Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Canine Culinary Delights!

Just thought I'd share a couple dog-friendly dessert recipes. These are not my recipes, and the creators will be credited in this post.

Basic Dog Cookies by suite101.com

* 1 or 2 Eggs, use two eggs for a softer cookie
* 2 1/2 Cups Rice or Potato Flour
* 1/4 Teaspoon Baking Powder
* 1/4 Cup Butter, Vegetable Oil, Fish Oil or Combination
* Optional: 1/4 LIquid - Water, Stock, Soup, Milk, Meat Drippings
* Optional: 1/4 Cup Grated Cheese, Parmesan Cheese, Bacon Bits, Leftover Meat
* Optional: Up to 2 Tablespoons of Honey or Molasses, no honey for puppies. A sweetener depends on your flavoring choice.


1. Beat the eggs and set aside.
2. Mix the dry ingredients. If you are using honey or molasses, blend the honey with the flour.
3. Cut the fats into the flour mixture.
4. Mix in the beaten eggs.
5. For a tender cookie, add a small amount of liquid to soften the dough.
6. Bake in a preheated 325 degree Fahrenheit oven for twelve to fifteen minutes or until done. Watch for the edges to brown and to draw away from the original position. The cookie will also be evenly lightly browned. For a softer cookie, bake the cookies until done and then take them out of the oven to cool. For a harder treat, cookie or biscuit, you can turn the oven off and leave the cookies in the oven to cool completely into a harder dog cookie or biscuit before removing from the oven.

Peanut Butter Popsicles from HumaneSociety.org

* In a small mixing bowl, combine peanut butter with a little water or half a mashed banana. (The water and banana aren't essential but help with freezing consistency.)
* Line an ice cube tray or cookie sheet with wax paper. (You don't have to use the paper, but it can make prying the cubes out easier.)
* Spoon the mixture into the cubes, or drop onto the tray just like you would cookie dough.
* Freeze. If you need to reuse the tray right away, pop out the cubes and store them in a bag or container in the freezer.
* Serve. Turn any hot dog into a happy camper.


Obedience 101 - Down and Recall

How to Teach Down (aka Lay)

Start by sitting on the ground with your dog facing you in the sit position. Have a bag of treats ready, but only have one treat out at a time. Put the treat baggie in your pocket some it does not create a distraction. You should be in a quiet room with no interruptions. Hold the treat directly in front of your dogs nose, with a

tiny bit of the treat sticking out so s/he can nibble on it. The treat should be held between your thumb and forefinger. While holding the treat directly in front of their nose, very slowly move it down (imagine how you'd look down without moving your body, chin touching chest) between their paws, and at that time s/he should have their head lowered almost all the way to their paws. When their head reaches this level, you may place a hand lightly on the shoulder blades, pressing lightly, and say "down", while letting the treat almost touch the floor. Make sure she is still "right on" the treat (actively trying to eat it, with her mouth near or touching your fingers), and begin to slide the treat slowly outwards from between her paws while applying a bit of pressure to their shoulders if they are not fully laying down. If she is not successful, try again from the sit position, but do not get frustrated. If she completes it successfully, say "Good girl DOWN" in a pleasant voice. Keep practicing, and she will get it.

How to Teach a Recall

This is perhaps the most important command you can teach your dog. When successfully employed, your dog should leave whatever they are doing, regardless of how interesting it may be, and return to you. This can save many a dogs' life, but sadly, most owners do not teach their dog this command.

For this exercise, you will need two people, treats, and a twenty foot training lead. Go to an open area such as a field, with the leash attached, and have your dog sit facing you. Hold the leash, and have your partner call the dog, making it exciting. Once the dog reaches your partner, have them place your dog in the sit position and reward with a treat and lots of praise. Call your dog back to you, give the sit command, and again, reward with a treat and praise. Continue this exercise for about a half-hour to an hour. Move it to your backyard, offleash, and continue the routine. This should be practiced as often as possible. I recommend a month-long regimen, practicing at least twice weekly, and then letting your dog offleash where permitted, given your dog has mastered the technique.

For the next post, I'll be showcasing some DIY doggie treats, and after that, we'll cover heeling.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Obedience 101 - Sit and Watch Me

In the next few posts, I will cover what every dog should know in order to become a well-adjusted individual, and how you should best go about training.

How to teach Sit

Every dog should know how to sit. It's just a given. It is an incredibly easy thing to train for, but many owners don't seem to know how to do it correctly.

Step one - Have a small bag of treats in your pocket. Only take out one at a time and put the bag back in your pocket to ensure your dog doesn't get distracted.

If you have a small dog, you should sit down while teaching this command.

Step two - Call your dog over to you. Present a treat right at nose level, so that they can smell it and give you their attention. They will be standing on all fours in the beginning.

Step three - Holding the food at nostril-level, you should begin to move the treat up and straight back slowly over the dogs head and between the ears so that they have to look up to see and smell the treat.

Step four - Continue moving the treat slowly, saying "Sit". Your dog should naturally sit down to be able to view the treat. If not, apply a small pressure on their hindquarters, gently pushing down with one hand, moving the treat over their head with the other, and saying, "Sit".

Step five - Reward for a proper sit. Give the treat and verbal praise, and some pats for good measure. Practice this, and soon, your dog will not need a treat to perform the command.

Troubleshooting: If your dog jumps up towards the treat, or, for little dogs who end up "sitting pretty" instead, say "No", and pull the treat back towards you so that they are again in the standing position. Try again.

How to teach "Watch Me"

You can start teaching this command once your dog has mastered the sit. It is an extremely useful tool that I recommend all owners teach their dog.

Step one - Call your dog over to you. Make sure you have your treats handy.

Step two - Place your dog in the sit position, making sure to let them smell the treat. Do not yet reward.

Step three - While your dog is sitting, raise the treat to the corner or your eye so that in order to focus on the treat, your dog must also make eye contact with you.

Step four - Say "Watch me", holding the treat at the corner of your eye. Start out small - if your dog keeps his focus on you for three seconds, reward promptly and give praise. Your dog should focus on only you when this command is given.

Step five- Slowly (this word being key) increase the amount of time the dog must watch you, up to ten seconds at a time. If your dog breaks focus, correct by regaining their attention with the treat and repeating the motions and command. When your dog successfully performs the command, reward and give praise. Say, "Good boy/girl, watch me".

Once your dog has mastered this command, regaining their attention or getting them to focus on you will be easy. This command can take a while to teach, so be patient and ready to continue practicing for a while.

As with any training tips I give, I also have one rule: Do not repeat yourself constantly. If your dog is not listening, saying "Sitsitsitsitsit" will not work, and defeats the purpose. Speak clearly, firmly, and repeat ONLY if the dog isn't listening, and even then you should have to repeat the command no more than twice.

Next edition: Teach Lay and Heel.

Reader Question

Some days, I like to have users of this blog send me their behavior related questions, and I give them advice. This is my first question thus far, by Nny of Furry-Paws.

My question is: when loose leash training with the "stop if they pull, go when it's slacked method", what do you do when you go by other dogs outside and your dog pulls and barks trying to go over and see them? Thanks.

Good question, and one I'm sure many owners are wondering about. I am all for the use of tools in training, as long as you use them properly. In a situation like this, my favorite tool is a Halti or Gentle Leader. You can purchase them at just about any pet store. For instructions on how to use it, go here.

The Halti lead creates an unpleasant, but not painful, pressure across the bridge of the nose to help stop the dog from being too forward driven and dragging you off. Be sure that you are only using pressure to correct an unwanted behavior, and then keeping the line slack when your dog is behaving, so that they can differentiate between what is punishment and what is not.

When the dog goes to pull of towards another dog, a sharp pop of the leash sideways and calling their name will help regain attention. Note, be sure you immediately release all tension after the correction. Do not strangle your dog. Keep walking a small distance to put some space between you and the other dog. If your dog is food or toy motivated, bring a snack or a squeaky toy to help focus their attention. After you have broken their focus by snapping the lead, and have moved forward, call them to you so that they are facing you. Present the toy or treat, but do not give it to them yet. Make them sit down and give the "watch me" command. When they have focused on you for at least three seconds, reward, and continue with your walk. Employ this method every opportunity you get.

Do not stop if your dog is misbehaving - if you can't get them to pay attention to the reward, and they are still out of control, use the pop of the lead and take away the slack in the lead. Pull your dog in close to your hip, on the inside (away from the other dog, with you between your dog and the other). Leave just enough slack so that the Halti isn't putting pressure on the muzzle, say "No" firmly, and do not focus on your dog or the other dog. Keep walking straight ahead like a man on a mission. If you stop to fuss, your dog will get all the more agitated. If they do pull while at your side, give a small jerk in towards your stomach, and again, tell them "No" firmly.

A good way to help curb barking is to teach your dog to speak on command. I have broken several dogs of habitual barking by using this trick. It teaches them to want to use their voice to get treats, rather than to bark for no reason. If your dog just loves to bark regardless, you may try using a pop can or bottle with rocks in it, shaking it when your dog barks to break their attention.

When it comes to the puller, I do not suggest walking them on a retractable lead, or with a flat nylon collar or a harness. Flat nylons can damage the trachea with excessive pulling, and harnesses just help the dog to dig in more and pull harder.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Trainablity versus Instinct pt. 2 - Dog Aggression

Bear with me, as this is a long post, but is quite informative and may help out some of you that were wondering the same thing or struggling with this issue

"My dog is aggressive towards others. What should I do?"

This is a big one for many owners. Dog aggression is very common, especially in Bully breeds. I, as an owner of an English Bulldog with extreme dog aggression, have found ways to work around his distaste for other dogs and make walking him a much more pleasant experience. While I can say I've had a great deal of success in employing my methods on others, I am certainly no Caesar Millan, and I would never feel comfortable with either myself or any of my clients leaving their dogs unattended or unsupervised with others, regardless of what training they've had in the past. I give that advice when working with anyone on canine aggression - I can make your dog manageable, but it is up to you to be responsible and use the tools I have given wisely. It all boils down to genetics and learned behavior. Certain breeds have an ingrained dislike for others; they may be fine with people of all sorts, but bring another dog around, and it's on. Others may have a fear of certain other breeds, for example, I have known dogs that were only aggressive towards shepherds, and dogs that were only aggressive towards toy dogs. Some canine aggression is inherited, and for others, it is a learned behaviour. Canine aggression comes in three categories:

  • Outright Aggression; attack or go in for the kill on sight, regardless of whether or not you introduce the other dog. With this type of aggression, the dog will generally see another as both a threat and prey. My English Bulldog has this type of aggression, coupled with fear based, and it is one of the hardest to train out.
  • Fear Based Aggression; where the dog will not instigate fights in most cases, but rather chooses to avoid others until the other dog invades their personal space. This may be from lack of socialization around others as a pup, or their fear may be based off of negative experiences with other canines (such as an attack), whether as an individual breed or other dogs in general. This is often characterized by wariness - the dog will eye the other, head low to the ground, tail held at a medium height or tucked between the legs, often accompanied by a low growl, whining, or hiding behind the owner. This type of aggression takes a lot of
  • Territorial or Possessive Aggression ; this kind of aggression surfaces when another dog approaches an object of the aggressive dogs' interest, such as a toy, food, or approaches the dog when they're on their territory, usually occurring when someone is walking their dog and the dog goes to sniff around at the dogs fence. To this, there is an easy solution.
My solutions to the above problems are...
  • For outright and general aggression, I recommend a solid and strict routine. I have never been one for "cruel and unusual" training methods like electric collars, prong collars, or beating a dog for misbehavior. However, when used properly, I have absolutely no problem with a gentle / halti lead (for info on what it is and how to use it, visit E-How's Halti Page), a slip collar, or a choke collar. The big thing is making sure they fit - with a choke chain, you want to have a lot of spare chain, making sure that the collar is free of rust which may cause it to lock, and not use it as your only collar. In using choke collars, I recommend using another broad, flat nylon collar with it such as this reflective nylon, which also doubles as a safe night-time walking collar, and a double-ended lead that you can attach to both the choke chain and the nylon, such as this one. Attach one end to the nylon, and the other end to the choke chain. Hold in the middle.

    When walking, make sure it's in an area you're familiar with and know that there will be no off-lead dogs to cause potential problems. Bring a reward with you that motivates your dog, whether it is a toy or food. Choose a time of day when there will still be people walking their dogs, but not many. It is important to keep your distance, and it is always a good idea to talk to other owners beforehand, because they are an important tool in helping enforce behaviors. You can teach and guide, but if others don't know what you're doing, they could slow down or even completely reverse the process. Approach owners with calm, non-reactive dogs before taking yours out and ask if they wouldn't mind helping out. The dogs must be calm and non-reactive, ignoring other dogs or regarding them with a light curiosity. If they have excitement or aggression issues this will not work, because your dog will be too stirred up by their presence to focus on you. Advise your partners to walk on the other side of the road, in a place where you can pass them, circle around, and pass them again, repeating as much as you deem necessary. However, try not to overload your dogs brain with the lesson - I recommend an hour long session at most, morning and evening if possible. Holding your leash firmly in the middle, pass the other dog. When you notice your dog concentrating on the other dog - this can be head down, thousand yard stare, hackles raised, beginning to creep towards the other dog or a full blown attempted sprint - break the focus by a sharp jerk sideways, with the pressure on the choke chain and call their name once, firmly. Spin your dog away from the other dog and face you. Give the sit command, and reward. If you teach the "watch me" command, it helps tremendously. Have your partner continue walking their dog, not stopping and ignoring you and your dog. It is likely that your dog will put up a fight and continue their assault attempt, but stick to your guns and don't get frustrated.

    Again, the dog will feed off of your energy, and being frazzled or nervous is no help at all. It is also a side recommendation that you walk your dog before the exercise in an area where no other dogs are, or for dogs that like to play fetch, chuck the ball for them in an enclosed area for about twenty minutes. This helps burn off excess energy that would otherwise be redirected as aggression. For dogs that bite or snap at their owners when trying to get to another dog, it is recommended you use a muzzle. You can buy a cheap mesh muzzle at most chain pet stores. This can also cause trauma if you only bring out the muzzle and other tools in negative situations - teach your dog to get used to the muzzle by using it at home, placing treats on it so they can smell it and get a feel for the mesh while not directly having it on their face. Practice putting it on without buckling, holding it on their muzzle, stroking and talking to them in a reassuring voice. Use it a couple times buckled, letting your dog out to the bathroom supervised with it on for a short period of time. Remove it when they come back in and reward. Your dog may be uncomfortable at first, shaking their heads or rubbing their face on the ground, but it is best to ignore this behavior. As stated before, give your dog something to do to burn energy before you start your training exercise, or your dog will be more difficult to handle and less likely to listen to your commands. Once you have passed your partner and their dog and enforced the sit and watch ME, not the other dog, you continue on around the loop until you encounter your partner again, going through the same motions. Repeat. If you encounter a stranger and their dog, repeat these motions, making sure you are at a safe distance. Once your dog settles down, release tension in the leash, returning to a slack choke collar and directing the dog by using appropriate pressure on the end of the leash attached to the nylon. One of the biggest mistakes an owner can make is constant pressure/pulling on the lead. This can rile your dog up more, making them want to get at the other dog that much more, and become desensitized to cues that are given by lead pressure. Remain on a slack lead unless your dog is pulling to get to another, and even then, you should regain their focus by a sharp sideways tug, moving them to face you, and rewarding. The correction should always come from the side - imagine pulling straight back in this situation: one of your friends gets in a fistfight, and is engrossed in it, acknowledging little else. Holding them back only makes them want to move forward to strike the other person again, and pulling a dog back only makes it want to move forward more. You can severely damage your dogs trachea by pulling like this.

    Your dog should get the picture after a few sessions, and you should be able to walk them (though you'll more than likely always use your halti or choker and nylon combo when walking publicly on the off chance your dog does get stirred up) without much fuss. I have taught Tank (English Bulldog) to behave using this method, and I can walk him without fear of him going after our other dogs or someone else and their dog.

  • For fear-based aggression, my first step is to figure out why the dog behaves like this. Poor socialization as a pup, attacks by other dogs in the past, and general shyness is often the root of fear-based aggression. This type of behavior requires a lot of work, and a sensitive handler.

    For socialization, I never advise going to a dog park. While your dog may not misbehave, other people aren't as vigilant, and fights and hard roughhousing happen a lot. It isn't uncommon to encounter owners who just don't give a damn either - they let their dogs terrorize others and blame you for any resulting actions. For the shy dog, I would suggest getting a group of others together who have submissive, calm dogs. They must be relaxed, or your dog will feed off of their negative energy and snap when approached. Find a neutral gathering spot that isn't anyone's claimed territory - this can also bring out aggression. Sit and socialize with your friends, and, if you have a small dog, resist the urge to pick them up when they are frightened, as this teaches them that they can avoid others by going to you. For more extreme cases, you may want to muzzle your dog. Be sure to tune in to your dogs body language: signs like averting their eyes or focusing intently on others, a hunched back, a lowered head, a stiffly wagging, tucked, or held at a medium or maximum height tail, and hackles raising are just some of the signs you may want to look for. Do not coddle your dog if he seems fearful. Continue to be confident and calm and socialize with your friends, but do be prepared to dish out a correction if aggression occurs. Call your dogs name sharply, reprimand with a loud "NO!" and a pointed finger, and then return to what you were doing. This can take several weeks of devoted training.

  • For possessive and territorial aggression, like outright aggression, you must be clear-cut and aggressive (note - not abusive or overly forceful) in your training. Give an inch, and ten miles will be taken. In territorial aggression, you may want to take the nature of the case into consideration - if your dog is just looking out for his family by barking and generally patrolling his yard, I would not be too concerned. It is a good thing, especially in these times, to have a dog that isn't necessarily vicious, but can play the part and scare off would-be intruders. If your dog is aggressive to visitors in their home, that is another story.

    For overly territorial dogs that pose a threat to guests, I would advise starting your training at the door. Have a guest work with you, ringing the doorbell at intervals. The reactive dog will jump up, barking, perhaps with hackles raised or staring intently at the door. Work on getting your dog to back up - stand in front of the dog, using your knee to push against their mid-chest, while snapping and pointing behind them, saying, "Back." Make eye contact and enforce it. Don't let the dog push you around. Continue encouraging them to move backwards, slowly repeating the command. Don't go overboard - three or four times should suffice, depending on how far you are backing them up. Place them in the sit position, give the "Watch me" command, and reward. It helps if your dog knows lay and stay - you can place their bed in the room nearest the door and make them lay down and stay on their pillow. If your dog is known to bite, by all means, place a muzzle on him before you let your guest in. Make sure your guest knows to ignore the dog completely. As Caesar says, "No touch, no talk, no eye contact." Allow the dog to sniff guests, but don't encourage prolonged fixation. For jumpers, inform your guest that if the dog jumps, they are to turn their back on the dog, which will bring them back down on all fours, and continue ignoring the dog, and if possible, going a different direction to get to where they were going. Encourage your dog to ignore guests - once they have calmed down, you can remove the muzzle and let the dog roam. Again, the guest is to ignore the dog completely while the dog gets used to their presence. Any sign of aggression towards the guest, and your dog should be sharply reprimanded using their name, and stepping in between the dog and the guest and giving them the back command. Once they have backed up, place the muzzle back on, and keep in place until the dog has calmed down again. After a while, you may give your guest a treat to give the dog, held on a flat palm, and given the sit command by them. Have them slowly lower their hand to chest level in a non-threatening and calm manner and give the dog a treat. Practice as often as possible.

    For possessive aggression, there are different fixations. These can be possessiveness over certain people, areas of the house, toys, and food.

    For possessiveness over people, the main enforcer of training should be the person who the dog finds his duty to "protect", which will be referred to here as the "MO" (main offender). Many people think it is cute, until they have a full grown dog lashing out at passers-by and biting other family members. This is a direct result of not being given boundaries and rules. The MO should discourage the dog from sitting on or around them constantly. Give the back command if the dog is too close. Never coddle a dog that shows aggressive behavior when someone approaches. Reprimand with their name called sharply, a no, and take them outside for a time out. The MO should also discourage overly excited behavior when being greeted by the dog by ignoring them until they are calm, and reward with just a pat or two. They are never to get excited and allow the dog to jump all over them. If the dog jumps, they are to do an about face, which brings the dog back to all fours, walk away, and continue ignoring. The whole family should be involved in setting down basic rules and training, such as not allowing the dog on furniture or beds (this means NEVER sleeping with you or climbing on furniture), teaching basic obedience (sit, stay, lay, come, recall, watch me, off), discouraging excited behavior, and all should treat the dog as a dog rather than another human. It can be difficult, but if you want a well-behaved dog, you must put an end to this behavior. Correct swiftly any time they get out of hand. The dog may approach family members by invite only - you set the rules for when and where it is appropriate for them to show affection. In some cases, muzzling may be necessary during the first few sessions.

    For milder cases of food aggression, I recommend the following course of action...

    1. Feed on a strictly set schedule. It must be the same time, day in and day out.
    2. Do not make a big deal out of feeding time. Do not encourage the dog to get excited during the anticipation of getting a meal.
    3. Feed in small increments. A half handful at a time is suitable. Have a partner hold the dog on a training lead (10 ft+), with the dog at their heels in the sit position. Set the food down as far as possible from the dog. Make sure the dog is in a continual sit until you place the dish down and back away. Allow the dog to go eat, still on the long lead. Once he has finished, have your partner call him back to them and make him sit again. Go pick up the bowl and place more kibbles in, repeating the same actions as before. Feed a kibble or two by hand with a flat palm held out while the dog is calmly sitting. Repeat this during every meal time. Know that this should help curb the behavior, but will not prevent your dog from lashing out should you bend down to touch the dog or his bowl while he is eating. I never recommend letting small children or animals near while eating.
    4. If your dog is aggressive towards other animals during feeding time, the solution is easy: do not allow other animals in the vicinity. Feed separately and make sure your dog is out of eyesight of others, as this can make them nervous and more prone to wolfing down their food or showing aggression. If your dog does not show aggression towards humans, you can remove the food as punishment if the dog begins showing signs of aggression, and replacing it when the dog is calm.

    For possession over treats and toys, I advise teaching your dog the trade command, the release command, the watch me command, the out command, and the leave it command, all of which will be explained in the next post. Use the command "trade" while holding a more desirable object, and giving it to the dog. You can also use the "leave it" command and get your dog to walk away from the object, and then giving them the "out" command when they leave the object, getting the dog to exit the room, and picking up the object. You may want to remove the object from their reach as punishment. You can start of with allowing your dog to handle the object with a muzzle on, and placing your (jean and shoe clad) leg between the dog and the object, getting the dog to back away using the "back" command and picking the object up. Make the dog sit and lay, discouraging the dog from focusing on the object by a sharp (but not aggressive) push sideways and enforcing the commands. Reward by replacing the object, but remove if the dog begins showing possession over it.
These are general recommendations - I have worked with quite a few cases and not

all dogs will respond to the same techniques. Find out what makes your dog tick, and if possible, consult a professional for advice and further training. Before any training, I always advise draining excess energy that can manifest into aggression. Watch your dog closely, and brush up on your body language. The biggest complication in training is an owners inability to read body language, and it is the foremost tool you can use in these situations. Practice caution and safety in all your sessions, or it can cost dearly. Always be vigilant and alert.

In the next post, I will detail some commands that every owner should know, whether or not they are working with an aggression case. Stay tuned.