Torture - Say No To Abuse

 Horrible Shock Collar Injury

Horrible Shock Collar Injury

Thank goodness that we don’t use torture devices such as the guillotine, the spiked neck torture and the rack to either coerce or kill people. Those devices and techniques are best left in the dark ages. In light of that, why do some people feel like they need to torture a dog to get them to do what we want them to do? I see shock collars, pinch and prong collars, leash jerks, hitting, spanking, slapping and verbal abuse. It’s all bad and antiquated. And this learning method teaches a dog to fear their owner or fear the things that are associated with these pain inducing methods or devices. Unfortunately, there are still “floggers” out there in the dog trainer world and right here in Orlando. Don’t fall for their sales pitches that it is not harmful for your dog or your relationship to your dog. These trainers clearly don’t stay on top of the latest scientific research.

A lot of research has been done in just the last 20 years in dog training proving that positive reward based training is much more efficient, doesn’t hurt the dog, and strengthens the bond between owner and canine.

If you were in school and the teacher constantly beat you when you got the wrong answer, you would probably learn but you would despise the teacher and learning in general. But if the teacher would simply ignore your wrong answers and give you a $20 bill every time you got the right answer, learning would be a lot of fun and you would love the teacher. This is what modern dog training is all about.

Let me help you become your dog’s best and beloved teacher.






The Do's & Don't's Of Adopting A New Dog Or Puppy

Many people feel romanticized when they get a new house or start to have a family. They feel like getting a dog or a puppy rounds off the whole equation. It is a wonderful feeling when you get to that point in your life when you want bring a dog into your home. Others might have just lost their favorite best friend and want to find a “canine replacement” as part of the grieving process. So off they go to the breeder or the shelter. Well here are a few points to keep in mind before you get that first dog or replace your long lost friend.

Do......research on training a dog or puppy. If you are an experienced dog owner, you’d be surprised how the concept of dog training has completely changed.  If you have never owned a puppy before, realize that it will not only take lots of time training but lots of time just keeping an eye on your puppy much like tending to a toddler.

Don’t ....get another dog of the same breed thinking your are going to get the same personality of the dog you just lost. In this case, dogs are like people and can have vastly different personalities. In my experience, no dog of the same breed has had the same personality.  To add to that, many people who have lost their canine loved ones don’t realize that when their dog died, it was likely older and much more well adjusted and mature. It comes as a shock to them when all of a sudden they have a barky, nippy or crazy puppy on your hands.

Do....consider adopting a rescued dog or puppy. Shelters and rescues are brimming with adoptable dogs and puppies. When you do go to the shelter and there is a dog that you are interested in, spend at least an hour with the dog. If you have another dog at home, that pooch should meet your potential adoptee in neutral territory(not at home).

Don’t...adopt two dogs or puppies at once unless you are an experienced dog owner and are well versed in dog training. Some people think the puppies are so cute, “let’s just get two of them.”

Don’t.....choose a dog by breed alone.  You have to take into account the temperament of that individual dog in which you are interested. Breed can determine certain drives and instincts but not necessarily determine whether the dog will get along with the cat or your kids.

Do...think twice about getting any dog when you have very young children and if you must, choose very carefully. To many dogs, children can be a threat. They have unpredictable movements that can greatly put a dog on edge. Educate your kids as to how to properly approach and care for a dog.  Puppies are a great choice if you have very young children. However, you should get a puppy at a young age between 8 and 12 weeks. That way they will socialize well to children. If you wait and get the puppy much older than that, then they tend to have more “baggage” in the form of fear and lack of socialization, which could be a recipe for disaster.

Don’t ...go it alone. Always invest in several lessons with a certified trainer. Whether you are an experienced dog owner or a novice, the field of dog training has changed. A qualified trainer can save you lots of headaches by sharing with you a plethora of new information that you were probably unaware of. That person can also possibly save you money if you have a dog that ends up being destructive in the form of separation anxiety or clumsy and boundless energy. It is well worth the small investment just to get you off on the right foot.

Is Your Dog Reactive To Other Dogs?

It’s embarrassing when your dog all of a sudden wants to lunge aggressively at another dog, a kid on a skateboard or just about anything that moves while you are on your walk. The thought goes through your head, “what would happen if Rover actually got a chance to attack that guy with a hat walking on the other side of the street?”

The fact is, most dogs act out aggressively because they are scared and lunging, barking and carrying on is the way they have learned to make that scary thing go away.

Fortunately, there are positive ways of desensitizing and rehabilitating dogs like this but it takes loads of patience and a good trainer like myself to guide and coach you through that process.

Don’t let your dog embarrass you. Let me help you rehabilitate or manage your dog better.


Potty Training for Adults and Puppies - A quick tip

It's important to get your puppy out often and on a schedule while potty training. A crate is also a fantastic tool for this purpose. When the crate is sized correctly, the puppy won't soil in the crate. But what should you do if you have just rescued an adult dog and you are having soiling issues? My suggestion would be to start the whole potty training process over again. Take the dog out often and on a schedule as if he/she were a puppy again. 

If you have questions about potty training, hiring a trainer like myself is a good investment and fortunately, very affordable.

Two dog training devices- One I love and one I absolutely abhor

Dog Training is my passion and there are a few devices that are used in dog training that really effect me emotionally both good and bad.

The device that I absolutely love is the clicker.  This simple $3 or $4 device has done more for dog training than just about any other thing. A clicker is used to mark a behavior that the trainer desires. It usually takes the place of “Good Boy!” or “Good Girl!” Marking a behavior simply means a sound is made the split second the dog does the right thing. For instance, the split second a dog sits and his butt touches the ground, the behavior can be marked with a click and the dog will know that a treat or reward is on its way. It works better than “Good Boy” because saying words can change with the handler’s mood or personality. The click never changes.

On the other hand, the device which makes my skin crawl is the shock collar. Also known as Electronic, E-Collar or Remote Training Collar. Electric fences also use shock collars. This statement from Trish King says it all. She is well known in the dog trainer community and director of the Marin SPCA in California.

"There are a few videos on You Tube in which men put shock collars on themselves and then roll around laughing when the shock hits, and they fall sidewise.   Maybe this is funny during the videoing, in a perverse sort of way, but what would happen if the shock collars were always on, and they could not predict when the pain would hit – when they took a swig of beer, drove a car, or took a bite of food?  Eventually, they would be afraid to do anything.  They would be under control.   But we don’t do that to people – we do it to dogs, our pets, because we can and they love us anyway." 

If you truly love your dog, don’t use an E-collar or trust any dog trainer that uses them. It stresses dogs out, raises their cortisol levels and many times backfires causing dogs to become aggressive or extremely fearful. Think about how you would feel to get shocked not knowing when it was going to happen. Use the proven reward based techniques. They are equally as effective and quick and most of all, you aren’t harming your best friend. 

Let me show you how to train your dog in a loving and kind way.

Reality TV and Cesar Millan

Reality TV has become so popular over the last 20 years. We seem to relish the conflict and cheer when a bad guy gets booted off and the good guy prevails. But we all know in the back of our minds that even though reality tv doesn’t usually use actors but real people, the reality that you see on the screen isn’t necessarily what happened in real life behind the screen.

It is important to keep this very thing in mind when you watch the popular Cesar 911. We don’t know how many takes and editing it took for a dog to stop lunging at a neighbor. We don’t know how long a dog was trained at the Dog Psychology Center. And even though it seems like Millan has “fixed” a dog in about ten minutes, the reality is dogs don’t learn that quickly. Dogs in a lot of ways learn like us, in small, slow and deliberate steps not in one trial as we see on tv. And in those odd times when a dog does learn in one trial, many times it is unlikely that we could change the habit or a behavior permanently without good solid training.

As a trainer, I have seen many clients who claim to have tried the things that they see on Cesar 911 and they end up calling me because the techniques they saw didn’t work. Almost everyone tries the "tsst!!" to no avail. One thing I like about Cesar 911 is that people are putting training in the forefront of their minds realizing how important it is whether it is Cesar's way or my own. I hope you will come back to reality and let me help you work with you and your dog.


Training takes a lot of time, right?

If you have been to this site often and seen the various instructional or demo videos that feature my dogs(shown above), you might think that I am constantly training my dogs. The truth is, I only set aside about 10 minutes a day to train my dogs and sometimes I skip it all together.  The rest of the time, my dogs and me have to abide by certain rules so bad habits are not formed. The dogs know what or what not to expect from me on a daily basis and I never waiver from that. Mainly, it is making sure that I control all the resources. Resources are not only food and treats but attention, praise, walks, play, tug and petting. I even randomize those resources so they really don’t know when they are coming further putting me up on the ladder. Additionally, I have developed a great training relationship over a long period of time that is always positive and fun for the dogs. I never hit, shake, leash pop or administer any other kind of pain that make my dogs fear me. 

Choosing a Dog Trainer

Recently on Orlando’s Channel 6 WKMG, there was a horrifying story about people who entrusted a dog trainer who would board their dogs and train them. This so-called trainer charged these people thousands of dollars and ended either neglecting or abusing over 40 dogs. This trainer ended up being a huckster with a criminal record and had no formal education in dog training.

I thought it would be good to go through some points as to what to look for in a dog trainer and what pertinent questions you should ask.

1.     What method do you use? If it is anything but positive, don’t hire him.

2.     What is your educational background in dog training? A dog trainer should have some kind of certification that is listed after his/her name such as ABC-DT, CPDT-KA. I am very proud of my education at ABC and proud to call myself an ABC-DT dog trainer.

3.     What kind of continuing education have you attended? If he doesn’t participate in continuing education, don’t hire him. I am constantly viewing and/or attending seminars and reading to stay on top of my craft.

4.     What equipment do you use? If he uses shock collars, e-collars, choke chains,or prong collars then run away. Positive reinforcement is the only effective way to train.

5.     Do you belong to any professional associations and if not, why? Professional associations usually embrace the scientifically based positive method. There is a great organization called the Association of Pet Dog Trainers that I belong to. 

I am very circumspect of any dog trainer that boards and trains dogs in Orlando. Some I am sure use positive methods but many of these businesses use E-collars, i.e. shock collars and they might call themselves a canine boot camp. No dog needs boot camp. Dogs need to be trained with love, respect and a calm benevolence preferably by their owners under the guidance of a certified positive dog trainer like myself.


Does your dog jump up on people?

We all hate it when our dogs jump up on people when they walk through the door. The natural human reaction is to yell at the dog to get off. But the fact that you are getting upset and yelling is actually fueling your dog’s excitement of meeting people and might even encourage it. Not only is Rover getting the attention from your guest but he is getting ramped up with your reaction. As usual, preplanning is essential. If your dog is a jumper, instruct guests to ignore the dog under all circumstances until the dog has all four feet on the ground. This is not an easy task but setting up practice sessions will help instead of waiting until Aunt Myrtle comes over in her new white dress. At the same time, you can teach your dog the off command. An easy way to do this is to teach the dog to jump up on cue then teach the off cue. You can also teach the dog to go to a place mat when the door rings.

There are many things we can teach dogs to do instead of jumping up on people. Let me show you what will work best for your dog.

Socializing Your Puppy

Amazing things can happen when we preplan certain aspects of our lives. If we invest a small percentage of our income now, our money can grow for retirement. If we exercise now, we hope to prevent many health problems as we age. The same kind of preplanning can improve significantly your dog’s mental health as he grows from puppyhood to adulthood. As a puppy and an adolescent, the things he gets exposed to, either good or bad, can affect how he sees the world for his entire life.  Even events that a puppy doesn’t experience can be traumatic in adulthood. This is why socialization is so important. Some dog experts say our dogs are not fully domesticated until they have been properly trained and socialized. As a trainer, I would like to see everybody training and socializing at the same time but if I had to choose which one would be more important, it would be to get your dog out in the world as much as possible. Socialization has a pressing deadline that, if you miss it within the first 8 to 16 weeks of Zippy’s life, you will never be able to fully “domesticate” your dog. This is when we see dogs scared of sounds, some people, skateboards etc.

Dogs, like people, come with their own personalities and this requires that all of them need some sort of behavior modification right from the start. Some dogs lack confidence and some are pushy. Others are sluggish, shy, reserved, rambunctious, asocial, antisocial or lack confidence. This is why that crucial 8 weeks is so important. We can take those inborn “character flaws” and work with them, mold and manage them over that period so that adolescence and adulthood is much more bearable.

What is Socialization? It is simply getting the dog familiar with all sorts of people, situations and other animals so that Zippy will less likely be fearful when he becomes an adult. If dogs aren’t exposed to men, children, people with canes, hats or beards, then the dog could react in a visceral mannerwhen he sees these people for the first time as an adult. Fear is the main reason why dogs bite. But luckily, socialization is a fun and easy thing to do with a puppy. 

Your job as a puppy owner is to get Zippy to not only tolerate but absolutely enjoy everybody whether they are in a wheel chair or walking with a limp. 

How do we do it:

·      Your goal is for your puppy to meet 100 unique strangers in 8 weeks. So keep count.

·      I always ask my clients to gather up some tiny treats that are about ½ pea sized and are something the puppy absolutely goes bonkers over. When I did this with my last puppy, I used little pieces of cheddar cheese or hot dogs.

·      Go to the nearest plaza that has a steady flow of people and is not close to a pet supply store or vet. In Dr. Phillips, the Publix on Sand Lake Road is a perfect place or across the street where My Gym is located.

·      Sit on a bench and wait. You’ll soon realize that puppies are absolutely irresistible. People can’t help but want to pet a puppy.

·      When the first few people show up, feed your puppy treats ever so often and let the strangers feed Zippy, as well. By doing this, your puppy is associating all these strangers with something really great. Cheese!

·      Let children gush over the puppy. Encourage people of all races and genders to pet your little fur ball. One of the toughest demographic to get interested in a puppy is men. Most don’t want to be bothered and when they are with their wives, they hang back and wait. Get them to pet or feed little Zippy, too. Insecure adult dogs can sense the extra testosterone and low voice that a man has and find it threatening

 When my wife and I did this, we went to the Loop in Kissimmee and Home Depot and over the course of about 3 weeks, we had our 100 unique strangers.

A Few Words of Warning:  Before you embark on your daily socialization trip, there are a few things to keep in mind. Puppies are at a risk for getting a deadly disease called Parvo. It is a dangerous and deadly virus that hangs out in dog feces and can live on surfaces and grass for weeks. Because of this, you should keep your puppy away from vet parking lots or pet stores until they have had all their shots. Also keep them away from other dogs because adult dogs can carry it on their paws or body but be immune to Parvo themselves. The risk is low but why take chances.

Also, watch your puppy’s body language. If at any time Zippy looks scared, get him out of there quickly. This would be the opposite of positive socialization and create a phobia.

A Side Note: You should never physically discipline or punish your puppy. This time in Zippy’s life is so impressionable that this antiquated style of training can be horribly traumatic and can make Zippy fear you. In modern dog training, we guide our dogs with kind and calm benevolence. Reward your puppy for the things he does right often and ignore those undesirable behaviors. With consistency, your puppy will get the picture. If you are ever uncertain about how to extinguish unwanted behaviors, always solicit the help from a certified trainer.

But wait, you’re not done! So you have gotten those 100 people to gush over your puppy but at approximately 6 months to about 2 years, your dog has grown into adolescence and most dogs develop another fear imprint period. So it is important to continue getting your dog out meeting people and since by now, your dog has all its vaccinations, you can get them meeting other dogs and going to dog parks and pet stores.

It sounds easy because it is. But believe it or not, so many people completely miss or don’t even know about socialization and unfortunately do their dog a great disservice. Your dog when well-socialized will ensure that he is healthy, happy and free of fear.

Adopting 2 dogs: Don’t create a huge headache for yourself!

As a trainer, I am not a fan of anybody adopting two dogs at once especially if you are a novice dog owner. When you have two dogs, you must train them separately. If you are new to dog ownership, this can be very overwhelming and time consuming. Think about it, you have to train the behaviors sit, stay, come, lay down and walk on a loose leash separately. If you don’t, you will have poorly trained dogs. Getting two puppies from the same litter can also cause problems. Without careful training and leadership, you will have those two puppies build a bond with each other where they have less of a need for the owner thus creating behavioral problems that get worse as they reach adolescence.

It is always better to get dogs one at a time and when you feel you have reached a point where you have a strong bond and established yourself as the provider of all resources, then you can carefully choose another dog.

If you have already adopted two dogs at once, all is not lost and I can still help you get through it.

Check back every Tuesday for more dog training tips.


Mastering the 'Come' Cue

Many people call me and want advice on why their dog won’t come when called. They use the excuses that their dog is stubborn or stupid. Chances are, your dog is neither. When dealing with dogs and training them, the dog many times will infer, “what’s in it for me.” They’re inherently selfish.

In light of this, a typical dog owner will call their dog; Rover, come…Rover….Come! ….and so on and so forth until the owner is so angry that he storms over to his dog and clips on the leash and forcefully says, “let’s go.”

So the dog has a choice. He is enjoyably sniffing grass or an angry owner grabbing his collar and bringing him home. No fun. I’ll take the grass sniffing, thank you.

A great come cue takes practice and a reward when he comes to you. Rehearse your come cue even when you don’t want Rover to come and follow it up with a reward. After some practice, when your really need him to come to you, you’ll get it. Let me teach you to train your dog the perfect come cue.


Finding the Right Puppy

January, February and March are common months for trainers to get calls from clients about puppy problems. Why in these months? Because, people give puppies as gifts to their loved ones and the months following the holiday season are when people get frustrated with their little balls of endless energy. Currently, I have a puppy and it is truly impossible to wear her out. I can’t imagine someone trying to raise a puppy without having the proper tools and knowledge to have success. I’d love to share a few tips for people to read before they even consider a puppy. Hopefully this will encourage further reading and research.

•   Make sure you have lots of time. The minute you bring your puppy home, you need to start training her. Fortunately, new research has paved the way for force free methods of training puppies. The old method of puppy training was to wait until they were 6 months of age to start training by means of using physical punishment. So, the minute you bring your little one home, start training and socializing her everyday. Be diligent and keep this up for at least a year. In fact, dogs find training rewarding and fun throughout their entire lives.

•   Owning a dog is a long term, financial and emotional commitment. Puppies, compared to adopting an older dog, are very expensive. They have to go to the vet often and you may have to invest in equipment such as crates, gates and possibly even fence in your back yard. Because of this commitment, a puppy should never be given as a surprise gift. You are taking in a living thing that relies on you which takes planning and a committed effort for 10 to 14 years.  

•   If you buy a purebred puppy, make sure you buy from a reputable and registered breeder. Purebred dogs generally are very expensive ($500 to $1000 or more). If they aren’t, you could be dealing with a back yard breeder with little experience. Another possibility is your dog is from a puppy-mill. Puppy-mill dogs can be mal-adjusted because they are not exercised or socialized properly. These dogs are hard to rehabilitate. Also, be wary of buying a dog off of an online listing site such as Craig’s list or from a pet store. The reputable pet stores just host shelters to bring rescued dogs to be sold at nominal prices. They don’t sell puppy-mill dogs.

•   Evaluate your lifestyle to make sure the breed you are interested in falls in line with what works for you.  For instance, don’t buy a Border Collie if you aren’t an active person with a huge commitment to giving this breed tons of exercise and mental stimulation. Consequently, if you are really active, don’t buy a sedentary breed such as a Bassett Hound. In other words, don’t buy just on looks. Write down what you might do with a dog and find a breed that fits your lifestyle. If you want a lap dog, the Border collie isn’t it. 

•   Make sure the puppy stayed with its mother for 2 months before taking it home. This is important. Puppies taken from mom before 2 months can also be mal-adjusted and be difficult to rehabilitate. Mom and brothers and sisters teach bite inhibition so the puppy learns cues as to when she bites too hard. That skill translates into adulthood when you don’t want your 70 pound Lab play biting you with full force. Also, puppies that stay with their mother for 2 months are also less likely to be fearful or timid in their adult lives.

•   If you want to get a rescued puppy, be choosy. Don’t go into a shelter and make a quick decision. There are so many dogs that need to be rescued and doing so is a noble act. I am a dog rescuer and I applaud it. But, you still want to find a compatible dog. For as much as this process will involve your heart, you have to have your wits about you. You still must consider your lifestyle and what kind of puppy you are adopting. Consider time, commitment, and a proper breed mixture that fits your life. You don’t always know if the puppy was taken from its mother before 2 months, but you should always do your best to find out as much about the puppy’s history as possible. I volunteer at a local rescue and see certain dogs returned, sometimes multiple times. This frequently occurs because people are adopting solely with their hearts and then get overwhelmed when reality sets in. Many times I feel that it is worse for the puppy to come back to the shelter multiple times as opposed to the puppy staying in the shelter longer to make sure they find the right home. 

How you bring up a puppy will greatly determine what kind of adult dog you end up having. It’s best to stay grounded, be a little less idealized in your selection, and be diligent with training.


Essential things to have when you get a puppy

When you first get a puppy, what are the major things you need to buy? Well first of all, you need a crate. It’s a great place for the puppy to go when you can’t tend to him. Hollow chew toys that you can stuff with food is another good investment. Obviously, you need a collar and a leash. A comfortable bed would be good to redirect the dog if you want him off the couch.

One thing you won’t need is a food bowl. You should be feeding your puppy his entire meals by hand or in the hollow chew toys. When you feed your puppy by hand, you establish yourself as the provider and leader of the household. Anything that you have left over can be put in a chew toy, you turn your dog into a chew toy addict, which is much better than a couch chewing addict or a shoe chewing addict.


Common Assumptions in Dog Ownership

There is a nationally known dog trainer, author and clinician, Chris Bach, whom I admire. If you aren’t a dog trainer you probably won’t know who she is, but she has some great concepts. One of those concepts is the A.S.S.U.M.E. acronym. What Bach asks is:  Is it worthwhile for the dog/owner relationship to ASSUME that dogs must be:

Adaptable to any situation?

Sociable to everyone and everything?

Submissive to all people?

Unaffected by past experiences?

Manageable under all circumstances?

Emotionally stable regardless of anything?

The overwhelming answer is NO.  This is especially true with rescued dogs. Many times we won’t know a dog’s past experience.  In addition to that, Bach questions if humans are able to live by these impossible rules? The answer is also no. So why would we expect that from our dogs.  Therefore, she says that she is letting every person and every dog “off the hook.”  

One common example of humans expecting their dogs to be adaptable would be when I see them at farmer’s markets such as the ones in Winter Park or downtown Orlando that happen every weekend. Many dogs are ok but there are always a few that are just plain frightened of the people and commotion. These owners don’t realize this and are expecting their dogs to be “Adaptable to any situation” and, “Emotionally stable regardless of anything.” If you notice your dog is not happy in a place such as a farmer’s market, you shouldn’t bring him there or expect him to get used to it without time-consuming desensitization. How do you know your dog is frightened or uneasy? Look at the body language. The tail says a lot. If it is between the legs suggesting fear, or if it is up very high and wiggling quickly suggesting alertness and possible aggression, your dog should be taken away from the uncomfortable situation. Other things to look for are very wide eyes, ears perked up or bearing teeth. One of my dogs doesn’t like big crowds so I keep him away from them. There is no reason to put my dog through that kind of stress just because I feel my dog should be able to handle it. I rescued him and I have no idea what his past experience with big crowds was.

Here is another situation. My son used to be involved in a youth theater and few days during afternoon pick up time, a parent would come in with his older German Shepherd to wait for his child at the back of the theater. Naturally, the children gravitated towards this calm and seasoned dog. No less than five children were around this dog petting him and getting in his face. The owner may not have been attuned to what was clearly an absolutely terrified dog. He had wide eyes (sometimes called whale eye), ears were down and he was shaking. This was a recipe for disaster because a good majority of dog bites occur because the dog is fearful. Also, a majority of dog bite victims are children under 10. Many dogs when faced with this type of situation on a recurring basis feel that they have no choice but to say, “GET OUT OF MY FACE!,” and that is when a bite occurs. What we do as humans is blame the dog, when in fact, it was the humans who were truly at fault for not knowing how to approach a dog and read his body language. When these dogs finally do explode, they sadly get put down even though they were only trying to protect themselves. It is horribly sad. The owner should have instead left this dog in the car or left him at home. Luckily, I never saw this dog do anything, but I felt like it was a ticking time bomb. Every dog, no matter how nice and calm, has the capability of being aggressive when put in the wrong situation.

So please consider the anacronym, A.S.S.U.M.E. a dog can handle every person, place or situation. I have now let you “off the hook” and you are now allowed to say that my dog is not comfortable with children or at a super bowl party. Instead you can now leave your dog at home or put your dog up in a dog hotel for the evening if you are having a large gathering.

What should we do when we have no choice but to bring a dog into an uncomfortable situation? The vet’s office is a common place where dogs tend to be uncomfortable and fearful. You have a number of choices. Instead of waiting in the lobby for 15 or 20 minutes you could sign in and then wait with your dog outside or if it is cool, you could leave your dog in the car until it is your turn.

Another idea would be to systematically desensitize your dog to the vet. It is quite labor intensive, but if you put a lot of time into this, your dog’s anxiety could be greatly mitigated. Simply bring your dog to the vet weekly whether he needs medical care or not. Bring some good treats with you. Sit down for a while in the lobby feeding treats every once in a while. Let people pet your dog if he isn’t showing signs of stress. After a few weeks, ask if you can bring your dog to an empty exam room. Again, make sure that there is no anxiety. If there is, go back to the lobby and make visits there for a few more weeks. If the anxiety has abated, hang out in the exam room, again letting technicians pet your dog or even let your dog on the examination table if he is willing. Over the course of a few months, you likely will have a dog that is less afraid of going to the vet. We all too often force our dogs into vet’s offices and from a dog’s point of view, this can be absolutely terrifying.

 Instead of trying to assume that our dogs can live by the above assumed rules, it would be much better to manage the dogs behavior as best we can and let the dogs be dogs. Let their own individual personalities dictate how you train, socialize and interact with them.


Exercise, Exercise, Exercise

For many dog breeds, this is the mantra for keeping your dog out of trouble. You’ve heard the statement, “An apple a day keeps the doctor away.” Well, a good dose of exercise could reduce your need of a local dog trainer, and in many incidences, can resolve lots of behavior problems.

It’s true, some breeds don’t need a great deal of exercise. Breeds such as the Bassett Hound, Shih Tzu, Bulldog or even some Mastiffs are fine with a leisurely stroll around the block. But if you own a Lab, Golden Retriever, Australian Shepherd, Border Collie or a Pit Bull, prepare to spend lots of time giving these dogs tons of running, retrieving, Frisbee or agility work. These dogs have an inordinate amount of energy even when they are in their mid-lives at 7 to 10 years old.

Some clients I have seen who have herding breeds such as Shetland Sheepdogs and German Shepherds have had problems with excessive barking, digging, and chewing inappropriate things. One client had owned a Shelty with a barking problem and with a little bit of prying, I found that the dog was only getting a leisurely 20 minute walk a day. It wasn’t enough for a dog with extreme pent up energy. It was quite shocking to the dog owner when I said the dog needs at least an hour of vigorous exercise a day. It’s a tough reality because many of these less knowledgeable dog owners realize that their daily lifestyle will have to change just for the dog. In this case for a young herding breed of dog, the leisurely walk just wasn’t doing it. It is another argument that you must choose your dog breed carefully.

 Why do our dogs need exercise? The answer to this question lies in the domesticated dog history and its relationship to us over the course of thousands of years. Possibly 30,000 years ago, dogs would hang around human garbage heaps and the dogs that were friendly were taken in as companions. It was then that we started to learn that we could train these dogs to work for us and in exchange, we would feed them and give them companionship. Over the course of these thousands of years, different dog breeds were developed providing protection, hunting, herding and retrieving. Now the most common job our dogs do is lie around the house and sleep. Our dogs have lost that purpose in their lives.

Many dog owners assume that leaving a dog in the back yard constitutes exercise. We humans have a unique relationship with our dogs. We don’t share this type of relationship with any other species in the world. They were bred to be with us and work for us. A dog left in the back yard to tend to its own devices might run a few laps and then ultimately, wait for you to let him back inside or wait for some sort of human interaction.

So how much exercise does your dog need? Well, that will depend on the breed and your individual dog. But generally, your dog should have an hour of exercise everyday. For some, that exercise might have to be a hour of vigorous activity and for others, it might be more cerebral such as smelling work if you have a Hound.

 There are many ways that your dog can get exercise. The most common way is to take your dog on a walk. But it is important to know that the walk should be lengthy, about an hour a day. But the list of other exercise options is endless.

·      Retrieving provides vigorous exercise for many dogs and you don’t even have to move. If your dog doesn’t bring the ball back, he can be trained to do so.

·      Many dogs have good eye-mouth coordination and these dogs would be good candidates for catching Frisbees.

·      Bring your dog to a dog park and let them interact with other dogs. There is a wonderful Orange County dog park at the Dr. P. Phillips Community Park in southwest Orlando.

·      Train your dog new tricks and behaviors. This gets your dog’s mind working, strengthens your relationship, and renews his sense of purpose.

·      Agility Classes. A neighbor of mine takes her Springer Spaniel regularly to agility class. This is an obstacle course for dogs with jumps, tubes and seesaws. Active dogs usually love this. Google dog agility in Orlando or Kissimmee and you’ll find it is done in many locations.

·      Running or riding a bike with your dog beside you not only gives you exercise but your dog benefits, as well.  Additionally, if your dog likes it, he will make sure you make this part of your daily routine.

·      Dogs like the Bernese Mountain Dog are working dogs originally bred to pull carts. If you had a dog like this, you could teach the dog to pull a cart and the dog would probably love doing something that was part of his genetic make up.

·      There are endless clubs that you can join involving activities like competition obedience, rally, freestyle, tracking and flyball.

All in all, if you want to mitigate the destructive chewing, unruly behavior in the house, excessive predatory behavior, garbage raiding, and attention getting behaviors like barking and whining, then give your dog the exercise it needs. You’ll have an agile, limber, healthy, happy, trim and well-behaved dog in return.

Choosing the Right Dog

In working at a prominent shelter in the Orlando area and advising many dog owners in private lessons, I find that there are a lot of mistakes being made when people choose a dog or a puppy. So here is a list of a few things you might want to consider before getting a dog or puppy.
CONSIDER BREED: Too many people choose breeds for their looks when actually what they should be doing is choosing the temperament of a breed and whether it fits into their lifestyle. For instance, if you want a lap dog and you aren’t much into training, you don’t want a hyper breed such as an Australian Shepherd. Conversely, if you are an active person and want your dog to train easily, a dachshund would not be right for you.
CONSIDER COST: Dogs cost a lot both when you first adopt and throughout the 10-14 years of their lives in medical costs. This is one reason why you should never get two dogs at the same time. Not only is training a bear but medical costs easily double. It is best to get only one canine and get a mental picture as to how much it costs in food and medical costs. Having said that, don’t skimp on the cost of adopting a full breed puppy. See last week’s article on how to get a full breed puppy.
DON’T GIVE A PUPPY AS A GIFT: We are coming into the holiday season and many people decide to give a puppy as a gift to their friend or family member. This is not a good idea. A puppy is not an object but a living thing. Decisions on breed, costs, medicines, vets and lifestyle should not be taken lightly.  Dogs take an enormous amount of daily work which doesn’t stop until they leave us in 10 to 14 years. A puppy can change a person’s life instantly in a good way but also overly burden someone if they are unable or unprepared to do the work.

A few tips on getting a purebred dog

Purebred dogs can be a genetic cesspool and if you aren’t careful, you can end up with either a dog with serious genetic medical problems or worse, genetic behavioral problems. There are many people who are breeding purebred puppies for huge profits and don’t necessarily know what they are doing. Many of the genetic issues have been bred out of certain breeds using rules set by the American Kennel Club.

Reputable breeders know their genetic line are careful with whom their dogs breed. One registered breeder I talked with who breeds standard poodles said that she was so concerned with hip issues, if one male had only a fair rating for hips, then she wouldn’t let that dog breed with her female who had excellent hips. It is responsible breeding and it is a standard set by the AKC.  Likewise, a responsible registered breeder will take a dog out of the line and not breed if that dog has displayed some kind of genetic problem. If you get a puppy from a breeder not registered, you are taking your chances with genetic issues such as hip dysplasia found in bigger breeds and aggression found in other breeds like the Doberman Pinscher. Inexperienced or uneducated breeders are also not concerned with taking a dog out of the line or even knows anything about responsible breeding to begin with. The moral of the storyis don’t go to a so called, “backyard breeder” with no credentials trying to save you some money. Spend the money and get your puppy from a reputable and registered AKC breeder and make sure that dog has papers to prove it.

What should I adopt, puppy or adult dog?

That is a tough question to answer. There are pros and cons to each..  

Getting a puppy?

PRO: You generally have a clean slate and an eager learner. If you start training immediately and are consistent in your training, there is high likelyhood of having a well-adjusted adult dog. You are in control of how the puppy experiences the world.

CON: Yes, you have an eager learner but that puppy needs to learn everything from you over the course of a year or more. Consider potty training; which can take weeks or even months of getting up in the middle of the night to let the puppy out. You also have to puppy proof your home. Training and socialization are exceptionally important and must be practiced daily.

Getting an adult dog?

PRO: Many times you have a dog that has learned all the basic commands, is potty trained and has already learned that chewing on shoes is a no-no.

CON: You many times have no idea what life experiences that dog had as a puppy in the form of socialization and training. From this, many adult dogs can come with emotional baggage because previous owners were not knowledgeable about raising a puppy. I call rescued adult dogs “project dogs” for this reason. As a trainer, all the rescued adult dogs that I have seen need some kind of training or rehabilitation.

The conclusion is, have an argument with yourself  weighing benefits and pitfalls of adopting either a dog or a puppy.  It is always a good idea to enlist the help of a qualified trainer to make sure you start your relationship with your dog or puppy on the right footing.