No!No!No!

Last week, Eddie and I took a little vacay to Southern California to visit family.  Jack and Bernie had a bit of a vacation too at Howl A Day Inn in El Paso.

Bernie relaxing poolside at Howl A Day Inn
Bernie relaxing poolside at Howl A Day Inn
Enjoying their daily activities of playing with other guests.
Enjoying their daily activities of playing with other guests.

If you, the reader, find yourself in El Paso and have some time or are needing recommendations for boarding facilities, Howl A Day Inn is the place for you.  Check out their website for info: http://www.howladay.com.  They provide exceptional care for all the dogs in their facility.

While spending some relaxing time out in Sierra Madre or we like to refer to it as the ‘Dre, I was amazed by the plethora of out dated dog training methods and techniques still being used.  While imbibing on some tasty beers while watching some amazing World Cup soccer games, I saw 4 or 5 dogs with pinch collars.  (If you’re not familiar with pinch collars, check out one of my previous blog post about this issue).  Not only were people still using or rather misusing this tool, there were neighbors who were also telling their dogs NO!NO!NO! rather than redirecting or asking their dogs for a more appropriate behavior.  These experiences highlighted how positive reinforcement benefits the dog and owner.

What is positive reinforcement dog training?  I’ll start to answer this using the philosophy statement of Animal Behavior College (ABC) where I completed and obtained a certificate in dog training. According to ABC, “It is our philosophy that creating a relationship built on positive interaction and consistency can often deter future unwanted behavior problems, facilitate faster learning and even solve some existing behavior challenges” (http://www.animalbehaviorcollege.com/training_philosophy.asp).  What this means to me, is rewarding behaviors which you want and redirecting and or ignoring the behaviors you don’t want. As I often tell clients during initial consultations, people tend to learn new and recall those things quicker when its paired with a positive experience.  Some of my most memorable educational moments were ones where teachers made learning fun and same goes with your dogs.  Dogs will go back to giving those behaviors which he finds enjoyable and its the owner’s responsibility in guiding the dog towards doing those favorable behaviors and encouraging them so he continues to do so.

How?  A huge factor is identifying what motivates your dog.  Dogs are motivated in different ways and finding those things which the dog finds the most exciting as the most beneficial to the owner.  Once you, the owner, knows what is the most exciting thing for the dog, you have the key to unlocking your dog’s potential.  Then its just a matter of pairing those motivators with appropriate behaviors.

One example of a unwanted behavior which can become an appropriate one for the dog is chewing. As science discovered, dogs chew to feel good.  When chewing becomes an issue for owners is when the chewing is perceived to be destructive.  All the dog is doing is acting out what he innately knows how to do.  More often than not, as humans, we tend to say “No”.  When we do so, we are expressing our displeasure with whatever is going on.  When the dog hears “No” he doesn’t rationally associate chewing on this shoe or this piece of furniture as inappropriate, he sees his owner with an angry face and an angry tone in her voice.  Often, us saying “No” actually reinforces the dog to continue the unfavorable behaviors since we are giving him attention and essentially marking that particular behavior for the dog.  A more pleasurable experience for the owner and dog is to redirect the dog to a chew toy when the dog is chewing on something he shouldn’t be and giving praise. Its also important to praise the dog whenever the dog is chewing on his own toys.  If the owner remains 100% consistent in redirection when the dog is chewing on something he shouldn’t be and praise when the dog is chewing on his toys, the dog will be conditioned to chew on only his toys.  Until this becomes second nature for your dog, managing the issue is a necessity.  Try positive reinforcement dog training, you’ll for sure see faster and more reliable results.

What Am I?

We adopted Bernie in October 2012. My husband was immediately drawn to Bernie when he saw Bernie be brought into an adoption event in El Paso. Bernie was quiet when all the other dogs barked and became excited when people visited. Bernie remained to himself and just watched as life went on outside his kennel.

From the very beginning, Bernie baffled us. What we thought Bernie to be demur, meek and static behind the eyes because he was slow to respond. Bernie didn’t seem to care to our advancement in play or exercise. Bernie was and continues to be cautious, analytic and independent and these personality characteristics were drastically different from Jack. This was the fundamental mistake Eddie and I made with Bernie. We mistakenly expected two dogs to show the same characteristics and we wondered why Bernie didn’t act the same.

We began exploring the idea of Bernie’s breed heritage. Shortly, after we adopted Bernie while we were out for a walk, a lady stopped us to chat. She asked us what Bernie was and I informed her that the rescue said he was a German Shepherd mix. She then said “he looked like a Basneji”. From this point forward, anyone had their own opinions about what he was from pit bull to jack russell terrier. Eddie and I decided to really explore what breed is dominate in Bernie.  The first lady’s input kept coming back to me.  Eddie explored Basenji and BLAMMO, the Basenji breed totally fits his personality.  Basenji’s in a nutshell are hunting dogs which allow them to be more independent and cautious.  As a breed, they are one of the most difficult to train dogs and HIGHLY benefit from positive reinforcement training.  Another key, is only to use a Basenji’s name in a positive manner otherwise, they won’t come to you.  Bernie fits all of these characteristics.  He analyzes situations and decides what and when and for how long he wants to participate.  His interest in toys can change on a dime and when his prey drive kicks in, he is locked in to whatever it is.  A wonderful friend and fellow dog trainer helped me to understand how to work with more independent dogs.  Its up to me as the human leader to make myself more interesting to him, so he’s more inclined to come to me and listen to commands.  This is a work in progress and its changed my interpretation on our relationship, in a health and positive way.

 

What do you think my breed is?  Everyone sees something a little bit different.
What do you think my breed is? Everyone sees something a little bit different.

Bernie’s taught me to really understand and appreciate breed characteristics while at the same time taking to heart individual dog behavior and personality.  These two components are necessary for successful dog training.  I’m not saying, end all be all because there are other factors influencing dog behavior such as environment, health, age, diet and exercise, but its a good starting point in which to know how and what a specific dog may be motivated by to help in training.  Eddie and my next step is to get a DNA test for him to see if Bernie is what we think he is and to satisfy our curiosity.

Some fun KONG Stuffing Ideas

Some fun KONG Stuffing Ideas

So, I don’t know about you, but its HOT here in El Paso.  I don’t think we are going to get out of the 100+ mark for the next 10 days. Since its so hot and my bears have a hard time hanging out in this weather, I’ve found a great way to keep my dogs engaged without the fear of them developing heatstroke.

My plan of attack for the summer is early, early morning runs of 5 or more miles and ending when the sun just started coming up over the horizon.  The air is still pretty warm, but the glaring sun isn’t a factor at 5 or so in the morning and Jack and Bernie can manage. They continue to with the same daily exercise, I don’t mind them having KONG treats when I may step out for a few hours.  Not only are these ideas pretty healthy for dogs, its pretty fun to think of new ways of challenging them.  The best part of it being summer, they can enjoy their KONGs frozen.  Freezing KONGs allow your pups to have a cool treat and it keeps them engaged with it longer.  The added time for licking and figuring out how to get the treats out wears them out mentally.  

Mental activity, such as dog training and treat dispensing toys makes your dog work for his reward.  Him working, will inevitably tire him out, and his energy level will decrease.  This type of activity along with daily exercise early enough in the day or later in the evening, will make your dog a happy dog!

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