dog training

Teaching an old dog new tricks

I get this question often. “ My dog is 5 years old, can he still learn new things”. My answer to this is usually yes or it depends. The problem with an old dog learning “new tricks “ isnt what you think. Most people think its because a dog is stuck in their ways. I disagree. The reason why its hard to teach an old dog has to do with 2 things. Their motivation level and their physical fitness. Let’s talk about each one.

Motivation level

You ever notice how when you have a puppy how food motivated they are. Thats because their bodies are growing. They even like playing with toys or having you chase them around the yard. This is not the case with an older though. They don’t want to play. It requires too much energy that they don’t want to expend because they might not be in the best shape. They also don’t care about food sometimes besides eating their meal. SO when you try to give them a treat they are not willing to do anything to get it. Its almost an attitude of “ I seen it all and done it all, so that doesn’t impress me”. I actually think its funny how older dogs will sometimes just give up in the middle of training because they become seemingly uninterested.

Older dogs also take a lot of naps like puppies do. The only difference is that puppies seem energized from their nap while older dogs seem to have only a tiny bit more energy than they had laying down. That brings me to the next part.

Physical fitness

As I mentioned before your older dog might not have the physical fitness energy. They also might have arthritis like us humans. As dogs get older they develop all type of physical problems such as hip dysplasia and arthritis. This makes it harder to teach any dog new behaviors. If I tell a dog to lay down and it takes her 10 minutes to lay down because she of the arthritis, then how do I know when the dog is being disobedient. I cant. So its a waste of time for me to try it. I speak from experience. I have a 12 year pit bull that has joint problems and is on supplements. Any time she is down stairs with me in the basement, I have to life her up the stairs to take her out the door. Therefore, I dont do anything with her. I let her be. She doesn’t have to sit, down roll over, none of that. She lived her life and I want her to enjoy her later years. By the way I don’t train any dogs over the age of 10 years. Thats just my feelings, but if a dog works for me for 10 years I will not require anything after that. The only time I train a dog older than 10 years old is if the dog is a danger to himself or to others.

Also look out for my youtube channel coming soon.

The “WHY” behind your dog barking and lunging at people and other dogs

Reactivity is an issue that I see a lot of in dogs. I even have to constantly work with my own dog and hold him to a certain standard to deal with this issue. I used to wonder why my dog was so unpredictable with his lunging. The reality is he was NOT unpredictable. I just wasn’t paying attention to what he was telling me. He was letting me know that he was uncomfortable but I missed the signs.

These signs are known as cut off cues. A cut off cue or calming signals can be when

  • a dog looks away from the trigger,

  • starts sniffing the ground profusely

  • starts sniffing the air, etc.

  • lip licking

  • Freezing in place

  • yawning

    Cut off cues are important to a dog’s social repertoire. This is the dog’s way of saying I’m not in a social mood. When the dog is lunging or barking it is because somewhere in time they learned that got them what they wanted: SPACE. These are the 3 ways I see it.

  1. Dog is aggressive - wants the person or other dog to leave.

  2. Dog is fearful - wants to leave

  3. Dog is frustrated - combination of both

Without boring you guys with dog training terms, space is used as a functional reinforcer. To make things simple, look at it like this.

Dogs and humans learn to behave a certain way because it gets them what they want.

A dog barks at the mailman, then the mailman leaves and gives the dog what it wants: space. A boy acts out at school and his parents start to scold him or yell at him. He received what he wanted: attention. A woman nags and complains to her husband about getting her car fixed. He complies and she gets what she wants. These are all negative behaviors, but they achieved a goal.

Reasons why dogs stop using cut off cues

Dogs stop using cut off cues when they don’t work. When your dog is signaling a cut off cue like turning away and another dog attacks them, they learn that cut off cues dont work.

Another problem that a lot of people do is punish cut off cues.

Ex: You are walking your dog in the park and you see someone walking their dog. You stop and talk with them for a moment and want the two dogs to meet and sniff because you heard that its important to socialize your dog( your a right by the way). Your dog proceeds to start licking his lips and sniff the ground. Instead of rewarding that behavior and giving the dog space, you try to force your dog to interact with the other dog. This increases the social pressure and makes your dog not trust your judgment.

Another reason dogs won’t give cut off cues is because the dog is too stressed out. When I work with reactive dogs it is important to keep them under threshold. Threshold is the point before a dog explodes and charges at someone or something. In a stressful state a dog can’t think

. Are you afraid of heights? I dare you to climb Mount Everest and say the alphabet backwards. That is a difficult tasks because it is hard to think if you are too stressed out worrying about what will happen if you miss one step.

What we want to teach our dogs is that there are more appropriate ways to express themselves. We want to build their confidence in us to trust that we will handle the situation.

There are a bunch of drills I do that I wont get into here but that helps us earn that trust back. When our dogs are showing positive behavior that we want then we need to reward them. We need to let our dogs know that they did good.

Reactivity is a symptom of a greater problem in your dog. Don’t let it go unchecked or it will get worse. This is just the “why” your dog behaves like that. Be mindful that I have never seen your dog and your dog could be displaying predatory aggression, resource guarding, territorial aggression amongst others issues. We don’t have enough time to go down that rabbit hole but feel free to contact me if you have any issues.

If you guys have any specific questions you can comment or email me at Fraternityk9@gmail.com

5 ways you must know to manage your dog in your home

Bella….. Get over here…… Oh my gosh!!! …..You tore up my new shoes again…. And my phone charger!!!

This is what I witnessed one client saying when I just arrived to do a consultation with them. I was just soaking it all in so that I could see what was fully going on. After walking around their house I noticed that there were several ways that they could of lived with their dog successfully. Here is the list of those things for you guys to get started.

1.Dog proof your home

You should do this immediately when you get that wild crazy puppy or adopted adult dog. What I mean by dog proof is that you shouldn’t have any extension cords, phone chargers, sneakers, etc lying around where the dog can get into trouble. Just like humans, dogs are creatures of habit. If they never learn to chew on those new pair of boots you brought then they will not be accustomed to doing that behavior.

There are benefits to this though. Your home will be less messy. Chewed up objects with dog slob makes your home look destructive and unclean. When guest come over you don’t want them to feel uneasy about coming over because of the mess the dogs created. Of course you don’t want a clean home for your self too.

There is another benefit of this also. If you dog proof your home it is less likely that Bella will chew on something she is not supposed to. This will decrease your chance of a late night visit to one of the emergency animal hospitals such as Blue Pearl in NY. Those visits can be costly believe me.

I witness someone have to spend $3,000 all because their dog received a foreign body from chewing an object which might have been a baby pacifier.

2. Crate your dog

Some people feel bad when they put their dog in a small crate. Im here to tell you that the dog feeds off your energy. If you make a big fuss then so will she. You have to first introduce your dog to the crate.

Start by playing crate games- You throw food inside, the dog runs in and eats the treat then runs back out. It is much better in the beginning to be patient and allow the dog to enter on her free will and enjoy the experience. Do not close the door behind the dog when she enters the crate. Let her have the freedom to go back and forth.

After a while start closing the door behind her for 2 seconds then letting her out. It is important to increase the time over a period of days. Once she is able to stay in there leave her in there periodically as you walk around the house. The last step is to leave the house and keep the dog in the crate. It is important to take this process slow so she doesn’t become a nervous wreck in the crate.

Warning: Do not punish your dog by putting them in the crate if they pooped on the carpet or peed on the living room floor. Doing so turns the crate into a bad place which we aretrying to prevent.

3. Threshold

This just means that every time you and your dog walk through a doorway they have to stop first and acknowledge you. Dogs that are pushy will just run through without paying you much attention. Sometimes a dog needs a prong collar to feel some pressure to stop.( We will go through more about this in the next section.).

The process works like this: You walk up to doorway with dog, dog stops and acknowledges you by looking at you, and you give her the ok to walk through the doorway. This is how it works with training in a perfect world. When you first try this what is likely to happen is: You walk up to the doorway with your dog, she instantly run through before you can say sit, and you are frustrated because she is doing whatever she wants and not listening to you.

To make it simple think about it like this: You don’t give her what she wants until she complies with what you ask.

You might think this is limited to food but it can also be access to outside or another area or a toy. I guarentee that this most likely will not be easy for some of the big powerful breeds, but its worth it. Consistency is key. After a while , she will just realize that this is life and I have to look at my handler for advice.

4. Have your dog on the leash in the home

There is a saying that says, “ if you don’t have mental control of your dog then you need to have physical control”. Most people think of the leash as an outside tool, which it is. But its real purpose is control. I agree with Cesar Millan when he talks about dogs being in a follower state. Sometimes in order to get them there you have to control every thing they do.

This also helps with the previous section of thresholds because it makes YOU relevent in your dog’s mind. This is not necessary to do forever. This is to establish control in your house so that your dog respects you. I would suggest doing this for 3 weeks. After that your dog should get the picture.

I would suggest you use a flat buckle collar or a slip lead. A prong collar is not necessary as your dog should be less stimulated since there are really no distractions at home for the dog. Some dogs will need a prong collar because they are so strong and charged up which makes it difficult for them to listen.

5.Having boundaries

This is very important and often neglected by many dog owners. But not you. Im sure you are going to set up boundaries in your house for your dog. These boundaries include specific areas that the dog is allowed to go in. For instance, my dog has his bed in the hallway. This is his designated area. He is not allowed upstairs or in my room unless he is invited. Certain areas of the house he is never allowed to go in.

The more strict you are with her early one the more freedom you can give her later on without fearing she will take advantage.

This is the learn to earn method. Your dog learns that everything they get must be earned. This is extremely empowering to your dog and gives them control of whether they get what they want.

These 5 are all foundational. You need to be implementing this ASAP. Don’t wait until little bella decides to try your patients. This is just management so that no bad behaviors develop. If you want a well behaved dog you have to not only encourage good behaviors, but also prevent bad behaviors from being created and practiced.

If you have any questions you can email me at Fraternityk9@gmail.com

The attitude you create in your dog goes a long way

When I first learned about dog training, I focused mainly on the technical aspect. I get the dog to sit, I click the clicker, then reward with food. This is a foundation and is important, yet as with anything it becomes more complicated when you go down the rabbit hole. Many dogs I worked with would perform the command I asked but would do it on their own time. They just didn’t care enough about me. I was not meaningful enough for them to pay attention. This was a valuable lesson for me later on. I noticed that many people are excited to teach their dog how to sit, down, stay and all other commands. Let me tell you: If your dog has the wrong attitude it can be the hardest process to teach. On the flipside, when a dog wants what you have and is engaged with you then you have a dog who is easy to teach. There is a process that I teach my clients to proof behavior to reliably get your dog to do it all the time. This is beyond what I am talking about today. What I am talking about is creating a positive attitude in your dog when it comes to training. How does that saying go. “If you love what you are doing you will never have to work a day in your life (something like that). This is true when it comes to training dogs. When I first start training a dog I spend a lot of time working on his motivation levels and creating a dog that wants to learn. Now this is sometimes difficult with clients who want a quicker fix. Some do not seem to understand that if you spend most of the time engaging your dog with you in different locations then he will listen with enthusiasm. Instead they try to force the dog to want to listen to them by shouting commands and giving him a treat when he finally does comply after 7 times of asking for a sit. How do you know when your dog has the right attitude? He/she will be staring at you waiting for you to give them direction. When you ask them to sit, their rear end will hit the ground faster than you can get the treat out. So how do I accomplish this? Engagement.

Training sessions go like this:

Engagement sessions 1-2 minutes

Most people spend 10 -15 minute training sessions which are usually too long for many dogs. I spend 1-2 minutes of keeping the dog motivated. When she starts to show that she is extremely distracted or just not into the activity anymore then I crate them and bottle that energy up. I don’t want a dog going through the motions. You want every repetition to count.

So a day would look like this:

7am

12pm

3pm

6pm

8pm

Now this might not be convenient for someone who works all day so I would do 2 training sessions before and 2 training sessions after work.

7am

8am

6pm

7pm

I want you guys to really focus on your dogs attitude. You will reap the benefits of your investment later on.

6 must know obedience commands before summer

Now i know you probably know a few of these like sit and down, but the rest of these are so much more important. I am going to show you how to do it and explain why you should learn them. Lets start with the basics.

Sit

Difficulty level: It is an easy command and almost natural for the dog.

Method: Luring

How to: 

  1. Take a bite-sized treat in the palm of your hand
  2. Open palm facing the ceiling hold the treat to the dog's nose
  3. Once the dog starts sniffing, lift your hand above the dog's head
  4. The dog will look up and its butt will hit the floor, Say your reward marker (YES!!!)
  5. Give dog the treat

 

Down

Difficulty level: It can difficult for some dogs and easier for others. Just keep practicing and they will get it. In my experience, the huskys and German Shepherds down easily and the pit bulls sometimes take a little longer.

Method: Luring

How to:

  1. Have 2 pieces of bite size treats in your hand.
  2. Get the dog to sit , say reward marker (YES!!!) then give the dog a treat
  3. As soon as the dog takes the treat take the other treat and put it right in front of the dogs nose
  4. Lure the dog by bringing the treat straight down the dog's chest to the floor in between the dog's paws
  5. Dog ends up in a hunch over position and so their butt slids out and their stomach hits the floor
  6. Say reward marker(YES!!!) then give the dog the treat.

 

Leave It

Difficulty level: This depends on the dogs energy level and how bad they want to get to an object or person. Hyper dogs take longer to get it and need to work more on having a calm state of mind, which is a topic for another post.

Method: Catching the dog in the act by creating the scenario

How to:

  1. Take a treat and place it on the floor in front of your dog and a treat behind your back
  2. Instead of letting the dog eat the treat you are going to cover it with your hand palm down so that the treat is no longer accessible to the dog.
  3. Most dogs will immediately go for the treat by scratching or even nibbling on your hand if they really want it
  4. You don't do anything but keep your hand there and tell the dog to "leave it" in a strong non threatening voice. You keep telling the dog this until he looks away or backs up. Then you say the reward marker (YES!!!) then treat with the treat behind your back.

Tip: Don't give the dog the treat on the floor. We practice with treats but if that was something that was poisonous we wouldn't tell our dogs to "leave it" and then give it to them. Practice for real life scenarios.

 

Come

Difficulty level: Not difficult. Make sure when you're first teaching your dog that its in a very low distraction area such as in your home. Avoid outside with lots of distractions. We will work our way up to that and if you want to really get this down check this out.

Method: slight  leash pressure

How to:

  1. Walk with your dog on the leash.
  2. Wait for dog to look the other way
  3. Back up away from dog and give slight leash pressure towards you
  4. Tell the dog to come as you do step 3
  5. Say reward marker(YES!!!) and give the dog a treat once he/she gets to you.

Tip: This is the basic version. If a dog won't come to you when you have the leash in a distraction free environment then he won't come when something else has his attention. Work slow and at your dog's level. Just because you understand the exercise doesn't mean the dog does. It gets much more complicated than this and I go over this in my advanced obedience lessons.

 

Stay

Difficulty level: very difficult for puppies( who have a short attention span) and hyper dogs (who have a hard time sitting still).

Method: Teaching the dog what we want through baby steps

How to:

  1. Stand facing the dog as the dog will also be facing you.
  2. Use open palm( like telling someone to stop) and tell the dog to stay
  3. Take a step back then return to the dog with a step forward back to the dog.
  4. Say reward marker(YES!!!) and give dog a treat.
  5. Next do step 1 and 2 the same, but for step 3 you will take 2 steps back then 2 steps forward.
  6. Say the reward marker(YES!!!) and give your dog a treat again
  7. You will work your way to the end of the leash

Tip: You must always return to your dog when you tell them to stay. If you call your dog to come all time from a stay, your dog can begin to anticipate you calling them and get up from a stay before you want them to.

 

Place

Difficulty level: Simple for the dog to understand. Your dog will just need time to understand how to get there from a distance

Method: Luring

How to:

  1. Take a piece of food and lure your dog onto the place mat( their bed).
  2. Once they are on the bed feed them a couple times and with some treats( make it so that they receive treats on the bed and don't receive treats off of the bed).
  3. After they feel comfortable going on the bed, the next step is teach them when to go on the bed
  4. Walk up to the bed and stop abruptly just before the bed
  5. Say "place" and use the leash to guide your dog onto the bed.
  6. After a while as your dog begins to understand you can increase the distance by which you stop. Instead of stopping right before the bed, you stop 3 feet away and say "place".

Tip: To break it down, the dog must first like the bed( feeding them on the bed and not off makes that association).  Then you put the command "place" to it. Then you increase the distance.

The place command helps to send your dog to their bed when a guest comes over and you don't want them charging at the door.

 

Hope this was helpful.