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Dog Training Articles

Dog Days of Winter

As outdoor temperatures become cool, owners of pets that live outdoors need to be extra concerned. Cold weather can seem very harsh to your pet, and most of our domesticated dogs are simply not cut out to live outdoors.

All dogs need to have shelter at all times. If your dog lives outside, you’ll need to provide an insulated dog house with warm, dry bedding. It should be large enough to fit your dog quite comfortably, but not too huge, otherwise his body warmth won’t be able to heat it.

Dogs also need food and fresh water daily. Make sure frozen water is replaced immediately and consider getting a bowl heater to prevent freezing. If your dog stays in the garage, be diligent about storage of chemicals such as antifreeze which is highly toxic to pets, ice melt, and others. You’ll also need to take the same steps in providing warm bedding, water, etc.

Most dogs are simply not cut out to live outdoors. Any dog with a short or thin coat will be more susceptible to the cold. Most dogs have been bred to be companion animals and can suffer psychologically from the isolation of being outside all the time. No matter what type of dog you have, please reconsider having him be an "outside dog"!

Experience shows that behaviour is the #1 reason some pet owners keep their dog outside. "He has accidents in the house, runs around like a maniac, and chews things"! The problem is, keeping your pet outdoors creates a cycle. The more he stays outside, the more excited he is when you finally do bring him in! Dogs who live outdoors never have to "hold it in", so they don’t build up the muscle control needed for being housebroken when inside. They just don’t know the rules of the house, and are usually so excited, their overzealousness makes them end up right back outside. Dogs who live outside are also much more likely to have problems such as fear, timidness, or aggression due to lack of socialization.

However, it’s not too late. By working with your dog on some dog obedience training, and bringing him indoors on a leash, you can work with your pet to teach him the rules of your home. Whether you work with your dog independently or with a qualified dog trainer, with a little work on your part, you too can enjoy your pet indoors as a part of the family!


Canines on the Couch

Many dog or puppy owners allow their pets on the furniture. To some extent, this is a personal preference… after all, if you don’t mind the dog hair on the couch, why not? However, muddy paws set aside, there are many behavioural factors to consider.

Dogs are instinctively den animals which think of their family members as their "pack". By allowing dogs on the bed or sofa, they can instinctively feel equal or above their humans in the pecking order. For some dogs, this can lead to territorial behaviour wherein they guard the furniture as their own. Many a pet owner has lamented "I don’t mind my dog being on the bed, but she snarls and snaps when I try to move her!"

Other dogs may not have as obvious a problem. But overall, dogs who are treated as equals tend to be less respectful of owner’s commands and household rules in general. Dog training problems are much more common with sofa dogs than "non sofa" dogs.

Additional concerns include that, while you may not mind the dog napping on the couch, most people prefer their pet not ricochet off their guests, or leap from chair to chair. Unfortunately it’s difficult for most dogs, especially puppies to understand that the sofa is only for napping, not playing.

Finally, people who don’t yet have children often find that once a newborn arrives on the scene, they regret the day they ever let their pet on the furniture.

If you’ve already been allowing your dog on the furniture and would now like to change, it can easily be accomplished. Earning your dog’s respect through obedience commands, combined with consistently redirecting your dog to a different spot will soon have your dog sleeping nicely on his dog bed. Dog training involves consistency and repetition, so be diligent and don’t give in, and your dog will soon habitually stay off. Then you will be able to fully stretch out on the sofa!


The Learning Curve

The learning curve is an extremely important aspect of any education… human or canine! Just as children need to develop good study habits for maximum achievement in school, the same holds true for dogs. Your dog must learn the difference between "No" and "Good Dog", as well as how to pay attention in the first place.

This can be accomplished by working on some basic obedience commands. Heel (walk at my side), sit, down, stay, and come are the foundations of learning which will build good study habits for all other desirable behaviours.

Because beginner’s obedience training is done on-leash, you’ll be able to get your dog to notice you and learn to pay attention! With consistency and lots of praise, your dog can quickly learn the difference between the right thing to do ("Good Dog") and the wrong thing ("No"). With enough dog training practice, your pet will eventually respond to these phrases even when off-leash in real life situations.

While some people realize the benefits of their dog knowing the obedience commands, many other pet owners will declare "But I don’t care about the commands… I just want my dog to stop stealing socks!" Keep in mind that the commands are the groundwork for all other behaviours. Your dog will much more likely respond to your declaration of "No, drop it!" if he knows what that means in the first place.

If you have a puppy, working on the basic obedience commands will make a big difference in addressing many other issues including house training and play biting. With older dogs, you may find that your dog is smarter than you thought… and has been pulling the wool over your eyes so he can get away with stuff!Give it a try and you’ll soon find that "1/2 hour a day, keeps mischief away"!


A Tired Dog Is a Good Dog!

Particularly when the lazy days of summer fall behind us, pets can become bored and restless. As temperatures cool and clocks fall back, our lifestyles change in many ways. With the holiday season on the horizon, festivities and responsibilities will intensify even more. It is at that time of year that many pet owners find themselves frazzled by frisky fidos!

While humans may have hectic days, dogs generally do not! If your dog seems to be more restless, energetic or mischievous it could be a result of your busy lifestyle. Remember, most dogs were originally bred to do a job  and lack of stimulation can result in exasperating behaviour.

There are many simple things you can do to make sure your pet doesn’t fall by the wayside. Instead of just letting him out to the yard, go out with him and throw the ball for a few minutes. Let your dog accompany you when you walk to the kids’ bus stop. Even just bringing your dog for a ride in the car while you do some errands will give him some satisfaction of getting "out on the town"! You can fill up with gas, stop at the bank drive-thru, and bring your dog into the pet supply to get food.

Working your dog through a few minutes of obedience commands daily will provide exceptional results. He will behave more calmly because he’s feeling obedient, and will really enjoy the undivided attention from you. Mental exercise is just as important as physical! There is no better way to provide that mental exercise than through dog training.

Of course, taking your dog on a long brisk walk will be good for both of you. After all, will you really get so far behind if you set aside 20 minutes? It may be hard to find the time, but once you get out there you’ll find that both you and your dog will have fun!

Here are some more ideas of things you can do to keep your dog mentally and physically exercised:

1.Exercise your dog every day. Go for a long walk, throw the ball in the yard, or do whatever it takes to get your dog to burn off some of the extra energy. If you don’t have a fenced-in yard, get a 20 foot long line, and let your dog run around that way.

2.Practice obedience every day… By working your dog through the commands, you can help him to behave more calmly. Not only because he is feeling more obedient, but also because he enjoys the practicing, and it uses up some of his mental as well as physical energy.

3.Keep your voice calm. If your dog’s surroundings are high-strung, so will be your dog’s behaviour. Avoid yelling at all costs. Instead, use an explaining voice to correct your dog, and train him appropriately.

4.Avoid separating your dog from guests. If you keep your dog separated, he may carry on with barking and crying. If he has been separated and then you let him join in, he will be even more worked up. Instead, use your dog’s leash to maintain control and prevent jumping. Also, separating your dog from guests can contribute to aggression problems, fear & timidness.

5.Buy your dog some new toys. New toys are always a big help in keeping your dog entertained.


Pets As Gifts?

Sugarplum fairies and puppies with ribbons! Holiday season is one of the busiest times for new pets. Unfortunately, the months to follow are also very busy for animal shelters checking dogs in. Pets can bring lots of pleasure, but are also a lot of work. A puppy does not stay tiny for long…. and the inevitable jumping,nipping and chewing are often a far cry from a Norman Rockwell painting!

There are many drawbacks to giving pets as gifts. While your niece may be thrilled, your brother-in-law might not! A dog is a commitment of about 15 years, and a family needs to be truly ready for such a responsibility. There are ongoing expenses of food, vet bills, spaying/neutering and training. Daily tasks include feeding, walking, training and cleaning up after the dog.

Experience shows that families who choose their own dog are much happier with their pet. When there’s a problem, there’s no secretly ruminating "If only we’d picked him ourselves". When responsibilities become an imposition, there are no hidden resentments. And Grandma who always loved Golden Retrievers, may not appreciate such a big dog. Perhaps she would have preferred a smaller pooch this time, if at all.

The bottom line? Christmas is sure to bring joy and excitement. It’s up to each family to decide for themselves whether that joy should last for 15 years!