Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Human Psychology vs Dog Psychology

Had an interesting discussion the other day about how human psychology and dog psychology is similar (yet certainly different).

One way in which it is similar is how we reinforce behaviors. When a human or a dog does something we like, if we give them positive reinforcement, they learn by example that doing the behavior is a positive experience. On the reverse side, if we provide consequences for a negative behavior, both species learn that the behavior results in something unpleasant. This is not to say that the way we reinforce behaviors needs to be harsh nor painful. A "good girl" or "good boy" is a positive reinforcement for a dog (and similar expressions are often used with children... "Good job!" "You did great!", etc.). For the negative, a sternly said, "NO!" or other "negative" word works (perhaps better for dogs than for children according to many parents I have met).

If we look deeper into this idea, it isn't so much the words we say (at least not to the dog), but the manner in which we say it. Can you say "Good girl/boy" without smiling or having warmth in your voice? Can you say "no" with sweetness in your voice? Not likely to both. So although a human will understand the meaning of the words, the dog who doesn't can still get the same reinforcement, positive or negative. How? By the tone of our voices, the body language we present, and the overall energy we give off...often without even thinking about it.

So what can we take away from this discussion that will benefit our dogs? Simple... if your dog is doing something you like, be sure to reward it. A pat on the head or a "good boy/girl" or just the positive energy you give to your dog will be understood by him/her. If you catch your dog doing something you dislike, disagree with the behavior with a firm "No!" or "Hey!" or whatever word or sound you use to represent that you are not pleased. Don't yell or get angry. Just say it firmly and with authority. There is a difference between an authoritative voice and an angry voice. And the results of each are different.

Want to know more? Contact me at Cheryl@PetCarebyCheryl.com or visit my web site - PetCarebyCheryl.com.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Can My Dog Go on the Couch?

Clients often ask whether they should allow their dog to get on the couch or not. The answer is simple... do you want that behavior or not?

To many people, having their dog sit on the couch with them is a comforting experience they love and time shared with a faithful friend. To some, it means pet hair on a piece of furniture where guests will sit and time needed to constantly remove that pet hair. Then there are the people... quite a few of them... who sometimes want their dog on the couch but not always. There is no right nor wrong answer...as the leader of your pack, it is your call.

That said, when you bring a new dog or puppy into your home, you set the rules, limitations and boundaries. You teach your dog what you want and what you do not want. So you must decide what you want in regard to the couch.

If you don't want your dog on the couch, do not allow it. If you want your dog to have the freedom to go on the couch at will, that's fine as well. It is YOUR couch and you get to say who may sit on it and who may not. But what if you want it both ways... on or off when you say so. That is possible and attainable! (Were you thinking I'd say otherwise?)

Like so many other behaviors we teach our dogs, a dog can learn that sitting on the couch is a privilege earned. When you want him/her with you, call your dog and create a command to go with that action (think about how you teach your dog to sit on command or lie down on command...it's all really the same thing). When your dog goes on the couch without an invitation, simply teach your dog "off." It will take practice, patience and consistency. Everyone in the house must learn to use the same words and/or hand signals. If one person allows the dog on the couch at all times and another shoos the dog off, you get a confused dog. 

Need help teaching your dog your "couch" rules? Contact me at Cheryl@PetCarebyCheryl.com. 

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

What to Do When Your Dog Has the Crazies

There are days when a dog may exhibit the crazies... running around like a lunatic, jumping on you or others, grabbing your clothing and tugging, the list goes on. Unwanted behaviors can make or break your relationship with your dog. How you handle the situation is important and often it is more about the human's behavior than the dog's.

When your dog does something you really dislike, do you get angry? Do you yell? Do you stomp around? Do you get frightened? Truth be told, the more emotional you get, the less your dog will respond to you in a healthy manner. Yes, some dogs will stop the behavior if you yell or make a loud noise as it temporarily startles them, but ultimately it doesn't solve the problem.

So what do you do? Training tip...remain calm no matter what. I never said this would be easy. In fact, every trainer has moments (especially when they start learning to train) that they feel their emotions well up in them as the dog they are working with (theirs or someone else's) refuses to behave or worse yet, acts out inappropriately. The more you work with dogs, the more you start to see that if you are going to gain the respect of a dog, you have to act as the pack leader in a dog pack...with calm and assertive behavior.

Some may ask, "How can I be calm when my dog is doing <insert your dog's offensive behavior>?" The answer is simple, breathe. Stand up straighter (leaders don't lower their heads, they keep them up). Unclench your teeth (dogs notice body language better than humans). Drop your shoulders (shoulders up shows tension). Once you get control of your emotions and your body language, you can then address whatever the issue is and your dog is far more likely to respond. Note, your dog may not respond right away. It can take a few moments to a few minutes for your dog to snap out of their crazies enough to realize you are no longer feeding them negative energy.

Having problems with this? It's time to engage a professional trainer who can teach you how to handle your dog's crazies. The best trainers do not require minimum number of sessions and if it takes just one or two sessions to stop the problems, that's all. That's what dog training is all about... helping people establish better, stronger bonds with their dogs.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

What To Do With a Dog on a Frigid Day

Jack, my "walk and train" client dog, needed something to do today while the temperature went no higher than 13 degrees. So what do I do with him? Work indoors, of course!

Mental exercise (in this case, practicing basic obedience commands) is a wonderful way to focus a dog. What you will see in the video at the end of this post is only part of our session. No, he wasn't perfect, but I don't expect perfection all the time. I see ever time he doesn't follow a command correctly as an opportunity for both of us to learn. That's right, I said "both" of us. Training is not a one-sided deal. To be a good trainer, you have to always have your eyes, ears and mind open. You must be willing to learn. Every dog will present a unique situation. Yes, there are many things I see as a trainer over and over again, but somehow it's always a little different from dog to dog. Sometimes you have to learn to adjust and sometimes your tried and true methods work perfectly every time with a particular dog. Never give up! If you can keep yourself in a calm assertive mode and keep your mind open to coming up with new ways to teach and new activities for your dog (or in my case, my client dogs), amazing things can happen.

Now for today's video of Jack... Jack Practicing His Basic Obedience Skills Indoors - 1/7/14

Monday, January 6, 2014

Jack - A One-Year Old Beagle/Bulldog Mix

One of the things I'm working on is building my "walk and train" business. Jack is the first dog I am officially doing "walk and train" with. I've done similar work before but now I've come up with a name for my work ("walk and train"...very original, don't you think?) and a concept. The basic theory is if an owner is unable to work with me in a traditional trainer manner where the owner is involved in the training, I can effect change in the dog by my structured walks combined with training of the dog and addressing the dog's behavioral issues. 

Jack is a young dog who had a rough start in life. As a tiny puppy, he found himself in a pet store where he was purchased. The first owner quickly decided they had made a mistake. Sadly, this resulted in Jack winding up in a municipal shelter. After a brief stint in the home of one of the town shelter's employees, Jack found his current home. 

This bouncy pup is a ball of energy. He needs exercise...of his mind as well as his body. He is learning his basic obedience and social skills from me.

Today it was raining so we went for a brief walk (and a chance for him to relieve himself). We worked on his impulse control when a person walked by. Jack did very well as he normally is very eager to greet...overeager one might say. Afterwards we spent time in his home working further on impulse control. Yes, Jack, you must leave the piece of food alone until I say otherwise. It's not easy for him, but each day he learns a little more.

While I prefer to have the owner (or the owning family) involved and participating in training the dog, when this is not possible, there is still an improvement. His owners see him becoming a better behaved dog because he is learning in his own environment what he should and should not do. It's much like training dogs in a shelter (which I have done for many years). The process may be slower, but the end is eventually met. All for the love of dogs!

Back to Business

WOW! It's been over two years since my last blog post. A lot has happened. A lot has changed.

These days, I'm working at expanding my pet care business. I have been a pet sitter for 24 years as well as a dog walker (comes with the pet sitting). Now I also train dogs. It's all been an evolution that started when I was a child craving the company of dogs and later cats and other species as well to now living my dream of working with animals and the people who love them.

Part of getting the word out about my expanding business is sharing with friends, clients, fans and anyone who has an interest in pets. So is thus re-born this blog.

Enjoy! And please do leave me comments and questions. 

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

I foster kittens for the League for Animal Protection of Huntington, Inc. (http://www.laphuntington.org/) and am starting to experiment with videoing them.

These are my kittens before I started to let them out and run around. Danica (F - tiger), Dawson (M - orange with white), Derek (M - white with buff) and Dylan (M - white with black).