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5 Basic Tricks to Teach your Newly Adopted Dog

by DOG for DOG Team 0 Comments

When you first adopt a dog and bring them home, they’re entering into a whole new world with you. Even if they’ve had previous homes before they came to you, their life with you isn’t just a new chapter – it’s a whole new beginning! Some pups may already have strong personality traits and ticks and, if you’re lucky, they may already know some basic commands and training as well. It’s important to spend those first few months really getting to know your new family member, and getting them acclimated to your life and routine. Even if they’re super well behaved, there are a few basic tricks you’ll want to master with them as they’re getting used to you being their new pack leader. We’ve rounded up five basic dog tricks you’ll want to teach them, which are easily learned no matter their current level of training. You could take a class but it’s really not necessary if you have just a bit of free time. Plus, this will be a fun and bonding experience for you both!

Teaching a dog to sit

Photo by @me_and_charlie on Instagram

Sit: This is probably the easiest trick to train so it’s a great one to start with. Hold a treat close to your dog’s nose and move your hand up, allowing his head to follow the treat while causing his bottom to lower. Once he’s in the sitting position, say “Sit” and give him a treat and affection. Repeat this sequence a few times a dog until he has it. From there, cement the trick and continue to use it by asking your dog to sit before being given meals or treats, before a walk and any other scenario where you’d like to calm him.

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Photo by @farmdoggies on Instagram

Come: This command is important for both you and your dog in case your dog gets away from you, whether through an open door or by slipping through the collar. It can also be helpful at the dog park or places where they are off leash. To train, put a leash and collar on your dog. Go down to their level and say “Come” while gently pulling on the leash. When they get to you, give them a treat and affection. Once they’ve mastered it with a leash, remove it and practice the command without it (while still indoors in a trusted area).

How to train your dog to down

Photo by @borithegoldenfamily on Instagram

Down: Down is one of the harder commands to train, as it’s seen as a submissive position. You’ll want to keep this training particularly positive and relaxed, especially with anxious or fearful dogs. To start, find a good smelling treat (like our DOGSTREAT mini peanut butter!) and hold it in your closed hand. Hold it up to your pup for a sniff and let his nose follow the treat to the ground. Slide your hand along the ground in front of him to encourage his body to follow his head. Refrain from pushing him down, he should be able to get there by wanting to follow your hand. Encourage every step of the process! Repeat this every day. If your dog tries to sit up or lunge towards the treat, say “No” and take your hand away. He’s working hard to figure it out, so allow the extra patience and time for this one!

training a dog to stay

Photo by @siradacr on Instagram

Stay: You’ll want to start with Stay only after you’ve totally mastered the Sit command. First, ask your dog to “Sit.” Then open the palm of your hand in front of you and say “Stay” and take a few steps back. Reward him with a treat and affection if he stays. Repeat this, gradually increasing the number of steps you take backwards each time before giving him a treat. Reward him each time he stays still, even if it’s only for a few seconds. Since this is an exercise in self control, don’t be discouraged if it takes awhile to master, especially if you’re working with a puppy or high-energy dog.

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Photo by @petey_3pups on Instagram

Leave it: Here, you’re teaching your dog to stay away from potential dangers on the ground as well as protecting things you don’t want them to have in the house. You’ll be doing this by teaching them that if they listen, they’ll get something even better as a reward. Start by placing a treat in each hand and show him one enclosed fist with the treat inside and say “Leave it.” Let him lick, sniff and paw at you to try and get to it (if he does), while ignoring these behaviors. Once he stops trying, give him the treat from the other hand. Repeat until your dog backs away from the first fist when you say “Leave it.” As a next step, give him the treat only when he leaves the first treat and looks at you. Once he’s mastered that (leaving the first treat and then making eye contact), try it with a really smelly, great treat and a just okay one. Say “Leave it” while placing the less attractive treat on the floor and covering it with your hand. Wait until he ignores it and looks at you. When he does, remove it from the floor, give him the better treat and praise him. Once he’s got that, place the less tasty treat on the floor but don’t totally cover it with your hand. You should be able to work to a place where you can hold your hand about six inches above the treat saying “Leave it” and he still won’t go for it. You can eventually stand up, and cover the treat with your foot only if he tries to go for it.

It may take a bit of time and patience to master these tricks, but will be well worth the effort. If in the process you’ve taken it up a notch and your pup is really stuck, try returning to the previous stage for a bit. Teaching your dog these few basic commands will form a bond between the two of you and that can be helpful when tackling problem behaviors that could develop in the future. You won’t regret taking the time to work with them on trusting and listening to you from the get-go. In the comments below, share tips on how you trained your current pups and what tricks you’d still like to master.

Psst: check out the Humane Society’s tips on basic training!

Tips to Overcome Shyness for Dogs

by DOG for DOG Team 2 Comments
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                                                                Photo by Jeff

 

So your dog isn’t exactly Mr or Miss Congeniality. We can’t all be social butterflies! But as is often the case with humans, dogs can become shy for a number of reasons – whether they’re a rescue you’ve gotten whose likely had at least one other home before you or you have a brand new puppy on your hands. Rest assured, it is unlikely anything you’ve done, and could very well just be in the nature of the breed or something from their life pre-you. The good news is that shyness doesn’t have to be permanent. There are ways to combat it to help your pups become more confident and less fearful of their surroundings.

 

 

  • Identify the fear. It might feel like who or what a dog is shy over is random. But you can often work to identify the root issue by simply making a list of all of the people or places your dog is afraid of. Get as specific as possible, and become aware of your dogs “tells” and triggers. Do they hide under the bed? Shake? Whine? These will help you know when you need to manage his or her environment to help them move forward and past their fears. Many fears present themselves in four ways: freeze, fight, flight and fool around.
  • Start small and don’t push. Just like a shy friend wouldn’t want their first foray into a social atmosphere to be a massive house party, a shy dog shouldn’t be immediately thrown to the wolves. Start small by encouraging them. Dogs are aware of our own emotions, so try using a playful, warm tone when they’re in a situation they might be uncomfortable with. Keep excitement level regulated though, as fear and excitement can become two sides of the same physiological coin. If they’re still on the verge of worry, take them out of the situation. Always quit while you’re ahead!
  • Keep it predictable, within reason. You can’t shield your dog from every experience (nor likely should you) but shy dogs often do best with predictable, familiar patterns and fall apart when things seem or feel out of place. Keep their anxieties in check by establishing clear routines and using reward-based training. While a social dog is probably used to (and comfortable with) new people coming into your home, a shy dog will do best if they have a routine for this. For instance, you can teach your dog to go and lie on their bed when they hear the doorbell ring. This gives them a comfortable and safe space to retreat to. Train your human friends – no matter how dog friendly and knowledgeable they are! – to wait to be approached by your dog. Rushing over to ruffle their ears may come from a good place, but will likely not be a welcome greeting in the eyes of your pup.

Dogs with friends at dog park

Photo by Andrew Z.

  • Get them some outgoing friends. If your pup is great with other dogs and just anxious around humans, they will usually benefit from spending time with social doggie friends. Try walking them together, as there is evidence that an anxious dog’s fears can be eased by the company of a non fearful companion. This won’t immediately cure your dog overnight, of course, but it’s a small and important way to improve their quality of life and confidence-building in the right direction.
  • Train for confidence. Training a dog, even just a few simple behaviors, can greatly influence their confidence and overall attitude, which can lead to better reactions overall. There are three specific training exercises that can really help a dog’s confidence. One is to have them ask politely for everything. Train them to sit down before you give them treats, open doors, etc. This builds structure (which, as we’ve mentioned, is hugely stress-relieving) and teaches your dog to look to you for guidance. Mark all positive behaviors around people, whether it’s with a clicker or the word “yes!” and a treat. Do this whether you asked for the behavior or not, and the reward and your happiness can work as a coping mechanism to help them reduce their own stress level. You can also train your dog to watch you, often by using the command “watch me” when they begin to get nervous in public.
  • Work on both desensitization and counterconditioning. Think of what you’re afraid of. Spiders? Heights? Planes? No matter the fear, you know you cannot reason it away. Exposure to the thing that scares you simply scares you, making your palms sweat and your heart beat quicken. This is likely similar to what your dog is experiencing – an emotional and physical reaction. There are two important methods you can use once you’ve mastered basic training and identifying the root issues and triggers. Desensitization is exposure to the fear-inducing stimulus at a low threshold. Counter-conditioning is presenting a pleasant stimulus (a very special treat or time throwing the ball) in the presence of a scary one. So how exactly do you do this? First, figure out your dog’s exact threshold. Consider things like how close the person is, how many people are there and what they’re doing. Start by having a designated stranger (to the dog, not you – that might be weird!) come into the environment at a safe distance that the dog is still comfortable with. Each time they appear and your dog notices, start feeding them special treats. Once they leave, stop. Repeat this until your dog is good about looking to you for the good stuff when put in this same situation. Once they seem more comfortable at this level, have the stranger come a little closer (not leaps and bounds here, small increments over time). Repeat this over several sessions and days for as long as it takes. Be patient! The payoff is worth the effort.
  • Let the little guy set the pace. We get it – you think your dog is the bravest, smartest, sweetest thing on the planet. And we do too! But one of the most important things you can do as a pet parent is respect your dog’s fears and allow them to set the pace for improvement around new and scary things. Provide consistency, maintain his basic training behaviors and provide him with great things in the presence of fearful scenarios to help them overcome their fears.

 

Photo by globochem3x1minus1

                                                          Photo by globochem3x1minus1

It’s important to note that the tips here are most useful for a dog with a mild issue of shyness. If you’re dealing with more severe issues, you may want to consider speaking to your vet about medication that can relieve your dog’s anxiety and maximize his or her progress and also a trainer who could work on behavior modification.

 

Have a shy dog on your hands? Share your own stories and tips for socializing and helping more timid dogs in the comments below!

Training Dogs to Act Properly Around Kids

by DOG for DOG Team 0 Comments
Training Dogs to Act Properly Around Kids

 

Featured Image by Dogs by Lori

If you’ve got a dog at home – or more than one! – and have a baby on the way, you’re likely beginning to think about how your pup will react to having a new, tiny human added to the dynamic at home. It’s a fair and valid concern, as this new addition will greatly impact not only your own life but thusly the life of your pets! Or maybe you’ve already got young children at home and are recently beginning to think about ways to train your pet to better interact with your kids. Whatever the case, and whether you have the most calm, sweet of dogs or a more hyper or needy youngster in the home, there are several things you can do to prepare your pup for life with a baby or young child. We’ve rounded up some of the best advice available on raising kids with dogs and how best to train your dog to properly interact with your kids. Know that, like any training, reaching these goals will require diligence and consistency. If you’re able to start on some of these things before the child comes home, you’ll have things set in motion before your life becomes crazier than you ever imagined it could be!

 

  • Understand your dog. Vicki DeGruy wrote in the Dog Owner’s Guide, We need to realize that dogs are not little people in furry costumes. They don’t think in the same way that we do. They look at the world around them with a different perspective. Most of their actions are instinctive. A dog will react to situations according to what his instincts tell him unless these instincts are overridden by the consistent training and socialization he needs to receive from his owner throughout his life. What can be done to prevent dogs from biting children? I feel that, first, it’s essential to understand that almost any dog will bite under the right circumstances. Second, a dog is a dog, an animal whose behavior isn’t the same as humans and can’t always be predicted with 100 percent accuracy, no matter how friendly or reliable he is.” It’s easy to feel like your dog will just naturally love and tolerate your little one the same way that you do. But the reality is that you, especially if you’re a mom, are programmed to love and care for your child. It’s in your bones. Your dog doesn’t have the same emotions running through them and they don’t have the same relationship with your child that they have with you, who has raised and nurtured them. So while even you might feel mildly irritated when your screaming child runs over to you and hits or pulls at you in frustration, imagine how your dog will feel receiving the same attention! No matter how well you train and work with your pup, it’s important to work with your child too on how best to interact with dogs.

 

  • Start small, with basic commands. Obedience training and socialization are absolute musts for a dog who’ll be spending time with children. A dog without training to fall back on will act according to instincts only, and so dogs need to be taught to obey commands under all circumstances, no matter how distracting your life is about to become. Simple things like “sit,” “come” and “leave it” could greatly help you as you juggle both your human baby and your fur child. With your drastically changed routine, your dog’s schedule will change too, and out of necessity, they’ll get less of your time and attention. That’s why it’s so great if you can start working on all basic commands and get them down pat before the baby arrives. Consider a training class or personal trainer if time constraints are a concern.
Photo by Christopher Polk/Getty Images for Dog For Dog

Photo by Christopher Polk/Getty Images for Dog For Dog

 

  • Gradually introduce your dog to their new life. Four months before the baby arrives, gradually begin to introduce your dog to new experiences, sights, sounds and smells that they will likely encounter when you bring home a new child. Associate these new things with rewards, as this will help your dog learn to love life with a baby. One to two months before the baby arrives, anticipate the changes you’ll likely be making to your dog’s daily routine and start to make those changes. If you plan to nap during the afternoon, start taking occasional afternoon naps. If you plan to feed or walk your dog at different times of the day, start moving to those new times early. Of course, life with a baby can be very inconsistent and hard to plan for. If your dog is Type A and used to a certain routine, you may consider preparing them for chaos by feeding them at all different times. For instance, if your dog starts standing over their food bowl at 7 AM, start feeding them at random times between 6 AM – 10 AM. If you’d prefer to keep an absolute regular schedule (or if you feel that doing otherwise would really affect your dog’s happiness), consider getting an automatic feeder for their feedings and a dog walker for their walks. You can also look into dog daycare options for ways to give your dog a break and get them out of the house to socialize with other pups, something you will have less time to do once the baby arrives.
  • Make new rules now. Although your instincts might tell you to lavish your dog with love and attention while there’s still time, this will only lead to a bigger letdown later on. Instead, start scheduling short play and cuddle sessions and gradually give them less attention at other times of the day. Schedule them randomly though so that your dog doesn’t learn to expect them at certain times. If you don’t want your dog on the furniture or bed after the baby arrives, introduce that new restriction ASAP. If your dog is a barker, that’s something you’ll want to get under control now, so that they aren’t waking the baby at naptime or during the night.
  • Work on more advanced verbal commands. Once you’ve mastered some basics (sit, down, stay, leave it, coming when called), you can begin to work on more verbal commands that could come in use once the baby is home. Training your dog to wait at doors until you tell them to enter and teaching them to “settle” (lay down or retreat to a safe spot to lay down) can help dogs learn to control their impulses. Work with your dog on jumping on people, as this can become dangerous if you’re holding the baby. Even if your dog wasn’t originally crate trained, consider getting them one and teaching them to see it as their safe place. This way they have a cozy place of their own to relax when things get crazy at the house.
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Photo by Debbie L.

  • Master “go away.” It may sound harsh, but this is one of the most important verbal commands that you can train your dog. This will enable you to control their movements and interactions with your baby. You can use this cue to tell your dog to move away from the baby if they’re crawling towards them and the dog seems uncomfortable. It sounds funny, but many dogs wouldn’t have even realized that moving away was an option! If your dog learns that leaving is an option, they’ll never feel trapped in a stressful situation and therefore won’t be forced to express their anxiety by growling or snapping. So how do you do it? Show your pup a treat and say “go away,” tossing the treat four or five feet away from you. Repeat this sequence many times. Then, you can refrain from tossing the treat until your dog starts to move away. Say “go away” and act like you’re throwing the treat. When your dog moves in that direction, even slowly or just a little bit, say “yes!” and toss them the treat. After many repetitions, try waiting until your dog takes several steps away before you say “yes” and toss the treat.
  • Train your dog with hand targeting. If your pup gets nervous or timid, teaching them to target your hand with their nose will give them something to do when they’re around the baby. This can make them feel comfortable and confident, as many dogs enjoy having a “job” and being stimulated.
  • Read everything you can! We’re glad you visited us here, but don’t refrain from really exhausting your search on best ways to prep your dog for baby. In particular, the ASPCA has a host of great information that we think you’ll find helpful.

 

 

Still having issues? If your dog continues to have problems acclimating, showing any signs that set off alarm bells for you, be prepared to call in a trainer or behaviorist who are equipped to help you deal with the issue. While it’s our feeling that many issues can be corrected with hard work and patience, we understand that your child’s well being is of the utmost importance to you. If you begin to think that rehoming your pup is the best thing to do, consider speaking with loved ones in your family and friend group who may be able to take your pup, whether it’s just for a while or as a new forever home. This way, your dog will stay a part of your life. If this isn’t an option, you can reach out to local rescues about best next steps, as they will likely have resources you weren’t aware of.

 

Want tips on how to work with your kids to properly interact with your dog? Check out our reverse of this story here. In the comments below, tell us your own experiences and advice for introducing and acclimating dogs to life with a child at home!

Top Tips to Keep Your Kids Safe Around Dogs

by DOG for DOG Team 1 Comment
Top Tips to Keep Your Kids Safe Around Dogs

Featured image by Open Arms

Deciding to get a dog when you have children of any age is an important decision and one we know you won’t make lightly. While adding a dog – no matter the age – to a family with children can be a rewarding and amazing experience both for the dog and the child, there are many factors to consider. The same goes for families that already have a dog and are planning to or are already pregnant. In this case you’re likely already considering how your new human addition will warm to your resident fur child. No matter which situation you’re in, there’s a host of available information out there on how to best acclimate your new brood so that everyone is getting everything they need. We know this is a sensitive and serious subject matter, and wanted to round up our own best tips for how to teach kids to best interact with dogs!

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Photo by Barney Moss

 

  • Supervise and monitor. Even if your dog is the most gentle, sweet pup around who you haven’t seen any issues from, you’ll want to make sure you keep time spent between your children and your dog supervised. This is especially true for dogs getting to know new kids but should remain true for when you’re adopting a new pup as well. As children get older, tips you’ve taught them early on will become easier for them to remember and replicate over time, so it’s important to set those guidelines up from the start so that they begin to understand the best way to interact with their pup. Obviously, even if meant in a sweet way, most dogs don’t understand or like being chased, pulled and prodded. Many young kids might be prone to coming up behind a dog or petting it too hard. Teaching your children to always approach a dog head on and to be gentle when interacting with them will help your dog feel at ease with tiny humans.
  • Teach proper manners. Once your child knows how to approach your dog, let them know not to hover over them, and to play calmly. Avoid eye contact and refrain from letting your child pick your dog up, even if they are small. Explain that the dog likes to be left alone at times, and that it’s important to give your pup personal space that should be respected, especially if they are sleeping or eating or playing with a bone. You can use the age old “treat them how you would like to be treated.”

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Photo by Rob Bixby

  • Set them up for tougher scenarios. When your family is out for a walk or at the park, let your child know how best to approach new dogs (always check with the owner first) and make sure that they gently understand that not at all dogs are to be approached or played with. We know you never want to scare your child (or neither do we!) but it’s important that they understand that even when their dog at home is great with them, that doesn’t mean that all dogs out in the world will be the same. Just like we can’t anticipate that all humans will be approachable and nice in social situations, neither are animals! Your kids will mimic your own behavior, and so if they hear you always checking, “can I pet your dog?” they will know to do this as well. Remind your child not to run up to dogs, whether at home or in public, and to keep their hands at their sides, letting the dog sniff them first. Stand tall (never crouching to the dog’s level) and watch their tail and body language as you and/or your child engages with the dog. It’s also good to let your child know to never stick their fingers through a fence or crate with a dog on the other side. You can also talk to your child about how to respond in situations with the dog where they are worried that they might get bit or attacked. A popular method is to tell them to act like a “tree” (stand still and stare straight ahead until the dog leaves) or act like a “rock” if seated (curl up in a ball keeping his/her hands over their ears.) They can throw a backpack or coat off of themselves so the dog is distracted with investigating that item until they calm down.
  • Allow your child to become part of the routine. When possible, it’s great to let children be involved in the care, feeding, grooming and training of your pet. This instills both responsibility in the child and trust in the pet for the child being part of the pack. You could consider having a list of daily pet chores that the child can check off. Where feeding is concerned, be sure to monitor any interactions and to not leave food or water bowls out afterwards where kids can access them and play.
  • Reward good behavior. Just as we train our dogs with positive reinforcement, you can work with your child in the same way. When your child plays gently with the dog and approaches them in the right way, be sure to let them know! When they continue to do it right and see that they get good results each time (both from you and the pup), they’ll begin to understand that this is the proper way to interact.

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Photo by Tara Gamby

  • Respect Fido! We get it – your kid is your life and you want your dog to love them and respect them in the same way you do. But dogs are still animals, and it’s important to respect them and their nature as well. How a dog feels about children varies greatly, and is not always based solely on their breed or age or even whether they’ve been around children before. That’s why it’s always important to have precaution no matter your preconceived notions of the dog. Try not to force interactions between your canine companion and your child, as this could lead to negative feelings or anxiety for your dog. Let your child know that quick and/or loud movements or noises can frighten animals, and that it’s important to create a quiet and safe place for your dog.
  • Be prepared. If your dog continues to have issues, showing any signs that set off alarm bells for you, be prepared to call in a trainer or behaviorist who are equipped to help you deal with the issue. One of the first things they will likely suggest is making sure your dog has a safe and happy place to retreat you when they need space, whether it’s a crate or comfy bed or dog door that goes outside, where they can go when they need a little time alone. You can then make sure your child understands to give the dog space when they are in that place.

 

 

Bringing a baby home to a dog? Before the baby arrives at the house, it’s a good idea to let your pet smell blankets or clothing so that they become accustomed to the new smells. You can also play recordings of babies crying and run any new equipment like a swing so that they get used to the new sounds. Consider having a baby gate leading into the baby’s room instead of closing the door, so that the dog can still keep them in sight and not feel isolated. Never force interaction, and introduce them slowly. Be sure to arrange solo time with you and your pet too, perhaps while baby is napping. This helps them feel at ease during a time when they will likely not be getting the same amount of attention that they are used to.

 

Studies have shown time and again that dogs are an excellent tool in teaching children respect, empathy, responsibility and gentleness, traits that will serve them well throughout their lives. A bond between an animal and their young human can last a lifetime and enrich the life of both the pet and the child in ways nothing else will. Setting both of them up for success early on can be critical in keeping this bond safe and ensuring that it lasts.

 

Want tips on how to train your dog to properly interact with your kiddos? Check out our reverse of this story here. In the comments below, tell us your own experiences and advice for introducing and acclimating children to life with a dog at home!

Overcoming Separation Anxiety Once and For All

by Kristen Duvall 0 Comments
Overcoming Separation Anxiety Once and For All

separation anxiety

We know it’s hard to leave your dog and go to work everyday. Many of us would rather stay home with our best friend all day if we could, wouldn’t we? But it’s an unfortunate fact that many of us simply can’t afford to do that. And we know it’s not just hard on you, but it can be hard on your best friend too. Especially if there’s a change in routine or you have a new dog in your life who’s not yet comfortable without you nearby.

When I first got Annabelle, my Great Dane, she was 8 weeks old. I had just completed graduate school and was trying to find work, so I was able to stay home with her all day, every day. Since it was during the recession, it meant this went on for a very long time. Annabelle got used to me being there with her. And honestly, I got used to it too.

When I took my first post-grad school job, I knew it wouldn’t be easy. She was already crate trained, but I didn’t want to crate her for eight hours a day, so we blocked off the kitchen and dining area for her instead. She had access to toys, her bed, everything she needed to be comfortable and secure. But even though she had everything she could possibly need, she was still missing one thing – me.

Training Isn’t Enough: How to Bond With Your Dog

by Kristen Duvall 4 Comments

bonding2

People laugh at how my Great Dane, Annabelle, will sit on my lap at the vet’s office. Or how at the dog park, when she’s nervous, she leans on me and plays next to me. But these same people aren’t laughing when it’s time to leave the dog park, and Annabelle walks right along beside me, ready to go home without a fight. They’re also not laughing when my boyfriend and I were so absent-minded one day, we forgot to put on her leash and let her out the door. We made it all the way to the front gate of our apartment complex before we realized, she wasn’t leashed. Why? Because unlike many dogs who would use this as an opportunity to run free and wild, Annabelle stayed by our side, walking down the steps, as if she was on a leash the whole time.

You might say we have trained our dog well, and yes, we have. Annabelle is a very well-behaved dog. But she wasn’t always that way. When I got her as a puppy, she was defiant and somewhat troublesome. She was certainly a handful, to say the least. More so than most, it seemed. She would often slip out of her collar, forcing me to chase her around parking lots – in what was often a vain attempt – to catch her. My mom once told me that she was the most difficult dog she’d ever met, and most people told me I should consider rehoming her.

But I didn’t. And through the years, Annabelle and I bonded. I don’t formally train her as well as often as I should, but part of the reason for that is because I don’t have to. Annabelle trusts me. We can now go to the dog beach, which isn’t fenced in, and let her run free, knowing she isn’t going to run off. If she gets too far, I merely call out her name and she rebounds back to me without a moment’s hesitation. Though even that is rare, as she always keeps an eye on us and makes sure to stay close by. She has no desire to leave her humans and run off. She loves us.

But it’s more than just love. She also trusts me.

I say me and not us because while she adores my boyfriend, he wasn’t here from the beginning. He came into her life after she was a year old, and moved in with us when she was four. He’s had less time to bond with her. Where I was at home with her during her formative years, all day, every day. He wasn’t.

She gets super excited when he comes home from work, to the point that she’s almost unmanageable. She loves him so much. But when it comes time for a command, she always looks to her mama. Or when she’s scared, like when we had an earthquake about a year ago, she ran to me and sat on my lap.

And this is important for a number of reasons. When Annabelle got deathly ill and lost part of her foot to a freak flesh-eating bacterial infection, I had to soak her paw in medicine for half an hour, twice a day, and then wrap it. She let me. When it comes time to put medicine in her ears – something she hates with every fiber of her being – she lets me. Warily, sure, but she lets me. She knows mama knows best and would never do anything to harm her. It makes life so much easier to have my dog trust me unconditionally because she’s so bonded to me.

Many people know that training your dog is important as it makes everyone’s life a little easier. And there’s no doubt that we all love our canine companions and yes, they love us too.

But if you’re frequently frustrated with your dog or think they’re too “stupid” to learn basic commands, perhaps there’s another issue in play here – something that training nor love can fix. Perhaps you need to strengthen the human and dog bond.

I can hear it now! You love your dog so much! Of course you do, we aren’t questioning that. But people often mistake their love of their dog for a bond. It’s not exactly the same thing. Love is something that occurs naturally, it’s what makes your dog happy to see you when you come home, and what makes you happy to see them. You can love without bonding, though. Think about it. You might love a relative, say a distant aunt or an in-law, but it’s not the same feeling you have with your significant other or your best friend. And part of the reason is that you love them, but you’re not bonded with them.

And the same can go for your dog. Loving them makes them happy to see you, but bonding with them makes them stay by your side when the urge to run out the door is strong. It goes deeper than obedience training to make your dog come when called, it takes trust. It takes bonding.

The human dog bond doesn’t have to be complicated. In fact, it’s usually a natural process that occurs when you own a dog and go through all the steps in raising them. Initially, your puppy may not look to you for guidance, but as you build up that trust, you will find training gets easier and easier.

How can you tell if your dog is bonded with you? Look to your day to day life and activities.

* When you’re out walking, do they pull on the leash and walk ahead of you? Or do they match your pace? Do they look up at you from time to time as if they’re checking to see if you’re still there? A bonded dog will check in with their owners as they’re out and about on their walks.

* At the dog park, yes, your dog will likely run off to play with other dogs. As they should! But does you dog look for you from time to time, perhaps even coming back to you just to check in? If so, that’s a sign of a bonded dog who doesn’t want to lose sight of their owner.

* When they’re faced with something scary, say the vet or a thunderstorm, do they look at you? Maybe they’ll sit in your lap or hide under your feet? This is a sign that they trust you to protect them. Even if they do run and hide elsewhere, they will probably keep an eye on you, watching you for signs of danger because they know as long as their human is calm, everything will be okay. That’s a sign of a strong human-dog bond.

If this doesn’t sound like your dog, there’s no reason to fret. Different breeds bond differently, and some take more time than others. And this is one of those things you can continually work on. Bonding with your dog won’t happen overnight. It took about a year to get where I am with Annabelle, and now, everywhere we go, people comment on how well-behaved she is.

It’s because she trusts me. And you can work on this trust with your dog as well.

First and foremost, you need to look at the training you provide your dog. Research has proven time and time again that positive reinforcement works better than punishment and alpha dog training. A happy, trusting animal will listen better than one who’s scared of punishment. Sure, if you punish or use alpha dog training, you may get the dog to do what you want, but ultimately, they’re doing it from a place of fear, not trust. And in the long term, it’s less effective. And many dogs will merely act out when you’re not around to punish them, which defeats the whole purpose of this anyway.

Harsh punishments such as spanking, yelling or an alpha roll are not going to help your dog bond with you. Instead, offering direction, praise and treats will make them eager and happy to please you. Over time, as they see that you are looking out for their best interests, they will learn to trust you more. And the more they trust you, the more likely they will look to you for guidance.

How to bond with your dog:

* Playing with them. Have fun, let loose and let them be a dog. Toss a ball around the yard or play tug of war. Learn their favorite games, buy some of their favorite types of toys, and just play. Not only will it help strengthen your bond, it will relax you and allow you to truly enjoy what it means to have a dog in your life. It’s not all hard work and frustration after all!

* Training. Yes, a well-bonded dog will be easier to train, but it goes the other way as well. Training your dog will help you bond with them. Not only is a trained dog allowed more personal freedom, but they mere act of training them – in a positive fashion – will bring you closer together.

* Remain calm. Yes, owning a dog – especially a puppy – comes with frustrations and anxiousness. And sometimes it’s not even about your dog, but life in general. But yelling, screaming and throwing a temper tantrum will frighten most dogs, even if that anger isn’t directed at them personally. And if it is, then it’s even more damaging. Do your best to always speak to your dog in a calm voice, even when they just ate your favorite shoes. Yelling doesn’t do anything to fix the problem, it only causes lasting damage to the relationship you have with your dog.

AnnabelleKristenKiss* Pay attention to their body language. Learn about canine behavior and read up on body language specifically. This will help you understand what your dog likes, dislikes and what scares them. This will allow you to prevent problems before they start, and to remove your dog from situations that scare them or make them uncomfortable. Once they learn that you will keep them safe, the trust between you will grow. Also, this will allow you to prevent bad behavior before it happens, meaning less frustration and less punishment, both of which can hurt the bond with your dog.

The bottom line is this: Owning a dog should bring joy to your life. It should also provide the dog with what they need to be happy and content. By creating happy moments and by caring for your dog, there’s really no way you won’t bond over time. Yes, all dogs are different. Some show their feelings in a different way. Some don’t bond with everyone, while others bond easily. It just takes time, patience, and the willingness to go the extra mile.

I call Annabelle my Soul Mutt because we’re that close and sometimes, it seems like she just gets me, and I get her. We have the ideal dog-owner relationship, and for that, I’m lucky. But it didn’t happen overnight and it wasn’t always easy.

But I can speak from experience. It was absolutely worth it.

Stop Your Puppy From Chewing On Your Shoes (And Everything Else Too)

by Lorna Ladd 0 Comments
Stop Your Puppy From Chewing On Your Shoes (And Everything Else Too)

Puppies. They’re cute, adorable as heck, and as many people know, a lot of work. From the moment your new puppy comes home, they’re learning where they fit in. Considering that they’ve only been alive for a couple months, it’s understandable that they need to learn what they can – and can’t – do. There’s potty training, of course, but one of the biggest issues owners seem to face with a puppy is the dreaded chewing stage.

It’s a known fact that puppies chew up everything in sight. They’re not picky. They don’t care if it’s your $5 flip flops or your $100 pumps, they just like shoes. And cell phone chargers. And furniture. Well, pretty much anything they can get their mouths on. Not only is this an expensive problem because you’re losing a lot of stuff you’re probably attached to, it can also be an expensive trip to the vet’s office. Every time your dog chews something up, there’s a chance of a blockage or obstruction from whatever they’ve ingested. Their stomachs can handle a lot, sure, but shoelaces and socks can cause major problems, and in some cases, even death, for puppies.
puppiesSo needless to stay, it’s important to stop puppy chewing before it becomes a problem. But the question is, do you know how to stop your puppies from chewing things up?

Training a Puppy to Stop Chewing.

puppy chewing shoesBefore you can fix the problem, you need to understand the reasons behind it. Most of the time, puppies chew because they’re bored or teething. Separation anxiety may also come into play with both puppies and older dogs alike. Once you’ve determined the reason for their chewing, then you can take it from there.

If your dog is bored, give them something to do. This may mean more playtime or longer walks to wear them out. Or perhaps, another option might be to put your puppy in doggy daycare while you’re away at work. In addition to this, you may also want to purchase a puzzle toy that makes your dog work for their treats. You can find these toys at your local pet store. Brands such as Kong, Twist ‘n Treat, or a Buster Cube can be filled with delicious treats that keep them busy. It also keeps their mouths on the toy and not your new shoes or your laptop cable. It’s a win-win for both owner and dog. The dog has fun and enjoys a delicious treat, and the owner is less likely to come home to find their couch cushions torn to shreds.

You would just need to fill these toys with puppy or mini-dog treats such as these delicious mini peanut butter treats  Another interesting and useful tip is to take a Kong and fill it with DogsButter  before popping it in the freezer. The frozen DogsButter will take time for the dog to eat, keeping them busy for a long time, as well as providing them with a healthy and yummy treat.

puppy-training

Both of these options also work for teething puppies and those with separation anxiety as well. Teething puppies merely need something safe to chew on, and redirecting them away from the items they’re not supposed to eat, in favor of their toys, is the best way to break bad habits early on. Reward your puppy every time they chew on their toy by praising them and letting them know that’s what they’re supposed to be doing.

For separation anxiety, it can be a bit more challenging. If your dog suffers from severe separation anxiety, you may need to seek out a training professional to help them overcome their fears. However, if your pup is only mildy upset when you leave, you may be able to teach them that you leaving isn’t such a scary time – in fact, it can even be a fun time. By providing them with special toys (including the puzzle toys mentioned above filled with food) that they only get when you’re gone, you start giving them a reason to actually appreciate being only, rather than fear it.

While giving your dog bones and dental chews is a common practice, I urge you to be wary of all of those things. Many bones and dental chews specifically warn of dog’s ingesting the product and the possibility of an obstruction if they do. For this reason, if your dog or puppy is an intense chewer, it might be better to seek out a tough, high-quality toy that’s meant for the toughest of canine teeth. If you notice your dog is breaking off large pieces of the bone or chew and eating them, take it away immediately. And never give your dog bones not intended for chewing. Stay clear of any cooked bones as these can lodge themselves in their throat and gastrointestinal tract, sometimes leading to death.

But there is light at the end of the puppy tunnel! Most dogs outgrow the chewing phase, and puppies stop teething at around six months of age. Most likely, this is a temporary blip and a minor annoyance. While there are times you’ll wonder if the puppy stage will ever end, sadly, it will be over before you know it. And then, you’ll look back on that time and miss it.

So, stop focusing on the frustrating parts and take the time to bond with your new puppy while you have the chance. Because trust me, it’s over in a blink of an eye.

Teach your dog to sit, stay or roll over in under 30 minutes

by Lorna Ladd 2 Comments

Want to teach your dog to sit? stay? How about roll over in under 30 minutes. Here’s a really easy way to “bribe” your dog to do just about anything you want.

teaching your dogIt goes without saying that most dogs love food. They love food almost more than they love anything else in the world – aside from their owners, of course. And one of the best methods of training can be using their love of treats as a form of positive reinforcement.

While treats don’t have to be the only reward – you can also use toys, praise or anything that makes your dog happy – they can be the simplest way to start out. Rather than practicing positive reinforcement, many owners wait until the dog disobeys a command, and then punishes them for it. But research has proven that negative reinforcement like that doesn’t work. And even when it does deter a dog from bad behavior, it isn’t exactly teaching them good behavior or commands that are important in training a well-behaved dog.

Instead, you should focus on rewarding the good behavior.

giving dog treatTreats are a great way to start out, even if you eventually want to transition them over to praise alone. The key is finding the right treat. Training treats shouldn’t be large or require a lot of chewing. It should be a small, quick bite, and no larger than a pea so they can easily move on to the next command (and treat). It also must be yummy enough to entice the dog.

Two types of treats we recommend to aid in training include DogForDog Dogstreat Mini in Peanut Butter or Dogstreat Mini in Duck. Both are perfectly sized to fit in the palm of your hand, which allows you to carry them everywhere for easy training. And it is just the right size for training any type of dog, big or small.

Commands like sit, stay, come, and more, are important not only to save your sofa or prevent your dog from jumping up on you with their dirty paws, but for your dog’s safety as well. Plus, you can show off all the neat tricks to your friends.

But more than that, it allows you to communicate with your dog so that they understand what’s expected of them. Honestly, it’s true what they say – your dog truly does want to please you. They just don’t know how. Their brains aren’t wired like ours and they don’t understand our language. And while we we can teach them commands, they usually come to us confused, not knowing what any of it means.

With patience and positive reinforcement, your dog will start to understand and relate to the world around him a bit better. It will not only lead to a well-behaved canine friend, but also a stronger bond between pet and owner.

Now that you’re stocked up on delicious treats, here are a few basic commands to start you off on training.

Sit

Sit is probably the most basic command to teach a dog. Most dogs learn how to sit pretty easily, and it’s the foundation for many of the other commands they’ll learn later – like stay or wait. Many people teach their dog to sit by pushing on their rump and rewarding them when it goes down. But it is far better and meaningful to the dog, if you let them learn the motion for themselves. With some practice – and some handy dandy treats, of course – it can be just as easy to do it without forcing them into the position.

Dog sit training1) Hold the treat close to his or her nose, and make sure their eyes, and their head, are following the treat. Move your hand up, palm out. Tell him to “Sit”.

2) As you move your hand, they should look up, which in turn causes their butt to lower. Eventually, their butt will hit the floor, and this is when you give him the treat and praise him for sitting.

3) Wash and repeat. Or rather, just repeat in this case. Eventually the dog will associate the word and the hand motion with the action, and before long, they’ll sit naturally on command!

Stay

Stay is one of the hardest new commands to teach a new puppy. The reason? Think back to when you were a child full of energy and excitement. There were times when you couldn’t sit still for more than half a second, am I right? For a puppy, everything is new and exciting and they want nothing more than to be at their owner’s side, getting all the affection and love they can handle and then some.

Dog StayPatience is the key to teaching your dog how to stay. You want to always start out with your dog on a leash or long rope – and inside your home or yard at first. Keep distractions to a minimum early on or else you may be asking too much of your puppy. Eventually, once they’re older and know the command, you can introduce distractions such as other dogs, toys or new people. But for now, start out with just you and the pup.

1) Have your dog on a long leash or lead. Have him sit down next to you.

2) Hold up your hand with your palm flat and facing them – the typical  hand signal for stay. Tell the dog to “Stay”.

3) Step in front of your puppy, just a little bit. Don’t go too far. Wait a few seconds, but for only a few seconds – you want to set your dog up for success, not failure. Then go to your dog, give them over the top praise and hand them the treat.

4) If he or she doesn’t stay, calmly say something like, “Uh uh” and put him back where he was initially. And try again. Don’t reward your dog until he actually stays.

5) Repeat this process, eventually moving further and further away. Take it slow. Eventually, step out of sight for a few seconds before coming back and rewarding him for staying.

Those are only two of the most basic commands, but they are invaluable. After mastering the basics, you should be able to move on to other commands, always remembering to reinforce their positive behavior. The key to positive reinforcement is rewarding their behavior as it happens. Dogs don’t have the best attention spans and may not associate the action with reward unless it’s timed just right. You can also use a clicker to help them associate their good behavior with the reward, clicking when they listen to the command followed with the treat. It’s just one more way to make training easier and more enjoyable for you and your dog.

There’s no limit to what you can teach your dog once they have the basics down. Just remember to have fun while you’re at it, and chances are, your dog will be having just as much fun as you!