Month: September 2013 (Page 2 of 3)

Teaching The Sit Command

The sit command is one of the most basic training exercises to teach your dog. It is an excellent way to control your new friend in many situations and will also build confidence in a young dog. The teaching and use of this command will help reaffirm basic obedience as well as helping to resolve behavioral problems such as dominance issues (read my alpha dog article for more information on dominance). You should begin the exercise in a quiet location, free from distractions. Call your dog to you and show him a favourite treat that you’re holding in your hand. Make sure you have your dog’s attention and have more treats ready in your pocket. Hold the treat in front of your dog’s nose, then lift the treat slightly, and move it backwards, a few centimeter’s over his his head. If done correctly, this should encourage your dog to naturally lift his head, bend his back legs and lower his bottom, taking him into the sit position. As he sits down, say “sit” firmly and calmly. Always use the same command in the same tone of voice. As soon as your dog has successfully sat down, say “good dog” and give him the treat. If he fails to sit down, simply try again. It may be useful to try start training just before your dog’s dinner time so he is hungry and eager for the treat. DO NOT chastise your dog if he gets it wrong. It is your responsibility to communicate with him correctly and he should be praised for good behavior, not punished for misunderstanding you. Once your dog has mastered the sit command, you can gradually increase the levels of distraction around him, and slowly substitute praise (saying “good dog” and patting him) for treats. Ultimately, your dog should respond to the command in a busy environment without treats, but be patient as this will take time to master.

Once your dog has mastered the sit command, it is time to move onto the down command.

Teaching The Down Command

The down command is probably the second most useful after the sit command. It shows a higher level of respect to the owner and can be used to calm a fearful dog and soothe nervous-aggressive behavior.

You should teach your dog the sit command first, and once he is well-trained in this, move on to the down command. Once your dog can perform the down command, you can move onto the stay command. Begin training any new command in a quiet location free from distractions.

Tell your dog to sit. Then, show your dog there’s a treat in your hand by putting it close to his nose. Lower the treat slowly and the dog’s head should follow, leading him gently into a down position. Say “down” as he arrives into position, then praise him and give him the treat. If he ended up in a bowed position, with his back arched, then simply draw the treat forwards slightly away from him to encourage him to get into the full down position. Say “good dog” and give him the treat each time he successfully gets into the correct position.

Always say “down” in the same tone of voice, don’t suddenly change to “lay down” or any other variation as you will confuse him. Repeat the exercise patiently until your dog is consistently performing the command correctly. You can then gradually perform the exercise in progressively noisier locations with more distractions. You can also begin to give less treats and simply praise him when he gets it right.

With patience, your dog will ultimately be able to perform the command anywhere you wish, giving you extra control and keeping your dog safe, healthy and happy.

Stopping Your Dog From Jumping Up

Jumping up is a common problem in dogs when they greet their owners, friends and other pets, and in most cases it is not a habit that should be encouraged. You, as the dog’s owner, may not mind this behavior, but guests may well be annoyed, frightened or even worried about hygiene issues of having a dog’s face close to their own.

Some trainers have advocated kneeing a dog in the chest to stop it from jumping up. DO NOT do this – it may hurt the dog or your knee, and it will not cure the problem. You must find the reason the dog responds and tackle the problem from its root.

Jumping up usually begins with a trigger, such as a knock at the door or a ringing at the doorbell. Your dog will usually be alerted by this sound and will be ready to deal with a visitor – he is probably under the impression that it is his job to welcome a guest, he must check out any strangers and , above all, he must keep the pack safe. This is where the problems begin, because it should be the owner who has the responsibility of welcoming, checking and maintaining safety, not the dog.

So, when the trigger occurs, shut your dog safely away in another room. You will thus be effectively controlling your dog’s behavior and you can now assume the role of welcoming your guest in your own way. In doing this you will elevate your status in the pack and reduce your dog’s ranking, showing him that you are in control of who enters the house and in what manner they are greeted. You will also have saved your guest from being jumped on!

When your dog is allowed through to see your guest, do this in a controlled manner and don’t allow him to jump up. As soon as his behavior is anything less than acceptable, banish him to another room. He will soon learn that he must follow your rules if he wants to stay with you.

If your dog jumps up at you yourself when you enter your home, there are two strategies you should employ for dealing with this. The first is to ignore your dog for a good five or ten minutes when you come home. Don’t look at him, don’t speak to him and don’t react if he does something to get your attention. Simply turn away and ignore even bad behavior. He will be very confused at first, especially if you’re in the habit of making a big fuss of him on entering the house, but after five to ten minutes he will settle down and maybe even lay down quietly. Then you can call him to you, praise him and give him a little treat.

If your dog consistently jumps up at you, it’s because he believes that he has been rewarded in some way for this behavior. Even being told off or shouted at can seem to be a reward to a dog that’s desperate to gain your attention. Here’s what you must do – when he jumps up, hold his front paws and keep him standing up on his back legs. Don’t let him down, infact you should stretch him upwards a little. He will wriggle and want to get down, and he may even mouth your hands to make you let go of his paws. Then let him go and reward him when he is back on the ground where he belongs. If he jumps up again, go through the same procedure until he learns that jumping up produces a situation he doesn’t find rewarding. You must be firm, kind and consistent to ensure that the message is being received loud and clear.

Adopting A Rescue Dog

Adopting a rescue dog from the animal shelter can be the best thing for many prospective dog owners. A lot of people are put off the idea in thinking that these dogs are “problem dogs”, that they were only abandoned because of difficult behavioural problems. In the vast majority of cases this is very far from the truth. Most dogs end up in the animal shelter for reasons other than their own behaviour – the owners no longer have time for the dog, they’re moving house, they’re divorcing, the owner dies or goes into a nursing home, the owner cannot afford the costs of owning a dog or a new baby comes a long and the dog doesn’t “fit in” to their lifestyle any more. These dogs are good, well-trained, well-behaved and loyal pets and they are in the animal shelter through no fault of their own.

Rescue dogs can be the perfect choice for many people who simply don’t want the difficulties that having a puppy can entail. Puppies need a lot of time and patience to house train them, to socialize them, to teach them how to be a good dog. In a rescue dog, you will find that most, if not all of this initial hard work has already been done, and you will be able to give a worthy dog a loving home that he truly deserves.

Some rescue dogs will have difficulties in adjusting to a new home and a new lifestyle, they may need training to learn new ways of doing things, or un-learning habits from their previous lifestyle, but this may be less work than the training a puppy needs in the first year of its life! An adult dog has the advantages of being calmer, and his looks, temperament and size will already be established and known.

If you are seriously considering adopting a rescue dog then find out as much as possible about the dog’s history. If he is in a shelter, the staff there will be able to tell you everything they know. If the dog is still with his owners then ask them as many questions as possible to get an idea of where the dog came from and what life he has led, what training he has received and any medical history that is available. Find out how old the dog is, if he is house-trained, is he used to children and other animals, is he used to travelling in the car. Has the dog been neutered, wormed and inoculated? IS there any on-going behavioural problems that you should know about? Make a list of questions and write some notes to help you in the future. Remember that a dog’s behaviour at a shelter may not be at all representative of his behaviour in your home. Try to see the dog at least a couple of times before adopting him, and take him for a walk if possible to see how he responds to you away from the shelter or his previous owners.

Once you have taken the big step and adopted your dog, begin straight away with consistent kind firmness. Establish the rules from day one so that he can learn what is expected of him. Remember he will be confused by his change of surroundings and may well miss his previous owners, the shelter staff or other dogs. If he has house-training problems, start a firm but kind training schedule to teach him what he must do. Positive reward-based training is the best course of action – be firm, consistent and above all, patient!

Make an appointment with your vet to have the dog examined and put an inoculation schedule in place. Some behavioural problems and house-training difficulties can stem from medical problems, especially in older dogs, so your vet may be able to help with these too.

If you are an inexperienced dog owner, then read lots of books and articles about caring for your new friend. Find inspiration for different games and ways of interacting together that also build obedience and confidence in your new friend. With patience and understanding, rescuing a homeless dog can be one of the most rewarding experiences for both you and your dog.

Cleaning Your Dog's Ears

Tips on how to successfully clean for your dog’s ears

Your dog’s ears should be kept clean and healthy at all times. Inspect them carefully each week to ensure that they are clean and free from odors. If you notice the following symptoms, consult your vet:

– head shaking or scratching at ears – red or irritated skin – pain or discomfort when the ear is touched – discharge – foul odor – signs of mite infestation – excessive build-up of ear wax If the ears appear healthy, then gentle cleaning can help maintain optimum health and comfort for your dog. Small amounts of dirt and wax are quite normal in a healthy ear, so simply wipe the inside of the ear and all the little crevises with some cotton wool and a cleaning fluid from the vet. Carefully restrain your dog so he cannot pull away from you as this could cause serious damage to his ears.

NEVER use cotton buds, Q-Tips or anything pointed or smaller than your fingers in your dogs ears.

Use a fresh piece of cotton wool for each ear to avoid transfering bacteria from one ear to the other. Your dog will be eager to shake his head when you’ve finished, so stand back, let him shake and give him a treat to reward him for his good behavior during the ear cleaning session!

Choosing A Dog Bed

It’s a good idea to buy your dog a good quality bed and encourage him to use it right from the start. In this way, you lessen the temptation for him to get on beds, sofas and armchairs and you’ll show him that it’s you who chooses where he should sleep. A dog bed can and should contribute to your overall training program for your dog.

There are several choices when buying a dog bed so lets look at the various styles:

– Traditional baskets with a comfy duvet inside are good for small to medium sized dogs.

– Pillow beds are a good choice for a padded, comfortable bed for your dog. Make sure they’re machine-washable.

– Bumper beds or snuggles are ideal for small dogs so they can “snuggle” down and keep warm in the padded soft interior.

– Foam beds are made from material covered foam that forms a warm and cosy support around the dog. Some are in the shape of a miniature kennel, that are ideal for small dogs to curl up in.

– Futon mattresses are ideal for larger dogs, and with wool fillings they are warm in winter and cool in summer and keep fleas at bay.

Make sure that whatever you choose, it is safe and clean for your dog at all times. Covers should be washable an easy to keep clean from fleas. Choose a bed that is the right size for your dog. The dog should be able to lie flat, completely stretched out on his side, without hanging off of the bed.

Bathing Your Dog

Although bathing your dog too often will dry out his coat and skin, an occasional bath or shower is necessary to remove dust and dirt and maintain a healthy shiny coat.Dogs that live most of their time outdoors will require bathing every six weeks or more, depending on how dirty they get. Smooth coated dogs can go longer between baths than curly or double-coated dogs. A careful thorough brushing most days will keep a dog’s coat clean and in good condition and will reduce that “doggy” smell by removing dust and dirt from the coat and skin.

It is a good idea to get your dog used to being groomed and bathed while he is still young (although no younger than five weeks) as this will make it a much less stressful event for him and make him more manageable during the procedure. Choose a dog shampoo suitable for your dog’s needs. If he has dry skin, a dry coat or any sort of skin problem, consult your vet and use the shampoo that he recommends. Standard dog shampoos can be diluted before use to help spread it through the coat and to make it last longer. I recommend adding 25% water to a small amount of dog shampoo in a clean empty bottle. You should give your dog a thorough grooming with a good quality dog brush before bathing him. You must carefully brush out all dirt and matted fur as this will only become worse once the fur is wet. Have towels and shampoo ready to hand before starting, and place a non-slip rubber mat in the bottom of the bath or shower as dogs slip very easily and will feel insecure if they can’t get a firm footing. Wear old clothes as you WILL get soaked while bathing your dog – there’s no way to avoid that! Use warm to tepid water – make sure it’s not too hot or too cold by testing it ont he inside of your forearm, and ensure the room is heated if you’re in a cold climate. You should also make sure your dog stays warm afterwards (but not trapped in direct sunlight) until his coat is completely dry.

Start by wetting the dog from the neck and shoulders towards his tail. Get someone to help hold your dog if he is difficult to handle. Shampoo his legs, tail, rear end, chest and body. Then wet his face and ears and very carefully wash his face without getting suds or water into his ears or eyes, even if you’re using a non-stinging shampoo. Now rinse your dog very, very thoroughly with clean, clear water. This will take three or four times as long as the rest of the process as it is the most important part. The rinsing is the part that really cleans your dog, taking away all the dirt, loose hair and dead skin. You must rinse away every little trace of the shampoo to ensure he does not get itchy, irritated skin. So when you think you’re rinsed enough, rinse a few more times just to be sure.

When your dog exits the bath or shower, his first instinct will be to shake and there’s nothing you can do about that! So either stand back or wrap him quickly and gently in clean dry towels to blot up as much of the water as possible. Then dry him carefully all over with the towels. Some dogs will tolerate a hair dryer and some will find it too traumatic, so don’t force your dog if he is too scared. If you do use one, be careful not to hold it too close to his skin and don’t put it on a hot setting. All dogs will dry off better naturally in a warm climate or a warm comfortable room.

Dog Breeds

There are literally hundreds of different breeds of dog, each with their own unique physique, temperament and care needs. The list that follows is not exhaustive but includes most recognised dog breeds. Click through on the breed name to read more about each dog, their history and their characteristics. This page is in progress and the descriptions will be added gradually over the next few weeks. A


Afghan Hound
Airedale Terrier
Alapaha Blue Blood Bulldog
Alaskan Klee Kai
Alaskan Malamute
American Bulldog
American Eskimo
American Foxhound
American Pit Bull Terrier
American Staffordshire Terrier American Water Spaniel Anatolian Shepherd Australian Cattle Dog Australian Kelpie Australian Shepherd Australian Terrier B Basenji Bassett Hound Beagle Bearded Collie Beauceron Bedlington Terrier Belgian Malinois Belgian Sheepdog Belgian Tervuren Bernese Mountain Dog Bichon Frise Black and Tan Coonhound Black Russian Terrier Bloodhound Border Collie Border Terrier Borzoi Boston Terrier Bouvier des Flandres Boxer Briard Briquet Griffon Vendeen Brittany Spaniel Brussels Griffon Bill Terrier Bulldog Bullmastiff C Cairn Terrier Canaan Dog Cardigan Welsh Corgi Catahoula Leopard Dog Cavalier King Charles Spaniel Central Asian Ovtcharka Cesky Terrier Chesapeake Bay Retriever Chinese Crested Chinese Foo Dog Chinese Shar-Pei Chow Chow Clumber Spaniel Cocker Spaniel Collie Coton de Tulear Curly-Coated Retriever D Dachshund Dalmatian Dandie Dinmont Terrier Doberman Pinscher Dogue de Bordeaux E English Cocker Spaniel English Foxhound English Setter English Springer Spaniel English Toy Spaniel Estrela Mountain Dog F Field Spaniel Fila Brasileiro Finnish Spitz Flat-Coated Retriever Fox Terrier (Smooth) Fox Terrier (Wire) French Bulldog G German Shepherd German Shorthaired Pointer German Wirehaired Pointer Giant Schnauzer Golden Retriever Gordon Setter Great Dane Great Pyrenees Greater Swiss Mountain Dog Greyhound H Harrier Havanese I Ibizan Hound Irish Setter Irish Terrier Irish Water Spaniel Irish Wolfhound Italian Greyhound J Jack Russell Terrier Japanese Chin K Keeshond Kerry Blue Terrier Komondor Kooikerhondje Kuvasz L Labrador Retriever Laekenois Lakeland Terrier Lhasa Apso Lowchen M Maltese Manchester Terrier Maremma Sheepdog Mastiff Miniature Australian Shepherd Miniature Bull Terrier Miniature Pinscher Miniature Poodle Miniature Schnauzer N Neapolitan Mastiff Newfoundland Norfolk Terrier Norwegian Buhund Norwegian Elkhound Norwich Terrier Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever O Old English Sheepdog Otterhound P Papillon Pekingese Pembroke Welsh Corgi R Rat Terrier Red & White Setter Redbone Coonhound Rhodesian Ridgeback Rottweiler S Saint Bernard Saluki Samoyed Schipperke Scottish Deerhound Scottish Terrier Sealyham Terrier Shetland Sheepdog Shiba-Inu Shih Tzu Siberian Husky Silky Terrier Skye Terrier Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier Spinone Italiano Staffordshire Bull Terrier Standard Poodle Standard Schnauzer Sussex Spaniel T Tibetan Spaniel Tibetan Terrier Toy Manchester Terrier Toy Poodle V Vizsla W Weimaraner Welsh Springer Spaniel Welsh Terrier West Highland White Terrier Whippet Wire Fox Terrier Wirehaired Pointing Griffon X Xoloitzcuintli Y Yorkshire Terrier

Alpha Dog – Are You The Alpha Dog?

Are you the Alpha dog? It is very important to understand that in the wild, dogs live naturally in a pack and are therefore always aware of their position. At home, this pack contains you, your family, other pets in the household and of course your dog. The Alpha dog is the leader and protector of the whole pack, and it is crucial that you are seen by your dog to be taking this role. He will be calmer, more secure and better behaved if he understands his position and knows who his pack leader is (I have written a more in depth article of dog psychology here).

Firstly you need to learn which signals your dog will understand. It is essential to consistently communicate “alpha signals” to your dog in a compassionate and patient way. Do NOT be aggressive, overbearing or bullying to your dog! You must learn the language that a dog understands and use the correct signals to communicate with him effectively. Unclear signals and inconsistency will confuse your dog – he will deduce that the pack leader is not effective, he will become stressed and feel that it is therefore up to him to try to take over as alpha to give order to the pack. If he does this, it is not because he is being “bad”, but that he has made correct conclusions (from a dog’s point of view) from what you have communicated to him.

So how do you let your dog know that you are an effective alpha? Firstly, the alpha dog always eats before all other pack members, so you MUST eat your meal completely and clear the dishes before feeding your dog. You should ensure that he sees you eating and therefore understands completely that he will only be fed when you, as pack leader, have completely finished.

When you have eaten your meal and cleared away, make your dog sit before giving him his bowl of food and allowing him to eat. If you have been in the habit of feeding your dog before your dinner, or even during, this new routine may be very confusing for your dog at first. Be patient – if he whines or makes a fuss while you’re eating, it is simply part of his learning process. You are giving him new signals, new information about the pack and you must give him time to understand this. Be firm, kind and patient.

Secondly, you should always enter boundaries before your dog, especially doorways, stairs and narrow passages. You must NEVER let your dog push past you or go in front of you. The alpha dog in a dog pack would not allow a subordinate dog to enter a boundary before him, and neither should you. Use a lead to control your dog if necessary, but always ensure you enter before your dog.

You should never let your dog run up a stairway in front of you. This allows him to run to the top and look down on you, exhibiting dominant behaviour. The key to this is NOT to punish the wrong behaviour – it is too late to do that – simply physically stop him from exhibiting this form of alpha dog behaviour in the first place. Use a leash, close doors, give a short, sharp shout, whatever your dog responds to, and always remember to be firm, kind and respectful. You are talking to your dog, not trying to bully him into submission. The key these principals are repetition, consistency and patience.

Puppy House Training

House training is essential if you want to enjoy many happy years with your dog. It is a form of education that will shape your puppy’s behaviour for life so it’s really worth getting it absolutely right. People say to me that they find house-training difficult, that it take too long, but in reality it is a simple training process. It took me less than a week to house train my puppy, to teach him a command for going to the toilet that he has responded to ever since (he’s seven now), and I am going to share with you my method so you can be just as successful. It may take several weeks as there are many contributory factors such as your attitude, your living arrangements, your relationship with your puppy and your perseverance, but with plenty of patience, time and effort, you can house-train your dog for life.

This method does not entail using a crate, although many people advocate that and I am sure it is a good method. I simply recommend regularly confining your dog in one area of the house, especially when she is unsupervised. This should have a washable floor, such as a tiled bathroom, as there will definitely be a few accidents at the beginning. You must remember that your puppy cannot wander around the house unsupervised at this stage, as she will go to the toilet whenever she feels like it without being trained to do otherwise. Make sure your puppy has a nice comfortable bed in her chosen area and that she is happy to use it. Once she establishes the bed as her regular sleeping area, she is less likely to mess near it. You should also ensure that she is happy in this area – make sure she has fresh water, of course, and play with her and pet her there so she feels happy, safe and secure.

The corner stone to this method of house training is being familiar with your puppy’s normal behaviour and natural routine, so you must spend lots of time with her. The other important factor is to have feed her at the same times each day. Puppies almost always need to go to the toilet after their dinner, so a routine will help you both. Check also that her food and water and the amount you give her are suiting her digestive system. You can’t house train a dog who has digestive problems, so any problems must be resolved. Speak to your vet if you are having difficulties doing this yourself or if you think she has a urinary problems – it could be an infection that needs treatment.

Now, you must think of a command word or phrase that you will use when you see your puppy wants to go to the toilet, or when you want to encourage her to do so. First thing in the morning, within half an hour after her dinner and before she goes to sleep, you must take her to her toilet area (this will either be some newspaper on the floor away from her bed, or a convenient area just outside, not far from the door) and give her your toilet command. If you are patient and keep repeating the command, she will go to the toilet in the designated toilet area. You must immediately praise her and make a fuss of her so she knows she has done well. Remember that when puppies are young, they have poor bladder control and a small capacity for urine and faeces in their system, so you should take her out every two hours so she has the opportunity to go if she wants to. Avoiding undesired behaviour is always the best route in dog training.

When you are with your puppy (and you should spend lots of time with her during these early stages) you should be observing her behaviour when she’s about to go to the toilet – my dog looks restless and walks around, sniffing the ground in circles. Once you learn her pattern, you can call her quickly to her toilet area, or pick her up and place her there. Once your puppy is in the right area, give your toilet command in a friendly encouraging tone. If she wanders off before going, lead her gently back there and give the command repeatedly. If your puppy is really averse to going in that area, look for something that might be distressing her – she could have a very real reason for avoiding that spot.

When your dog does go to the toilet in the designated area, praise abundantly. Each and every time she follows your command, praise her enthusiastically and she will learn that this is the right behaviour. Positive reinforcement is the most important factor in this training method. Your puppy will soon try to get your attention or whine when she wants to go to the toilet. You must be there, ready to let her go to her toilet area quickly otherwise she will have an accident. If you are using newspaper in the house, this can be gradually moved outdoors, so that she understands that that is the new toilet area.

Above all, DO NOT punish or speak sharply to your dog when she makes a mistake. She will not understand why you’re chastising, it will only confuse her and be counter-productive to her training. You should also thoroughly clean up any accidents with a detergent that removes the smell – dogs like to toilet again where they have left their scent and you need to help her avoid this pattern.

In conclusion, spend lots of time with your puppy, learn her pre-toilet habits and pre-empt her need to go. Take her to her toilet area regularly and give the toilet command. Praise her abundantly when she does as she is told. Keep her living area clean, comfortable and fun to be in for both of you. Remember that patience and perseverance are the most important things in any training – house training does take a little time and your dog already has so much to learn at this stage of her life. She need lots of affection, lots of exercise and playtimes and lots of understanding and praise.

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