Thought you’d like to see our happy dog. He’s doing great in every area, except he still doesn’t like my husband. 🙂
Thanks for your guidance!
Thought you’d like to see our happy dog. He’s doing great in every area, except he still doesn’t like my husband. 🙂
Thanks for your guidance!
Pre is doing great. I just had some folks over last night and he was significantly better. We still have not gotten to the place where he is welcoming of new people and doesn’t need direction but the last month has been busy and I haven’t had people over to work on things too too often. I moved to a different apartment and Pre has done pretty well here. There is a very large park across the street and I have been working with him on walking off leash. I’ve been amazed how much well he seems to respond to my direction now. I need to email you with some additional questions but right now I can’t think of any. While everything isn’t solved, things are much better and I can’t see any way they won’t continue to get better. Thanks again.
I wanted to send you a BIG thank you! The things that you showed me have made such a HUGE difference, even in 24 hrs! There has been a noticeable shift in the balance at our home and I really feel like we are on the fast track to regaining positive balance and harmony in our home!
Here are some of the highlights of the last 24 hrs:
The Cats: They have noticed the shift and feel more free to do their usual kitty things… they come out for cuddles more often, lounge in the middle of the floor belly up with out worry of harassment, and my oldest cat, Alexis who HATED Naoma, actually let her (dog) sniff her (cat) with out hissing or trying to bat at her. AND last night Alexis felt comfortable enough to snuggle with us in bed which she hasn’t done since the day we brought Naoma home! My littlest cat, Lulu who is a tiny thing (she was a runt) and used to be afraid of Naoma actually likes to walk by her now and give her a timid little lick this morning! Seriously, not kidding!
Bedtime: We didn’t even have an issue with the bed AT ALL! Both the dogs decided that it wasn’t worth the hassle and slept on the floor. Dave and I had the whole bed to ourselves! Couch: the dogs are catching on quick and Naoma even asked me first this am before jumping on the couch…WOW!
Sharing: We are making BIG progress! Yesterday afternoon the dogs and I went to the pet store to get their collars. As we were loading up the cars with dogs, Naoma hung back intentionally to let Holmie jump in the car first! Wow! I even caught the two of them snuggling this afternoon. They each got a beef swizzle stick which is their very most favorite treat, and instead of taking Holmie’s, Naoma waited her turn politely and then took her toy over to the door, away from Holmie to eat her treat. No attempts at treat theft at all!
The Door: We are continuing to work on this and I for see huge success in the future.
The Walk: Naoma is walking on a looser leash. I am a little confused as to what to do if we encounter another dog. What is polite dog behavior? How should I handle the approach towards another dog? OH! And we walked past the old guy today (Naoma’s nemesis), and while it was an obvious mental challenge for her, she tried her best and I couldn’t have been prouder! No growling, barking, lunging, or snapping.
I just can’t thank you enough! It’s so wonderful being able to clearly express to my dogs what I expect from them and seeing their fantastic responses! I have two really great dogs! Thanks for showing me the way!
“Ike is doing wonderfully. He is probably a little better than 90% house trained now, he no longer pees in his crate (5 hours is the longest I’ve left him in there, but he has had no accidents) and he no longer fights me to get in or stay in the crate. When I go in the kitchen to grab my handbag and get my things together (before leaving the house to run errands), all I have to say is “crate” and he runs right in and sits down. It is amazing. A miracle. I never thought he’d get that good about the crate. But he sure has. And I really think it is due to the things you taught us in our session. I can’t thank you enough for the work you did with Ike and his crate issues. The complete 180 he has done is truly remarkable!
Thank you!!! ”
I just wanted to thank you again so much for your time a couple weeks ago. I definitely feel like I needed that second session. We are making good progress. Buddy seems to find “that (Zen) place” much easier when I have him lay down, it’s really amazing! When I come home, he will whine a little bit but soon head to his bed and lay down, becoming much calmer and quiet. I can also tell that he is more responsive to my commands as well. I’m also noticing a direct correlation between my energy and his. I can’t believe how sensitive he is to my state of mind! I try to give him what I need when I am anxious, exercise and direction. I continue to reward him w/ squeeze cheese or affection when he is in a calm state of mind. : )
All the best to you and your crew!
–Beth (& Buddy)
It was awesome! So far so good. I plan to go over all the details with Mike this evening, and the kids are already on board with no throwing toys and not letting the dogs crowd them at the door. I’m beginning to see some carry over already. Thanks for taking the clear objective view and bringing it to my attention. Leaving the house this morning was really a breeze! It’s ridiculous to think about how much more complicated I was making things when it was as simple as gaining their respect (which happens to be the number one big deal).
“Updates are always fun when things are going great at home. I still cannot believe the changes you have helped me make.
All four Basset hounds have been doing well together in the evenings when I am home with them…(no fighting)! Amazingly enough everything is going really well. Bella and Chloe play really hard when we are out at the dog park – running and grabbing at each other, however no fighting anymore so that is good.
When I walk Chloe and Bella now, I walk out the front door with both girls, they wait on the walkway together while I get leashes ready and no fights, no dirty looks, no nothing. They are just ready to walk! I think part of everything going so well is that I am relaxing more, am in control and realize that the girls are on a level below me. Chloe now sits and waits at the back door to be let in (no more jumping and banging on the door outside), As you have said, it is my door, my house!!
All I can say to WOO-HOO or rather WOOF WOOF things are looking up in my household.
I know that this work will be on going and that I must always be the pack leader – I am just thrilled to have peace back in the house.
Thank you so much for everything!!”
“Nothing but GOOD news to report!! Bailey is being a very good dog! She is actually letting Jason per her!! What a turnaround for her and us!! She is still on the leash when someone other than Lisa or I is in the house but rarely do we have to correct her. We are getting so much enjoyment from her ……she is really a loving dog (hard to believe since she wanted to devour most people just a short time ago).
Lisa and I are so thankful that you came into our lives. So at Thanksgiving this year you will be remembered for “saving” our precious Bailey. We appreciate you sharing your training tips SO MUCH.”
“Words are so inadequate to try to express my thanks to you. In just one day I feel as if I finally have the tools and understanding I need to make Bandit the kind of dog he has always had the capability of being. Even though I may have to ask for help occasionally, I know how to be the “Queen Bee” around here now. I really appreciate the way you considered my limited mobility issues in the training too. Thank you for being such a great coach!”
I have been meaning to e-mail you. Things (with Jet) have been sooooo much better. Our walks have been awesome. We walk everyday and look for trouble, ha ha… Would you believe that we have not encountered one dog on a leash during our walks? So, I haven’t had the opportunity to fully practice my skills yet. We have walked by dogs in their yards either behind a wooden fence or an underground front yard barrier fence. Jet and KC still get a little anxious, but with a few corrections, we are able to walk right on by. These corrections are lessening each time we walk. We have also been working on who exits the door first and I am totally winning this battle, ha ha. Bolting out the door is also lessening when I am around. We still have trouble when the kids open the door. So….we bought the PetSafe Indoor barrier to help with this process. It had good reviews and will hopefully help with the training process. I have passed out your cards to potential clients and gave one to our Vet.
Anyway, as soon as we encounter a “dog on a leash” during our walks, I will let you know.
Thanks again for all your help and support. I can’t tell you how much stress and anxiety has been lifted off my shoulders.
THE INCREDIBLE STORY OF CHULA
It seemed as if no one in the world really cared. A young dog with a troubled mind faced the world alone, shuffled around from one place to another because she didn’t fit in…anywhere. No one wanted this furry little misfit. Finally she found herself in a local shelter. They had all thrown in the towel and given up on her. She had run out of time.
Many years ago, a woman named Pam and her family had a border collie with unusual markings, solid white with a black teardrop shaped patch over one eye. Ollie was a dog who was loved and very fondly remembered. When Pam noticed a border collie in a shelter who looked nearly identical to her beloved friend of the past it shook her to the core. She could not escape the obvious connection.
(Above) Pam and Migel’s beloved dog Ollie
Pam ended up removing this carbon copy from her past from the shelter to foster her until a perfect, permanent home could be found for her. Everyone called this dog Cricket. Pam was informed that Cricket was totally deaf and had shown some aggression towards other dogs. It seems that Cricket had bitten a woman in a prior foster home who was attempting to break up a fight between her and one of the woman’s own dogs. Pam’s grown son who visited on holidays, had a dog so she felt that this wouldn’t be the right addition to their family. Since she was currently dogless herself though, this was not an overly pressing issue in her foster situation.
But in reality, these were the least of Cricket’s problems. Almost immediately Pam discovered that her new foster dog had some major oddities. A strange compulsion to pounce repetitively onto the floor as if her brain and body were being altered by an alien remote control, and a frantic need to snap at flies that weren’t there revealed that this dog’s problems ran deeper than Pam ever could have realized. What looked to her vet like a strange seizure disorder, I later diagnosed as severe Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, widely known as OCD.
I have certainly seen OCD in dogs before. Border collies seem to have more of a predisposition towards this than other breeds. Having lived with border collies for many years, I’ve even had to deal with this in one of my own dogs, a rescue border collie named Kip. So I have traveled down this road before, not only with clients’ dogs but also with my own.
To be honest, I was not optimistic about Cricket’s future when I first talked with Pam. Complete deafness, dog aggression and severe OCD all in the same dog seemed to be a steep mountain to climb. Who in the world is going to want a dog like this? By the time she found my website and emailed me, Pam had already contacted several local trainers and behaviorists for help and no one would give her promising news or even a ray of hope. Since Cricket’s future now rested in Pam’s hands and she had nowhere to turn, I decided to meet this complicated dog for myself. After all, everyone deserves at least a chance…
I knew from the moment I first met Pam and her family and Cricket that something quite out of the ordinary was about to happen. This was either going to be one of the most magical and inspirational behavior training jobs I was to ever do, or it was going to tear my heart out. I was not alone in believing this. By the time I met Pam she was not only fully emotionally invested in the dog, but she was also trapped. Cricket’s future now rested in our hands. Failure to help her would cost Cricket her life and lay heavy on Pam’s conscience, not to mention my own.
Indeed the OCD was obvious. Starting with pacing back and forth and a slight cock of the head while staring at the floor, Cricket left this planet. The wild pouncing would begin, over and over and over and over and over again. It was trance-like, driven from deep within her. While outdoors in Pam’s backyard another oddity revealed itself. Cricket would stand there like a normal dog one second and then “bolt”, racing back and forth along the fence in a huge repetitive sweeping motion, much like a pacing lion in a zoo cage, only at 100 miles per hour. Her face glazed over as she flew across the ground. It was like her tail was on fire. She was unreachable in this state. She had left this planet again.
Pam was fully committed to seeing Cricket’s rehabilitation through. Finally, an angel had come into this troubled dog’s life. There was tremendous work to do, and Pam and her family were the ones who would have to do it. My goal was to give them the tools necessary to bring these changes about and coach and encourage them through the troubled times that I knew were ahead. I worked with Pam and Cricket for several hours during my first visit. We were seeing changes almost immediately. We were able to go into the strange little world that Cricket had created for herself and bring her back here with us for short amounts of time. Then we lengthened the time that we asked for normalcy. Cricket complied. Pam’s husband and son joined in. This was to be a family project.
Stress often exacerbates OCD. It is classified as an anxiety disorder. This was somewhat true for Cricket. Being shuffled around from one foster home to another and finally to a shelter, Cricket’s spirit was in a constant state of chaos and stress. But I noticed that boredom was even more of an issue. As soon as Cricket’s bright mind had nothing to think about, she went into that special little place of hers and started pacing and pouncing. She had been tied out on a short chain at some point in her past which is likely when and why she developed this behavior as a coping mechanism to busy her quick mind. Anyone reading this needs to be aware of how much mental stimulation a border collie needs. The brighter the mind, the more stimulation is needed. That is why OCD can be problematic in this breed.
Due to her deafness, Cricket learned hand signals for tricks and obedience commands. I also recommended that Pam enroll her in tracking lessons (ground scent work) because I wanted to see Cricket start using her nose, like a normal dog. Pam was happy to do this and quickly signed up to work with an accomplished local tracking trainer. Cricket desperately needed a JOB!
During my second visit we started asking for normalcy from Cricket for longer stretches of time. She thrived on the mental challenge of staying in this world with us. Her brain finally had something to concentrate on. The OCD behaviors had become so ingrained in her that she was only able to achieve this at first for short periods of time. But this soon changed as Cricket began to learn a new way of being. She also had to learn two other important lessons, how to relax and how to be loved. These were the two most important lessons that Cricket would learn.
Time has finally become an ally for Cricket. She has wormed her sweet, quirky little way into the hearts of this loving family. It became clear that this was to be her new permanent home. Renamed Chula (Spanish for cutie), she has finally found a place where she fits in.
(Above) Cute little Chula. Her likeness to Ollie is uncanny.
What an incredible story this turned out to be. A spirit from the past who still lived in Pam’s heart connected her to this troubled soul of the present, catching her attention and saving a life. One cannot help but ponder the bigger meaning of this.
With progress marching along slowly but steadily, Chula faces a wonderful future full of hope, fun and most importantly, love. Someday she will lead a normal life when the demons of her past have melted away. This special, dedicated family has amazed me and given me hope for nearly all seemingly impossible situations. This truly is an example of humanity at it’s best. I am proud to have been a part of it.
Cricket has continued to do better since your training session last Sunday. She has learned to relax for longer periods during the day without attention. I’ve been working on not giving her attention/petting, etc., unless she is behaving. This has made a HUGE difference in both of our lives–she needed to learn to be calm, & I needed to have a life without CONSTANTLY redirecting the obsessive pouncing behavior. She is still pouncing, but we continue to keep her on her leash & correct and re-direct this behavior.
She is doing well w/Jolly Ball play. She hasn’t bolted once since we started doing this. She “mini-bolts”–runs just a bit away in that bolting way, but then she comes right back & either engages in the Jolly Ball play again or lies down.
She’s doing much better on not pulling during her walks. She still distracts easily at the sight of children, cars, dogs, squirrels, pretty much anything that moves. But, she’s improving w/the use of the backward walking. I’m hoping that soon she’ll learn to relax and enjoy the walks more.
(Newly acquired rescue Australian Shepherd) Hank is doing great; we see improvements every day. He is able to stay in the house off-leash and doesn’t chase the boys any more. He’s still afraid of (my husband) Mark. Mark walks him once a day, pets him, etc. For some reason, it’s just going to take longer with him.
Karma and I have been doing quite well. We still have problems sometimes but not as often and usually not as severe. Actually a couple weeks ago we walked past another dog out on a walk going the opposite direction and didn’t have any trouble at all. It helped that the dog was possibly the worlds oldest and calmest dog. Still, that wouldn’t have happened a year ago, or even 6 months ago. I’ve been trying to walk her closer to other dogs (only if the other dogs are at least relatively calm) and we have been making some progress. She still misbehaves a bit if we get too close to another dog that is excited or aggressive, but even then she listens better and we haven’t had any major problems for quite awhile.
THE STORY OF TIPPY
People sometimes cross paths for reasons that are not clearly evident in the beginning…
Australian Shepherd Tippy is a dog who likes to have FUN. In fact, when I first met Tippy, she was all about fun. But she also was all about Tippy. This sweet, affectionate dog liked to do things her own way and in her own time. This unfortunate approach to living once nearly cost Tippy her life. One sunny day when she was a young dog, Tippy was not in a listening mode as her owner Barb desperately called her to come while off leash. A moving car found Tippy first and sent her flying through the air. Lady Luck was smiling on them both that day. Tippy came out of the disaster with only minor bruises and scratches. If all dogs in this situation could be so fortunate!
Time passed and Tippy’s injuries healed. Barb had a growing interest in Dog Agility and at first Tippy seemed to like it too. But over time Tippy’s lack of compliance became a real hindrance as she would either race around just out of Barb’s reach while off leash or quit training all together. Barb was referred to me by an accomplished local agility trainer who had given her a private agility training evaluation.
One of my specialties in dealing with dogs is the development of teamwork between dog and human. Many years of training competition obedience show dogs have taught me that I want a happy attitude in the dogs that I train. I also want teamwork, with me being the team leader. There is no reason in the world that one cannot have both.
Before Barb and Tippy were able to become a team in agility, Barb first had to establish the team leader concept to her canine partner. Barb and I worked throughout that fall and winter establishing a new dog/owner relationship that was one of respect, trust and love. Tippy responded very well to training. Things immediately began to improve for Them. I must admit that I’ve not seen anyone work as hard as Barb did at correcting Tippy’s problem behaviors. Together over time, they blossomed and have become a beautiful working agility team.
(Below) Tippy goes through her paces. She thoroughly enjoys training now, as does her happy human partner.
(Below) An airborne Tippy. THIS time, being airborne is a GOOD thing! Tippy has learned to love agility and is a happy, compliant and willing team member.
In the end, I not only gained a dedicated client in Barb, but I’ve also gained a wonderful friend. We have shared a great deal of fun and laughter in agility class together (I have my once troubled dog Kip in agility training). It turns out that Barb and I have a great deal in common and enjoy many of the same things. One never knows the direction the journey that is life will take us in. Working with dogs has introduced me to the most amazing people!
THE STORY OF BELLA AND CHLOE
Basset hound owner Mary is one of those special dog owners who will do anything for her dogs. Her beloved Bassets all come through assorted rescue organizations. Any dog would be fortunate to spend their life with Mary. The walls of her living room are adorned with photos of her dogs from the past and present. Her home and life is full of the love that she gives to her dogs and that they give to her. This was an idyllic scene to the casual onlooker. But trouble was brewing inside this loving home.
Mary’s most recent addition to her little pack of Bassets arrived full of energy, exuberance and attitude. Chloe came into Mary’s home with her own ideas of how things should be. These ideas were not conducive to peaceful living in her new family. Chloe had a particular dislike for the other female Basset in the home named Bella who was the reigning queen. It is not uncommon for females that are close in heir-achy rank to take a major dislike to each other. They became competitors with each other in nearly all aspects of life. After the battles between them became more and more frequent and violent, it became clear to Mary that something must be done.
When I arrived at Mary’s home, I was interested to see how loving this home was. I was also interested to see how lenient this home was. Although not very tall, Basset Hounds are very large, heavy dogs. They can make an entire house rattle when launching themselves against a sliding glass door. These dogs were used to demanding from Mary when they wanted attention, when they wanted to come inside, when they wanted to eat, when they wanted to do what ever else a Basset Hound wants to do. Mary would happily comply.
But Mary was hungry for new information. She hung on my every word and understood how her role in her canine family needed to change. She embraced new ideas and soaked them up like a sponge. We worked with her dogs and saw immediate changes in their behavior. Since Chloe and Bella had developed issues with each other that were serious enough for Mary to keep them separated and Chloe was the one doing most of the damage in scrimmages with Bella, Chloe wore a muzzle while working with them together to keep everyone safe from injury. The “girls” started to chill with each other almost right away. We let them know that with Mary’s growing leadership skills, things were now going to be different. The Basset girls embraced that idea too.
(Above) Chloe showing off that cute Basset face!
(Above) Bella poses for her close-up. Her life is a much more peaceful one these days…
Mary has worked very hard with all four of her dogs, embracing a new way of relating with them. Her love and affection for them has not faded, but she now owns her home again and rules the roost. The dogs all share the same space with her again and Bella and Chloe are playing and enjoying each others company. They get daily exercise and structure with lots of love mixed in. Mary has found a peaceful way of balancing her love with leadership.
(Below) A peaceful group poses for a family portrait. This is all possible because of Mary’s devotion and willingness to make the necessary changes needed to create balance in her household.
“THANK YOU for everything. I can’t tell you how much I appreciate you spending all the time with us and I learned SO much. I would love to have a bunch of your business cards so I can refer people to you! Chester is already responding beautifully! We went for a 2-mile walk today and he did amazingly well. Never before has he ever “stayed” like I’ve tried to teach him. What you did yesterday enabled him to learn and today I literally walked 15 feet away from him and he did it and he stayed until I said ‘come here! I was SO proud of him. He learned to walk just slightly behind me. And at the end of the walk I made him sit at the end of the driveway while I walked up and entered the garage code and opened the door. He did it! He was EXHAUSTED yesterday evening! Now I see what you mean about mental exercise wearing him out. I am anxious to start working on more new things with you… “
“I just wanted to extend a HUGE thank you for coming and working with us. We learned so much last night and we are going to try our very best to apply everything that we can.“
“Thanks for all the information. I couldn’t wait to tell you but I just got back from a walk with Tazzie and I tried out the “Yo-Yo” thing, (you know the back up thing), and guess what, it works.!. No pulling on her leash and no stress. By the end of the walk she was soooo good it was a real pleasure walking with her and I think she enjoyed it more too. I am so happy I can’t tell you. You were right she didn’t like going backward but it makes a difference. Even with people walking by. Thank you again for everything. I will keep working with her.”
“On behalf on my entire family, thank you for ALL of your time and effort yesterday. You gave us so many great tips and now we have a renewed hope for our future with Bailey! You are just simply AWESOME! Things are looking up for our family thanks to you! We will be in touch. Thanks again, Joni! ”
–Steve and Lisa
“Karma and I have both had a relatively good week. In fact a woman with a dog the size of a small horse that Karma hates was walking her dog while we were walking, and Karma didn’t completely lose her mind. The woman actually made a comment about how much better we were doing. Karma did get very alert and growled a little bit, but overall, she was a ton better. Still room to work, I know, but improvement is good. The other dog was probably 30 ft. away from her ( which with that particular dog is really close for Karma) and no blood was shed on me this time, so I’m feeling inspired. We’ll keep working on it!“
“A sincere thank you for all the effort and expertise you provided. Dakota is so much more settled, including pretty good behavior for several days while our son Clay was here. I do not think Dakota trusts Clay for some reason, but at least we kept him under control.
Dakota becomes more “domesticated”, playful and loving each week. We think he may be a Carolina dingo dog, as he fits every criteria physically and behaviorally. We watched a clip of a Carolina and one would swear it was Dakota.”
John and Carolyn
Your beloved canine friend really loves his food. He really loves his toys and chewies. He really loves the treat bag that he has just stolen from the kitchen counter. He really loves his bed or resting place. When the idea is presented that any of these things might be taken away from him he responds with a stare, a growl and maybe even a snap. These things are not to be tampered with by you or anyone else. They are his, and he intends to keep it that way.
You have offered a special treat to entice your dog to give up the thing he so covets. You hold the treat out in hopes that the dog will decide to let you take it. Sometimes this works. Sometimes it doesn’t. It really depends on how much the dog wants the object of his (and now your) desire. You are powerless, because the dog is making that important decision.
You are a diligent owner. You take your dog out for his daily walk. It is a time that you both enjoy together. Suddenly your dog sees another person walking their dog and flies into a tantrum. Your dog barks and growls, wanting to get to that dog badly enough that he lunges and barks wildly. You hold him back on his leash and offer him a special treat that you had previously stashed in your pocket. Your dog wants no part of you or anything that you have to offer. He just wants to get at that other dog…
You are in the process of teaching your dog a new command. You started out by showing the dog a treat in your hand. He does the new command quite nicely after being enticed by the treat. The dog now gets the treat. GOOD DOG! Later, you give the dog the same command when your hands and pockets are empty. The dog gives you a blank stare and wonders away.
Treats can be a wonderful way to motivate a dog to do a desired behavior. When teaching a dog a new concept, treats can keep them interested and let them know when they give us the behaviors that we desire. Treats are a wonderful teaching tool. But at some point early on in the teaching of a new concept, a dog needs to be weaned off of the food dangling in front of his face every time something is asked of him. We must then teach the dog to do the same action as before with the treat now out of view. The food now appears from seeming nowhere after the dog completes the task that was requested.
If we continually hold treats out as we give commands like sit, down, leave it, come, etc, we produce a dog that performs because of the treat. This creates unreliability in your dog’s actions because most of us don’t spend every moment of our lives with dog treats in our hands. No treat, no compliance.
Often when a dog is engaging in a poor behavior like guarding food, lunging at other dogs on walks etc. they will ignore that piece of cheese we have dangling in front of their face. We wonder why we can’t distract them from that current object of their desire. It is because we are giving them a choice. My dogs are not permitted to make choices like that. I correct behaviors that I dislike by distracting them with my body language and energy. Then I reward the dog for listening and complying by producing a previously hidden treat. The food reward comes only after the dog makes the decision to ignore the other dog on the walk or relinquish the food or toy to me. So what he is really being rewarded for is the good decision that he just made.
A simple way to look at it is this:
Bribe: a dog performs for a treat
Reward: a dog performs for you.
I am a big believer in nurturing a dog’s mind as well as his body. Having lived with border collies for the past two decades, I have seen the value and even the necessity of giving a canine mind something more to think about than just eating, peeing and laying around the house. All dogs need and love to have something fun to wrap their minds around regardless of their breed. We in the Midwest often have weather that is not conducive to being outdoors for long periods of time. Although I am a HUGE proponent of long walks for every dog, I am aware that when it is pouring outside, or the sidewalks are covered in ice or snow, this is not always practical. So our dogs stay cooped up with nothing to do. Some dogs become destructive from boredom. Others may become more aggressive. How can we still meet their needs when the weather turns bad or when we have other things that force themselves on our time?
Many people are surprised to learn that mental exercise can wear a dog out as much or more than physical exercise can. Over the years I have taught each of my dogs a wide variety of tricks. These tricks stretch both their minds and bodies. Each dog that I’ve had has learned a different set of these tricks. “Trick time” is a special time of bonding and fun. My dogs love this time more than any other that we spend together.
So we’ve decided that we want to get started. How do we figure out what tricks we want to teach our specific dogs? There are books on this very subject. A web search will give you some ideas of what books are available on trick training. After all, a trick first starts with an idea.
What I do when coming up with a trick idea is look at some of the natural behaviors that my dogs already have a tendency towards doing. For example, my Sheltie loved to run in circles (many Shelties do this as a lingering behavior from their herding heritage). He also loved to jump. He was a major “boing” dog. So I taught him to jump over my extended arm while I was sitting on the floor. After he learned that, I then extended my other arm out 180 degrees from my first one. He would circle me and jump each arm as he came to it, going around and around. Later I took the same concept and stood up. I bent over and made a circle or “hoop” with my two arms. My Sheltie would circle me and jump through my hoop arms. I later could walk and spin around and my Sheltie would move with me and jump through the “hoop” in a wide variety of patterns. This was such fun for him and was based on tendencies that he already had.
Many dogs love to give you a paw. You can teach the dog to give you this paw and create a “wave” out of it. Or you can teach the dog to give you both the right and left paw as you ask for it. Before long you have a dog that will “march” in place for you or play “Patty Cake” with you. My border collies best like tricks that involve high action. So they have been taught to back up fast and stop on command, come forward fast and stop on command, and twirl around in place (I call this “Tornado Dog”). They weave through my legs as I walk, which is a spin-off of Agility weave poles. They must listen to commands that come at them fast. They must think fast and move fast. Treats and toys come at them fast. A lot of high octane breeds LOVE this kind of fun. When you are finished with a fun trick session like this, the dog is mentally and physically exhausted. You have created magic.
Naturally, these training sessions are nothing but FUN. A dog can’t make a mistake. This is a time to laugh with them. This is a time to play with them. We encourage behaviors that we are after by offering food rewards and praise after the dog completes the task as we desire it. Toys are great in this kind of play. A toy oriented dog can have a ball or favorite toy tossed to him as soon as the trick is completed to your satisfaction. It is important to remember that your dog will learn tricks in small pieces. So reward the small pieces as you see them successfully completed. Then ask for a bit more and reward that behavior. Tricks are built like houses…first a foundation is laid, then the structural framework is roughed in, then the plumbing is installed, then electrical, then drywall…you get the idea.
Each of my dogs know dozens of tricks. This has been not only a fun bonding experience for us, but also a very useful tool when they get cabin fever and need something to do. I highly recommend this for any owner who wants to nourish both the mind and body of their four legged friend.