Tag Archives: dogs

4 Things You Must Teach Your Dog – TODAY!

image040There are thousands of dog training articles online. But here are 4 practical things that really helped me.

1.  “On your bed!”

This has saved my sanity time and time again.

Have a place in  your living room where you dog can relax (crate or bed). Every time your dog goes to his bed, say brightly “On your bed!”. Reward with a treat. When he’s doing this consistently, increase your expectations, so that he only gets a treat if he has spent a minute on the bed.  If he tries to get up before that minute is up, redirect him (you can use a collar and leash  or interrupt him as he’s getting up with a sharp ‘Ah-ah’). Have a ‘release word’ which signifies that you’ve allowed him to come off the bed. We use ‘OK!’ but you can use any word you like.  Do this dozens of times every day.

Incrementally introduce distractions, so he learns to stay on his bed, even when you wave a toy around or when guests arrive.

2.  One great trick

Teach your dog one great trick.  Expending mental energy will improve his behaviour at home.  A dog that can do a cute trick will endear himself to your guests and reduce the fear factor. I personally love Kyra Sundance’s book, but there are thousands of youtube videos and books around. And get a clicker!

3. Recall

Charlie is very food-oriented, so we taught him to ‘Come’ to a whistle. Whistles are great, because the sound travels through long distances.  Start with using the whistle at home and encouraging your dog to come to you when he hears it. Each time he comes to you, give a treat. Slowly increase the distance.

A very famous and helpful DVD for recall training is Leslie Nelson’s “Really Reliable Recall“.

4. Walking well on a leash

There is nothing worse than walking a dog (much less two dogs) who pull on the leash.  We struggled with Charlie and Hannah for a long time.  What worked? Initially, we used a no-pull harness but it was a band-aid solution.

The only thing that helped long-term was investing in excellent dog trainers, privately rather than in a big obedience club. They taught us how to give a couple of firm corrections (rather than the infinite small corrections we were giving) and had our dogs walking gently in a matter of minutes. It was mind-blowing.   Training your dogs to walk well will motivate you to take them for walks. This, in turn, will tire them out, meaning less problem behaviours at home!  A walk with your dog can be a bonding and meditative experience.

What is your best dog training tip?  

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The Great “Dog Whisperer” Hoax

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The Myth Of The Dog Whisperer

When Charlie was a puppy, we decided to shell out hundreds of dollars for a visit from a ‘dog psychologist’.  She came, she saw, she did not conquer.  His problem behaviours were jumping, nipping at our clothes and barking.  Her solution? Keep him outside and ignore him.  I wish I was kidding.

In time, and with experience, we came to realise that Charlie’s ‘problem’ was loneliness. Keeping him outside, as per her advice, was the worst thing we could do.  A labrador thrives on  human company. “Ignoring” him only added to his sense of isolation and frustration.  This lasted a few days, until we decided to bring him indoors.  Miraculously, all his problem behaviours subsided.  Charlie has remained a happy and loving pooch.

This “dog whisperer” came with a ton of qualifications.  She presented as extremely professional.  She had great reviews on her website.  All this served to make us ignore the fact that she was just plain wrong about our dog.

The Media

There are now an abundance of TV shows which feature famed dog whisperers or dog psychologists.  Their ‘techniques’ appear so impressive on TV.  This, in addition to the trainer’s charisma, makes for compelling television.  But invariably, when the dogs are visited a few weeks later, the problems have recurred.  A one-hour visit from a dog trainer will usually not solve serious behavioural issues.

What worries me is that we take advice from these people.  People will watch these shows and try and emulate the dog trainer’s technique on their dogs at home.  This is inevitable, despite the legalese saying “Please do not try at home”.  It’s human nature.

Do not ignore your gut feeling when choosing any trainer for your dog.  Remember that often, the emperor has no clothes.

What makes a good dog trainer?

A good trainer takes time to work with your dog.  She gets to know your dog’s personality so that she doesn’t adopt a blanket training approach.  She gives you practical information that you can use and will keep you safe (NOT ‘alpha rolls’).  Most of all, she will respect the bond between you and your dog.  This means she does not subject your dog to unnecessary pain or distress, all in the name of ‘training’.

Dominance theories

I’m not a big fan of the ‘dominance’ theories or pack theories.  They feel outdated, and much damage has been done to dogs in the name of these theories.  There has been a huge amount of research into dog behaviours since these archaic theories were formulated.  There are more humane ways of training your dog.

What you can do

One thing I found very helpful is educating myself on dog behaviour and training.  I read tons of books. I visited dog forums.  I became obsessive about knowing things for myself, rather than blindly trusting the experts.  That way, I was armed with more information when meeting a trainer and I knew what I would find unacceptable in training.

I have personally found Dr Sophia Yin’s website very helpful.  She’s got lovely, positive methods of training dogs and writes great articles.

But make up your own mind. Whatever you do, stay educated on what’s best for your dog.

What are your thoughts on dog whisperers? Have you had any bad training experiences? What’s worked for you and what hasn’t?

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Could Dogs Be A Solution For Bullying?

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The scope of the problem

One in four Australian children, in years 4 to 9,  report being bullied every few weeks (Australian Covert Prevalence Bullying Study).  Older children are more susceptible to cyber bullying. Children who are bullied may grow up with low self-esteem, and the effects of bullying can haunt them for the rest of their lives.  For those of you who have had a difficult time growing up, you will know all too well the lingering effects of bullying.

Luckily there has been more focus on it in the media.  Various initiatives have been started to reduce bullying in schools.  Parents and teachers are more aware of the early warning signs that a child may be bullied.

How can dogs help bullied children?

I think dogs might be an under-used resource in helping children who have been bullied.  How can dogs help?

Have a look at Dogs of Character, a marvelous initiative in Texas.  Previously abused dogs, who have been rehabilitated, are brought in to school assemblies and spend time with children.  The aim is to help children understand that you can survive traumatic experiences and have a beautiful life afterwards.  For those children who are themselves the bullies, seeing an abused dog may lead them to reconsider their bullying.

How dogs can impact the social development of children

Caring for a dog may, in itself, be a healing experience for a bullied child.  The child that feels unloved, unwanted and criticised, finds in his canine companion unconditional love and acceptance. The child learns to love and learns what it is to be loved.  Another effect of dog ownership, if the child is adequately educated on responsible pet ownership, is that the child learns to treat animals with respect.  I think this is the first step in becoming an empathic person, who is sensitive to the needs of others.

A child psychologist in New Mexico published a paper in 2000, where he looked at the impact of dog ownership on 10-12 year olds.  He found a significant difference in empathy and self-esteem between the adolescents who owned a dog and those who did not.

Society is becoming increasingly narcissistic (just look at the abundance of reality TV shows).  I love to imagine a future where every child understands that he is not the centre of the world and that great good can come from treating your fellow earthlings with respect.

If you think your child may be bullied, visit Bullying No Way.

Have you found any positive changes in your child as a result of dog ownership?  Do you think dogs can help bullied children? What are your childhood memories of dogs?

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Do You Have a Favorite Dog?

I swear I love both my dogs equally, but some people think I might favor one over the other.  I looked through the blog and saw that I had more photos of Charlie than Hannah.  My guilt was overwhelming and I started to imagine that Hannah was looking at me reproachfully.  Sometimes I thought I saw her look away sadly, with the glint of a tear in her eye.  So, in the interest of mending Hannah’s broken heart, and proving that I love both equally, here are some of Hannah’s cutest moments, captured! Tell her how cute she is, so we can undo the damage caused.  OK , so Charlie squeezed his way into a couple of these 🙂

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How Safe Is Your Dog From Dog-Theft?

I don’t even have the heart to add a photo to this post.  A few days ago, there was a spate of dog thefts in the Western suburbs of Melbourne. To say this sickens me is a huge understatement.  Although the reasons for the thefts are unclear, there are often disturbing motives behind these acts.  In many of these cases, pet dogs may be stolen in order to be used as breeding dogs in puppy mills or used in dog-fighting rings. There are some even worse motives (if you can imagine that) but I won’t delve into that here because it is too horrifying.

These dog thefts are happening in suburban Melbourne! I know I shouldn’t ruminate on these things, but I am filled with anxiety about the fate of these dogs.  To keep myself sane, I thought it would be a good opportunity to look at ways in which we can keep our dogs safe.

1. Don’t leave your dog in  your car.  

This is a bad idea on many levels (dogs have died of heatstroke in cars, even when you don’t think it’s that hot), but dogs alone in a car are a prime target for thieves.

2.  Do not leave your dog tied to poles outside whilst you shop. 

Theft is one concern. Another is a child going up to the dog and surprising the dog (when the dog then growls or bites, it will be put down).  Some people might be cruel to the dog or taunt the dog. Anything can happen; please avoid doing this.

3.  Ensure your yard is gated properly and secure. 

Better yet, don’t leave your dog unattended in the yard when you’re not at home.  Try and train your dog to be able to stay inside the house when you’re away.  If you’re worried about your dog being destructive inside, consider investing in a crate, which can be a good method of short-term containment of a dog for a couple of hours whilst you’re away.

4. Make sure your dog has all identification tags and paperwork.

Ensure your dog is microchipped, wearing his collar with tags and is registered with the council.

5. Keep recent photos of your dog, in case the worst does happen.

Try to take photos of any identifying features. For instance, Charlie has a white streak of hair on his chest.

6.  Consider installing pet cameras at your home to keep an eye on things when you’re not there.

Do you have any other tips?  Let’s add to this list to keep every dog safe.

If anyone has information on the dog thefts in Melbourne, please contact:

 Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000 or visit http://www.crimestoppers.com.au

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Why Black Is Best

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Black cats and dogs are often the last to get adopted out of a shelter.  Informally, this is called the “Black Dog Syndrome”.  This is a particular problem for the bigger breeds, and may be due to the public misconception that big, black dogs are dangerous.  This misconception is often reinforced by the depiction of such dogs in the popular media.  Even the language we use can be derogatory.  For example, the “Black Dog” is often a term used to describe depression.  For cats, the superstition around black cats still persists.

To add to this, it can be hard for black dogs to photograph well.  This means that the photographs that potential adopters see do not ‘sell’ the dog well.  It also means that, for an ad campaign, a black dog is hardly ever used (think about it, you see plenty of golden retrievers in ads; when is the last time you saw a big, black dog?).

Love for a breed can over-ride this bias.  For instance, black labradors are very popular and it would be easier to place them in homes.  But for the average black shelter dog, chances of being adopted can be slim.

Personally, I think they are just beautiful.  There can be a majestic beauty to black dogs.  They can be as friendly (or unfriendly) as any other dog.  For your next dog or cat, make yours a black.

Do you have a beautiful black dog?  I would love to feature some on the blog.  What are your thoughts about the “Black Dog Syndrome”? Is it fact or fiction?

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