Puppy Classes Puppy Classes

Why training matters

May 10th, 2012

My puppy classes were inspired by the number of adolescent dogs I encounter as a shelter volunteer and a trainer of client dogs in their homes. Many dogs are in shelters because they lack good manners, are bored and, therefore, destructive in the home. Cute puppies, lacking training and proper socialization, become a nuisance in the home and are relinquished. They are very difficult to place in a new home because their impulsive behaviors make a poor “first impression”. Acquiring a puppy comes with a great deal of responsibility for a life which may span decades.

My puppy classes include an initial, private consultation either in your home or at my training center, to determine your training goals and any current challenges which you may be having. The six weeks of training are in a very small, no more than four, class with puppies from 8 – 20 weeks, who have all vaccinations appropriate to their age. Several orchestrated “play times” are included in each class session. The training accomplishes valuable basic behaviors: sit, down, go to your mat, wait, proper leash walking, proper greeting, trade (to peacefully retreive a valued or dangerous object) leave it, (to cue pup NOT to pick up an object) and coming when called (recall).. All of these behaviors are taught in a common scenario: visit to the vet, groomer, outdoor cafe (we even do a “field trip”). Pups become accustomed to handling by the owner and other class attendees. They get to practice appropriate play behaviors with other pups. Owners learn to identify appropriate play behaviors and when and how to intervene. All training is positive, reward based; punishment is neither used, nor necessary to accomplish solid, consistent behaviors.
How Much Is That Doggy in the Window was the title of a popular song many years ago.. As the popularity of having dog companions has remained constant, even increased, the answer is increasingly complex. Appropriately, we concern ourselves with our dogs physical needs: health and nutrition, providing a rich and stimulating environment, and teaching behaviors that establish a foundation of mutual understanding and acceptance. There are many medical interventions available, including holistic veterinary practices which minimize invasive and chemical responses to ailments and injuries. We invest our dollars as well as our emotions in our beloved pets. A puppy may easily be a part of our lives for decades. The most important initial investment we can make in our puppy’s life and the quality and joy of our companionship is training and proper socialization.
Establishing a foundation of solid good manners behaviors, as well as early sociaiization, are critical components of a relationship which will be a joy for years. Through training we establish a common understanding of what is expected, acceptablie behavior. We are clear, consistent and kind in achieving training goals. We don’t establish who is the “alpha” in our relationship. We are companions one to the other. Yelling, punishing, use of training “devices” such as painful collars, and electronic gimmicks, are neither useful or effective, over time. We establish “leadership” through consistent, clear instructions, either verbal or physical cues that we have diligently trained and rewarded. Dogs love to learn and training together solidifies our relationship with our dog companions. The more they train, the more they appear capable of learning. The more we train, the more observant we are of our dog’s body language and what motivates his responses.
Establishing a foundation of appropriate socialization and good manners enables our well mannered dog to travel with us, enjoy family outings, receive visitors in our home, courteously, and be a great ambassador for pet ownership.


A CASE of Mistaken Identity?

October 26th, 2011

“He’s a different dog!!” Beautiful words spoken by a client I encountered at Central Dawgma and the Dog Wash. She was smiling and, honestly, I swear, her tiny dog was smiling, too! I met the pair months ago when a local veterinarian referred her due to a severe case of separation anxiety. Her dog was damaging himself and the house and there appeared to be no relief in sight for this anxiety ridden pup. The Doctor prescribed a short course of Prozac and, wisely, consultation with a professional dog trainer. When I met him, he was clearly anxious and had few coping mechanisms to deal with his “stressful” environment. We started training and positively reinforcing basic behaviors: sit, down, coupled with some fun tricks. All intended to build his confidence and give him alternative behaviors to his franctic barking and circling. His confidence grew, as did his Mom’s. He loved treats. Over our 6 weeks of training, we practiced “changing up” his Mom’s departure routine, duration of absences, all the while maintaining her necessary work and social schedule. Family pitched in with a mid-day walk. Multiple Kongs were prepared and frozen, introduced ONLY when the owner departed. Classical music was introduced (from the Through a Dog’s Ear series), as well as Comfort Zone, a wonderful product which replicates the scent of a nursing mother dog, in anticipation of one day weaning away from Prozac. His obsession with the hall light diminished . . . he used to stand under it and bark . . . a lifetime habit when he was stressed. He became more receptive to guests and showed off his tricks. The stress and anxiety were clearly diminishing . . . Mom’s, too. Today, his Mom reports he is “engaged” with his Kong when she leaves and scarcely looks up as she departs. What an improved life for this little guy and his Mom. It’s why I do this!!



June 21st, 2011

Hot weather has just begun and already incidents of dogs being left in cars with windows slightly ajar or completely closed, are reported in newspapers nationwide. It is a seasonal tragedy that dogs and even children are left in cars, sometimes suffering irreparable brain and organ damage, or death. In spite of constant media and animal welfare reminders, the reoccurrence is stunning. On even a moderately hot day, temperatures inside of a vehicle can rise very quickly. Dogs have few options to cool their bodies, their tongues and their feet, and dehydrate very quickly. Often they are left while owners run frivolous errands. Although it is encouraged to include our dogs in as many everyday activities, their health and welfare must be the primary consideration. Dogs are often stolen from unattended vehicles as well . . . another danger to consider for your traveling companion . . .

Make sure the only “hot dogs” you have this summer are on the barbecue grill.


First Aid for Fido

June 17th, 2011

While on the subject of seasonal safety, free of the confinement of winter weather, many of us and our dogs are taking part in active, outdoor activity in which some risk of injury must be considered. It is really a great idea to have a first aid kit available for ALL family members, including Fido. There are many commercially available, pre-packaged ones. Your veterinarian can also make recommendations as to what to include. A well stocked first aid kit is also an important component of your home “get away” kit for use during a natural disaster or other emergency. None of us plan to leave our pet behind and we must be prepared for on the road emergencies. Below is one list of items to include in your first aid kit bag.

Sterile gauze pads (3”X3”) and (2”X2”) and guaze bandage rolls (1” and 2”), and vet wrap.
First aid adhesive tape, 1” roll
Cotton swabs
Plastic freezer/sandwich bags
Small bottle of 3% hydrogen peroxide
Styptic pencil or cornstarch ( to stem blood flow from minor cuts)
Antibacterial ointment
Antiseptic cleansing wipes
Kaopectate or Pepto Bismol (canned pumpkin can also help with stomach upset)
A current pet first aid book
Mineral Oil (a lubricant and laxative when given by mouth)
Digital or rectal thermometer in a plastic case
Leather work gloves (to protect you from being bitten)
Latex gloves
Thin rope
Splint materials (tongue depressor, 12 inch wooden ruler, or thick magazine)
Muzzle (soft or basket style to which your dog has been desensitized)

AND ALWAYS, but especially with injury or emergency in mind, ensure that your dog has identification, including microchip or tattoo, to facilitate returning him to you if you should become separated.



Travel With Your Dog(s)

June 17th, 2011

Yappily, dogs are welcome at more and more travel and vacation locations. Some hotels and motels greet them with special treats and beds of their own (that may be a hint . . .). Ensure that your dog is safely harnessed or crated when traveling by car. A loose dog is a distraction to a driver and a potential flying object inside or outside of the car in the event of an accident. A sturdy wire crate to which he has been desensitized through positive training or a well fitted halter that integrates into the seat buckle system are great options. Many a dog is lost or injured in an accident in which first responders priorities are to the human occupant. A loose, riled dog may impede rescue of both his owner and himself.

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