house until you get a consistent reaction.  Consistent is 80% of the time.

Once you’re satisfied with your dog’s reaction to his name, move the game outside to his own backyard.  Practice this throughout the day.  Do it as a surprise game not as a repetitive drill.  Try it next on a walk.  Change the locations until your dog reacts to his name wherever you are.  And remember to use those treats and praise a lot.  No one is motivated to work for free.

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Helen on August 26th, 2010

When training a dog of any age, what is important, above all, is to be consistent.

Let’s take an example.  You want to keep Pooch off the furniture.  Twenty-three out of twenty-four hours, you enforce the rule.  But somewhere in the 24th hour, you’re watching TV and decide to invite Pooch up on the sofa with you while you watch your favorite TV show.  You have entered a gray area while dogs have a black-and-white understanding.  So when Pooch decides to take a spot on the sofa on his own, don’t be surprised.  He was allowed up there once, so as far as he’s concerned, that’s an all-around invitation to use the sofa whenever he wants.

If you want your dog to understand and behave accordingly, you must be consistent.  Either he’s on the sofa or off.  If it’s a sometimes thing to you, it’s a sometimes thing to your dog.  If you feed him scraps at the dinner table, he will beg at the dinner table.  If you allow him to jump on you when you come home, he will jump on everyone who comes through the door.  Decide upon the behavior you want from your dog and follow the guidelines, not only to get him there, but to keep him there.

Helen on September 7th, 2009

Labor day is a time to rest, relax, and enjoy a day free from the labors of making a living.  But dogs don’t know that.  If you’re a dog owner, always be prepared for surprises, especially if you’ve planned something.

My plan this morning was to sleep in, wake up, and enjoy a leisurely morning with my dogs.  What actually happened was I did sleep in, and at 9 a.m. I woke up…to a smell that meant only one thing.  Dog poop was in the house.  I jumped out of bed, as best as a person of my stunningly mature age could do, found my Crocs, and dashed around the house to the back door.  I’d found nothing until the back door.  That is where my problem pooper and peer’s “room” is.  I quote the “room” because it’s her crate.  Her name is Lilian.  She not only eats poop, and gets diarrhea from it, but she’s got an ectopic ureter, which means pee spontaneously “comes out” when it shouldn’t.  Hence the location of her room.

Lilian Pooped Up On Labor DayWe’d been lucky lately with the peeing part, but this morning was a complete surprise to me.  Usually, Lilian points her rear end so her dumps go out the front door of her crate.  She’s smart that way.  But she did no such thing this morning.  It was a complete and utter mess inside the crate.

I let the other dogs out, placed a clothes pin on my nose, and I rolled Lilian’s crate so it was facing out the back door.  Then I opened the crate door and let her out.   Yuck!  She was a mess and so was the inside of the crate and all the toys in there.

I pulled the crate out and shut the door.  I couldn’t put anything in the washing machine because last night, one of my luxuries was to leave the clothes in the dryer and washing machine as is, and take care of it in the morning.  So that was what I had to do.  I then took clothes inside and folded them.  I was in no mood to hurry through what lay ahead of me.  However, I did have that thought.  What if it were a regular Monday and I needed to get to work?  I’d not have left the clothes in the washer and dryer the night before, and I’d been up earlier.  Maybe that would have been early enough to stop Lilian’s output, or not.  If not, I’d have to speed up the process, a little, but I’d have gotten through it.

It didn’t take long to put those clothes away, so I filled a bucket of water up and took it outside for Lilian and friends to drink.  Then, piece by piece, I picked up all toys from the crate and threw them in a plastic bag for the trash can.  The only toy I kept was a Nylabone.  I rinsed and scrubbed it till it was clean.  The blanket was a mess, but I ran it through the washing machine anyway.  Twice.  Blankets are a necessity here, and if they are salvageable, I do what I can to keep them.  I hauled the crate over to the side of the yard and hosed it down four or five times before pouring in some soap and hosing again.  I’d tipped it over and found the nifty wheel base I’d affixed to it needed some adjusting, so no time like the present. I did that, then turned the crate door facing towards the ground so it could drain. While that dried, it was Lilian’s turn.

I have made an investment in one of the best dog items, I think, ever invented.  It’s a bath tub for dogs, and mine is outside always at the ready.  It’s called a Booster Bath and here’s a description and link for more information.

Paws for Thought Booster Bath(R) Paws for Thought Booster Bath(R)

Wash your dog quickly, easily, and enjoyably with Booster Bath. This indoor/outdoor bathing center elevates your dog to a level that’s comfortable for you, keeps your dog securely contained, and features a no-mess water and drainage system.One-of-a-kind dog washing tub on legs is constructed of 1/4″ thick UV stabilized high density polyethene for longer life and durability.No dog is too big, or too small, or Booster Bath. Raised Booster Bath is lightweight and portable, weighing only 22 pounds, yet it is capable of supporting up to 175 lbs.Rubberized non-slip mat is 3/8″ thick for durability and longer life. Eliminates slipping and sliding of your pet, reducing stress for both of you.Dual, easy-access shampoo caddies are designed to hold a large shampoo, conditioner, and brush. Convenient placement on each side of the tub reduces spilling and eliminates bending over or chasing the shampoo bottle.Triple leash restraint with quick connect collar secures your pet.Five foot long, one inch drain hose allows you to wash in one area and discharge water in another.Rubber grips attached to the bottom of the legs keep the Booster Bath from slipping when your dog enters or exits.Fan nozzle features a combination volume control and on/off valve. Convenient hook provides quick and easy access between rinses.Tub and legs are held together with large non-corroding stainless steel screws and large plastic five star knobs with stainless steel inserts. If necessary, this provides for quick and easy disconnection of tub and legs. Legs nest inside tub for compact storage or travel.Perfect for the family dog or professional dog show enthusiasts.Approved by top breeders.Veterinarian approved.Used at dog shows worldwide.Check out our Paws for Thought Booster Bath Tropic Shower Warm Water Bathing Kit for easy access to warm water.


I popped Lilian in the tub, rinsed off the you-know-what, lathered her up, rinsed, towel dried, and we were done. That was the easiest part of it all. This item really saves my back, and I do use it a lot.

Lilian's new collarI put a lovely new fall color collar on Lilian, and she looks lovely in it. After that, somewhere just before 11 a.m., I regained control over my Labor day morning and thought about something. When you have a pet as part of your family, you can never discount their needs when making plans, because they, more than anyone I know, have sudden needs. So be prepared for the unexpected, and keep your calm about it because they’re the dog and you’re the human. Take the sudden mess to task, step by step, because that’s all you can do. You can’t change the happening, but you can handle how you react to it, and how you react to it will influence future relationships with your dog and anyone else around you. And remember, it will not be the last time something like this may happen, so be prepared for next time. You’ll get through, and it’s a tiny bit of a bump in the road when you consider all the good times you have with your dog.

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admin on August 31st, 2009

Here is a great way to give your dog a mental workout.  Give him a Kong to de-stuff!

Buckets of Stuffed KongsFirst, you have to stuff them.  An easy recipe is this.  Slice some bananas, and drop into Kongs.  It’s easy to maneuver Kongs if you put them in a large yogurt container.  We get them from Publix.  Both the dogs and I love yogurt, so we have plenty of these empty containers, which are perfect to hold Kongs!  After you stuff the Kongs with sliced bananas, push some good peanut butter in with a knife.  We use organic peanut butter from Costco.  It’s more economical, but good.  Though watch the ingredients.  For a while, Costco had an organic brand with added sugar.  Dogs don’t need sugar in their diets.

Covered KongIf you have dogs that are good at de-stuffing Kongs, you can put some peanut butter in after adding some banana, then add more banana, then more peanut butter.

For those toughian dogs who get really good at de-stuffing, I freeze a bunch of stuffed Kongs to make it a more challenging de-stuffing project.  You can cover the Kong with aluminum foil for freezing, or turn the Kong upside down in the yogurt container, ingredients permitting.

Remember, don’t make it too hard for dogs who are soft.  Keep the stuffing to their levels, or they will get frustrated and not try.  For the first-time dog, you might start with a simple slathering of peanut butter inside.  That will be an easy and rewarding introduction to the Kong for your dog.  If your dog is crate-trained, giving him a Kong to de-stuff while he’s in his crate prevents boredom and may wear him out, so he’ll nap afterwards.

Bamboo Kong Cleaning BrushAfter the Kong has been de-stuffed, it will need cleaning.  I used to buy vegetable brushes and squeeze them together for a good, tight-fitting brush that would get the Kong clean for next use.  But now, Bamboo makes a brush especially to clean Kongs.  Soap and water and a soak sometimes is needed to loosen the remaining peanut butter.  These brushes are convenient and a perfect fit for all-sized Kongs. (Click picture for more information.)

Dogs love Kongs and have a good time de-stuffing them. They give Kongs their stamp of approval.  It is a mental workout, which all dogs need, and it’s fun to watch your dog figure out how to get the treats out. Some bounce, some lick, some take the whole thing in their jaw and smash.  Remember to count their Kong treats as part of their daily calories.

Click the red or black Kong for sizes and purchase information.

KONG Dog Toy (X-Large; 5.5KONG Dog Toy – Available Online at PETCO.com.  KONG’s exclusive red natural rubber is puncture resistant, super bouncy, and chewer friendly.  It is unmatched for resilience, durability, and bounce.  KONG(R) satisfies a dog’s natural need to chew and also cleans teeth and conditions gums.  The thick, flexible walls keep springing back for more! KONG(R) rubber is non-toxic, nonabrasive, non-splintering, and does not get sharp when chewed.  Kongs(R) are widely used for therapy and prevention of boredom, separation anxiety and other behavioral issues.  Regular use of Kongs can also improve oral health.  Their unpredictable bounce lures most dogs into a game of chase, catch, and chew.  The hollow center can be filled with food and treats.  A dab of peanut butter spread around the inside is very effective.  Providing food and/or treat stuffed KONG’s(R) for your dogs can keep them contentedly busy (working) and out of trouble for long periods of time.  Add more stuffed Kongs to increase their work time. KONG(R) toys are enthusiastically used and recommended by veterinarians, trainers, dog professionals and satisfied customers world wide.

Extreme KONG Dog Toy (Large; 4.25

Extreme KONG Dog Toy – Available Online at PETCO.com the Worlds strongest rubber dog toy! KONG(R) toys are legendary for performance and durability, although no dog toy is indestructible, Extreme KONG(R) Dog Toys are made from super-strong black rubber that stands up to even the most tenacious power-chewers. Regular use of Kong will strengthen your dog’s jaw muscles.  Extreme KONG(R) will assist in battling boredom and keep your dog out of trouble.  Today, most domestic dogs don’t have to work for food. In nature, however, dogs are predatory meat-eaters.  Hunting for food is physically and intellectually challenging.  The hunt is their “work.”  Success on the job results in a well-earned “paycheck” – their meal.  Eating meat off the bone satisfies their hunger, exercises their jaw muscles and keeps their teeth and gums clean.  Extreme KONG(R) helps satisfy dog’s natural instincts and assists in preventing: excessive barking, destructive chewing, soiling, digging, and separation anxiety.  Fill with your dog’s favorite treats or food to keep your dog entertained the healthy way.

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