Training works on both kids and dogs. Today is my ‘baby’s’ birthday. This woman is an amazing mom to both two and four-legged kids, has a killer sense of humor with a solid gold heart. Clever and creative, she’s grown up into a remarkable woman who loves Irish Wolfhounds and is…ahem…as I affectionately call her, Leprechaun-sized (aka vertically challenged), with her dog towering over her, as a mom. I don’t think I did too badly. Happy birthday, sweetheart. I hope your day is as bright and special as you are.
Sam: Oh moooom. I’m calling an editor’s meeting to discuss equity and fairness.
Mom: Umm, what part of “I’m the boss of the Ranch hands” do you not understand? I’m the one who calls these meetings.
Sam: Umm, we both know who runs this show but if you want to think it’s you, fine by me. Whatever gets you through the night, but I wouldn’t mention that to Elsa though.
Elsa: What…did someone call me?
Sam: I’m calling an editor’s meeting to discuss the issue of equitable treatment around here, or inequitable as the case may be.
Elsa: Wait, what…there’s some sort of inequality going on? As the one calling the shots around her, I want to get to the bottom of this. Yes, let’s have a meeting!
Sam: See, what’d I tell you?
Mom: There is no inequity around here. Sam was just trying to be clever.
Elsa: Clever, schmlever. Ok, bro…I’ll bite. What are you talking about?
Sam: I think mom may actually be giving you more treats than me on our walks so I’m registering a complaint.
Mom: You know I give positive reinforcement to Elsa so she doesn’t go nuts when we encounter another dog on our walks. And yes, I give her a treat to help her focus on me rather than going all Cujo on some neighborhood dog.
Sam: See I knew it! How come I don’t get one, huh?
Elsa: Look Knucklehead, I’m making up for lost time learning how to be a dog after all those years in the puppy mill prison. Those treats remind me that I’m loved and well taken care of and help me bond with my mom. They’re building my confidence.
Sam: “Our mom,” but I digress. [Displaying pitiful look on face] I just want to know why you get a treat and I don’t.
Elsa: Well, I’m the one doing all the learning here. You’re just along for the ride. I didn’t realize wingmen needed treats.
Mom: Now, now…the treats are rewards and positive reinforcement. When you’re good, you get a reward.
Sam: Yeah, but…
Elsa: Oh put a sock on it, dude. I’m the star here. And I’m learning as quick as I can. It ain’t easy when you’ve never had exposure to dogs and people and strollers and…SQUIRRELS!!!
Mom: I don’t think we’re resolving anything thing. Maybe we should check in with Blogville and see what they have to say about this issue.
Sam: Oh you mean let all my fans decided this. Hell, yeah!
Elsa… Let’s hold on to our top knots here, kids. As the resident Ranch baby and aggrieved puppy mill survivor, I think I should be getting treats all the time. For just being me.
Mom: Treats are given with good performance, Elsa. When you act appropriately and calmly, you are rewarded. We’re trying to teach you that life can be good and is not always a DEFCON 5 alert. It’s possible that you can walk nicely without going off the reservation whenever you see another dog out for a walk.
Elsa: I can…with the right treat.
Sam: See, I’m doomed here.
As a parent, you wouldn’t show favoritism with your 2-legged children, but what are the rules regarding the 4-legged ones? Are the rules the same? Is it possible that dogs know the difference, especially the more ‘simple-minded’ ones?
Has Sam suddenly learned to count and is now calculating that Elsa is receiving more treats that he is? Should he be afforded the same number/same high value treats? He looks at me like I’m some sort of cretin with such a pitiful expression as to induce guilt. I swear that dog must have been a travel agent in a previous life since he is so successful at sending me on those guilt trips.
So where do you fall on this issue? Am I being a monster if I don’t treat him? Remember we’re dealing with a very simple mind and yet, I feel like maybe there’s some merit with his case. Do dogs understand the notion of equality?
Who doesn’t love an adorable puppy who’s just found its voice? There’s nothing cuter than when they’ve noticed their reflection in a mirror or encountered something unusual in their day, right? But when that pup grows up and continues to bark, it’s not as adorable, is it? What’s a responsible dog ‘pawrent’ supposed to do?
The problem with this kind of adorableness is too many dog pawrents actively encourage the barking as the puppy grows up into its world. What may have been cute at 10 weeks of age, can grate on people’s nerves, frighten passers-by or annoy the neighbors when that same 10 week old puppy is now a 10-year-old dog who still barks its head off.
I think we can all agree that barking is a form of communication. Did you know there are at least 7 different kinds of barks?
The ‘Hello’ Bark’ ~ Dog encounters people or other dogs and its body is relaxed and the tail is wagging. This is a friendly greeting kind of bark.
Distress Bark ~ Barking at all movement or unexpected noises. Body is stiff and jumping forward may accompany each bark.
Territorial Bark ~ Beware, you’ve invaded my space.
Look at Me Bark ~ Vying for attention, treat, or play.
Communal Bark ~ Following the leader. Similar to the racket at a shelter.
Obsessive Bark ~ Repetitive barking often while running back and forth at a fence. One of my neighbors dog falls in this category. The dog often barks non-stop for hours on end.
Let Me Outa Here ~ A frustration bark when seeing a dog that cannot be greeted.
Obviously the last two types of barks are not welcome and need attention. And we’re not talking about screaming at the top of your lungs to ‘shut up’ like my neighbor. That dog needs an outlet for his energy, like a seriously long walk.
Naturally preventing of all barking (good luck even trying that strategy) is foolish. Barking is natural and the way dogs communicate. It is possible however to train a dog to stop barking. Be patient. A voice command such as “No Bark!” accompanied by a reward when complied with makes gains possible. When the dog starts to bark, particularly in the house, and you’ve given the “No Bark!” command (with loads of praise on compliance), follow-up with quick and timely delivered “Wanna a Treat?” question. Distraction can work wonders during training. Gradually reduce the number of treats followed by lots of praise but keep the praise ongoing. You can also use negative reinforcement (when the dog barks: tension is applied through a head halter or harness reminding your pet of your disapproval when you’ve given the “No Bark” command). We tend to find positive reinforcement is a far more effective way when it comes to all training sessions.
It’s not necessary to punish or berate your pup. ‘Barking’ back at your dog is the ultimate exercise in futility.
Other strategies to employ may include providing a crate for a safe spot for a fearful dog. Often times, barking is the result of boredom (as in the case of my neighbor dog). Exercise and mental stimulation helps dogs achieve balance. Remember dogs are creatures of habit and a deviation to their routine can trigger excessive barking. Best to stay with the game plan for the pawfect’ chill-dog.
Do you have any tips regarding how you addressed obsessive barking?
While mining the Internet for inspiration, I came across this short video and thought it might bring a smile to your face to your face or provide at least an a-ha! moment like it did for me. Not sure why I never thought about the introduction of play to Elsa’s daily sessions on learning how to be a dog before but am glad to have accidentally stumbled across this now. Here’s hoping there’s lots of play in store for you and your fur-iend this weekend.
Since adopting a puppy mill dog, I have become extra sensitive on how to communicate with all dogs we encounter throughout our neighborhood. Never thought much about it before hand, but Elsa gave me an opportunity to see life through her eyes and realizing how even non-puppy mill dogs may not appreciate being patted on their head or various other kinds of encounters. This chart shows various poses that you might consider the next time you see a dog behave to stimuli. Rather than rushing up to a dog that looks so adorable he or she just can’t be not greeted, think about how they perceive your bum rush. Dogs like Sam could probably care less, but dogs like Elsa may have a problem with a stranger coming up and patting her on the head. Luckily we’ve been pretty lucky. She’s very curious about uprights, even little uprights but I still caution would-be greeters to let her make the first move.
Are you over-enthusiastic about greeting strange dogs you encounter? Have any close calls with objections?
I’m calling today “Training Thursday” around the Ranch and we’re about to have us some major league fun with it. Wanna know the reason why it’s going to be fun? Today will be so M.U.C.H. fun walking Ms. Elsa. Why? Well…I’m glad you asked.
While I’m not a pet product influencer (not yet anyway), can I just give a big shout out to the creator of the Freedom No-Pull Harness?! I have one for Sam for his work at the hospital and have loved it. It keeps him easily under control when he’s curiously pulling toward all the tubes, wires, and waste baskets, etc. in a patient’s room easily. Yesterday afternoon, after the umpteenth time of having my shoulder nearly ripped from its socket with the Princess Squirrel Hunter and then did the forehead smack when it finally dawned on me, I walked her Highness over to my favorite neighborhood pet shop and picked up another one. In the words of Homer Simpson….DOH!!!! Why hadn’t I thought to do that before? The ease in which this product can be quickly hitched up is amazing. Slip the harness over the head, draw the two side buckles up onto the top strap and voilà! Done. No stepping in, crawling around on your belly to try to connect, not being tied in a knot because the dog isn’t cooperative. Simply, quick. Just the way to deal with an excited dog trying to be patient jonesing to leave the house as soon as you touch their leash.
This product is going to be a life saver. Literally. Three years ago, I had reconstructive shoulder surgery due to a bad scooter accident. The orthopedic surgeon said that he basically “crocheted” me back together again from stem to stern in the shoulder joint. Rehab was a bear and a painfully long process. Even now I occasionally will have painful days and walking a squirrel obsessed dog who can catapult after tree rats like a medieval slingshot hasn’t helped. My raven haired little sweetie is quick as lightning once she’s spotted a squirrel and then it’s hang on for dear life for me. It was only a matter of time that (a) I’d probably get hurt or (b) I’d definitely get hurt. Since the idea of going through rehab again isn’t my idea of fun and games, I opted to spring for the harness which will provide maximum comfort and control. And did it ever!
But before we get to how Elsa performed in it, let me give you some of the back story about this harness. Like so many successful products, a problem prompted a design solution. Jessica McDonald was walking a friend’s 150# Rottweiler and quickly realized the prong collar was inadequate to control that dog. Relying on her Masters degree in Mechanical Engineering she designed a harness with an effective way to control the dog at its center of gravity-its chest.
By designing a tension loop at the back of the harness, she discovered it made for a very effective training and communication tool. After applying for and receiving a patent, the Freedom No-Pull Harness was born. The owner of our pet store helped us custom fit the adjustable straps for a perfect fit and I was blown away by how walking home was so much easier. The harness comes in 6 different sizes for dogs of all sizes and is made in the USA and has a great warranty should your pet manage to chew any of the straps. Elsa walked the entire way home with a loose leash beside me and NOT pulling. Hallelujah!
And in the more exciting news category, she even accepted a treat directly from the pet store owner’s hand! Since adoption, she has refused to accept all food directly from anyone’s hand and only in the past couple of days has begun to accept pieces of cheese from me so I’m telling you, this was HUGE people.
So all in all, Training Thursday has been full of surprises and success. I can’t begin to praise this product enough. And I’m tickled pink that Elsa is beginning to trust people enough to accept food directly. The squirrels and I want to express our gratitude for this effective training device. Looks like we’ll all be just a bit safer when the Ninja Dog is out patrolling the streets of Denver.