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Food, glorious food!

Yum!

Reviews.com, a company that reviews all sorts of things, from deodorant, to mattresses, to yoga mats, to dog food, recently contacted me about their review of dog foods. I initially did not pay any attention to the email as I get a lot of people wanting me (or, more specifically, “the person in charge of …”) to include their products/opinions/ideas/thoughts-on-aliens on my website. Besides, I thought, The Whole Dog Journal has it’s yearly review of dog foods that I think is the best of the best, so why bother?

But, they contacted me a second time, actually addressing me by name in the email! So I thought, “Why not? If it’s worthless I will have wasted 10-15 minutes of my life, but gained a brief respite from vacuuming. If it’s any good, I have yet another resource to share that will help people to better provide for their dog.” 

So, I have to say that I was impressed by the thoroughness of their research and the standards they used to include foods in their recommended list. They had ten people working full-time (over 1400 hours) to produce this report. Here is how they conducted the research:

— We built a list of over 11,00 people with connections to the dog food industry and narrowed it down to the best.

— Over 20 experts contributed their valuable time to our work, including veterinarians, dog trainers, animal behaviorists, university researchers, and authors.

— We surveyed 300 dog owners and asked them if they knew what was in their dog’s food.

— We gathered a list of over 8,000 search queries to find out what matters most to dog owners.

— We read and analyzed 72 of the most popular articles and studies on dog food.

— We compiled a list of 2,223 formulas from 115 brands and reviewed their ingredients.

Their research led them to the absolutely inescapable conclusion that safe, quality ingredients are the key to good food and good health (physically and mentally) for your favorite canine. The use of inferior food products can lead to obesity, ear infections, liver or kidney issues, diabetes, irritable bowel syndrome, and perhaps much worse. 

Dogs need the right combination of protein, fat, moisture, fiber, and nutrients to live healthy, happy lives. The wrong ingredients in the wrong combinations can lead to a host of health problems, both physical and mental.

 

Digestive problems, including bloat and inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), are symptomatic of poor ingredients that don’t contain enough whole, unprocessed foods. Food allergies can also lead to digestive issues — many of the experts we reached out to have seen evidence that dogs are sensitive to wheat and corn, both popular fillers.

 

Obesity is on the rise in dogs. One main reason for this is overfeeding, but many of the experts we talked to were quick to point out that poor grain-based ingredients are also to blame.

 

Physical problems are only half of it. There was a unanimous consensus among trainers and behaviorists we talked to that poor diet causes mental health issues in dogs, including poor temperament and lack of focus. Marc Abraham elaborates: “Certain popular pet food brands on the market contain extra colorings, additives, and E numbers that, in my opinion, can affect behavior, leading to hyperactivity and difficulty with training.”

I agree wholeheartedly with Mr. Abraham that poor diet can lead to poor behavior and training issues. A dog who doesn’t feel well cannot perform well. Ask any parent of a child the day after Halloween if their child is cranky, unable to focus, distracted, amped up, or lethargic…

Included in the review are two handy charts: A Quick Guide to Dog Food Ingredients and A Quick Dog Food Type Comparison. Both give a handy overview of their subject matter with pros and cons. I especially liked the Food Type Comparison chart as it is hard to find information about the various types of food (dry, wet, dehydrated, raw and homemade) in one place.

And their conclusions? 

After putting in 1,400 hours of research and analyzing over 2,223 formulas, we discovered even some of the most popular brands still make food with unhealthy or unsafe ingredients. Of the 2,223 formulas we looked at, only 134 met our standard of approval — about 6 percent overall.

Why so few? They eliminated 2,089 foods because of the following reasons*:

1) We removed products where the first ingredient is not a meat of any kind. 194 disqualified

2) We removed products containing corn, soy, wheat, grain, or flour. 578 disqualified.

3) We removed products containing beet pulp or sugar. 146 disqualified.

4) We removed products that contained by-products or sauces. 44 disqualified.

5) We removed brands for recalls, ingredient sources, history, and customer satisfaction. 956 disqualified.

6) We reviewed the remaining formulas based on the best ratio of protein, fat, and carbs, as well as the source of protein. 171 disqualified.

Near the end of the article is the complete list of approved dry dog foods as well as links to their lists of preferred canned, puppy, and grain free foods. It is well worth your time to peruse the review and the list of acceptable foods. It was a definite eye opener for me! I had already decided to switch my dogs from Taste of the Wild and Blue Wilderness Puppy to Origen and Origen Large Breed Puppy before I read this article. After reading it, not only was I glad I switched, but I went to the local pet store to get some Origen to tide us over until my auto-ship arrives.**

A few final thoughts on dog foods: The foods listed here are super premium and the price for a bag of one of these foods may take your breath away if you are accustomed to purchasing your dog food at the grocery store. I understand that $65+ for a bag of food is a lot of money. But, perhaps you could look at this from a slightly different perspective: 
 
1) With super premium foods you generally feed less because the nutrition is dense. A food such as Purina may suggest you feed 4-6 cups of food to provide the minimum daily nutrition. With one of the premium foods, you may only need to feed 2-3 cups for complete nutrition that helps your dog to truly thrive, not just survive.
 
2) If you feed your dog food that helps him to achieve and maintain his ideal weight (by not having fillers such as corn which may lead to weight gain), then you are helping your dog avoid obesity and the problems associated with that. According to petmd.com, “Obese dogs and cats can be predisposed to a number of different health issues. These issues include diabetes (particularly for cats), joint disease, heart disease, liver disease, skin disease, respiratory disease, and heat stroke. Even some forms of cancer have been linked to obesity.” Obesity also lowers the life expectancy of your dog.
 
3) You might just lower your vet bills! A healthy, happy, vibrant dog requires fewer vet visits as there are fewer health problems. Getting your dog on the right food may do wonders to eliminate itchy skin, ear infections, or more serious issues such as diabetes that require numerous vet visits and medications.
 
Making the right decision for your dog’s individual needs can be a challenge. This is why reviews such as those offered by Review.com and Whole Dog Journal can be so helpful, as they do the heavy lifting research-wise. All you have to do is the heavy lifting of a bag of wonderfulness for your dog.  
 
Bone apetit!
 
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*To see the details on who was eliminated for what reason, visit the article at: http://www.reviews.com/dog-food/
 
**As I have mentioned in previous blogs, we are lucky here in Granville to have two wonderful pet stores stocked with great foods (Bath and Biscuits, and Village Pet Market). I will also use online sources for dog food and have found both Amazon.com and Chewy.com to be excellent sources.

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Warning signs of cancer.

The Blue Buffalo Company  established The Blue Buffalo Foundation for Cancer Research in 2003, “as part of our ongoing mission to raise awareness about pet cancer and money to help support various universities and clinics conducting research on the causes of, prevention and treatment of dogs and cats with the disease.” 

Their pet cancer awareness website has a page devoted to pet cancer signs and symptoms that is very valuable in helping pet owners recognize some of the more common warning signs of cancer.

Here is their list:

Swollen Lymph Nodes

These “glands” are located throughout the body but are most easily detected behind the jaw or behind the knee. When these lymph nodes are enlarged they can suggest a common form of cancer called lymphoma. A biopsy or cytology of these enlarged lymph nodes can aid in the diagnosis. 

 

An Enlarging or Changing Lump

Any lump on a pet that is rapidly growing or changing in texture or shape should have a biopsy. Lumps belong in biopsy jars, not on pets. 

 

Abdominal Distension

When the “stomach” or belly becomes rapidly enlarged, this may suggest a mass or tumor in the abdomen or it may indicate some bleeding that is occurring in this area. A radiograph or an ultrasound of the abdomen can be very useful. 

 

Chronic Weight Loss

When a pet is losing weight and you have not put your pet on a diet, you should have your pet checked. This sign is not diagnostic for cancer, but can indicate that something is wrong. Many cancer patients have weight loss. 

 

Chronic Vomiting or Diarrhea

Unexplained vomiting or diarrhea should prompt further investigation. Often tumors of the gastrointestinal tract can cause chronic vomiting and/or diarrhea. Radiographs, ultrasound examinations and endoscopy are useful diagnostic tools when this occurs. 

 

Unexplained Bleeding

Bleeding from the mouth, nose, penis, vagina or gums that is not due to trauma should be examined. Although bleeding disorders do occur in pets, they usually are discovered while pets are young. If unexplained bleeding starts when a pet is old, a thorough search should be undertaken. 

 

Cough

A dry, non-productive cough in an older pet should prompt chest radiographs to be taken. This type of cough is the most common sign of lung cancer. Please remember there are many causes of cough in dogs and cats. 

 

Lameness

Unexplained lameness especially in large or giant breed dogs is a very common sign of bone cancer. Radiographs of the affected area are useful for detecting cancer of the bone. 

 

Straining to Urinate

Straining to urinate and blood in the urine usually indicate a common urinary tract infection; if the straining and bleeding are not rapidly controlled with antibiotics or are recurrent, cancer of the bladder may be the underlying cause. Cystoscopy or other techniques that allow a veterinarian to take a biopsy of the bladder are useful and sometimes necessary to establish a definitive diagnosis in these cases. 

 

Oral Odor

Oral tumors do occur in pets and can cause a pet to change its food preference (i.e. from hard to soft foods) or cause a pet to change the manner in which it chews its food. Many times a foul odor can be detected in pets with oral tumors. A thorough oral examination with radiographs or CT scan, necessitating sedation, is often necessary to determine the cause of the problem.

Cancer is a frightening and, too often, devastating diagnosis for pet owners. Being aware of the warning signs will give you a better chance of giving your dog the long and happy life he deserves. 

 

Bingley, Buckley, and Tex all crossed the Rainbow bridge in 2016. Bing and Buck both died of cancer.

Bingley, Buckley, and Tex all crossed the Rainbow bridge in 2016. Bing and Buck both died of cancer.

 

*While these may be some of the more common signs of cancer in dogs and cats, there are cancers that do not have early warning signs. This is why it is important to have your dog regularly examined by your vet, especially as he ages, so that changes in your dog’s health can be noticed sooner rather than later. Our vet’s technician was the first to notice Buckley’s pale gums and alert us to his anemia, which was the telltale sign of his cancer (see: The Big “C“). For more information on caring for your elderly dog, check out our podcast: Giving Older Dogs the Good Life. 

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Expanding your horizons

You want me to what?

You want me to what? Sit? Here? Why?

When I teach a behavior to a client I recommend that they practice this new skill in every room in the house where their dog is allowed, so that the dog learns to generalize the behavior. Dogs, by and large, are not particularly good at generalizing. As a result, we have to help them learn that “Sit!” does not simply mean “put my bottom on the ground facing Mom in the kitchen,” but rather, “put my bottom on the ground no matter where I am or what is going on around me.” 

When you move to another location, it is important to understand that your dog sees this as something new and may not respond as quickly to your request as he does in a more familiar locale. Therefore, I tell clients to lower their expectations and ask for something easier or give their dog more time to respond. For example, last night I took Zuzu to her first agility class. At one point, we were told to get our dogs to lie down. This is not Zuzu’s strongest trick (she tends to pop right back up) but she will generally follow my hand and lie on the floor, especially if I have a small treat in my hand. So, in this exciting environment I made sure we had at least 15 feet between her and another dog, and I used a fistful of chicken to lure her into a down. It took her a moment to understand what I wanted, but when her belly hit the ground, a lot of chicken happened. Subsequent downs went more quickly and smoothly, and I was able to reduce the amount of poultry needed to produce the desired results.

I recently received an email from the Whole Dog Journal about training your dog in a new location. Here is a part of what they recommended:

In each new training space, first test that your dog can perform with a cookie in your hand. This is important because the total number of additional distractions (beyond what you are deliberately introducing) is going to increase simply by changing locations. You will continue to create controlled distractions for your dog, and you want them to hold his attention more than the stuff in the environment. This might sound counter intuitive, but the truth is, if the dog is paying more attention to the smells in the neighborhood than to the training exercises, you have a problem! You need to start with a distraction (and a reward) that is MORE interesting than the rest of the world.  (From Beyond the Backyard by Denise Fenzi)

Zuzu’s bumper

The point that you need to be more interesting than the rest of the world is the key to teaching your dog to be responsive to you in any environment, especially in the beginning. Having a good assortment of rewards* is also useful to keep your dog’s focus in new surroundings. To keep Zuzu’s attention last evening I varied the rewards I used: chicken, string cheese, and her favorite toy. While she has unlimited access to most of her toys, her bumper is one I keep special by limiting it’s availability. She zoomed through the tunnel to me and a chance to chase the bumper. Looking at me in line (right behind a really cute lab she wanted desperately to play with) earned her the right to hold the bumper as we waited our turn. Chicken enticed her into a down on the table, but her bumper was her reward for staying. 

Zuzu had moments when she couldn’t focus due to the excitement of a new environment. But they were moments, not eons, and it was reinforcement, not detention, that got her to reengage with me. Be patient with your dog as you teach her to behave under exciting or distracting circumstances. Reward her well for a doing what you ask, even if it’s only for an instant. The instants will begin to add up and sooner than you think, you will have a truly engaged dog, eager to work with you, no matter where you are. 

Zuzu and her beloved bumper.

Zuzu and her beloved bumper.

 

*Knowing what is reinforcing to your dog helps you choose the right reward for the level of distraction. I have written a lot about rewards or reinforcers but two blogs in particular are relevant: What if my dog isn’t food motivated? and What does your dog love?

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What if my dog isn’t food motivated?

IMG_1304As a positive reinforcement trainer I use a lot of food, especially in the beginning of training, to reward a dog for doing the right thing. Food, in general, is an easy and efficient way to let your dog know that he was on target with the desired behavior and for most dogs, it isn’t something we need to teach them to like. Depending on the circumstances and what we are working on, I will use the dog’s food (if we are in a low distraction situation) or higher value treats if the situation is more demanding or distracting to the dog and I need something to keep and hold his attention. I will eventually reduce the amount of food I use, and switch to other forms of reinforcement, but when teaching a new skill or working under unusual circumstances, I rely on tasty morsels to reward my dog.  

If you want to reduce the amount of food rewards you use, the first thing to remember is that it is important to reward your dog every time he does something you ask him to do or that you appreciate him doing. If you want a behavior to increase in frequency or stay strong, it’s important that your dog understand that this behavior is worth his effort. You can begin to reduce the amount of food by combining it with other reinforcements. This is particularly handy when you reach into your bait bag and discover you only have a small handful of treats left. If I need to reward my dog for a particularly good performance and I have just a few morsels (or I want to reduce food rewards), I will pet, praise, play, and strategically throw in a couple of pieces of food. I find that dogs respond very well to 20-30 seconds of wonderfulness that includes all the things that they enjoy: your attention and affection, play, and a snack.

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Just a little more to the left, please!

Another way to reduce the amount of food you use is to use it intermittently when reinforcing routine behaviors. If your dog really knows sit, then you don’t need to reinforce with food every time she plunks her bottom on the ground. A “Good Girl!” or scratch under the ear is probably sufficient, most of the time, to reward a sit. However, giving her a treat on occasion will help to keep the behavior strong as she never knows when the treat is coming and it just might be this time! (Think in terms of being a Vegas slot machine. Sometimes you get nothing, sometimes it’s a little, and every once in awhile, it’s a jackpot!) If, however, you ask her to do something routine (such as a sit) in a completely new and exciting environment (such as the entrance to the dog park), it will be much harder for her to comply. Let her know that you appreciate the effort she has put into doing this in a difficult situation by rewarding her with something really meaningful to her.

What do you do, however, when your dog is not food motivated, or is on a restricted diet? In a recent blog I discussed three things to experiment with to determine what is motivating to your dog. I have also written about making a list of 5 things your dog loves that you can use to reward your dog. But, how exactly do you use these things to reward your dog? 

Let’s imagine that you are in the back yard and your dog heads over to the fence to bark at the neighbor’s kids. You call him, he stops, looks at you, looks at the fence, and decides to come to you. This tough decision needs to be rewarded in some way! If you have a toy, reward his come with a game of tug, fetch, or chase-me-to-get-the-toy. If you don’t have a toy readily available, then spend a full 30 seconds petting him, scratching his favorite spot, and telling him what a brilliant boy he was!

Will work for tennis balls.

Will work for tennis balls.

You can also use play as a way to teach a new behavior. I have a dog who is not particularly food motivated but LOVES to play. To teach her to sit between tosses of the ball I use two tennis balls when we play fetch. I toss the first one and when she brings it back, I show her the second ball. When she drops the first one and sits, the second one is immediately thrown. Off she flies and I pick up the first ball, and the cycle continues. I am using what she loves to do to get her to practice the impulse control (i.e.: sit) that I want from her. 

I had a client whose dog had some very unusual dietary restrictions so treats were not an option. Bailey loved squeaky toys, however, so the owner bought several and kept them in a box in the closet with his leash. When walk time came, she would get one of the toys out of the box and tuck it in a pocket or bait bag. When Bailey got overly excited about something on his walk she would say his name, and squeak the toy. Bailey would turn and look at her, and she would give him the toy to hold. This calmed him and he would trot along with his Zen-inducing toy in his mouth until he relaxed enough to drop it. Susan would pick it up, tuck it away, and repeat the process as needed. At the end of the walk, the toy was put back in the box so that it remained special.

Figuring out what your dog loves, what motivates him to check in with you, and what holds his attention, will help you to know how best to creatively reward those behaviors that make you say, “What a good dog!”

Here’s a ball in case you need to reward me…

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Management, Relationship, and Training: the keys to better living with dogs.

Shake aloneI am in a networking group that meets weekly. Attendance is as close to mandatory as one can get without a court order. Since we serve as each other’s sales force, it is important that we take the time to really understand each other’s businesses. By seeing each other every week and having coffee or lunch with another member once a month we get to “know, like, and trust” one another. It is this combination of factors that makes it possible to comfortably recommend someone’s services. It occurred to me a couple of weeks ago that my 3 part philosophy of training is very similar to this.

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“I would like to go out now.”

When talking to new owners, I tell them that my training method is based on three things: management, relationship, and training. Management means setting your dog up for success by arranging him and his environment in such a manner that he is more likely to make the right choice. For example, if you are house training your pup, I recommend that you do not give him full reign of the house, but use crates, gates, and/or tethers to keep him from making mistakes in the wrong places and to help you to recognize when he needs to do his duty. By effectively managing your dog, you get to know him better and to understand his signals, temperament, and rhythms.

Ball anyone?

Ball anyone?

Your relationship with your dog should be based on co-operation and trust. Dr. Sophia Yin described it like partners in a dance where you are the leader in the dance and your job is to clearly indicate to your dog what is happening next. You can build your relationship with your dog by hand feeding him, playing with him, and just spending time in each other’s company. As you learn more about who your dog is, your relationship will blossom. In other words, you come to like him more!

Positive reinforcement training is the natural extension of good management and a solid relationship. It is the instrument by which you develop trust that your dog will behave in a predictable way. Rewarding desirable behavior and re-directing or ignoring undesirable behavior is the way you help your dog understand that he can trust you to be consistent, reliable, and fair.

Management, Relationship, and Training, or Know, Like, and Trust represent the means by which we can best enhance the connection with our beloved dogs, and thereby obtain a lifetime of love, learning, and laughter canine style. In another blog I wrote:

A client recently told me that she has a hard time calling what she learned from me training, rather it is about relationship and has allowed her dogs to more clearly communicate to her what they need (such as having the water bowl filled, thank you), and her ability to understand and appreciate the uniqueness of each of her dogs. And that, in essence, is the purpose of family dog training: learning to love and work successfully with the unique canine who shares your hearth and home.

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Another day, another dollar…spent on the dog…

A

 

I am sure that it is possible to own a dog and not spend a small fortune on food, toys, treats, equipment, beds, vets, etc., but that doesn’t seem to be the way of the world in our house. I am always on the prowl for interesting, useful, or entertaining things that will improve the quality of life not only for my dogs, but for my clients by helping their dogs to be more successful members of their families.  I get a fair number of dog-related catalogs and recently In The Company of Dogs arrived with some interesting items I had not noticed before.

The first thing that caught my eye was the Piddle Place Potty System.  Small dogs can be very difficult to house train and I will recommend that owners consider training their petite canines to use a litter box. This potty system claims to be:

Ideal for puppy training, urban pets and older dogs, this compact, all-in-one system is a mess-free, eco-friendly alternative to disposable pads. The innovative portable potty features a super-porous, machine-washable grass mat and fully enclosed base reservoir with innovative quick-drain spout for easy emptying. Includes odor-neutralizing bio-enzyme treatment…

Moreover, this system is apparently not just for the tiniest members of the canine community as it is  “for dogs up to 100 lbs.” And, it’s portable, all for $159.00

For those desiring a less expensive potty solution, they also offer the Bark Potty: the all-natural dog potty solution. This is an:

Eco-friendly “dog park in a box” features shredded tree bark that naturally absorbs urine and neutralizes odors. Perfect for urbanites, busy households and travelers, it’s convenient, easy to use, recyclable—and a cost-effective alternative to disposable pee pads. Includes a 24″-sq. waxed cardboard tray packed with bark under fine netting, pheromone spray for training, and bag dispenser with roll of bags for solid waste.

It can be used either inside or out, but the downside to this system is that it lasts only 2-4 weeks, and I don’t think it is as portable as the Piddle place. Price: $26.95. 

Please note that I have not used either system so I don’t know how easy or convenient either of them are. I just thought they were intriguing products for house training. If you do try one of these systems, let me know how they work. 

The catalog also has a huge assortment of dog beds in a variety of sizes, shapes, covers, and styles from nests to bolster beds to loungers to orthopedic beds. No matter how your dog prefers to sleep, they have a bed for him. A couple that caught my eye were the Bear Hug Mod Fur Bed whose “Shaggy faux fur gives this uniquely shaped bed a contemporary vibe. The ultimate in ‘creature comfort.’” Sign me up! It ranges in  size from small to large and in price from $129 to $239. The Mod Fur also comes in a Nest bed that looks like a giant furry donut and is perfect for the dog who likes to curl up into a ball. (x-small to X-large, $179-$289)

There is also an entire collection of orthopedic beds (at least 8) that offer “joint relief for dogs with special needs.” Some are rectangular, some have bolsters, but all are pictured with joint challenged dogs happily lounging on their bed of choice. Sizes range from small to X-large and prices from $99.95 to $279.

Gates are another specialty item and they have some lovely ways to contain your pet.  A couple of my favorites are the  Wood Swirl Pet Gate and the Arched Gate with door.* Both are solid wood, fold flat and are really attractive. Each comes in two heights (24″ and 32″ for the Swirl, 24″ or 36″ in the Arched) and vary in the number of panels (2-5) so you can get just the right height and width for your home and dog. If you have a dog that pushes against the gate, they also sell support feet for the Arched gate.** Beauty is not cheap however, so be prepared to spend $99.95 up to $329 to artfully cordon off your beast. 

101_dog_birthdaycardCrunch_Page_2In addition to In the Company of Dogs, I have other favorite dog sites/catalogs. If you are looking for good prices, great customer service, and the convenience of autoship for food, treats, whatever, check out Chewy.com. I get both raw and dry food from them; treats for training; and calming aids such as D.A.P. collars, spray, and diffusers.*** They always let me know a week or more before my autoship so I can modify or reschedule as needed. I have never had a shipment take more than 2 days to reach me, nor have I had to return anything. When you call, the people who answer the phone are cheerful and helpful. It is customer service the way it ought to be. 

 

Bath & BiscuitsOf course, here in Granville, we are very lucky to have the Village Pet Market (222 S. Main St.) as well as Bath and Biscuits (1616 Columbus Rd). Both of these boutiques offer excellent choices in food, treats, equipment and service. 

 

The Village Pet Market is a locally owned and operated pet store featuring the best in food, treats, toys, and supplies for your dogs and cats. Friendly service and careful attention to the needs of pets and their owners make this a delightful place to shop. Located at 222 S. Main St, Granville. 740-587-3656

Village Pet Market

 

*See also Cats are not small dogs, part 2 for another gate option. Not as attractive, but functional and sturdy.

**These gates do not attach to the wall, so if your dog charges gates these might not work for you, as I am not sure how steady the feet make the gate. 

***DAP (or Dog Appeasing Pheromone) aids in helping a dog to relax and be more comfortable with situations that cause anxiety. This pheromone imitates the smell of a lactating female dog and is very comforting to most dogs.  For situational anxiety, I recommend you spray it on a bandana 10 minutes or so before the stressful event. It should last about an hour, and you can re-spritz the bandana as needed. It is very  important that you get either the Adaptil or Comfort Zone spray (same company, different name for the same product) as this is the only one with the patented pheromone. It also comes in a diffuser and a collar.

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What does your dog love?

Dream of biscuitsKnowing what motivates your dog will make your training easier and more effective. In my beginning class, I ask the owners to make a list of 5 things their dogs love.* I encourage them to be both broad and specific. Broad in the sense of looking at what your dog loves to do, places he likes to go, things he likes to eat. Specific within those categories: if she is play motivated, what games does she like, and is there a hierarchy of games? For example, your dog might see play this way: “Tug trumps chase; hide and seek with a toy is better than Tug; hide and seek with my person is better yet; and Fetch! is the gold standard for all things diverting me from chewing shoes.”
 
While I am a proud cookie pusher and advocate the use of food rewards when training your dog, especially in the beginning, I also encourage owners to look at other things that could be used as rewards for desired behavior. If your dog, for instance, loves to go outside and races out the door, nearly knocking you over, use the act of opening the door (which she loves) as a reward for the calmer behavior of sitting before the door is opened. In this way, you are using something she loves (access to the great outdoors) as a reward for something you love (calm behavior at the door). Likewise, use play as a reward for other behaviors. If you want to teach a quick sit, have your dog sit before you toss the ball. If the launching of the ball depends on sitting, then sit will happen pretty quickly!
 
 
Another thing to look at is how motivated is your dog by physical contact, your voice, and food.** When helping clients learn what motivates their dogs to stay with them, I will have them do the following:
 
Start with your dog next to you. If your dog is on a leash, then either drop the leash, or keep it very loose. You want to see if your dog will stay with you by choice, not by tether.
 
1) Using only your voice (no touching your dog, no using your hands in any way, and no dispensing treats), try to keep your dog with you and focused on you for 10 seconds.
 
2) Using only your hands (no vocalizations of any kind, no holding your dog in place by his collar or any other part of him, and no food), try to keep your dog with your for 10 seconds.
 
Zen Dog 2
 
3) Using only food (no touching, no talking or cooing), try to keep your dog with you for 10 seconds.
 
Now, rate them from most to least effective. Which one made it really easy for your dog to stay with you? Which was the least effective? There is no right or wrong answer here, just valuable information on what your dog likes.
 
Repeat the 10 second experiment using various combinations of these three things to see if there is any  increase in the value of your reward. For example, If you don’t have any treats, use your happy voice and rub her ears, or talk to her while you give her a series of 3-5 treats, especially if she has done something wonderful. Adding rewards together, should increase their value to your dog and you should find that it is easier for her to ignore distractions and stay focused on you.
 
So, the bottom line is: Look at your rewards. If she is not paying attention to you, then what you are using to reward her is simply not valuable enough. Moreover, if your dog seems to take forever to learn something new, then you need to step up to the challenge of finding the reward that is equal to (or exceeds) the value of the distractions that make this new behavior so hard to learn. When you know what she truly loves (ear scratches, playing ball, banana bread, and string cheese, for example), it will be much easier to ignore or prevent any unwanted behavior, and efficiently and effectively reward the desired behavior.
 Shake alone
 
 
*In a recent Your Family Dog podcast, my podcast partner, Colleen Pelar, and I discuss how words matter when you describe your dog’s behavior. Colleen talks specifically about listing your dog’s favorite things and prioritizing their value. You can catch (and subscribe to) our podcasts, by the way, on iTunes, Google Play, Stitcher, on Podbean, or on our podcast website, Your Family Dog Podcast
 
** You can also do this experiment with toys to see if you can keep your dog focused on you for 10 seconds with only a toy.

General Philosophy of training or "Why be positive?" Training or "Why, Why, WHY?"0 comments