What Ever Happened to Honesty

In the immortal words of singer Billy Joel,

Honesty is such a lonely word.
Everyone is so untrue.
Honesty is hardly ever heard.
And mostly what I need from you.

While these words are true for humans, but they are also just as true for our four-footed best friends.

Dogs never lie.

Oh they may know how to play on our emotions … and to some degree every dog knows how to manipulate us to get what they want, but they never lie about it.

As dog owners we all need to learn how to “read” our dogs. With a bit of training and some basic knowledge about body language it is very easy to see what our dogs are feeling at any moment of the day.

If you know what to look for, you can tell when your dog is happy, sad, excited, scared or angry. Knowing what to look for can be critical because It can help you avoid some bad situations when you are out in public. Being able to read your dog will also help you read other dogs that you may encounter during your walks or when you are at the dog park.

Being able to read your dog can also help you when working with YOUR dog!

Not only is it important for us to learn to read our dog’s body language, it is also important to realize that dogs can read OUR body language as well. It is important to know that not only do they know some of the words we use, they also understand our vocal tones and feel our emotions (a.k.a. our energy or ora). Because of this we need to be in touch with our feeling and have them under control before we take Fido on a walk, train him or even interact with him.

EXAMPLE: You’ve had a bad day at work, and you are angry and stressed out when you walk thru the door at home. Your dog will immediately sense this and try to avoid it. But as you walk in to the house you want your dog to come to you. So, not thinking, you bark “COME” to your dog! Sensing your bad mood, the dog tries to avoid you and may not come to you right away. Not realizing why your dog is not coming to you, you may get mad at the dog … and the dog suffers your anger for doing something that comes natural to it … and that is avoiding unstable emotions!

On the other hand, if you take a few moments to remove your work related frustrations and stress BEFORE you walk thru the door, your dog will be glad to see you and come running as soon as he hears you put your key in the lock.

There are many other examples I could use, but you get the idea. Right?

Don’t lie to your dog! Tell him how you really feel, not how bad your day was!

Some People JUST dont get it!


Spend time building a bond of trust and respect w/ your dog before training begins

I’ve been meaning to share this for a few weeks but just haven’t gotten around to posting it. So here goes!
In a email received thru our “Better Dog For You” website at:  http://www.ABETTERDOG4U.com a visitor wrote and explained that they had just adopted a dog from a local shelter the previous day. When they took him home their 10 year old son tryed to get it to “sit” like the lady at the shelter did. The dog wasnt sitting, so the son put light pressure on the dogs butt and gave the “sit” command again. To the complete shock of everyone watching, the dog snipped at him and ran from the room to hide. Because of this they said that they are now thinking that this dog might be the wrong dog for their family.

After reading this I felt very flustered and even a little upset!

After taking about 10 minutes to calm down and think about it, I replied to the person and did my best to explain that the dog was most likely responding out of fear. I went on to say that they needed to build a relationship of trust before trying to do ANY training. I explained that the dog is in a new home, with people he doesn’t know or trust yet, and he needed some time to adjust.

I told them to just play and interact with the dog on his level for several days. I told them that they needed to play with toys, go for walks and just “hang out” with him. I also explained that after the dog gets used to the new home and the new people, he would relax and be more open to training.

In an effort to relate, I asked the writer to think about this experience like he/she were 5 years old and giving to a new family that he/she didnt know. Then asked he/she to imagine how he/she would feel if someone starting bossing them around and forcing them to do things.

In the reply to my email the person said, “Well the dog needs to know that we are in charge and it needs to do what we tell it to do” … at this point I thought to myself, “I think someone has been watching way to much “NatGeo Wild” on TV.” If you know what I mean!!! 😉
But I replied that if they took the time to build mutual trust and respect, the dog would respond to training much better and it would still know that the humans were the leaders. After all,  the humans were holding the leash, giving the commands, giving the rewards, and supplying the food and water.
I supplied them with a few websites and a few book selections, but I haven’t heard back from them again. I hope they took my advice!
I’d love to hear what you guys think …. so jump right in!

Your Dog and Your New Diet

Well, for all intents and purposes the holiday season is over. We’ve made it through all of the parties, the shopping, the stress, the cookies, the drinks, the turkey and dressing, the pies, the cakes and cookies and a few tons of Christmas candy!

One more night of dinner and drinks and maybe a well placed New Years Eve party and it’s back to normal living again. Yah, Right! Most of us are now suffering from some form of Post-Christmas-itis! With credit cards melted around the edges from over use, and clothes fitting a bit tighter from the effects of over indulging, life will be far from normal for the next few months.

In the next few days, we will all be sitting around with friends and family make plans for the new year. Among the topics of discussion will be resolutions to stop smoking, eating fatty foods and loosing weight.

Several years ago I was one of those people who resolved to drop some weight as well a few pant sizes. The plan was to eat better, eat less and walk several miles a week. The result was to be a gradual loss of weight that would be easy to keep off.

With the help of my German Shepherd Neka, and more recently now Patchs, I have been walking regularly and clocking up to 15 miles per week. We were biking together for a while, but if you have followed me on Facebook for any time at all you know that that didn’t work out very well. The overall results have been that I am still “on target” to hit my goal in the time I had set for myself.

Oh sure, there are set backs. In my case it was the biking incident, but the point is that I keep going forward. And the dog is much happier for it too. She lives to go for walks! After she gets her leash put on, she gets a bit wound up. She can’t sit still and she wines and squeals with anxious anticipation.

Until we get a few houses down the street she tends to try to encourage me to move a bit faster than I am. But when she gets into her zone we can really cover some distance.

Other than loosing weight, our walks help me in other ways. It builds cardio, it allows me to sleep better, it removes stress, and I also get to meet people when we are walking. Patchs gets some great benefits too. Besides exercise, she gets mental stimulation and she gets a chance to socialize with humans and other dogs.

So if you are thinking about dropping a few pounds in the next few months, consider doing it with your dog! You’ll save money on Gym fees, you won’t need to buy a bunch of workout clothes and you’ll get a chance to bond more deeply with your dog!

Best Wishes in the  #12 …Help yourself, Help a dog!

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!