BE THE LEADER

Posted by Barb | Posted in BEHAVIOR | Posted on 03-10-2009

mail.google.com.jpg  3One of the hardest things to do is to teach people. Dogs are easy. I find that the problem lies in the nature of us humans. We tend to want to fulfill our needs at any cost. We get set in our ways and find it difficult to change, even when change is the best thing we can do. We develop a belief system and are afraid to look at it’s flaws. We want a world that revolves around us and our needs. We are a selfish species.

When I really started learning about dogs and horses, I had to take a long hard look at myself. It was not a pretty sight. I was head strong, demanding, impatient, and selfish. I was easily frustrated and angered. I wanted love and affection to work because it made me happy to think it should. When my horses and dogs didn’t get the picture, I saw them as ungrateful. I was angry with them because they were not getting with my program.

Fortunately for my animals, I didn’t like the results of my selfishness, so I started to explore alternatives. I learned from good teachers and trainers, that to really love animals, you have to discard things about yourself that do not help you reach your goal. That goal for me was to have a working partner, not a robotic slave.
Do I still struggle with my issues? Of course. I’m human. I will always be challenged by my dogs to be a better dog, not a self centered human. This is what dogs have taught me. I cannot be a human before I am a dog for them.

THE WORLD OF CANINESmail.google.com.jpg  4

In a dog’s world, the one that the canine respects, obeys, and follows is the one that holds the lead position. Dogs have no respect for the one that bribes, begs, pleads, asks, and is loving and affectionate only.  Canines will not follow this person because in the canine world, they are weak, and would never hold a lead position. They have no confidence in them, so the person that chooses this direction first, is telling the dog they are not worthy to be listen to or followed.
Dog will also not follow emotionally unstable people. The person who is loving and playful one moment and angry the next. Happy when things are going well and miserable when they aren’t.
Leaders are calm and in control and consistently in that state of mind. They are not easily unraveled or knocked off center. Even humans (if we are not mentally ill) avoid  people that are not acting normally. One of the best things my dogs have taught me is to consistently be in a leadership state of mind. They have helped me be a far happier and stable human being.
Being your dog’s leader is the best position you can take for your dog, because it is the most important thing to him. To love a dog is to lead a dog. Choosing to be a follower, because you think taking the lead is mean, is the mark of a human who is not interested in what is best for the dog.

Loving fulfills the human’s needs. Leading fulfills the dog’s needs. The proper order is to give leadership first, then love and affection last. If this is not to your liking, then you are more concerned about what makes you happy, then what makes your dog happy. I guarantee you if you address the needs of your dog to be a dog first, he will make you a very happy human.

You can’t fool dogs. You can’t pretend to lead. They will see right through it. If you are not a take charge sort of person, on your dog’s behalf learn to be. He will reward you with devotion, respect, good manners, and obedience.

A dog is an animal before he is who you want him to be. The animal is predator (stalks, hunts, runs down and kills prey) a carnivore, (eats whole animals raw) scavenger, ( looks for available food) and uses his teeth to eat, defend himself, his pack and his position.

The dog is a pack animal. He might be the leader or he may be one of the followers. He does not bolt and run away from the pack, or break the pack rules. His security and stability depends upon the rules, boundaries, and limits. The survival of the pack depends upon this order.

Lastly a dog is who you want him to be. If you choose him to be a guard dog, he will need to be trained, or his animal behavior will take over and you will have an unpredictable and dangerous dog. If what you want him to be is a devoted companion, you will need to address the pack animal in him first.

When people ask me, “Why is he doing that?’ I know they do not believe they own an animal/dog, but a special friend. The answer to “Why is he doing that?” is “Because he’s an animal and a dog.”

WALKING YOUR DOGmail.google.com.jpg 2

One of the best things you can do for you and your dog is daily structured walks. If you have a very high energy dog, let him run off his excess energy in the yard, or chasing a ball for at least fifteen minutes before your walk. Other options for uses up excess energy is a treadmill, running next to a bike or scooter, retrieving a ball, or taking a good hard run with you on skates.

Always bring a “Can Do,” attitude to every training session. Leaders are calm and sure of themselves. They tell the followers what to do and how to do it. They never ask, suggest, offer options, or give in. If you want quick and good results from your efforts, being the authority figure in your dogs life is the only way this will happen.

1. Use proper training equipment. The right tool for the job is a training collar, not a buckle collar. Always call a dog to you, do not go to him. Have him come to the collar and leash. This establishes that you are in charge. Always have access to your dog. This mean have him on leash.
2. Do not allow him to pull  (lead) you out the door or gate. Insist he wait calmly behind you, for permission to follow. This training session takes time, so don’t be in a rush.
3. Walk calmly, tall and confident. Be relaxed.
4. When you get home, make sure he waits to be invited back into your home. Do not let him lead you through the door.

Above all bring patience to every training session and a stick to it attitude. If you tend to fold when faced with the littlest challenge, your dog test you at every turn.
Dogs are not born trained, so how good or bad of a job you do, is how well the dog will turn out. The first step to becoming a good dog owner and trainer, is to take responsibility for the outcome.

DOORS AND GATES

Never allow your dog to exit doors and gates before you. He should wait calmly behind you for permission to go along. There are two ways to accomplish this that work really well. One is to block him with your leg or body from getting ahead of you. The other is to let him make the mistake of getting ahead of you. When he does turn and go back away from the door or gate. This puts him behind you and brings him back into the house or yard. A few sessions of this and he will get the big picture; Do not lead me anywhere, but especially out doors and gates.

RIDING IN THE CAR

Insist that your dog follow you to the car. If he is not on a leash to start with, you will fail to teach him proper behavior, because you are not in a position to control the situation.
Have him wait and be calm, then tell him to get in the car. He should not be in the front seat. He should ride in the back. It is not safe for a dog to ride loose or in the front seat. A seat belt made especially for dogs can be bought to secure him there. If you love your dog, seat belt him in or crate him. If you love your family, keep a dog where he belongs in the car. Climbing all over them and running from window to window barking is unpleasant and thoughtless.  It’s also very dangerous. A dog can block mirrors, bump into you, or distract you from the job of driving. A dog can kill people if an accident occurs and they slam into them.

FEEDING YOUR DOG

Have your dog wait quietly while the food is being prepared. A dog should be waiting at a respectful distance. Three to four feet is good. If he comes too close, move towards him with your hand held out in front of you, and wait for him to move away from the food and again wait calmly. Only when he is calm will you put the food on the floor. He must wait for permission to eat it. If he moves towards the bowl step in front of it, move towards him, and wait until he becomes calm. Only then do you give him permission to eat. If you have more than one dog each dog must be calm and waiting for permission to eat.
Never allow a dog to leave his dish and go to another. Not only is this unfair to the other members of your pack, but it establishes dominance over the other members, and can well lead to disputes. Eating should be a peaceful and quiet time.

GIVING TREATS

Giving treat is a great time to establish the right order of things. In order for a dog to get a treat or affection from you, he must do something first. Sitting, downing, getting his collar or leash on, coming when called, are good times to share affection and reward with a treat.
Don’t overfeed your dog. Measuring out a small amount of treats and subtracting the amount from regular meals will insure that the dog gets good nutrition and the correct amount of calories to stay fit and healthy.

GOOD GREETING MANNERS

Dogs who understand their position as follower never jump up on their leaders. Jumping up is bad manners in our world, but from a dog’s understanding  it’s disrespectful. Dogs give each other space. Only pack leaders need not get permission to touch, so a dog that bumps into you, jumps on you, or sits on you is sending you a message. You can pretend it’s about love and affection or see it for what it truly is.
Never encourage this behavior by getting a dog all excited, or allowing other to do so. When coming home, walk quietly into the house, and do not touch, talk to, or look the dog in the eye. Once he is calm, call him to you for a proper greeting. One where all four feet are on the ground and the dog is calm.
Whenever you want a dog to touch you, or get into your lap, give him permission to do so. If he does it on his own, discourage it by standing up, moving forward and holding your ground. Dogs understand this strong body language, and will quickly get the message.

HUMAN EMOTION

Never let emotion control your decision making. Anger is never a good energy around dogs. Anger comes from unreasonable expectations. Never forget you are dealing with a dog who is a creature of action not thought. He will never spend one moment considering the results of his actions, or feel any guilt about it. He will never wake up in the morning and decide to make your day the worst ever.
Dogs are also amazing at forgetting mistakes, as long as the mistakes do not become patterns of behavior. If you make a mistake with your dog, don’t beat yourself up about it. Just make a note to break that response and put a good one in it’s place.
Lastly; If a behavior does not start to diminish, you are not correctly addressing the problem. Any time you feel overwhelmed or in a destructive cycle you can’t think your way out of, get professional help. It’s always good to get a fresh look and a better direction to go in.

STEP UP

I am often disappointed in how people receive information about dogs and how to raise a well behaved and obedient companion. They are certain that professional dog folk do not know their dog and how different he is from the others. They spend a lot of time making excuses and trying to convince themselves that what they want is what will work in time. The problem with this sort of belief system is the dog receives all the blame, anger, and disappointment from his deluded owners. The fact that millions of dogs end up at the pound or in rescue shelters says volumes about our selfish nature. Many dogs face certain doom simply because people did not want to see them as dogs.
You have a choice to become a better human and dog owner, so step up and take charge of your life and your dog.

CRATE TRAINING

Posted by Barb | Posted in BEHAVIOR | Posted on 27-02-2009

CRATE TRAINING

I learned  how to raise up a pup from my parents. They weren’t very good at it, though I will give my father credit for getting a little training book and helping me learn how to teach our pup to walk on leash, sit, and come.spillwaynorth7-6-07-janey-gsale006
Cinder, a German Shepherd Dog, was our one and only family dog when I was growing up. My parents certainly didn’t know what they had gotten themselves into. She was cute for all of three hours. Then she became a chore. The first week was all about her screaming, most of the night and day for attention, and pooping and peeing over every square inch of that porch. My mother was not happy.
Cinder started out on the back porch, then lived a year tied to a dog house out back, before my parents got tired of the destruction and found her a new home.
My husband Jack and I had a couple dogs before we had children. We didn’t do any better of a job than my parents did. We put the pups on a back porch where they screamed all night for a week, and drove us crazy mad. We put papers down and were met in the morning hours with poop and pee all over the place, along with ripped up papers, and a few chucks of plaster knawel off the walls.  This is what our parents did, so we thought this was the way you got the job of being quiet and house breaking done. It wasn’t easy. It was a lot of hard work. We didn’t get much sleep for a week, and we were pretty grumpy. Our poor pups were met in the mornings, of those first days, with less than a cheerful greeting.
Years later I learned about crate training.  My first thought was, “What’s a crate?” I had visions of the thing oranges came in. My second thought was, “Sure wish I would have known about this a few years ago.” Raising pups got a whole lot easier.  Life for me and my dogs has been a pleasant experience ever since. Now when I greet the new pups in the morning, I’m a lot more cheerful.
Hands down crate training is the easiest way to house break dogs and keep track of them. Many problems can be avoided with this simple approach to rearing dogs. The two top ones are housebreaking and destruction.

THE DOG IS A DEN ANIMAL

One of the biggest obstacles to crate training is the human doing the training.
Views vary but it is a common emotional belief that a crate is a prison a dog should resent. People feel sad that they have to “lock” the dog up. This belief is further confirmed by the fact that a pup cries at first when he is put in one. The truth is no matter where you put a pup, accept in bed with you, he is going to cry. It doesn’t matter if it’s in a crate, dog bed, exercise pen, or back porch.
Since dogs are den animals they do not resent den like environments and in fact feel very safe and secure in close quarters. Your pup’s mother kept the litter in a very small space, so they could keep the area they lived in warm with their own body heat. To love a dog is to treat him like one. If you are very worried about your pup’s happiness, perhaps leaving him with his mother and litter mates would have been a better decision. He is not happy being removed from them and everything he has known for the last eight weeks. He’s lonely and scared. He liked being with his mom and littermates. You took him from a good life as a dog, to a strange new world.
Dogs are not meant to be alone, since they are pack animals, so they aren’t all that happy when it happens to them for the first time. Fortunately dogs are great at adapting to things, so it won’t take long for them to adjust to this new situation and accept it as the way things are.  Believe it or not the hot water bottle still works well to this day. It gives the pup something warm to cuddle up against. If you are going to do this make sure it’s not too hot and is wrapped in a towel.
Since this dog will not be spending every minute with you, it’s important for him to learn that being alone is not a bad thing. While putting them in bed with you solves the crying problem for the moment, you are not being kind to your dog in the long run. Separation anxiety is a man made mental illness in dogs.  It does not exist at all in packs of dogs. The sooner the pup learns to sleep by himself in his own bed/den, and in turn learn that being alone is okay, the better it is for his mental well being. If you want the best for your pup, teach him being alone is not a problem.
FIRST CRATE FIRST NIGHT

I find that the easiest way to crate train pups is to put them next to your bed. This is because he is not totally alone. He can hear you and feel you near by. Also if a pup is very noisy I can rap on the top of the crate to let him know I disagree with the noise. Once he is crate trained, I move the crate to the place it will be for the rest of his life. You may decide to put a dog bed in your room and that is where he will sleep once he is reliably housebroken ands knows what he can chew on. Some people just leave the dog crate open and the dog will go in there to sleep on his own.
The first crate for your pup will be small. If it’s too big he will sleep in one corner of it and pee in the farthest corner. This is not what you want. Once again humans tend to like the idea of big areas, so if they do have to put the pup in a “cage” it should be roomy. The crate should have just enough room for the pup to stand up, turn in a circle, and lie down comfortably. Your pup will sleep in his crate at night and off and on for nap times during the day, or if you need to leave for short periods of time. No dog should ever live in a crate. If you have no other option but to leave your pup in a crate, make arrangements for someone to come in and give him a potty break, and to play and run about for a half hour. To go to work for eight hours or more and crate a pup day after day is beyond cruel. Pups should have a nice roomy pen or kennel run during the daytime. Fresh air, water, and a place to eliminate. He should also have a couple things to chew on.
The first few nights (depending on the size of the pup’s bladder) you will be getting up one to three times to take him out to go. When he whimpers, this is a good time to take him out. He is learning to tell you when he has to go. No dog has to go right after you put him in a crate, so you have to learn to ignore tantrums and only let the pup out when he whimpers. It’s a very different sound. One is screaming and one is telling you they need to go pee. You will get to know the difference.
This may seem like a nuisance at first, but I will tell you most dogs will adjust to sleeping though the night in a week’s time, while cleaning up dog messes all over the house, or in a small room will go on for weeks, even months. A rule of thump is not to feed a pup or let him have a drink close to bed time. Take him out for one last potty break just before bed. This can greatly reduced the times he needs to go out during the night.

TEACHING THE COMMAND TO “GO CRATE” dsc02217-desktop-resolution

It’s best if a dog gets exercise before being put in his crate. If you have to leave for work and he is going to spend a few hours in his crate, you should take him for a good long walk, do a bit of playing or any energy burning things, so he is tired.

To teach him to go to his crate on command;

  • Take a yummy treat like chicken. Show it to the pup and let him sniff it.
  • Toss it into the crate. Let the pup go get it and let him back out on his own. Now throw another treat into the crate. Once he goes in throw in a couple more.
  • Finally add the command as you toss the treat into the crate; “Go crate.” Throw a few treats in, then close the door. Leave him in there for a few minutes, then give him permission to come out.

Leave the crate open when you are home so the pup can go in and out when he likes. It often surprises owners when they see the pup in his crate sleeping. Note the Min Pin pups in the picture above. After playing they all went back to the crate to sleep. To them it is a safe and preferable place to be.

PROBLEM SOLVING

Some pups will just plain not go into a crate, even with food as an offer. For these pups, I simply pick them up and put them in the crate. It’s not a matter of choice. Every time I tell the pup to go to his crate I will insist he do it. If you think a pup will see you as the bad guy think about this; His mother disciplined him for many offences as he was growing up and he still loved and respected her. He also learned not to disobey her. In a sense you are now the mother dog. Don’t be less than the best mother dog you can be. What you say goes. Your pup will love and respect you for it. Repetition and consistency will soon win out and he will be going into his crate on command and doing it joyfully.
Never let a dog barge out of a crate. They must wait for permission. Never let a dog out of a crate that is barking or screaming. If you approach crate and a dog is whining or scratching turn and walk away. Whenever you let a dog out of crate block them from coming out with a gentle tap on the chest. Only when he is waiting calmly can he come out.

RESPONSIBLE DOG OWNERSHIP

I am often surprised by how unprepared people are to have a dog. The calls I get are often a result of folks going out and getting a dog, then stumbling through the learning process.  It’s been a terrible ordeal for them because they didn’t have the education they needed, the time, or the right equipment. Before anyone brings a dog into their lives, I feel they need to have a crate, a good secure fenced area for the dog to be in during the day, and daily exercise and training. Not to provide a dog with these basic needs is cruel.
Try not to let emotions rule your decisions. It’s far better to come home to a house that is just the way you left it and the good pup you are happy to see, then the dog you are angry with. Your time and a lot of patience is require to get a great start with a pup. Give your time to your pup, and do the best job you can. You will be rewarded with a well adjusted and good dog for many years.

Barbara Gordon
Owner/trainer/teacher
West Plains Canine School
Spokane Washington

SCENT DISCRIMINATION

Posted by Barb | Posted in Training | Posted on 11-02-2009

dsc00306-desktop-resolutionSCENT DISCRIMINATION
By Barb Gordon

Over the past twenty-five years I’ve seen some pretty complicated lesson plans, developed by some pretty big time dog trainers, for teaching the scent articles in AKC, UKC, and CKC Obedience. When it came down to my turn to teach them for the first time, I was very intimidated. Guess you could say down right scared. I felt like it was way over my head. Something only pros would attempt or be successful at. I put it off until I couldn’t put it off anymore. Out of my own confusion and uncertainty, I taught it to my first unfortunate Bouvier in a very haphazard way. My second Bouvier and all my dogs to follow, faired a lot better, because I decided to simplify it all for myself. If it was simple for me to understand, it would be simple to teach to my dogs. Through trial and error, I came up with a simple training method that is easy to understand and easy to teach to dogs.

To date I have taught this to a good number of people, who in turn taught it to their dogs. I have taught it to my four Bouviers, two Golden Retrievers, my Border Collie, and two Miniature Pinchers. All became confident and consistent at the task of scent discrimination.

I believe as humans we often forget that we are training canines, otherwise we wouldn’t make things so downright difficult for ourselves and our dogs. And what is the first sense a canine depends on? That’s right; his nose. From the day a pup is born his nose is his main source of information. In fact his only source. It’s certainly silly of us to think we have to make scent discrimination a lesson he has to learn. He comes naturally to it. He could teach us a thing or two about it. He already knows how to use his nose. I just have to teach him to find the smell I want him to find.

My goal is to teach a dog to become so confident in the lesson, he can hardly wait for me to send him to the pile. He races out, finds the right article, and races back with it. If I make it “Dog simple,“ that is what I will get. The more “Human complicated” I make it the worse the outcome. I’ve been there and don’t want to revisit it.

Read the rest of this entry »

BOLTING AND RUNNING AWAY

Posted by Barb | Posted in Training | Posted on 11-01-2009

The sport of agility has really caught on around here. It’s been around for a long time, but when we started having AKC and NADAC Trials within driving distance it became big business.

Folks equate agility with fun and obedience with work, so they have skipped over what I call “Dog Basics” and jumped right into a sport they felt did not have such tight restraints. The idea is, that if we think something is fun the dog will want to do it with us. We can just be best friends and buddies and don’t need to insist on anything. This kind of thinking goes against the nature of dogs. They do not respect and follow the happy go lucky fun guy. The follow the one that is in charge.

At most dog clubs and schools, nothing is required in a beginning agility class as far as knowing basic commands like come, sit, down, and stay, so it is easy to join a class without having any of these important requirements. It’s common to see dogs dragging their human followers to class, because a large percentage of them have never taken a leadership role in their dog’s life. The dog has never learned how to walk nicely on a leash. In fact many of these people are new to dog sports and don’t know they have or will have a problem. They really needed a basic dog class first.

Obedience is the glue that not only makes for a dog that is a joy to be around, but that holds all dog sports together. Agility is going to stop being fun if the dog keeps running off, either because he is distracted or doesn’t want to play the game. Obedience does not leave any confusion in a dog’s mind. He is not a volunteer in our games, he has been drafted.

It was inevitable that folks would start having two big issues with their dogs; bolting and running away and coming when called. Ninety percent of my business comes from people with dog problems. Bolting and running away tops the list.

It’s pretty simple to see that if a dog is on a tight leash and pulling away with all it’s might, it’s not going to stick around if there isn’t anything keeping it from leaving. A dog that does not know how to walk on a loose leash next to his owner, will always have obedience problems.

The first thing I address in my family dog classes is the proper way to walk with dogs. The second thing is bolting and running away and coming when called.

WALKING WITH DOGS

Teaching this to dogs is very easy but it requires commitment. I like a good training collar for walking dogs. That means a slip collar. I do not care what it is made of but it needs to fit well and be impossible for the dog to back out of. By fitting well, it should fit as high up on the dog’s neck as possible. The leash should be about three or four feet long. Even for a toy breed this is plenty. He can only get that far away from you, which is a much safer distance than six feet or longer.

Hold the leash in a relax and slack manner. The tighter the tension on the leash the more the dog will fight to get away from it. Start off by going away from where the dog is heading. For instance if he is heading to the right, go to the left. Say something like, “Let’s go.” Say it once and leave. You are your dog’s teacher. How well you teach him is how well he will learn what is required. If you are in the bad habit of requesting cooperation from your dog, you can break it now. Never ask him if he wants to do something. Always insist. In a dog’s world this makes the most sense. Making dog sense to dogs is what loving dogs is all about.

Once you turn and leave the dog will be pulled in your direction. If he does not know anything about walking on a leash, or is in a bad habit of dragging you, he may put on the breaks. This is rebellion plain and simple. Some dogs will throw a fit. When this happens, I always keep my back to the dog and allow him to figure out how to release the tension on the leash. Never forget he is the reason the leash is tight. Let him learn how to solve the problem. Patience is key. You can’t make a dog learn in a certain amount of time, so putting a time limit on any lesson is unreasonable.

Another reaction is to race past you into the lead position. If this happens, simply turn away from the direction he has chosen and walk away. This will put him behind you. It will take him no time at all to figure out that following you is what you want. I cannot emphasize how important this is to a healthy respectful relationship, let along a pleasant one between dog and owner. Teaching your dog where he belongs on walks often solves many other issues.

Bolting and running away always starts with distractions. Dogs love to chase things that move, so a cat or squirrel or bike going by can easily trigger the chase response. Most dogs will give you very clear information when they want to chase something, so learning their language is key in responding quickly to the situation. As soon as his eyes target on something and the ears come forward be ready. He is going to leap forward. Dogs never lie about their intentions, so the person that waits to see if he is telling them the truth will always get the same results. As soon as he does takes off, say “No!” then turn and run in the opposite direction. When you do this say, “Come.” Use good strong tones and a commanding voice. This is very important. If your voice and tone do not communicate at or above the level of intensity the dog is at, it will be useless information. The combination of disagreeing with his decision to leave, and the surprise of being pulled off balance will make him think twice about taking off again.

Dogs are doers not thinkers, so learning to respond quickly is important. Never wait to see if the dog will stop on command or come on command. Never repeat a command. If the dog does not respond instantly it is because he has no intention of doing so.

COMING WHEN CALLED

This is the simplest command to teach. It saddens me that so few dogs ever learn it. I use a long line of thirty feet for this. The dog of course has a good fitting training collar on. I let the pup/dog go about his business. When he is distracted, I call him to me. “Max come.” Short and simple. If he doesn’t look at me when he hears his name I give him a quick little “listen up” jerk on the line. If he doesn’t come towards me, I pull him in. When he gets to me, I praise him, even though I’m the only reason he is there.

You can also include this lesson when you take your walks. Occasionally back up and call your dog to you. Always praise, even if you enforcing the command is the only reason the dog comes. Food reward goes a long way in getting dog to learn things quicker. Whenever a dog obeys my commands or makes a good effort to do so, I reward him with food. Be careful food should be a reward for effort or obedience. It should never be a bribe. If you ever get in the bad habit of making the cookie more important than you and the command, there will come a time where your dog will be long gone and you will be left holding the cookie.

Remember patience is key and repetition and consistency is what works when it comes to training dogs.

Barking Problem

Posted by Barb | Posted in Training | Posted on 10-01-2009

GOOD MORNING DOG WORLD!                                         

We have had quite a few weeks of winter here, starting December 17th with two feet of snow in less than 24 hours. For three weeks afterwards Mother Nature pointed her snowy finger directly towards us dumping over 80 inches of the white stuff over roof and road. My husband Jack got weary of shoveling and plowing and the dogs got tired of a maze of narrow paths around their once open meadows. No one could understand why the weather man was smiling as he reported yet another 8” of drifting snow falling overnight.

I got a forced vacation from lessons and classes at the dog school. Even though our road was clear, folks were having a difficult time digging out of the five foot high berms the city plows dumped into their driveways and over their cars. After I read and reread some training articles, e-mailed friends with dog problems, put the dogs on the treadmill and did a bit of training out in the school, I decided to focus my energy onto our Min Pins, Unique and Prada. They have a little barking problem I’ve put on the back burner. All my friends of course are shocked that Min Pins bark.J

I’m overjoyed that they let me know someone is at the door, but then I want them to stop on command. I absolutely know how to address this issue, but with my usual busy schedule I’ve let it slide. You know that the shoe makers children never have shoes, so there you have it. I no longer had the excuse of not enough time, so I got down to business.

I’m sure that everyone I’ve taught this to now has a dog that will let them know that someone is at the door, then stop barking on command. Their dogs now know that a leaf going by the window is to be ignored. O one cares if the cat has a mouse or what the children next door are doing.

We know that our little dogs are triggered by knocking at the door, so I started out with knocking on the door myself. This instantly brought them racing at full speed around the corner and raising the high pitched bark howl combined alarm. It’s at a level no one can ignore and sometimes get annoyed with. I let them bark a couple times then told them, “Quiet.” As soon as they stopped they received a treat. At first they have to get the last bark in, but in no time they got the little game. Patience is the only true virtue when it comes to training or retaining dogs, so you will need plenty of it if you too have this problem.

The next step was to have my husband Jack go outside and knock on the door. Sure enough this produced another round of alarm barking. Certainly a serial killer was on the other side of the door. Once again they quickly got how to earn the treat. Have I cured the problem? Not by a long shot. Like everyone I would love it if I could address a problem behavior and have it vanish after one session. The reality is that you have to be very consistent. As a dog owner, this is our responsibility. I always tell dog owners that repetition and consistency trains dogs. Nothing else works. Once you start any plan, you have to stick with it, so next time I have someone come to my door I’m committed to following through with the plan, or get used to putting up with the problem.

Who is Barb Gordon?

Posted by Barbara | Posted in BEHAVIOR | Posted on 09-01-2009

My Name is Barb Gordon. I live in Spokane Washington with my husband Jack, our Bouvier des Flandres, Rosta and Bracken, our Golden Retrievers, Ember and Promise, our Miniature Pinchers, Unique and Prada, our Border Collie, Focus and our cat Kubla. All wonderful companions as well as competition obedience, agility and hunting dogs.
I have officially been training my dogs for over twenty years, but I started out learning at the age of five when my father brought home a German Shepherd pup and a little training book. Sadly for me, my father’s work moved from California to Illinois and our dog went to a new home. Our family never had another dog, so over the years I encouraged every stray to follow me home, hoping one of them would melt my mother’s heart and I could have another dog.
After my husband Jack and I got married, he was smart enough to know that if I was happy, I would in turn make him happy. We moved to a horse ranch, got a horse and a dog. Having my own dog for the first time was an eye opener. I found out that loving dogs isn’t enough, you have to learn how to think and talk dog.
I wasn’t very good with our first couple of dogs. I made a lot of mistakes. My first dogs were unwitting teachers I wasn’t very grateful to, and in fact refused to learn from. I blamed them for my ignorance. I was impatient and uncaring. I loved them when they weren’t doing bad things and hated them when they did. I kept looking for Lassie and finding Tramp. It wasn’t until many years later that fate sent me and my Bouvier Zappa to dog school where I started getting that the responsibility for a great dog was mine.
In the old days here in Spokane and I’m sure other places as well, all dog training revolved around competition obedience. There wasn’t a class that taught you to raise a good reliable family companion. So I took Zappa to dog class and he learned how to heel, sit, down, stay and do a formal recall. This was all fine and good until he was loose and would bolt and run away from me. I learned really quickly that if there was a problem, no one knew how to help you with it. Their answer was just keep working on this or that and your problem will go away in time. Or worse, “He’s just a difficult dog.” Meanwhile the reality was that this dog could not be trusted off leash. A car with his name on it was right around the next corner. I lived in fear of it, because I knew heeling was not going to solve it.
Once again fate entered my life and I met a dog trainer named Sandy Reeves. She lived in Idaho just about an hour from me. She saw my dog take off at a fun matched and told me she could help me with my problem. That day I learned how to think and talk dog. Never again did I blame my dog for being a Bouvier and not a Golden Retriever. Never again did I have a dog that bolted and ran away or behaved badly. I not only became a good dog owner, I became a better human being. That day I grew up and took the lead.
I started my own dog school in 1993. The whole goal is to help people learn about dogs, so they can have a good companion and/or competition dog. In fact the best dog they have ever owned. Our family dog classes revolve around problem solving, not heeling. Our competition classes revolve around teamwork. It is a pleasure and joy to help dogs with their people and people with their dogs.

Hello world!

Posted by admin | Posted in BEHAVIOR | Posted on 09-12-2008

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