My Dog Didn't Know Sit

Tips From a Dog Trainer and Her Dog

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Top Ten Things To Teach Your Dog

There are many things you want to teach your dog right when you get him. Be it sit, down, roll over, or whatever you think is great for him to know. But, there are universal things all dogs need to learn to do and/or love in order to live a healthy functional life. These top ten things to teach your dog are loosely ordered from least important to the most important, and of course, is my opinion. Some owners may look at a few of these things and simply go, “Nope. Not doing that.” and it’s fine! Like dog training in general, there are always different solutions to one concept. Now, without further ado, let’s look at my Top Ten Things To Teach Your Dog:

10. Crate Training: Teaching your dog to be in a crate is a great way to keep your dog safe and out of trouble. By instinct, dogs enjoy being in cozy den-like places to feel secure, and we can take advantage of this love and teach your dog to love the crate. Be it a metal barred cage, a plastic kennel, or a dog house, the crate should be an inviting good place for Fido to stay in when his owner’s not home or is asleep at night. Some people dislike crates because they see them as a sort of prison where you’d trap your dog against its will; well, it can end up that way if your dog isn’t properly introduced to the crate. Some people may buy a crate, stick their dog in it, and then shut the door behind him, and then wonder why he’s having a fit.

crate-training-your-dog-300x300Like many things, you need to teach your dog first that the crate is good. Keep it open and let him wander in and out of it. Have a nice comfy pillow and a chew toy in there. Make the chew toy a “special” toy that can only be played with when in the crate by taking it from your dog any time he tries to sneak out with it and putting it into the crate. Feed your dog in the crate. Give your dog treats every time he sniffs or goes into the crate. Let him relax in it without shutting the door on him. Let him relax in it with the door shut, but occupied with a chew toy, and with your nearby with him. Play special soothing music whenever he’s assigned to be in the crate. Soon, the crate will be the best place ever since it’s not only a bed, but also a dinner table, toy box, and a place to be in for peace and quiet.

9. Lie Down (right here): Once your dog knows lie down without being lured to the floor with a treat, and can lie down by having you point to the floor, it’d be very useful to get him to lie down next to you, as opposed to infront of you (which is surprisingly tough since dogs want to look up at you for trick), or ontop of objects like pillows. If you can teach your dog to lie down on a specific object, and you can take that object to different places and he’ll lie down on it no matter where it is, then you can teach a very powerful stay with many powerful uses. For dogs who jump up on guests when they come into the house, teaching your dog to lie down and stay on a pillow is a great way to keep him from stampeding up to guests and bulldozing into them. Being able to make your dog stop what he’s doing and go over to where you’re pointing on the floor and lie down right there is a wonderful and useful trick that’ll get him out of trouble. If he’s sniffing around where he shouldn’t, you can call his name, getting his attention, and make him lie down beside you instead. For dogs who leap ontop of their owners when they want to cuddle on the couch, having the dog come up and lie down on the couch first will make it impossible for this to happen. If the dog’s lying down, he’s not doing anything else.

8. Off (No Jumping) – Dogs like to jump. They like to kiss, they like to have their face close to yours, they like the “attention” of you looking at them and talking (yelling) at them and petting (pushing) them. It’s a great way to demand attention, and it works! Well we don’t like it. Being jumped on, of course, is super annoying, and it’s especially annoying when your excited dog weighs almost as much as you and thinks it’s awesome to jump on you and push off your body when you yell at him to get off.

image taken from here

image taken from here

Well, if they’re going to be “fun” and get all over you, you should be allowed to have that kinda fun too! When your dog jumps on you, respond with “Off” and walk forward into him, knocking him down, taking his space, and generally getting all in his grill like he was to you. Once he lands and moves away, praise it! Yay! All four feet on the floor! Good job! Make sure that you don’t look down at him or push him off; dogs see the eye contact and touching as positive attention, even if its a glare and a shove. They’re jumping for just that: Attention.

Some people suggest turning your back and crossing your arms. You can do that too, but sometimes the punishment of ignoring the dog can be seen as acting submissive of the dog. Dominant dogs stand ground and don’t turn away when another dog gets in its face. Neither should you! If you keep walking all over your hoppy dog every time he jumps on you, and you say “Off” as you do it, he’ll learn that jumping on you is no fun, and that anytime he’s on something and you say “Off”, you’re going to get all in his personal space, and that’s no fun!

7. Loose-leash Walking: Some dogs really can’t walk well on-leash: they pull and drag you all over the place; they gag and choke and cough as you dangle behind them and they walk with their heads stretched far out ahead; they dash back and forth like maniacs; they run up to other dogs to say “Hi”; Overall, they completely disrespect you and the leash. The best way to solve this is to resort to better kinds of tools than a flat collar if it’s really bad. For Ringo, I used a harness since he liked to stop and fall behind, then dash forward at full blast a few feet, choking himself and destroying my wrist. The harness was a front-clip harness that, well, clipped in the front, and worked like horse reigns; when he pulled, the leash would pull back at an angle and forced him to turn alittle, and if he wanted to go straight, had to slow down and adjust for else he’s be completely turned around. Unlike the front clip, there’s a back clip harness that I feel is a horrible idea and promotes your dog to lean his chest against the harness and make you pretty much hold him up. It promotes pulling and goes against the whole point of getting a harness bar not choking your pulling dog to death. There are other kinds of leashes such as Gentle Leaders, Halti, Martengales, Prong Collars, and Slip Leads.

Two dogs wearing a Halti Head Collar

Two dogs wearing Halti Head Collars

(Brief collar/leash lesson!) A gentle leader wraps around the head of the dog and kind of looks like a muzzle, but doesn’t restrict the dog from drinking, licking, or barking; it gives the most control, which makes sense since it’s wrapped around the dog’s face like horse reins. Personally, I think they’re great, but requires a lot of training and patience to get your dog to accept it and not try to paw it off or throw itself to the floor and have a fit. A halti is similar, but has an extra strap that attaches from the dog’s mouth to its collar, and the leash clips on a ring inbetween the strap. I’m actually not sure what the difference is other than the appearance. A Martengale is like a collar, except the ring the lash connects to is attached to a strap on the collar that lets the collar tighten a limited amount (a few inches) so that any time the dog pulls, the collar corrects it with a sqeeze, which loosens once the dog stops pulling. Similarly, a prong collar tightens a limited amount when the dog pulls, and then loosens when the dog stops pulling, but it has the added effect of pinching the dog’s neck alittle bit beween each prong inside the collar as a punishment for pulling. They’re also used for Compulsive Training and are a way of using positive punishment (add something bad to punish bad behavior) by quickly snapping the leash, pinching the dog’s neck, and then stopping once the dog stops. The worse in my opinion, especially for pullers, is the slip lead. It’s like a super tough rope that’s used for training and correcting dogs’ bad behaviors, but it has no limit in how tight you can make the collar, and you can pretty much hang the dog like with a noose, but it tightens. For waking, I’d go for a Martengale, harness (front clip), or Prong Collar.

Anyway! To keep your dog from pulling, make sure that he’s aware that you’re on the other end of the leash. Sounds easy enough, but some dogs don’t seem to get it. You do this by stopping often and waiting until your dog stops, looking around wondering what’s going on, and then finally looks up at you for the answer. The moment he does, mark it with a “yes”, and the reward is to continue walking. Every time he pulls from that point on, you mark with “Nope” or “Ah-ah” or whatever you like, stop walking, wait, and let him go once he looks at you. Soon, he should be looking at you all the time when you stop suddenly. You can fortify your existence (nice word use there) by doing U-turns every once in a while, making sure to turn TOWARD the dog so that you’re walking into him and forcing him to turn with you (he should be inside the U, not outside). He’ll keep his attention on you then!

6. Heel: With the loose-leash walking set-up, you can now effectively heel. This is important for when you’re passing another dog, walking through a crowd, need to meander around cars, or just need to keep your dog close for whatever reason. You hold the loop of the leash in your dominant hand and then about 2/3 down the leash, hold there with your other hand. You should have part of the leash cross infront of you. This will shorten the leash so that your dog’s right next to you. In the hand closer to your dog, hold a treat. As your dog’s walking beside you like a good boy, you praise him and give him a treat. You can also stop, call him, and as he comes to you, lure him past you alittle bit, then have him loop around so that he’s facing the same direction as you and is next to you. As you have him position next to you, use “Heel” as the command. With Ringo, I’ve gotten him able to shift from heeling to loose-leash walking by starting loose-leashed, telling him to heel and having him come beside me, and then walking heeled. After a while, I’ll stop, and when he looks up at me, I have him sit and stay, drop the leash in my other hand, and then say “OK!” and let him walk the 6-foot length of the leash to sniff around and wander alittle. He never pulls because I stop every time he does, and since I’m a mean meanie, I silently wait for him to heel beside me before we start walking again.

200455362-0015. Leave It: Teaching your dog to Leave It can save your dog’s life. The most common use is to keep your dog from ingesting food he shouldn’t, and saves you money and a trip to the vet. Another way to use Leave It is to keep him away from other dogs who may not want him near them or from rudely sniffing people nearby, and is best followed up with Come. It’s also a strong impacting command that can get you from Point A to Point B without a bazillion stops in between to sniff every smelly smell on the sidewalk or neighbor’s yard. It also keeps your dog from eating poops that people were too busy to pick up during their dog’s walk, which could make your dog sick and, of course, gross and unkissable.

To teach Leave It, start with a treat and hold it in your hand, gripped in a way that your dog can smell it, but can’t take it. Just hold it there infront of him and let him nibble, lick, paw, etc. your hand. The moment he stops, say Leave It, pause for a split second, and then reward him with a DIFFERENT TREAT FROM YOUR OTHER HAND. Keep doing this until he stops every time you say Leave It five times in a row. Then, try gently placing the treat on the floor, held down and slightly covered by your hand. You can gradually move your hand away and if he goes after it, say “Leave it!” as you cover it with your hand, and when he pulls away or stops trying to take it, pause for a moment, mark the action, and reward him.

Then comes the tough part: Take a simple food that’s generally low value and large so that he can’t vacuum it up (maybe a nylabone or an icecube), and toss it idly nearby behind you. As your dog runs over to sniff or grab it, quickly say “Leave it!” and block his path. The moment he hesitates, you quickly reward him with a smelly high-value treat, then pick the object up. If your dog’s way too fast, you can do this with the leash in hand and the moment he goes for it, quickly snap it back to pull him away, and then reward once he recovers from the pull. Do this over and over until he no longer goes after the item when you say Leave It. Do NOT reward him by letting him eat the item afterward, or he’s going to learn that Leave It means “Stop for a second and then eat it” and not “Leave it alone”. You can do this with other dogs as well, or items in the house, by body-blocking (standing in the way) or pulling with the leash. Make sure you don’t drag your dog gently away and that the leash snap is quick, brief, and not too hard and not too soft.

4. Come: This can also save your dog’s life, especially if he’s found himself bolting across the street and for some reason everyone and their mother decided that this moment was the best moment ever to drive at a billion miles an hour down the neighborhood. It’s also very important to be strong enough that other dogs, small animals, strangers, and the like aren’t too distracting for your dog to “hear” you calling him.

To start, you want to make sure your dog knows his name and will always respond to you when you say it. Do this by saying his name in a “calling” tone right next to him. When he looks at you, or even if his ears move toward you, you reward it with “yes” and then a treat. Keep doing this over and over while less than a foot away until he does it every time ten times in a row. Then try when you’re a few feet away. If it doesn’t work, get closer. See how close you have to be for him to react, and then retry a foot away from there, but say his name louder. Honestly, some dogs really didn’t hear you since most of the things we say are toned out since when we’re far away, we’re talking to someone else and not the dog. Keep doing this until you’re about six feet or so (leash distance).

Then, start saying his name while walking outside. You can walk and walk, and then stop. While you’re dog’s looking around at the beautiful scenery, say his name. If he reacts, mark it and reward. If not, you can tap him on the shoulder, or catch his attention with a treat briefly brought to his nose and then lead toward your face for him to look up at. “I’m here too, you know!” Keep stopping every few feet and saying his name to get him 100% sure he knows it. This also helps with the beginnings of loose-leashing walking and heeling too.

Teaching-Your-Dog-To-ComeNow’s the “easy” part. He knows his name, now he needs to know how to come up to you to ask, “Yes, what did you need?”. You can start on your normal six-foot-long leash or with a long rope; have him a few feet away, then say his name, and follow it with, “Come!” or “Come here!” or as I say it, “Come’ere!” and act excited, maybe shuffle backwards alittle, slap your knees, beckon him, make funny noises like “Pup pup pup!”, whatever it takes to get him excited and interested so that he runs up to you. If he jumps on you in excitement as he reaches you, that’s fine. Once he reaches you, act like he did the most amazing thing ever, with lots of “Yaaaay!”s and “Wooooo!”s and petting and hugs and all that jazz. Keep doing this over and over until he comes easily. Once you’re confident, you can start getting him to come to you from further and further away in low-distraction places, and eventually get him to come in higher and higher distracting places. The highest point is getting him to come while he’s running around full speed off-leash or while he’s playing with another dog. Make sure that until he comes no matter what, you always have a reward for him coming to you. NEVER call him to you and then make him do something horrible like take a bath, end a fun game off-leash, be punished for running off (Hey! I came back, didn’t I?), or take a medicine.

3. Voluntary Attention: Teaching your dog to look in your eyes is one of the most important things for your dog to learn. It’s the main connection you can make with your dog to communicate, and if your dog’s always looking up at you, it’ll be that much easier to train him and help him follow your lead. Anything you want to say to your dog will be noticed because he’s looking right at you and you’re looking right at him when you say it.

To teach this, find a quiet distraction-free place to train. Stand infront of your dog with treat in hand, hidden of course. Every time he looks at you, mark the action with a clicker or by saying “yes” or “good” in an even positive tone, and then follow up with a small treat, either given right to him into the mouth or dropped on the floor for him to retrieve. After the first treat, your dog’s going to start working his brain on how he can get more treats. Of course, he’ll start by looking up at you to see if you can give him a hint. Right at that moment, mark the action, and then treat. Do this ten to fifteen times a day as a daily routine, and when he does look at you between each session, reward with praise and petting, or maybe a rare treat or two. The importance of having a training routine is that, by standing infront of and looking down at him, that itself is a cue that the training has begun and it’s time to work, and that the training REALLY begins when you two catch eyes.

2. Reinforce Sit to Gain Leadership: Once you teach your dog to sit, you’re now able to use this easy trick as a tool to gain respect and leadership. Start a “No Free Meal” policy in your home once you’ve “mastered” making your dog do what you want. Any time and every time you’re going to give your dog anything, be it his meals, putting his leash on, going out the door, being let inside, being allowed out of the crate, starting a play session, any thing, your dog must sit first, and be able to hold it while you give him what he wants. Once his sit is super strong, and he can hold it without tapping his feet in anxiousness or barking at you to hurry up, you can start teaching “OK!” which indicates that he is now allowed to break from the sit and enjoy what you have given him permission to enjoy. It sounds like being a total Nazi, but it’s very important, isn’t mean, and gives your dog structure and strong leadership.

To teach your dog “OK!” to break from his sit, you can start with easy things like giving him his meal or letting him out. You have him sit and slowly lower the bowl or open the door. When he breaks it without you telling him to, you give him the “you messed up!” mark with a simple, “oops.”, “nope.”, “ah-ah”, or whatever you like, and then lift the bowl back up or shut the door. Have him sit again, and then retry. Be consistent and mark the mistake the same way every time and don’t add any dialog between attempts or your dog will get confused. Once he holds the sit and the bowl is on the floor or the door is open, say, “OK!” excitedly and when he breaks the sit and goes for the bowl or steps outside, praise him verbally since the reward is the food/freedom. Do this all the time as a usual day-to-day routine and you’ve become a leader without having to “really” work for it.

Screen shot 2013-03-19 at 12.40.07 AM1. Fetch/Go Get It/Where’s Your Ball: This one may not seem like a life-saving trick or one that’s vital enough to be #1 (sorry to disappoint you), but I feel that exercise is the most important thing for your dog, as cheesy as it sounds. Your dog’s health is what matters most when it comes down to it, and having your dog know how to fetch or at least go after a toy is so important. When I adopted Ringo, I was surprised to learn that this puppy didn’t have any “interest” in toys. He was 8 months old and when I tossed a stuffed toy, he looked at it confused, and then sniffed it as if he really didn’t know what it was. I mean, it was a silly looking squeaky flat lizard toy, but still! Any stuffed toy should be fair game to a puppy! I actually had to teach him that it was good to chsse after things I tossed near him.

I did this by tossing it, and when he looked at it, he got praise and a treat. Then I took it and tossed it again. Every time he took notice of it, there was praise and a treat. When he sniffed it, he got praise and pets and a treat. When he picked it up, he got more praise and excited petting and a few treats. Then, I gave him place and let him try playing with it. It was easier in that it was a squeaky toy, so every time it squeaked, I cheered and pet him. Soon he learned that these weird stuffed things aren’t all that bad. Hell, they make my owner go crazy and that’s hilarious!

Now, he goes after anything I toss, be it a stuffed toy, a ball, his Kong, or his rubber bouncy stick thingy. They all lead to lots of dashing about, cheering and pets, and playfully rough play. It’s great to play fetch when the weather’s crummy and walks have to be brief and consist of “Go poopoo! Go peepee! Okay! Let’s go home!”.

To start getting your dog enticed enough to go after the object you threw, if just throwing it doesn’t work, you can say something like, “Go get it!” excitedly as you throw it, and if he stares, run after it alittle. If you’re gonna grab it, it must be something amazing, so I want it first! When he goes for it, cheer and act like he did the best thing in the world. You can get him to Drop It if you have two of the same toy by trading them (whichever toy you’re holding usually has higher value solely because you have it and not him) by giving your toy to him for his toy. If your dog just doesn’t like fetching, you can always hold the toy and dance around shaking it around and smack your knees (kind of like doing a play-bow) and bringing the toy out for him to tug with when he seems interested. It’s great exercise for your dog, as well as yourself, even if you’re only standing there tossing the toy/ball while he goes after it or dancing with a stuffed toy.

And those are the Top Ten Things To Teach Your Dog! This list, as I said before, is pretty loosely-ranked, so number five may be as important as number six, and number ten may be number eleven, but I feel that in general, these things are important enough to teach your dog that SOMEONE pointed it out. If anyone has any other tricks they feel deserve to be in the top ten list instead of what I have, feel free to share your thoughts! Opinions and suggestions are always welcome!


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Why Won’t My Dog Listen?

Dog-Training-SchoolsEver attend a training class and all the dogs around you are quietly listening to the trainer and doing what their owners are telling them, and meanwhile your dog is throwing a tantrum and ignoring every word you say? You sigh in frustration and think to yourself, “My dog is so stupid!” and smile embarrassingly to the trainer as she responds with a pitied look from across the room. The puppy next to you knows sit; why can’t your dog?!
Well, there are many reasons why dogs have trouble learning sit, or any command. Most of these things aren’t as obvious to the typical owner as they are to professionals who are able to read what a dog is trying to tell us though. Sometimes it has to do with the environment, but sometimes it’s because of the owner himself! Here’s a list of reasons why your smart dog could be having trouble acting smart:

Unaware of Your Intentions: Dogs don’t automatically pay attention to you just because you’re standing infront of them. Sometimes you need to teach your dog on how to be trained. This is called Voluntary Attention and is actually quite easy to train, but is best if your dog is hungry. To do this, simply stand onfront of your dog and say his name or “hey” to get him to look at you. The moment your eyes meet, reward him with “yes” or “good boy!” and give him a treat or a kibble of his food. Keep doing this every time your eyes meet. Eventually, he’ll hold his gaze to you even after given a treat. Take advantage of this and wait a few seconds longer every few times until he can hold attention for what seems like forever. This is the best trick you can teach your dog. By teaching him to look to you for rewards and direction, you can get him to do just about anything. I taught Ringo Voluntary Attention right away when I fed him the first time. Now, whenever he looks at something new, he’ll look up at me for direction on how to act. Anytime I do anything, he pays attention to it and waits for any indication that I want him to do something. It’s great and can solve a lot of unruly behavior when your dog learns that you’re the leader he’s looking for.

squirrelDistractions: This one’s pretty obvious; your dog is too occupied with everything around it to listen to you. Depending on the dog’s breed, it can be too difficult to concentrate on the person standing infront of it screaming, “SIT!” when there are so many smells and sounds drowning the person out.

Herding dogs may prioritize a doggy classmate or anything running by, be it squirrel or child, over whatever treats you have to offer due to its herding instinct. A hound may be distracted by that amazing smell ten feet away if the treat you have in your hand isn’t as smelly.

One way to catch your dog’s attention during training is to flash the treat infront of your dog’s nose, then lure your dog’s gaze back up to you. Usually, this should snap your dog out of it and he’ll pay attention to the treat and what he has to do to get it. You can also stand in your dog’s line of sight if he’s staring at something as well, or if he’s freaking out due to sensory overload, try to move further from the source of the distraction if possible.

DorWUToo Much Energy: When your dog is lacking in exercise and everything is exciting, it’s impossible to pay attention. Yelling, trying to distract him with treats, yanking him around, or anything like that probably won’t help when he has enough energy to power the sun. If possible, tire him out first with a game of fetch or a walk around the neighborhood before you start trying to teach him something. Once he’s tuckered out and has been given some water, food might sound like the next exciting thing to pay attention to and training will be easy!

Too Nervous: If your dog is busy whimpering and trembling and won’t take treats, there’s no way he’s going to be able to learn anything or listen to anyone. Whatever’s going on around him has made your dog way too nervous to function, and tugging his leash, pushing his butt to the ground, yelling at him, or saying “No!” over and over isn’t going to help him learn how to sit down. It’s best to work on getting him relaxed and associate the place you’re in as a good place, and not the place where everyone’s screaming and the floor’s covered in mysterious puddles of pee.

You can do this by acting calm and not correcting his whimpers and trembling. This is your dog’s way of telling you, “I don’t like this place! I’m scared!” and yanking him or yelling is just going to tell him, “Oh god! This is place is horrible indeed!” Instead, squat down to his level and be calm and talk gently to him, but don’t pet or baby him because it’ll promote the way he’s acting. Offer some treats if he’ll accept them by hand or by dropping or placing them on the floor. The treats can be a good distraction and if they’re high value treats, teach him that the good treats are given only when in this scary place. You can also, if possible, offer a toy to help him relax. If all else fails, it’s best to ignore your dog until he eventually calms down on his own. If you’re not in a classroom or vet, maybe it’d be a good idea to leave and come back another day.

Some signs of a nervous dog are obvious: whimpering, trembling, barking, panting with tongue hanging out, pacing back and forth, jumping on owner, sniffling and licking things, tensing up, and chewing on the paws. There are less obvious signs too though: panting when it’s not hot in general, yawning over and over, not reacting to anything, and not taking treats. You’ll also notice when a dog is nervous when it flicks its tongue over and over, or licks it lips dramatically. A nervous dog will also turn away from people trying to interact with it, look at people with wide eyes where you can see the whites (whale eyes). They may blink slowly and obviously, or have wrinkles on the sides of its lips while panting or on top of the head between the ears. When a dog pants while nervous, the tongue is sometimes curled up and the panting is very rapid. If your dog seems nervous, don’t push him too hard, or at least back off alittle bit until he’s calm again.

Screen shot 2013-03-16 at 5.29.36 PMCommand Has Negative Results: When you call your dog to you, what does he expect? Pets, praise, treats, toys, fun things, of course! But what happens when you call your dog and when he comes to you, you pick him up and drop him in the bathtub? He won’t want to come to you anymore.

Whenever you say your dog’s name, you want to get his attention. Whenever I say “Ringo”, he comes running to me because I only say his name when I have something nice to offer or want him to do something fun, like start a game or get ready for a walk. When he does something naughty, I never say his name because you don’t want your dog’s name to be a punishing word. Use something you don’t say often like, “Oh no you di’nt!” instead if you want to scold your dog. Remember though, it only works when you catch your dog in the act of doing something naughty, not after he’s stopped doing it! The same is for when your dog has run off and you call him back: when he comes back, don’t scold him for running off; you’ll just be teaching him not to come back because dogs associate cause and effect one action at a time.

Command Loses Value: Dogs also can’t understand human speech, obviously, so what about when a dog knows a command and doesn’t seem to follow it anymore? It makes one wonder what the heck happened, right? Well, when you give a command, do it once. If “sit!” becomes “Sit! Hey, sit. Sit. SIT!” you have a problem that will be tough to solve. Say the command once, and if the dog doesn’t understand or messes up, let him know it was wrong with a simple, “Oops” or “Nope” and turn away for a moment then come back. This resets the command and lets your dog understand that you’re retrying to command, not adding to it.

Screen shot 2013-03-16 at 5.43.06 PMThere are also times when you give your dog a command he knows and he literally looks at you and then turns away. He knows the command, and knows that you know that he knows the command, but because nothing happens when he chooses not to follow it, he feels that he’s free to ignore it if he’s not interested in treats. Always follow up when you give your dog a command like “Come”, “Leave it”, “Stay”, “Off”, or whatever other commands that keep your dog out of trouble. You don’t want your dog to dive for a bar of dark chocolate and ignore you when you tell him to Leave It all because the word has no value.

If you teach your dog Leave It and he goes for the item anyway, don’t sit there and go, “Aw man! He ate my cupcake!”; you want to follow up! Block the food, and the moment he hesitates, that’s when you reward him with something better, like a treat or extra praise. You want your dog to hesitate when you tell him to Leave It, and if you’re far away, you can call your dog to you to get him away from the object. If needed, you can open your dog’s mouth and pull the food out before he swallows it. Be sure to give the command before or as you do this, and let him know that this is what happens when he tries to eat it anyway. Don’t hit him or anything like that though because then the command will mean, “I’m about to smack you!” instead of, “Don’t eat that!” and that’s not the point you’re trying to get across.

Wha’chu Talkin’ Bout?: Your dog doesn’t understand what you’re trying to tell it. Dogs aren’t born knowing their name or any commands, so telling every dog you meet to sit or shake hands isn’t only embarrassing, but it’s pointless. Like how dogs communicate, using body language with words/sounds is much easier to understand than just words in a foreign language. Until your dog has learned the command with body language and can do the command about 90% correctly whenever cued, your dog may not be able to follow just by speech. Saying a command over and over, but louder and slower, won’t help. It doesn’t help someone who can’t speak your language understand what you’re saying just like how it doesn’t help your dog understand what you’re saying.

Although training your dog in different places with different distractions is a good challenge for him, be sure to only challenge your dog when and where you know he can successfully accomplish it. Being patient and setting your dog up for success by training him in a place with no distractions, when he’s in a good state of mind, and with nothing that’ll make your commands negative or worthless will help your “stupid” dog show you that he’s actually quite intelligent. Remember these different reasons, and training sessions will make it much easier since you’ll be more aware of why your dog’s not paying attention to you. Other than these reasons, can anyone think of any others? Feel free to share your knowledge!

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Bad Human Foods for Dogs

Dog-Sick-pictureNow that we learned from my earlier post that some human foods are quite good for dogs, let’s look at what’s bad for dogs. Many of these you may know, but let’s see why they’re so horrible and what you can expect to happen if your dog ingests these foods. Let’s gather these bad human foods for dogs and keep them safely sealed up in the cupboard out of Fido’s reach!

Chocolate, Coffee, and Caffeine: Caffeine isn’t all that good for kids, and it’s even worse for dogs! Methylxanthine, which you find in cacao seeds, coffee plants, and in the nuts of an extract used in sodas, can really mess up your dog: it can cause vomiting, diarrhea, hyperactivity, abnormal heart rhythm, tremors, seizures, excessive thirst and urination, and even death. Darker chocolate, being more concentrated in the stuff, is more dangerous than milk chocolate, while white chocolate has the lowest level of methylxanthines. While baking, chocolate contains the highest amount, so don’t you share those yummy chocolate chip cookies with Fido!

Onions, Garlic, and Chives: Although some veggies are good for your dog, these three veggies aren’t as they can cause GI irritation and red blood cell damage. You can find garlic in some dog foods, vitamins, and treats, and is sometimes used as a topping to entice a picky dog to eat his meals, but this is only safe if given in teeny tiny amounts. Too much can make your dog very sick and very unhappy. Don’t give ANY to your cat though, for the results are even more dramatic. Although many people like to feed their dogs baby food as a treat, this contains onion powder and isn’t a good idea.

Grapes and Raisins: Being one of the more common foods in your home, it’s important to know that grapes and raisins are horrible for your dog! People aren’t sure what the toxic substance is, but these fruits can cause kidney failure in dogs. If your dog already has health problems, signs may be even more dramatic.

Raw Meat, Eggs, and Bones: Even though wolves and stray dogs can eat raw meat, your dog really shouldn’t. Raw meat and raw eggs can contain Salmonella or E. coli that can be harmful to pets. Raw eggs also contain Avidin that decreases the absorption of Biotin (Vitamin B), which can lead to skin and coat problems. Feeding your pet raw bones isn’t a good idea either for your dog, no matter how smart he is, can choke or splinter the bone and it can become lodged in or puncture your pet’s digestive tract. That’s a very big vet bill for a very small treat.

Raw Fish: Although cooked fish is great for your dog, raw fish can result in a Thiamine (Vitamin B) deficiency. This leads to loss of appetite, seizures, and even death. Don’t share your sushi!

Avocado: The leaves, fruit, seeds and bark of avocados contain Persin, which can cause vomiting and diarrhea in dogs. In very tiny amounts, it can be a nice way to keep the skin and coat healthy, but unless your dog’s getting his avocado fix from Avoderm Dog Food, try to resist sharing any avocados with him.

Macadamia Nuts: These nuts are sometimes used in cookies and candies, and can cause problems for your dog such as weakness, depression, vomiting, tremors, and hyperthermia. If you suspect Fido stole some cookies from the cookie jar, be aware that symptoms usually appear within 12 hours of ingestion, and last about 12 to 48 hours.

Yeast Dough: Although dogs can eat small amounts of bread since the dough has already fully risen, uncooked yeast dough can rise and cause gas to accumulate in your pet’s digestive system, resulting in his intestines to rupture! It’s not pretty, so bake his treats before you plan to give some to your dog if it contains yeast dough.

Canine Patient in Hospital Room

Milk: Dogs are lactose intolerant because they don’t possess enough lactase in their body, so milk and other milk-based products cause diarrhea or other digestive upset. Teeny tiny amounts can be okay, but be careful or else your carpets will hate you forever.

Salt: Too much of this can cause excessive thirst and urination, or even sodium ion poisoning. Symptoms include vomiting, diarrhea, depression, tremors, elevated body temperature, seizures, and even death. It’s a given that feeding your dog those yummy potato chips isn’t a good idea then.

Alcohol: It’s not great for humans, but like caffeine, alcoholic beverages and food products containing alcohol result in even worse symptoms for dogs. It can cause vomiting, diarrhea, decreased coordination, central nervous system depression, difficulty breathing, tremors, abnormal blood acidity, coma, and even death. If you’re having a party, make sure no one decides to be generous and share a glass with your dog.

Xylitol: A sweetener used in gum, candy, baked goods, and toothpaste, Xylitol can lead to liver failure in dogs. It causes an insulin release in many animals that leads to hypoglycemia (lowered sugar levels), and results in vomiting, lethargy, seizures, and loss of coordination. If you want to brush your dog’s teeth, please make sure to use dog tooth paste available in pet stores and not human tooth paste!

Cat Food: Of course, this food is designed to be fed to your cat, not your dog. Cat food contains a lot protein and fat; way more than your dog needs. If your dog has a cat friend, try to make sure they don’t share meals. One interesting thing I’d like to mention is that dogs can eat cat treats, but cats can’t eat dog treats. Cat treats are much cheaper overall, so take advantage of this knowledge! But be aware that like their food, cat treats contain a large amount of protein, so feed these smelly fishy treats sparingly.

Marijuana: Although some people might think this would be great for a hyper or nervous dog, this can depress the nervous system, cause vomiting, and dramatic changes in heart rate. Your dog will not become chill after eating or smelling this!

And those are the many human foods that are no good for your dog. Sure, some of these things aren’t foods, but for the average dog, anything that fits in its mouth is considered food. Be sure to keep these things far from your dog’s reach, and if enjoyed by yourself, stay greedy and don’t share any with your dog. Instead, offer a snack from the Good Human Foods for Dogs list!

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Homemade Dog Biscuits – Peanut Butter Pumpkin Crunch

Worried about the treats you’re feeding your dog? Why not make some of your own? Not only is it cheaper and less dangerous than store bought treats, but this recipe consists of ingredients that are easy access and inexpensive. Most importantly, it’s healthy, tasty, and safe for dogs -and people- to eat!
Made with peanut butter and pumpkin as the main ingredients and sources of flavor, these treats can help your dog a lot. Peanut butter has Vitamin H and E in it; Vitamin H can help bring sheen to your dog’s coat, improve the quality of your dog’s skin, and adds strength to your dog’s nails. Vitamin E can help your dog’s immune system, which protects your dog from disease. Pumpkin is great in that it’s full of fiber and helps with both constipation and diarrhea, and even helps with upset stomach. A yummy treat for your dog with peanut butter and pumpkin in it sounds like a dream come true, doesn’t it?

Peanut Butter Pumpkin Crunch
Prep time:  20 mins
Cook time:  40 mins
Total time:  1 hour

  • 2 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup canned pumpkin (unsweetened – not pie filling)
  • 2 tablespoons peanut butter (I used crunchy peanut butter for unique texture)
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Mix together the flour, eggs, pumpkin, peanut butter, and salt.
  3. Add water as needed, one tbsp at a time, to help make the dough workable. The dough should be dry and sticky. Add flour to keep the stickiness off your hands if needed.
  4. Roll the dough onto a baking pan lined with parchment paper into a 1/2-inch thick roll, and cut into 1/2-inch pieces.
  5. Bake in preheated oven until hard, for about 40 minutes.
  6. Let cool and offer to your lucky dog!
NOTE: This recipe is not my own and belongs to A Muse In My Kitchen. I tweaked it a tiny bit, but if you’d like the original recipe with a step-by-step walkthrough, and access to even more amazing recipes for dog and man alike, visit her blog here!

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Good Human Foods For Dogs

As many people know, things like chocolate and coffee are bad for dogs and can make them very sick because of many reasons. We also know that, in general, table scraps are no good since fatty foods make a bigger difference for dogs than people, especially since a dog that’s five pounds overweight is considered obese.

What are we allowed to feed out dogs then? Well, there are a lot of great things you can feed your dog with much less guilt, and some things are actually healthy! Many of these things can be mixed together and baked into wonderful treats, or used to top off your picky dog’s food to entice him into finally finishing his meal.

There are people who argue over whether dogs are omnivores or carnivores, but although dogs would prefer meats over fruits, veggies, and grains, I feel that dogs actually are omnivores and can benefit from non-meat treats such as these:

Yogurt: This is a great source of available calcium and protein, but be sure to pick a brand that has live active bacteria and no sugars or artificial sweeteners added to it. If your dog’s alittle pudgy, you can pick fat-free yogurt, but not one that contains fat substitutes. Yogurt is a nice summer treat for dogs, and is a super cheap replacement to peanut butter or Kong Stuff’n pastes when frozen in a Kong toy.

Pumpkin: This is a good source of fibre and beta carotene (a source of vitamin A). Dogs need fibre in their diet to stay “regular”. A lot of people are leaning toward dog foods that are higly digestible so that their dogs have smaller, more manageable, stools, but that’s not really a good thing. You want to keep your dog’s GI tract moving helps keep the cells lining the gut healthy. Adding pumpkin to your dog’s meals can help a lot! I usually buy canned pumpkin (unsweetened and not pie-filling!) and feed this to my dog once a month or when he seems to be having problems going to the bathroom.

Squash: Like pumpkin, this can be added to bulk up your dog’s stool, and is a good source of betacarotene (provitamin A). One fun thing you can do is buy a fresh squash and slice it in strips, making sure to remove the seeds and skin, and freeze it for a yummy treat!

Sweet potatoes: This is another source of dietary fibre, like pumpkin and squash, and contains vitamin B6, Vitamin C, beta carotene, and manganese. You can buy a lot of yummy healthy jerky treats made of sweet potato since, when sliced and dehydrated, become chewy and easy to digest.

Peanut butter: This is Ringo’s favorite snack. It is healthy and high in protein, and has been said to reduce canine diabetes and can help with bad breath! I like to smear some on Ringo’s antler chews and freeze it so that the peanut butter is frozen in the pores of the antler chew and gives it a special flavor. It’s also an inexpensive, healthy, and tasty ingredient to make any homemade dog treat extra yummy.

Peas: This can be added right to a picky puppy’s food, frozen or thawed. Peas are a good source of the Vitamin B (thiamine), phosphorous, and potassium. 

Green beans: Even though I personally hate green beans, they’re a good source of plant fibre, Vitamin K, Vitamin C, and manganese. Ringo can eat all he likes! They’re a great substitute to some of your dog’s food (you can feed half dog food and half green beans each meal!) if he’s getting fat as it’s a low-calorie way to fill him up and maintain a healthy weight. Many dogs enjoy green beans frozen as a chewy crunchy treat. 

Apples: These are a wonderful crunchy treat for your dog, and one of Ringo’s favorites. With the skin on, apples are full of plant chemicals (phytonutrients) that are thought to be protective against some types of cancer in humans, so who knows, maybe it’s good for dogs too. They’re a nice source of Vitamins A and C and fibre. Be careful though; Apple seeds contain cyanide so your dog should not be allowed to eat the core! Be sure to slice an apple and have it prepared as if you were to eat it. If you do give your dog a full apple, be sure to watch him.

Pineapple: This can be an occasional special treat for your dog. Pineapple does contain a lot of sugar, but it does have calcium and potassium too. Frozen pineapple can be a fun summer treat for your dog, or a special ingredient to get a picky dog interested in his dog food.

Cottage cheese: High in protein and calcium and fairly bland, cottage cheese can be a good way to add some extra protein to your dog’s diet. Be careful though; dairy products, cottage cheese included, don’t do well with dogs, whom are lactose intolerant, so make sure to start with just a small amount.

Eggs: They’re a great source of very digestible protein, riboflavin, and selenium. For some dogs that are prone to digestive problems and stomach aches, eggs can give them a little protein boost. Adding eggs to your dog’s food is a healthy treat, but make sure to use cooked whole egg since raw egg whites can cause biotin deficiency. Considered a tasty and rare treat, you could take some with you to obedience class as a super high value reward. They may be alittle smelly though…

Oatmeal: This is a good source of soluble fibre. Oatmeal can be beneficial for older dogs that may have trouble staying “regular”. Oatmeal is also an alternative source of grain for dogs that are allergic to wheat! Keep in mind that oatmeal should always be fed cooked and plain with no sugar or flavoring!

Rice: It’s good to feed your dog boiled (and warm-temperature) rice when your dog has an upset tummy and needs a bland meal. Brown rice is a little higher in protein and a little lower in fat when compared to white rice. Rice in general is easily digestible and makes a good source of energy when your dog has an upset tummy. I like to boil chicken breast and rice into a mushy soup whenever Ringo has a stomach ache. Be sure to never serve dishes hot!

Popcorn: With no butter or salt, this is a great low-calorie treat for your dog. Popcorn contains potassium, as well as phosphorous, magnesium, and calcium to help build strong bones. Make sure the popcorn isn’t too hot when letting your dog in on this snack during movie time.

Flax seed (ground or oil): This is a good source of omega-3 fatty acids, which are essential fatty acids that are good for skin and coat. Since they can go bad quickly, it’s best to grind whole flax seeds before feeding. Ground flax seed can be added to your dog’s diet as a source of fibre, but flax oil is a more concentrated form of omega- 3 fatty acids, but without the fibre. Make sure that you store the oil or seeds in the fridge in an air tight dark container.

Parsley: This is a good way to improve doggie breath, so next time you are baking treats for your dog, try adding a few tablespoons of chopped parsley for added flavour and colour. Parsley can also be a good source of calcium, potassium, and beta-carotene.

Brewer’s yeast: Full of B Vitamins which are good for skin, coat, and carbohydrate metabolism, Brewer’s yeast is a good cooking ingredient for your puppy’s treats. Make sure you’re using brewer’s yeast and not baking yeast which will make your dog sick. You can sprinkle a little on your picky dog’s food too!

Now that we’ve looked at the fruits, grain, and veggies that are good for Man’s Best Friend, what kinds of meats are good? Well, any meat, really, but I personally like:

Salmon: This is actually one of my favorite meats personally, so Ringo gets a lot of this in his diet. Actually, his dog food is currently Salmon and Potato flavored, and I chose it because that sounded like something I’d like to eat. Anyway! Salmon is a fatty fish and a great source of omega- 3 fatty acids. These fats support the immune system and can be beneficial for skin and coat. You can feed your dog salmon or salmon oil; if feeding salmon, make sure it’s cooked before serving, as raw salmon can carry a parasite that can make your dog sick. No sushi!

Liver: You can get this freeze-dried in most pet stores, and is a great training treat that’s high in value due to its taste, smell, and texture. You can also buy it fresh in the grocery store to feed at home. Fresh liver can be cooked, and then baked into tasty liver treats at a fraction of the cost of freeze-dried treats at the pet store ($8 for a one-ounce bag? Seriously?!). It is an excellent source of B vitamins (Thiamin, Riboflavin, Niacin, Pantothenic acid, and Folic acid), Vitamin A, and Vitamin K. It is also a great source of iron. Be careful though; because of its high vitamin A content, do not feed your dog too much liver!

And of course, there are the typical meats prominent in dog food, such as turkey, chicken, beef, lamb, etc., but more specifically, the kind of meat you want to feed your dog is:

Lean meat: Be sure to let your dog in on yummy tasty meats, but make sure that you only offer slices with no visible fat and no added sauces or seasonings. Plain meat can be a great training treat, or can add a bit of good-quality extra protein to your dog’s diet. Meat is an excellent source of amino acids, the building blocks of muscle in your dog’s body, as well as Vitamin B (Thiamin, Riboflavin, Niacin, Pantothenic acid, Pyridoxine, and Cobalamine), which are involved in energy metabolism in the body. All dogs need meat in their diet, but despite how tempted you are to give your dog the “bad pieces” with fat all over it, hold back and provide your buddy with the nice lean slices you planned to save for yourself. Though, I don’t think he’ll mind getting that gross piece with the vein on it…

So that’s that; the many yummy human foods that are also good for your dog. Like all foods, just because it’s healthy, it doesn’t mean you can engorge yourself with it. Be sure that your dog’s main food source is its dog food, which is already balanced in nutrition for your dog. A sample or two of these human foods can help though, especially if your dogs is lacking in some vitamins, is having a tummy ache, or just deserves some super special treats during training class. I’m sure there are other human foods that are good for dogs, and if I missed any, feel free to add more to the list in the comments!

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Meet Ringo Star

This is Ringo. He was adopted on February 2nd, 2013 at the age of 8 months from Lucky Dog Animal Rescue in Washington, DC by 25 year old me. Ringo’s a very lucky dog, not because he was adopted as a Lucky Dog from LDAR, but because he was rescued from a shelter in South Carolina after being sent there with the reason in his paperwork, “Daughter moved out”.

Despite the bad luck, Ringo’s now living in Virginia and getting all the attention he deserves from a daughter who won’t move out and leave him behind with mom to take care of (or not take care of). He’s no longer a skinny puppy who pees when pet and screams for hours on end when left alone while his owner leaves to go to the bathroom without him.

He’s now a happy playful puppy with confidence and who loves everyone – people, rats, cats, and dogs alike – and spends his days napping, playing, being spoiled with treats that will never run out (yay for buying treats in bulk!), and pretending he has the best mustache in the world even though it’s considered peach fuzz compared to a real mustaches.

Despite arriving not knowing a single trick or even his name (formally Jake), Ringo is now a know-it-all (almost)! Before, Ringo didn’t know sit, but now he has mastered:

Stay (don’t move from a sit or down until I return and touch him on the head)
Wait (don’t eat a treat or follow me from a few feet away until released with “OK”)
Leave It (move away from an object he is about to eat/pick up)
Go Get It (grab the item he is looking at and bring it to me)
Drop It (drop the item he is carrying)
Off (get off of a couch/person/etc)
Spin (spin around in a circle)
I’ll Be Back (keep calm when I leave for a moment)
Don’t Do It! (stop attempting to drink/eat/smell an object or food)

Ringo knows a lot, but there’s also a lot he doesn’t know. What else do you think Ringo can master? Does your dog know something you can challenge Ringo to? Feel free to share what your dog knows and how he learned it!
Ringo Dolls