FAQ & Articles
Frequently Asked Questions
It is best not to stare at dogs that you do not know or who seem timid, scared, or aggressive.
Please Don’t Squirt Me!
But how different are some of today’s techniques, and more importantly, do they work?
While at first glance it may seem like there are endless ways to teach a dog, actually there are just two: reward or punishment—the proverbial carrot or the stick.
Punishment will effectively end an unwanted behavior if properly executed. Most dogs, however, fail to do what we want for only two reasons: lack of understanding or lack of motivation. A good rule of thumb would be to do as little punishment as possible but as much as necessary, but only after the dog has clarity of the task and expectations.
Reward-based training is another way to train your dog. By rewarding something good and minimizing or ignoring undesirable behaviors, what we do not want will oftentimes actually extinguish.
Confessions of a Dog Trainer
People expect their dog trainers to have trained dogs. So, if you came to my house, you might be surprised to see my dog on the leather sofa. It is his spot. Always has been. Another dog is usually on our bed. Again, he likes it there.
I know, I know. I have heard it all a million times. “This will lead to aggression.” (It doesn’t!) “This will ruin the balance of the alpha (me) and the dog.” (Wrong again!)
I even feed my dog table scraps. Sometimes from the table!
I know this is all very shocking. I also know that most of us do the same. But when we talk to trainers, we feel the need to hide this and strive to impress with little robot wind-up dogs.
Why? What is obedience really? I do not think of it as one-way communication, with submission being the goal. My ego allows my dog to be who he is and yet still work within my guidelines. It is more of an education process than training them. For example, they are not allowed to beg. It is rude. And they do not. All privileges are just that. They are earned, not an entitlement. They know this almost instinctively, and it takes just a bit of guidance to help support this.
Some games to play to encourage your dog to act in a certain manner would be a reward system. But it has to be something he wants, not what you think he should want. Many times, when “positive” methods do not seem to work, it is the reward system that is lacking.
For many of us, training our dog is born out of love and respect for our pet. Our goal should be to maximize each individual dog’s natural talents. We can do this within our guidelines and have a very happy dog and a very happy owner.
My Dog’s Better Than Your Dog
It seemed that we did nothing right. The truth was we actually got worse the more I went! How could this be? Well, I think I started resenting my faithful friend for being less than stellar, and he knew that I didn’t adore him anymore, and he hated going.
We earned our titles, never went back, and soon became super pals again, and his behavior was back to normal with once again superb obedience.
So, years later, I had trained many more dogs and felt ready to return to the world of the “formal dog training class.”
Well, it was worse! First, my puppy barked at some statue-like thing. He was, after all, only a puppy! The trainer reprimanded me and informed me that I needed to squirt my dog in the face with vinegar water! Luckily, I was assertive enough to know that she was out of her mind! Why would I do such a thing to a sweet puppy? How would that shape his future?
Again, this is a ridiculous comment. Any little puppy, if molded with positive methods, will offer any behavior you want and offer it eagerly.
We have the responsibility and the honor to help shape each of our pets. But the ends do not justify the means. Just because something works, it does not mean that it is right. This is one reason why so many good people just hate training their dogs. A well-behaved dog is actually usually a happier dog.
Kong Stuffing Pointers
- The level of difficulty should be appropriate for the dog’s level of experience and temperament. Is he persevering or a “giver-upper?” Any increases in the level of difficulty should be done gradually, so the dog succeeds while developing perseverance. In other words, start easy and then make it tougher.
- Easy stuffings are loose and incorporate small, easy-to-fall-out pieces.
- More difficult stuffings are tighter, with some big pieces that take concerted effort and hole-squishing to get in (and thus will be difficult to extract.)
- You can employ a matrix (peanut butter, cream cheese, canned food, or toddler food) to hold the smaller bits in and give the dog side-polishing challenges.
- You can wrap a stuffed Kong in an old cloth diaper or clean rag and/or enclose it in an old margarine or another container (try Quaker oatmeal cardboard containers!) to increase the level of difficulty through “nesting.”
- Hide regular stuffed or nested Kongs around the house, so the dog has to hunt around to find them before unpacking them.
- Give him all of his food this way, especially if he is a particularly “busy” dog.
- Stuff meat, mashed potatoes, etc., in it and freeze. Or plug the small hole with peanut butter and fill the cavity with broth, then freeze this to make a “Kongsicle.” (Note: This can be messy. Best to give it to your dog outside!)
- Stuff cheese cubes in and then microwave it briefly to nicely coat the insides.
- Clean your Kongs regularly with a bottle brush and/or in the dishwasher.
- Layer 1 (Deepest):
- Roasted Unsalted Cashews
- Mild Cheese Chunks
- Freeze-Dried Liver Bits
- Layer 2:
- Dog Kibble
- Cookies or Liver Biscotti
- Sugar-Free/Salt-Free Peanut Butter
- Dried Banana Chips
- Layer 3:
- Baby Carrot Stick(s)
- Turkey &/or Leftover Ravioli or Tortellini
- Dried Apples
- Dried Apricots
- For cashews, substitute crumbled rice cake.
- For peanut butter, substitute fat-free cream cheese.
- For freeze-dried liver, substitute Caesar croutons.
Starting Your Dog in the Fun Sport of Tracking
Plus, tracking is something that is not only fun but useful. Wouldn’t it be great to have a dog who could find all the things that we lose? Another great thing about tracking is that you can do it alone or with friends and spend as much or little time as you want and still be successful.
There are many different ways to track. Some differences are due to the application (sport vs. search and rescue work), and some are due to the rules of the competition.
Schutzhund’s tracking is very accurate, and the scores given will reflect this accuracy. AKC tracking is not as accurate and is scored on a pass-or-fail system. Many police certifications exist that have their own set of standards but are usually scored with a pass or fail.
Most tracking tests have at least one article that must be identified by the dog. As the difficulty of the tests advances, so does the number of articles. These articles usually include a glove. Have fun and use lots of different items right from the start.
Some tracking tests are on only grass, some can be on surfaces without vegetation, and many have obstacles that must be met, such as crossing water or roads. You might have to track through fields or woods.
Ultimately, the track that will have to be followed is unknown, and you will have no treats or toys with you. The way that I have found it to be most effective in training track is to challenge your dog and to have fun.
Start by letting your dog see what you are doing. For competition tracking, articles are very important. You could run a perfect track, miss the article and fail the test.
So, before you start tracking at all, many handlers start by training their dog to find articles. This can be a lot of fun. If you use a clicker as part of your training, it is even easier.
Have fun! Trust your dog.
Tips to Help You Find Your Lost Dog!
Before your dog goes missing, gather up an article with his scent and store it in a zip-lock bag. If yours does go missing, call all shelters and rescues. Bring them a photograph. Ask each shelter if they know of any other shelters in the area. There are many more than expected.
Go door to door to all your neighbors with a photograph. Make a lost pet sign out of fluorescent paper that is at least 12” x 16”. Bigger and brighter are better. Print “Lost Dog” (or “Cat”) in huge letters at the bottom. Print a “REWARD” in huge letters at the top, but do not specify an amount.
There are six major factors that influence the distances that lost dogs travel:
- Population Density