Welcome new dog, be house broken quicky!

Here are some tips on potty training/house breaking that I’ve used on new dogs that come to stay at my house.

Before settling into my place, I take the new dog out for a nice long walk with my boys and allow ample opportunities to make poop and pee outside. I like to tell my dogs “go pee” or “go poo” while they are doing it. Dogs can learn many words, let them associate doing their business with a word you’d like to use, it could be; “go potty”, “do your business”, or “hurry up”. It can make your life easier down the road when you need them to go before you head out of the house. And I always praise after they’ve done it outside.

Before they enter my house, I make sure that the new dog is the last dog to enter. Humans enter my house first, then my dogs, and then the new dog in a calm state. If a dog is staying with me for a few days, humans still enter first but I will let the dogs decide their entry to the house on the second day. As long as they enter calmly, I’m cool with it. Bolt is pretty chill with new dogs and is usually the last to come in by the second day, we always joke that he’s the last dog on the totem pole.

When I enter the house, I like to keep the new dog on a leash and tethered to me until I can trust him or her to be off leash in my house. I call it my umbilical cord method, sometimes I tie the end of the leash to my belt loop on my pants or around my waist and the new dog will go where I go.

I’ll introduce the new dog to different parts of my home that they are allowed to be in and say “no” towards areas I don’t want them to go into (yet). So, for the most part, dogs in my house are allowed in my foyer, office, living room, and kitchen. I say “no” towards the hallway to the bathroom and bedroom, “no” at the stairs going down (we live in a bungalow), “no” at the furniture (sofa), and “no” at the laundry/groom room.

Creating boundaries from the start and reminding them whenever they go towards the forbidden zones with a “no” or “NUH uH!” helps establish that it’s not their house and keeps them from getting into trouble. The expectations are clear and most dogs respect it when it’s consistently enforced. The odd time, I’ll put up a baby gate at the hallway and the stairs if I don’t trust the dog to keep my boundaries.

Boundaries in my house is not to say they will never go into the groom room or on my furniture, I just want them to go on my terms and not theirs. Eventually the tether (leash) comes off or I let it drag on the floor but I’ll keep the new dog in the same room as me by enclosing the area with a pen/ baby gate or close the door of my kitchen and office. New dogs can get into things and it’s better to catch them before or in the act than afterwards. My goal for the dogs in the house is to be calm, resting and relaxed.

Next thing I do to set them up for success is to schedule their food and water so I know what goes in and I can plan for when they need to go outside to eliminate. It would be unfair, in my opinion, to be upset with a dog that pees or poops in the house if I had a huge bowl of water and food out all day and not give enough breaks outside.

Here’s an example of a day: 7am -potty break, 7:30am -food and water (breakfast), 8:30am -potty break, then crate time/rest time. 12pm -offer water, 1pm – go for walk. 4pm – offer water, 4:30pm go for a walk. 7pm -food and water (dinner), 8pm – go for a walk. One last potty break in the yard before I sleep (10pm-midnight).

I offer water at different times in the day, see if they drink, then give them opportunities to pee/poop about an hour later. With puppies I would take them out every hour or every other hour that they are awake. It gives me an idea on how quickly they process water/food and need to eliminate. I don’t leave water on the ground until I can trust them and myself to know how long they can hold in their pee/poop.

I don’t leave their food on the ground for a two main reasons. First of all, I want them to know where the food comes from, from me! Secondly, I give them a window of opportunity for food, take it or wait til next meal time. I want to build a pattern of food and elimination in their system, they’ll gobble up their food next time it’s on the ground so I’m not worried. It really helps me know what they eat and drink to calculate when they would need to go out for a potty break. I also cut off their water from 7pm or 8pm til the next morning. This way I don’t worry about them holding a big pee all night. I still give them a last pee break before sleeping, but I wouldn’t offer them a big bowl of water late at night.

In the beginning, when they are tethered to me, I can usually tell when they get ants in their pants and want to pee. Some dogs sniff a lot, turn to the door, or turn in circles looking for a good spot. Depending on their age and how housetrained they were before coming to my house will determine how frequently I take them out and how long I keep them tethered to me.

If the new dog is used to being in a crate, it’s wonderful to put them in when they can not be supervised. If the new dog is a puppy, crate training is a wonderful potty training tool. Before giving them time in a crate, I’m always sure to give them a chance to potty outside, it’s only fair. And when they come out of the crate, I give them a chance to eliminate outside.

If the new dog somehow does end up peeing or pooping in the house, here is how I react. If he is caught in the act and is small enough to carry, I will lift him up and carry him outside and give him praise when he finishes on the grass outside. If he too big to carry, I’ll use the leash to bring him outside and praise him when he is on the grass doing his business. I’ll come back in the house and quietly clean up the mess and continue on as if nothing happened. Dogs do not get any attention from me for making their mistake indoors, but I do make it clear when they are out on the grass doing their business that they are the best dog ever! for peeing and pooping out there.

If the new dog has somehow peed or pooped and I discover it after (which is rare for me), I’d do the same; I woud quietly clean it up, take the dog outside and give him lots of praise when he does its business outside.

Putting the dog’s nose into their business, calling them to come and take a look at their mess while throwing a fit and making a big deal out of it is not going to help the dog understand what you want, instead, it will most definitely teach the dog to hide from you before they pee/poop in the house.

A way I look at mistakes in the house is that it’s a sign of my own irresponsibility for not paying attention to the new dog, maybe I am not taking him out early enough, the dog needs to be taken out more frequently, or maybe I’ve given them my trust a little too early. I would go back to tethering or crating. Take responsibility, it’s not the dog’s fault it is ours. I like to set dogs up for success. The onus is on us, the owner/dog caregiver.

I haven’t dogsat a puppy in a few years, puppies are a lot of work. First of all, their bladders are tiny. They eat and poop, they drink and pee quite often and throughout the day. They have lots of energy and that can stimulate them to want to eliminate. Training their bladder to hold their pee takes some time, patience and ….training! By scheduling their food, and creating a rhythm for them is key.

And whether I’m dog sitting a puppy or an older dog, I like walking them outside to eliminate and to tire them out. When they are indoors, I want them calm, tired, and sleepy. They are less likely to get into mischief when they are tired and less likely to pee/poop indoors when I’ve taken them for a long walk and they have emptied their system.

A word on pee pads.. I’m not a fan of them because I don’t want my house to smell and trust me, the smell will encourage them to continue to pee indoors if it’s not fully cleaned with a good odour neutralizer. I don’t find it natural for dogs to pee indoors, it’s usually a learned habit or marking territory issue. I feel like pee pads give them the “ok” to pee indoors and some dogs will pee on mats and carpets if there isn’t a pee pad, it’s happened at my house with a dog I was dogsitting and I just find that gross. Pee outside! LOL

Now, I understand there should be some exceptions. Ok, some senior dogs may need pee pads or if you live in a condo and you know your dog can’t hold it. Let’s say you’re out at work all day and your dog can’t hold it so you lay down pee pads for them, maybe consider a dog walker to come visit in the middle of the day and take your dog out for a good pee break and walk.

So in a nutshell, when I dogsit I like walking them. It gives them a lot of opportunities to go potty outside, walking them also tires them out and they are more relaxed indoors. I like supervising them indoors by tethering or using enclosures and keeping an eye on them to catch them before they make a potty accident. I like scheduling food and water and giving breaks outside accordingly. All this and voila, they are accident free in my house. Puppy housetraining and dogsitting can be exhausting but very rewarding at the end of the day.

Raw food for dogs

Today I had an interesting conversation with a dog owner who feeds her dog a raw diet.  She told me that her dog’s food costs approximately $60 (in Canadian, I’m in Canada) a month and buys meat for no more than $2 per pound.

I fed Bolt and Dutch (my foster dog) a raw diet for several months while I was able to get a discount working for Pets Get Physical back in 2014.  Here are some of the benefits I noticed:

  • they loved it;
  • they pooped less and it biodegraded more quickly;
  • their teeth became whiter;
  • their skin looked better;
  • their fur was nicer, as in less grimy and more shiny.

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Here are their bowls of raw meat. I also used a supplement that I got from work to help clean out parasites.  I’m not sure if it worked, I’m hoping it did!

I thought feeding them a raw diet was a more natural and cleaner eating choice than processed dog kibble.  But after I stopped working for Pets Get Physical and lost my discount, I went back to dog kibble.  I try to buy holistic or grain-free and GMO-free kibble.  I think better ingredients make a difference.

I learned a secret from PJs Pet Express before they went out of business.  I was told that it’s okay for dogs to eat dog kibble that has expired.  Apparently, it’s still good for another 3 to 6 months!  Pet stores are just not allowed to sell expired foods (obviously).

So, I became good friends with the staff and I would drop by when they were doing their monthly clean up of their shelves and discounting the food close to expiry.  I saved hundreds of dollars doing this and I was getting high quality food from PJs for huge discounts.  I wonder if it had anything to do with their business going down?  Haha..oh..oops.

Well, the lady I spoke with today about her dog’s raw diet made me think about putting Bolt and Smokey on a raw diet one day.  She had some interesting tips on getting raw food cheap. She spoke confidently and sounded like she did a lot of research, but I didn’t agree with some of the things she said.  It just didn’t sound right in my gut.

Here are some of the things she said:

  1. She buys her food with other people in bulk from a supplier.
  2. She buys some of her meats on sale at supermarkets like T&T.
  3. She feeds her dog a variety of meats, including pork.  I agree with feeding a dog a variety of animal meats.  Keri Lynn at Pets Get Physical told me that switching from chicken to lamb, then to beef, and then to tripe a week or two at a time was good for the dogs — not in that particular order, but the point is to change it up once in a while.  I felt that was a big difference from the dog kibble world where we are told to stick to one food and flavour for the dog’s entire life — ever heard of that?  I was all for giving my dogs variety as long as it didn’t upset their stomach, and raw food never did.  So, I agree to mix it up and feed a variety of raw meats to the dog, but I wouldn’t feed my dog raw pork.  Just the thought of feeding raw pork to my dog sends off alarms in my head.  Maybe it’s due to the years of being told to cook pork thoroughly, but I just wouldn’t want to take any chances.
  4. She finds cheap or free raw meat by asking people online for their freezer burnt meats.  I know it’s not good to be wasteful and, sure, the meat in our freezers are meant to feed humans, so the grade is higher, but have you ever cooked freezer burnt meat and eaten it? Trust me, it tastes gross. So, here’s another “hmm…interesting, but no thanks.” If I’m going to give my dogs raw food, it will be the good stuff and not the forgotten blocks of mystery freezer burnt stuff at the bottom/back of the freezer.  Sorry if I sound judgy or snooty, I just personally wouldn’t do it.  To each their own — I didn’t tell her I disagreed with her, I just listened and I respect her choice for her dog.
  5. She said it’s okay to give dogs meat that has been thawed and frozen a number of times. So, again, it’s the brain washing at work here for me. I’ve been told since I was young that food isn’t safe to freeze again once thawed (something about bacteria). So, I’ll pass and won’t refreeze thawed meat to give to my dog later.

Sometimes, no matter how much you concern yourself over feeding your dog properly or with the best ingredients, they can still get a health issue and it could be out of our control.  There are no guarantees, ’tis life.

Whether you cook your food for your dog, feed him raw food, or buy him processed kibble, it’s your choice.  I would suggest that we do our own research.

If it’s processed, then read the label and ingredient list and be aware that higher quality and better ingredients will probably be better for our dogs in the long run.  Just like us, we know that eating processed foods all the time is junk to our bodies and it’s better to eat the real, or closer to real, stuff (unprocessed whole foods).

I’m glad my dogs are not picky eaters and are happy eating dog kibble, and that they would be estatic eating raw food when I can afford it.

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Here are Bolt and Dutch getting Big Country Raw Bone Marrows as a treat and to clean their teeth.  They spent a good couple of hours enjoying their marrow outside that year.

UPDATE: During my dog training with CampSK9 in 2018, one of my homework assignments was to watch the Netflix documentary called “Pet Fooled”, it was about the pet food industry and boy is it an eye opener!  Please try to watch it if it’s still available on Netflix.

Since watching that documentary, both Smokey and Bolt are on a raw diet. We get our food from Maddie’s Dog Grooming & Boutique on Main Street in Stouffville. 20170511_161254The brand they sell is called Iron Will Raw.  They love it and I feel more peace of mind with them on raw than on kibble.  The biggest and most satisfying results I’ve seen in their health are their teeth, they have very minimal tartar and it’s a relief since a vet told me in 2017 that he strongly suggests a $500 scaling for each of them. Umm..NO THANKS! LOL

UPDATE: April 30, 2019

Due to the raised costs of raw food for dogs, my two dogs are toggling between raw food and high quality kibble from Global Pet Foods when raw is inconvenient.  I’ve been trying out the tips from my original post above, especially tip #2 and have bought chicken drumsticks for $0.88/lb at T&T and fed them to Bolt and Smokey.  It lacked organ meat and fats, and I had to add pureed pumpkin so that their poops would have some substance.

Overall, I believe a raw diet is best but kibble is my go to when it’s economical and convenient. I’m keeping an eye on my dogs’ teeth and making sure there’s no build up. It took a while for me to brush and scrap off their tartar in the last year.

The documentary “Pet Fooled” definitely gave me a scare about pet food recalls and the quality of process foods.  I think it’s important not to feel shamed for the food you feed your dog, do your best research and offer nutritious food to your dogs to the best of your knowledge.

Dog Training Part 2, Bolt

In 2013, I got Bolt from Kijiji.  It was a good experience because I was able to email the owner and ask a lot of questions.  I was also able to get a lot of background information on him.  But I caution that I took what the previous owner told me with a grain of salt.

Bolt needed a lot of training.  He did know how to sit, give paws and high fives, and to fetch when he wanted to.  But he was a puller on walks, and a barker and whiner when he saw other dogs outside.  He had some poor social skills, and he wasn’t fully potty trained.  But I was happy with him and felt like he needed lots of socializing, exercise, and a consistent leader.

I tried the eCollar on Bolt within the first week and he flipped out. He’s definitely no Pit Bull, in that he’s a sensitive and skittish little guy.  So I tried different tools and training.

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Food and clicker training

I love Sophia Yin’s training method of positive rewards and food training.  It’s about conditioning your dog to do things for you by using their food.  Now, notice I’m not saying “cookie” or “treat” training.  I do not believe dogs should do things for cookies all day — there’s something called obesity and that will occur should you give them a diet of cookies.

Food training involves taking some of their kibble from their meal and using it to teach and condition daily tasks, obedience or tricks. So, if my dog ate 1 cup in the morning and 1 cup in the evening, I would feed my dog the 1 cup of kibble slowly throughout the morning (by hand) and make the dog work for their food.

Sophia’s philosophy is that dogs were hunters and worked to get their meal. So, stimulate their minds and make them work.

Okay, there are downsides to this method:

  1. People work and aren’t home to feed their dog by hand all morning. Okay, so then take 1/2 cup and 10 minutes of your time in the morning to get your dog to come, sit, down, and walk with you around the block for a morning pee. Throughout this time period, take opportunities to “train” / “condition” your dog to listen to you for food. Take the other 1/2 cup and put it in your dog’s bowl so they can gobble it up before you leave for work.
  2. Have you tried putting a 1/2 cup of kibble in your pocket or in your hand? If you have sweaty hands like me, sometimes the kibble gets grimy. So, use a bag, Ziploc container, or something where you can reach in and grab one or two kibbles at a time.
  3. Another downside is that there is that rare, odd dog that doesn’t care much for their kibble. It’s “give me a cookie or a sausage and I’ll perform for you!” The solution to that could be to get them to skip a meal and create hunger (oh, I can just hear some people saying, “Aww, but that’s mean” — LOL so is obesity and shortening their lives by giving in and giving them crappy treats! hahaha). Or find out what else they are motivated by. For example, is your dog motivated by toys or praise?

I’m sure there are a few other downsides, but the ones listed above first come to mind.

Bolt did well with conditioning using a click and treat, but I found the clicking cumbersome.  I just wanted to use my voice and not have to find a clicker each time I asked him to do something for me. Plus, I had to make sure I had food with me at all times.  This training helped teach him certain things and allowed me to bond with him, but it had its limitations.

I ended up buying several different collars to help walk Bolt nicely on a leash.  He was a puller and he loved to stop at every tree and post to pee on it before he was neutered.

Cesar Millan collar

We used this collar for a few weeks on Bolt. It did help control him so that he didn’t pull as much, but I found he was such a sensitive dog that I couldn’t correct him with it. So, I looked for something else.

Dog Command collar

While on one of our walks in our neighbourhood, I met a cute little Schnauzer named Sophie. She was under a year old, yet she was walking so nicely with her owner with a light leash dragging.

The owner showed me the “dog command collar”, a blue plastic prong collar that he used to train her.  He swore by it and said she’s practically off leash and knows how to sit, stay, down and come and learned it within a short period of time.

I googled the dog command collar and found it on Kijiji, Amazon, and Bed Bath and Beyond.  I bought it for about $25 and it came with a very serious and slightly boring DVD.  I agreed with 90% of the the DVD and began using the command collar.

I was a strong believer of giving a dog that off-leash feeling by having a leash drag, and the collar came with three different lengths of ropes that were used as leashes.  I saw improvement in Bolt and in my consistency to follow through.

After about a year of different methods and having Bolt almost off-leash ready, I tried the eCollar on him again and to my surprise he responded to the “BEEP” sound. He didn’t need to be stimulated with a zap unless it was an emergency, which was rare.

Off Leash control training

I began taking Bolt on trails and working on my off leash control by having a baggie full of treats, his blue command collar with a long rope leash tied to it, and his eCollar.

When I knew it was safe, I would drop the leash and let him explore.  When I wanted him to come to me, I would call him to come and use the “BEEP” on the eCollar on the word “come”.  As soon as he was headed my way, I would encourage him and tell him he was a good dog. He received lots of praise (verbal and a light pet) and a treat.

If he didn’t listen and didn’t come to me, I would calmly walk over to the end of the rope leash and pull it towards me until I got his attention.  As soon as he headed towards me, I would encourage him and tell him he was a good dog.  He received praise and a light petting when he reached me, but it would be a lighter and less enthusiastic praise than if he came after hearing the “beep”.

Eventually he understood the “beep” from the eCollar was me communicating to him and he now knows how to come, sit, leave it, and drop it when I use it.  He gets excited when I take it out because he’s conditioned to know that we’ll be spending time together when he wears it and it means off-leash freedom and fun.

Training never ends

I don’t think I have the perfect dog, but he’s a good dog and it’s up to me to be consistent in what I expect and want from him so I don’t confuse him or create stress.  I take every day as a new day to learn and train him.

Both Bolt and Smokey wear eCollars when I take them out of the house.  Smokey knows that it means to come and walk nicely with me when I beep him. It’s more to get his attention because he likes to be far more daring and independent than Bolt.

The eCollar is a great tool for off leash freedom for them.  Lately, on some trails I take my dogs to there is horse poop and for some reason dogs love to roll in it or eat it. My dogs like the latter and I’ve been using the eCollar for “leave it”.  I’ve zapped them one or two times when they had a mouth full and since then, when I beep them to leave it, they spit it out which is both gross and funny to me.

Training update!

I’ve been following Sabina Krupic of CampSK9 since 2017 and recently graduated from her Group Dog Training classes with Bolt. We had an amazing experience. It was the first time Bolt and I attended official training classes, they were all over Toronto under lots of distractions.  I was able to take him to places I never dreamt of taking him because of his barking and anxiety over being in the city.  We bonded so much and even did an ecollar course with Sabina, she uses a gentler ecollar and now I have Bolt responding to a stimulation from a distance without freaking out.  The “beep” tone was useful on quiet trail walks but the low level stimulation is so much more versatile in the city or under really more distraction.  I’m currently organizing Group Dog Training classes for CampSK9 to come to the Stouffville area. I’m super excited that my neighbours will be receiving training from Sabina. Starts in late September 2018, email me if you are interested!

Feel free to leave comments on what type of dog training works for you and your dog.  Every dog and dog owner is different and I encourage everyone to find the method(s) that works for you and your dog, and stick to it.  Good luck!

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Dog Training Part 1, Jael

There are a lot of Dog Trainers and training methods out there.  My suggestion to you is to do your research — find out what your preferences are, look at all the options, then see what you are most comfortable with.

I am a Certified, No Limitations, Sit Means Sit, eCollar dog trainer, but I use so many other methods and training tools to achieve walking nicely and basic commands.  It’s been over a decade since I became certified and I’ve helped a lot of people with their dogs.

I don’t advertise that I train anymore because I don’t feel like I can train everybody.  I have confidence that I can train any dog, but — in truth — it’s really training the dog owner that needs to be accomplished.

So, find a Dog Trainer that you mesh with, that understands your needs and explains their method well.  As you learn of their techniques and methods, you’ll have to agree with them and believe in them for it to last.

This post talks about the history of dog training I used when I got my Pit Bull puppy Jael (I was around 22 years old). I later tried many different training tools with my next dog Bolt (read about his training here).

I felt like I tried everything with my dogs until I found something that worked. I’ve also helped others to train their dogs and it’s the same thing: some training worked well and some didn’t. All dogs are different, so give it a good shot and then stay consistent when a particular method works for you.

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Traditional method – choke chain

Before I learned about the beauty of eCollar training, I tried very traditional methods.  I had a trainer when I was in my early twenties who trained using a chain and a leash.  It was simple: Snap the leash to give a correction to the dog.

Simple enough, but my dog at the time was a very dominant and stubborn Pit Bull and she got very strong, very quickly.  We had a major power struggle every day as I tried to “snap” the leash to give a correction with the chain.  I took her to Center Island in Toronto one weekend and when we came home, her neck was raw from all the pulling and yanking we both did.

When she was a few months old, she had the habit of nipping me and sometimes her little, sharp puppy teeth would pierce my skin. I became a bit fearful of her and I really needed help.  I went back to the trainer and he used very physical methods.  When she tried to nip me in front of him, he grabbed her ear and twisted it until she let out a yelp and then he let go.  He confidently said, “Well, that won’t happen again.”

Sadly, it did happen again. When I got home with her, she tried to nip me. So, I grabbed her ear like he did and tried to twist it, only her head was towards my fist and she started biting my hand. I remember trying to pin her down to the ground (which I saw the trainer do) but she just kept fighting back. I didn’t have the physique or physical strength to “dominate” her and she knew it.

I can’t remember the next few months well. I think I used a chew toy to prevent her from biting when she was bored and wanted me to be her chew toy. I remember that I was frustrated and my dreams of having the perfect Pit Bull were going down the drain. I didn’t know what to do, but I was committed to keeping her.

A year later, I moved to North York which is a busier city than Kleinburg where I used to live. My Pittie was not socialized and I know it was completely my fault because I had lived secluded on a 10-acre property with my parents. Also, when I took her out in public there were no other dog owners interested in meeting my Pit. She acted like a moron every time we saw another dog. She was lunging, growling, barking, and acting like a total idiot.

I called the trainer again and he came all the way from Mt. Albert (an hour away) to see me. We walked together and as we were approaching another dog Jael started acting up, he used the end of a leash to whip her in the face along the muzzle. He had great accuracy and did it twice in 10 minutes. Our next 20 minutes of walking was peaceful.

She knew not to be an idiot on the walk, but as soon as he left and it was just her and I, man, she was at it again. I was practically crying on the phone and telling my trainer that I didn’t know if I could whip her in the face with the leash, but I didn’t want to give her up.  What was my other option?

He told me, “She’s just too much dog for you to handle, Lilli. I’ll take her in and find her another home if you want.” I got off the phone with him and began looking for another trainer. I needed to learn how to be Alpha over Jael without being physical.

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The Dog Listener by Jan Fennell

I finally found a great book, The Dog Listener by Jan Fennell, that explained dogs better to me — for example, how they are pack animals and how to become their leader without using physical force.

So, I started doing some of these methods, mostly from her book:

  1. I would always eat before my dog. Sometimes, I’d eat a cracker out of her bowl before giving her kibble to show that I eat out of her food and she eats last.
  2. I would make sure to leave the house and doorways before she did. I would not follow her, I would make her follow me.
  3. Walks became really important for exercise and training my dog to walk behind me.
  4. I provided food and water at certain times so my dog knew it wasn’t always magically on the ground. She only had a window of opportunity to eat and drink, and it came from me.
  5. I wouldn’t allow her on my furniture and in certain parts of my house. This was to create boundaries and make sure she was not on a higher level than I was.

Sit Means Sit / No Limitations training

I was only able to communicate with my Pit Bull, Jael, after using an eCollar. The Sit Means Sit training method taught me how to use the eCollar properly, as a communication tool.  Not ever to use it in a negative or punishing way, but a “hey, look at me, I’m talking to you” tap on the shoulder way of communicating.

It took less than 5 minutes for the founder of this method to work on my Pit Bull. Once Jael understood, she was able to sit beside another dog without acting aggressively and was able to come to me off leash 100% of the time. The walks in North York became a breeze — I would just tell her to “heel” and use the eCollar and she was walking calmly beside me.

She ignored other dogs, cats, raccoons, and squirrels.  I didn’t have to be physical with her anymore.  She loved it when I reached for her eCollar because she knew it meant I was going to spend time with her.  We became best friends and it took three years, a trip to Vegas to get certified, and the eCollar.

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Cesar Millan – The Dog Whisperer

I loved Cesar Millan and I understood a lot of his philosophy, but I didn’t know how he was able to have that alpha energy without being domineering.  It wasn’t until after eCollar training that I learned how to be calmer and find a better zen with myself which helped to rub off on my Jael.  I have a post about Cesar Millan here.

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Jael passed on April 20, 2011.  She was loyal and amazing.  We had a rough start but when we finally understood each other, we became best friends. I miss her a lot.  She taught me so much.

For Bolt’s Training, click here.

Thunder Buddy

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I’ve never had a dog that was scared of thunder, but I hear from a lot of dog owners that their dogs hate thunder and lightning.

I love lightning. I remember when I was a teenager we lived in an old house with big trees in the backyard. There were several summer nights where I’d try to fall asleep to thunder and lightning. I would lie staring at the ceiling or sometimes closing my eyes, and there would be crackles in the sky and then flashes of light.

I loved the shadows that the swaying trees would make on my walls. Sometimes the loud thunder would shake the walls and the old windows. Oh, that’s when I knew there was a really good thunderstorm outside.

I guess I never feared lightning, I was at peace during thunderstorms and I liked them.  And look at me now — it’s 2016, I’m 37 years old, and still alive after surviving many thunderstorms.

When it rains or thunders, I don’t make a big deal out of it to my dogs.  I am calm.  If they look to me for assurance or look nervous, I am upbeat and get them to think of something else, like a game of “go find the toy!” And if toys don’t do it, it’s hide and go seek the cookie.

If your dog is not your Thunder Buddy and fears the loud crackles of a thunderstorm and flashes of lightning, it’s time you change their experience. How horrible would it be to fear something so out of their control? Tire them out with a good walk before it thunders. Play games with them. Do obedience training, sits and downs, and paws and hi-fives.

I would strongly suggest that you do not act or sound scared.  I wouldn’t say, “Oh no! What’s outside?! What’s that noise? What is it, boy? What is it?” Yeah, that doesn’t instill calm, it creates anxiety — so don’t do that.

And if your dog curls up under a table or bed and shivers at the sound of thunder, don’t join him.  Ask him to come out of there, be a big pup and be brave. “Whatcha doing under there, silly?  Don’t like the noise? It’s so much fun! Want a cookie? Come here and sit for me. Good boy, good sit. No whining and no shivering, I won’t pet you unless you are calm.”

And there you go.  Hopefully that helps someone out there with a fraidy cat doggy woggy.

UPDATE October 2019: I’ve helped a couple dogs with their fear of thunderstorms and fireworks in the past year.  If you have a pup who isn’t your thunder buddy and is terrified of either thunderstorms or fireworks, give me a call.  If you want your dog to learn they no longer have to fear, I would love to help you.

Here’s a related post I wrote called Fear?  Don’t Touch!

Basic Safety Commands

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What are some basic commands to teach your dog?

How about “Come.”  That command is a really good one.  If your dog knows how to come to you, you can have them go away from you and one day be off leash.  “Come” is so useful.

How about “Sit.”  Sit means put your butt down and don’t get up.  Sit means stay and works wonderfully if you are at a traffic light and it’s not your turn to cross the busy street.  Teach your dog to sit and wait.

How about “Heel.”  This means walk beside me.  If you teach your dog to heel, they shouldn’t pull ahead of you or run off.  You can teach your dog that you are the Pack Leader when you have your dog walking beside or a bit behind you.

Learn ’em and do ’em.  These can save their life and your relationship, in my opinion.

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Fear? Don’t Touch!

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Some dog owners love to pick up their dogs or pet their dogs when their dog barks or acts fearful.

Trust me, if your dog is acting aggressive, fearful, or actually any behaviour that you don’t want, then remember that when they act that way, it is not the time to pet or touch your dog.

Here’s what I’ve told some clients that may help shed some light.  Petting or touching your dog is praise.  So, what message are you sending your dog when you pet and touch them when they are barking and you want them to stop?

I see it happen all the time:

Dog: “BARK! BARK!”

Owner picks up their dog and says: “Oh, Fido. It’s okay, it’s okay. Shhh, shhh, it’s okay” … while petting it.

Goodness!  Don’t do that!  Why not?  Because if your dog barks and you pet / touch them, you are encouraging them to do it more because petting or touching your dog means praise to them.

If they are in a moment of fear, you are not comforting them by touching them.  In fact, you are actually making it worse since petting them only heightens the feeling that they aren’t going to be “okay”.  You are praising them to be fearful and anxious.

So, what do I do, Lilli? What can I do to make Fido not be fearful in those situations?

Okay, try this:

Dog: “BARK! BARK!”

In a firm voice, say: “Hey! Cut it out. It’s nothing, let’s go!” Don’t touch or pet your dog. If your dog is on a leash, walk him or her away from the situation and praise him with your words (“good boy/girl/dog”) when they are calm and not acting scared anymore.

Oh, but Lilli, dogs are dogs and they are meant to bark at stuff.  Hrmmm…okay, if this is your thought, I have to say, yes, dogs are dogs and they are meant to bark at stuff, but there’s a time, place and a limit to barking, isn’t there?

Ask yourself why your dog is barking.  If it is an alert bark, sure, thank him for barking.  But there’s no need for a long drawn out barking session and if you pet or touch him while he’s at it, he will learn to keep doing it because that’s how he gets praise from you.

If your dog is scared and barks non-stop, let’s say at a person or another dog, this is definitely a training opportunity to tell him to cut it out. It’s not necessary to bark and it’s not polite.

If you were to pick him up to remove him from the situation or start petting him, saying, “It’s okay, Fido. This man / woman / child / dog is not going to harm you. It’s okay, calm down”, you are only encouraging his state of fearfulness to increase.

And just think about that for a second.  You obviously don’t want your dog to be scared. That’s why you picked him up — but to … what?  Comfort him, right?  But it’s actually not comforting in dog language.  So, please stop it. 😛

When can you “comfort him” with petting?  You can’t.  Touch means praise and “good boy”.  If he’s scared, why would you praise him for being scared?  Cesar Millan would say that you are putting your dog’s mental state in a worse state and the dog will need rehab one day.

Be his pack leader, be confident about situations, brush off scary encounters to show your dog that you are in control and he has nothing to fear.  Pet and touch your dog when he’s done something to earn it — you know, when he’s been good, as in calm and quiet.

I’ve met people who are first-time dog owners and they tell me that their dog doesn’t listen to them and they don’t know why.  One question I ask is, “How often and for how long do you pet your dog?”

If it’s a puppy, oh, it’s a tough one. Everyone loves to cuddle and pet their puppy for hours.  I give them my opinion, that endless petting without the dog earning it as a reward is super harmful for the relationship.

Check out my post on Cesar Millan in a nutshell to see why petting without earning it is incredibly counter productive.  Remember: exercise, discipline, then affection.  It’s Cesar’s way and it’s my way.  It’s also dog language that you should use to communicate with your dog if you want him / her to make sense of this world.

Balls Jealousy

Okay, what is balls jealousy?  A dog that is jealous of another dog because it has a tennis ball? NO!! HAhahaha… “Balls Jealousy” is a term I made up for the vibe that intact male dogs give off to neutered male dogs.

I’ve encountered this more than a dozen times at Pets Get Physical (a doggy daycare and boarding in Kleinburg, Ontario) when I worked there and on my dog walks.

When there was an intact male dog around, 95 percent of the time other dogs would get set off by a vibe or aura that the intact male gives off.  And it’s not always because the intact male is showing aggression or dominance.  It could be a submissive intact male, but for some reason it just pisses off other male dogs.

For example, Dutch (my foster dog of almost two years) and Bolt both went into growling and attack mode on an innocent, intact male dog on one of our walks.  I was able to quickly call my boys back to me and put them on a leash, which I admit didn’t help the situation but it was the only way to safely remove them.

I called over and asked, “Do you have a male or female dog?” The other owner said, “It’s a male.”  Then I asked, “Is he neutered?”  And the other owner said, “No, and yeah, he gets that a lot from other dogs.”

I’m assuming he meant the idiotic behaviour my boys were demonstrating with growls and barking.  So, I yelled back, “Sorry, they just have balls jealousy!” and we both laughed and walked away.

Thank goodness that ended well.  It could have been a blood bath if the other dog was aggressive and Dutch had his way. Hahaha he could be crazy like that sometimes.

So, if you are wondering to neuter or keep your dog intact, ask yourself: Do you want your dog to have lots of friends?  Is that something important to you?  Do you want to breed him and is that why you want to keep his balls?

Some people have said that they wouldn’t want their own balls cut off, so why would they do that to their dog?  Hmm…well, yes, no one is asking humans to cut off their balls.  In my opinion, it’s just a procedure that will help the dog socially, among other health benefits.

Sometimes it helps the dog calm down a notch (not always, but sometimes) and it leaves the breeding to the breeders.  There are just so many dogs to rescue, so if you don’t know what you are doing and you aren’t a breeder, then don’t let your dog breed.

Go ahead and get them neutered and let them be your pet, not a breeding machine.  Enjoy them for their lifetime and they’ll have a better chance at socializing and a living a fuller life.

Rant on Extendileash / Flex Leashes

I bought an extendileash or Flex Leash for my Lab Puppy when I was 9 years old.  I think that’s when my hatred for these leashes began.  If my puppy reached the end of it, I had no strength to pull him towards me.  The Flex Leash would pop out of my hand, and there went my lab running down the street.

Okay, so I was nine years old. Pretty small and not strong for a growing puppy.

I remember we used to extend the leash to the end of the rope and use the button to lock it in place. My puppy was running across the backyard and the Flex Leash was trailing behind him. I went to reach it and before the end came to my hand, the rope was rubbing against my leg, by my ankle.  I’ve got a pretty bad rope burn scar from it.

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Bah, it’s faded a lot, but I’ll never forget it.  It was a gouge into my leg when I was nine!

“Okay, Lilli, then which leash should I buy?” you ask?  A simple and regular one!  Here’s one I got for Smokey and I use it for small dogs and off leash training.

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This pink one was $11.99 CAD (plus taxes, of course) at Global Pets in Stouffville.  It’s thin, light, 6-feet long and reflective (safety first!).

Another leash I use is a slip leash that looks like this:

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It’s shorter but it does the job.  I like it because I can use it to gently correct a dog. Vet and Animal Shelters use these. I haven’t been able to find them in stores, so I bought a bunch online.

They are easy to slip on (hence the name) when I’m on a trail with the dogs off leash and I need to put them back on a leash quickly.

Okay, I’m going to go on a tangent here. Bear with me, I do this a lot.

Love is a choice, right?  Forcing someone to love you is just not fair.  It’s the same with having a dog walk with you.  It should be the dog’s choice to want to walk with you and there should be no power struggle.

Yes, I have run into times when I need to gently insist that a dog follows me, but I’m not choking them to come with me or using any brutal force.  Like all tools, when used properly, it’s a form of communication.

Okay, so back to leashes.  To me, a Flex Leash means constant tension if you don’t have that stoppy button down.  A Flex Leash allows your dog to walk on its own within a certain radius — the length of the flex leash rope that retracts.  And when it extends and retracts, it is in constant tension.

So, what does this mean to your dog?  In my opinion, it’s telling your dog that it doesn’t have freedom. It has to pull away from you and you are always attached to him, pulling him back when he comes back to you.  Even if you aren’t pulling him back, the tension of the Flex Leash is as if you are.

What a regular leash or slip leash does (when it’s not taut, but loose) is giving the dog freedom and choice.  To me, a leash is just a tool to train your dog to stay with you and to be safe from harm (e.g. cars, skunks, aggressive dogs, etc).

In my opinion, walking properly with your dog is achieved when they are walking with you (usually beside you), and not pulling you or being pulled.

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When the leash is loose and your dog is walking with you, he will learn that you are the pack leader if you walk ahead of him and you are in control of the walk.

You can achieve off leash freedom when he becomes conditioned to walk with you by having a loose leash, then dropping your leash and letting it drag on the ground while he follows. Voila!  Try that with an Extendileash/Flex Leash! LOL 😛