Saturday, January 7, 2012

The Challenges of Teaching Your Dog to Come

The one common thread that I experience each time I begin a series of private lessons is the owners’ frustration at the inability of getting their dog to come to them when they ask for this behavior.  Unfortunately, that is a behavior that can be taught only after your dog has learned to listen to you consistently with no distraction. Once this is accomplished, you gradually increase to higher levels of distraction.  In all forms of training, it is impossible to go straight from A to Z without all the work in between.

The first step in the come command is to see if your dog responds to you each time you say its’ name.  The second your dog looks at you when you say its’ name, you should give the reward. This should begin the minute you bring your dog home. It may not appear to be training but without having your dog respond to your voice, even asking for a simple sit will be an impossible task.

Your next step is to have your dog come to you in the house with no distraction.  Then you move on to the backyard, front yard, to an area that you go to frequently, and then on to more challenging places with greater distractions.

The most effective way to assess if your dog is ready for off leash recall is to ask yourself several questions. They will include; Will my dog sit for me when we are out for a walk? ; Does my dog even know that I exist when we are at the dog park?  When I call my dogs’ name will he/she immediately look at me?  The list is quite long before you can consider that your dog will stop what it is doing and respond to your command to come.

Another aspect of this training involves answering the question; “what do I ask my dog to do each time I ask it  to come to me.”  If it is only for unpleasant experiences, you can be guaranteed that your dog will NEVER come when called!   You want your dog to make the association in its’ mind that coming to you is exciting and rewarding. You can achieve this goal by giving high value rewards, more play time, and lots of praise as your dog comes to you.

Having this really reliable recall opens a whole world to you and your dog.  It makes visits to the park, lake, beach, etc. a purely enjoyable experience with the absence of the stress that occurs when you are constantly worrying that your dog will take off and never to be seen again. It allows you to play frisbee;  soccer; swim etc. etc. with pure abandonment.  What could be a better way to solidify the bond between you and your dog!

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Leash Walking


With the advent of the electric fence and the busy life style of most people, dogs are restricted to the area of their home.  This is great for extra time outside but does not give dogs what they need for exercise and mental stimulation.  We need to tap into their instincts to help them to be a more well-balanced dog.

The following is a list highlighting the points as to why we should walk our dogs AT LEAST once a day;

  1. It gives you the opportunity to share some positive attention with your dog which is something that they desire, need and love.
  2. When dogs are given the opportunity to go where they please, you will notice how much they love to keep moving, smell and explore.  Walking them on the leash gives them a safe chance to utilize their instincts.
  3. Walking on a leash allows your dog to exercise both its body and mind.  Since we look for loose leash walking, your dog is engaged in following your directions, focusing, and being engaged with you.  It teaches your dog to stay focused on you which will also carry into the other areas of training.
  4. Lastly, is the socialization aspect.  What better way to see different sights; people; animals; noise; etc., etc.  This will give your dog more confidence and encouragement when faced with new situations.

We should always have our dog walking as close to us as possible until we allow them to sniff and take potty breaks.  This should be on our terms not theirs.  If the dog pulls, acts excited, lunges, etc. you can go in the other direction several steps and try turning around again; you can be a tree and not move until they are listening; or you can ask your dog to sit until the dog is calm again and can continue the walk.





Monday, July 11, 2011

When we adopt a dog, it is common to attend a puppy class and possibly a basic behavior class.  Owners would like their dog to sit, stay, come when called. One aspect of training that is very often overlooked is “Socialization.”  This is one of the most important responsibilities of dog ownership and will help to provide you with a dog that will be a welcome member of your family.  One of the key components of developing a well-balanced dog is making sure that you take the socialization of your dog very seriously.   The more socialized your dog is the less risk of your dog developing fears and or aggression.  You want a dog that feels safe, secure, and confident which will make them comfortable and calm in most situations.

The way to begin to achieve this goal is with touch.  It is a critical element in the relationship between you, your family and friends, and your dog.  You want your dog to feel comfortable being touched everywhere on its’ body from end to end.  By doing this it will make a more comfortable visit to the vet, groomer as well as wiping your dogs feet and brushing its’ teeth.   This will develop more trust and a much more relaxed dog in varying situations.  When you have small children, this can be an especially critical aspect of training to avoid the dog reacting to tail pulling, hugging, putting fingers in the mouth of your dog etc.

Each day, from the minute you adopt your dog you should expose your dog to at least one new person, place or thing.   Just by taking lots of walks, which is great exercise for you and your dog, you will accomplish many of these goals. A drive in the car to nowhere exposes your dog to many new sights and sounds as well as being comfortable in the car.  The worst thing is to make the car experience just about going to a place they dislike such as the vet or the groomer.  Keep a journal of all the new experiences your dog has had throughout the week and make notes on which experiences appeared to create stress. You can work on those types of people or places until you find your dog starting to relax when exposed to those experiences.

Children are a common population that many dogs have trouble being around.  Their natural tendency is to be excited, louder than most, and make lots of movement.  A dog that is at all fearful or has natural herding instincts, can show undesirable behaviors around children.  It is very important to expose your dog as much as possible by going to places such as playgrounds in order to slowly introduce them and make it a positive experience.

Think of all the sounds just in your home that could make your dog run for cover.  Just the sound of the vacuum cleaner can make a sensitive dog quite unnerved.  Slowly introducing the vacuum first off and then moving it around until eventually having it on with the noise will help your dog to become accustomed to something that they will have to deal with on a regular basis.

Many things we take for granted such as stairs, flash of a camera, bicycles, a man with a beard; etc., etc. can cause your dog to cower in fear. The list is endless.  Make each experience that you observe causing your dog stress a positive and upbeat one.  Resist the urge to reassure as this will reinforce the fear.  Be upbeat and  and act happy and calm around the thing that causes fear.  Each experience will give your dog more and more confidence. 

Monday, May 2, 2011

Adopting a Dog - Shelter/Rescue v. Breeder and The Training Process

Shelter or rescue vs. breeder is a consideration that  most people in the market to obtain a dog face when making this decision.  Sometimes there is no decision to be made.  Due to the lack of awareness and knowledge people are drawn to the purchase of a dog from a "reputable breeder" never considering the option of the rescues that are available in every breed.  This lead us to the discussion as why there are such large numbers of dogs at shelters/rescues.  Other than the obvious and sad reasons of death, loss of employment/home, divorce, etc., behavior is the key reason why we see so many wonderful dogs in shelters and at rescue organizations.

How do we avoid this every growing problem of the enormous amounts of animals brought to our shelter each day? The answer is 'TRAINING".  It seems so obvious but yet it is very misunderstood.  Training that does occur very often is at the puppy stage. All too often,  there is never the follow through at later months especially when the dog is at the adolescent stage, which can range from one to three years depending on the size of the dog, and needs training more than at any other time.
Similar to a teenager, the dog at this stage will constantly be testing you.

Training will put you in the leadership role and give the dog the guidance that he/she so desperately desires.  Dogs are pack animals and need the human to take the alpha role by guiding and teaching them how to behave through training and also communicating to them that you are in charge.  Training provides exercise and mental stimulation.  The exercising of their minds helps to avoid destructive behavior as training tells the dog what is expected of them as well as tiring them which prevents them from looking for ways to expend their energy.  The focus that they need to listen and perform, such as in heeling, expends more energy than a run around the yard.

Training gives your dog confidence each time it is rewarded and praised for a job well-done.  Success yields a feeling of control.  Training gives the dog guidelines that they have to stay within and there is no confusion as to what is right or wrong at any given time.

The thought of training can be overwhelming.  Start with the SIT command and use it in all situations.  You will find that just that command alone will yield tremendous results in the training process.  Sit for a treat; food; walk; to go out the door; when someone comes to the door; etc., etc.  With these training techniques, you already have a well-behaved dog.

When considering a dog, wether it be from a breeder, shelter or rescue,  give it the greatest gift of all - Training .  It is a gift for you and the family as well to build a better relationship with your dog and to have a well-balanced dog as a part of your family.  If everyone would just take 10 minutes – two times a day – to train their dogs, the amount of dogs in shelters and rescues would be dramatically reduced.

Sandhills Dog Training offers a 15% discount for shelter and rescue dogs.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Crate Training

The crate is a tool that no dog owner should be without.  It serves a myriad of purposes starting with the basic house breaking to its use during an illness or unfortunate injury.
Even for those owners who do not advocate its use and do not plan on it being a long -term piece of equipment, it is critical that you give your dog the opportunity to become acquainted with one.  If at some point you need to board your dog while you are away; an overnight or more at the vet; or just basic grooming, your dog is going to be introduced to a crate.  It is best to make it a positive experience and what better way to do that than in the comfort of your own home.

As with all training, make sure to be patient and take it slow. Start by placing the crate in an area where the rest of the family spends most of its’ time.  Leave the crate door open and spend some time inviting the dog into the crate with treats and toys.  You can place a nylabone, kong filled with kibble and some peanut butter or anything that will entice your dog to want to stay in the crate.  Also placing a bed in the crate can be helpful especially if it is a bed that your dog is accustomed to sleeping in outside the crate.

After you sense that your dog is becoming comfortable in the crate, start to close the door for short periods of time while you are near him/her.  Next, start to go to another area of the house increasing the amount of time over the course of a few days.  The next step is to leave the house for around an hour building up to several hours.

It is important that you never leave your dog in the crate for extended periods of time.
If you know that you will be away for the day, it is critical to have someone such as a neighbor, friend or if necessary, make sure to hire a dog walker as it is important, especially for a young dog, that they have potty breaks and the opportunity to exercise.
This will help to make their experience in the crate much more positive.  You can also ask the person who comes to relieve your dog to put a different toy in the crate as well as other treats to make going back into the crate something that they are happy about.

Don’t ever feel guilty about the crate.  Many dogs welcome and get solace from the crate.
It can be a tool for protection when you have a puppy to keep it from getting into things that could potentially harm him/her.  There is the philosophy that it replicates the den that a wolf creates for itself to be safe.  Anything that you provide for your dogs that makes them safer and happier is always a positive choice.

Remember that this will be a process like any other training and it will not happen overnight.  Your dog may whine and or bark when in the crate at first.  Never allow him/her out until there is silence.  It is always critical to reinforce the good behavior and ignore the negative behavior.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Introduction to Sandhills Dog Training in West End, North Carolina

During the summer of 2010, my dog Oreo, my four cats, two horses and, and one gecko and myself, Abby Ganin-Toporek, relocated from New York to West End, North Carolina.  I had spent the previous six years running a dog walking/pet sitting business in New York.  After dealing with the brutal winters while caring for the pets, I decided to move to an area that would provide me with more moderate temperatures, but still allow me to enjoy the different seasons.  My love of all the dogs and various other pets encouraged me to start up the business when I relocated.

As my relationship with many of my clients and their dogs began to grow, I found them asking for my advice in training and problem behaviors.  That was the aspect of my business that motivated me to return to it and become a certified dog trainer.  My training was very intense.   It included lectures and readings on all subjects from basic obedience to dominant aggression issues.  There was hands on work with various breeds that had been owner surrendered; from shelters; and from rescue groups.

The background that I have from my business as well as from my training along with the volunteering that I am presently doing at Moore Humane Society, has given me the opportunity to work with various breeds of all ages as well as many types of behavior issues.

My philosophy in training is based entirely on positive reinforcement.  It is a method that I have found that takes a great amount of patience and perseverance but the long-term benefit when reinforced on a regular basis will make a well-balanced dog and welcome member of any family.

At the moment, I will be offering private in-home lessons and in-kennel training.  From puppies to adult dogs; from basic obedience to behavior modification; I will be able to train your dog as well as guide you to acquire the skills to build a better relationship with your dog.

Don't hesitate to contact me to discuss your individual needs and to set up a consultation appointment to discuss the benefits for you and your dog working with Sandhills Dog Training LLC.