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Dog Training Quick Tip: Stop Jumping on People

One of the most common training issues that I see people struggle with is with their dog jumping on themselves and guests. Dogs love to interact with us, and jumping up is a fun way for them to do so. They do not realize that this is an undesirable behavior unless we tell them. Jumping up on people can even be dangerous when it happens with young kids or elderly people.

I see lots of people try to stop jumping by pushing the dog away with their hands or their feet. This is one of the absolute worst things that you could possibly do to stop the behavior. Don’t forget that your dog is jumping on you to get attention from you. You pushing on them is not something that they necessarily see as a punishment, but rather as more interaction from you.

Instead, we need to show the dog that the only way that they get positive interaction with you is by keeping their feet on the floor. We can teach the dog a more appropriate greeting position, such as a default sit. This will encourage them to think before they jump on you. The dog may still need a consequence for jumping, but implementing corrections is something that should be done under the guidance of a trainer. Eliminating jumping allows you to then show the dog the proper way to accept greetings. You can pet and interact with your dog all they want, and they can express their excitement while still keeping their feet on the ground.

We also have to look at the reason for why your dog is jumping up. 9 times out of 10, jumping is a sign of excitement, overstimulation, and overly social behavior. However, this isn’t always the case. Sometimes jumping can be a pushy behavior that can be tied to an aggression issue. Some other dogs will jump on their owner when they get scared and nervous as a way to seek out safety. An experienced dog trainer can help you to determine the root cause of your dog’s jumping.

If you know that your dog is jumping from just pure excitement, then you can manage this behavior through an incompatible behavior. Simply put, you need to assign your dog to a behavior that they cannot do at the same time that they are jumping, This could be a sit or down stay, but I prefer to use a place command. Place still gives your dog the freedom to wiggle and be excited, but in a way that is more pleasant for your guests and yourself.

charlie-schnauzer
Charlie, working on a place command. As long as he keeps his feet on the bed, he is free to be as wiggly and excited as he wants to be.

As with any behavioral issue, the best way to stop jumping is to prevent it from happening in the first place. When you get a new puppy or dog, be sure to start setting your expectations from day one. If you allow bad habits to start developing, it will be that much more difficult to stop them.

If you are struggling with jumping or other behavior problems, be sure to contact us so that we can help you out.

Should You Do Group Dog Training Classes?

Group classes are one of the most common dog training options for pet owners. Each class generally lasts an hour or so long, and there are anywhere from four to eight dogs participating. The trainer works with everyone as a group, and will follow a set curriculum. Some classes will also include socialization time at the end for dogs and puppies.

Many dog owners will start off their puppy’s life by seeking out a puppy kindergarten class, and then continuing on through a series of group classes. But is that really the best path for your dog?

There are pros and cons to every type of dog training program, and group lessons are no different. Let’s start looking at some of the great aspects of group dog training classes.

Group Dog Training Class Benefits

  1. Cost Effectiveness: Group classes are generally going to be the cheapest option when you are looking for dog training lessons. Because your trainer will be working with multiple people in the same span of time, they can charge each person less. More affordable classes means that this can be the best option for those with a limited budget. You can also generally do more sessions in group lessons than you can in private lessons for the same amount of money.
  2. Built In Distractions: Your dog’s training should be able to hold up no matter what is going on in the environment. When you are in a group class, you are always going to be working around plenty of distractions. Multiple people and dogs working in the same room is a great way to replicate the distractions that you will face in the real world.
  3. Observational Learning: When you do a private lesson, it is just you and the trainer. You can watch the trainer demo things with your dog, but still might not quite get the visualization of how to do an exercise. When you are in a group class, you get to watch a half dozen other handlers working on the same thing. Sometimes just seeing somebody else learning can really help observational learners to figure things out.
  4. More Teamwork for You and Your Dog: When you do group classes, you have just one hour with the instructor every week. It is up to you to practice with your dog throughout the week to make sure that they get enough repetition of each skill. This really helps you to build a better relationship with your dog, and to improve your own training skills.
group dog training classes

Group Training Class Negatives

  1. Less Individual Attention: The instructor of a group class has to divide their attention between multiple people, so there is less time for everyone to address individual issues. This makes group classes less than ideal for those who are dealing with behavioral issues that need a more personalized approach.
  2. Larger Time Commitment: Dogs need regular practice to make improvement on their training. When you are doing group dog training classes, you have to practice daily in between classes. You also have to make sure you are working on your own training skills. Compare this to a board and train program, where you learn to handle a trained dog instead of learning to train your dog yourself.
  3. Potential for Too Many Distractions: While the distractions of a group class can be great for proofing your obedience, they can be too much for a dog who is just learning basic skills. It is much harder for a dog to learn simple skills in a busy setting than it is to learn them in a quiet, controlled setting.
  4. Less Convenience: Group classes require that you drive to a location every week, participate in an hour class, and then go home and practice every day in between lessons. If you were doing private lessons, your trainer will often drive to your home instead and work with you there. In a board and train, you don’t have to worry about getting in all of the repetitions with your dog because your trainer will do it for you.
group dog training lessons

What Dogs are a Good Fit For Group Dog Training Classes?

  • Young puppies who just need to learn the basics.
  • Dogs who need obedience proofing.
  • Dogs who are doing sports like rally, nosework, competition obedience, or agility
  • Dogs who are working toward their Canine Good Citizen
  • Therapy dogs
  • Dogs doing advanced obedience
  • Dogs who have owners with existing training experience

If you think that group classes sound like a good fit for you, contact us to ask about our upcoming offerings.

FAQ: Dogs Shredding Beds

Destructiveness with bedding is a common issue.

This is an especially common problem with working breeds and puppies. It can be frustrating when you spend as much as hundreds of dollars on quality dog beds, only for them to be destroyed. This can also be potentially dangerous for your dog if they decide to ingest material from the bedding.

The first thing that you need to evaluate when deciding why your dog shreds bedding is to look at their age. Some puppies can handle having plush bedding, but others lack the maturity to handle it until later into life. Think about your puppy’s toys that they play with. Are you giving them stuffed toys? Do they shred and destroy them? If so, your puppy probably doesn’t think of your dog bed as anything other than a giant stuffed toy.

Is your dog destructive in general, or do they just have this problem with dog beds? If your dog is suffering from separation anxiety and destroys multiple things in the household, the issue is not isolated to just bedding, and needs to be addressed separately. Another common cause of dogs shredding beds is boredom and excess energy. Make sure that your dog’s brain and body are both tired before you give them access to their bed.

And let’s face it: tearing stuff up is super fun for your dog. One of the simplest solutions when somebody tells me that they have a problem with dogs shredding beds, I generally tell them to go out and buy a Kuranda bed. Kuranda beds, especially the aluminum ones, are very durable, easy to clean, and are not as enticing to tear up as plush beds.

Another thing that you can try is to give your dog something else to keep their mouth occupied when they are on their bed. Stuffed kongs, dog bones, and other interactive toys are an excellent way to show your dog that there are better things to chew on.

Dog Aggression in Rescue Dogs

A Common Problem

One of the most common issues that crop up when rescue dogs enter a new home is dog aggression. This is a problem that is not only frustrating, but can be potentially very dangerous. The intent behind the aggression that a rescue dog might display can vary greatly. Some dogs will bite just to get other dogs out of their space because they do not want to co-exist. Other dogs have the intent to do serious harm, and will not stop at just a bite.

When dog owner’s see dog aggression in rescue dogs, a common assumption is that the dog was a victim of a previous traumatic experience. One of the most popular stories with rescue dogs is that a dog who is fearful or aggressive toward other dogs was a former bait dog. This is a story that has been very popularized in the media, but it doesn’t have much truth in these situations. Bait dogs very rarely survive being a bait dog, and if they do, they have extensive injuries.

One type of experience that can cause aggressive behavior toward other dogs is being attacked by a loose dog. This problem is all to common all around the country, and most people who walk their dog regularly have had some kind of experience with loose dogs running up to them. This situation can absolutely cause a dog to develop insecurities when they see a dog out in public.

Lack of socialization also explains many cases of dog aggression in rescue dogs. It is normal for a dog to react poorly to things that they have not been exposed to when they were in their crucial early socialization period. Dogs that end up in rescue may have missed this window for a variety of reasons. Hoarding and puppy mill situations typically mean that the dog has never left the same place it was born in. Other dogs may end up abandoned or neglected a young age, or they could simply have been with someone who did not commit the time to give the dog what it needed as a puppy.

dog socialization
Socialization is key in showing your dog proper dog communication skills.

Experience vs Genetics

However, there are plenty of dogs who have had less than optimal socialization who still do fine when they see a strange dog. The same can be said for dogs who are generally good natured and get charged by a loose dog. When these triggers cause significant aggression issues, it generally means that there is also a genetic component. Most working breeds have a genetic tendency towards same sex aggression toward other dogs. Terrier and livestock guardian breeds are often naturally inclined to have a zero tolerance policy for strange dogs all-together.

It is important to recognize which things are experience related, and which are due to genetics. We can never make a dog forget what has happened to it, but we can provide lots of good experiences and show the dog how to work out of their issues. Genetics are a different story. Dogs with genetic dog aggression can be managed, but they are who they are.

How Misunderstanding Dog Aggression in Rescue Dogs Can Hurt

Many rescue dogs end up in the wrong home or in bad situations because the reason behind their issues is misunderstood. Well-meaning people may take a dog who is genetically dog aggressive and try to socialize it by taking it to the dog park. This is not only dangerous for the other dogs in the park, but it is unfair to the dog. That dog does not want doggie playmates, and trying to have them make friends is against their nature.

The idea that a dog has had bad past experiences can also lead to trouble. Unfortunately, there are bad things that will happen to some dogs over the course of their life. This can lead you to want to shelter your dog and to make excuses for their behavior. This also does a disservice to your dog, and prevents them from moving forward. Instead, you should acknowledge your dog’s past while working with a professional to build a plan to get your dog through their issues.

The Benefits of Private Dog Training Lessons

Private lessons are one of the most common ways that dog owners can work with a professional trainer. These dog training lessons might occur at a training facility, in your own home, or in a local park. During these sessions, you will work one-on-one with a trainer and your dog, and learn how to teach your dog new things and how to manage their behavior. Most dog trainers offer lessons ranging from 45 minutes to an hour and a half in length, and generally you will do multiple lessons spread out over a period of time.

Some people are leery of the idea of private lessons because they do require more work from the owner than a program like a board and train. However, there are other aspects of private lesson programs that you may not consider. There are some huge benefits to this type of training, including an increased understanding of your dog and the ability to work with your dog more in your own home environment.

1. Being Involved From Start to Finish

When you participate in a private lesson program, you are right in the mix with your dog from day 1 of training. Your trainer will show you how to start teaching new commands, how to utilize training tools, how to motivate your dog, and how to manage your environment. You will then get to practice these things with your dog every week.

golden retriever puppy

Because you are working with your dog on a daily basis, you will get to establish consistency early. Your dog will get lots of repetitions with you, which is crucial for building habits and eliminating bad behaviors. You will also be able to understand each step in the process, and will have a better understanding of each behavior because you know how it was built.

2. One-on-One Feedback

Traditional dog training lessons are typically thought of as a group class setting. While group classes have their place, they spread the trainer’s attention between several dogs and their owners. When you are doing a private lesson program, you get all of your trainer’s time and attention during the lesson. This means that you get to devote more time to your specific issues.

For example, a group class might have one person struggling with leash pulling, another struggling with jumping on guests, and another who tears up shoes. If you are also dealing with these issues with your dog, you would really benefit from being in that class. However, if your biggest issue with your dog is chasing cars, you only get a few minutes of discussion so that everyone gets addressed.

By enrolling in private dog training lessons, you can have entire lessons focused on car chasing, and eliminate the problem with much more customized work with your trainer. This goes the same way for any major training issue, and is a huge benefit of private lessons.

3. Gradually Adding Distractions

When your dog participates in a group class or board and train, they have to deal with distractions right off the bay. In a group class, you are in a room with 4-6 other dogs and their owners, which can be too much for some dogs when they are just getting started. In board and trains, your dog may need a day or two to adapt to the new environment before they can totally focus.

belgian shepherds

When you do private lessons, it is just you, your dog, and the trainer. This means that you can add distractions whenever your dog is ready, and you can progress at the rate that is best for them. Some dogs can handle distractions very early, others may take a few sessions before they are able to handle it.

4. Setting Your Own Timeline

Group classes are generally 4-6 weeks long, which is a timeline that works great for some dogs, but may not be the right fit for others. You may only be dealing with very minor house training issues or something similar which only take 2-3 lessons to resolve. On the flip side, you may have a dog with more severe behavioral issues that simply won’t be resolved with a 6 week group class. Both of these categories of dogs can be a better fit for private lessons than they are for group classes.

Private Lessons with Kentucky Dog Training LLC

We offer several different programs for private dog training lessons, and they are based on the age and issues that your dog is struggling with.

Puppy Lessons

puppy training lessons

We offer one program for puppies under 6 months of age. You can start this program when your puppy is as young as 8 weeks, and we will cover everything from basic obedience to house training, and anything else you are wanting to know about your puppy.

This program consists of two lessons, and you have the option of customizing the program with additional lessons and day training sessions.

Adult Dogs

We offer programs for adult dogs that range from four lessons all the way to programs that include 10+ lessons.

Out Manners Matter program consists of four lessons, and covers basic manners and the essential obedience commands. This is a great program for dogs who are generally well behaved, but who have a few issues here and there to work on.

The Essentials program consists of six lessons, and covers more advanced obedience commands, and a higher degree of behavior modification. Dog with minor behavioral problems like leash reactivity are a good fit for this program.

The Dream Dog program is for those who need to go above and beyond with ten or more lessons. This is a great program for dogs who have severe behavioral issues, including human aggression, dog aggression, separation anxiety, and other major problems. This is also a great option for those who want complete off leash control, those with service dogs or therapy dogs, and people who want to teach more specific skills that are not covered in the other programs.

If you are interested in our private lesson programs, please contact us and tell us a little bit about your dog.*

*We are not accepting new private lesson clients until spring 2020. We apologize for any inconvenience, and are happy to provide referrals for those who are looking for a qualified trainer.

Board and Trains in the Media

You may have seen news stories recently about dogs who have gone through board and trains or another type of in-kennel training program. Unfortunately, the situations being shown in these stories are very concerning for dog owners. There have been cases of dogs in board and train programs who get lost, develop medical issues, or were subjected to overly harsh training methods.

Good dog trainers are just as disturbed by these stories as the average pet owner, if not more so. We got into this business because we love dogs, and we want to help dog owners and help them live more harmonious lives with their dogs. We hate to see anything bad happen to a dog, especially when they were entrusted to someone who should have had their best intentions in mind.

Now what you do not see in the news is the thousands and thousands of dogs who thrive in board and trains, and who live much happier lives for having been to training. There are situations where board and trains are by far the best option for a given family and their situation, and unfortunately some dogs are not getting the right help because these horrible situations have made people understandably concerned about their dog living with a trainer.

On the bright side, there are some key things to look for when selecting a trainer that should help you to see if your trainer is legitimate or not. There are also some huge red flags that should send you right out the door.

Things to Look For

  • Clean, well lit, safe facilities. Everybody has their preference in kennel design, but a few things should be part of the design no matter where you go. Everything should be clean and sanitary, and the kennels or crates should be large enough for the dogs to be comfortable. Do not immediately be suspicious if the dogs do not have bedding, as some dogs may have potentially dangerous habits such as shredding and ingesting bedding.
  • The area where the dogs are staying should be kept at a temperature that is safe and comfortable for the dogs. If the dogs are out in the yard, especially in hot summer months, water should always be available. When in their kennels/crates, the dogs should also have water as well. An exception to this would be dogs who are on a schedule due to potty training, which the trainer should be able to easily explain to you.
  • Dog food should be stored somewhere air tight and away from moisture and extreme temperatures.
  • The trainer should be comfortable with you touring and seeing the facility. Most trainers will be appointment only, especially smaller scale operations, because they want to ensure that they are not in the middle of a lesson with a client when you show up to take a tour. Be respectful, especially if the trainer is doing their business out of their home.
  • The dogs should seem calm and relaxed, within reason. Remember that this is a training facility you are visiting, so the dogs may be dealing with any number of behavioral issues. Overall, the dogs should seem happy, clean, and in good condition.
  • Your trainer should be very clear with you about communication and updates. For example, I give clients picture updates every 2-3 days, and videos every 10-12 days. The reason that I do not give pictures every day is that I do not always have my phone on my during sessions, and want to make sure that I am devoting my full attention to the dog. The videos are spaced out like that so that you can really see the progress as time goes on. If a trainer takes your dog home and does not send you updates or won’t return your calls, that calls for a visit.
  • A reasonable visitation policy should be in place. I would never tell anybody that they could not come and visit their dog, but I do have suggestions for the client to make things as easy as possible on the dog. I do ask that clients who want to visit wait until the first week of training is done, so that I can have time to create a bond with the dog. I also suggest that the client come at times that do not conflict with the training schedule, so that I can ensure that the dog still gets what they need out of that day’s training.
  • Your trainer should be able to provide you with photos and videos of dogs who have previously graduated. Look at their reviews and see what people are saying about the results that they have.
  • Your trainer should be very upfront with you about what training methods, tools, etc they are planning on using with your dog. There is nothing inherently wrong with a trainer using most training tools, but there is an inherent problem when it is either being done incorrectly or is being done without your knowledge.

Happy, healthy dogs that have been loved and trained by us.

Red Flags with Board and Trains

  • The trainer will not allow you to visit their facility and see where the dog will be staying.
  • The facilities are a mess, smell bad, or are unhygienic. The dogs are exposed to extreme temperatures for long spans of time, and/or do not have access to fresh water when outside.
  • The trainer will not tell you how they are going to train your dog, or how long your dog needs training for.
  • Your trainer keeps extending the time they have your dog without any reasonable explanation.
  • Your trainer does not return calls, seems to avoid communication, or refuses to send pictures or video of the dog.
  • There is no video or reviews to show what the trainer is capable of.
  • The dogs seem stressed, worried, or in poor health.
  • Your trainer does not disclose medical concerns. Stuff happens sometimes and a dog may stub a toe or scrape a paw pad, but when it happens your trainer should let you know right away and should ensure that the dog’s health comes first.

If you follow the guidelines listed here, you will be able to find a quality trainer and facility that do board and trains the right way.

But He’s Just Being Protective of Me…

I frequently talk to people who are dealing with aggression and reactivity issues with their dog. These behaviors have a bunch of different causes, but most owners think that it stems from the same thing. They all think that their dog is behaving this way because they are being protective. This could not be further from the truth.

Your Dog is Not Rin Tin Tin

Dogs are not capable of determining whether or not you need them to be protective. Even a trained protection dog is operating off of a trained cue, which is either a certain behavior from the “bad guy” or a verbal command from their handler. In fact, a protection dog who will make up their own mind about who to bite is a massive liability.

protection dog being protective
He is not being protective at all, he is hanging onto his favorite tug toy that just so happens to be attached to somebody.

Now take into account the typical reactive German Shepherd. It isn’t just suspicious people in dark alleys that they bark at. It’s the neighbor kid running around with a balloon. It’s the doodle puppy on a flexi leash. It’s somebody bringing their groceries in from the car. None of those things are of any threat to you, and your dog is behaving that way due to other factors.

Understanding that this type of behavior is not your dog protecting you is key to resolving their issues. Let’s examine the reasons why your dog might be reactive in the yard or on the leash.

1. Frustration

Barrier frustration is an unfortunate side effect of how many pet dogs are handled on a daily basis. Having a tight leash all the time when walking around the neighborhood is very frustrating. Being behind a fence all day with dogs walking back and forth outside is very frustrating. A textbook sign of reactivity being frustration based is a dog who is social in a loose, free setting, and then acts crazy when they are on a leash.

This behavior starts with excitement toward people and/or dogs. The dog gets very excited seeing something walk by, and they are held back from it and the person/dog leaves. This happens over and over again, and that excitement starts to turn to frustration, and the dog’s behavior gets worse and worse.

2. Fear

Fear issues can also cause displays of aggression when on leash, or when somebody comes to the house. This is often the result of small body language signs being ignored for a period of time. For example, you might have a friend come over to meet your new 8 week old puppy. When the friend comes in, your puppy walks away and tries to get some space from this strange new person. This friend, meaning well, goes over and picks the puppy up to pet it. Your puppy just had it’s first lesson that trying to avoid confrontation does not work.

More and more of these situations happen, and your dog decides to try something different. They bark, or they growl, or they snap. And it instantly works extremely well, and gives the dog what they have been looking for. They now know of an extremely effective way to protect their personal space, and it works much better than just trying to move away from the issue.

puppies playing together
Correct social interactions and respecting your dog’s body language can prevent many issues.

3. Resource Guarding and Being Territorial

This is an issue that does very much resemble “protective” behavior from your dog, but the reality is more concerning. A common situation where this happens is when the dog is hanging out with the owner, and somebody goes to hug the owner. The dog then responds aggressively, and everyone assumes that the dog is doing it because they thought the hug was something nefarious. In actuality, the dog is viewing the owner as a resource, and is preventing anybody else from interacting with their resource.

Your dog should not be viewing you as theirs. This is not healthy behavior, is not your dog being truly protective, and it indicates that there is a huge issue with the relationship between the two of you. This is coming from the same place as a dog who growls when you go near his food bowl, it is just showing up in a different context.

belgian malinois tug toy
Resource guarding can happen with any resource. A toy, a bone, and even a human.

Dogs can also resource guard their space, including their home or yard. A key indicator that this is the root cause of a problem behavior is a dog who is fine meeting people in neutral places, but reacts much worse when a new person enters their yard or walks through the door. Your dog is not paying the mortgage, and they should not be in control over who is allowed to enter your house and who isn’t.

4. Predatory Behavior

Predatory aggression is different from the causes listed above, because this is true aggression with the intent to cause serious harm. The fear aggressive dog and the normal leash reactive dog don’t really want to hurt you, they just want to control aspects of the environment. The resource guarding dog has no issue with you as long as you leave their stuff alone. Predatory aggression is another beast altogether.

An example of predatory behavior that humans have selected for is a terrier who has great determination to hunt and kill vermin. That terrier is genetically programmed to do this job, and they are very good at it. However, a dog who is a great hunting terrier is probably not going to be great with small animals in the home. They cannot differentiate between a rat in a barn and a parakeet in your living room.

dog and cat sleeping
Boomer’s complete lack of predatory aggression means that he can co-exist beautifully with small animals.

This behavior is usually triggered by movement and/or noise. Children are a common target of this behavior because they are small, move erratically, and make high pitched noises. For a predatory animal, they have all the signs of being a prey item. This is very dangerous, and is a massive red flag for dog trainers when evaluating a new case. Small dogs, cats, and people on wheels (bikes, skateboards, etc) are other common targets of this type of aggression.

5. Control Freaks

This group of dogs also has ingrained genetic behavior that can appear as if the dog is protecting you. Herding dogs are bred to do some combination of chasing, controlling, nipping, stalking, and being pushy. If a herding dog with strong instincts in that area is not given an outlet for that behavior, it can show up in the wrong way.

I had a client one time who had a cattle dog who would try to bite joggers who ran past the yard. In his case, it was not a matter of predatory behavior or being territorial, but rather him practicing the same sequence of chase and bite that he would do on a cow. He was not getting nearly enough mental and physical stimulation in his life, and he did not have enough structure from his family.

cattle dog biting
Chasing and biting a burlap rag. The first outlet for this young puppy to show her appropriate things to chase and bite.

Herding breeds are generally the dogs where this behavior shows up, but there are individuals in other groups that can show this type of behavior.

The Problem with the Protectiveness Misconception

Thinking that your dog is protective when they really have a different issue is problematic. It can prevent your dog from getting the right kind of training, and it can cause you to deal with the behavior from too long.

A qualified dog trainer can help you to determine the root cause of your dog’s issues. Knowing the cause allows you to have the right plan for behavior modification, and will let you give your dog the best help.

If you think that your dog could benefit from a behavior evaluation, contact us and tell us a bit about your dog.

How Do I Teach My Dog to Swim?

puppy swimming lessons

Swimming is one of the best forms of exercise that you can offer to your dog! Dogs have a blast doing it, it is easy on their joints, and allows you to burn off energy during the hottest times of summer.

The right introduction to the water is key in ensuring that your dog loves this fun activity!

How to be Your Dog’s Swim Coach

1) Consider Breed and Age

Some dogs are better suited for swimming than others. Certain breeds, such as retrievers, newfoundlands, and Portuguese water dogs are all bred for activities in the water. All dogs have individual preferences, but generally you can expect these breeds to thrive in the water.

Other breeds may have physical challenges with learning how to swim. Breeds who are front heavy and long backed, such as bulldogs and corgi’s, often struggle with keeping their heads above water. These dogs are great candidates for swimming in a life jacket.

golden retriever puppy

Age is also something to keep in mind when you are teaching your dog to swim. A good example of this was Angel, a young golden retriever puppy that I was working with. Angel’s owners have a swimming pool, and wanted her to know how to swim and how to safely enter and exit the pool. She was a typical golden puppy and loved the pool from the second we introduced her to it! However, she did not have the stamina of an adult dog, so we had to make sure to keep her sessions short and successful.

Older dogs are one of the groups that benefit the most from swimming. Water is very easy on arthritic joints, and can help prevent muscle wasting and weight gain. Older dogs may have some similar issues to puppies, such as a lack of stamina. Life jackets can really help to make sure that your dog is able to have fun swimming during their golden years.

2) Start Shallow

When teaching your dog to swim, you do not want them to become scared or intimidated by the water. Gradually allow them to build up the desire to be in the water, and build their confidence around it.

Start by letting your dog play in the shallow parts of lakes, rivers, or the ocean. It can also really help to bring along another dog who already knows how to swim. When playing, dogs will often follow another dog’s lead when they splash through the water.

teaching dog to swim

If you are using a natural body of water to each your dog to swim, you should see that they naturally start venturing further and further into the water. You can encourage this by getting into the water with them, or by strategic toy throwing. You do not want to throw a toy too far out and the dog get discouraged. Throw it just far enough away that they can barely touch the bottom, and then move it farther out as they build confidence.

3) Safety First

As with any activity we do with our dogs, safety is important. There are a few key things to watch out for when swimming with your pup.

  • Monitor your dog’s energy level. A dog who is too tired may not stop on their own because they are having too much fun.
  • Do not let your dog excessively drink or bite at the water. Water toxicity is an issue that can arise in dogs that consume too much water at one time.
  • Do not let your dog swim in water with fast moving currents, and watch for rip currents if you are at the ocean.
  • Be aware of the wildlife that is present in water in your area. Alligators and venomous snakes are a risk in the southern US, but will not be an issue if you are in New England.
  • Bring multiple toys. Your dog may loose track of his/her toy in the water and get into a frenzy trying to find it. Some dogs will get into trouble because they will swim to the point of exhaustion hunting for a toy. Bring a second item that you can throw to your dog if this happens to you.
  • Make sure that you train a very good recall. This isn’t such a big issue if you are swimming in a backyard pool, but natural bodies of water are full of enticing things like ducks and geese. If your dog decides to give chase, it pays to have some solid obedience.

4) Have Fun With It!

Dogs and water are such a natural match that there are even dog sports built around it! Dock diving is the most popular, and there are multiple different ways to play. Teaching your dog to swim is the first step, followed by getting them comfortable jumping off of a dock.

People who are super passionate about the sport take lots of time teaching their dogs how to jump off the dock properly, and how to track their toy in mid-air to get maximum points!

Check out North American Diving Dogs to find a facility near you!

dog dock diving united air dogs

Top 3 Separation Anxiety Training Tips

Separation Anxiety is extremely common, and can be hard to cure.

This is a problem that can show up in any age of dog. Some dogs display it by being vocal, others by being destructive. Separation anxiety is a frustrating behavior issue because you generally aren’t there to see it, and adjusting your schedule around your dog can be problematic.

Fortunately, there are several steps that you can take to make your dog more comfortable in your absence. Here are our top three separation anxiety training tips.

1) Create healthy separation while you are home.

If your dog is having issues when you are just in the next room, they will definitely struggle when you leave for work. The first step that you should take is to establish some healthy separation in the home.

Dogs relaxing in crates separation anxiety training

Make your dog’s crate an enjoyable place when you are home. Feed her all of her meals in there and give her interactive toys such as stuffed Kong’s in the crate. Periodically put her in the crate for 10-15 minute periods for no reason. You can even be in the same room! Your dog is only allowed out when they are calm and quiet.

Temper and Mo are able to totally relax in their x-pen while I am answering emails.

Gradually increase the amount of time that your dog spends in the crate. You should start to see your dog become more and more comfortable staying calm when you walk into the next room.

You should also teach your dog stays and a place commands. These are behaviors where your dog will have to show self control when you walk away. You can reinforce your dog heavily for these behaviors, and show them that you going further away isn’t a bad thing. Gradually increase the distance and duration of these commands.

Group class stays
Stays and places give you a chance to reward your dog for being away from you.

2) Staying calm will help your dog to stay calm.

It’s nice to come home to a happy dog after a long day at work. Most people shower their dog with affection as soon as they walk through the door. While people do this with the best of intentions, it can have a negative affect on your dog’s state of mind.

If you have a dog who is struggling with separation anxiety training, you need to be careful not to reinforce the wrong things. Your dog has been anxious all day waiting for you to come back. If you walk through the door and make a big deal about them, it reinforces their thought process that things were bad when you were gone, and are now good since you are back.

Instead, come home and immediately let your dog out in the backyard or take them for a short walk.

Do not give them petting and attention until you have been home for 20-30 minutes and your dog is completely calm.

Doing this will change the way that your dog perceives you coming home. It doesn’t mean that you don’t love your dog and that you can’t give them affection, it just means that your dog shouldn’t see you coming home as the most exciting part of the day.

Dog with toy
Your dog should be most excited about playing with you and training with you, not just seeing you walk through the door.

3) Take advantage of technology.

Separation anxiety training methods have changed quite a bit over the years. One of the biggest changes has come from new technology that is available.

As mentioned earlier, one of the hardest things about this issue is that it happens when you aren’t around. This means that it can be hard to monitor progress, or to reward your dog for the right things.

One thing that you can do is set up a camera in your dog’s area so that you can see them from anywhere. We personally recommend the Nest Camera system, which can be easily connected to your phone so that you can monitor training progress from anywhere.

Separation anxiety training with treat and train
The Treat and Train is a great tool for separation anxiety training!

Another great tool is the Manner’s Minder, or Treat and Train. This machine can sit right on top of a wire crate, and can be set up to deliver treats to your dog either with a remote or on a timer. This means that you can reinforce calm behavior from the other side of the house. You can even set it on a timer before you leave for work, so that your dog is periodically rewarded throughout the day.

Be Patient

Separation anxiety didn’t develop overnight, and it takes time to bring your dog into the right frame of mind. If your dog suffers a setback, don’t get discouraged. Consistency is key in all areas of dog training, and over time you will see great results if you stick with it.

If you have any further questions about these tips, contact us for more information.

When Behavioral Problems Aren’t Behavioral

Today I met a couple who are struggling with potty training issues with their young Biewer terrier.

They have been trying to house train her for weeks with no improvement. When they take her out, she will go, but then she goes again as soon as they bring her inside.

They are understandably frustrated by the lack of progress. In the hour that they were at the facility, the little dog peed three separate times. That threw up a red flag to me, and I recommended that they head to the vet to check for a UTI.

Health Related Potty Training Issues

There are a few different health issues that can affect house training. Urinary tract infections are the biggest culprit. Commonly an issue with female dogs, this issue can put a dent in your training. Fortunately, it can easily be solved with a round of antibiotics from your veterinarian.

Other issues can also cause regression in potty training. Kidney infections or kidney disease can result in urinary problems. Older dogs may struggle with incontinence. Some spayed females will also have issues in this area.

Puppy behavioral issues with trainer

How can you tell if the issue is health or behavioral?

If your dog has been doing really well with house training, and suddenly has issues, a trip to your veterinarian is in order. Other red flags include:

  • Seeming unable to “hold it”
  • Puppies who don’t seem to make progress
  • Dogs who go multiple times in a short period
  • Discolored urine
  • Lethargy or acting uncomfortable
  • Increased thirst

If you notice any of these symptoms, your dog should receive a veterinary exam. Bloodwork or a urinalysis may be needed to discover the cause.

Health Issues Related to Aggression

Aggression from a dog is always concerning. It can be particularly distressing when it shows up in a dog that never had those type of issues before.

Aggressive shepherd dog

Sudden changes in behavior always warrant a health check. Thyroid issues are often the cause of sudden changes in behavior. Thyroid levels can be checked with bloodwork, and your vet can prescribe a medication to help your dog return to normal.

Pain can also cause your dog to lash out aggressively. Dogs who have joint issues, an injury, or worsening arthritis may be extra defensive of their space. This can even be seen with sick dogs.

My dog Modoc was diagnosed with IBD, an autoimmune condition, when he was just under two years old. He has intermittent flares, and one of the symptoms of this is him getting grumpier.

This phenomenon has been seen in multiple studies that looked at how GI issues related to behavior. GI imbalances in rats and humans led to more anti-social behavior.

Lastly, neurological conditions can cause aggressive behavioral issues. Certain types of epilepsy can show up in this manner. Dogs with brain tumors may also show a sudden change in behavior that it otherwise without cause.

Health Issues Related to Fear

Some dogs will suddenly develop phobias that they never had before. One case that I saw was an agility dog who started to refuse weave poles. She was unhappy when asked to weave, and would regularly miss poles.

Disc doc Zoe
Reluctance to do normal activities can be a sign of injury.

This was a dog that normally loved agility. She had a great trainer, had no other behavioral issues, and had trialed extensively.

When this behavior started up, her trainer responded just as she should. She took the dog to the vet, because sudden behavioral changes are often health related.

An exam and x-ray of her dog’s foot revealed a broken toe. It wasn’t a bad enough injury to affect normal life, but it made weaving painful for the dog.

Some rest and recuperation were prescribed, and the dog went on the successfully start agility again and run for many more years.

Injuries like these can often cause a more sensitive dog to show fear or apprehension. Sometimes the injury can be very small, other times it might be a more serious issue.

Be An Advocate For Your Dog

When you live with a dog, you really get to know them. You know their quirks, their favorite snacks, and what their favorite activities are. If you notice sudden changes in your pet, make sure to monitor them.

Don’t be too quick to assume that your dog is being too stubborn or obstinate. Sometimes it’s as simple as a UTI or a stubbed toe.