The short answer, only one. I have had a few clients who have either gotten two puppies at once or rescued two adult dogs at the same time. Even for the most experienced trainers, this is an true challenge. None of my clients who adopted two dogs at the same time were experienced dog owners and it became overwhelming. First of all, you can’t train two dogs at the same time. You have to train them separately. Consistent practice and training is essential for both dogs. Some peopledidn’t have the time to do this. If you have ever had a baby and realize how much work it is, multiply that by two and know that this is what happens when you adopt two dogs at the same time. You have twice the expense and twice the time spent training. It is best to adopt one dog at a time and let that dog assimilate into your life. Later, when you feel you have a handle on training and are readyto invest more time and money, carefully choose a second dog that will be compatible with the first.
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/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 knowa dog’s past experience. In addition that, Bach questions if humans are able to live by these impossible rules? The answer is 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. 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 are expecting their dogs to be “Adaptable to any situation.” 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. 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.
Instead of trying to make our dogs, especially rescued ones, live by the above rules, it would be much better to manage the dogs behavior as best we can and let the dog be dogs, letting there own individual personalities dictate how you train, socialize and interact with them.
Pit bulls have received a bad rap for many years. Because they were cruelly used for dog fighting and there were a few “bad eggs” in the breed, they have suffered from what I call Breed-ism. Many insurance companies won’t insure you if you have one, some cities, counties and even countries have banned them. When there is a highly publicized dog bite in the press, the offending dog is always called a pit-bull even though there are many of dogs that look like a them. So, even though only a handful of dog bites are done by pit-bulls, most dog bite incidences are always wrongly blamed on the breed. Pretty unfair, huh? Check out this link and see if you can choose the pit-bull from the 25 pictures. It’s hard to pick it out.
In my experience as a trainer, pit-bulls look menacing but are actually a fun, energetic, smart and trainable breed. Like many energetic breeds, training early in their lives is important or they develop bad habits. In fact I have been bitten a number of times by dogs and none of them have been pit-bulls and this is the breed I most deal with when I volunteer at the shelter.
It’s time for us to put and end to the pitbull madness and treat them like any other dog, with respect, kindness and leadership.
This is a common problem that dog trainers get called for all the time. If you step back a bit, you’ll realize that dogs bark for many reasons.
There is excited play-alert barking where the dog is having fun and enjoying whatever activity he is engaged in.
Fearful alarm barking is when a dog is scared or stressed at something he has never seen before or is simply under-socialized or shy.
Demand barking is usually from a dog that is being pushy.
Then there is the common problem of territorial barking where this occurs mainly at home.
Also, dogs can bark if there’re bored.
I have also mentioned in previous posts about choosing your dog breed carefully. Some dogs have barking in their genetic make up and stopping it in these incidences can be very difficult.
When you’re dealing with barking, it is important to identify the cause of the barking before trying to stop it. For example, if your dog barks every time you put him out in the backyard, you might find that he is bored especially if he is left out there for long periods of time. I have always advocated having an indoor dog. Dogs have been bred to be with us and work for us and not be left alone for long periods of time. Another example would be if you have a dog that is engaging you in direct eye contact or growls or barks at you when you want him off the couch. He could be engaging in demand or dominance barking. A good trainer would put you on a program of relationship/leadership exercises where he/she can put the owner on a routine of controlling resources and submissive body-posturing exercises.
With good leadership, some knowledge and thoughtful guidance from a dog trainer, many a barking problem can be abated or even eliminated
Anthropologists have really figured out that dogs respond quicker to visual cues than verbal. This makes sense because in the dog world, that is how they primarily communicate. Some people might think they communicate through barking but that is a more minor part of communication. Dogs see other dogs and naturally assess whether their ears are up or forward or down. They’ll look at the tail. Is it wagging and how is it wagging? They’ll also look at other dog's approaching. Is it coming straight for them, suggesting aggression, or is it approaching in an arc and not directly communicating friendliness or no threat?
Consequently, it is important that every dog owner educates him or herself and becomes fluent in canine body language. That way you can really know what your dog’s state of mind really is.
It is widely believed that throughout our dogs’ lives, they could be equated to a 2 year old child. A human 2 year old generally is excited to learn, enjoys simple things, and has to be supervised when you are out and about. This is generally true with adult dogs too. But this belief has its limitations. Mainly, a dog is a different species and has a different language or way of communicating. I think it is fine to equate Skippy with a human 2 year old to gain a better understanding of dogs but in no way should we be treating him like a human.
One major thing I see when people humanize their dog is spanking or hitting them when they do something undesirable. After all, many people do this to their kids to correct them. However, this is not how dogs communicate. It was thought years ago that this pain inducing method was a way to train a dog and that is no longer the case. Nowadays, we train dogs to get a reward because studies have shown that this is the way dogs learn best.
Also, I see people yelling at their dogs. After all, we also do this to our kids. People don’t realize that to your dog, yelling can be just like barking to your canine. For instance, when I see a dog barking and reacting to a person on the other side of a fence, I see the owners yelling at Rover saying “come” or “Rover, stop.” At this point, the dog has crossed a threshold and any kind of yelling will send the message to the dog, “my owner is barking at this person, too.”
It’s always best to be a kind, calm and benevolent leader to your dog. If you are having these types of issues, call a certified trainer like myself so I can show you a better alternative to yelling or hitting and most of all, let me show you how to communicate effectively with your dog.
Lately, I have seen that members of the average dog owning public are really seeing the benefits of early socialization in puppies. This is an improvement from years ago when many people didn’t know what it was. When you own a puppy, there is a period where socialization is optimal, especially if you want well-adjusted dogs throughout their life. When you socialize a dog or puppy, you are exposing Skippy to as many different experiences as possible. You want him to meet different people, visit parks, farmer’s markets, busy streets or any situations that he could encounter in his adult life. There is one caveat to socialization, though. If you expose your puppy to something he finds scary, socialization will be counterproductive. It could have the opposite effect and make Skippy fearful of that situation or the circumstances surrounding it. So, make sure you look at your puppy’s body language to avoid any negatives he might feel. If he does, back off until he relaxes or ease him into situations carefully and slowly, and always bring tasty treats with you!
There has been a long held myth that if your dog is pulling you on the leash, dashing out the door or urinating in the house, he is being dominant. Because of one particular show on TV, this dominance theory has been perpetuated. However, what you might not know is that dominance theory was dismissed by the scientific community long ago. Dominance theory was based on the fact that dogs were related to wolves and wolves roamed in packs that had a dominant male. We now know from further study has been done on wolves that wolf packs actually consist of a mother and father and pups just like humans. Further research has also found that wolves are no more related to our dogs than we humans are to chimpanzees.
Wolves in packs don’t use force when dealing with available resources but actually peacefully defer to each other. When we see domestic dogs aggress toward people or other dogs, it is not one dog trying to be dominant over the other person or dog but usually stems from anxiety or fear.
Also, if Rover is dashing out the door before you or pulling you on the lead, it is not that he wants to be dominant but is simply a canine that just wants to get there wherever ‘there’ is. Walks and being outside for a dog is fun and if Rover can get to the fun quicker, that is all the better.
Although these issues are annoying, it is not a dog being dominant rather it is a dog that requires a little bit of training.
What is anthropomorphism? To put it simply, it is humanizing your cat or your dog. These people think their pet can understand everything they tell them and they have the ability to feel spite, guilt, or think in an abstract way. Honestly, there is no problem with humanizing your dog. I even do it with my own dogs and cats. When I am home alone I often find myself talking to them. It’s fun and for many people, it’s comforting. I believe this is the reason why it has been proven that pets lower our blood pressure and help to lessen stress in our lives.
But as a trainer, I see the traps that anthropomorphism creates with many people. Because people get in the habit of humanizing their dog, they can’t understand why they can’t reason with them when things go awry. Dogs respond according to their nature(genes) and their conditioning(training and upbringing). Many times dogs get hurt emotionally or physically because people don’t understand this one concept. One major thing I see is scolding your dog for something that happened in the past such as finding your slippers chewed when you have been away from home. Dogs don’t think in an abstract way. Scolding a dog by telling him how bad he was is fruitless and your dog won’t understand your words. The only thing he will pick up on is your anger. The real reason why he chewed the slipper is because dogs like to chew and the slippers smelled tasty.
Another mistake that humans make is that thinking dogs feel guilty after they see that you are mad for chewing your slippers. Actually, all they are doing is reacting to your emotion. If you come home angry enough times, your dog will soon look guilty every time you come home whether you are angry or not or whether he chewed slippers or not. We humanize this cowering as guilt and it is far too complex an emotion for a dog to experience.
I feel it’s possible to have an emotional and even a spiritual connection with your dog. This is what makes pet ownership so great. When I look at my dogs’ faces and they look back at me, I sense a real consciousness that they are aware of me in a way that I can’t possibly describe. What I don't want to do is to project my feelings onto them but to try to understand them
All in all, there is nothing wrong with humanizing or anthropomorphizing your dog just as long as you keep it in check. Continue to tell your dog that he is “handsome and wonderful” because even though he won’t understand the words, he will respond to the tone and it will make you both feel good Just stay away from, “he pooped on the floor to spite me when I came home late.” Remember most dogs' love is unconditional.
There has been a drastic shift in the dog training industry due to extensive research in how dogs learn. Prominent researchers in canine behavior have found that dogs learn more effectively by being rewarded for a behavior as opposed to avoiding punishment. Many sensitive dogs and puppies have been psychologically harmed using the old style of training and many of end up in shelters such as the one where I volunteer. Only in the last 20 or so years has this shift in training philosophy changed.
Unfortunately, many dog trainers using the old style punishment based methods have stubbornly refused to adapt or educate themselves. They throw thunderbolts trying to discredit all the research that has taken place over the years. They feel that the only way to train a dog is to hurt a dog first and, many times, try to cover up that their method doesn’t actually hurt your dog.
One of those old style methods is the use of shock collars. I’ve done my own research going to various trainers’ websites who use shock collars throughout the country and, oddly, most of them say the same things. Here are a few things they tend to say:
Shock collars don’t hurt the dog and they let their clients try the collar on their hand to see what kind of pulse they feel.
But check out this link on YouTube that showing scenes of people having fun with a shock collar. One person has the controller and the other is wearing the shock collar. Warning: this is hard to watch. The person being shocked in each clip is physically buckling from the pain. They are able to laugh about it but the point is if this can physically make a 170 lb. man wince in pain, what can it do to your 60 lb. lab. You can’t laugh to your Lab and say, “ha, ha, just kidding.” Yes, there are settings on the collar and the majority of these people probably have it on the highest setting. However, the problem is, in the old style of training, for unwanted behavior and in order for a dog to fully comply with your commands, you must cause enough of a pain threshold to stop the unwanted behavior the first few times in order for it to be affective. Otherwise, the dog desensitizes to the pain and you have use an ever increasing pain threshold.
The shock also has to be timed perfectly or the dog could get the wrong message. For instance, you decide to call Rover while he is sniffing around and you say “come”. He ignores you. Then you get your remote to shock him but, at the instant you shock him, he starts coming towards you. Then the message will be “if I walk towards my owner, I will get this nasty shock.” Sounds counterproductive, doesn’t it? Here’s another example. Let’s say in the above example you shock your dog and at the same time a person in a wheel chair is passing . Rover could associate that pain with the wheelchair and, in the future, whenever he sees a wheelchair, he acts aggressively. In reward based training, timing is important, too, but if the owner mistimes the reward, the worse that will happen is the dog continues to do the unwanted behavior. The dog isn’t physically harmed and we can pause and try it again.
Shock collar trainers also say that they can’t use them on puppies 4 to 6 months of age or younger. Many of them revert back to reward based training for puppies of this age.
This is a good idea because this is the most impressionable time for a puppy. What the puppy experiences at this time in his life will most likely affect his entire social development. If the puppy is poorly socialized or experiences pain such as a shock collar during this time, these dogs can be adversely affected psychologically for the rest of their lives. My question is, if a trainer reverts back to reward based training; why not use that method all the time? There is proof that shock collars hurt and can break a dog’s spirit permanently. Reward based training works and is humane for a young puppy or more mature dogs
My advice is don’t fall for these guys who use these antiquated devices and don’t buy these devices without getting proper training yourself. If you insist on seeing a trainer who uses a shock collar, insist that you try it on your neck first on max power. If he refuses, you have your answer as to why you shouldn’t use one and that he is lying to you that it is not harmful. There now are many more reward based force free trainers now than ever before and there is a reason for that. Many old school trainers have re-educated themselves reflecting the new research. And now that the research is out, I would stop just short of saying shock collars are an example of animal cruelty.
Yes, it sounds unusual. But when your dog growls he is giving you a present. He is opening a window into his mind for you. What is he saying? He is probably saying I am uncomfortable with something or some situation. It is up to you to figure out what that situation is but many times it is obvious. Is it some children that are making him uncomfortable or a strange person with a hat? You have to determine that and move him away from that thing, person or situation before it gets worse or turns into aggression. One thing you shouldn’t do is ever punish the growl or stop it in any way. As I said, it is a gift because you are a getting a clear signal from Rover. If you punish the growl, Rover will suppress it and in the future, give you no warning signals. That is when people say, “my dog bit someone and it came out of nowhere.” If you have aggression issues, it is extremely important that you get help from a trainer or behaviorist who is qualified to deal with such behavior. It, many times, is a result of owner/dog misunderstandings that have built up over time. Fixing those issues can take time and expertise.
Dogs usually respond well to familiarity and consistency. That is why the first time I see a new client, I prefer to work with all the people in the household. It can be extremely helpful in understanding the concerns. For example, Mom, who takes Rover out in the morning is having issues with pulling. She does everything a trainer might ask her to do. Treat Rover when he walks well, change directions unpredictably to keep Rover on his toes, and freeze when the dog pulls. But Rover never improves. At that first meeting with the whole family, I might find out that although Mom is doing the right things in the morning, her son Johnny is not bringing the treats and is letting Rover pull him. Many times family members don’t know what the other is doing with the dog. As their trainer, I would come up with a training plan that would put all family members on the same page. Here is another example. Joan likes to cue Zippy to go into her crate before bedtime. Zippy happily complies because Joan uses a happy uplifting voice to coax Zippy into the crate. “Zippy, go to your bed!” But her husband, Harold, gets frustrated when Zippy doesn’t do the same thing for him. As a trainer and a little bit of prying, I might find out Harold is just saying, “Go to bed” in a lazy voice or just saying “Bed.” Dogs memorize sounds, not words or the meaning of words. So, the couple must say the cue, “Zippy, go to your bed!” in relatively with the same tone and pattern for Zippy to comply. If you are having issues with your dog and you feel you are doing the right things to train him, don’t forget to look at the other members of the household to see what they are doing that might be working against good, consistent training.
I’ve been asked by a number of clients why use a clicker. When training our dogs, we use our voices to express our approval when Rover has followed a command on cue. We usually say, “good boy,” or “yes.” Then we give Rover a treat for a job well done. But what many dog owners don’t realize is that “good boy,” or “yes” are simply sounds that Rover has realized over time to mean a reward whether it's a scratch behind the ears or a treat. For you psychology buffs out there, it is a conditioned reinforcer followed by an unconditioned reinforcer. Those words that we use that are just sounds to the dog are what we dog trainers call a marker. That is the purpose of a clicker. Just a sound or a marker and you use it in place of “good boy” or “yes.” The difference between a clicker and a word is that the clicker sound never changes. For example, “Good boy” could lack energy when you have a poor night’s sleep or the words or tones could change with different handlers. The clicker is also extremely precise. You can “mark” Rover the split second his butt touches the ground when you ask him to sit or the second he does that wonderful roll over trick you taught him. I personally love using a clicker with my own dogs. If you are a serious dog training enthusiast and you want Rover to do some complex things, such as ring a bell to go out or bring your shoes to you, the clicker is a ideal.
When I was going to dog trainer school, they drilled into us a “No Free Lunch” policy when it comes to dealing with dogs. This description is particularly useful. When you give your dog a treat, feed him his regular meal, or even, table scraps, you are in effect saying, “yes” to the behavior at that moment. This is why I advise all my clients never to give their dogs food unless they respond to a command. So if Rover is jumping around at mealtime, he needs to display a little more self-control. Before he is given any food, have him obey a command. This sends the message "yes, this is what I want you to do.” For example, my dogs have to sit quietly before I put food in their bowl. Then, they have to wait for me to release them. Whenever I choose to give them a piece of left over cheese or meat from dinner, it is not given until they do something such as roll over, shake hands or down/stay. The message the dogs are receiving is "yes, but I want you to do something for me first." Having this one concept in mind will strengthen the relationship with your dog and teach him that you are in control. A trained dog is a happy dog and a happy trained dog can be truly enjoyed by everyone.
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. In light of this, it would be nice for me to give 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. Luckily, now we have force free methods of training puppies so we no longer have to wait until they are 6 months of age to start training as in the old method using physical punishment in dog training. So the minute you bring your little one home, start training and socializing everyday and don’t stop for at least a year and beyond. In fact, the most responsible dog owners train for a lifetime
- 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 have to buy 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, they could be a back yard breeder with little experience or you are dealing with a puppy mill dog. Puppy mill dogs can be mal-adjusted because they are not exercised or socialized properly. These dogs are hard to rehabilitate. Also, never buy a dog off of an on line listing site 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 matches it. 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. In other words, don’t buy just on looks. Write down what you might do with a dog and find a breed that fits that. 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 and the puppy learns when she bites too hard or not. That translates into adulthood where you wouldn’t want your 70 pound Lab play biting you with full force. 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. Many people feel heroic when adopting a rescued puppy which is noble. There are so many dogs that need to be rescued and I applaud it. I’ve rescued two dogs. But you still must consider your lifestyle and what kind of puppy you are adopting. Consider all of the above when rescuing. Time, commitment, proper breed mixture that fits. 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 in a shelter 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.
All in all, how you bring up a puppy will greatly determine what kind of dog you end up having. It’s best stay grounded, be a little less idealized in your selection and always ask for help from a certified trainer like myself before you end up over your head.
There has been a paradigm shift in the entire dog training industry just in the last 20 years thanks to the work of Veterinary Behaviorists Sophia Yin and Ian Dunbar, Anthropologist Brian Hare and a whole slew of other modern researchers in the field of canines. We now know that hitting, shocking, yanking or any other kind of physical punishment to curb behaviors such as jumping on people actually can backfire and create more problems than it solves . This is especially true with sensitive dogs.
Take, for instance, a dog that is happily jumping on guests when they come in the house. It is very annoying to your guests and an embarrassment for you. But, put yourself in that dog’s mind for a moment. He is saying to himself, “I love people so much that I want to jump on them like crazy!!” One common solution for many people is to just go ahead and knee the dog in the chest or belly to get him to stop jumping and many times, those owners instruct their guests to do the same.
This is how the physical punishment of kicking a dog in the belly when they jump backfires. Since he doesn’t understand English, the message he is getting is that greeting people is bad because it causes pain. So over a period of time, the dog associates people with pain. In the worst case scenario, the dog becomes hostile toward people. This in turn can lead to the risk of aggression issues which could lead to an injury. Aggression can be a complex behavior and many times it requires a specialized trainer to solve the issue.
When we use positive training solutions, the dog’s enthusiasm is redirected and the desired behavior is rewarded. After all, why would you want to break that friendly and outgoing spirit in a dog? We could train them to go to a place and not jump when the doorbell rings or at the very least, train them to have all four feet on the floor. A well-behaved dog will make all the difference in the world in the experience your guests have as they enter your home.
A positive reward based trainer can show you the proper way to train your dog without force or violence. “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” Ben Franklin.
Dogs don’t speak English and they don’t think like humans. Too many people anthropomorphize (humanize their dogs). Our dogs are our lovable, friendly companions. It is easy to think that they completely understand us and we understand them. But the fact is, dogs are not humans and they don’t think like us. If they did, we could reason with them when they were feeling separation anxiety or they would instantly comply when we wanted them to not run out in the street.
The same is true when we are talking about a dog crate. If dogs thought like a human, the dog crate would be jail. “JAIL? Get me out of here, I did nothing wrong,” says the human. But for most dogs, and with the right training, a dog crate is nothing more than a happy little home. All it takes is looking into the dog’s history. Most species of the canidae family are den animals including wolves, the dog’s closest relative. A cave is where a dog feels comfortable and safe. A dog crate, especially the plastic ones, closely mimic a cave or den. The wire crates can be covered to create a den-like feeling.
This is fortunate for dog owners. With busy lives, tending to our dogs 24 hours a day is just not feasible. When it comes to puppies, it takes them months to learn the rules and boundaries of the house. If we train our puppies to love the crate, go in there when we want them to, and sleep in their crate, we have a place to put our them when they drive us crazy. When puppies are tired, they tend to really misbehave and obedience gets thrown out the window. When we ask the puppy to go into their crate, many times they fall asleep or just feel relaxed.
When the crate is sized properly, the puppy won’t soil in their “lair” and also teaches the puppy bladder and sphincter control. It is natural for a dog to pee and defecate anywhere whenever they feel like it. When the puppy is in its crate and when we can’t watch them, it teaches them to hold it until they can get outside where we have established that that is the right place to go to the bathroom.
Many puppies grow into adulthood and continue to use their crate even after their owners have removed the door. Adult dogs should always have a space that is “their space” where they can’t be bothered. The crate is a perfect option and best of all, it is natural.
Once you have everything established and your puppy or dog loves to go in the crate, the last thing you want to do is use it as punishment. Never put your dog in the crate because you're mad that he chewed up your slippers. Get with a qualified modern dog trainer like myself to help you deal with problem behaviors.
Most of all, a dog crate is a great tool when used correctly.