Thursday, November 14, 2013

Bad Behavior and the Veterinary Practice

As a dog trainer I often work closely with veterinary practices. If I have a house-training case or a problem presented to me that is newly developed I will first ask the client to rule out a medical condition. When a dog has a lapse in house-training and begins having accidents throughout the house I will often ask what is different? If the answer is nothing, I encourage the client to take a urine specimen to their veterinarian to rule out the possible urinary tract infection. If a dog is presented with snapping at children, other dogs, or when you handle him, it might be that the dog is painful. Once the medical avenues have been ventured and the results come back good, then we start trouble shooting and breaking down the scenario in which the incident occurred.

The other way in which I work with veterinarians is helping their clients build a confident puppy or dog. It is less stressful for owner and dog when the dog is comfortable entering the veterinary office. Besides training dogs, I also work as a receptionist at the Windsor Veterinary Clinic. I can attest to the amount of dogs that come into the clinic fearful and shy as well as the ones that couldn't be happier to visit us. So how do you get that dog that wiggles and wags instead of shaking and whining as soon as you walk through the Vet's door?

The answer is start when the puppy is young but these tips can work for an adult dog too!

How do you go from this to a dog happily walking through the vet clinic door?

  • From day one always do your best to make your puppy's visit exciting and positive. Always bring tasty, high value treats to feed your puppy for the exam and vaccinations. For every scheduled visit you have you should try and take your dog a handful of times for no reason.
  • Bring your puppy or dog in "just for fun". Call ahead to make sure the lobby isn't overflowing (especially if you have a shy dog) and ask if you can bring Fido in to eat a few treats while standing in the lobby.
    • The more you do this the more effective it will be, but once a month will still make a difference 
  • As your puppy or dog becomes more comfortable in the lobby encourage the Veterinarian (if available), the Technicians and the Receptionists to feed your puppy. 
  • Repeat these steps until your dog happily walks into the vet.
Tips for the dog that is shy or fearful. 
  • Probably the most important, Go slow! 
  • Try and schedule your appointment for a time when there will be less "traffic" at the office. First thing in the morning, after lunch, or end of day so that you can decrease the amount of triggers for your dog.
  • If you dog is not taking treats find a point where he will, which might mean in the parking lot or starting in the car.
  • If your dog is really fearful you may have a long road ahead of you and your conditioning may have to start in the parking lot with high value treats. Unfortunately the employees will be less likely to partake in the treat giving in the parking lot. You could even go as far as coming before or after hours and feeding your dog his meal outside. 
  • A dog that is shaking in the car in the parking lot may not be ready to enter the building the first few sessions. Rehearse pulling into the parking lot, waiting for some signs of calm behavior, such as sighing, sitting, or a shake off, and reward with a treat and leaving. 
  • Bring your dogs favorite toy and engage in a game in the parking lot, on leash of course, and then leave. 
  • Practice walking to the lobby door, treating, entering and treating and then turning around and leaving. Do Not treat your dog for leaving the vet clinic. Leaving is a reward in itself and we want the dog to want to enter the clinic so that he can get his high value treats
When you have no choice and need to get your dog to the vet for an unforseen visit always try and leave on a positive note. Don't rush your dog right out the door from the exam room. Wait again until you see the slightest means of relaxing behavior, even if that means your dog offers or responds to a behavior cue like sit and then exit the building. And then go through the above steps as often as possible to ensure that your dog has more positive visits than negative! Remember this is a PROCESS you are not going to get overnight results.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Crate Training

A crate or kennel is a wonderful tool to utilize when bringing a new puppy into the home. It will help you quickly housetrain your puppy or manage your dog with inappropriate chewing. There are a variety of crate styles available, which one is right for you and your dog? I personally prefer the plastic crates, aka airline crates. They provide a visual barrier to your dog as they can only see out the door and a couple of slots on the sides and back of the crate. Dogs like to feel secure and will often seek out a place that may feel den like. This style kennel will do just that. There are collapsible crates, which make for easy storage, and they are either all wire or fabric with zippers. The downside to these crates; the wire crate provides no sense of security as it seems that anything in the dog's environment could come at the dog from all sides & the mesh crate could easily be torn or chewed through by the bored, adolescent dog.

The crate is good to utilize when you can't devote your attention to your puppy. If you know that left to their own they will find a sock to chew on or surf the counter then a crate would be a good place to stick him.

Henry will often put himself in his crate for a nap or at bed time. 

 The crate should always be a positive place for your dog to go. Even if you are using it for your dog as a "time out" it is all in the context in how you put your dog in there. If you snag your dog by the collar and drag him partially lifted from the ground and then sling him into the crate and slam the door all the while yelling at him then it will be perceived as a very negative place to go. Your dog will likely run from you the next time they know they have to go in the crate. If you interrupt the behavior and send your dog to the kennel with a Kong or toy and simply give him a time out with little fuss then you will maintain your sanity and your dog will still enjoy going to his crate.
Crates are not meant to be babysitters for our dogs. Plenty of exercise and mental stimulation should be provided to a dog who has to be crated, especially for a long work day.
The crate should be in a location in the house where your dog spends time but is out of high traffic areas. You wouldn't want to place the crate in the basement if you never spend time down there with your dog. Even if properly introduced, a dog would likely be reluctant to go to his kennel if it is located somewhere that doesn't feel safe to him. Yet you wouldn't want the crate where kids may be running back and forth in front of it and teasing the dog.
Crates help to teach our dogs how to be alone. In this day and age we can take our dogs with us to many places that they haven't learned how to function without us. I like to use the crate for short periods of time when I am home with my dogs. It isn't that they can't be loose in the house but I do it so that if I have to separate them or put them away while I have company they know how to rest quietly in there. A dog that knows the routine of "I'm crated while you are at work but no other time" often will pitch a fit, whine, or bark if they are placed in the crate but still can have visual access to you. I will also utilize it to take one dog with me in the car and leave the other dog home. This teaches the dogs how to "survive" when their buddy isn't with them.
While crate training, a crate should be large enough for the dog to stand up, turn around, and lay down in. As your dog becomes reliably housetrained and crate trained you can upgrade to a more spacious crate.
Ways to help your dog enjoy his crate:
Feed every meal in the crate
Provide a stuffed Kong with peanut butter, banana, plain yogurt, kibble, or cheese, the sky is the limit on stuffing these hollow toys.
If your dog won't eat it, you could put bedding or a blanket in the crate. Not recommended if you are working on housetraining.
Here is the APDT (Association of Professional Dog Trainers) steps to introducing a dog to the crate:

Introducing the crate
The following steps are general guidelines to ensure your dog is happy to go into the crate. It may take several days, or just a few moments to progress through these steps.
If you are consistent, the dog should quickly learn that the crate is a nice place to be—he gets to lie down in a soft spot and gets to chew on something he enjoys. Once you have successfully trained your dog to accept the crate, you can leave the crate open in your house. You may find that your dog will go into the crate and lie down there on his own with the door open, and enjoy a nice cozy place they can snuggle into and retire from the world.
1. Toss a few treats into the back of the crate. If your dog hesitates at all, go to the next step. If he eagerly enters the crate without hesitation, skip to step 8.
2. Feed the dog his meal next to the crate until you see no hesitation in response to the crate.
3. Place the dog’s meal just inside the crate until you see no hesitation in response to the crate.
4. Place the dog’s meal about halfway inside the crate until you see no hesitation in response to the crate.
5. Place the dog’s meal all the way into the back of the crate until you see no hesitation in response to the crate.
6. Place the dog’s meal all the way into the back of the crate, and gently close the door behind him while he eats. When he is finished, let him out.
7. Place the dog’s meal all the way into the back of the crate, and gently close the door behind him while he eats. Wait for a few minutes to pass after completing the meal, and let him out.
8. Toss a food toy or chew toy into the back of the crate. Close the crate door (but don’t try to “trick” your dog inside! Let him see you.). As long as he is relaxed and enjoys the chew item, allow him to stay in the crate for up to 5 minutes. If he panics at all, contact a professional.
9. Repeat step 8, and increase the amount of time by 5-10 minute increments. Keep repeating until you get up to an hour with a calm, happy dog inside the crate. If the dog panics at all, contact a professional.
10. Set the crate up with some toys near where you will be. For example, if you are sitting down to read the newspaper in the kitchen, set the crate in the kitchen where the dog can see you, and then sit down and read. If you planning on watching a TV show, set the crate up near the couch and proceed to watch your show. Intermittently talk to your dog in a calm, happy tone of voice and occasionally toss a treat to let him know he’s being a good boy for calming lying in the crate.
11. Repeat step 10, and increase the amount of time by 5-10 minute increments. Keep repeating until you get up to an hour with a calm, happy dog inside the crate.

Even if you don't intend to utilize the crate for anything it is still good to condition your dog to like one. There will be times in your dog's life when he will need to be in a crate. Perhaps your dog has to visit a boarding facility, a veterinary clinic, or groomers. Let's say you have a family emergency and need to go out of state and can't take your dog. All of the family and relatives are going to the same place so no one can watch your dog at home and you have to kennel the dog. I have worked at a dog boarding facility before and you can always tell the dogs who have never been in such an environment. It is sad to see. They won't eat, they often lay quietly in their kennel run and are overall just stressed. A dog that has visited a boarding facility or doggy day care at some point in its life just because or has been crate trained is more likely to have a smoother transition.
I like the crate. I don't use it every day but it is so handy to have as a tool. If introduced correctly most dogs will put themselves in the crate voluntarily and will adapt well to any situation requiring kenneling or crating.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Photo Friday

"The greatest pleasure of a dog is that you may make a fool of yourself with him and not only will he not scold you, but he will make a fool of himself, too." Samuel Butler

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