It’s a focus and attention thing, It’s a focus and attention thing, Hello?

We have all been in conversation with someone and just zoned out or possibly been watching television and had someone ask a question only to hear them shouting at us a minute later saying the same thing.  Now, does this behavior sound familiar when you are walking your dog or asking for them to sit or stay?  I am sure it does because even I forget once in a while to get my dogs attention before I ask for something from them.  In almost all my training encounters I experience frustration from dog owners who can’t get their dog to listen to them even though at some times the dog performs the asked behaviors with no problem.  In the majority of those meetings I immediately notice the owner talking to the dog either like a person or without the dog looking in their eyes or even general direction.  I have many training requests to help with walking, staying, coming when called, and solving problem behaviors that I can help with but with owners who want to immediately delve into said problems and not a base concern of lack of attention and focus.  Why do you think I teach this on the first meeting of all my puppy classes? So they have the foundation for everything else you will ever need.  It shocks me that you can go to 6 weeks of Petco/Petsmart training and spend 10 minutes or less on this, then skip onto walking and other work where the dog is supposed to listen to you in order to perform the desired task.

There are lots of ways to achieve focus and attention and if you’re having problems with your dog listening when out and about, then bring it back home with no distractions and start from scratch.  You can do puppy training with a 5 year old dog too.

I suggest if your dog is treat driven to use a clicker to mark with a click every time you notice your dog look in your eyes.  Move treats away keeping your dogs eyes glued to them and wait patiently for even a glimpse into your eye.  Click immediately and offer a treat.

Move out of your dogs view by taking a few steps around them and wait for them to find you and your eyes.  Click and treat again.   Tie your dog to your belt with your leash and toss a toy or treat away from you and wait for them to give up and find your eyes in frustration.  Click and treat again.   Before you walk out your door on a walk or you offer food to your dog, make sure they look in your eyes.  Then give them the go ahead to proceed.   You can accomplish this in with just 2 ( 5 min.) training sessions a day.

So the next time you ask your dog to do ANYTHING, make sure they are looking at you, in your eyes, even for 1 second.  You will notice they listen much more when they know you are talking to them and good things come from it.  My dogs don’t get fed or get to play with a ball or even go outside without focused attention.

Lastly, regardless of your dogs attention, stop saying sit, down, stay, leave it and especially “come” 5-10 times.  Say it once, wait for two second, if no response get attention and firmly ask again with eye contact and enunciate your command.  Keep it to ONE word if possible.

With this basic work and understanding you will be on your way to easier communication and obedience.

Call me when you are ready for focus work and obedience around major distractions 😉Image

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Dog food. More controversial than the Pope.

dog food served

So very much is less controversial and misunderstood as dog food and what is in it. We have so much information at our disposal and opinions change weekly on what is best to feed your dog especially if you are looking for your food to help your dog live long and healthy and with few complications. I can’t begin to offer you my entire side of the story here or you would lose interest but lets get part one of 10 or 20 started.
I do believe you are what you eat. Especially for dogs. Much of the rest seems to rely on genetics and acute care.
There are at least 100 different dog foods, kibble and wet to choose from and as many supplements to list as well.
So what is the best dog food for my dog? I get asked this weekly and I don’t have a single answer because I tailor the answer to your dog. Just like I train your dog to your liking and around your abilities I don’t think there is a one size fits all answer but I do believe there are some basic truths and rules to keep you on track. I will mention what I feed at the end of this.

Since this is part I, lets stay simple. I am going to list a few easy rules.
1. Don’t buy dog food from a grocery store. They all suck for the most part. 1% may be ok.
2. Don’t believe the crap marketing on TV. It is the same crap marketed towards you.
3. Your dog needs meat and a lot of it. Your dog is not a vegan or vegetarian.
4. Grains aren’t as bad as what is replacing them, (in many cases)
5. Your dogs skin, coat and internal health are reliant on his quality of feed. Your 15 year old Lab who lived on Alpo and Purina got lucky and probably wasn’t as healthy internally as you thought. God bless him.
6. Learn how to read a dog food label. You did it for you and your child so do it for your dog.
7. Don’t free feed your dog. This is both a health and behavior issue. More to come later on this.
8. Cooking for your dog isn’t always as great as you think

Lets go through these points here.
Grocery store foods as well as many others are filled with “fillers”, inferior products, and bad preservatives. What is the point?
Even Blue and Wellness who do extensive marketing can improve on their dog food so don’t believe the marketing.
If you don’t have a specific animal protein first and a meat meal with a named meat after, you probably don’t want it. No by products or generic animal protein, or corn, wheat, or grain proteins which you will find often as a gluten. Pay for meat.
Hey! believe it or not some dogs can tolerate carbs better than we thought but I still don’t like them. Brown rice and Oatmeal are decent grains and can be better than grain free in many cases.
Potato, potato + grains, sweet potato, and tapioca are all replacing the grains in many cases. Most of these are even starchier or sugary than the original grains. You all just freaked and said no grains so this is what they give you. Look for low sugary fillers if you must. Ideally peas, chickpeas, lentils etc.
The Glycemic index of a Russet potato is 70-100 where as a chickpeas is around 30-40. Sugar breeds yeast which, well, is a problem. I see as many dogs with yeast issues as I do flea issues.

If you have a skin or internal problem look to your food first and then call a nutritionist, not a vet. While I love my vet, I don’t follow his nutrition advise. We agree to disagree and I only see him once a year to have a nice hello and maybe a rabies shot. My dogs are healthy.

You can go to dogfoodadvisor.com to understand a pet food label as they are confusing and learn about how they are tricking you by ingredient splitting to make the meat content look larger or the protein level seem high even though it is not from meat.
Free feeding is just a power give to your dog and it can also make them overweight. Imagine a bowl of doritos or chocolates constantly up for grabs. It also doesn’t let you know when something is wrong as you don’t always see them eat.

Finally, cooking is great and you can make some good food but don’t forget there are lots of vitamins and minerals plus other additives you will want to include. Just boiling chicken with rice and sweet potato isn’t going to be the best for your pet. Even if you cook broccoli or other veggies there is still a lot you missed.

I am done for know but next time I will go more in depth on specific feeding options like what I feed, which is right now….a 75% raw food diet, between 80-95% animal, 20% kibble (high protein low carb/filler kibble), with added nutrients like flax or coconut oil, a joint supplement like Phycox, and sometimes a kelp based powdered vitamin such as Nupro. All in all it only takes me 3 min. to prepare my dogs food and I have 3 dogs.
Lastly, my black lab is so shiny she turns blue with a camera flash and no one is overweight or suffering from any disease or medical condition. My dogs are 2,4, and 8. I plan to keep them this healthy for a long time.

Until next time.

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A dog in control, boundary training for safety.

JJ's boundary is the front door

Wouldn’t it be nice to be 100% confident that your dog will stay in your yard even without a fence or leash (ok, 95%)? Is there a room in your house your dog must remain out of, such as baby’s room, your formal dining room, or your business office? Are you frustrated with your dog trampling your flowers in the garden you worked so hard on?

There are many ways to contain or control a dog including fences (visible or electronic), chains or tie-outs, pens, leashes, gates, etc. However, none are fool-proof and none truly provide your dog with freedom and a happy life, nor do they teach them anything, only contain them.

Boundary training is an easy and much more reliable alternative. It involves teaching your dog where a boundary line is and that he is not allowed to cross that line, EVER. It’s not as hard as it sounds, just takes a little time and consistency. Fifteen or more minutes a day, every day, for a few weeks, and consistent reinforcement after that. Here’s how to do it.

Prerequisites: It helps if your dog understands basic commands such as “Stay”, “No”, “Leave it”, “Come” and will heel on leash. Be aware that this method of training may not work on every dog. It is best to start with a puppy or young dog. Adults can also learn but it may take a bit longer depending on the dog. Only you know your own dog and how easily trainable they are. Most dogs can easily learn a boundary or “territory”, and most are more than willing to do so. A neutered dog is less likely to want to roam.

For the sake of this article we will use the yard as an example; creating indoor boundaries such as a doorway should be easier to accomplish in a shorter amount of time using the same basic concepts.

1. Take time to decide where the boundary line is. Walk the perimeter without your dog. You can buy little flags to put in the ground temporarily or simply use natural landmarks like trees, driveway, sidewalks, garden edges, etc. Dogs have an uncanny ability to remember visual markers and also incorporate their sense of smell. It is best to keep the boundary line a minimum of 2-3 feet (or more) back from the “real” boundary. In other words, 2-3 feet back from the street or sidewalk, etc. Involve your spouse or other family members so that you all agree on and understand the boundary lines.

2. Once you’ve defined the boundary, begin to walk your dog along the boundary on a leash (even if you are creating an indoor boundary). Walk the dog around 4-6 times a day for 2-3 days. Let them sniff. Do not allow your dog to cross or step over the imaginary boundary line, even an inch. If she does, a simple pop of the leash and a “No” or “Ah-ah” command is all that is necessary.

3. By about the third day continue walking the boundary every day but begin having your dog walk up to the line and stop. If your dog understands the “Wait” or “Stop” command, this is the time to use it. Work on this for 2-3 more days, reinforcing that they are to stop at that boundary. A simple “Ah-ah” also works.

4. After a week or so YOU can begin crossing the boundary yourself while your dog stays behind it. Use the command “Stay”. Step over the boundary a foot or two, turn and face your dog and make them stay. Return to your dog and treat and praise. Begin to toss a treat or favorite toy just a foot or two over the boundary. Here is where the “Leave It” command becomes important. Your dog will learn that ANYTHING outside the boundary line is off limits and they must “leave it”. Use a separate treat and lots of praise when they obey. If your dog looks at you when you toss the treat over the line, it’s party time! Huge reward and praise for that! He is beginning to learn to respect the “leave it zone” and give you his attention instead!!

5. Continue this exercise in different locations along the boundary line. Consistency is a must. He is NEVER to cross the boundary line without your permission. If you are going to take him for a walk you can use a key phrase like “Ok, Let’s go for a walk”, or something similar that is only used at that time, that is your release/permission phrase and that is the ONLY time he is allowed outside the boundary. Determine your release or permission phrase ahead of time. It might be something like “Free Dog!”. Later on when he is advanced simply presenting the leash might serve as his permission cue.

6. After a couple of weeks of reinforcing the boundary over and over every day, your dog should be catching on. It is time to drop the leash and let it drag. Repeat Step 4 but without holding the leash (or you can use a long line if that is more comfortable at this point). Now it is up to your dog to show you what they’ve learned on their own. Use lots of treats and praise when they remain inside the boundary or ignore items tossed over. Be sure to give treats INSIDE the boundary line so you are not tempting them to cross.

7. Once your dog is consistently respecting the boundary line and ignoring treats, toys, etc., raise the stakes. Begin to incorporate more tempting distractions. Have family members or friends walk outside the boundary, ask the kids to toss a ball or act goofy on the other side of the boundary, ask a neighbor to help. Have someone jog by. For a real test, have the neighbor bring their dog out on leash and walk by. Or walk over to your neighbor’s yard and have a conversation for a couple minutes while your dog waits behind the boundary. These are advanced steps, work up to it gradually, stepping up the temptations as your dog shows he is ready.

8. When she makes a mistake, always go back a step or two and start over. The rules must be consistently and continually reinforced. The key to this training is to NEVER break the rules without your specific permission word or phrase. If she is allowed to cross the boundary one day and not the next it will only confuse her. Do not punish harshly when mistakes are made, just go back a few steps and help her to re-learn.

9. Practice walking toward the boundary as you FOLLOW your dog, walking behind him. The goal is for him to stop at the line on his own. You can use the “Stop” command if necessary. It is a good command for your dog to learn anyway, especially for this training. Call him to “Come” to you, away from the boundary. Remember to use lots and lots of praise and treats when he obeys.

10. Get creative on how you work with your dog to reinforce the boundary. Incorporate different types of temptations, with you standing at different places. But it is crucial that steps 1-5 are accomplished solidly first, no matter how long that takes. Play fetch with your dog and every now and then purposely toss the ball beyond the boundary. If she stops and does not go after it, praise her like there is no tomorrow, that is a huge accomplishment! Run alongside her and purposely cross the boundary, the goal is for her to stop as you continue on. Whenever you and your dog are outside incorporate little tests and reinforcements. This training is something you continually reinforce over and over for the lifetime of your dog. You want it to become so ingrained into her that it is a natural behavior. Getting her to cross the boundary will become nearly impossible if this training is accomplished successfully.

Devoting a few months to this training will result in one of the most well trained dogs you could imagine. Your dog can enjoy the freedom of running loose in your yard, even if there is no fence, and you will have complete peace of mind knowing he will not run into the street, dash off to visit the neighbor’s dog, or run away.

I suggest boundary training even if you have an invisible fence or other containment method, as those are strictly “containment” methods, they do not “teach” the dog about boundaries, and if the dog is determined or smart enough, they can outwit any “containment” method, as some of you may have experienced. Also, tying a dog up or keeping them kenneled only makes them want their freedom more, ultimately creating an unhappy, frustrated dog with even more desire to escape.

Most dogs are more than happy to do what is expected of them once they are taught what that is. Containment methods never teach a dog anything, and so they will think it is ok to run off if they can find a way out. Your goal should be to teach, not just restrict your dog. A solidly trained dog will not leave your yard or enter off-limit areas, without your permission. To me, that is the ultimate form of containment. And what a gift to give your dog – freedom from chains, cages or shock devices. Your dog will thank you!

A word of caution… You should never leave your dog unattended in your unfenced yard (i.e. when you leave the house), no matter how well trained. You are ultimately responsible for your dog’s safety at all times.

 

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Let’s get smart here

Let's get smart here

I wrote my thesis on how to wear houndstooth.

Ok guys, you may not know it but I know what is going on before you even try to tell me.  I mean, come on, I am a dog,  my ancestors and I have been around for a while and we still hardly understand a damn word you say.  I know a certain curse word or two mean to move out of the way but before that I can tell by your breathing, posture and facial expression what might be going down.  I knew the way that my Mom and Dad called me over earlier that I was going to put into some ridiculous outfit and made to sit still for some odd reason.   Let me just say this.  From my understanding you humans can sit at a table together and have a conversation and 80% of how you interpret each other comes merely from facial expression, posture, tone, and inflection to say the least.  So If your dog only knows 20-30 words of your language, and that is pretty good, imagine how much of his actions and decisions are based on the same things and not on what you have said.   Seriously consider your actions and emotions and how they affect your dog.  We pick up on your vibes and the better you feel, the better we feel.  Try to de-stress and smile more.  Worry less and we will be more balanced and better behaved as well.  That is all for now, I seriously have to nap.  Mozzarella out!

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