Tools, rules, exercise – part 2

Welcome to part two of this three part blog series -Tools, rules and exercise! You can read part one here. Now that you have learned about tools lets talk about the rules!

Rules

Along with providing the correct tools for the dogs we train, we also start implementing rules.

Rules, we all have them, we all live by them. We may not like all rules but know that without them the world would be chaotic. Some people have rules for their dog but are not consistent, some have different rules from different family members or for different dogs and some have no rules at all.  One rule that everyone agrees on is that the dog should only go to the bathroom outdoors.  Again, without teaching a dog this rule, he will not understand how important it is.

Many people find it hard to establish rules for their dog. Some people feel that dogs are cute and should be able to enjoy life as they please. Some fail to put rules in place because they work hard all day and don’t want to deal with enforcing them when they get home. Others (especially if they have adopted a dog from a rescue or shelter) feel sorry for the dog and think establishing rules would be harmful. Some people view rules as punishment and think they are being mean if they make rules for Fido.

Whatever the reason for not establishing rules, the fact is, without establishing rules, you are harming rather than helping your dog.

We all give rules to children. Children need rules to help understand how to behave, to keep them safe and to help them establish impulse control. We have all known some children that were raised with very little rules and generally, they are very difficult to deal with. Dogs are no different. Dogs need rules to become stable. There are rules in nature. Dog packs have rules that all pack members understand and abide by, this is what keeps the pack safe and healthy. Dogs learn from their elders when to eat, when and to whom they can breed, when to stay at the den, when to leave the den, when to travel,where to find food, what constitutes food and who or who not they can take food from. From birth the mother dog teaches bite inhibition. Bite inhibition is the degree in which a dog learns to use the full force of their mouths on humans or other dogs. Puppies taken too soon from the litter, before they learn this, can have a lack of bite inhibition. If a puppy bites too hard during play, the mother will growl, bite or walk away ending the play. The puppy learns to continue play, he must control his bite, those are the rules.

After observing dogs for 23 years professionally, and over 40 years with my own dogs we have watched dogs establish rules with each other on a daily basis. A dog will let other dogs know when they can take a resource from them, either by allowing them to take it or not allowing it with a look, low growl or bared teeth. If a dog is overly excited, all the others growl, bite and may attack him until he learns the rules. That is why, at dog daycare centers, it is imperative to set rules and control all of the interactions, especially when the pack structure changes on a daily basis. Rules have to be established or chaos will ensue.

A main cause of behavioral problems is due to lack of rules in the home which contributes to a dog with no impulse control. Research on the subject defines impulsive actions as ‘poorly conceived, prematurely expressed, unduly risky or inappropriate to the situation’ (Evenden, 1999).

Dogs with no impulse control will exhibit behaviors such as jumping on the furniture (without being asked), jumping on people, barking, door bolting, leash pulling, resource guarding, begging, and generally acting out of control or exhibiting “pushy” behaviors.

Rules are important in establishing leadership. A dog looks to a leader for guidance. Very few dogs are born leaders. When a dog senses no leadership, he may assume the leadership role. If a dog was not a born leader, this could result in aggressive, anxious or nervous behavior.

Many people excuse their dogs behavior by saying “he is being an Alpha” or “He is Alpha” when in fact the behavior comes from no sense of leadership. He is just trying to assume the leadership roll. If there is no leader, it must be me, right?

A dog that senses a leadership presence can relax. A leader has the situation under control, no need to worry about every little sound, smell or site. If there is something to worry about, the leader will take care of it and will handle the situation. A dog with no leadership (which is established through rules) will not come when called, will not listen to commands and will not engage with the handler. They are always alert and may be aggressive, nervous or exhibit separation anxiety.

Many unwanted behaviors a dog offers are simply because he has not been given the rule book. Dogs do what works. If barking gets you to pick them up, they bark. If pushing through the door gets them outside, they push. If jumping on people gets attention, they jump. If begging at the table gets food, they beg. If pawing at you gets them petted, they paw. By putting rules in place, you can eliminate all of these unwanted behaviors.

Many unwanted behaviors continue because rules are put in place but change on a daily basis or different family members have different rules for Fido. You cannot discourage jumping if one day you allow it by giving attention and the next day you discourage it. You cannot keep Fido from begging if you feed him from the table one day but not others. You cannot keep your dog from pulling on leash if one day you work on leash walking and the next day you allow him to get what he wants by pulling.

Rules must be consistent to work. If rules are not consistent, the dog will always continue the behavior because occasionally it works! Dogs do what works. The same rules need to apply to all dogs in the household. Dogs engage in Allelomemetic behavior which means they copy others in their environment. You cannot expect one dog to stay off the sofa if another is allowed on it. The rules that are good for one, are good for all.

Rules come in the form of daily activities and through obedience. You can read about the importance of obedience in our blog post here. Obedience teaches desired behaviors and helps to enforce rules if your dog understands basic commands.

The first thing you need to do is decide what rules you want to establish. If you don’t know the rules, your dog never will. Having no rules by the way, is not a rule. When establishing rules it is important that the whole family be involved not only in knowing the rules but also enforcing them. Make a list, go over it with everyone and be consistent.

Remember, dogs do what works so part of teaching a dog what the rules are is as simple as rewarding the desired behaviors rather than the unwanted ones. If pushing, pulling, barking, jumping and pawing all get Fido what he wants, he will continue to engage in those behaviors. On the other hand, if sitting, lying down or calm behavior get the desired outcome, he will engage in those behaviors. Dogs learn quickly what behaviors work. You are creating impulse control by encouraging the dog to think about the behavior that gets the reward rather than acting on impulse.

Providing rules also means controlling resources. All the resources the dog wants are yours, you control them. You would not allow a person to come into your home, yell at you, jump on your furniture, sleep next to you in bed, raid the refrigerator and destroy your things, yet people let dogs do it every day. If the dog wants to get on the furniture, it does, If it wants to sleep in the bed, he is in it before you are, if he wants to play, he brings you a toy and you throw it, if he wants to eat, he barks and you feed him.

Establishing rules and leadership means your dog has to wait until you invite him on the furniture or in the bed. He has to sit or lie calmly before he gets fed or goes out the door, Play starts and stops when YOU decide.

Sometimes you need tools to help with a dog that previously had no rules and has very little impulse control. You may need a leash to help guide a dog off the furniture or bed or to encourage sitting politely at the door. You may need to use a kennel when you are busy and unable to supervise your dog and enforce rules. If Fido is in his kennel, he cannot engage in the unwanted behavior as before. Dogs that have been out of control for some time will continue to engage in that behavior until they learn the new rules.

It is important to start rewarding the desired behavior as soon as a dog offers it. For instance, if you give Fido a reward every time he lies on his bed, he will lie on his bed more often than on the sofa. If he is jumping up and down when you put on the leash or open the door, wait until he stops jumping or until he sits. He will eventually stop, be patient. If he paws or barks at you at feeding time, ignore that behavior and only feed or play with him when he is lying down or sitting calmly. In this way, you are re-shaping his behavior and teaching him what behaviors are desired (work) and which are unwanted (don’t work).

Many people have told us how good our dogs behave. We are dog trainers I know, the reason dog trainers have good dogs is not because they know what to do but because they do what they know! We have had dogs from breeders, dogs from the street and dogs from rescue organizations, all different breeds, different sizes and with different temperaments. The only thing they have in common are our rules, which apply to all of them and never change. Our rules make good dogs.
The longer your dog engages in new behaviors, he will start offering them quicker and will hold them longer without any prompting from you. He will wait to be asked on the bed, he will lay on his bed while you are eating, he will sit politely at the door, he will stop jumping on people. He will be more calm and more relaxed, He has learned the rules!

Rules are important, rules are needed in our world and especially in our dogs world. Dogs need rules not only so they will be mannerly but also so they can feel safe and secure. So the next time you think of rules, instead of thinking punishment think what a great gift to give someone – security and peace of mind, that is the power of rules.

Now that you have your rules established, take a walk over to part 3 – Exercise

Cindy Quigley is a Canine life cycle coach. She is the owner of Supermutts.com and author of Puppy Montessori. She has 23 years’ experience professionally working with dogs. She has worked in grooming shops, boarding facilities and veterinary hospitals, all of which taught her how to read canine body language and understand dog handling. As boarding and daycare facility owners together with her husband Kenneth she has cared for thousands of dogs and has thousands of hours observing, studying and modifying canine behavior.

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Tools, Rules, and exercise part 1

At Super mutts along with timing, consistency, and motivation our training program also consists of tools, rules, and exercise. We have found, where people fail when it comes to training their dog is generally in one of these three key areas. We will be discussing each in this 3 part series.

Rather you have problems with your dog jumping on people, pulling on leash, barking, house training or destructive chewing, the three elements of tools, rules, and exercise will come into play.

When we get called for a training session we find that people are either using some of these key components, none of them , or sometimes, all of the wrong ones.

Dogs give us a variety of behaviors, some desired, others unwanted but they do not automatically “know” this, they are just being a dog. It is our job to train them which behaviors are desired and which are unwanted. The reason tools, rules, and exercise are so important in changing your dogs behavior is this –

1. If you are not using the right tools, you cannot properly reinforce behaviors and therefore cannot communicate to your dog the behaviors that are either desired or unwanted.

2. If you do not provide rules for your dog, he will not understand the behaviors he is exhibiting are either desired or unwanted.

3. Without proper exercise, a dog will exhibit all forms of unwanted behaviors.

Let us take a look at each element individually. In this article we will look at tools.

There are many tools involved with owning a dog in general and especially for dog training purposes. Tools of dog training consist of collars, leashes, kennels, food pouches and bait or rewards


Collars

Collars come in a variety of colors, kinds and price ranges and are generally the #1 tool we often change when training our clients. Most people have a collar for their dog but often times it is the wrong one for the situation they are having with their dog.

For instance, a buckle collar is great for a dog that walks nicely on leash and does not pull, but will do nothing to discourage pulling.

A martingale collar is a good all around collar and also for leash walking. It discourages pulling to an extent, cannot slip off the head, but does not work for a strong puller. It does need to be sized right to work properly. Many people use this type of tool but most often, it is too loose around the dogs neck.

A harness was designed for tracking and pulling purposes and actually encourages a dog to pull. The harness gives the handler very little control as it is around the dogs chest, which is the strongest part of the dogs body when it comes to pulling. When a dog pulls against the harness, it is designed to create pressure on their chest wall which triggers the dogs opposition reflex. You can test your dogs opposition reflex. With your dog standing, gently push on his side as if you were trying to tip him the opposite direction. You will feel that he will lean into your hand to avoid falling over. That is opposition reflex, humans also have it. There are different types of no-pull harnesses available and are affective on some but not all pulling dogs. A harness can be beneficial for small dogs as you can reach down and pick them up by it should the need arise, but generally are not needed.

Prong collars are designed for dogs that pull on leash. They are good to use for dogs that are strong pullers but not in all circumstances, not with all dogs, and proper education by a trainer should be given to be used effectively. The prong collar also needs to be sized correctly to work properly. Prong collars are considered power steering for dogs in that the dog corrects itself and minimal pressure needs to be applied by the handler. Prong collars are especially useful for seniors with large dogs that pull and can possibly pull them down or for dogs that out-weigh or are stronger than their handlers.

Remote trainers work well for a number of behaviors and are great for distance training, hunting dogs, or to discourage certain behaviors but can be used incorrectly if not properly trained by a professional.

Lastly, head collars, which were designed to control opposition reflex by putting pressure on the back of the dogs head, should also have proper education by a trainer on how to properly use them. They can irritate a dogs nose especially brachycephalic breeds, and many times cause more frustration in the dog, leading to difficulty concentrating on what the handler is trying to communicate. We do not recommend head collars for our clients.


To avoid having to use a special collar for pulling it is highly recommended to train your dog how to properly walk on a leash from the beginning. Since most people seeking dog training advice generally have not done that, it is often necessary to use a corrective collar to first get the dog somewhat under control so it can then be taught how to properly walk on leash. Many of the training collars can then be eliminated or changed out for a general buckle collar.

As you see, with just collars alone, there are many different types and each situation will require a different tool. Having the wrong collar on your dog can exacerbate or even cause the problem you are trying to fix!


Leashes

Just like collars, leashes come in a variety of types. The main issue we see when it comes to leashes is that the person is not using the leash correctly. There are different leashes for different circumstances as well. Generally, in training, you start with a short leash and gradually increase the length and distance you train a dog.

A 2 foot traffic lead is great for walking a large dog and gives the best control especially when paired with the correct collar. The traffic lead can be clipped to your belt enabling hands free walking. Hands free walking is very handy to teach a client that has issues with holding the leash too taught, which in turn causes pulling due to the afformentioned opposition reflex.

A 6 foot small diameter leather leash is generally what dog trainers recommend for all dogs. They are easy to handle, give you the ability to bunch them up in one hand while walking and allow ample length to work on obedience commands from a 6 foot distance.

A long line is 20 – 30 feet long and is used to train a dog obedience commands at a distance while still having the ability to control the dog if he should break command. It can also be used when you want to give your dog room to sniff around at a distance in a controlled environment without being off leash. You can also use a long line to tie a dog to something to secure them when camping, at the park, on a picnic etc.

We should take this time to discuss retractable leashes. Dog trainers generally never recommend retractable leashes. We never recommend them to our clients however we see them used all the time. It is the first and fastest thing we will change with a training client. The retractable leash gives the handler the least amount of control over their dog. A retractable leash allows the dog to be too far in front of the handler. They often get tied around people, other dogs, trees….anything. Once extended, there is very little ability to reel a dog back in due to the tiny rope like leash that is attached. This is why, when you observe people using these leashes, you will see them walking around and around the person or thing the dog has entangled itself in. They are more expensive and the handle is much more cumbersome than a regular leash. They cannot be used when walking multiple dogs with a single handler.

Many injuries have been caused to people and dogs due to the retractable leash. If the dog does take off after something and the person drops the leash, it will retract so quickly as to hit the dog or will frighten the dog from the large plastic handle chasing it down the road.

Did I say we don’t like retractable leashes? Worse than the retractable leash is one paired with a head collar or harness.

Kennels

Kennels are self-explanatory and come in a variety of sizes, shapes and colors. Which kennel you choose is up to you however different circumstances call for different sizes.

All dogs should be kennel trained. You can watch our video on kennel training a puppy here . Dogs are den animals and like the security of a confined space. You cannot train a puppy properly without a kennel and it is one of the first tools we recommend when setting up the puppy nursery for our Puppy Montessori program.

The kennel provides a safe place for your dog to rest. The kennel can keep your dog safe when having workers, guests, or small children to your home, when he is sick or when traveling in a car. The kennel helps with everything from house training to separation anxiety. A dog that is kennel trained is comfortable in a kennel and will be comfortable in a kennel in any situation such as the vet, groomer or shelter if they should find themselves lost.

The kennel is a neccessary tool for keeping your pet from engaging in unwanted behaviors when unsupervised. When a dog begins engaging in behaviors, he will continue to do so in the future. Setting your dog up for success includes when he is unsupervised as well.

The kennel is a very important and necessary tool for your pets well-being that every dog owner should have. You can also read more about kennel training in our book Puppy Montessori

Food pouches and bait (reward)

Lastly, when it comes to tools, one that is used the least by the average person is the food pouch and the food (reward) that goes in it. Yes, food is a tool, a very important tool when it comes to training a dog. We do not start any training program without the use of food. It is a necessity and we would go as far to say it is THE most important tool in your dog training kit! You can modify or train any behavior with food. Everyone knows that dogs love food! You do not need to take a course on classical or operant conditioning to know that. Most people know this because Fido is always begging for it!

Dogs love food and will work for food. A dog will go out of his way to engage in a behavior if he knows it leads to a food reward, whether that is desired behavior or unwanted behavior. If a dog gets a reward for the unwanted behavior of sitting at the table while you eat, he will engage in that behavior. On the other hand, if he gets a reward for the desired behavior of sitting on his bed, across the room, while you eat, he will continue to engage in that behavior. He doesn’t know which is desired and which unwanted, just which one gets the food! How YOU use this tool is extremely important.

During the learning process it is imperative to use food reward to teach a dog. Once a dog has learned the behavior, food reward can be faded out. Even though our own dogs have been well-trained, we continue to give reward, periodically, for desired behaviors, especially for the recall and especially in a distracting environment. If you want a dog to come to you every time he is called, give him a motivational food reward EVERY….TIME….CALLED! The more motivational, the faster he will come!

Food builds trust, helps create a dog that is engaged with the handler rather than everything else in the environment and that is the goal of training. Dogs need motivation to engage in something and food is a very powerful motivator. That being said, the reward has to be motivational to the dog in each context. A dry treat might be motivational if the dog is learning to sit while in the living room but as you up the distractions, chances are, you need a more motivational reward.

The treat pouch is a great tool because you can hook it to your belt and always have access to reward desired behaviors quickly. If it is hooked to you, the chances are strong that you won’t lose it. The food pouch is extremely helpful to use when walking your dog because it allows easy access to the food while your other hand is holding the leash.


Hopefully, you see why the proper tools are so important when it comes to training your dog. A dog trainer gives considerable thought into what tools are correct for each dog, handler, and situation. This is why we can get frustrated when people change the tools we recommend. We know how important they are. In dog training we always say, “you need to set the dog up for success”. The proper tools are the beginning to the success not only for your dog but for you.

So, grab your tool box and head over to part 2 of the series – Rules

Cindy Quigley is a Canine life cycle coach. She is the owner of Supermutts.com and author of Puppy Montessori. She has 23 years’ experience professionally working with dogs. She has worked in grooming shops, boarding facilities and veterinary hospitals, all of which taught her how to read canine body language and understand dog handling. As boarding and daycare facility owners together with her husband Kenneth she has cared for thousands of dogs and has thousands of hours observing, studying and modifying canine behavior.

Ask the coach -What age should you start grooming your new puppy?

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Todays ask the coach question comes from Kathy and she asks,

“At what age should I have my new Shih-tzu puppy groomed?  We just adopted an 8 week old male shih-Tzu and have been told he will need grooming. His fur is currently short and doesn’t seem to need grooming yet.  Someone also said we should wait until he has had all of his vaccinations before we have him groomed by a professional.  What is the best age to start grooming our puppy?

This is a great question and one that we not only get asked frequently but also one that creates confusion for new puppy parents. The short answer , and this is critical – “AS SOON AS POSSIBLE!”  The key is to find a groomer that is experienced in how to socialize the puppy to the grooming process in a positive, low stress way.

Regardless of the breed, all dogs need some form of grooming.  To maintain good health and coat, all dogs need at least to be brushed, bathed, and have their ears cleaned and toe nails trimmed.  Ear infections are common in dogs and are very painful, keeping your pets ears cleaned will help prevent this.  Nails that become too long may deform the feet, make it hard for the dog to walk, and will curl around and embed in the skin, causing pain and infection.

That being said, some breeds need more grooming than others and need to see a professional groomer every four to six weeks.  It is also a good idea to send short coated breeds to the groomer regularly as well, even though they do not need their fur trimmed, having a professional groomer clip the toenails, clean the ears, and bathe your dog is beneficial.   Professional groomers have professional products and equipment that will help with your pets skin and coat and even help with shedding.  Many times a groomer will identify problems that you could be unaware of, such as ear infections, fleas or ticks, lumps and skin problems.

It is a common misconception that you should wait to have your puppy professionally groomed until it is around 6 months old.   Reasons cited are that the puppy’s fur is not that long and they want to have all vaccinations before sending their dog to the grooming salon. I can attest, groomers everywhere cringe when they look at their schedule and  see a 6 month old puppy coming in for the first grooming.

Years ago, the advise to new puppy parents was to keep their puppy at home until it had its final set of vaccinations which is around 12 – 16 weeks old.  Most veterinarians, dog trainers and pet professionals have changed their view of this in the recent years.  The evidence is that the risk of your puppy developing a behavioral problem from lack of proper early socialization far out ways the risk of them contracting a fatal disease if you socialize them before the full set of vaccinations.   The key here is “proper early socialization”.  You do not want to take your new puppy to places where the health and vaccination status of other animals is questionable, like a dog park or a pet store, or where there are known sick animals, however puppies need proper socialization to become stable adults.  Lets take a look as to why this is so….

From seven to sixteen weeks of age your puppy enters the socialization stage which is a critical stage and the most important stage in his development.  This critical stage, and what happens to  your puppy during it, will determine how behaviorally sound he will be when he becomes an adult.  Puppies that are socialized properly during this stage become stable adult dogs with minimal issues of fear or aggression.  Puppies that are not socialized properly at this stage, can develop fear, anxiety, aggression and behavioral issues. Many behavioral problems in dogs are due to the lack of proper socialization during this imprinting stage of development.   During this stage of development, puppies also go through a fear imprinting phase or “fear period” which means whatever the puppy comes into contact with that causes fear or pain, can stay with him for life.  This is why it is important that everything you expose your puppy to be kept positive.

If you wait to expose your puppy to the grooming process until he is older, he will not have been exposed to all  the sights, sounds, smells, and required handling during this critical phase,  therefore will become fearful and anxious of the new experience, which often times will lead to aggression on the grooming table.   Many dogs go through a second fear period during adolescence (six to eight months) and if taken to the grooming shop for the first time during this period, may become so frightened that it will be hard to desensitize them to the grooming process later.

Sooner is better than later when it comes to exposing your puppy to the grooming process.  Many show- dog breeders start grooming their puppies at 3 weeks of age, before they are even weaned.  This early exposure leads to a dog that is extremely comfortable on the grooming table as he has done it his entire life.

Another reason waiting to groom your dog is so detrimental is because, unless you are very good at thoroughly brushing your dog, he more than likely will develop matted fur. Matted fur is painful to remove, which in turn will cause negative associations to the  grooming process, which in turn will contribute to problems on the grooming table.

When it comes to grooming your dog, the key is to find a groomer that understands and is familiar with puppy development and how to create a positive experience for your puppy.  Make sure the salon requires all adult dogs be fully vaccinated, and the puppies at least have one set of puppy vaccinations.  The first grooming, most likely, will not be to remove much fur from your puppy. Generally, the first grooming consists of a bath, nail trim, ear cleaning, blow dry and trimming around the eyes, feet and sanitary area. The key is to keep the interactions as short and as positive as possible. If the salon requires your puppy be there for the day or if your puppy will be put in a kennel during the process, it is a good idea to take a toy or chew for your puppy to play with while he waits.  You may also request that they take the puppy outside for a bathroom break or two while he is in their care.  At Super Mutts, since we are also dog trainers, we always provided these things for the puppies in our care because it is the right thing for the puppy, but many salons do not.  Always ask if the salon has a protocol for puppies, if you are not comfortable, don’t hesitate to find another salon that does.

There are a number of things you can do at home that will help your puppy before he goes to the salon.  Many salons have pamphlets on things you can do to help socialize your puppy to the grooming experience.  Take your puppy to the salon ahead of time just for a meet, greet and treat!  Ask if they have any handouts for you to get started at home. A good salon will appreciate you taking initiative in your puppies grooming needs. They can also show you how to properly brush your dog at home and may have handouts on specific breeds and grooming requirements.

Our book Puppy Montessori is available on Amazon.com and is a great resource for new puppy parents. The book goes into further detail about developmental levels, socialization, and things you should do before your puppy goes to the salon.

Cindy Quigley is a Canine life cycle coach, and pet stylist. She is the owner of Supermutts.com and author of Puppy Montessori. She has 23 years’ experience professionally working with dogs.  She has worked in grooming shops, boarding facilities and veterinary hospitals, all of which taught her how to read canine body language and understand dog handling. As boarding and daycare facility owners together with her husband Kenneth she has cared for thousands of dogs and has thousands of hours observing, studying and modifying canine behavior. 

You can read more or purchase her book at www.supermutts.com