Category Archives: Uncategorized

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

Separation Anxiety

When someone asks us about behavior issues in their dog, it often starts out with “He/she is such a wonderful and loving dog, BUT…” A common issue is separation anxiety.  What we may see during evaluation is a dog that has an unhealthy attachment to their owner and no self-confidence of their own.  The dog may follow the owner around the house from room to room, sleep in bed, and have little to no obedience training.  The owner may be someone who took time off work to bond with their new rescue dog, then went back to work, triggering the dogs anxiety.  The owner may be giving “on demand” petting, constant attention, without even realizing it.  Part of the re-training is praising your dog for working for you, not just for simply being cute and within arm’s reach.  Separation anxiety can manifest in many ways, here are a few:

WHAT?

  • Excessive barking when separated from the owner
  • Destruction when left alone
  • Panic in more extreme cases, leading to self-injury when left alone
  • Will not eat when alone, does not touch treats or bones
  • Inappropriate elimination

WHY?

  • Too early weaning
  • Separated too early from littermates and mom- such as pet store puppies
  • Neglectful upbringing
  • Genetically predisposed
  • Co-dependent owner and dog
  • Lack of confidence and independence in the dog
  • Emotionally needy owner who is inadvertently fostering this condition
  • Upsetting changes in schedules

WHAT WORKS?

This depends on the dog and situation, but here are some ideas that may work:

  • Regular Exercise
  • Obedience training
  • Clearer “pack structure” and fostering independence
  • Medication in some cases
  • Desensitizing to departure cues (keys, door opening, putting shoes on, etc.)
  • Low-key coming and going without emotional goodbyes
  • Counter-condition departures with something pleasant
  • Proper leadership
  • Periods of ignoring the dog, such as crating briefly while you are home doing other tasks
  • Confining the dog in some cases, conditioning to accept confinement for security
  • Playing a recording of the owners voice speaking and talking while the dog is alone

The anxious canine faces a lot of stress in certain situations.  Separation anxiety is a common reason for pets to be given up to shelters or rescues.  Finding a behavioral trainer who can help you work these issue out, and also working with your vet and discussing any possible medical components,  is important to keeping your dog happy.

Why Train Your Dog?

There is a saying:  If you do not give your dog a job, he will become self-employed.  On the same token, if you do not give leadership, your dog will become the leader, making his own decisions– and dogs make lousy leaders.

Untrained dogs get scolded more often and experience confusion. They are confined more and have less freedom. Even something as basic as going out for a walk can be infrequent for an untrained dog.  It is a catch-22, the dog has excess energy which makes his behavior worse, yet he is difficult to walk or take anywhere.  Training gives confidence to the dog and control for the handler.  It gives the whole family an easier life!

Most dogs in shelters were given up for behavioral reasons. When there is no clear leader, and there is no structure or obedience, behavior issues can spiral out of control. Lack of training can lead to bites, injuries, lawsuits, damage to your property, and emotional stress to everyone involved. Worst of all, it can lead to a dog being given up, or euthanized.  Many times it’s not the dogs fault; it is a lack of responsibility and guidance from the owner.

Real Training, Real Results

Our expertise is results-based dog training.  See the difference when you work with us.
We do it all, from puppy clicker training to advanced off-leash obedience.  Our aim is results-based training, meaning it is reliable in real life.  Good dog training has several traits:
  • Motivation and reward
  • Consistency
  • Clarity and fairness to the dog
  • Relationship-building
  • Leadership
  • Noticeable progress in each session
  • Modification of undesired behaviors

We employ balanced methods. We do not gain respect through force or fear, nor with bribes; we gain respect through giving the dog boundaries and rules and rewarding him for following those rules. We find motivators through valued rewards and praise. Every dog can listen, not just for treats, but also when there are no tangible rewards present and around distractions. We want to live in harmony with our dogs and have a relationship of love and respect. Your dog needs consistency from you in everyday situations. Being the loving leader is the only way to go.