A Better Dog 4U

Helping Dog's and the Humans that Love Them

A Better Dog 4U

Is This Heaven?

A man and his dog were walking along a road. The man was enjoying the scenery, when it suddenly occurred to him that he was dead.

He remembered dying, and that the dog walking beside him had been dead for years. He wondered where the road was leading them.

After some time, they came to a high stone wall made of fine marble. There was a tall arch with a golden gate that glowed in the sunlight.

When he was standing at the magnificent gate he saw a man at a desk to one side. The man called out and said, ‘Excuse me, where are we?’

‘This is Heaven, sir,’ the man answered. ‘Wow! Would you happen to have some water?’ the man asked.

Of course, sir. Come right in, and I’ll have some ice water brought right up. ‘The man gestured, and the gate began to open.

The traveler and his dog began toward toward the gate when the man at the desk said, ‘I’m sorry, sir, but we don’t accept pets.’

The man thought a second or two and then turned back toward the road and continued down the road with his dog.

After another long walk, he came to a dirt road leading through a farm gate that looked as if it had never been closed.

As he began down the dirt road he saw a man. He was leaning against a tree, reading a book.

‘Excuse me!’ he called to the man. ‘Do you have any water?’

‘Yeah, sure, there’s a pump over there, come on in.’

‘How about my friend here?’ the traveler gestured to the dog. ‘Sure, there should be a bowl by the pump.’

They went down the road a bit further were they found an old-fashioned hand pump with a bowl beside it.

The traveler filled the water bowl and took a long drink. Then he refilled the bowl and gave it to the dog.

When they were full, he and the dog walked back toward the man who was standing by the tree..

‘What do you call this place?’ the traveler asked. ‘This is Heaven,’ he answered.

‘Well, that’s confusing,’ the traveler said. ‘The man down the road said that was Heaven, too.’

‘Oh, you must mean the place with the tall arch and golden gates! Nope. That’s Hell.’

‘Doesn’t it make you mad for them to use your name like that?

‘No, we’re just happy that they screen out the folks who would leave their best friends behind.

Question and Answer Time.

ImageIn and effort to help make the lives of dogs and humans better we’d like to offer you any help you might need.

Do you have any questions, comments …. or even some good answers about dogs, dog training, healthcare & maintanence of dogs?

Post them here and if we can’t give you an answer, we’ll find some who can!

Paying it Forward – Update

Back in October of 2012 I had a chance to work with two very nice young ladies. They are hungry for knowledge about dogs and I shared quite a bite of it with them. The sisters, then 5 and 10 years old, both love dogs, but the 5 YO was afraid of bigger dogs. Patchs is a bit “high strung” and that didn’t help.

By Best Friend Patchs


UPDATE: Patchs and I spent a few hours per week playing with the girls and the girls got to safety interact with Patchs in a fenced-in area.

I spent most of my time working with the 5 YO because she clearly needed to learn that the dog would not hurt her. I showed her that by just looking at the dog  she could see what the dog was thinking and what it was going to do. Then I showed her how to use her voice and her body to control Patchs.

After about one month, she was no longer afraid of Patchs, and in fact, she started to play fetch and even started playing “chase” with her. Everytime we walk in that neighborhood, Patchs would turn into their driveway. Patchs had a new friend! Even better, every time we would see the little girl she asked us if we could stop to play for a few minutes. I get a big “Warm Feeling” in my heart every time when we get ready to leave because, she asks us, “WHEN are going to come back again!”

As I’ve said before, it’s very rewarding to “pay it forward”. Mentor kids about dogs is exciting for me because I get to watch them learn and when they “get it” their eyes get wide and a big smile spreads across their faces. It’s very cool to see that look when they realize that they can communicate with an animal in a completely natural way.

Teaching kids to properly treat animals (with love and respect) at an early age will build good character that will serve them in all areas of later life. We as adults have a responsibility to give the children in our little corner of the world all of the tools they will need to become not only great pet owners, but responsible members of society.

Teaching them to work with nature (not against it) will help a lot.

Supporting and Encouraging Our Loved Ones

Why would someone tell somebody else, “There’s no way you will ever be able to get that done!” Or, What makes you think you can do that, you don’t have any clue!”

OK, I know you’ve heard me say this before, but it STILL amazes me how unsupportive some people are. Even those who claim to be “On Our Side”, like our friends and family are guilty of it.

Sure, sometimes we need to be “poked and prodded” into action, but that’s not what I’m talking about. I’m talking about someone being told that they might as well give up or not waste the time trying.

The Details:

A concerned dog owner contacted me. This person is having problems with a very fearful dog. He is afraid of everything. They have been working with the dog for many months but have not been able to find anything that helps.

They went on to say that both friends and family members have suggested that they get rid of the dog (send it to a shelter) and let someone else worry about it! The problem with that is, that most shelters are already stretched to the limit and a dog with fear issues would more than likely be put down to make more room for more adoptable dogs.

My response was to spend as much time reading about the problem and the possible solutions. I also suggested that they find a local trainer that specializes in fear issues. I also offered any help I could give as I have more than a passing knowledge in these matters.

My point was to encourage and praise the owner for not giving up on the dog. We do give up on a family member when they have behavioral issues. Why would we do it to a family pet!

Is Your Dog a Loaded Gun?

No, I’m not asking you if your dog is a killer! But if you aren’t COMPLETELY sure your dog is safe in any and all of the situations you put it in, you need to realize it and make sure you protect yourself and others from a potentially dangerous situation. And I’m not just talking about Dobermans, Pit bulls, German Shepherds and Rottweilers! I’m talking about ANY dog because all dogs can (and will) bite if they are put in a stressful situation that they are not prepared for.

In the best case scenario, all dogs should be widely socialized. They should be exposed to the same wide variety of experiences that we as humans are. A well socialized dog is happy and confident and can deal with anything it encounters without reacting adversely. That’s not to say that they won’t react … after all, when you hear a sudden load noise you may jump and become “startled” but you don’t hit someone or run away and hide! Right?

Being able to completely trust your dog is not something that happens overnight. It comes with time. Sometimes it takes a lot of time. Depending on the dog, it’s surroundings, it’s past, and the baggage it bring into your life it can take months and even years to completely trust a dog.

Dogs coming out of a shelter experience often bring baggage like shyness or fear. Some even need basic training like house training and basic obedience.

Puppies are experiencing EVERYTHING for the first time, so they need time to learn and mature before they can be completely trusted.

All dogs must learn to trust you before they will ever become trustworthy. They need to know that no harm will come to it.Working with them on a daily basis is the best way to build trust. If you’ve read much of my stuff you’ll remember that I call it “bonding”.  Once you have bonded with your dog it will trust you.

Working with your dog will open the lines of communication and you will be able to tell your dog the things you want it to know. Training and working with your dog is a life-long project. Just like children, they need daily guidance and learning never stops.

Like any student, your dog must be tested. In the dog world it is called “proofing”. A dog is not 100% trustworthy until it is tested and passes the test in “real world” situations. Just because your dog will stay seated in your kitchen when you open the door, doesn’t mean it can be trusted on the street when a bunch of little kids come running toward him screaming at the top of their lungs!

As a dog owner you are responsible for everything your dog does. You must know how it reacts to every situation. If you don’t you are walking a loaded gun. If you are walking a loaded gun you MUST keep it away from a situation that could make it “go off” …

As a “loaded gun” dog owner, you need to be aware of your dog’s changing moods and attitudes. Body language is the fastest and best way to do this. If your dog becomes tense, frightened or confused when you cross paths with a new dog or a person in the neighborhood you need to know it and you must be able to calm your dog or remove it from the situation before something happens.

Anything can set of a “loaded gun” dog. Some dogs react adversely to someone who moves quickly. Standing over them while trying to pat them on the head can also get you bit. Still other may try to protect themselves if someone tries to grab their tail or touch their paws. I’ve even seen a dog turn and bite someone that is standing behind them.

My suggestion is to do everything you can to get your dog used to every situation this life has to offer. Take them everywhere you can and spend as much time as you can with your family and friends and their dogs.

Personally, My goal with any new dog I get or work with is to have the dog meet one new person and one new dog every day for one year. It must work because I have never owned a dog with social issues and the ones that started with them, didn’t have them for very long!

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!

Dogs Playing Games and Playing with Toys

During the cold winter months we need to find ways to keep our dogs busy and happy.

Because most dogs are not able to spend inordinate amounts of time outside, it is critical that we find them things to do inside that will keep them exercised and their minds busy.

Patchs loves to go outside and run in the snow, but after a short time she gets cold and want to go back inside. But once she’s back inside she wants to play with her toys to burn off some of the energy she still has pent up inside. We play tug-o-war, toss a tennis ball and she has a Nyla-Bone that she likes to chew on.

Patchs tossing her toy in the air and catching it

We often play for 10-15 minutes, then take a short break, then we play some more. This  requires 30 minutes of my time 3-4 times a day. Because I work from home, I can afford to spend this kind of time.

In the past month or so I have found a way to burn off energy a bit faster and she seems to feel better about it too. We have started playing “mind games” …

One of these games uses 4 small yogurts cups with a hole in the bottom of each cup. I place these cups in plain view and I place a small piece of treat under one of the cups. When she comes in the house I tell her to “find the treat”. At first she would just knock over all of the cups in order to find the treat, but after working with her, she now sniffs the hole in each cup and only tips the cup that has the treat. When re-setting the cups, I remove her from the room. We do this exersize 4-5 times after every trip outside.

Another game she likes is to take “special kibble” (not her normal food) and I toss a piece and tell her “find it” … While she is going for it, I toss another one in a different area of the room. After she finds the first piece, I tell her “good girl” and I point the other way and say “find it” again. The kibble is about the same color as my carpet so she has to use her nose. Sometimes I toss it under something so she has to work to get to it. This game usually lasts for about 10 minutes.

By the time evening comes, she is usually ready to settle down and take a nap. These games are also helping with her level of concentration, her attention span is getting longer and it is gets her to watch and listen to me better.

What kind of games do you play with your dog?

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!

BOOK REVIEW – What Color is Your Dog? – by Joel Silverman

This is a great book for the beginner dog owner as well as the seasoned owner that may need to be reminded that dog training is not rocket science.

What Color is Your Dog? has nothing to do with the fact that you dog is white w/ black spots, black w/ a white patch, Brindle, Brown or even Tri-colored!

Joel Silverman’s What Color is Your Dog? teaches you the importance of establishing a solid bond between you and the dog before any major training begins.

What Color is Your Dog? teaches how to evaluate and classify your dog’s personality into one of five different categories and then shows you the proper method of training based on that personality.

It goes thru the importance of using the right training tools and shows you how to use them. It shows you how to communicate with your dog without shouting, hitting, or jerking on the leash. In fact, he shows that you don’t even need to raise your voice or get upset when your dog does something wrong! He also deals with overcoming common obsticles that arise during a training session.

About the Author:
Joel has been a professional trainer for 30+ years. He trained Sea Lions, Dolphins, and Killer Whales as well as other marine mammals before becoming a dog and cat trainer for the movie and advertising industry.

Without realizing it, you’ve seen his work in many movies and commercials for over 20 years. This work also includes all of the Iams commercials aired in the past few years.

He has been the host of Animal Planet’s “Good Dog U” (a staple of dog training for the past ten years). He also received the “Trainer Of the Year” award in 2008.

This is a “must have” book for any dog owner!

Our Young People Need Our Help

I’d like to take a few moments to thank some old friends, and some new ones as well.

For several years now I’ve tried to come up with a way to “pay it forward” so to speak. I have several interests in my life, but none any stronger than my love and respect for dogs. As people who have known me for a while will attest, I very rarely go anywhere without mine. And to tell you the truth, I’d sometimes rather stay home than go out without my faithful companion at my side.

My passion for dogs began during my formative years. I’ve been around dogs for over 4/5th of my life. Dogs have been my playmates, my friends, my companions and even my teachers.

These wonderful relationships have recently led me in the direction of education. No, I’m not going back to college to get a degree. Instead, I’m forming The Iowa Dog Trust. The Iowa Dog Trust will be an organization designed to teach young people and adults about dogs.

Over the past 10 years or so, I’ve noticed an alarming amount of animal abuse cases among teens and young adults. I’ve also noticed that some of the people convicted of these terrible crimes against animals have no remorse for what they’ve done. They actually see nothing wrong with abusive and murderous acts. This just blows my mind!

Another thing that concerns me is the amount of disinformation that is available today. Don’t get me wrong. It’s not the fact that everyone has an opinion. It’s the fact that with this opinion, many of them tell others that because they have first hand information they are actually “professionals” in the field of dog training. It seams to me that in order to become a professional animal trainer these days, all you need to do is hang up a sign and your are a professional.

With all of the dog trainers that we now have access to via TV, the Internet and on DVD it can be confusing. And with the wide range of training philosophies these trainers use, it would also be very easy to confuse our dogs.

I feel that it is critically important for people to understand dog training from the dog’s point of view. Not the human point of view. Unless a proper dog/human bond is created and unless we as humans learn to communicate with them, we are simply training a response. The goal should be a relationship, not a dictatorship.

My advice has always been this:  If you really love your pet, and you really want what is best for it, you will take the time to find out what makes your pet tick. Any “professional” trainers that are worth their salt will ask you what your dog likes and dislikes and what you think the source of a curtain problem is before they form a strategy for training. They should also be concerned for a dog’s best interest and health during training. A dog that is exposed to physical or mental stress during training is not going to perform well. In fact, it will often time shut down.

This is why I feel very strongly that we need to educate the average dog owner and make them more aware of these kinds of issues. And that’s what the Iowa Dog Trust is all about.

So, Thank You to all of my old friends who have supported me over the years and are 100% behind me on this new effort. And thank you to all of my new friends who have come on-board recently to help further this worthy cause.

Please feel free to offer any comments and suggestions. They will only make our project better! And again, Thank You Very Much for your support! I am truly honored.