Friday, December 31, 2010

Get Your Dog Out of Your Hair: If even for just a moment...

When you’re sick, the last thing you want to think about is taking care of everyone else. Selfish, I know, but there’s no better time to be a huge baby then when you’re congested, coughing, and tired all the time. 
This past week was my turn. Yes, that’s right. The kids got me (and J) a cold virus for Christmas! How do we know? Because as sick as he and I got, the kids never even sniffled!
Top priority: get lots of rest. Absolute last priority: take care of the dogs. 

That was my list. That was not the list of my beloved dogs. Though, strangely enough, they toned it down a bit and didn’t reach their full obnoxious level. I like to think it’s because they understand that we were under the weather...
I needed something to occupy them inside the house and it had to be something that doesn’t require me to interact with them as much. 
I’m a huge fan of dog puzzles - my favorite DIY doggie games, like in this post, usually just require me to dig in the recycling for inspiration. Which is exactly what I did this morning when I wanted just a liiiiiitle bit more sleep. *Supervision is strongly suggested. J was there to keep an eye on them, just in case.
I grabbed a cardboard box that’s still intact, some yummy treats, and some tape. 

My dog’s don’t ingest cardboard - that’s key. If your dog is less of a destroyer and more of an eater, this might not be the best idea for you. You would probably want something more sturdy, like the Nina Ottosson Twister game that they can’t actually tear apart for the purpose of eating it. Here’s our blog, with video, of Bizzle working on one.
Next, I toss some yummy, smelly treats inside the box. 
Then, I seal it up with tape.
Tada! Ready for play!

 Again, my dogs don’t actually consume this. Instead, they rip through it and spit the pieces out. They know the real prize is inside. 
This lasts them about 15 - 30 minutes, depending on how much I seal up the container. If you want to make it more difficult, seal all the flaps and corners.  That way, they can’t just rip the corner of the box open and get in. They’ve got to toss the box around a bit to figure out the best way in. 
Does this make a huge mess? Yes. 

But all it requires is a sweep of the broom and it’s cleaned up. More importantly, my dogs are entertained. And when the alternative is them bugging me every 2 seconds to play with them when all I want to do is recover, it’s definitely worth it! 

Here's Sarah, tuckered out after destroying her "toy":

Do you have great ideas for entertaining your dogs? Share them with us, we'd love to hear them!!

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Your Dog's Not Listening

It’s three in the morning. You’re in your pajamas standing in the doorway, whisper-yelling out to the yard, “Fido! Pssst! Fido! Come!”  You just want to go back to bed, or at least back inside before the neighbors think you’re crazy. Fido, however, has a different idea. He’s decided he suddenly can’t hear you calling and he’s going to smell every inch of the backyard before coming back inside.
Why does he do this? Because Fido, like all dogs, knows there is a “before and after” to everything.
It's cause and effect, or Antecedent, Behavior, Consequence (ABC). Fido knows that you call him, he comes running to you and (cue ominous music) he's locked back inside the house...F-O-R-E-V-E-R!
If you want your dog to listen, you’ve got to set up the environment so that he always feels that he will gain something - the age old, “what’s in it for me?”
Become unpredictable. If Fido doesn't know whether or not coming to you will result in play, treats or going inside, he has to gamble.  Most likely, he will make this decision based on what's happened more in the past. You want to make it so that he's willing to bet you might be offering something he wants.
Always, always reward the right choice. And the wrong one. Let's say that it's been about 3 minutes of you enticing your dog. You're frustrated and angry when he finally decides to mosey on over to you. Choosing to scold or punish him for his delayed response will only confirm in his mind: "next time, don't come back at all because if I do, I'll just get in trouble!"
Make it fun. Calling your dog to come inside has to sound like it's better than staying outside. Try calling Fido in an upbeat voice and run away from him, then reward him with play once he gets in the doors. That way, he won’t see coming inside as impending doom, but rather just another doorway to fun!

Friday, December 17, 2010

Why it's important to ask your trainer HOW

If you enter “dog training help” in to your powerful search engine of choice, the amount of websites promising to solve your problem are abundant. It’s enough to plunge you deep into the Internet vortex and if you’re anything like me, you’ll find yourself shopping for mittens on Amazon wondering, “How the hell did I get here???”
By the time you’re back on track, you realize there are more answers than you thought possible.
After querying “dog training help”, I found one trainer who offers the following advice for treating a leash-aggressive dog:
“Your dog needs to do what you tell it. Your commands need to be adhered to. The better your dog is at obeying your commands the less it’ll be distracted. An obedient dog will eliminate aggression.”

Oh brother. Here we go. There are so many things that irk me about this statement, but let me just pose the question every dog owner should ask about any recommended training:
“HOW?” More specifically, how does obedience eliminate aggression??
What exactly do you mean when you say “obedience”…
I prefer not to use the word often, although I use it to describe the classes I teach. (You know what? Now that I’m thinking about it, I’m probably going to change that).
Obedience sounds so…overbearing.
I don’t want a dog to be obedient, submissive, or compliant. That all sounds like something you do because you have to, not because you want to. It sounds too official, as if there is some quality assurance inspector making sure all the i’s are dotted and t’s crossed and pink slips are given to anyone who doesn't meet the standards.
During my ten year stint in the military, obedience meant you had no other option – you were either obedient or else, and you definitely did NOT want the “or else”.
So, maybe that’s why it irks me. Because I’m not trying to communicate to my dog that they have to do something or else. I’m communicating to them “trust me! You’re going to want to do this!”
Umm, when does the obedience start to eliminate aggression??
Giving the benefit of the doubt to the author, perhaps they meant that if the dog is able to listen to your cues and your direction, the dog will be less likely to react aggressively towards the stimulus. Ohhhhh. Then why didn’t they just say that!? Because that’s totally different than “listen to me or else”.
Bottom Line
You know what eliminates aggression?? The dog does, not you, not obedience. The dog decides to stop aggressing. There is a moment (well, series of moments…many, many, counter-conditioning moments) when the dog decides “huh…This isn’t as bad as I thought it was…”
The dog’s trainer merely facilitates that a-ha moment.
They’re the one who teaches the dog that their engrained response (aggression) is not the answer, convincing them that aggression isn't necessary. War, folks, is not the answer.

Pop Quiz
HOW does obedience eliminate aggression? 
It doesn't.

Photos courtesy of: - Aggressive dog - Pop Quiz

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

The Perfect Dogs Raised By The Perfect Dog Trainer

Are you as big a fan of decorating as I am?? Do you stalk the decorating blogs and yearn for the time, the talent, and the HOME that many of these decorators have?

For many dog owners, a beautifully staged home free of toy-stuffing and dog hair is but a dream...

I do what I can and I think my decor is comfortable and pleasant, but I don't have the energy to keep my home in pristine condition - you will not be finding me on the cover of Better Homes and Gardens any time soon. I'm insanely jealous of the bloggers who have homes that all seem to be on the same block in the neighborhood known as Paradise.

In one of the decorating blogs I was reading yesterday, the author confessed, "don't think my home is always this tidy, I staged it just for this shot." HA! I knew it!!!

This made me think about what I want readers to get out of my blog. The purpose of Paws to Rufflect is to put out there that although I am a dog trainer by profession, I still have my fair share of mistakes, blunders and imperfections. I have the skills necessary to fix Kuna's loose-leash walking so that when we're out in public, people may think I have a "perfect" dog. It's marketing to the public - it's proving that I can train you to train your dog. But it certainly doesn't mean my dogs and their trainer are perfect!

In fact, I thought it would be funny to make a list of all the irritating silly things my dogs do. Compare, contrast, feel blessed yours might not be that bad after all.

Kuna counter-surfs like a demon. If he were ever a stray, he'd probably survive the longest because he can find food in places that make you scratch your head and think "how...what...huh!!???"

  • whines more than a newborn pup. Just when we think we've got a handle on it, he's whining again. He whines to go potty, which we appreciate. He also whines just to hear himself whine, which we do not appreciate.

Sarah drools at the simple thought of food. She is a direct decendent of a Pavlov dog.

  • eats her own poop. ugh. don't even get me started...

  • doesn't like eye contact. This is a common thing with canines, but Sarah will lunge "out of the blue" if a passerby maintains eye contact with her.

  • takes care of her personal our bed.

  • strongly dislikes horseplay and rough-housing, whether it's canines or humans. No one gets to have fun around Sarah.

  • hates Bizzle.

Bizzle hates Sarah. Hackles up, glaring out of the corner of her eye, huffing and puffing...they have to be separated 24/7.

  • every day at 3 pm, she begins her afternoon randomness. She pitter patters around, follows me everywhere I go, stares at me in anticipation of something we have yet to figure out, then starts howling/barking at me. There's something we're missing, of course. She's probably wondering when we'll get the message.

  • hates the cold, rain or snow. Won't even go out to potty. Where she "goes" or how she holds it, we may never know.

  • burrows through a freshly made bed. Every time.

  • pulls on the leash (GASP!) - since we moved to the country, we gave up and just got a retractable. Be free, Bizzle. At least to a distance of 15 feet.

I'm not ashamed to admit that my family of four-legged freaks is not perfect. I've dropped the ball countless times and sure, I could probably fix (almost) all the things on this list. Between you and I, some of these things I don't fix because they make my dogs who they are...I've learned to love them. When they're gone, I'll miss every single thing on this list.

I worked with a client once who told me, "I wish my dog walked next to me like the woman's dogs down the street...instead, I have this terrible puller." I laughed and told her those dogs probably poop in the dishwasher. We got a good laugh out of that, then worked hard on her boy's leash manners. He is doing well but she said she'll never look at that woman's dogs the same. :)