One Minute Dog Training Solutions…For Free

I have for you some seriously budget-friendly dog training advice in honor of National Train Your Dog Month. This is pretty cutting edge stuff. Without further ado:

Freebie Number One

Enjoy free webinars and Facebook chats on a terrific variety of training topics presented by the Associaiton of Pet Dog Trainers. Want to help your dog to stop pulling on leash? Not sure if you should get a dog from a shelter? Want your dog and baby to get along? Struggling with separation anxiety? Think you might like to become a dog trainer? Check out the schedule and grab all the state-of-the-art training advice you like!

Freebie Number Two

“But,” you say, “I want customized advice for my dog!” No problemo. Email me [barbara[at]topnotchdog.com] a one-minute long video of where you are stuck in your training, and I will write back with advice on how to get unstuck and meet your goal.

Your video must be one minute (or less) in length. (Limit three per person.)

Your training dilemma must be for everyday, basic manners issues, like trouble teaching your dog a position (like sit or down or sit pretty) or getting him to do something (come when called, settle on a mat, bring the ball back without getting so distracted). What would you like a little help with?

I will provide you some tried and true instructions that should get you unstuck, perhaps something new I invent that I feel sure would work, and maybe even some tips to advance things as you progress. Depends how zesty I’m feeling.

Feel free to send your video up to Valentine’s Day. I can’t wait to see it!

Here’s some video footage of tricks I did with one of my dogs just to get you inspired to get your training challenge on tape:

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What? More chewing?

Most people who live with a very young puppy come to expect a lot of chewing. On everything. Not just on toys, but on the corners of rugs, on electrical cords, plants and pant legs; these are all fair game to a puppy whose mouth is driving him bananas as his teeth come in. A lot of human effort and prevention goes in to teaching the right habits. And then it happens–the pup’s chewing phase subsides and all seems right with the world. The puppy doesn’t require as much supervision, dog chew toys seem to do the trick, and the crate has been put away in favor of leaving the dog confined to a couple of rooms in the house. But look out. The humans have been lulled into a false sense of achievement and security, because no one told them about Chewy Phase Part Two.

Just when you are resting on your laurels, when the your pup is no longer a baby, but rather a young adolescent between roughly seven and nine months old, the chewing may start again. This is totally normal, tends to wrap up much quicker than the initial puppy chewy phase, and is particularly no big deal if you are expecting it. You’ll know it’s happening when you come home to gnawed-on furniture legs or cabinet baseboards, for example. Before you assume your dog is acting out or developing separation anxiety, address the fact that his mouth is probably bothering him one last time (most dogs have a mature set of choppers at around 10 months), and/or that he needs to work that extra energy out of his system.

The fix is simple: provide adequate aerobic exercise and appropriate chew projects to complete while you’re gone. He may need 2-3 sessions daily of truly aerobic exercise (a brisk, 20-minute walk may do the trick as long as he maintains a strong trot and keeps moving). Provide him with chewies and food puzzles in your absence (visit the dog supplies links to the right). Hide a couple so that he has to work to find them, which will keep him extra entertained. And pull out the crate again for a couple of weeks or more, just to help keep him out of trouble if he is really sinking his teeth into your possessions. Just make sure he has an appropriate outlet for his need to chew while he is confined, whether he’s crated or baby gated in a dog-proofed room. 

One more thing to chew on…Many thanks to everyone who participated in the 25% off Top Notch Dog training appointments in May by donating to Saving Grace Animals for Adoption. The funds they received will help them take more rural shelter dogs into the program to be matched with new families.

Crate Training

Today is one of those days I’m glad my dog loves her crate. She is not a puppy, she has been house trained for years, and she doesn’t destroy anything in the house. But  boy am I glad I taught her to love her crate years ago, because today she needs to be in her crate. She injured herself while playing yesterday, and I have made an appointment for her to see her veterinarian today. In the meantime, she needs to rest comfortably and not move around.

Depending on what treatment she may need, she may have to spend time in a small cage at the vet clinic. safetyzone0004When you think about it, that’s very much like a crate. Yet another reason I am glad she feels relaxed about being confined to a small space like that; it will make her experience at the clinic that much more pleasant.

Finally, depending on what may be wrong, she may have to avoid activity for some number of days to come. And that means lots of time in her crate. But it won’t be a struggle and she won’t go stir crazy, because her crate is one of her favorite places. 

My dog is also used to riding in the crate in the car. This is safest for her (even a small fender bender could send her sailing through the windshield) and for me as the driver. For those with a baby or small children, the crate is the best place for your dog when you’re riding together in the car.

The crate also comes in handy when we visit friends and relatives, and we we stay in a hotel that accepts dogs. Because my dog likes her crate so much, I know she’ll be relaxed and at ease in the new environment because she can stay in her portable “room.” And I can avoid her getting into trouble or the embarrassment of her having chewed something up.

A crate can also double as a Safety Zone if you are have kids, if you are expecting visitors to your home who have kids, or if you are going to visit a household with children. Kids and their own dogs are in the highest risk group for dog bites (yes, they are at higher risk than postal workers or animal control officers), and a Safety Zone is an essential tool for decreasing the chances of a dog bite in your family.

Nowadays most people use a crate to house train a puppy or new dog, and to keep their pooch out of trouble when they can’t supervise. Crates are wonderful tools for both. Occasionally I encounter people who want to crate their dogs for hours on end, or who try to solve a serious problem like separation anxiety by keeping their dog in a crate. Those, of course, are ill advised and can border on abuse. 

How long can a dog reasonably be left in a crate (large enough to stand, turn around and lie down in)? The standard formula is hours = age in months plus one for puppies, with no dog spending more than about 5 hours at a time in their crate. (Picture being in a tiny coat closet for that long, with no way to relieve yourself, and you’ll see things from your dog’s point of view.)

Associate the crate with meals, treats, and feelings of calm (by building up the time gradually). Don’t be afraid to ask for help if you’re having trouble, since bad habits form quickly. I also think it’s helpful to put going into the crate on cue, so that you don’t have to push, carry or place your dog there. You can just say “crate”‘ and your dog will hop right in. To do that, hold your dog by the collar, facing the open crate. Toss a tidbit into the back of the crate. Pause. Say, “Crate,” and then (not at the same time) release the collar. Do that 6 or 7 times in a row. Then hold the collar, dog facing crate, say, “crate,” now watch your dog hop in and then toss the treat in to the back. Works like a charm. Be generous with rewards for a couple of weeks at least, and intermittently thereafter, and your “crate” cue will remain strong.

Provide a safe, edible chewy for your dog (see Busy Buddy toys in the links column to the right) when he’s relaxing in the crate. That prevents whining, keeps him occupied, and teaches him that wonderful things happen when he’s in his crate. You’ll be glad you put the effort into teaching your dog to love this valuable training and management tool. And long after he’s house trained, you will likely find all sorts of other uses for it.