Give Your Dog a Break During the Holidays

As we all know, the holidays can get a little crazy sometimes. Between all of the parties, family gatherings, family members coming home from college or coming from out of town, our schedules can get really mess up.

This time of year can be especially stressful for our pets too. They don’t read calendars, they don’t understand holidays and they surely don’t understand what to think of all that noise and people coming and going at all hours. Even the most laid back dog can become overwhelmed when it’s routine is turned upside-down and completely disrupted.

So before all of your guests, relatives and friends begin to arrive, take a few moments to make sure your dog has a quiet place to go so that it can escape the all of the craziness.

Even if it’s just moving the dog’s bed or crate into a quiet corner of the basement or into your bedroom, it can be enough to create a quiet retreat for a stressed out dog.

The first signs that your dog is becoming stressed out is that you will see the dog pacing, panting, licking it’s lips, yawning or just trying to find a place to be alone. Your dog may also become easily irritated or want to go outside or anywhere it can get away from everyone. If you see any of these signs, make sure you do something to remove the dog from stressful situations. If there are young children around, make sure that you ask them to leave the dog alone for a while. Just tell them that the dog needs a nap, break, or even a time out.

So give your dog a break from the holidays … give it quiet place of his own.

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What is Your Dog’s Currency? – Reward Based Training Tips

Your Dog Wants to Work - Find it A Job

In a recent article called “Will Word for Food” I talked about finding your dog a job, and rewarding it for doing it.  In this post, I want to talk about rewarding your dog for doing what you ask … when you ask!

While I do not believe in using treats or a food reward for everything, or all of the time, I do think that dogs (and other pets) can often benefit from the use of treats during the early stages of training a behavior or command.

I recently worked with a dog that would not release a ball when giving the “Drop It” command. When trying to get the dog to drop it, it would turn into a “tug-o-war” match that the owner would always lose. But after introducing a small piece of milk-bone she would drop the ball every time. The same thing happened with most other commands.

While it is vitally important to bond with the dog first, it may not always be enough to get the dog to listen and respond the first time you give a command. Some dogs (especially younger ones) are just way to hyper or don’t have a long enough attention span. In these cases, treats are a great way to get and keep your dog’s attention for a longer amount of time.

Treats should only be used to connect the command with the correct response, and only until the dog “gets” the behavior or command. Once this happens the reward should become more of a verbal / tactile one. (a.k.a. scruffing and petting and giving lots of “good dog”s)

An example of this might be: You are calling your dog to come. When it comes, you reward with a treat and in a happy voice you say: “Good Dog” and scruff the dog on the neck and pet it. After several days the dog is now coming to you every time you call him. Instead of giving a treat every time it comes to you, you start giving it only voice and petting rewards 8 out of 10 times he comes to you. Over the course of a few weeks you should be able to remove the food reward completely, except for special occasions. If the dog lapses, you can reintroduce the treats and start over. This is common in younger dogs, so don’t feel like you have done something wrong!

The point being that the dog needs to eventually learn to do want you ask of it because it wants to please you. It will know that it is pleasing you because you are giving it a reward (praise and petting) when it does something correctly.

Another way to offer rewards is to play with your dog using it’s favorite toy or toys. This is how police and military dogs are trained. My dog loves to play with her rubber tug ring or a tennis ball and she will do just about anything to get me to spend a few moments with her playing with her toys.

But it’s not enough to go out and buy a bag of milk-bones or a few toys. Different treats and different toys have different values to different dogs. Your dog might like tennis balls over anything else, or you dog my like Beggin’ Strips the best, but the next dog may not like either of them. So it’s important to bond with YOUR dog and take the time to find out what it’s favorites are. One of my favorite well know trainers calls this: “Finding out what your dog’s currency is” …

Example:  My dog likes fresh cooked chicken or pork over anything else. So these are my dog’s $1,000 bill. Next, her $500 bills are the smelly treats like T-bonz, or Beggin’ Strips. The $50 bill is a Milk-bone or her tennis ball. and so on!

Keep in mind:
Most dogs will do most of their work for a $20 bill. So it’s important that you not throw around a bunch of $1000 bills when you don’t have to. If put into human terms: You work 8 to 5 for $20 per hour … So if your boss started paying you $100 per hour, how much work would he get out of you when he started giving you $20 again?

So if you want to make training more fun for you and your dog, do a little research and find out what your dog’s currency is. You and your dog will be much more happy for it!

A Great Thanksgiving Day – Wish you were Here

It was my turn to supply the Turkey and Stuffing for the “big” meal this year so my day started pretty early. Well OK, it wasn’t THAT early … but when I get a day off, I kinda like to sleep in!

After loading up the bird of honor, the roaster, the box of fixin’s and all the stuff to prepare the meal into my ‘lil red wagon, Patchs and I jumped in and headed for Grandma’s house. After a short drive over the river and through the streets we arrived and started cooking.

About an hour and a half before lunch was to be served the rest of the dinner guests (including my brother) arrived. We sat and talked, had a few cups of coffee and talked about everyone that didn’t show up!!! j/k  😉  Patchs was the center of attention and delighted guests with all of her tricks … until the turkey came out of the oven that is.

After the feast, we went out into the yard to enjoy the warmer than normal afternoon. Patch got to chase some squirrels and play with Pressley (the neighbor’s dog).We watched!!!

If today is any indication of what the rest of the long weekend is going to be like, we will be having a great holiday weekend. I hope all of you get a chance to spend some quality time with family and friends this weekend! And Please … don’t forget to include your four footed best friends in all of the fun too!

Holiday Pet Safety

The holiday season is a time to get together with family and friends. It is a time to create memories that will last a lifetime. It is a time for family and friends to come together for parties and festive meals. It is also a season full of sights and smells that wake the senses. Christmas trees trimmed with colorful decorations, turkey, stuffing, pies and cookies baking in the oven, and lots of new presents and wrapping paper all over the floor on Christmas day.

Unfortunately, with all of the added festivities the holiday season brings, it also brings new dangers to our pets.

Most seasoned pet owners know that the items listed below can be very dangerous. But sometimes it helps to be reminded. For the newer pet owners, maybe this is the first time you’ve seen this list. If this post saves just one family from a disaster this holiday season it will have been worth it.

Alcohol
Holiday parties often include a few alcoholic beverages meant to lighten the mood. But if they’re not kept out of the reach of pets, even a small amount of alcohol may cause vomiting, loss of coordination, and disorientation in your pet. Larger amounts may even cause death. Keep a careful eye on shots and mixed drinks. They can do damage faster.

Bones
Any cooked bones can be dangerous. Turkey and chicken bones are extremely dangerous because the splinter very easily. Ham and beef bone also splinter, just not as easily. All cooked bones have dangerous effects when ingested and can internal injury. Never intentionally give cooked bones to your pets. When you lay out the meals on your counters and tables, make sure that your pets can’t get to the food. Also make sure that they can’t get to the surfaces where the dirty dishes are placed.

Candles
Candles can offer an intimate and elegant element to the holiday. They can also ad a very dangerous element as well. Make sure they are nowhere near the reach of your dogs and cats. Flames can easily find wagging tails and curious noses, they can then be tipped into things that can easily catch fire. Need we say more?

Chocolate
Most pet owners know that chocolate is toxic to pets. Unsweetened baking chocolate and dark chocolates are the worst. But all chocolate, fudge, and other candy is bad as well. Symptoms of chocolate poisoning include: diarrhea, vomiting, seizures, nervousness, and even death.

Christmas Decorations
The shininess of tinsel, decorations, ribbons and bows is bound to attract curious dogs and cats. Accidental ingestion of these decorations can cause bunching and the possible perforation of intestines. This is a life-threatening condition requiring emergency surgery.

Christmas Trees
You only need to see a Christmas tree from your dog’s eyes to understand this danger. All of the sudden there’s a big tree in the house. If it doesn’t out-n-out frighten him, it will most likely raise some major curiosity in him. To avoid your tree falling over after a few bats of the paw, be sure to secure your tree in a sturdy stand and block off any access to it. You may also want to limit the amount of decorations you use on the bottom of the tree and make sure there isn’t anything dangling that your dog can get a hold of or pull on.

Garbage Cans
Once your holiday parties and the family feast is over, make sure the table scraps, foil, and other waste goes into a sealed trash can. Be aware that dogs and cats have a great nose and they may be able to open cupboards, doors and garbage cans. So make sure these places are well secured.

Pine Needles
If your dog or cat likes to chew, it may chew on or ingest pine needles from a real tree. If this happens it can cause vomiting, abdominal pain, depression, and possibly obstruction of the GI tract. In addition, Christmas trees are often sprayed with paint or preservatives. If a fertilizer is used it can also be extremely harmful.

Plants
Some holiday plants are harmful to pets. These plants include poinsettias, mistletoe, and holly. Ingestion of plants like these can cause mouth and stomach irritation, seizures and death. If you use these plants to decorate your home, keep them out of the reach of your pets.

Your pets are counting on you to keep them safe from dangers like these. A few simple preventative steps can assure that this holiday season will be a healthy and happy experience for your family and friends. Including your four footed friends.

I hope you will all have happy and healthy holiday season.