Saturday, December 24, 2011

There is NO perfect dog! Or is there?

There are many different ways to view your dog, and these views will shape how you train and interact with your dog. I often say that there are 2 general beliefs for most dog owners: either "no dog is perfect," or "every dog is perfect!" In reality, this is truly a matter of perspective. What is the perfect dog? EVERYONE will have a different opinion, which leads me to my conclusion; either no dog is perfect, or every dog is. Understanding what a dog was originally bred for often helps with this. I have 2 dachshunds, and I deal with many reactive dachshunds. Now, dachshunds were originally bred for hunting badgers, and therefore are supposed to be tenacious, fierce, and never back down! This often leads to a dog who will react to anything that they don't understand because that is natural for them. Think of it this way: if a dachshund does an Earth Dog trial, which means that they have to go into a tunnel underground and find the prey (usually a rat in a cage). A dachshund will fail the test if he backs away from the prey, or stops lunging, barking, etc. When we think about this, it makes sense that a dachshund's first reaction would be to react and go on the offensive. Other dogs are extremely excited, and owners ask me how to help their dogs mellow out. First and foremost, know your breeds, and what their instinct is! A dog who is bred to do a job that requires a lot of energy and drive needs a job to do, physically and mentally. Every dog is perfect for someone, which means that every dog is perfect!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Hayden working through "scary distractions!"

Reactive dogs

Dealing with Hayden, my reactive dachshund, has giving me a lot of perspective when it comes to reactive dogs. I deal with reactive dogs all the time, but having one who is so hard to deal with has taught me quite a bit. So what do you do to deal with a dog who barks at other dogs/people/anything that moves? First and foremost, your reaction, and body language for that matter, are crucial. When I see something that my dog is likely to react to I immediate turn on the verbal praise (before the reaction occurs!), and then reward for any attention that comes back to me. A "bark!" equals, walk away, so that we can be at a safe distance to work through it. But, if I start verbally praising my dog before a reaction begins, and then I reward the dog for keeping quiet, I have essentially "won the battle", that is the battle between me and the distraction! Every dog has a different limit as to where they feel safe, but if I reward them for NOT reacting, then I am changing the association with the scary thing! My goal is to have my dog look to ME when a distraction is present. I should be the center of my dog's universe, and essentially what this means to my dog is that I will keep him/her safe. If this trust is broken (if I let another dog or person approach my dog without permission), then I am teaching my sensitive dog that they cannot trust me, and must take matters into their own paws...
My main thought process when training dogs is "what is the dog interpreting from this situation?". If my dog deems the situation as frightening, then it is much harder to come back from.
I constantly stress that whether WE see certain circumstances as frightening or not, our dog may interpret these events differently.

Training progress

So, standing by the back gate and rewarding for calm behavior when cars go by seems to be the best option at the moment. I plan on keeping up with this consistent method until cars are not an issue. Andreu was brilliant today in agility, and always has fun with anything new which is a major positive in my world! We also took a couple of updated pics of him at my parents house:

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Training Goals & Woes

So, I think that it is easy to feel a bit lost in raising and training a puppy. I constantly find myself asking if I am doing the right thing for my puppy in every situation. I wonder if I am doing enough training sessions, and I struggle with what behaviors I should be working on next. Sometimes it seems much easier to give others advice on puppy training, than to figure out what to do with my own puppy.
Today Andreu came to work with me for part of the day. He did pretty well, and we had some moments of brilliance! However, we also encountered some extremely distracted moments, as well as a couple of all out barking fits at dogs who surprised him (not a particularly common reaction for him). The question is: where to go from here? I've decided that part of the answer may be writing down my goals for Andreu, and my plans on how to get him there.
So here goes! First goal: focus! Although I have been working on this with him since he was young, we still have some work to do with certain distractions (dogs, cars), and with duration. The important element with Andreu is to make it fun! So that is what my goal will be. I will update with our progress soon!

Friday, December 9, 2011

A must read for all dog lovers!!

A great statement on manners when walking dogs! Hayden is a DINOS, Opal used to be, and I train many of them each day. A bit of awareness of dog manners when out and about will go a long way for the safety and well being of all dogs!
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