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Dog Training Articles

Eye-Level Snack Stealing

How do you serve your appetizers when company visits? Do you put your cheese and crackers right on the coffee table, at dog eye level? Or is that something you would not do because it would be a free-for-all for your dog?

Sniffing, stealing or licking the edges of the platter are surely things we don’t want our dogs to do… especially when company is visiting. But rather than keep your appetizers on the tallest table possible, you can train your pooch to simply not snatch them!

Begin by practicing obedience commands with your dog or puppy on a regular basis. Basic commands such as the “sit,” “stay” and “down” are very helpful in building your dog’s self-discipline and learning to respect you and the rules of your home.

Next, it’s time to get creative. Get out a paper plate and a slice of cheese, and put it right on your coffee table. As soon as your dog shows any interest in the food, correct with a “no” and place into the “down/stay” position. You don’t have to wait until he physically has the food in his mouth or has knocked over the plate. You can redirect your dog or puppy as soon as you’re certain he’s thinking of taking it, such as when he’s staring or sniffing at it.

Be sure to praise your dog when he uses self-control and remains in the “down/stay” position.

Once your pet will no longer steal the food while you’re in the room, it’s time to start stepping away. After all, when company is visiting you likely won’t be able to stand watch over the coffee table the entire time. Practice stepping out of the room while still ensuring that your dog or puppy stays in the “down” position.

By working on this exercise way in advance, your pet will be much better mannered around food overall. You can also practice this exercise using other tempting foods such as tuna, chicken or other things that have a smell which dogs love.

A few other tips to help avoid snack stealing include not giving your dog “people food” in general so he won’t be expecting tidbits in the first place, and making sure you get him a nice new bone to busy himself with while company is visiting.

With a little forethought and training in advance, your dog can be a welcome part of your family gatherings!


Halloween Safety Tips For Dogs

Halloween can be a fun time of year for kids, adults, and even our pets. But just as we take safety measures with our children, it’s also important to do the same with our dogs and cats.

Keep in mind that while it may be cute for you to see children dressed in costumes, your dog might have a different reaction. An adorable little lady bug or Darth Vader at your door could make your dog feel the need to protect your home.

You can work on this in advance by socializing your dog with masks, hats, and decorations so it won’t be so shocking come Halloween day. If your dog growls, barks or acts fearful, be sure to tell your dog “No”, and teach a more appropriate behaviour such as doing obedience commands instead.

Another common problem is behaviour by the door when trick-or-treaters arrive. Spend some time working with your dog on not bolting out the door, barking, or jumping on visitors. Work with your dog on a leash, and practice ringing the doorbell and having him sit. Repetition is the key with this exercise.

While most of us live in wholesome, family-oriented neighbourhoods, please keep in mind that some people may not be as kind to pets. Avoid leaving your pet (dog or cat) outdoors on Halloween, and be sure to supervise and protect your pet from teasing, being scared, or worse. Do not allow your own children to tease or scare your dog or puppy either. What may have been intended as an innocent prank of spooking the dog could turn into a serious ongoing problem.

Chocolate is another big concern this time of year. Be sure to keep all chocolate out of reach of your dog, and talk to your kids about the dangers of giving your dog candy (or leaving it around). Ingesting very small amounts of chocolate can cause vomiting and diarrhea. Larger amounts can cause permanent heart and nervous system problems, or even death! If you think your dog has ingested chocolate, contact your veterinarian immediately. You can also visit the National Animal Poison Control Centre web site at www.napcc.aspca.org. Or you can phone (888)426-4435 to get emergency poison information about your pet for a fee.

By implementing some safety measures and training in advance, Halloween can be a fun and safe time for everyone!



Preparing for Pets in an Emergency

With all of the suffering that has gone on during this year’s hurricane season, it should be a wakeup call to anyone who doesn’t have an emergency plan for themselves, their children, and their pets.

One thing that has been apparent in witnessing the past several year’s tragedies (hurricane Katrina, 9/11 attacks, even lightning house fires), is that if an emergency plan were already in place, suffering of both humans and animals could have been reduced. Following are some things you can do to prevent your pets from becoming lost, injured, or worse:

  • Make sure your pet always has identification. Microchipping is simple and effective. At the very least, your pets should always wear I.D. tags, ideally with both your home and cell phone numbers.
  • If your local authorities recommend evacuation, take your pets with you! Don’t assume that by tomorrow everything will be fine and you’ll be back at home. Be sure to bring leashes for dogs and carriers for cats. Plan in advance where you might stay in this situation.
  • Have a designated person that has a key to your home who could look in on your pets if ever an emergency prevented you from getting home.  Offer to reciprocate for a friend or neighbour too.
  • Find out where lost pets are taken in your area so you’d know who to contact should your pets ever become displaced. Also, keep current photos of your pets so they could be more easily identified.
  • Do you have a family fire emergency plan? In addition to having a fire ladder for homes with a second floor, and a plan for your family to get out, don’t forget a strategy for your pets. Along with your fire extinguisher and ladder, keep a harness for each pet, and a rope to lower them down with should you ever need to evacuate from an upstairs window. (Always get the humans out first.)
  • Make a list of pertinent phone numbers including: your regular vet, an emergency vet, a boarding kennel, pet friendly hotels in nearby states, family and friends’ phone numbers and addresses, the animal shelter, and your neighbours. Keep the list in your wallet, or e-mail it to yourself or a family member so you could access it if you ever needed to.
  • The News & Observer in Raleigh, NC, recently published a detailed list of things you should prepare in advance for your family in case of emergency. The article can be accessed in their archives at this terribly long, but worthwhile web address:http://www.newsobserver.com/weather/severe_weather/katrina/story/2793670p-9233386c.html. In addition to the items they recommend for humans, you should also add leashes, carriers, pet food and water, blankets, pet’s medication, and vaccination records.

No one likes to think about something terrible happening to their home, family, or pets, and hopefully it never will. But it’s better to be prepared in advance and never need it, than to wish you had planned better if it did!



Dog Training in Autumn

Autumn is a great season to train your dog or puppy. With the cooler weather, there’s less worry about heat exhaustion, and there are plenty of sights, sounds and smells for you and your dog to experience.

Obedience training is the key to enjoying overall good behaviour from your dog, and there is no better time than fall to practice your dog or puppy’s self-control with distractions. Scampering squirrels, crunchy leaves, tempting sticks and kids playing ball are all common distractions your dog can learn to listen to you in spite of.

Socialization is another aspect where there are lots of opportunities in autumn. With fall festivities abounding, there are plenty of outdoor activities, events and parks where you can bring your dog or puppy to practice socialization and good behaviour around people, other dogs, bicycles and more.

Be sure to first practice the basic obedience commands in a very low distraction environment, such as indoors. Your dog should thoroughly understand the meanings of “heel” (walk at my side), “sit,” “down,” “stay” and “come.”

Next work with your dog outdoors, but close to home. Perhaps in front of your own house or yard where there are a little bit more distractions.

Once you’re confident that your pet understands what to do, it’s time to head out on the town! Go to a local park where there are likely to be lots of kids playing and other dogs being walked. Check out your community events listings and attend a local event together. Even just walking around downtown, window shopping or chatting with neighbours, are excellent opportunities to practice distraction work and socialization. Be sure to always bring a plastic bag for cleanup, and if you’ll be out a long time, bring some water for your dog too.

There are many benefits from doing these things with your pet. Not only can you enjoy being outdoors together on pretty autumn days, but you’ll also be teaching your dog to behave better overall. After all, if your dog can sit and stay in spite of a scampering squirrel or a bouncing ball, behaving around relatives during holiday visits at home will be a piece of cake!


Walking Your Dog for Good Behaviour

When most people think of walking their dog, they usually think of their dog or puppy “doing their business,” or simply getting some exercise. But there are many other, very important reasons to walk your dog, and you may be surprised at the behavioural benefits!

Thorough socialization is one of the most important aspects in preventing or alleviating behavioir problems. Having regular leash walks around your neighbourhood can help your dog to be properly socialized with people, other dogs, children, trash trucks, bicycles, and many other things.

This can help prevent fearful, skittish, or overly territorial behaviour, as well as many other problems. Excessive barking also usually stems from dogs thinking that every little sound is a threat. Learning to recognize normal daily occurrences such as neighbours unloading groceries and children walking from the bus stop are significant in solving barking problems.

Running away or bolting out the door are other issues that regular walks can really help with. Dogs are social animals and they enjoy having lots of sensory stimuli in their lives. If your dog spends most of his time in the house and yard, he may be yearning to get out front where he can experience more of the world. By walking your dog on a regular basis and spending some time with him out front, it can seem like less of a novelty to him, therefore being less of a temptation when the opportunity to escape arises.

“A tired dog is a good dog” can go a long way toward calming down a hyper or energetic dog or puppy. But keep in mind, walking your dog is not just for physical exercise… it’s mental too! There’s no need to walk your dog for miles and miles (unless you want to). Even just a few blocks of walking and sniffing, seeing sights and hearing sounds, can give your dog’s senses a workout, resulting in a calmer, better behaved pet.

If you live in a more rural area, it’s also a good idea to take your dog to parks, shopping centres, and other more populated areas on a regular basis, to experience the socialization and sensory encounters that are not as easily found near your home.

With a little effort on your part, walking your dog can be healthy and fun for both of you… for  exercise and good behaviour!