Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Trainer Tips--Alternatives to shock collars

Although the shock collar has become a widely used "dog training" tool throughout the United States and elsewhere, there are many other alternative training tools that do not involve causing pain.

Next month I will have a very in-depth article on shock collars and all the information you have ever wanted to know about them.  But for this month's Trainer Tip, I would like to point out the many alternatives to using that very aversive method of training.

Just to be clear, I do not like shock collars (or E collars, or training collars, or any other name they go by).  As a positive reinforcement trainer, I do NOT condone the use of these devices nor recommend them to anyone.

I like to look at it this way...
Think of your current job, whatever it is you do to make money.  Whether or not you especially like your current job is not important.  Think of positive reinforcement training versus shock collar training like this...

Would you rather go to work and work really hard to get rewarded?
OR would you rather go to work and work really hard so you don't get punished?

I personally would rather work hard at my job to get rewarded.  If you have to work hard at a job to keep from getting punished, you probably won't keep that job for very long.  Think about it.  Say your job is trying to teach you something new, but instead of guiding you in the right direction and rewarding you when you figure it out, you are continuously shocked until you just figure it out, with no direction what-so-ever.  Sound like something you would like to try?  No?  Then why would you consider this option for your dog?

Still think maybe it doesn't really hurt?  Go to and type in shock collars.  You can watch people trying these "tools" on themselves from all over the world.  They seem to think it hurts too!  Check out this video of a shock collar experiment.

Many people forget that training takes time and consistency, this is true of any type of training, positive or otherwise.  Knowing that, the e-collar option seems a little less appealing doesn't it?

So you might be thinking, well ok, I get what you're saying, but my dog is just so out of control.  That is why the wonderful world of dog products is constantly coming out with better and more efficient training tools.  And these tools do NOT cause your dog physical and mental pain and stress.

Have a dog that's hard to control on leash?  No problem.  Try one of these amazing tools to help!

Easy Walk Harness:
This is not a regular harness.  A regular harness clips on the back of the dog; this is designed for pulling.  The easy walk harness clips in the front, on the dog's chest.  This actually helps teach a dog to NOT pull on the walk.  When a dog pulls on the leash, he actually pulls himself around back towards the person holding the leash.  This product is amazing.  Not every tool is right for every dog, but I have personally seen this tool work wonders on many dogs.  Keep in mind, this is a tool to use, this is not a substitute for training.

Head Collars:
There are many types of head collars.  The most popular of these are the Gentle Leader (left) and the Halti (right).  Think about a horse, it's a very large animal that well outweighs any human, yet we are able to control the animal by controlling the head.  This is the same idea for dog head collars.  These tools are especially helpful for dogs who lunge and snap at things.
(Also see Such Good Dog's previous post for more information.)

Good boy!  Good girl!  Good Dog!
Praise is by far the best training tool available today, and it's FREE!  As a positive reinforcement trainer, I always try to remind people to praise their dogs when they do something good.  It's much better to mark good behavior than bad behavior.  Again think of your job, it's good to know when you do something wrong so that you are able to fix it, or do it better the next time.  But being noticed and rewarded for doing something right is much more important.  The more we (and our dogs) are rewarded for doing something well, the more likely we are to that behavior again!

So every time your dog does what you are looking for, don't forget the "Good!" so he knows he did a good job.  The more you praise and reward the behavior you want, the more your dog will give it to you!

Good dog!

{This post is part ONE of two.  See post 2 of 2 on shock collars here.}

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Goodbye Laddie

I was very sorry to hear that my aunt and uncle's dog, Laddie, recently passed away.  He was only 5 years old.  Unfortunately Laddie was out near a two-lane highway in Wisconsin investigating a dead animal when someone not paying attention to the road came by.  Laddie was hit by a car, and the people driving didn't even care.  Shame on those people!

I will miss this great little guy!  He loved his mom and dad very much.  My dog's have been on many hikes with Laddie and his brother, Cody.  He will truly be missed!

Caravaggio, Buddy (other cousin), Cody (Laddie's brother), Nekita, & Laddie.
These 2 pictures are on our website.

This was taken after Laddie found many burrs on a hike in Wisconsin.

We love you Laddie!

Friday, February 15, 2013

Service Dog Requirements - Basic Info

Are you considering making your dog into your own personal service dog?  Many, many people mention to me as a trainer that they are interested in learning more about how to make their dog a service dog.  Since I have had so many people interested in this recently, I decided to start with the basic information.

Although many people tend to think of Golden Retrievers, Labrador Retrievers, and German Shepard dogs as the most common service dog breeds, any dog of any breed can become a Service or Therapy animal if they have the right tempermeant and receive the proper training.

Some organizations require a dog to pass the American Kennel Club Canine Good Citizen Test to be qualified as a Service Dog.  Full information on the CGC test is available on Such Good Dog's blog.

The following list is an example of an Assistance Dog Public Access Certification Test.  Although different tests vary slightly, the basics are the same.

1)  Controlled unload out of vehicle.
The dog must wait in the vehicle until released.  Once outside of the car, the dog must wait, under control, for the handler.  The dog must remain under control while another dog walks past.

2) Approaching the building.
The dog must remain calm around traffic.  The dog must stay in the relative heel position.  The dog must stop when the handler comes to a stop.

3) Controlled entry through a doorway.
The dog must wait quietly at the door until commanded to enter.  The dog must wait inside the doorway until able to return to the heel position.

4) Heeling through a building.
The dog should remain within one foot of the handler at all times.  The dog should remain focused on the individual and ignore the public.  The dog must adjust to speed changes and readily turn corners without the handler having to jerk or tug at the dog.  The dog must easily and comfortably be able to move through tight quarters.

5) Six foot recall on lead.
The dog must readily respond to the recall command (and does not take his time or detour along the way).  The dog must come directly to the individual, remain within the prescribed distance, and remain focused on the individual.

6) Sits on command.
The dog must respond promptly to the Sit command.  The dog sits and remains under control around food.  The dog sits and remains under control while a shopping cart goes by.  The dog maintains a sit-stay while being pet by a stranger.

7) Downs on command.
The dog must respond promptly to the Down command.  The dog downs and remains under control around food.  The dog downs and remains under control while a shopping cart goes by.  The dog maintains a down-stay while being pet by a stranger.

8) Noise distractions.
The dog should remain under control during a noise distraction.  The dog should not show aggression, fear, or appear to be continuously affected by the noise.  The dog may jump, turn, or show a small startle reaction, as long as the dog recovers quickly.

9) Restaurant.
The dog must be unobtrusive and out of the way of employees and patrons as much as possible.  The dog must maintain proper behavior, remain quiet and ignore food.  Many tests require the dog to down-stay underneath the table.

10) Off lead.
The dog must stop and wait for the handler to regain control when the leash is dropped.

11) Dog taken away by another person.
Another person must be able to hold the leash while the dog remains calm and under control as the owner walks 20 feet away.

12) Controlled Exit.
The dog stays in a relative heel position.  The dog remains calm around traffic.  The dog stops when the handler stops.

13) Controlled load into vehicle.
The dog waits calmly until told to enter the vehicle.  The dog easily enters the vehicle upon request.

14) Team Relationship.
The handler praises the dog when the dog does well.  The dog appears friendly, relaxed, and confident.  The person was able to keep the dog under control.

Whether or not you are interested in qualifying your pet as a service dog, it is important to be a responsible owner and train your dog to be a balanced, polite member of society.  I work every day to make my dogs the best, most well-behaved, happy dogs they can be!

Monday, February 11, 2013

Canine Good Citizen Test (CGC)

If you are considering making your dog a service dog, one great place to start is the Canine Good Citizen Test (CGC).  This is a test that will demonstrate that your dog is well behaved within society.
Many organizations require your dog to pass this certification to become eligible for service or therapy dog status.  Whether or not you plan to make your dog into a service dog, the following 10 items are great things to train your dog in.  We should all want our dogs to be respectful and maintain their manners in public!  I know I do!

The following information was obtained from the American Kennel Club (AKC).

According to the AKC, an owner is required to sign the Responsible Dog Owners Pledge, prior to taking the test.  This is a pledge in which owners agree to take care of their dog's safety, training, exercise, quality of life, and health needs.  Owners agree to be responsible by cleaning up after their dogs and never allowing them to impose on the others within the public.  Again, these are all things we should strive to do as dog owners!

The test consists of 10 items that must be passed in order to become a Canine Good Citizen.

Canine Good Citizen (CGC) Test:

1) Accepting a friendly stranger.
The dog will allow a stranger to approach and speak to the handler.  The dog must show no sign of shyness or resentment, and must not break position as the handler greets and shakes hands with the evaluator.

2) Sitting politely for petting.
The dog must not show shyness or resentment as the evaluator pets the dog on the head and body.  The handler may talk to the dog throughout the exercise.  The dog will sit or stand at the handler's side.

3) Appearance & grooming.
This test proves that the dog will be comfortable being examined, touched, and brushed (as a veterinarian, friend, or groomer may do).  The evaluator will inspect the dog to see s/he is clean, groomed, and in a healthy condition.  The handler will supply the brush normally used to groom the dog.  The evaluator will lightly examine the ears, softly brush the dog, and pick up each front foot of the dog.  The dog is not required to hold a specific position during the exam.  The handler may talk to the dog or give encouragement and praise.

4) Out for a walk (walking on a loose lead).
This test demonstrates that the owner/ handler is in control of the dog.  The dog should remain attentive and responsive to the handler and the handler's movements.  The dog may be on either side of the handler and is not required to sit when the handler stops.  Evaluators usually use a pre-plotted course.  The course will consist of a right & left turn, an about turn, and at least on stop in between and one stop at the end.  The handler may give commands and ask the dog to sit at the stops if desired.

5) Walking through a crowd.
This test will demonstrate that the dog can move through pedestrian traffic and remains under control in public places.  The handler walks the dog past at least three people.  The dog may show a little interest in the strangers but must continue to walk with the handler.  The dog should not strain on the leash or jump on people.

6) Sit & down on command and Staying in place.
This test demonstrates that the dog has been trained and will respond to the handler's commands.  The dog must Sit and Down on command, then the owner may choose the position to leave the dog in the Stay (Sit-Stay or Down-Stay).  The dog must remain in place (but may change position) as the handler walks forward the length of the line, then returns to the dog.  The dog may be released from the side or the front.

7) Come when called.
This test demonstrates that the dog will come to the handler when called.  The handler will walk 10 feet away from the dog, turn to face the dog, then call the dog to Come.  Handlers may tell the dog to Stay, Wait, or simply walk away.

8) Reaction to another dog.
This demonstrates that the dog is behaved around other dogs.  The handler and dog approach another handler and dog from 20 feet, stop, shake hands, and continue walking for another 10 feet.  Neither dog should go to the other dog or handler.

9) Reaction to distraction.
The test demonstrates the dog is calm and confident at all times when faced with common distractions and situations.  Distraction examples include:  a jogger running by the front of the dog, dropping a crutch or cane, rolling a dolly past the dog, or dropping a chair.  The dog must not panic, show aggression, bark, or try to run away from the noise.  The dog may show curiosity or interest in the noise.

10) Supervised separation.
The test will demonstrate that the dog may be left with another person and still be able to maintain good manners and training.  The evaluator may use a line such as, "Would you like me to watch your dog?" and then take the leash.  The handler will go out of sight for three minutes.  The dog is not required to stay in position but should not bark, whine, or pace.  The dog may not exhibit more than mild agitation or nervousness.  The evaluator may talk to the dog but must not offer excessive petting or talking.

All tests are performed on leash.  Collars should be basic buckle or slip collars made of fabric, leather, or chain.  Special training collars such as head halters, electronic, and pinch collars are not permitted.
A body harness may be used in the CGC test (as of November 4, 2010).

The handler will provide the brush for the test.  The evaluator will provide the long line leash.

Owners or handlers may use encouragement and praise throughout the test.  The handler may pet the dog between exercises.  Use of treats, food, or toys is not permitted during the test.

Failure - Dismissal
Automatic fail will be given if a dog eliminates during the test.  Any dog that snaps, bites, growls, or attempts to attack will be dismissed from the test.

You may also visit Such Good Dog's previous post on the CGC test for more information.

Friday, February 1, 2013

Breed of the Month--Coton de Tulear

Coton de Tulear

Color:  White ground color, also black, gray, yellow, tricolor, white markings
Height:  Males:  10-11.5 inches/  Females:  9-10 inches
Weight:  Males:  9-13 lbs/  Females:  8-11 lbs
Life Span:  14-18 years

Breed Health Concerns:  None reported.

Coat:  Single coat:  soft, dense, profuse, texture of cotton.
Country of Origin:  Madagascar

Visit the American Kennel Club for breed standards and more information.

The Coton de Tulear is believed to have arrived in Madagascar with Portuguese and Spanish sailors in the 16th century.  The name Tulear refers to a wealthy area on Madagascar, and Coton comes from the French word for "cotton," a description of the dog's coat.  The breed was brought to the United States in the early 1970s by world fancier Dr. Robert J. Russell.

This breed's affectionate but gentle nature has made him increasingly popular.  The Coton is eager to please and bonds strongly to his family, including children and other animals.  The Coton de Tulear is alert, energetic, sociable and cute.

The Coton de Tulear is able swimmer and loves to play, but generally speaking, one good walk a day will be sufficient for this breed.

The Coton de Tulear requires daily grooming to keep it tangle- and knot-free.  A pin brush (without balls on the end) is recommended to not tear the coat.  The Coton is an excellent choice for allergy suffers because his coat sheds very little.  Minimal bathing is required, but care should be taken to make sure the long hair between the dog's toes remains trimmed short.

The Coton de Tulear is known for his skills at "dancing," as the breed learns many cute tricks easily.  The Coton is eager to please and learns quickly when taught using positive reinforcement methods.

This is a client's Coton de Tulear puppy, Bala.