• CARING FOR YOUR DOG, ​ NOT YOUR EGO.

    CARING FOR YOUR DOG, ​ NOT YOUR EGO.

Yup, this one is surely going to get some feathers ruffled but it’s a must.  Yet again I heard a story from a fellow dog professional who was called in to evaluate a dog for placement in a new home.  Why? Because the humans are idiots.  I hear this all the time and the vast number of people who own dogs, and shouldn’t, is having an increasingly negative effect on responsible dog owners everywhere.  My suggestion? A new form of dog license.   Just like you have to pass a test to drive a car you should have to pass some type of test or evaluation to own a dog.

THE PROBLEM

According to the ASPCA there are almost 80 million dogs owned in the United States.  Re-read that last sentence.  Can you picture that?  Can any of us really comprehend what that looks like and what that means?  Also realize that number does not include strays nor does include those who simply haven’t been accounted for.

Why is that statistic directly under what I labeled as “THE PROBLEM”?  It’s a problem because common sense simply says that we don’t have that many
responsible dog owners!  Those of us dog people who read and watch the news are constantly hearing about some negative dog related incident in the media.  From babies getting bitten, loose dogs roaming neighborhoods, and even the horrid crimes of animal abuse all plague our dog heavy population.  If you are a dog owner and have ever tried to acquire a rental you are very familiar with the scrutiny and crap you have to deal with to convince the potential landlord you are not one of “those” dog owners who will allow dog excrement to destroy their unit.

When I have a dog with me for training I have to be very careful what time of day I take them for walks.  I have designated windows I try and stay within; before 6am, 11am-2pm, and after 9pm.  Can you guess where I came up with those times?  Those are when I am least likely to encounter another dog owner in my neighborhood!  It still blows m
y mind that people open their front doors and garages and let their dogs “hang out” to go to the bathroom.  I’m a dog trainer who even when I have complete control over a dog, I simply don’t take that chance because I am conscious about the consequences.

Almost every situation I have ever come across or heard of regarding a child that was bitten by a dog, the entire situation could have been prevented by the dog owner.  Stupid, idiotic, ignorant people who allow dogs and children to interact unsupervised, or even worse, who allow children to abuse their dogs because they think “its cute”, are more common than any of us want to accept.

I have a solution that would move the negative trend of idiot ownership of dogs in the right direction.

THE SOLUTION

If you want to drive a car you have to take a test and pass an evaluation.  Why? So that we as a society can make some attempt to curtail utter and complete morons from getting behind the wheel.  If people without the license get caught behind the wheel there are consequences.  Does that solve the problem of people who shouldn’t be behind the wheel being there anyway? Not 100% no.  To expect 100% success though is just as retarded as expecting that every person who has a dog knows how to care for it, train it, control it, and protect society from it.  It is a step in the right direction though.

I have met more people with dogs who should NEVER own a dog in their life than I have met who should.  Remember the above figure, 80 million dogs. If we could weed out th
e most incompetent of those dog owners society would be better off for it along with the responsible dog owners.

There should be a basic written test that would require somebody research and learn the most fundamental aspects of dog ownership.  This test to acquire a dog license would cost money to take and when you pass it, just like a driver’s license, there are regular renewal fees.  Yes, I am suggesting that you pay fees to acquire a license to own a dog.  You have a problem with that? Really? Think about it.  If you cant afford 50-60 dollars every 2 years then you DEFINITELY can’t responsibly afford to take care of a dog.  End of conversation on that point of contention.  The money could go towards maintaining the entire process with a portion going towards maintaining and supporting animal shelters.

Less idiot dog owners means less dogs in shelters.  Money being put into the system through fees and testing costs would be put back into the system to assist existing shelters.  Plus, those found in violation would have monetary penalties that would create additional revenue to help the various programs to assist dogs in the community.

The list of potential upsides to this is endless.  The biggest problems with dogs is humans.  Here is a way to cut down on the number of people who own dogs yet have no business owning them in the first place.  For the pit bull community this would have a DRAMATIC effect helping this breed avoid some of the negativity it currently is experiencing due to human related issues.

 

 

What do you think?

Should Municipalities/Cities require potential dog owners to pass a minimum basic skills assessment and obtain a paid license to own a dog?

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Everybody who has a dog and yes, even those without all know what fetch is.  The trademark game to play with your dog has been around since the beginning of dogs interacting with humans.  Yet for many who own a dog, a mental image of playing the game is about as close as they get to actually enjoying it.

fetch

THE PROBLEM

It’s simple.  You throw the ball and your dog blasts off after it in a cloud of dust and grass clippings.  Once in his mouth, the ball will go on a looooong journey before it ever finds itself in your grasp again.  Your dog loves to chase the ball, get the ball, hold on to the ball, and enjoy the ball all by himself at that point.  Your attempts at the game of fetch consist of one throw and zero retrieves.

THE HACK

It’s even more simple than the problem itself.  Instead of playing “fetch”, play a different game altogether.  We will call this game “2 Ball”.  No tricks here, you will simply use TWO balls instead of one.  You throw one ball and as your dog gets it and perhaps begins to move in your direction you take out the second ball and let him know you have it.

The key is that at this point you have to do some salesmanship.  Your job is to make your dog think that the ball you have in your hand is more awesome than the one in his mouth.  As he runs up to you prepare to throw the 2nd ball.

Timing is essential here.  The moment the dog drops the first ball is when you throw the 2nd.  What you are teaching him is that he only gets the “cooler” ball when he spits out the 1st ball.

BOOM!  NOW YOU’RE PLAYING FETCH

The next step is to get the dog to let go of the ball on command.  I’ll cover that in another Training Hack coming soon.

 

Enjoy!

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I’ve always been a big Robert Redford fan as well as Brad Pitt. There is a scene in a movie they both were in, Spy Game, that came up in a dog related situation the other day that I think is super important to share.

If you haven’t seen the movie you should, it’s great. There is a scene in particular where the seasoned CIA “spy handler” played by Redford is teaching an aspiring spy played by Pitt how to be observant.   The two sit in a restaurant and Redford demonstrates how without appearing to do so, he has cataloged everybody in the room into his memory and determined whether there are any potential threats.  While very impressive, I wouldn’t try this trick on a first date as the creep factor might be a bit too much to deal with.

 

WHAT’S THIS HAVE TO DO WITH DOGS?

When at the park with a friend the other day with a very high drive and reactive dog I am working with, my friend asked to participate in the game of fetch I was playing with the dog. I quickly obliged and explained where I wanted him to throw the ball. When asked why I wanted the ball to be thrown in a specific direction, I explained to my friend that there is a Great Pyrenees dragging a 90lb woman around the parking lot to our 6 o clock, a small Havanees/mix off leash with a senior citizen struggling to use a cellphone at our 8 o clock, and a cat stalking something along the fence line about 100 yards to our 9 o clock. Hence why I said throw to our 12!

He laughed and jokingly asked if I used to work for the CIA, brought up the scene from that movie and then I explained to him one of the most important aspects of dog ownership.

 

AWARENESS

Whether you have a dog that you know has challenges with certain elements of the environment or you have a super stable well balanced dog who could care less about anything, your head should be on a swivel when out in the world with your dog. As far as I am concerned it comes with the package of responsibility that is owning a dog.

If I know my dog has issues with cats and there is a strong chance I will lose control of her if she gets within proximity of one, then I’m always looking to make sure I see the cat before she does. This gives me the ability to control the situation and perhaps turn it into a training moment that will help the overall situation.

Where some people get confused is why I say even the stable dog owner should be as diligently observant. While your dog might be fine, what bout the other less observant dog owner of the dog that is NOT stable? My job is to protect not just others from my dog but, even more importantly to protect my dog from others!

 

RADAR

If there is a threat in the environment I need to be the first one to know. Yes, I realize one of the perks about having dog is that they provide an element of security and protection for us and yes sometimes it is the acute senses of smell and hearing of the dog that let me know when something is up. However, that doesn’t let me off the hook for doing whatever I can to protect my beloved canine from its own desires and drives or the desires and drives of another. Once I enter the outside world with my dog my radar is ON.

 

It is our job to protect them first.  Accept the responsibility or get a goldfish.

 

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Thinking of buying a dog?  You need to read this first, there is a very real chance you’re not ready.  Already have a dog?  No worries, this might help you tighten up your game a bit.
buying a dog is not a light decision

So you are thinking about buying a dog (or adopting/rescuing).  This is the perfect opportunity for you to double, triple, or even quadruple check your decision to become a dog owner. You’re not buying a new TV, motorcycle, or even a car. A dog has 24/7 needs and is a living, breathing, thinking, feeling, loving, hurting, being.   That’s heavy, I know.

Here are 10 big things to think about before beginning to even think about selecting a do (dog selection is a completely separate and substantial topic to be covered later).

DURATION

Depending on the breed you are considering, dogs have lifespans that range from 8-10 years on the low range to upwards of 15+ on the high side. For a lot of people, rescuing is the best option and mixed breeds are known for their health and longevity. Plan on spending the next 10-15 years being focused on the things on the rest of this list.

Are you ready for a commitment that long?

COST

Allow me to tell you the simple fact that dogs ain’t cheap. Far from it. People have no clue what they are getting into, hence why I am making a point to let them know right now.

I have owned dogs of various sizes and breeds for over 20 years. With all that experience it is safe to say I know how and when to cut costs, and when to bite the bullet. The average owner or even the new owner for that matter does not have that experience or knowledge, which means they pay the most.

It is very safe to say that you can expect to spend $2000 a year on the VERY low end of a medium sized dog, and upwards of $3,000 a year for that same medium sized dog. That is a VERY rough estimate. Obviously that does not account for emergencies, which cost a LOT of money.

Food and regular veterinary care are the most expensive and regular costs. I am 100% against feeding your dog any type of dog food that you buy in the dog food isle of the grocery store. If you are feeding raw food, then fine, a human store is acceptable. Generally speaking though, all the quality dog food is either going to be at a feed store (if you live in a rural area) or a specialty dog store (urban folks). The good dog food is not cheap, but it is worth every penny.

Bottom line, dogs cost money and you need to be prepared for that. You should anticipate setting a minimum of $100 a month aside for your dog’s care and anything leftover gets rolled over to save for that unforeseen trip to the vet because your dog thought those new Victoria Secret panties were for dinner.

Are you ready for 15 years of that?

WORK

Does your job even provide you with the time to be a good dog owner? What time do you have to be to work? You will need to get up even earlier to take Fido for a walk. What time do you get home from work? Don’t forget, he’s been holding his pee ALL day. Do you work alternating shifts? Dog’s thrive on consistency and need to know what to expect on a daily basis when it comes to their food and bathroom breaks.

Are you ready to look for a new job if you have to?

VACATIONS

I can tell you from personal experience that dogs and vacations can be quite the combination. For me, it meant no vacations for many years. My situation was slightly different because I owned very aggressive dogs who required very specialized care. That does not apply to 99% of people who might be reading this, however instead of missing vacations like I did, they will simply have to spend more money.

You will need to either find a very trustworthy friend, a quality boarding facility, or plan on finding a pet friendly destination. All of these cost extra money which can get added to the costs of ownership. It’s not cheap as in this case you definitely get what you pay for.  If the price is surprisingly low it is for a reason.  Invest time in deciding who will care for your dog in your absence.  

Are you ready for 15 years of that?

FRIDAY NIGHTS

When you have had the work week from hell nothing seems as sweet as a Friday afternoon.   Just as you get to the parking lot and prepare to embark upon a Happy Hour marathon, it hits you. Responsibility comes creeping into your agenda and suddenly Happy Hour is a fantasy not soon to be experienced.

We will make an assumption on your behalf and give you credit for making the only correct choice in such a situation. Going home to take care of your best friend who has been unable to go to the bathroom for at least 8 hours is the only choice. Hence why Happy Hour isn’t going to happen.

Most people can’t fathom holding their bladders for a 3 hour plane flight.  How about your dog who has been holding it all day while you are at work?   Whether in crate or on a couch, there is no difference. Owning a dog means coming home when you need to come home, no excuses. If you want to go out, then you are going back out after providing  not only a bathroom break, but a nice long walk for your dog to drain the days built up energy along with the bladder.

Are you ready for 15 years of that?

SATURDAY MORNINGS

If by some chance you do find yourself either going out, or simply consuming a good time at home, it matters not. You will be getting up at the butt crack of dawn by way of a tongue bath on your face or the worlds loudest tap dancing tournament coming from your dog’s crate.

It has been all night and yes, its bathroom time again. Forget your self induced pain and nausea, that poor dog of yours it seeing yellow for Christ’s sake!

Are you ready for 15 years of that?

SOCIAL LIFE

If it doesn’t include your dog, it certainly isn’t going to be too active.  Here’s a tip, just find other people with similar dog interests as you.  It’s just easier that way, don’t fight it, let it happen.

Are you ready for 15 years of that?

CONSISTENCY

For many of us, consistency is something that is struggled with on a daily basis and often in a non-dog context. The discipline required to manage one’s life in an organized and efficient level can seem challenging and difficult to maintain. We manage, sometimes enjoying moments of organized thought, only to return to our own self created chaos. The best part is we apply labels to those who do have the discipline and ability to be consistent in their lives. What used to apply to a specific diagnosis of unpractical routine and sickness, think Jack Nicholson in As Good As It Gets, is now a jab we throw at those who simply are better than us at this seemingly daunting task. They are no more OCD than we are ICD, IN – consistency disorder!

When we move the conversation to dogs the only thing that changes is the very real consequences of our inconsistencies. Dogs that are not on a routine are not only prone to housebreaking issues but also more  behaviorally challenging.

Animals need regular and predictable schedules. Especially the house dog who is notoriously under-stimulated as it is. Predictability is paramount in the dogs psyche and the more she can count on things like regular bathroom opportunities and scheduled long walks, the less anxiety and hyperactive behavior you will have to deal with from the her.

If you want to be a good dog owner, which you should for your dog’s sake, then you must create a schedule and stick to it. While this really isn’t an article on canine behavior, it does need to be mentioned that consistency also applies to how you communicate with your dog and the rules and boundaries you establish and maintain.

Are you ready for 15 years of that?

TIME

This is a huge one and the most often overlooked. The time commitment required is huge. As I mentioned earlier, you are not buying a toy or inanimate object. You are thinking about acquiring another living and feeling being on this earth. This is some serious shit. Really, it is.

You got a hint by reading all the previous sections that there is a lot involved. Now add to it the necessary mental and physical stimulation to keep your dog happy. An unhappy dog is a dog with a shitty owner. Some people think that hugs when convenient for them makes their dog happy. This is not so. Actually, there are going to be plenty of times over the course of your dog’s life when what they need will be anything but convenient for you.

Every single day, that dog needs to be engaged, mentally challenged, and exercised. Luckily if you are getting a dog for just that, the interaction, then it will be an incredibly fulfilling experience. Otherwise, you might be in for a rough trip. Allow me to inform you now in case you didn’t know…..A 5 minute potty break does not count as a walk. A walk is 30-45 minutes of stimulating, brisk, mental and physical stimulation. When you don’t provide that for your dog bad things start happening. Under stimulated dogs who do not get enough quality time from their owners get destructive, anxious, obnoxious, and in some cases, dangerously aggressive. If you aren’t’ ready for 2-3 hours a day then don’t get a dog. I mean it. Get a cat or a fish.

Are you ready for 15 years of that?

And the number 1…..

 SACRIFICE

You will indeed have to sacrifice a great many things to be a good dog owner. While some of the majors have been covered in this article, it is impossible to list everything as much will depend on your own individual situation.

The point is, are you ready for what could be well over the next 10 years of your life, to sacrifice whatever is necessary to be a worthy dog owner? I say worthy because it truly is us who are on the receiving end of a gift when it comes to owning a dog.

Ask yourself…..should I be buying a dog?  Is it that time or perhaps not just yet?

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Picturephoto credit: Cato on the driveway via photopin (license)

This tip comes from a visit I had the other day with a friend of mine and the dog was hanging out with us.  The topic of dog names is not uncommon or often overlooked.  What is overlooked is how to make best usage of them and how to avoid the common mistakes.

MARSHA MARSH MARSHAAAAA

I kept hearing that Brady Bunch line in my head as my friend was repeatedly saying their dog’s name over and over again trying to get their attention (yes, I just dated myself with that TV reference).  I won’t say the dog’s name here to protect the canine’s identity (not the human’s) but over and over and over again the human was saying the very distracted dog’s name.  The dog obviously wasn’t interested in what the owner wanted, along with the strong possibility the dog didn’t even understand what their name means and how they should respond when they hear it.

I looked at my friend with that look he is very familiar with.

“OK, what am I doing wrong” he said in a not so excited tone and sighed.

I sighed as well and broke it down for him.

What’s In a Name?

​In my article that you can read HERE, I go into far more detail on a dog’s name and what it really means and how you can use it.  For now though here is a quick tip that can improve your dog’s response to their name.

Go back to the basics, cut up some hotdogs or vienna sausages into teeny pieces to start and throw them in a tupperware or similar container.  Usually once you reach for that stuff the dog is at your heels in anticipation of receiving some of those goodies so put the container on the counter and forget about it for awhile.

When you get a moment, swing by the container and pick up a few morsels.  If your dog is following you again, wait a few moments until they get distracted then you can begin.

As soon as your dog turns their head or looks away, say their name ONE time.  As soon as the dog looks at you extend your hand with a treat.  THAT’S IT.  Nothing more nothing less.  At this point no verbal praise is not even necessary.

Repeat this for up to 10 times then take a break.

Repeat this process as often as you like following the same incredibly simple formula.

STOP
Another helpful tip is to stop overusing your dog’s name.  When the dog hears their name something good should be immediately following it.  NEVER NEVER NEVER EVER use their name prior to giving them a correction.  That’s a rule. Don’t break it.

That’s it, just a super quick tip for those who notice their dog is resembling a defiant pubescent 14 year old teenager.

Is there MUCH more to a name? ABSOLUTELY, that’s why I wrote a full article on it and included a link above.

KD

Any tips or experiences you’d like to share?!?!  Please do!


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Picturephoto credit: Teddy Claus via photopin (license)

After driving 20 hours from my current residence in Florida to visit the folks in my hometown in upstate NY, I must admit I was a bit disappointed to learn that Santa will be sporting his bathing suit on Christmas Eve with temperatures expected to reach 70 F.  I could have stayed home for that kind of weather!  One thing is for sure though, dogs up here are getting the opportunity for much more outdoor activity this winter than ever before!  Of course I went there, this is a dog blog!

So after arguing with my father today to fire up the woodstove even though its in the high 50’s, I wiped the sweat from my brow (its way too hot to run the stove but I didn’t drive up here to turn on the AC!!) and decided to give you all some friendly reminders about how to manage the holiday season with our 4-legged family members.  While many dog savvy folks have heard about some of these, there are new dog owners born every day who need all the help we can give them.  So take a quick read, refresh your memory, and share with your FB friends and family or email to a new dog owner who could use a a little help.

While I would like to say these are in no particular order the first one is something I will never cease trying to burn into people’s minds…..you’ve heard it before from me, and you will most certainly hear it again…

1. NO DOGS AS GIFTS!!!

I will spare you the long version of my lecture, if you want to hear it or know somebody who needs to hear it click HERE for the link to the article I previously wrote on the subject.
The short of it is that dogs/puppies are not items or inanimate objects.  They are living breathing creatures of this planet just  like us.  Bringing such a being into one’s life is a major decision that takes time, research, planning, and COMMITMENT.  All of which make a dog something that should NEVER be given as a gift.  Don’t do it.

2.  HOLIDAY POISONS

A lot of people freak out over Poinsettias but they really aren’t as deadly as some might think.  While there are some unhealthy effects of a dog eating one of these rather common and attractive Holiday plants, death is rare and only happens if extreme amounts are ingested.  You must be far more careful of watching your dog around the ornaments and especially any electrical configurations you came up with to accommodate an overzealous attempt to have the most lights possible.  Electrocution is far more common than poisoning.  I found THIS little article that clears up some of the poisonous plant information and is worth the read if you are looking for a little more information.

3. WATCH THE SCRAPS

Even the most nutritionally conscious of us find the most amazing ways to rationalize eating crap during the holidays.  As I type this I am indulging in sweet potato pie with that aresol whipped cream, a tall glass of super rich egg nog with a healthy dose of Sailor Jerry, and a plate full of my mother’s famous apricot turnover cookies.  Yes, I will eat it all, before I finish typing this.

What will follow this debauchery will be a non stop churning and burning that no amount of Tums can sooth as well as me claiming exclusive rights to one of their bathrooms until I leave to head home next week.  In other words, I will pay for my sins.  I indulge well aware of the penalty however my human dysfunctions will allow me to do so repeatedly for this entire week.  Our dogs however do not have the same access to health blogs explaining where all those excess calories will be stored nor do they have the awareness to know what will happen to their colons if they were to enjoy the same horrendous assortment of holiday delights.

A healthy dog will eat whatever is put in front of them, good or bad.  When you put a plate of holiday leftovers in front of your pet, they will eat it with enthusiasm.  I highly doubt you will have the same enthusiasm when cleaning the vomit and diarrhea from the carpet several hours later.  Nevermind the clean up, think about the discomfort your dog is in when their stomachs turn inside out.  YOU did that to them.  Even worse is the perfectly housebroken dog who simply cant contain the explosive diarrhea that is about to detonate all over the kitchen.  Imagine the anxiety you are causing them as they struggle to contain the dynamite within?  YOU did that to them.  You are not “treating” them to a special treat, you are giving them a one way ticket to discomfort and illness.

Don’t do it.  Stick to the regularly scheduled feedings.

4. PICK UP AFTER YOURSELF

As we loosen the restrictions on our eating habits, other things tend to get lax as well.  Even the most disciplined might find themselves relaxing a bit on Christmas morning before picking up the disaster that is an excited child in a room full of securely wrapped gifts.  Paper, tape, and ribbons will litter the floor along with new pieces of various need to be assembled toys that have yet to find their homes.

All of this holiday debris poses endless adventure for the curious canine.  Those who have a tendency to put new and interesting things in their mouths will find all the stimulation they can hope for along with the impacted and obstructed bowels that will follow.  If your dog is out and about on Christmas day be sure to be extra diligent in cleaning up after your festivities as promptly as possible to avoid any potential emergencies.

A bowel obstruction will have some trademark signs that you will be able to see.  Click HERE for more information on what to look for and how to handle it.

5.  DON’T FORGET THE DOG!!

I realize the holidays are a time for spending quality moments with friends, family, and those who have traveled some ways to be with us.  Life is short so take full advantage of this time to enjoy having them in your lives.  The same goes for the dog.  If you are enjoying time off from work then be sure to spend some of that extra time with your dog.  At the very least spend the same amount you usually do.

Forgetting these furry family members just isn’t acceptable.  Not only is is just wrong, but you will be asking for behavioral consequences as the dogs daily need for mental and physical stimulation is not being met.  This is the perfect time to create new habits such as 45 minute daily walks, trips to the park, or long walks exploring nearby nature trails.  This unseasonably warm weather removes one of the major excuses you have been using.

What other tips can you think of that might belong on this list? Share your thoughts and comments below!

​Happy Holidays!!

KD


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If you follow me on Facebook you’ve seen me barking a lot  at people to get out and spend time with their dogs.  Sorry to disappoint you, but I won’t be letting up anytime soon.  One of the biggest causes of behavior issues with dogs is that their owners simply neglect their needs.  I realize that sentence has offended several football stadiums worth of people as they lay in bed spooning with Fido and their smartphone, but as I’ve said plenty of times, cuddles aren’t at the top of list of needs your dog came with.

One thing I’ve learned in years of both human and dog training is that for every one thing you prohibit or say is bad, you should provide several positive alternatives.  After making such a fuss about people not stimulating their dog’s mind and body, I’ve made the negative rather clear so it is only fitting I provide some options for those dedicated to the best needs of their dog and willing to change their ways for the better.  There are tons of great dog activities out there.

Here we go, my top 5 suggestions for what to do this weekend with your dog:

5.  Go For a Walk

If you didn’t see this one coming it’s safe to say you’re new to KD Mathews.  I won’t let this bone drop, ever, so let’s hurry up and get it out of the way and get on to the rest of the list.

I’ll spare you the mini novel on the history of dogs and how walking long distances is what they were designed to dating back to their wolf ancestors.  Take my word for it , walking is one of the easiest and most readily accessible way to physically and mentally stimulate your dog.  Going for long walks is more than just a physical activity.  The act of traveling together triggers the pack drive that lies within the psyche of the dog as well as provides a great deal of mental stimulation for the dog (assuming you and your dog know how to walk together properly – I’ll cover that in another post).

Generally speaking, set a goal for 45 minutes.  If you are properly walking your dog, that is a good amount of time to get some quality stimulation in.  If this is new for you and you need to break things into smaller steps to achieve success, start with 20 minutes and work your way up.  If you have the time and ability to go longer then by all means do so.  There are some situations where this simply isn’t possible due to the health and physical condition of human and/or dog.  Common sense prevails.  If it is a human limitation however, there are alternatives.  A number of companies have really done well at creating treadmills for dog use.  This eliminates the excuse that you can’t go for the walk.  Teach your dog to use the treadmill and the reality will be that your dog gets even better exercise than if you hired a daily dog walker!

4.  Explore

If your dog has already started killing all the trees in a 3 mile radius from marking them daily, or you simply don’t have the kind of neighborhood conducive to extended walking (safety issues from bad people OR bad dogs, I’ve experienced both), then it’s time to explore.  If walking in a familiar area is awesome for stimulating mind and body, exploring new areas with your dog is that much better.

Get on Google and search up local trails or public access conservation areas.  If you open Google maps you can also quickly scan for anything green then dig deeper to see what options you have.  Even urban dwellers have access often times to areas dedicated to walking or providing some type of alternative to concrete jungles.

Going into a new environment with your dog also provides you with a prime opportunity to demonstrate your leadership abilities (providing you have some).  This is where your dog will look to you for guidance, reassurance, and control.  Every opportunity you have to demonstrate those attributes to your dog is an opportunity to further deepen your already growing bond of trust and love.  That’s what dogs do with each other.  Even those evolution has changed them from being wolves to dogs, left in social environments without humans, stray dogs often form groups and cover large expanses of territory lead by the one that provides the most guidance and leadership.  Plus it gets you both out and about which can provide some great opportunities for you to be engaged as well.

3.  Try Some Tricks

Getting bored with the basics?  Looking for something more engaging than a simple walk?  Teaching your dog to do tricks is a super fun way to keep your dogs brain busy as well as strengthening your bond and developing your communication skills.

Go to your local pet store and grab a handful of the cheapest “clickers” you can find.  Go to the bookstore or as I seem to do far too often, log onto Amazon, and grab one of the many books on beginning trick training.  There are TONS of books on the subject and honestly most are awesome.

Make sure you are not using store-bought treats and instead either make your own or find some cheap hot dogs and cut them up into TINY pieces.  The goal is to reward your dog with something yummy so they know they are doing what you want as opposed to feeding them a meal.  Also be sure to account for the additional calories coming from treats and adjust their main feedings accordingly.  I HATE seeing fat dogs.

2.  Join A Club

One of the reasons we love dogs is because they can do anything you can teach them to do.  Why not find out what your dog excels at and find a club that specializes in just that.  Most major cities have a very healthy assortment of specialty clubs that allow humans to get together and teach, train, exhibit, and even compete with their dogs at various dog centric activities.

The list of possibilities is rather healthy.  You know your dog better than anybody else so Google around.  Here are a few club suggestions:

  • obedience
  • confirmation
  • detection
  • search & rescue
  • flyball
  • dock diving
  • hunting & retrieving
  • protection
  • tracking
  • ratting (yes, I said ratting and if you have a terrier you already know what I mean!)

This not only gives your dog something exciting to look forward to, but the social side for the humans is rather fun as well.  It is a chance for your dog to be stimulated and really develop their skills and for you to make some new friends and add to your list of fun things to do with your dog.

And here it is……..

the number one…..

numero uno…….

wait for it……….

1. Just do SOMETHING with your dog….ANYTHING….I beg you on behalf of your dog…..

Was that wrong of me? Kinda dirty to include all the build up then just tell you what I’ve been beating into you non stop.  I know,   but hear me out before you hate me more than you already do for my abrupt, direct, sugar-free coating style  of communication.

I just want your dog to be happy and I know you want that even more than I do.  Making the conscious choice to start spending quality time with your canine companion in a constructive and productive is more than half the battle.  Whatever you decide to do, do it with love and the intent to mentally and physically stimulate your dog.  The rest will work itself out.

There is a TON of stuff to do with your dog.  Tell us in the comments what you find to be a blast for you two and maybe you’ll give somebody a great idea and help them keep their dog happy!!

KD


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Perfect type of place to explore!
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As I make a return to the keyboard, a million things have rushed through my mind on what to share, what to say, what to complain about, what to yell at you for not doing with your dog…etc etc….While in the midst of ADD paralysis last night brainstorming I suddenly knew exactly what I wanted to share with you.

Reading is something that for some of us is a luxury.  It takes time, plain and simple.  Somewhere along the line I managed to take the time to pick up a book and give it a read.  The book was easy to pick up as my good friend and mentor Wayne Dodge played a major part in the author’s experiences that drove the content, and I had been seeing it all over my Facebook feed  Author Mike Ritland, a former member of our nation’s elite Navy SEALs, has taken his life experience with a very unique population of dogs and shared it with us in his book Trident K9 Warriors.

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The majority of the population has no idea what goes on with this truly unique group of soldiers, let alone the dogs they work side by side with.  Honestly in my time working in the world of protection dogs I feel rather comfortable saying even the majority of self proclaimed “experts” and “master dog trainers” have never even laid eyes on the caliber of dogs employed by the SEALs.

Ritland introduces the readers to these animals in a very easy to read book that will have you turning page after page effortlessly.  Starting out with some background information, you get to meet Ritland and find out who he is and what got him started on a path that would take him around the globe and put him in contact with the best dogs the world has to offer.

I could go on and on giving you details and blabbing about how amazing of a read it was but then you would lose precious moments of your time reading my rambling leaving you with less time to read this book.  I’ll sum up my thoughts on how great of a book this is by sharing this one super brief story.  

My mother called me one night to tell me about this book she read that was one of the best reads she had the pleasure of enjoying in awhile.  Even with that introduction I was simply humoring her as I was sure I would have little to no interest in any type of book my mother would recommend, but she is my mother, so I pretended to be immensely interested.  My mother is not a dog person by any stretch of the imagination so my jaw hit the floor when she said the title.  I remember asking her, “You actually read THAT book?”  She scoffed at my disbelief and went on and on how much she enjoyed it and then asking me questions about the training and dogs involved in the content.  We actually talked about dogs for more than 30 seconds, a new record for her and I.   

If you are a dog person, read the book.  If you aren’t a dog person, read the book.   You won’t regret it.  And if you do, feel free to comment below so myself and the others can alienate and criticize you for your poor taste in reading material. 

To learn more about the author of Trident K9 Warriors click HERE.

KD


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photo credit: OakleyOriginals via photopin cc

 

Ok, so maybe this is part rant, part advice, or perhaps it’s 100% rant, and I just want to pass it off as advice…either way…..here it is…..

If you or somebody you know buys a puppy for somebody else, for a holiday gift, AFTER reading this post, you seriously need help, because something is wrong with you.

 

Dogs are living breathing creatures.  Dogs have very specific needs that last their lifetime, which can be up to 15 years.  If these needs are not met, the dog will not have a good life, nor will it’s humans.

If those three sentences don’t paint an incredibly simple justification for NOT giving a puppy a gift then you already fall into the mentally challenged category, and I suppose I will have to continue this rant in efforts to educate you.

A GIFT OR A NEW SET OF CHORES?

Would you give a child as a gift?  Why not?  Ohhhhhhhh, that’s different right?  How?

Both REQUIRE large amounts of dedicated time to raise properly.  We are not talking about a fish that you leave alone and feed once in a while.  Dog require daily time, energy, and commitment to raise properly.  Those requirements don’t go away and a dog has the potential of being a part of your family for many years.  When those requirements are not met, you get a smorgasbord of undesirable behaviors including increased potential for aggression which could lead to a human getting hurt.  In MANY cases, it results in the dog being brought to a shelter and doomed to a very unpleasant fate.

Animal shelters are preparing for the post holiday rush.  They are well aware of the ignorant and inconsiderate habit of humans to buy dogs for each other as gifts.  This goes back to my frustration at the overall state of “un-education” on dogs in this country.  People simply have not been taught what a dog is, and what they require.  This is part of the reason this blog exists.

CAN YOU RESPONSIBLY OWN A DOG?

So lets talk about the seriousness of owning a dog. Ask yourself or somebody considering getting one the following questions….

Am I prepared to get up at the same time, every day, of every week, of every month, of every year, for up to 15 years?

–       Even if it’s cold?

–       Even if it’s raining?

–       Even if I’m sick?

–       Even if I was up late enjoying the company of Jim Beam and Jack and Daniel?

Am I prepared to dedicate at LEAST 90 minutes a day to directly stimulating my dog’s mind and body, every day, for up to 15 years?

–       Even if I’m tired

–       Even if I’m upset

–       Even if I have other things to do

–       Even if I simply don’t feel like it

Am I prepared to provide regular medical care, both preventative and reactionary regardless of cost or inconvenience?

–       Even if Id rather spend my money on something else

ANOTHER GIFT OPTION PERHAPS?

Listen, this is just a brief snippit of a much larger picture that is dog ownership.  I could go on forever, but its pointless.  Bottom line, dogs are a huge responsibility that require years of dedicated time and energy.  Why on earth would you just drop that on somebody?  That’s one heck of a burden to put on someone as a gift.  Ever heard of an Xbox or Playstation?  How about a gift certificate to a favorite store.  But to purchase something that requires so much? How is that fair not just to the dog, but to the person you are giving it to?

MY GIFT TO MYSELF THIS HOLIDAY SEASON

I’m getting a new camera this holiday.  One of the first things I am going to do with my new toy is go “undercover”.  Pet stores and flea market breeders contribute to this inconsiderate and utterly irresponsible practice of holiday puppy gifting.  I will be going into pet stores and flea markets to confront them and their deeds, as well as provide viewers with some insight to why you should not endorse these types of businesses.

If you need to get some holiday shopping done just go to Amazon.  They didn’t pay me to say that, but with me referring them as a shopping option, maybe that’s one less puppy that gets given as a gift, neglected because it really wasn’t wanted, then left in a shelter until forgotten about by society.

KD


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photo credit: Photography King ♛ via photopin cc

 

I have gotten into some pretty heated debates on this subject with trainers who I honestly have a ton of respect for.  The conversations only get heated when the other person can no longer provide logical evidence to support their position.  When somebody can help me to better understand why I’m apparently wrong on this, then I’m all ears.  Until then, you will NEVER hear me tell a dog to……”STAY”

IM CONFUSED

Ok, so first lets talk about when we would use this magical word “stay”.  Often times it is used when we give the dog a command to get into a specific position like sit or down.

Let’s use “sit” for this example.  If “stay” means for the dog not to move out of the “sit” position, then pleeeeeeeease tell me, what the heck does “sit” mean?

I was always under the impression that if I told my dog to “sit”, then that means they put their posterior on the pavement and keep it there until I say otherwise.  I didn’t realize that it only meant they have to put it there for just a moment, the duration of that moment to be determined by the dog, UNLESS, I give this magical word, “stay” to ensure they remain in the previous position of “sit”.

Yeah, I know, a bit confusing.  Seriously though, if I tell my dog to sit, then that’s what he should do.  Sit.  Until I say otherwise.  There is no need for another command.  Once the word “sit” has been said, the only thing that the dog needs to hear to move is a release command which means he can do anything he wants, or the direction to move into another position.  That’s it.  What the heck does stay even mean then?  Where did it come from? Ohhhh, I forgot….. humans, they want to overcomplicate everything, now it makes sense how this command found its way into dog training.

Dog training is about building associations as I mention in my post Associate This.  When we taught the dog to sit, we built an association with the dog sitting and something positive happening.  So after all that work building the association, getting the dog used to the cue “sit”, why on earth add in a totally new word that really just means more of the same thing?  What is the difference? If this were a conversation with a dog, how would it go?

“Sit means put your butt on the ground, and you don’t have to keep it there unless I give you another word, stay, but if I don’t say stay, you can do what you want.  I know I taught you a release command, but forget about that now, because if I don’t say stay, your good, I guess.”

KEEP IT SIMPLE

I don’t like “stay”.  It’s extra and it’s unnecessary.  Watch how much faster you can get your dog to stay sitting when you avoid this extraneous command that will only increase the difficulty level of training.  Think about how much proofing needs to be done when this word “stay” is now going to be used in conjunction with a variety of other commands like “down” and “bed”.   If I tell the dog to “down”, then they are continually rewarded for remaining in that position until released(yes, we better be using some positive reinforcement to shape this behavior).

Can experienced trainers pull it off? Sure, they do it all the time.  However, in my years of working with everyday pet dog owners, I learned that it is totally a waste of time and even makes things more difficult.  I stopped using “stay” once I tried to explain it to a particularly challenging client.  As I struggled to find different ways to explain the concept and the training steps the light bulb just went off.  The client wasn’t the challenging one, I was, and their difficulty in understanding the concept was because it’s a stupid concept.  I never used the word stay in training dogs again EVER.

LET’S PRACTICE

Enough of me writing stuff for you to just continue to read.  I gotta get you away from the monitor for a bit and working with your dog.  So here’s what I want you to do.

Get your treats and your dog.  The formula for training  a new behavior is simple and you will see it often the more you are around me:

CUE FROM HUMAN –> DESIRED BEHAVIOR FROM DOG –> HUMAN MARKS BEHAVIOR –>HUMAN REWARDS DOG………. ——> RELEASE

Let’s do sit.  It’s easy.

ROUND 1

1.     give the cue to “sit” and motivate your dog into the position

2.     mark the behavior once the dog sits

3.     reward

4.     release

Do this until the dog is sitting every time, regardless of where it is, or where YOU are.  Remember that standing, sitting on a chair, sitting on the floor, lying on the floor, are all places you should be giving this cue from so that your dog realizes it’s the cue, and not anything else that it should be responding to.  ( a huge part of training that MOST people forget to do)

ROUND 2

1.     repeat as in round 1

2.     HOLD OFF ON THE MARK  – count 3 seconds THEN MARK

3.     Reward

4.     Release

Start off with a very small pause before marking.  If your dog gets up too soon you have several choices.  You can make a light sound of displeasure, perhaps  a “eh eh” and reissue the cue and start over or you can simply turn your back on the dog and walk away as if “exercise over, no treat for you”.  The dog is confused and doesn’t understand what you want yet, which means a correction is unfair and will damage your relationship with the dog, plain and simple.  You all know im not afraid of corrections in my training, but they MUST be fair, and NEVER used when TEACHING a dog a new behavior.

Keep doing this and  just increase the time before the mark.  Now your dog isn’t really “staying” but rather remaining in the position you initially told him to be in.  Sounds simple to me.

STAY tuned for more training tips and updates…..yeah, pun intended, no amount of clicker work can repair or modify my sense of humor.  I’m unadoptable…..

KD


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