Archive for the ‘work your dog’ Category

Dogs teaching dogs

Otis likes the treadmill

Otis likes the treadmill

We’ve had a busy week – Otis visited us for a week and overlapped with Teddy who is still here and now Jackson has joined him! So many male dogs … but everyone has gotten along great.

Otis is a hard worker and while he was here he asked for treadmill work every night. He asked by running around the basement, pushing the heavy leather furniture around with his head and then jumping on the treadmill and looking at me longingly. Every night he’d run for a half an hour – at 7.0 mph. I can’t keep up that pace myself, but he did. And little Teddy, nearly 5 months old, watched him. So, Otie has left and I miss him. He is a sweet, simple, joyful and accepting spirit. And I think Teddy misses him too.

Teddy watching Otis on the treadmill

Teddy watching Otis on the treadmill

Tonight Teddy got on the treadmill all by himself. I ran to get his leash and some cheese and turned on the power. Ever so gingerly, Teddy started to walk, almost on tip toes. He did fantastic! It seemed to me that he had learned how not only to do it but to not be afraid of it from watching his buddy Otis! I was amazed.

An insight on hiking with your dogs

While we were camping recently I had an insight – the “rules” for walking correctly don’t always apply. For instance, we were hiking and two of my dogs wear backpacks. They carry all the water for the group (for us and for them) and carry our lunch. They have a heavy load on their backs and need a bit of room to sway from side to side. It is frustrating and difficult to keep them close, like I usually do, because the packs keep banging into my legs, knocking both of us off balance. I tried for a spell, to keep them behind me but that was also unpleasant as they tended to drip their saliva down the backs of my legs (which is as gross as it sounds.) The solution? I hooked the leash onto the clip on the back pack (we use wonderful packs from RuffWear) and let them walk in front of me. In my opinion this is the perfect solution. They get to have all the room then need to do their “work” and I am free to walk unencumbered.

dogs with backpacksAs you see, they are both working so hard they are staying pretty close by. It was a great solution to this problem. In addition, you’ll see my dog, Bella, on one of those extension leashes. Ordinarily I HATE those leashes as they are used in city walking and the dogs are usually out in front, extending the leashes to their maximum length. This is just a recipe for a whole host of problems, in my opinion. But on a hike, these leashes provide the dog with more room to explore while still being under your control. After a good long hike, you can see, they don’t really want to go that far in front anyway and if they are primarily walked close at hand, that’s where they’ll end up. So, with all things dog training, remember that rules usually need to be broken from time to time.

The important thing is to always ask yourself this question: Who is the leader here, and who is the follower?

A day at doggie boot camp

Otis 98


Boarding the dogs I once fostered is an interesting thing to do. I get to see what fine specimens my little babies have grown into and I get to see what characteristics from puppyhood are still with them.

Today we are boarding Otis, formerly Willow‘s puppy, Ash.

(Click on the smaller photos to see larger ones…)


He seems to have some lab in him and some blood hound too. But look at this point! Who knows what else he's got floating around in his blood.

He is a little over 6 months old and he is big. I mean big. (824) 88 pounds sort of big.

He is a little over 6 months old and he is big. I mean big. 88 pounds sort of big.

A dog as young as Otis young who is that big had better have good manners…and, well, let’s say he is still working on it.

Hermes and Bella, my working dogs who go with me everywhere I can take them are helping me.  Notice how Hermes is telling Otis, with his body who is in charge. And Bella, is telling the world (with her barking) what is happening.

the pack the pack
the pack Bella

After romping in the yard and getting to know one another we took a pack walk. Otis did well and it is clear that his owners are doing a lot of things right. He walks nicely and seems to know his place relative to the walker.

the walk the walk

Those who know me often hear me talk about how to walk a dog correctly. I call it a “controlled walk” and here is a great photo illustrating one of my main points…I say, “pretend there is an invisible line coming out of each hip and no dog can cross in front of it.”

invisible line coming out of each hip

invisible line coming out of each hip

Tomorrow Otis leaves but not before another one of his pack mates arrives for her stay at our “doggie boot camp” – Abby, formerly Ginko will join in on the fun tomorrow morning.

Barking while Crated

Here’s a note from A. & E.:

We were wondering if you had any advice in regards to barking in the crate. Scooby sleeps in his crate at night and the first 3 weeks he made it thru the night without barking. But recently he has started waking up between 2-5 AM barking. Because we live in a townhome this cannot be something that the neighbors enjoy.

Do we ignore him and hope he stops when we ignore it? Or should we be doing something else?

Barking is one of those things that can be reinforced inadvertently… you don’t think you’re reinforcing it but you are. Any attention to a bark will reinforce it – telling the dog to quiet, trying to soothe the dog and letting it out to see if it has to potty are all ways we can reinforce a dog’s barking. There are things you can do to stop the behavior – first of all make sure the dog is sufficiently exercised prior to crating – imagine how terrible it is for a dog to be confined in a space only large enough to sleep in when they are coming out of their skin with energy. And don’t assume that just because you think the dog is sufficiently exercised it is – most dogs have a much higher need for exercise than their owners realize. For most people I recommend adding a second walk to their daily 1 hour walk. If you are walking much less than this that may be the problem. If the dog is exercised, make sure you are stopping food intake early enough so the dog has a chance to eliminate prior to crating. I usually recommend the last meal of the day be the smallest and to be given around 5pm for a 10 pm bedtime. (I feed twice a day). If there is someone in the home that gets up early, that may be causing the barking – maybe that person can potty the dog and return him to his crate. There are so many possibilities you really need to think about the whole situation from the dog’s perspective to identify the cause of the barking.

PetSafe No-Bark CollarBut one thing is certain – dogs do what works and if barking either doesn’t work or is aversive (the reason no-bark collars work) then the behavior will stop. But the behavior must always be aversive or always not work. If it sometimes works and sometimes doesn’t, the behavior will continue and be even harder to stop (think of the people who pull the bar on the slot machines for hours with little payoff – that’s intermittent reinforcement at work).

So, if the neighbors and you can take it, ignoring the behavior is a good solution. Depending on how you feel about such a product, the no-bark collars will give you the fastest results but you must be certain the dog isn’t indicating a need with the barking, otherwise it is just cruel to collar them.

I wish you luck!

Let me know how it turns out.


Take Your Dog With You

If you want to teach your dogs to work with you and to trust you, bring them out into the world with you whenever you can.  Avoid the mind set that makes you do all your errands alone while your dog sits at home.  Bring her along and always maintain the leadership position in those outings.  Do not let your dog haul you around by the leash, do what it takes to keep you both working as a team.  At first this will usually require one of two things:  1) immense strength and patience or 2) a good training collar or harness.  I’ve talked about harnesses I love in a previous post as well as the prong collar, both useful tools.  But the ‘where of walking’ is what I want to cover here. 

Take your dogs wherever you can think of taking them.  Ask before entering a store you aren’t sure they allow dogs, and most people will say “ok” and let you in if you seem confident.  If you aren’t that sort of person, call ahead first.  Here in the Fox Valley, IL area we have a great opportunity for many on leash experiences in the Geneva Commons

Their website indicates which stores allow leashed dogs.  If dogs are welcome you can bring yours!  Then you have to make sure you take charge of the situation.  Walk your dog outside a bit to burn off some energy and get them emptied out (how embarrassing to potty in Victoria’s Secret!!)  Make sure you enter the establishment first, your dog following you.  Have your dog “sit” and “wait” if they are trying to rush you into the store.  If you enter in a controlled fashion you are communicating to your dog that you are in charge.  Once inside, you decide what you look at and where you go.  If someone wants to pet your dog, ask them to wait until your dog is under control and take as much time as you need to get your dog seated and calm.  Then let them approach.  Done correctly, these sorts of outings are a great way to put the basics of obedience training into a package of usable manners. And it’s a great way to get some holiday shopping done too!

Dogs and cold weather

belted-dogsSo, the weather is getting colder. Dogs, like us, can acclimate to the weather change and handle it well. Especially when walking. Leaving your dog tied up outside is another thing, and they would need the proper shelter in order to survive our cold Illinois winters. I, personally, don’t like the idea of leaving dogs outside, unsupervised, for a long time (or overnight especially! BURR) but my dogs do get used to the cold and enjoy an afternoon playing outside on those more mild sunny days. But even on the most frigid days we are out there walking. Our dogs can tolerate any weather we can tolerate. The only thing I’ve noticed is that at 10 degrees above zero, something happens with the salt and the cold, and my dogs’ feet seem to start to burn. I know this because above 10 degrees they walk normally but below that magic number they start to pick up their feet in a way that seems to suggest they are really hurting. If I had the luxury of sidewalks I’d use them, but where I live there are no sidewalks so we walk on the street.

So, I have a rule – no walks if the weather gets below 10 above zero. When it gets that cold I don’t want to be out there either and so we do more inside. A treadmill walk is wonderful and you can find many used ones on Craig’s List. I put my guys on the treadmill for 25 minutes each (while I knit!) on those freezing cold days. But any other day, they and I are out there for our full walk. You’ll be amazed at how much you’ll come to tolerate the cold. Just wear something over your face and head and good boots on your feet. And also, pay attention to your dog. She may have a higher sensitivity to cold or her feet may be more tender. Then my dogs. If that is the case, you may have a different “cut off” number than I do.

muttluks dog bootsAlso, there are dog booties out there to help protect more sensitive feet. My favorite are called Muttluks and can be found at Amazon. They are sturdy, stay on great, and last. Don’t go with cheap dog booties if you are really looking for something to stay on your dog’s feet and keep them protected from the salt and cold. These boots really work. Yes they are more pricey but I walk my dogs every day and I had a set that lasted, sadly, longer than the dog who wore them. My guys now spend so much time outside all year round that they have tougher feet than my dear Sadie did, living in the city with me. But she loved her boots and wore them easily. The Muttluks website has a list of frequently asked questions that explain how to size your dog’s feet and how to acclimate them to wearing the boots. And you will have a good long laugh when you put them on your dog’s feet – my dogs both lifted their feet VERY high into the air and walked very deliberately when they first had them on!! Very funny.

So, don’t worry about the cold weather that is on the way – just keep walking and you and your dogs will get used to the cold together. And wear the proper gear and everyone will be happy!