All posts by Dynamo

Dog owners beware: Anyone can buy a dog training franchise

Lately, more than ever, I am getting inquiries from clients who have already done dog training with “so and so,” or other companies, and were unsatisfied for one reason or another. These people have spent a lot of money in some cases, but didn’t get the results they were looking for. You may imagine this is sometimes the customers fault– and it is… sometimes. But as a pro myself, I can get a pretty good idea what sort of professionally-trained foundation a dog has, or has not had. I hear complaints about other trainers all the time, and I usually take it with a grain of salt, preferring that they focus on what we’re doing now and going forward. Most of these trainers I have never heard of anyway, but clients are more frequently telling me about dog training companies with multiple locations, or in many cases, franchises. These are not the big-box stores like PetSmart and PetCo that are known for their sub-standard version of “training” and wasting peoples time once a week for 150 bucks, these are companies charging a lot of money and promising big results.

To further investigate this concept, I began with a quick Google search, typing in “dog training franchise.” A flurry of results came up. Some of the names: Bark Busters, Fetch Pet Care, Zoom Room, Off Leash K9 Training, Sit Means Sit, Dog Wizard Academy, and many more. It’s not the route I chose to go in my career seven and a half years ago when I started my own business (after years of apprenticing and working for other companies), but apparently this is a popular thing. I have no particular issue with a well-researched individual purchasing into a dog business franchise to run out of their home, but it’s worth a deeper look behind the marketing.

One of the benefits to a franchise is immediate marketing power, and these companies don’t hesitate to tell you that people are willing to pay good money for dog training, and know the brand names. Each brand has something to boast– amazing fast results, guaranteed programs, a special (ultimately meaningless) certification, “featured on tv,” and soforth. But marketing can be misleading. Let’s say the trainers at the headquarters of your franchise had part in a tv episode on “Animal Planet.” Regardless of the fact that they’re not even in the same state, are staffed with completely different trainers, and did the tv spot years before you even joined the company, you can now advertise on your own website: “As Seen on Animal Planet.” That’s positive marketing power. Unfortunately, it can also work in the opposite way. In the past 2 years alone, three Sit Means Sit trainers were charged with animal abuse. Because it’s a franchise, they are independently responsible, but this is caveat emptor to you dog owners: Regardless of the company’s name, know who is training your dog.

What I am also concerned about is the amount of training these freshly minted dog trainers receive.

To see if my concerns were valid, I viewed the websites of four different dog training franchises. They all advertise solving behavior issues, off-leash training, and more. One called “Bark Busters” did not provide any information on length of franchisee training, they ask you to contact them. I have zero respect for Bark Busters as a training company, and I have nothing more to say about them at this time, other than– if you use their services, best of luck to your dog. The other three franchised companies provided more info on their offerings. A company called “Dog Wizard Academy” had a very bright, informative website and offers 12 weeks of hands-on training for new franchisees. However, the topics covered are broad, naturally, and include “aggression,” which in my professional opinion takes much longer than 3 months to even touch upon, let alone become proficient in. In the other 2 cases, companies called “Off Leash K-9 Training” and “Sit Means Sit,” offer 3 weeks of initial hands-on training to the new franchisee. Yes, that’s right– apparently, 3 weeks is all it takes to learn how to be a dog trainer, work with complex behavior issues, and operate a business… Well, that and anywhere from $15,000-$96,400.

A lot of people nowadays want to start their own business and have a career change in life, and that’s great. But dog training is not just something you jump into by hanging a shingle. You will quickly be out-classed. The following is an example of what I found online (I added the bold):

Are you interested in starting  dog training franchise?  Have you always wanted to be a dog trainer? Turn your passion into a dog training business!

As an Off Leash K9 Training trainer, you will spend 21 days at our facility in Northern Virginia, observing and taking part in over 240+ hours of dog training! … At the end of your 21 day training, you will have all the tools, knowledge, and know-how to deal with basic obedience, advanced obedience, and behavioral modification. You will be able to make dogs look like the dogs in our 500+ before/after videos! You will also have a website and everything else you need to get you started in the dog training world!

Let me get this straight. You will have “all the knowledge” and “a website and everything else” in 3 weeks. In my opinion, that’s simply not possible, particularly not the “everything else.” There is no way to master these sort of skills in 240 hours… You’d be about 9,760 hours short of the “10,000 hour rule” of mastery. But even if you do gain an array of positive training and business skills, what about basic math skills? 21 days to become a dog trainer is advertised as “240+ hours of dog training.” I have never heard of such an intensive program that you go 21 days straight for ELEVEN+ hours each day. It doesn’t seem possible, and lends me a degree of skepticism (something I already have a healthy level of).

To be fair, some of these companies do offer continuing education, yearly seminars, and phone support– but what about the dogs these franchisees will be training fresh out of the gate? Do you want your dog to be a guinea pig for a brand new trainer with only a few months of experience under their belt? If you do, that’s fine, but I personally would not pay that kind of money for my dog to be a newer trainers learning experiment.

So how long does it really take to become a dog trainer? I understand everyone wants to jump in and make money, but the reality is, when I have an apprentice trainer who is learning how to train dogs, they are not even allowed to do a private obedience lesson with a customer with less than SIX MONTHS of training under their belt, and more in some cases. The average time to produce a dog trainer is ONE YEAR, for a basic-level trainer, who works with obedience but not more complex behavior issues or aggression. There is no “quick way to rake in the cash,” and you need more than a fancy website, you need more than a well-trained personal dog– you need to provide quality training from a foundation of knowledge and hands-on experience in a variety of venues.

If you want to become a successful dog trainer, buying into a corporate franchise is certainly one of your options, and it does work out well for some people. But it’s certainly not the only option. To be clear, I am not saying all the franchise-owning trainers are bad or sub-standard trainers– absolutely not– it fully depends on the individual person. If they are a driven self-learner, I’m sure they could find a way to compensate for any lack of experience, and work to become a well-versed, competent trainer. In some cases, a franchise trainer may be an already working and adept dog trainer who decided to make a smart business decision and team up with a company. But as a dog owner myself, I don’t want to simply know what “brand” is training my dog, I want to know who is training my dog. What have they accomplished, what’s the scope of their experience, and will they deliver up to the expectations of a big-name company? To know this, you will have to look past the smoke and mirrors of marketing, and learn how to choose a dog trainer.

CONTROVERSIAL QUESTION: Are purebreds “better” than mutts?

Dog breeds are created by humans, through “selective breeding” for phenotypic traits such as size, coat color, structure, and behavior. Most modern dog breeds are the products of the controlled breeding practices of the Victorian era. Therefore, the majority of dog breeds we know are in fact only 100-150 years old or less. So while purebreds have their purposes (and I own purebred dogs myself), the “snobbery” surrounding them seems uncalled for, as they were created from mixed breeds themselves.

The FCI recognizes 400 dog breeds. There are modern breeds, older types (type is more general than breed), and more ancient or primitive breeds. A 2004 study found 13 breeds that were genetically divergent from the modern ones: Basenji, Saluki, Afghan hound, Samoyed, Canaan dog, New Guinea singing dog, dingo, Chow Chow, Chinese Shar Pei, Akita, Alaskan malamute, Siberian husky and American Eskimo dog. These more ancient breeds tend to have different temperament, as they were not all bred to work alongside humans and take human direction. This doesn’t mean they are any less intelligent– intelligence isn’t the same as “trainability.” All dogs can be trained, but some breeds tend to have a higher “trainability” than others.

Neither a purebred or a mixed-breed or cross-breed is “better.” It depends on the individual dog, and the purposes the dog is to fulfill. There are traits and qualities that may be prevalent in certain purebreds, but it’s also important to keep in mind that dogs within one breed do not always have as much in common as one may assume. For example, within Labrador Retrievers, there are dogs who are extremely high-energy and bred for field hunting, and there are Labs who are calm and lazy, and pretty low-key. Anyone who has owned or trained multiple dogs of the same breed can tell you, they are not all the same. If you want a family companion, your choices are wide- think about the traits that are important to you in not only appearance, but temperament aka personality. Don’t get a terrier and be surprised that it has high energy and a tough attitude with other animals. Don’t get a Shepherd and be surprised it acts territorial in the home. Don’t get an English Bulldog if you want an athletic jogging partner. Don’t get any dog just based on looks. As far as health… Nothing is a guarantee. There are purebreds who are unhealthy, and there are mixed-breeds who have health problems as well. Getting a dog from a reputable breeder with health-tested stock is better than purchasing a puppy from an unknown source, but no matter what, there is no “guarantee” on health or lifespan, that’s just the way genetics work. Getting a dog as a puppy and raising it yourself is also no guarantee on behavior, and sometimes adopting an adult dog can be a good fit for a family.

I have no particular agenda, other than helping people find the best fit for their lifestyle, and helping them train the dog they choose. I support animal rescue and have been volunteering my efforts for many years, however, I don’t subscribe to the “adopt, don’t shop” agenda pushed by animal-rights activists. Why? 1) Because consumers have the right to choose the dog they will be living with for the next 10-15 years, and we all have preferences. You cannot force or guilt people into getting a certain dog, they should have freedom of choice for what is best for them. 2) Statistically, the number of homes in the USA getting a new dog each year far outnumber (by millions) the amount of dogs in shelters, so without purposeful breeding, there would be a huge shortage of dogs, and a lack of purebreds. Nationwide, based on statistics, there is no “overpopulation” of dogs, that is a myth. Demand dictates supply. Many high-volume shelters are successfully lowering euthanasia numbers by transferring dogs out to private rescues, and transporting them to different geographical locations that have a higher demand. In fact, many rescues have imported dogs from other countries, yet some are still claiming “overpopulation” here. Get the dog that is best for you. If getting a purebred from a reputable breeder is good for you, great… if getting a shelter dog is suitable for you, that’s great, too. I can help you select and train the best dog for your family regardless.

-Jennifer

Raw Diet for Dogs- Amount, Recipe, and Feeding Instructions

Raw Feeding: Biologically Appropriate Diet for Canines

HOW MUCH TO FEED
A general guideline is 3% of your dogs body weight. For a 75lb dog, that would be 2.25 pounds a day. This is just an estimate. Every dog is different so there is no exact amount of what to feed– depends on growth stage (puppies need more, can be weaned onto raw), metabolism, and activity level. You will determine how much to feed your dog by observing their body condition over time. If you notice they are getting too thin, you will feed a little bit more every day. If you notice they’re getting fat, you will cut back. A lazier dog might only eat 2% of his body weight, and a canine athlete might need 4-5%. You can weigh it in the beginning so you learn to eyeball weight. Then from there, just estimate.

BALANCED DIET
Diet is not meant to be exact every single meal, or every single day, but to balance out over time. A diet should be balanced over a week or two. There may be a day when you’re busy, or ran out of a certain ingredient, or have no organ meats, and it’s ok to feed the dog just some chicken for that day, for example.

BENEFITS OF RAW: Health, anti-inflammatory, skin and coat, immune system, dental, digestive, dog waste
A raw diet will improve your dogs dental health, as he crunches chicken bones and tears at flesh. Many owners report better breath, better skin and coat, lessened allergies, overall health improvement, better stamina in canine athletes, and less odor to their dog. Plus, dogs love meat.
Another benefit of a raw diet is about 1/2 the amount of dog waste. They are not getting all those fillers, and will absorb much of what is eaten, and the waste will disintegrate easily, where as kibble-fed dogs poop will stick around for a long time. Know that the more bone they get, the more their stool will look white and crumbly, this will not be an issue with meaty items like chicken thighs, but if you feed a dog a meal of only all bony chicken necks, they are going to be constipated.

THE THREE KEY INGREDIENTS: MEAT (including fat), BONE, ORGAN
This is a PREY MODEL diet, where “extras” like veggies are just that… extras. Dogs only need these 3 items. Dogs are opportunistic carnivores, they “can” eat other foods, but they have no nutritional requirement for carbs, and we avoid starches and grains. If your dog has health conditions or known allergies to certain meats, a diet can be specialized for him. And if this is just all too much for you, feel free to purchase a pre-made raw diet at a pet store, they are ready to feed, just defrost.
Dogs cannot have an “all meat” diet. Nor can they do without organs, although they don’t need them every single day. They can do without bone for a day, but really they should get some calcium every day. Overall, balancing calcium (bone) and phosphorus (in the meat) isn’t difficult, as long as dogs receive plenty of bone. In general, any bone content over 10% is plenty although you shouldn’t often exceed 25% (in a DAY, not in a meal) because dogs need other nutrients too.

ARE BONES SAFE FOR MY DOG TO EAT? Raw chicken bones are safe, cooked bones are hard and brittle and are not healthy for dogs to eat or chew on, as they splinter. Chicken is a bird, and has light bones. I have seen small breeds like Yorkies crunch up raw chicken bones and rabbit bones. Larger bones from pigs or ruminant animals may be avoided, as they are too hard, and can damage teeth. If a dog cannot crunch bone, maybe due to age or dental problems, a ground-up diet can be fed. A ground bone powder can be added to a meat and organ diet.
BACTERIA IN RAW MEAT? Simply put, healthy dogs (who are not immunocompromised) and cats have different GI system than us. They have a more acidic stomach. This is an animal that can eat things we cannot, and can handle bacteria better than we can. Your meat should be fresh. Even commercial pet foods can contain salmonella. Use common sense handling for yourself, including washing your hands and all prep surfaces.

  • The FDA’s Safe Handling Tips for Pet Foods and Treats page recommends washing your hands for at least 20 seconds with warm water and soap right after handling dry pet foods and treats. They also suggest you wash your hands before preparing human food and before eating. They recommend infants stay away from pet food areas and pet feeding stations, and that kids not be allowed to touch or eat pet food. The FDA also recommends washing pet bowls after feeding and sanitizing eating surfaces regularly.

Approximate percentage of bone (from the USDA nutrient database):
CHICKEN
Whole chicken: 25%
Leg quarter: 30% (Main part of diet)
Split breast: 20%
Thigh: 15% (Main part of diet)
Drumstick: 30%
Wing: 45% (I don’t feed wings, not enough meat)
Neck: 36%
Back: 45% (would go with boneless beef in the same day)
Feet: 60% (chicken feet are good for dogs joints, give a few at a time)

TURKEY (Not every dog is good at digesting turkey leg bones as they’re bigger)
Drumstick: 20%
Wing: 37%
Neck: 42%
Back: 41%

RAW DIET RECIPE (example given below is for a 70-lb dog, please adjust the amounts for your own dog).
HOW OFTEN TO FEED? Some people feed their adult dog just once a day, some twice. Puppies should be fed 2-3 times a day.

MORNING:
1-2 chicken quarters (depending on size) or 2-3 chicken thighs, with skin. 

The chicken will be the larger meal of the day, about 2 pounds for my large dog. Skin-on, as skinless chicken does not have enough fat and would need to be supplemented with something like beef. I usually feed the dogs in a bowl in their crates. Some people use a mat or towel, or just clean the floor area after their dog eats.

A bit of chicken liver OR beef liver

Both are nutritious, but do more of beef liver. It’s better to feed a little bit every day, or every other day, than to feed a large amount at once. Too much liver at once will give a dog diarrhea. For a large dog, a couple ounces a day approximately.

A couple times a week: Gizzards, chicken hearts (is a muscle and almost no fat), kidney (beef or pork), chicken feet, just to vary things.

EVENING, SECOND MEAL:
Ground beef, stew meat, or any boneless beef
You can feed only chicken for a few days of the week, but 2-4 days a week, beef adds variety. I go for whatever is on sale, and sometimes there are cheaper steaks in the “clearance” section that are about to expire. This is fine as long as you’re feeding it the same day or freezing it. Most large dogs would eat about 1 pound a day of the beef.

Egg
Eggs are a great source of easily digestible protein and vitamins, and are inexpensive and easy to feed. A large dog may have 1-2 eggs a day. They can eat the shell, too, crushed up, but it’s not necessary since the dog is getting bone from the chicken.

Other meats: pork, lamb, venison, duck, goat, rabbit, quail, bison, etc.
Variety is healthy and should be encouraged. Some dogs will show preferences for certain meats, and may dislike others. When feeding pork, I choose boneless pieces of meat, and feed it along with a bony meat such as chicken necks. Rabbit is a very healthy food for dogs, and is similar to what they would eat “in the wild,” so to say. However, it may be cost-prohibitive to feed more expensive meats frequently. This is why I feed primarily chicken, I get it for .49 cents a pound. Try to find sources for good quality meats and organs so you can feed a wider variety.

Should I be feeding organic?
Organic meat is obviously great, but for most people, unless they have a good local option, it’s cost-prohibitive. None of the meats in commercial pet foods are organic. A conventional meat raw diet is not perfect. Not everyone can procure whole rabbits, green tripe, and free-range meats. But it’s still superior to commercially produced kibble, where the meat is processed, usually of unknown origin, plus it’s full of carbs.

Vegetable mix (OPTIONAL)
In a food processor or blender, mix things like leafy greens (kale, mustard greens, spinach, parsley), broccoli and carrots. You don’t have to have it all in there at once. It’s the leafy greens that may have health benefits and fiber, just make sure they are totally pulverized, or they are indigestible. You can blend this once or twice a week, or freeze it. You could feed this with beef, so it blends in and the dog eats it. If you want the dog to eat vegetable mix without meat, put a bit of liver into the blend.

Feeding fruit to dogs
Keep in mind that fruit is high in sugar, which is not good for dogs. All fruits should be considered a treat. An occasional apple is fine, just don’t feed the core with the seeds. Pineapple is ok in small amounts as a treat. No grapes, no seeds, no fruits like peaches with pits, and most dogs dislike citrus.

ADDITIONAL FOODS (not every day, but sometimes, or can substitute either AM or PM meal)

Sardines or salmon
Tins of sardines packed in water are a very healthy addition to any dogs diet. 1-4 tins a week for a larger dog, or occasionally feed. Smaller fish do not have mercury levels like larger fish such as tuna. Another healthy food is cooked canned salmon. 

Yogurt
Plain Greek yogurt. There is whole fat, 2%, and 0% fat free. I usually get 2%. Cottage cheese can also be substituted. Greek yogurt is high in protein. One way to feed it is to freeze it inside Kongs, and give it as a treat.

Green Tripe
A smelly, but very healthy food for your dog.

Sweet potato, squash, pumpkin (all cooked) (OPTIONAL)
I do not feed my dogs any carbs, however, some people choose to feed these in moderate amounts. Make sure they are cooked all the way. These are the only carbs a dog should be getting. Dogs have no nutritional requirement for carbohydrates. Quinoa is ok. No white potatoes. Olive oil is fine for dogs if you’ve cooked these for yourself, too.

SUPPLEMENTS FOR RAW DIET (the first 2 are the most important, the rest are optional)

1. Fish oil
Do not get any fish oils meant for dogs, they’re garbage. Human-grade, and should be sealed in capsules. I get large bottle at Costco. Add the capsules to either yogurt or the ground beef mix. For a large dog, 2-4 a day.

2. Probiotics
This is very good for overall health and digestion, and will make your dog have a stronger system. The best is VetriScience Probiotics for Dogs, available on Amazon.com It has special strains for dogs. Ones for humans are ok, too, but may not be as effective.

Kelp powder
Green powder with health benefits and antioxidants, also said to give dogs better coat pigment.

Foods and Supplements you do NOT need:
-Grains (no pasta, rice, wheat, breads, etc.) Dogs have zero dietary requirement for carbs! Canine athletes cannot “carb load” like people do, they draw from fat for their energy.
-You want to balance a diet, and avoid feeding things that are “too much” of anything– bags of chicken skins may be cheaply available from your butcher, but they are mostly fat. Chicken backs are mostly just bone. Balance them with by pairing them with other items.
-Dog treats like biscuits, Milk Bone, Beggin Strips (all grains and flour, artificial coloring, sugar). Your training treats should be compatible with a raw diet. For training, we recommend any freeze-dried meat. A good one is Stella & Chewy’s Freeze Dried Raw diet, they are patties that can be broken up.
-Antibiotics, unless necessary. If your dog gets a minor cut or bite, some vets will give you antibiotics because obviously they can’t just say “It will probably be fine” and then be blamed if it did get infected. Dogs typically heal from minor scrapes very well if they are cleaned out, and the dog is healthy. I would not give my dogs antibiotics unless they truly need them. So I ask my vet to be conservative of the use of antibiotics for my dog. Likewise, I do not take antibiotics unless my doctor insists.
-Flea and tick medications, be careful. Only use this if you have to, and if you go to areas with ticks, then consider Frontline or similar, as recommended by your vet. Never “over the counter” flea/tick meds, they are not as safe. Avoid Hartz, Adams, or any brand you buy at a pet store, and only give what your veterinarian recommends and sells.
-Enzyme powders (unless a dog is deficient, they already have their own digestive enzymes)
-Coconut oil (this is fine for your dog in small amounts, but may be too much fat. Fish oil is better)
-Flax seed oil (any vegetable oil is inferior in absorption to animal-based oils)
-Be skeptical of any supplements meant for pets, they can be low quality and overpriced, and do nothing. The best animal supplement brand is VetriScience.

Travelling with a raw-fed dog?
You have 3 options:
1. Bring a cooler for your dogs food, use cold packs
2. Stop at a store and buy meat along the way
3. Bring a freeze-dried raw diet, available online or at pet stores. Just add water to it. It’s very light, and travels well.

 

Dynamic Dogs offers temperament evaluations for animal shelters and rescues

A few days ago, it was reported that a pit bull dog “recently adopted from a shelter” had escaped the owners home and mauled a sleeping baby in a stroller. Unfortunately, news like this is too common. It has spurred the continued discussion about evaluating shelter dogs, temperament testing, and what (if any) culpability does a shelter or rescue group have when a dog they’ve adopted out causes harm?

NUTLEY, NW— An 11-month-old girl is lucky to be alive after a dog bolted out of its owner’s home and viciously mauled the baby in her stroller, police said. The nightmare scenario played out March 25 when the girl’s mother was taking her infant for a walk. Police said the dog, reportedly a pit bull that was recently rescued from a shelter, escaped from a home on Walnut Street and attacked the stroller. A neighbor rushed to pull the dog away from the baby but it wasn’t until police arrived that the dog was separated from the girl and locked in the back seat of a police cruiser, police said. The baby girl was rushed to an area hospital, where she had to remain for three days to receive 70 stitches and undergo plastic surgery, Nutley police spokesman Det. Sgt. Anthony Montanari said Thursday.

Of course this is an extreme example of a shelter dog causing severe harm to a human, but we feel cases like this could be better prevented by temperament testing dogs prior to adoption.

Our dog selection services can help you choose a dog based on finding the best fit:

  • What is your lifestyle?
  • What are the traits that are important to you?
  • What activities do you hope to enjoy with your dog?
  • Are their children or other pets in the family?We also test shelter dogs who are being transferred to other rescues, in the Chicagoland area.

Some of the items we test shelter dogs for:

  • Sociability
    • Affinity for people
    • Attitude towards strangers
    • Attitude towards other dogs
    • (Note, we cannot typically test for reaction towards cats in shelter settings)
  • Trainability
    • Motivation and drive
    • Interest in interacting
    • Speed of learning
    • Ability to problem-solve
  • Sensitivities
    • Environment
    • Handling, physical touch, and grooming
  • Aggression
    • Possessiveness
  • Reaction to correction or verbal scolding
  •  Fear
  • Recovery period after being startled
  • Working aptitude for jobs
  • Placement in a foster-based rescue

For more information on temperament testing and evaluation of rescue dogs in the Chicagoland area for your rescue group or shelter, contact us at: DynamicDogsChicago@yahoo.com

Trainer’s top 5 favorite dog products, and 5 TERRIBLE products to avoid

As professional dog trainers, as well as dog owners ourselves, we get to try out many products. Some make life much easier and we want to share that with you. Others are garbage, buyer beware. Here’s our top picks!

Our favorite products…

  1. E-Collar Technologies Mini Educator mini
    E-collars are the cutting edge of technology in modern dog training. Remote collars allow you to communicate with your dog effectively and at a distance. The Mini Educator is an entry-level e-collar with an affordable price and no lack of features. It has 100 easily-adjustable levels, with blunt-stimulation technology, so you can find “just the right level” when training. It features a 1/2 mile range, vibrate (pager) feature, it’s waterproof, and features a built-in light on the collar. Made in the USA, and has a full 2-year warranty. Retail price: $199 www.ecollar.com
  2. Bionic Toys bionic1
    We specifically like the “Bionic Urban Stick.” It’s a great fetch toy. The open ends can also be stuffed with treats. These toys are flexible rubber and won’t harm a dogs teeth. No toy is truly “indestructible,” but these fun orange toys hold up to even tough chewers. Belgian Malinois tested and approved. www.bionicplay.com
  3. Ruff Tough Kennels
    Wire crates are the worst! They are flimsy, cheap and they can easily be bent, escaped from, or become rusty over time. Plastic airline-style crates are safer for car travel as well. If you ever get into a car accident or are rear-ended, these crates are much safer for your dog.  www.rufftoughkennels.com
  4. Zoom Groom. If you have a short-haired zoomdog, you know how they shed little short hairs that stick in everything. A Zoom Groom is a rubber curry brush that feels good to the dog and loosens the dead hair. It’s also a must-have for bathing dogs and getting a good scrubbing. Available on Amazon.com
  5. Gun Dog Supply collars with brass nameplate. If you are like me, you cannot stand the sound of a bunch of jingling tags! These collars are great because they are super affordable (even for leather), and come in many varieties– with no extra charge for the custom 4-line nameplate! In the event your dog ever gets lost, tags can become worn out and illegible, or fall off. A nameplate will not fall off. Keep your dogs information updated wnameplateith current numbers and address. This USA company owned by Steve Snell has a huge assortment of great dog items at great prices. www.gundogsupply.com/collars.html

 

Products to AVOID…

  1. Harnesses
    Unless you have a very delicate dog under 5lbs, or you have a Husky pulling a sled, there is no reason to use a harness to walk your dog. Harnesses encourage pulling, and give almost no control. Dogs have been wearing collars for hundreds of years for a reason– the higher on the neck the collar is, the better control you have when teaching the dog direction and placement. Front-clip harnesses are no better. They put pressure on the front shoulder area and can impede a dogs natural gait and movement. Veterinarian and sports medicine expert Dr. Christine Zink, DVM, PhD, DACVP, DACVSMR has this to say about harnesses: “I do not believe that there is a harness on the market that is nonrestrictive and that also helps the dog not to pull… In my opinion the real way to get a dog to stop pulling is to train it.”
  2. Bungee leashes. Cannot. Stand. Stretchy. Leashes. bungeeThey make it almost impossible to control the walk. If your dog is trained to walk politely on-lead, he will not need a stretchy cord to avoid dislocating your shoulder.
  3. Rawhides
    They are made from the layer just under the top hide, which is separated utilizing chemical processes. You do not know how the cow hides were preserved, or what variety of chemicals they have been treated with along the way. As a dog chews the processed hide, it becomes chewy and gummy, and can break off in large pieces and be swallowed. Rawhides are known by veterinarians to be an intestinal obstruction hazard. Even if they do not harm your dog, they provide no nutritional benefit. Try Himalayan dog chews, deer antlers, or digestible bully sticks. And always buy products made in the USA. http://pets.webmd.com/dogs/rawhide-good-or-bad-for-your-dog
  4. Ball toys, especially ones that are too small destroyed-ball
    Every year, dogs die from choking due to a ball becoming lodged in their throat. When a rubber ball goes down a dogs throat, it is an emergency situation. Tennis balls can be not only a choking hazard, pieces of them can break apart, be consumed, and cause intestinal obstruction. Do not allow your dog to play with tennis balls unattended, and make sure all ball toys are solid and jumbo-sized so there’s no risk they could become lodged in your dogs throat. http://www.bernvillevet.com/blog/2012/04/27/ask-the-vet-is-it-safe-for-dogs-to-chew-tennis-balls-2/
  5. Name-Brand (but low-quality) dog food
    There are many big name brands, owned by a few large corporations, that have put tons of money into advertising their products to the point they have a household name. Pedigree, Eukanuba, Purina, Science Diet, and soforth. A big name does not mean a quality product. They are often full of cheap byproducts and cereals and starches. The #1 ingredient in Pedigree adult dog food is corn! Do your research and check out how your dog food rates. www.dogfoodanalysis.com

Are aggressive dogs the fault of the owner?

They say dogs are a reflection of their owners. But when unwanted aggression becomes a big issue, can we place the entirety of blame on the dogs owners?

“Is it all the owners fault their dog is aggressive?”

First, let’s define “aggressive dog” as a dog who displays aggressive behavior with intent to bite or do harm to a person or animal.

I would not say it’s “always” the humans who have created the issue. Sometimes it is true, sometimes it’s not. There are many cases where a dog begins to show unwanted behavior, and it is not handled properly by the dog owners. They may not know what to do, or fail to get help. Or they may inadvertently be encouraging the unwanted behavior. There are some people who could virtually make a Pug into an aggressive monster (through permissiveness, mixed signals, and being a poor handler themselves), but not always. Most dog owners we work with do acknowledge that they have made some failure or some mistake in handling of their dog, which has led to worsening problems. I appreciate that they do not want to blame the dog, but recognize they are part of the problem, too. Because if they are part of the problem, they will be part of the solution.
There are cases where you could take the biting dog out of the equation and replace it with a number of other more “average” dogs, and the owners would’ve had no problems. Sometimes it is the dog. They got a dog who is a handful. I meet the dog, and I say “WOAH, that is a lot of dog.” Some dogs are just more challenging, and require more time and training than others. Maybe the dog has a lot of drive, power, or maybe has a lot of “edge” to it. Not everyone is equipped to own a more aggressive type of dog. Just like not every parent would be equipped to handle a child with a behavioral disorder. On the other hand, some dog owners choose a higher-intensity dog with more aggression to it, and they don’t mind. It’s when they are not equipped to own the dog they have issues. A strong dog often needs a strong owner who can be consistent and prepared to work out any issues. But some who are not equipped for it get a dog who is predisposed to have certain traits, and they raise it very typically, socialize it, and do their best with what they know. But it still turns out how it turns out. This is because a dogs personality is not “all how you raise it.” You wouldn’t be surprised if you got a terrier that lived to chase down critters, or a hunting dog who followed his nose, or a German Shepherd who was protective of his home. Dogs behavior is strongly influenced by genetics and instinct, as well as early rearing, training, and various experiences. So often a dog turns out with behaviors that are in accordance with its genetic programming. Especially if human owners don’t nip problematic behavior in the bud at once, the first time it rears its head. Many genetic behaviors can be tempered, re-directed, or controlled through training. That’s the work we do every day. But if not immediately addressed properly, aggression issues always get worse.
Sometimes people make uneducated decisions. A lot of times, actually. I had a client who wanted an easy-going family dog, and purchased a Cane Corso, a large powerful dog breed. They chose this breed because they had a friend with one, and that Corso was very social, chill, and almost lazy. But that was just one dog. They decided to search for a breeder, and they found an ad online for Cane Corso puppies for sale. They did not meet the dogs parents first, ask the breeder for references, or research the dogs breeding and lineage. As their new dog matured, he became suspicious of people, and was skittish and reactive, despite attempts to socialize him. He was also strong and difficult to control as he grew. One day when a stranger bent over to pet him, he reacted negatively and lashed out. He bit them in the face, sending them to the hospital for stitches. His owners decided not to give up on him and to seek guidance from a professional trainer. He was young enough to greatly improve with intensive training, and had owners who were committed and did all the follow-up lessons. So in this case, they were able to keep their dog and successfully modify his behavior. Every case is different. Sometimes a dog is genetically cut out to be nervy and sharp, or even unstable. Sometimes they’re normal stable dogs with an edge. Even good dogs do “dog things,” including protecting their territory, and this can often lead to a bite incident. A dog with little guidance can’t tell the difference between a “bad guy” he is supposed to bark at or bite, and Bob the neighbor who comes to the back door to say hi.  This is why dogs who have protective behavior have to be not only trained, but supervised and properly contained, such as a securely fenced yard. To sum it up, a dog who bites may be genetically unstable, or may be totally normal, it depends. Either way, the owners are going to have to change how they handle the dog. They will need to gain obedience control, respect, and learn to read their dog. To resolve behavior issues, they will need to change the way they live with the dog, and zero in on what behaviors they are reinforcing or allowing to continue.

The prognosis for long-term success depends on the dog and the owners. Every cause and type of aggression is different. Remember that you are your dogs leader. He depends on your guidance to navigate the human world he is a part of. Set your dogs up for success.

Most bite incidents could have been avoided, had the following been kept in mind:
1) Know your dog, and protect your dog. You may imagine you need to protect others from your dog, and this is true, but your dog needs to be protected from making poor decisions, too. For example: If you have a protective or nippy dog, and a cable installer is coming over, put your dog in another room. You know your dog might act sketchy, and you know you might be distracted. It is not worth risking your dog making a poor decision. There is no benefit to leaving your dog loose in this scenario, but there is risk. Similarly, if you know your dog can be testy with the vet, use a muzzle. Condition them to wearing it ahead of time. There is no reason to take risks that have no benefits.
2) Train early, train often, and train properly. Don’t wait until your dog has bitten 5 people, get training as soon as you obtain your dog. Even if you adopted an adult rescue dog, begin setting appropriate habits and establishing yourself as the pack leader immediately. It’s not just the obedience commands, it’s learning how to communicate with your dog, and how to handle problems as they pop up. Not all training is equal! Taking a treat-based class at  PetSmart is not equivalent to real-world obedience skills taught by a professional training facility. Dogs need a large amount of positive reinforcement, but they also need discipline. A dog who has no discipline will end up insecure and will often become out of control and unpleasant to deal with. Dogs who have only discipline and no praise will become depressed and sometimes fearful. Dogs must learn what to do (good stuff), and what not to do (unwanted stuff). There has to be a balance. Common sense tells us that ignoring a bad behavior is often not significant enough to make it stop. There are several effective ways to stop bad behaviors: Physical correction or averse response to stop the behavior, take away the benefit of doing the behavior, reinforce incompatible behaviors, or prevent the behavior from happening.
3) Feel free to get a second opinion. When you have a dog who bites, everyone you know seems to have an opinion. Some will say it’s not the dogs fault, some will say the dog has a screw loose and should be put down, and some will say “try this” or “try that.” Take the advice with a grain of salt. Speak to your vet to rule out medical causes and get a full check-up, but know that most vets are not dog trainers and may have limited knowledge of dog behavior training. Some vets may have never even owned a dog. Get opinions from qualified trainers, but feel free to get a second or third opinion. Make sure the trainer has references of similar case and uses fair and humane methods.

 

-Jennifer

5 Rules of Being a Professional Dog Trainer

This post is mainly directed towards aspiring dog trainers. Here are some great tips:
1. Have a niche.
Tis better to be a master in a few particular areas than a jack of all trades. Forming a niche will drive the right type of business your way. Let’s say a shop sells only sub sandwiches. They might lose business as people who want burgers or pizza go elsewhere. But rather than trying to be everything to everyone, they create a thriving business by making the best damn sub sandwiches around. Know your strengths and hone your skills, and be the best damn ____________ (companion, protection, service, detection, AKC ob, etc.) dog trainer you can be.

2. Expand your horizons.
As Michaleangelo said at age 80: “I am still learning.” Dog training requires education and understanding of theory and principals, but it’s primarily practical and hands-on. Nothing can substitute for tons of practice on your own. Don’t allow yourself to train in a bubble. Attend seminars, shadow other trainers, watch videos, read books, network, and see what’s out there– dog training is a big world. You may learn towards certain methods, but if the idea of something takes you out of your comfort zone, it’s worth exploring. Focus on learning from those who are getting a high level of results, but you can learn something from everyone… even if it’s “what not to do.”

5. Choose your clients wisely.
You are not obligated to train anyones dog. Screen your clients, because oftentimes, it’s not the dog, it’s the person who is the problem. If someones dog has bitten 5 people before they decided to “seek help” by calling and demanding you wave your magic wand and fix it, that may not be something you want your name on. The dogs owners must be willing to be part of the solution! Sometimes you just have to say “Not my circus, not my monkeys.” Never waste time on those who are not willing to learn… there are too many out there who would value your knowledge!

3. Don’t trash your competition.
When a customer asks about another local trainer, stay diplomatic. Maintain your integrity and showcase the benefits you offer. Encourage your customers to go visit other trainers and clubs and let them find out for themselves how you stack up. If you are truly confident in what you have to offer, you won’t need to cut anyone else down.

4. Stick with your areas of skill, and refer out cases beyond your scope.
Never take on a case you are not comfortable working with. Everyone has their own areas of expertise. Let’s say someone contacts you to learn herding. You may have been to a herding class a handful of times, but you are far from proficient. The professional thing to do would be explain this to the client and refer-out to a skilled herding trainer. This also goes for medical issues. We don’t like when veterinarians step on our toes by giving training advice, so don’t cross boundaries when it comes to medical advice. It is often best for professionals to work together in collaboration.
6. Don’t take yourself too seriously.
Next time you’re picking up poop, rememeber to keep your ego in check. And it’s really not that complicated. You’re training dogs, not curing cancer. You’re out in fresh air and sunlight, while those 9-5’ers in the rat race are stuck in a cubicle under floresent lights. Be greateful that you have a career and skills many would love to have. Have fun. If training is anything, it’s fun!

-Jennifer

Updated Gov’t ADA Regulations: Further defines psychiatric tasks, service dogs not allowed on chairs or tables

Photos of individuals with service dogs seated at restaurant tables have sparked outrage on social media. Many people felt it was inappropriate conduct and did not reflect well on service dog handlers. The proper place for a service dog is on a down-stay under the table. The law requires any service animal to be under the handlers control at all times, and etiquette dictates that they be as unobtrusive as possible. But now the law actually speaks to the specific issue, as well as further defining what a psychiatric service dog is.

The ADA has revised their website to address many common questions and concerns about service dogs, including the question of conduct at restaurant tables:

Q32. Are restaurants, bars, and other places that serve food or drink required to allow service animals to be seated on chairs or allow the animal to be fed at the table?

A. No.  Seating, food, and drink are provided for customer use only.  The ADA gives a person with a disability the right to be accompanied by his or her service animal, but covered entities are not required to allow an animal to sit or be fed at the table.

The ADA has previously specified the difference between an “emotional support dog” and a “service dog,” including a “psychiatric service dog.” The difference is that a legitimate service dog does actual tasks. Making a person “feel better” or “feel comfort” is not a task, and does not qualify a dog as a service animal. Read here:

Q3. Are emotional support, therapy, comfort, or companion animals considered service animals under the ADA?

A. No.  These terms are used to describe animals that provide comfort just by being with a person.  Because they have not been trained to perform a specific job or task, they do not qualify as service animals under the ADA.  However, some State or local governments have laws that allow people to take emotional support animals into public places.  You may check with your State and local government agencies to find out about these laws.

Q4. If someone’s dog calms them when having an anxiety attack, does this qualify it as a service animal?

A. It depends. The ADA makes a distinction between psychiatric service animals and emotional support animals. If the dog has been trained to sense that an anxiety attack is about to happen and take a specific action to help avoid the attack or lessen its impact, that would qualify as a service animal. However, if the dog’s mere presence provides comfort, that would not be considered a service animal under the ADA.

And something I particularly appreciate as a trainer, they address the many scam websites out there selling “service dog registration” for a fee:
“There are individuals and organizations that sell service animal certification or registration documents online. These documents do not convey any rights under the ADA and the Department of Justice does not recognize them as proof that the dog is a service animal.”

People buying service dog “registration kits” and fake service dog vests online just so they can take their dog into a restaurant for fun is unfair to actual disabled individuals. Unless your dog is fully trained for public access and has rock solid obedience, as well as performs tasks to mitigate your disability, it should not be in public masquerading as a service dog. Service dogs are not required to carry any type of “certification” or identification, because there is no standard certification. Dogs may be trained at a school, or they may be owner-trained. You are not required to have your service animal professionally trained. Although many people do hire a trainer or purchase a fully-trained dog, we do not give out any sort of special licenses. There is no license for a service dog.

Read the full list of Q & A for Service and Assistance Animals on the website for the Americans with Disabilities Act

Housebreaking a dirty dog who eliminates inside their crate

Potty training a crate pooper can be very frustrating! A dog is not “supposed to” be comfortable going to the bathroom where they sleep. It is one of the reasons why dogs can be so easily adapted to our homes. But what if you have a dog who seems used to peeing and pooping on himself and lying in it?

I have had clients with dogs of all ages and from various situations who are “dirty dogs,” meaning they will not hold it in the crate and seem ok lying in their mess. Sometimes we can identify why they have lost that natural instinct to stay clean. Some have been raised in puppy mills where they were forced to be in filth, so they got used to it. Some lived outdoors or in a kennel run. Others were puppies from breeders who did not properly train the puppies to be clean. They may have just kept them all in a box together until 8 weeks old. It is actually the breeder who starts housebreaking, by setting up an area where the puppies can go potty separate from their sleeping area, and by routinely taking them outside as they get older (5 weeks+), whenever feasible. When I had puppies, my set up was a large plastic container (half an airline crate) lined with newspapers and filled with cedar bedding. The puppies took to it very quickly, keeping their sleeping and eating areas clean. I also tried a fake grass patch, but the cedar and newspaper was much more attractive. By 7 weeks, they were going potty outside. Not all dogs have gotten this good start, and some we have no history on. All we know is we are doing our best trying to housebreak them, we are crate training, taking them outside on a schedule, so why are they still having accidents inside the cage?

HOW TO FIX IT

Determine what the problem is:

  1. He isn’t going potty when outside.
  2. He is stressing and working himself up to defecating in the crate.
  3. The crate is too big, so he is using half as a bathroom and sleeping in the other half. Or possibly the crate contains bedding the dog is urinating on and it’s soaking it up.
  4. He doesn’t care about being dirty. Where as most dogs will hold it (within reason) until they are given opportunity outside, this dog will eliminate as soon as the slightest feeling strikes him.
  5. Medical issue. Parasites such as worms or Giardia. Appearance of worms or soft stool may or may not be present. UTI and bladder infections can cause a dog to urinate inside the house or more frequently than usual.
  6. Diet issue. Overfeeding the “good stuff.”
    Or feeding cheap.
    Fillers in cheap food can cause a mass quantity of waste. Food sensitivities can cause issues.

Determine your corresponding solutions:

  1. If he is not going potty outside in the proper place, it’s only obvious that he will end up going inside or in the crate. There can be different reasons why  a dog will not go outside. Some are not used to being on a leash, and may feel like they need to wander around more freely. Some have been scolded so much for pottying inside that they have associated pottying in front of their owner with being yelled at. Some are too distracted or nervous outside– they are just squirrely. Others are just not in the habit, and need to be taught. The first step is getting some occurrences of the dog pottying outside so you can set a new routine and reward and praise for it.  We teach dogs to eliminate on command, like service dogs. You will take the dog to the same area every time, give your verbal cue “go potty,” and walk around a small area until the dog goes. Praise sniffing and allow the leash to be slack and the dog to trail around in front of you. You may want to use a longer leash, such as a Flexi Lead. Yes, I know trainers hate Flexi Leads, but they are great for potty breaking a dog. The second you attach that long leash, he will know this is a cue and it’s potty time. After he goes, you may switch back to your regular 6′ leather obedience lead. For urination, you can begin by adding some water to the dogs food so they are taking in a bit more water than usual. They will soon have to pee, and you will be ready to get them outside and to the potty area. For pooping, if a dog will not poop right away, there is an old dog show trick: matching a dog. In the dog show ring, any dog who urinates or defecates will be an automatic disqualification, therefore, it is imperative that they be “emptied out” ahead of time. You take a match (or a q-tip is ok for a quite large dog) and put it about half-way into their rectum. This will pretty quickly stimulate them to go. A regular (unlit, obviously) paper match or two is fine. Lift the tail up and get them in there about half-way, then wait. Use your cue “go potty” or whatever your potty cue is. Now be ready to praise your dog!
    Tools you will need: regular paper matches, Flexi Lead extendable leash, treats for a reward
  2. Stress can cause any animal to eliminate where they would not normally do so. If your dog has other signs of anxiety, such as barking excessively in the crate, drooling, or trying to escape, you need to fix the anxiety issues. Every dog should be taught to calmly accept confinement when their owner puts them in a cage and leaves for a period of time. Your dog may be in a stressful environment, or he may have separation anxiety.
  3. When crate training a puppy or new dog, the point of a crate is that it’s the dogs personal area and is to be kept clean as a resting space. If the crate is huge, some dogs will designate half as a bathroom and half as their sleeping quarters. This is why many wire crates come with a divider panel, so you can adjust the crate as the puppy grows, keeping it just large enough for him to turn around and lie down comfortably. His back and head should not touch the top when standing up. Your dogs cage should not be like a condo! Get a smaller crate, or use a divider panel. You also do not need tons of bedding. Unless you have a senior dog or a very large breed who spends a lot of time crated, dogs do not need bedding in their crates. Bedding is for comfort, but it can also be a hazard for young dogs who can shred and eat it, causing intestinal obstructions and requiring lifesaving emergency surgery. It can also be a problem for a dog who is being crate trained if they urinate on the bedding and it is all soaked up so they do not mind doing it again. Try eliminating the fluffy bedding, at least for now.
  4. The dirty dog… This can be one of the more difficult fixes, and can depend on the dog. I have fixed several dirty dogs. Some of them just need a new habit. Almost all of them need a lot of time and observation, so you can take them out often. Most accidents will occur when they are left alone and crated. You may not realize the dog is under stress when you’re gone and is moving around or pacing or spinning in the crate, so it’s good to observe this. Also eliminate medical and diet (numbers 5 and 6). A dog who is calm and at rest will be much more likely to hold it. You may need to consult an experienced trainer and try a few things to find a solution:
    A new setup. If a dog has really never had to hold it before, the muscles will not be there for that. When I had brand new rescue dogs I was fostering, they were adult kennel dogs who lived in indoor-outdoor runs. Never in a house or crate. So they had never had to hold it before. They did have some accidents in the crate, but after 2 weeks they were perfect. Any time they have an accident, they need a bath and everything needs to be cleaned well. They obviously have to go out often, and especially soon after they eat or drink. But what if you have a job? Not everyone can be home to take a dog out every 2 hours! For some people, an outdoor dog run works. But not everyone has a yard, and not everyone with a yard can leave their dog outside alone. Some dogs will need an exercise pen, or x-pen, attached (use zip ties or clips) to a crate inside. This way they can sleep in the crate and get out into the x-pen if they have to use the toilet. Your “toilet” will depend on the dog. For a small dog, a litter box with newspapers is fine, for a large dog, half an airline crate or a small kiddie pool filled with mulch or woodchips (buy a few bags at the garden store) will be the best. This is all to encourage the dogs natural instinct to have a separate living and potty area.
    Umbilical cording. This is a method in which the dog will be will you all the time. You will have a leash on them and it will always be either in your hand, or tied to something close to you. I will tie a dogs leash to the chair I’m sitting on, or sit on the leash. Most dogs will follow me around and lie down quietly when I am busy. This way, the dog will not have any accidents inside. They will be under your watchful eye all the time, and be taken outside on a schedule. This is a great method but it does require you to be home a lot and have a dog with you often. If you need to do other chores around the house, you can tie (tether) the dog to something stable while you are in the same room doing something else. But they are never to be out of your sight or alone in the crate.
    Are there dogs who can never be reliably housebroken? Yes. I believe there are a very small number of dogs who will never have the instinct to be clean and learn to “hold it” and just cannot be reliably housebroken. I feel for the vast majority of dogs, it can be taught, it just takes patience and having the right approach. I can do customized troubleshooting for clients on this issue.
  5. Medical issues can cause dogs to have soft stool or diarrhea, and they are unable to hold it for very long. Your dog can have a parasite like giardia which causes them to lose control of their bowels. Giardia can flare up and then go dormant, so many people think it’s just intermittent upset stomach when in fact it’s a parasite. Get a fecal test for both worms and giardia. Your dog can have worms without any visible evidence in his stool. There are other medical causes that may be linked to excessive urination. Diabetes, cushings disease, kidney problems, etc. can all lead to excessive thirst and urination. Dogs with urinary tract infections or bladder infections do not have a way to tell us they are in pain. UTI’s are most often noticed when dogs begin peeing in the house or peeing more often than usual. A urinalysis should be completed to rule out any medical causes. Talk to your vet.
  6. One of the common issues I see with dogs who poop in their crate is that they are pooping way too often to begin with. I often ask people “How often does your dog go number two?” If they say “Three, four times a day…” I know something is off. I will ask what they are feeding, and it’s either 1) Too much of the good stuff, or 2) The cheap stuff with fillers. They may say they are feeding a super-premium high quality grain-free diet. Great. But how much? Overfeeding a dog will cause it to just crap everything out, and crap constantly. The body can only absorb so much at one time. Do NOT follow the recommendations on a bag of dog food! They are almost always inflated. I had a client feeding their 6-month old Lab 6 cups of high-calorie puppy food a day! That is insane. No wonder he is crapping 24/7, that is way more food than any dog, short of a working sled dog or Great Dane, should need. You want to feed the least amount that your dog will still maintain a good healthy muscle mass and weight on. It’s also appropriate to feed for the activity-level. If I sit in my office all day I am not going to need as much of a dinner as if I spent the day working strenuously outdoors.
    I commonly hear “that food (insert brand) was just too rich for my dog, it gave him soft stool.” Well no, you probably just fed too much of it. There is no such thing as “too rich,” dogs are meat eating predators. Their diet should be almost all animal ingredients– not plant, and high in protein and fat. When you switch to a high quality concentrated dry kibble, you do not need to feed as much as one that contains things like rice and other cereal grains.
    If you are feeding the cheap stuff with fillers, you are paying for what is essentially a big bag of cereal grains and corn. What little protein and meat that’s in the cheap food is not highly digestible (it’s the nasty bits that are unfit for Spam), so expect a lot of waste, and frequently. Foods like Purina Puppy Chow, Beneful, Alpo, Pedigree, etc. are low quality and produce a lot of waste. The best diets are grain-free and do not contain by-products. You may have to try a few foods before finding some your dog does well on. This is totally normal. I highly recommend adding probiotics to your dogs food, and switching proteins and varieties about once a month. Mix the foods together for a few days, but always switch so your dogs system can handle a variety of proteins.
    I have seen many dogs improve with their housebreaking issues when put on a raw food diet. Dogs on raw diets will have drastically less waste, and will typically defecate only once a day, maybe twice. There are many resources out there on raw diet, including pre-made foods you can buy in stores and order online, and books about how to buy your own raw diet from a meat supplier.
    Tools you will need: A high-quality grain-free kibble or raw diet. Probiotics. A measured scoop for monitoring food.

Being a dog trainer is listening

For those who want to become a dog trainer, or those who are just interested in some thoughts on the subject:

Being a dog trainer is not just teaching and instructing, but is listening. Dogs tell us what they need. If I gave up on every dog who wasn’t “getting it” like I wanted right away and I called them a waste of my time and said their issues are bullshit, I would look for a different job. We teach dogs with patience, and when we listen to them, we learn. If we feel frustration we take a break and never let the dog see that emotion. A dog has to have its basic needs met in order to live up to its full potential as a teammate. We look within ourselves to give them what they tell us they need, knowing they will give us the unconditional love, loyalty, effort, and companionship of a dog.

-Jennifer Hack

Does my dog need “obedience” or “behavior modification”?

In my business I work with a large number of clients who contact our trainers because of specific behavioral problems. They often don’t see the link between obedience training and a well-behaved dog. Training is not just about concrete commands (I mean, who cares if your dog can do a fancy heel and tricks if he’s attacking other dogs). But there is much more value in obedience than a dog who “looks” behaved. Obedience and dog training in general is training of the dogs mind, giving them skills, and teaching them to make appropriate choices. We often say obedience training gives your dog a “job.” That “job” is following your direction. Imagine the confidence and security your dog will feel when he knows what’s expected of him!

I often use analogies with children, not because I equate a dog with a child, but because it’s easy for people to understand and relate to. Imagine raising a child…
Some of the traits you would hope to see in school-aged children:

  • Follows direction
  • Respects the authority of adults
  • Gets along well with others
  • Stays on task
  • Behaves appropriately for the situation, i.e. is quiet when required (in class), and plays when is appropriate (in recess)
  • Drive and desire for learning
  • Confident yet respectful of others

All of the above traits are also qualities we would like to see in a dog. These qualities begin in the home, but they are further instilled in a school environment, where children are taught order, self-discipline, and respect for adults. Just like a child, a dogs desire to learn should be encouraged. Our training encourages dogs to put in more effort, and we reward them for the efforts they give us. A task well done is praised, which builds work ethic in the dog. It builds the desire to do right.

School is not just about the actual academics. In school, we learned algebra, reading, history, etc. but we also learned important social lessons: how to behave, how to sit quietly and listen, how to follow direction. We were not given a choice to attend our classes, we were required to attend. In the evening at home, it was not “Would you rather do your homework, or would you rather go play outside?” It was required that we do our homework, and then we could go play outside. Playing outside was the positive reinforcement for completing a task that we would otherwise probably not choose to do. If we did not comply, pressure was put upon us. Mom would put her hands on her hips, stand squarely at us and command “Sit down and do it, now.” And if we still did not comply, privileges were taken away. We knew mom wouldn’t cave, because she never did. So we did not bother with protesting– it got us no results. We did our homework the first time, every time, and got to play outside or watch tv the rest of the evening.

“We knew mom wouldn’t cave, because she never did. So we did not bother with protesting– it got us no results.”

Your dog is the same way. To a child’s young mind, and a dogs ever-young mind, instant gratification is very attractive. The world is full of interesting and fun things. We all want our dogs focus at times when we need it, so you need to be interesting and fun, but also worthy of respect and able to function as a leader. Obedience training is not just about the tangible actions, no more than school is just about learning facts and figures. Virtually nobody calls a trainer to say “You know, the problem with my dog is he just doesn’t do a good sit-stay.” They call because something is bothering them, or bothering their dog. An insecure, troubled dog often lacks leadership and really we must remember, they are dogs. They have to be taught what’s ok and what’s not ok, and in a manner that is clear to them. That’s where a trainer, someone who “speaks dog,” gets a phone call.

Virtually nobody calls a trainer to say “You know, the problem with my dog is he just doesn’t do a good sit-stay.”

Of clients we work with, there are three main categories:
-My dog just needs to learn “the basics”
-My dog has some annoying habits
-My dog has some concerning behavior issues

“The Basics” Dog
When people refer to “the basics,” I will usually assume they mean obedience training. To me, a dog with basic training can walk on a loose leash (no pulling), heel, come when called (around distractions), sit, down, stay, and has manners such as not jumping, barking, or taking things that aren’t theirs. The training instills a key component: self-control. That is all covered in a basic train, and I can almost guarantee you that with proper obedience training, the dog will be a model citizen. The “basics dog” has few ingrained bad habits, and no serious behavioral problems– and because he will get a good foundation, he has a much lower chance of developing any.
One of the common mistakes I see pet owners make is thinking that just any ol’ trainer will do, since it’s just basic stuff. So they go to PetCo or another big box retail store that isn’t a professional training facility, and they waste their time and money while feeling like they did training. In reality, they are lucky if their dogs learned a couple tricks for a treat, but they certainly won’t have any solid or useful obedience skills. Because we are experienced in higher levels of training, I believe we do a better job on the basics, too. If you wanted to learn tennis, you don’t need to hire Venus Williams, but you do need someone who knows 1) how to teach, 2) how to produce good results. Unfortunately, some trainers are more like a dude down the street who took a couple tennis classes and now thinks he’s good enough to advertise as an instructor.

“In reality, they are lucky if their dogs learned a couple tricks for a treat, but they certainly won’t have any solid or useful obedience skills.”

“Annoying Habits” Dog
This dog will probably be lacking in the basics, which is why he has bad habits. The owner may have already done some obedience training, lessons, or classes, but they did not work, either because the methods were not effective, the trainer was not experienced, or they were non-compliant students and did not follow-up with the training themselves. (When your trainer says you need to practice these new habits and routines every day… you need to practice every day. And because I assume you interact with your dog on some level every day, there is no excuse.) Some of the habits will be more ingrained. The “bad habits” dog may think his name is “No, No, Stop-That!”  The relationship between dog and human may have become strained, and people will often express to me “It’s just not fun anymore.” We may see things like barking, stealing food, mass destruction, chewing furniture, nipping, clawing, bolting away when off-leash, or persistent housebreaking trouble. Once the dog learns more positive and productive behaviors, he will not need to be naughty to get attention. Again, I can almost guarantee you that with proper obedience training, most, if not all of these issues will dissipate. For any remaining issues that are more persistent, we have specific creative solutions. The most fulfilling thing about problem-solving behavior is seeing the dog finally gain clarity. “Oh, this is how you want me to behave.” Once the dog is trained, everyone is happier and more content.

“The ‘Bad Habits’ dog may think his name is ‘No, No, Stop-That!”

“Concerning Issues” Dog
This may be a dog who has social issues, aggression, fear or anxiety, or has bitten a person or another dog. They may have already worked with other trainers or hired a veterinary behaviorist. We work with a good number of dogs with severe issues, and we are known for successful rehabilitation. Often the owners of dogs with behavior problems will specify to me “I am not worried about the obedience stuff, I really want to focus on the behavior problem.” I understand exactly what they mean, but that is a huge flaw in thinking. The goal of training is that they can handle their dog, control their dog, and that the dog makes better choices. Choices like “I have a bone I value greatly, but I am now comfortable with you coming near me and I trust the outcome,” or “I see that little yappy dog lunging at me on the sidewalk, and I kinda want to tell him off, but I am going to ignore him and move on because that produces better results for me.” But the problem is– if the dog does not listen to his owners over the small things (like an obedience command, spoken a single time), why should the dog listen to them over the big things (like not biting that random dude on the street)? You have to start somewhere. It is necessary that your dog obey you– the first time, every time. It is not your dogs job to be judge, jury and executioner of perceived “bad guys” on the street. It is not your dogs job to escape confinement that you put him in. He might think it’s his job to tear through the door to come find you when you’ve left, but we have to communicate to him that this behavior is not necessary.

“If the dog does not listen to his owners over the small things, why should the dog listen to them over the big things?”

In order to modify behavior, you need a clear line of communication. There is no magic wand. Despite what you may see on tv, your dogs issues cannot be magically fixed in a day, they cannot be fixed by being in a pack of dogs, or by pills from the vet. It takes changing the way you think, changing the way you interact, and changing the way you handle your dog. And yes, it takes obedience training.

Are you causing your dogs anxiety and over-attachment?

Most often, over-attachment is an issue within the relationship of the dog and the person. It is a problem because it’s very stressful, physically and mentally on a dog. It’s also problematic for people, as the symptoms of the problem are bothersome. If you think your dog may be over-attached or have signs of separation anxiety, you must consider: are you behaving in a way has enabled an unhealthy over-attachment?

Have you noticed these signs of separation issues?

  • Excessive stress barking when left alone, sometimes for hours
  • Refusal to eat when left alone
  • Breaking out of enclosures, sometimes causing self-injury
  • Drooling, panting, whining; panicked and frantic behavior
  • Any numerous other stress signs
  • Insecure or nervous personality and/or behavior may predispose a dog to suffering from this
  • Separation issues are a common reason dogs are given up to shelters (because of the destruction that ensues), so we see this issue a lot in rescue dogs particularly. It also has to do with how the dog is introduced to the new home and new owner. If you get a new dog, begin obedience training classes/lessons immediately.

How many of the following signs apply to you and your dog?

  • Do you allow your dog to follow you around all the time?
  • Have you neglected to crate-train or pen-train your dog?
  • Have you considered getting another dog “to keep him company”? (Hint: don’t!)
  • Do you tend to have very emotional greetings?
  • Are you constantly acknowledging and touching the dog?
  • Do you give the dog constant attention?
  • Are you your dogs primary (or only) caretaker?
  • Do you often re-arrange your schedule to satisfy your dog?
  • Have you hand-fed the dog?
  • Do you co-sleep with your dog?
  • Are you often cuddling together?
  • Do you have emotional goodbyes?
  • Are you allowing your dog to get what they want on their own terms without earning anything?
  • Can you handle your dog in basic obedience situations?
    • Do you struggle to get your dog to obey commands the first time you say them?
    • Can you have your dog lie down across the room and simply stay put and be quiet?
      • How much will you struggle if tasked with an “out of sight” down-stay?
    • Are you the type to “give up and give in” when your dog isn’t listening?

Some people do these sort of things all the time, and for most dogs it’s not going to be a big deal, but for a dog prone to over-dependence, it is. A lot of people who present with over-dependent dogs are (coincidentally?) also very in-tune to their dog. But in a way, their dog has trained them, rather than vice versa. So you have to think of all the things a particular dog wants, and how the person behaves in every interaction. Remember, there is no such thing as an “untrained” dog, there is only poorly trained or well trained. Dogs with bad habits have been poorly trained and have adapted to the behaviors they’ve been allowed to practice. All this sort of prior “training” has to be un-done. Imagine you had a brand new dog, and he was extremely standoffish. All he wanted to do was do his own thing, and had no use for you. What would you do to get him to bond to you? Maybe you’d tether him to you (aka “umbilical cording”), or maybe you’d hand feed him and sleep in bed together. Think of all those things, then reverse them for your over-attached dog.

Solutions: Your solutions will depend on your individual case, but here are some general tips.

  • Have designated times where you ignore the dog and go about other activities, and I mean totally ignore. No touch, no talk, no eye contact.
  • You will not allow the dog to jump on you when they return to an area, or when you come home. You will walk right through the dog and go about other activities until the dog is completely settled down, which could take 5 minutes, or an hour.
  • A new person should immediately begin to care for the dog
    • They will provide the food
    • They will provide access to outside, toys, and attention for the dog
    • Time to drop doggie off at a friends house or a trainers house for the weekend. This is a great time for board and train!
  • You will iron-out much of these over-dependence issues in obedience training.
    • Obedience builds a dogs confidence in their job
    • Obedience is a healthier bond, a partnership between dog and human
    • You will practice more control-based exercises, like down-stays, in a calm manner.
    • You will work your dog 6 days a week, for 20-60 minutes a day
    • At the end of basic obedience, you will demonstrate a 5-minute out of sight down-stay
  • Your dog will learn crate manners
    • You will begin by crating your dog randomly while you are home
    • Begin by crating the dog for 30 minutes while you go do the dishes or some other task, just put him in there and close the door
    • You will leave for longer and longer periods of time
    • When you arrive home, you will not let the dog out of the crate first-thing. You will go about another activity for 15 minutes, until the dog is completely settled down.
  • Exercise program will be instated
    • This will include both cardio (like playing fetch), and exercise that uses mental capacity (like obstacles, scent work, games)
    • His down-time will be calm and relaxing… and on his own.
    • Dog will be off-leash trained so it can get proper exercise
  • You will not get another dog “to keep him company”
  • Your dog will earn things and learn a system of training where he works for rewards!

Once this issue is addressed, your dog will be calmer, more relaxed, and you will both be less stressed. Then you can focus on what’s really important: Experiencing the joy of having a good companion.

Problem solving dog behavior: Barking

Here, we have a fairly in-depth case study on a common and simple companion dog behavior problem: unwanted barking. Behavior problems in dogs are defined as whatever the owner finds problematic. Keep in mind that what one person considers a problem is not what everyone would consider a problem. Now, dogs bark for many reasons, and this is just one example. Cases we work with as behaviorists can range from annoying things like this, to more severe or serious issues like fear, anxiety and dog or human aggression.

The basis for dog behavior is this:

Dogs do things because they have been rewarded (reinforced) for those things in the past. Animals perform behaviors because they work. If a behavior “works,” it is likely to be repeated.

Case study:

Source: Phone/email consult from out-of-state 
Owner
: Beth
Dog: Rocco, terrier mix, 15 months old, in good health
When/where dog was obtained: From a friend, at 6 months of age
Past training history: Basic obedience class at PetCo (essentially useless), behavior consultation with another trainer (for this issue, recommended giving him a Kong and giving him treats when he stops barking. Problem is, giving him treats for stopping will create a behavior sequence: 1) Bark like a nutjob, get it all out, 2) Stop barking and eat treats)
Presenting problem: Beth works full-time from home. Rocco barks at her for attention. This is annoying to her, and also a work-related problem because she is frequently on the phone with customers. If he is not barking at her, he is barking at the door to go for a walk.
Approaches already tried (in the past): Saying “NO,” ignoring Rocco, giving him a bone or filled Kong to distract him, throwing a toy, putting him in the bedroom with the door closed (this is called management), attempts to exercise him more to tire him out. None have been effective for more than a short period of time.
Severity of problem: (note: I like to get an idea of how “severe” a behavior is considered by the owner. Some owners will describe a behavior as only mildly annoying, almost an afterthought, yet others can experience the same type of behavior and for them it is something they would give the dog up over, or even put it to sleep for) The behavior is considered moderately problematic, if this cannot be fixed, the dog will not be given up.
Things dog finds reinforcing: These are things he enjoys- attention, praise, going outside, food, and highly values toys and play. These are typical things any dog enjoys, but some will value more over others. This can also be modified through training. For example, we can teach a dog to value food more by using it in training, restricting daily meals to training session times, and by using tastier food. We can increase the value of toys by playing with our dogs and increasing prey drive. We can increase the value of praise and attention by applying most of our praise during training sessions, and by preceding tangible rewards with verbal praise. Remember that to many dogs, simply being acknowledged is reinforcing.

Questions:

Why is Rocco barking? Anyone would be able to guess the answer to this: the dog is barking for attention.
Why does he continue to bark? Two reasons: Because it has been reinforced in the past. Because he is a terrier, and has an innate tendency towards being vocal.
I asked Beth when she had been throwing the toy for Rocco. She explained that the common pattern was the dog would begin barking at her, she would attempt to ignore, she would scold him and yell at him, and then eventually when she was on a phone call she would throw the toy to keep him quiet. He quite enjoys a game of fetch, and will bring the toy and drop it in front of her to initiate play. She has, in effect, trained Rocco to be persistent with barking. She has taught him that if he wears her down enough, she will reward him by throwing the toy, or giving him a bone or filled Kong. He also has her trained to take him outside if he barks at the door! This first began during housebreaking, when Beth rewarded him for “telling her that he has to go out.” Now he does it whenever he wants.
Why have prior attempts to curb the behavior failed? Because they were not followed through completely, or were otherwise not designed to be effective.
How can we re-train the dog? First, Rocco has to learn that barking does not produce reward.

If a behavior no longer works, the dog will try something else.

Instructions for owner: CHOOSE YOUR SOLUTION

We believe in giving clients OPTIONS for solving problems. The theory being, if you choose your own option you are more likely to follow-through.

-Games, playing, and walks are now on your terms
Pick up all the loose toys in the home. The home should be a place of calm and good manners, not a playground. Rocco cannot run up and drop a toy in front of you at the desk if there are no toys lying around. You should be in control of the toys, because play sessions should be on your terms, not your dogs. Rocco will still get to play with toys, in fact, he will play more, and you will initiate play sessions at your convenience. Toys will be in the closet, or in a place Rocco cannot reach them. You will initiate the game, and you will end the game. The same will go for walks. Do not allow your dog to train you to take him out when he barks at the door. His daily exercise and walks are very important, but make it your idea, not his. Take his favorite toy with you on a walk and use it to exercise him at the park with a 20-ft longline.
-Reinforce desired behavior, ignore or correct unwanted behavior
If you glance over and see Rocco lying down calmly and quietly across the room, that is the time to praise him and offer him a tidbit. Not while he is staring at you or vocalizing.
-Teach “place” command
You will teach Rocco a 3-in-one command that means 1) Go to your bed or a cot, 2) Lie down, 3) Stay put until released. You will use this for now to better manage him inside the home. Starting with small amounts of time, he will work up incrementally to about 30 minutes twice a day on place. I will provide you with an instructional video on how to begin this simple skill. Any bones or Kongs will be given on “place.”
-Teach calmness using the leash
“Sit on the dog” exercise. You will leave a lightweight leash dragging while in the house. As you sit at your desk, during the times Rocco would normally be barking, you will sit on the length of the leash so the dog has only enough room to lie down quietly next to you. Any protesting or barking will be ignored. You must have more patience and tenacity than your dog. You will only acknowledge, praise, or touch him if he is behaving calmly. If he is seen patrolling the front window, you will interrupt that behavior; tell him “leave it” as you guide him away by the leash.
-Effectively correct barking
Because the barking is a habit, it may not stop right away. In order to cease it more effectively, we will use mild discipline to correct it. Imagine a cost-benefit analysis from the dogs point of view: If barking costs more than it is worth, why continue to do it? Saying “NO” is not a big enough “cost” for Rocco, he simply does not care, or is immune to the word. You have two choices: You will purchase a simple squirt bottle, and will give him a squirt of water if he barks. If he doesn’t mind it (or even enjoys the water) you will use a Pet Corrector, a small canister that gives a harmless blast of air. This is priced at $8.99, and is quite effective. You will say “no” .5 seconds (half a second) before you apply the correction.

Imagine a cost-benefit analysis from the dogs point of view: If barking costs more than it is worth, why continue to do it?

Further important recommendation: Join a local obedience class that utilizes balanced and effective methods. This will give you the ability to communicate with your dog, will provide mental stimulation for him, and will give you the ability to correct any unwanted behaviors while reinforcing good skills. Since you are not local to Chicago, I will recommend a trainer in your area for obedience.

Is a tired dog really a “good dog”?

You may have heard the saying, “A tired dog is a good dog!”
There’s a common perception among pet owners that exercise is the solution to any and all behavior issues. Like you can take the most unruly dog, and just wear them out and they will be tolerable. Famous dog trainers like Cesar Milan have toted the benefits of exercise for behavior issues. While exercise is essential and highly beneficial to health and well-being, there is more to good behavior than just exercise. Just like children learn which set of behaviors is appropriate for various environments, dogs must learn, too. There are places and times when it’s appropriate to let loose, to run, jump, sniff, pee, and play. But there are also times and places when you must be on your best behavior, and display self-discipline, control, and calmness.

A tired dog is a tired dog. Nothing more, nothing less.

Exercise as a solution to behavior problems
Mary Customer: “My dog is so crazy and ill-behaved!”
Joe Trainer: “He just needs more exercise.”
Mary Customer: “Maybe I should take him on an extra walk, and join an agility class, yes, that’s what I’ll do!”

While the idea of agility and an extra walk are nice, they are not practical solutions. First, I would like to define exactly what the dogs imbalance is, why it is being described as “crazy, ill-behaved,” and what role the owner is playing in it. Agility training is a sport, not a behavioral solution. It is typically a once a week class, for one hour. Realistically, one hour a week will not alter your dogs behavior. It’s the routine things, what we do every day, that has the most effect. Also, in order to do sports like agility, you must have a basic foundation of obedience on the dog, so they take direction when off-leash. It’s best to begin with solid obedience before progressing into hobby sports.

As we increase exercise, we build endurance. A well-conditioned athlete can perform with the minimum effort. So the issue becomes that the 5-mile jog routine you began is no longer producing the same fatigue in your dog. You are only conditioning him to the activity.

When exercise is not enough
It’s not unheard of for a very tired dog to still be able to muster up the energy to freak out when his owners leave him alone in the house. The level of anxiety and mental confusion in that dog was not going to be overcome with a marathon run. Every dog needs boundaries and to learn them, they need feedback on what is ok, and what is not ok. It is not ok for a dog to put human belongings in his mouth, and therefore every time a dog tries that, they need to be consistently corrected and redirected. People tend to like dogs that are appropriate for the situation. In the house, calmness is usually appreciated. There are many cues for excitement, but how can we turn those into cues for calm? Let’s say your dog goes nuts when you pick up their leash. They jump, they run around in circles, and they bark at you. The leash has become a conditioned cue for the excitement of going for a walk. We want to re-condition it for a cue for obedient and calm behavior. Dogs learn by association and repetition. Using that information, we are going to re-structure the entire way our walks are done.

A holistic view of your dog
As trainers, we must view each dog as an individual, with particular needs. One of the needs every dog has is to know what is expected of him. Let’s go back to the case of separation anxiety. How can expectations affect a dog with separation anxiety? If leadership is clear, and a relationship is balanced, the simple act of putting a dog inside a crate and leaving has changed. It becomes “My human put me here, so here I shall remain.” In the case of dogs who are young and destructive, exercise will help taper that, but only because they don’t have the energy to tear the house up. The problem is, life can change, and one week you may be just too busy to give your dog a 5-mile jog every day. The great thing about dogs is they are adaptable. If you are busy one day, ill, or have to work late and don’t have the time to provide the normal level of exercise and stimulation, your dog (ideally) will adjust to that. But they have to be taught what is and is not acceptable behavior.

Behavior Tips:

  • Vary your activities
    • Go for a walk in a new place
    • Try new exercises
    • Utilize the dogs senses, including smell, such as scent detection
  • Include mental exercise
  • Teach a solid foundation of obedience and work it often
  • Teach your dog to follow you
    • Appropriate behavior for the context and situation
  • Only reward behaviors that you want to see continue

Dog training demos for children

We want dogs to be a welcome part of society. Our goal is to educate the future generation on dogs, and how wonderful they really are. Last weekend, a childrens group came to our Chicago canine training facility to learn about dog training. Some of the children had previously been afraid of dogs. Their topic in school was dogs and how they are trained, so they had a lot of questions. My Dalmatian Rockwell helps me show children how fun, smart, and useful dogs really are!

Some topics we address in demos for children:

  • How to approach a dog to greet it, dog safety
  • Reading dog body language
  • How we train dogs to do the right thing and have manners to live in our families
  • Dogs are USEFUL
    • Rockwell does directed retrieves to specific objects on the floor. He brings me a bottle of water, his food bowl, and a phone
    • Dogs can do many jobs, in addition to being awesome family companions
  • Dogs have FEELINGS
    • Just like you, dogs can be happy, scared, etc. and you should respect their feelings
  • Dogs have NEEDS
    • Dogs require daily care and training, and are fun but also a responsibility
  • Last, but not least… Dogs are FUN