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Thursday, 26 July 2012 14:40

Training Your Dog

Why Should You Do It?
Many people can’t imagine life without dogs. We admire and adore them for their loyalty, unconditional affection, playful exuberance and zest for life. Nevertheless, dogs and people are very different animals. Although officially “man’s best friend,” dogs have some innocent but irksome tendencies—like jumping up to greet, barking, digging and chewing—that can make it downright difficult to live with them! To make the most of your relationship with your dog, you need to teach her some important skills that will help her live harmoniously in a human household.
Learning how to train your dog will improve your life and hers, enhance the bond between you, and ensure her safety—and it can be a lot of fun. Dogs are usually eager to learn, and the key to success is good communication. Your dog needs to understand how you’d like her to behave and why it’s in her best interest to comply with your wishes.

How Should You Do It?
If you ask around, you’ll get all kinds of advice about training your dog. Some people will tell you that the key is to use a “firm hand”—to make sure your dog doesn’t think she can get away with naughty behavior. Some people argue that you should only use rewards in dog training and avoid punishing your dog in any way. Some people insist that all you have to do is “be the alpha dog,” assert your status as the dominant leader of your “pack.” It’s easy to get overwhelmed by the glut of differing opinions out there.
Regardless of which method and techniques you use, effective dog training boils down to one thing—controlling the consequences of your dog’s behavior. If you want to influence the way your dog behaves, you need to:

  1. Reward behaviors you like.
  2. Make sure behaviors you don’t like aren’t rewarded.
  3. Understand How Your Dog Learns
  4. One of the most frequent complaints of pet parents is that their dogs “just won’t listen.” But put yourself in your dog’s shoes for a moment. If someone was constantly chattering away in a foreign language that you’d never heard before, how long would you pay attention? Probably not for very long—because you simply wouldn’t be able to understand what the foreign speaker was trying to communicate.
  5. To communicate clearly and consistently with your dog, you need to understand how she learns. Dogs learn through the immediate consequences of their behavior. The nature of those consequences determines how they’ll behave in the future. Dogs, like other animals (people included), work to get good things and avoid bad things in life.
  6. If a behavior results in something rewarding—like food, a good belly rub, playtime with dog buddies or a game of fetch with her pet parent—your dog will do that behavior more often. On the other hand, if a behavior results in an unpleasant consequence—like being ignored or losing things she finds rewarding—she’ll do that behavior less often.

    If You Like the Behavior, Reward It 
  7. Some training methods use punishment, like leash corrections and scolding, to discourage dogs from doing everything except what you want them to do. Other methods cut right to the chase and focus on teaching dogs what you do want them to do. While both tactics can work, the latter is usually the more effective approach, and it’s also much more enjoyable for you and your dog. For example, you can easily use treats, games and praise to teach your dog to sit when people approach during walks in the neighborhood. If your dog is sitting, she won’t be dragging you toward the people, jumping up when they get close enough, mouthing on their arms and legs, and so on. That’s pretty efficient training—no pain or intimidation needed. Alternatively, you could grab your dog’s leash and jerk her to the ground every time she jumps up to greet people, and you’d most likely get the same effect in the end—no more jumping up. But consider the possible fallout:

Your dog might decide that people are scary since she gets hurt whenever she tries to greet them—and she might try to drive them away by growling or barking the next time they approach.
Your dog might decide that YOU are scary since you hurt her whenever she tries to greet people.
If you can teach your dog polite manners without hurting or frightening her, why not do it? Rather than punishing her for all the things you don’t want her to do, concentrate on teaching your dog what you do want her to do. When your dog does something you like, convince her to do it again by rewarding her with something she loves. You’ll get the job done without damaging the relationship between you and your best friend.

If You Don’t Like the Behavior, Take Rewards Away

The most important part of training your dog is teaching her that it pays to do things you like. But your dog also needs to learn that it doesn’t pay to do things you don’t like. Fortunately, discouraging unwanted behavior doesn’t have to involve pain or intimidation. You just need to make sure that behavior you dislike doesn’t get rewarded. Most of the time, dog motivations aren’t mysterious. They simply do what works! Dogs jump up on people, for example, because people pay attention to them as a result. They can learn not to jump up if we ignore them when they jump up instead. It can be as simple as turning away or staring at the sky when your dog jumps up to greet or play with you. As soon as she sits, you can give her the attention she craves. If you stick to this plan, your dog will learn two things at once. Doing something you like (sitting) reliably works to earn what she wants (attention), and doing things you don’t like (jumping up) always results in the loss of what she wants.

Control Consequences Effectively
As you teach your dog what you do and don’t want her to do, keep the following guidelines in mind:
Consequences must be immediate Dogs live in the present. Unlike us, they can’t make connections between events and experiences that are separated in time. For your dog to connect something she does with the consequences of that behavior, the consequences must be immediate. If you want to discourage your dog from doing something, you have to catch her with her paw in the proverbial cookie jar. For example, if your dog gets too rough during play and mouths your arm, try saying “OUCH!” right at the moment you feel her teeth touch your skin. Then abruptly end playtime. The message is immediate and clear: Mouthing on people results in no more fun. Rewards for good behavior must come right after that behavior has happened, too. Say a child in a classroom answers a teacher’s question correctly, gets up from his desk, sharpens his pencil and then punches another kid in the arm on the way back to his seat. Then the teacher says, “Good job, Billy!” and offers him a piece of candy. What did Billy get the candy for? Timing is crucial. So be prepared to reward your dog with treats, praise, petting and play the instant she does something you like.
Consequences must be consistent When training your dog, you—and everyone else who interacts with her—should respond the same way to things she does every time she does them. For example, if you sometimes pet your dog when she jumps up to greet you but sometimes yell at her instead, she’s bound to get confused. How can she know when it’s okay to jump up and when it’s not?

Be a Good Leader
Some people believe that the only way to transform a disobedient dog into a well-behaved one is to dominate her and show her who’s boss. However, the “alpha dog” concept in dog training is based more on myth than on animal science. More importantly, it leads misguided pet parents to use training techniques that aren’t safe, like the “alpha roll.” Dogs who are forcibly rolled onto their backs and held down can become frightened and confused, and they’re sometimes driven to bite in self defense.
Keep in mind that ditching the “alpha dog” concept doesn’t mean you have to let your dog do anything she likes. It’s fine to be the boss and make the rules—but you can do that without unnecessary conflict. Be a benevolent boss, not a bully. Good leadership isn’t about dominance and power struggles. It’s about controlling your dog’s behavior by controlling her access to things she wants. YOU have the opposable thumbs that open cans of dog food, turn doorknobs and throw tennis balls! Use them to your best advantage. If your dog wants to go out, ask her to sit before you open the door. When she wants dinner, ask her to lie down to earn it. Does she want to go for a walk? If she’s jumping up on you with excitement, wait calmly until she sits. Then clip on the leash and take your walk. Your dog will happily work for everything she loves in life. She can learn to do what you want in order to earn what she wants.

Training New Skills
It’s easy to reward good behavior if you focus on teaching your dog to do specific things you like. Dogs can learn an impressive array of obedience skills and entertaining tricks. Deciding what you’d like your dog to learn will depend on your interests and lifestyle. If you want your dog to behave politely, you can focus on skills like sit, down, wait at doors, leave it, come when called and stay. If you want to enhance your enjoyment of outings with your dog, you can train her to walk politely on leash, without pulling. If you have a high-energy dog and would like outlets for her exuberance, you can teach her how to play fetch, play tug-of-war or participate in dog sports, such as agility, rally obedience, freestyle and flyball. If you’d like to impress your friends or just spend some quality time with your dog, you can take her to clicker training or trick-training classes. The possibilities are endless! Please see the following articles to find out more about what you and your dog can learn to do together: Clicker Training Your Pet, Teaching Your Dog to Sit, Teaching Your Dog to Lie Down, Teaching Your Dog to Stay, Teaching Your Dog to “Leave It", Teaching Your Dog Not to Jump Up on People, Teaching Your Dog to Come When Called, Teaching Your Dog Not to Pull on Leash, Teaching Your Dog to Settle, Teaching Your Dog to Wait at Doors, Teaching Your Dog to Hand Target, Teaching Your Dog to Play Tug-of-War, Teaching Your Dog to Play Fetch, Impulse Control Training and Games for Dogs and Teaching Your Dog to Play Hide-and-Seek.

Training Tips
After you decide on some new skills you’d like to teach your dog, you’ll be ready to start training. To maximize her learning potential and make sure you both enjoy the training experience, keep the following basic tips in mind:

  1. When teaching new skills, keep training sessions short and sweet Like kids, dogs don’t have long attention spans. There’s no hard-and-fast rule, but an ideal average training session should last 15 minutes or less. Within that session, you can work on one skill or switch between a few different skills. To keep things interesting, try doing 5 to 15 repetitions of one behavior and then doing 5 to 15 repetitions of another behavior. You can also practice new skills and keep old ones polished by doing single repetitions at convenient times throughout the day. For example, before giving your dog a tasty new chew bone, ask her to sit or lie down to earn it.
  2. Quit while you’re ahead End training sessions on a good note, with a skill you know your dog can do well, and be sure to stop before either one of you gets tired, bored or frustrated.
  3. For dogs, English is a second language Dogs aren’t born understanding English. They can learn the significance of specific words, like “sit” and “walk” and “treat,” but when humans bury those familiar words in complex sentences, dogs sometimes have difficulty understanding. They can also get confused when people use different words for the same thing. For example, some people will confuse their dogs by saying, “Fluffy, down!” one day and “Sit down, Fluffy!” another day. Then they wonder why Fluffy doesn’t respond the same way every time. When teaching your dog a cue or command, decide on just one word or phrase, and make sure you and your family use it clearly and consistently.
  4. Take baby steps, Dogs, just like people, learn best when new tasks are broken down into small steps. For example, you can’t go out and line dance unless you learn all of the individual steps first! When teaching your dog a new skill, begin with an easy first step and increase difficulty gradually. If you’re training your dog to stay, start by asking her to stay for just 3 seconds. After some practice, try increasing the duration of her stay to 8 seconds. When your dog has mastered an 8-second stay, make things a little harder by increasing the time to 15 seconds. Over the next week or two, continue to gradually increase the duration of the stay from 15 seconds to 30 seconds to a minute to a few minutes, etc. By training systematically and increasing difficulty slowly, you’ll help your dog learn faster in the long run.
  5. Work on only one part of a skill at a time Many of the skills we want our dogs to learn are complex. For instance, if you want to train a solid sit-stay, you’ll need to work on teaching your dog that she should stay in a sitting position until you release her (duration), she should stay while you move away from her (distance), and she should stay while distracting things are going on around her (distraction). You’ll probably both get frustrated if you try to teach her all of these things at the same time. Instead, start with just one part of the skill and, when your dog has mastered that, add another part. For example, you can work on duration first. When your dog can sit-stay for a few minutes in a quiet place with no distractions while you stand right next to her, start training her to stay while you move away from her. While you focus on that new part of the skill, go back to asking your dog to stay for just a few seconds again. When your dog can stay while you move around the room, slowly build up the duration of the stay again. Then you can add the next part—training in a more distracting environment. Again, when you make the skill harder by adding distraction, make the other parts—duration and distance—easier for a little while. If you work on all the parts of a complex skill separately before putting them together, you’ll set your dog up to succeed.
  6. If you run into trouble, go back a few steps If you’re training your dog to do something new and you stop making progress, you may have increased the difficulty of the skill too quickly. Similarly, if you’re practicing a behavior your dog hasn’t performed in a while and she seems a little rusty, she may need some help remembering what you want her to do. If you run into training challenges like these, just refresh your dog’s memory by making the skill a little easier for a few repetitions. Go back to a step that you know your dog can successfully perform, and practice that for a while before trying to increase difficulty again.
  7. Practice everywhere, with everyone If you learn that two plus two equals four in a classroom, you’ll take that information with you wherever you go. Dogs, however, learn very specifically and don’t automatically apply their knowledge in different situations and places as well as people do. If you teach your dog to sit on cue in your kitchen, you’ll have a beautifully kitchen-trained dog. But she might not understand what you mean when you ask her to sit in other locations. If you want your dog to perform new skills everywhere, you’ll need to practice them in multiple places—your home, your yard, out on walks, at friends’ houses, at the park and anywhere else you take your dog.
  8. Use real rewards Be sure to reward your dog with things she truly finds rewarding. Some dogs will happily work for dry kibble when training in your living room but ignore it if you’re training in the park. Because the park’s a more distracting environment, paying attention there is a harder job for your dog. Pay her accordingly by using a reward worth working for, like small pieces of chicken or cheese, or a chance to run off-leash at the dog park with her buddies. Also keep in mind that what your dog considers rewarding at any given time may change. If she’s just eaten a big meal, a scratch behind the ears or a game of tug might be most rewarding. If she hasn’t eaten in a while, she’ll probably work enthusiastically for tasty treats.
  9. Be patient Training your dog will take time and effort—but it can be a great deal of fun for you and for her. And your hard work will pay off. With patience and persistence, you and your dog can accomplish great things.

An Ounce of Prevention
If your toddler was repeatedly sticking her fingers into open electrical outlets, what would you do? Would you sit her down and try to explain why that’s not a good idea? Would you smack her every time she did it? Nope, you’d probably buy some outlet covers. Voilà! Problem solved. Prevention is sometimes the best solution. When training a dog, the easiest way to deal with a behavior problem might be to simply prevent the undesired behavior from happening. If your dog raids the kitchen trash can, you could spend weeks training a perfect down-stay in another room—or you could move the trash can to a place where your dog can’t get to it. Prevention is also important if you’re trying to train your dog to do one thing instead of another. For example, if you want to house train your dog, she’ll learn fastest if you use a crate to prevent her from making mistakes inside while you focus on training her to eliminate outside.

Let Your Dog Be a Dog
Many behavior problems can be prevented by providing “legal,” acceptable ways for your dog to express her natural impulses. There are some things that dogs just need to do. So rather than trying to get your dog to stop doing things like chewing, mouthing and roughhousing altogether, channel these urges in the right direction. Increased physical activity and mental enrichment are excellent complements to training. Please see our articles, Enriching Your Dog’s Life, Exercise for Dogs and How to Stuff a KONG® Toy, to learn more.

Finding Help and More Information
If you’d like to learn how to train your dog or if your dog has a behavior problem you’d like to resolve, don’t hesitate get help from a qualified professional trainer or behaviorist. To learn more about locating the right expert for you and your dog, please see our article, Finding Professional Help. Many Certified Professional Dog Trainers (CPDTs) and Certified Applied Animal Behaviorists (CAABs or ACAABs) offer telephone consultations, in-home private consultations and training sessions, and group classes.
There are also a number of excellent books and DVDs to explore. Here are some of our favorites:
The Power of Positive Training by Pat Miller (and other books by her)
Maran Illustrated Dog Training
Dog-Friendly Dog Training by Andrea Arden
The Culture Clash by Jean Donaldson
How to Teach a New Dog Old Tricks by Ian Dunbar, PhD
Take a Bow-Wow! video series by Virginia Broitman and Sherri Lippman
New Puppy, Now What? DVD by Victoria Schade
Clicker Magic DVD by Karen Pryor

See Original Article Here

Published in Canine
Thursday, 26 July 2012 14:03

Exercise For Dogs

Dogs are born to work for a living. They’ve worked alongside us for thousands of years, and most are bred for a particular purpose, like hunting, herding livestock or providing protection. Dogs’ wild relatives spend most of their waking hours scavenging and hunting for food, caring for offspring, defending territory and playing with each other. They lead busy, complex lives, interacting socially and solving simple problems necessary for their survival.
The most common job for our companion dogs today, however, is Couch Potato! They no longer have to earn their keep and instead have to adjust to our more sedentary lifestyles. They get their food for free in a bowl and are often confined, alone and inactive, for most of the day. This lack of purpose leaves dogs no outlet for their naturally active tendencies—physical and mental—and it contributes to the development of behavior problems.
Another problem modern dogs face because they rarely work anymore is a lack of opportunities to exercise. Some pet parents make the mistake of assuming that if a dog has access to a yard, she’s getting exercise. But your dog doesn’t run laps by herself in your yard—or do much of anything besides waiting for you to come outside or let her back inside. It’s the interaction with you that counts!

 

Problems That Result from Lack of Exercise and Play
Dogs can be like young children. If you don’t give them something constructive to do with their energy, they’ll find something to do on their own—and you may not like it! Some of the most common behavior problems seen in dogs who don’t get enough exercise and play are:

  1. Destructive chewing, digging or scratching
  2. Investigative behaviors, like garbage raiding
  3. Hyperactivity, excitability and night-time activity
  4. Unruliness, knocking over furniture and jumping up on people
  5. Excessive predatory and social play
  6. Play biting and rough play
  7. Attention-getting behaviors like barking and whining


Benefits of Exercise and Play

The good news is that keeping your dog healthy, happy and out of trouble with daily exercise is a lot of fun and provides many benefits, including:

  1. Helps to reduce or eliminate the common behavior problems listed above, such as digging, excessive barking, chewing and hyperactivity
  2. Helps to keep dogs healthy, agile and limber
  3. Helps to reduce digestive problems and constipation
  4. Helps timid or fearful dogs build confidence and trust
  5. Helps dogs feel sleepy, rather than restless, at bedtime or when you’re relaxing
  6. Helps to keep dogs’ weight under control


Before You Start Your Dog’s Exercise Program

Check with your dog’s veterinarian before starting an exercise program. He or she can check your dog for any health issues that may be aggravated by exercise and suggest safe activities. Some size, breed and age considerations are:
Breeds with short or flat noses (brachycephalic breeds) can have trouble breathing when exercised vigorously, especially in warmer climates.
Exercise is great for energetic young dogs, but sustained jogging or running is not recommended for young dogs (under 18 months) whose bones haven’t finished growing.
Because large dogs are more prone to cruciate ligament injuries, arthritis and hip dysplasia, sustained jogging can be hard on their joints and bones, too. If you’ve got a large dog, make sure she’s well conditioned before you start jogging together.
Once a dog reaches her golden years, osteoarthritis can cause pain and lameness after strenuous exercise. It’s much better to discover that your once-sprightly dog’s joints can no longer handle long hikes, for example, before you hit the trail.

Exercising Your Dog

With today’s more sedentary lifestyles, dog parents are often challenged to find enough outlets for their pets’ considerable natural energy. Dogs are more athletic than us. But take heart—there are a variety of ways to exercise your dog, from activities that don’t demand much energy on your part to activities that exercise both you and your dog. Dogs’ need for exercise varies depending on their age, size, breed and individual traits. Most dogs benefit enormously from daily aerobic exercise (exercise that makes them pant, like fetch, tug, running and swimming), as well as at least one half-hour walk. Choose activities that suit your dog’s individual personality and natural interests. Experiment with the ideas below to see what’s most practical and enjoyable for her and for you.

Exercise That’s Easy on You

Giving your dog enough exercise doesn’t mean you have to be athletic yourself. If you’d rather not run around or take long, brisk walks, consider two approaches to exercising your dog:

Focus on brain, not brawn. Exercise your dog’s brain with food puzzle toys, hunting for dinner, obedience and trick training, and chew toys instead of excessive physical exercise. Please see our articles, Enriching Your Dog’s Life and How to Stuff a KONG® Toy, to learn more about providing mental exercise for your dog. 
Focus on games that make your dog run around while you mostly stand or sit still. Games that fit the bill include fetch with balls, Frisbees or sticks, Find It, Hide-and-Seek, catching bubbles (using a special bubble-blower toy made for dogs, such as the Bubble Buddy™), chase (a toy on a rope or stick), and round-robin recalls for the whole family. If your dog enjoys the company of other dogs, other easy options include taking her to the dog park, organizing play groups with friends or neighbors who have dogs or signing her up for dog daycare a few days a week. These options give your dog a chance to experience invigorating social play with other dogs. 

Exercise for Extra Playful or Active Guardians

On-leash walks Did you know that dog owners walk an average of 300 minutes per week, whereas people without dogs walk only about 168 minutes? Apparently, our dogs motivate us to stay active! On-leash walks give dogs lots of interesting sights and smells to investigate. They may provide enough exercise for some toy breeds, senior dogs and other inveterate couch potatoes. Use an extendable leash, like the Flexi retractable leash or the WalkAbout™, to give your dog more freedom to explore, and walk briskly for 30 minutes. To spice up your walks, vary your route once in a while to give your dog new smells and sights to enjoy. If your dog is old, not accustomed to exercise, overweight or has a health problems, start with a 10-minute walk each day and gradually increase the duration. For healthy young or middle-aged dogs, leashed walks alone probably won’t provide enough exercise. Keep reading for more suggestions for adding vigorous activities to your dog’s routine.
On-leash running, inline skating or bicycling These are great ways to exercise a healthy dog and keep yourself fit, too. Teaching your dog how to walk without pulling on her leash is the first essential step to creating a safe and enjoyable on-leash jogging, inline skating or bicycling companion. If your dog forges ahead, pulls to the side or lags behind you when you walk, imagine the problems that could result when you're moving faster! Constantly pulling on the leash can damage your dog’s throat, and it’s no fun for you either. (Please see our article on Teaching Your Dog Not to Pull on Leash for more information.) Here are some tips and things to consider when you and your dog try life in the fast lane:

  1. People are actually better suited for jogging or long-distance running than dogs are. Even when hunting or herding, dogs tend to move in short, intense bursts of speed with intermittent stops. 
  2. Playing dogs do this as well, stopping to sniff around, eliminate and enjoy the scenery. 
  3. If you jog with your dog on leash, be careful not to overestimate her abilities and go too far. If she seems stiff, sore and exhausted for hours afterward, scale back next time.
  4. Also, be careful to check your dog’s paws after a run. Dogs get blisters on their pads, just like people get blisters on their feet. Dogs with white or light-colored footpads and some breeds, such as border collies, can be prone to this problem. 
  5. If you usually run, cycle or inline skate on paved roads, avoid doing so on very hot days. Instead, you can find some soft surfaces that won’t injure your dog's footpads, such as dirt and grass. Or if your dog’s footpads seem especially sensitive, you can purchase special shoes made for dogs, like Muttluks® dog boots (www.muttluks.com).
  6. If your dog normally gets to sniff around on your daily walks, she’ll probably try to do the same when the two of you are running, skating or cycling. You’ll have to teach her to pay attention to you during your outings. The best way to do this is by regularly rewarding her with small treats for not pulling. Pick the position you want her to run in and give her treats when she’s in that spot. Before you set off, give your dog ample time to relieve herself and sniff around. And after you finish your outing, you can give her another chance to eliminate and sniff before bringing her inside.
  7. Again, sustained jogging or running is not recommended for young dogs whose bones haven’t finished growing. It can also be hard on large dogs’ joints and bones. If you have a young dog, check with her veterinarian to find out when it’s safe for her to start running. If you have a large dog, ask her veterinarian if it’s safe for her to run with you.
  8. Because teaching a dog not to pull on leash can be challenging, don’t hesitate to enlist the help of a Certified Professional Dog Trainer (CPDT) in your area. A professional trainer will offer group or private classes that can give you and your dog lots of help with leash walking. Please see our article on Finding Professional Help to locate a CPDT near you.

Additional tips for on-leash inline skating and bicycling Being on wheels when attached to a galloping dog can be a bit dangerous. Squirrels, bouncing balls, the neighbor’s cat and other things that might distract your dog aren’t just slight diversions. They could have you suddenly traveling at light-speed and spilling onto your face—or worse, spinning into the path of a passing car. So, just like with running on-leash, the first step to rollerblading or bicycling with your dog is teaching her how to run beside you without pulling. Dogs often get more excited when running than they do when walking, so it will take extra training to teach your dog to stay in position at a run. If possible, first teach her this skill while running yourself, as described above, instead of skating or cycling. If you plan to cycle with your dog, it can be helpful to attach a Springer to your bike, a device that lets you attach your dog’s leash to the bike. The Springer has a coil spring designed to absorb and reduce the force of your dog’s sudden tugs if she lunges to the side, which will help you keep your balance and prevent your dog from pulling the bike over.
It’s important that you monitor your dog’s physical exertion while you’re on a bike or inline skates. It’s easy to over-exert your dog when you’re on wheels while she’s running. To avoid this, start with short distances at first and gradually increase them as your dog’s endurance increases. If your dog starts to lag behind a lot, you may be pushing her too hard or she might not be enjoying your outings. Slow down or consider taking your dog with you only when you plan to skate or cycle for short distances.
Off-leash exercise Off-leash walking, running, hiking or bicycling in a large, safe fenced property or park or in a forest are ideal activities. Your dog can set her own pace, sniff and investigate to her heart’s content, stop when she’s tired and burst into running whenever she likes. Be sure to have your dog well-trained to reliably come when called before you give her off-leash privileges. Please see our article on Teaching Your Dog to Come When Called for training information. Dogs should be allowed off leash only in safe areas where regulations permit. As you would during on-leash activities, be careful not to overestimate your dog’s abilities. If she seems stiff, sore and exhausted for hours after exercising, you’ll want to scale back next time.

Swimming

Some breeds are natural water dogs and require no training or acclimation to water, but even dogs who aren’t bred for water activities can learn to enjoy a swim now and then. Here are some tips for fun and safe swimming with your dog:

  1. Introduce your dog to water as early as possible, preferably when she’s still a puppy. If you do, she’ll probably be more confident about swimming as an adult.
  2. Regardless of your dog’s age, make sure her first experiences with water are pleasant ones. Look for a quiet place with shallow water. With your dog on a long leash (about 15 to 20 feet long), start your dog at the water's edge. Wade in with her and encourage her with play and praise.
  3. Never force your dog into the water, and don’t let her get in deep water over her head until you’re confident about her swimming abilities. Belly-deep is deep enough at first. As she becomes more comfortable, you can toss a ball a couple of feet to encourage her to venture in a little deeper.
  4. If you swim with your dog, be careful that the two of you don’t get over your heads. Many dogs will try to climb on their guardian’s head or shoulders when they tire.
  5. Bring fresh water for your dog to drink. Even freshwater streams and lakes can contain parasites and unhealthy bacteria.
  6. Don’t let your dog swim into currents.
  7. Don’t allow your dog to jump into deep water in a pool or lake. A dog can panic and possibly drown. Without an easily accessible ramp, she may not be able to get out of a swimming pool or climb back onto a dock.
  8. For boating or swimming in lakes, get your dog a well-fitted canine life vest. You can use a long nylon lead to prevent your dog from swimming too far away or running off when she gets out of the water. Keep a close watch to make sure your dog doesn’t get tangled in the lead.
  9. Dog guardians who fish should take steps to make sure their dogs can’t access fishing lines, lures, hooks or bait.
  10. Keep your dog away from feces, dead fish and shellfish washed up on the shore, which can contain toxins and parasites.
  11. Make sure your dog has access to shade. Too much sun can lead to heat exhaustion or heat stroke. If you have a hairless or light-colored dog, ask her veterinarian about using sun block on her exposed areas like her nose, ear tips and stomach.
  12. Rinse your dog’s paws after visiting the beach to wash off irritating sand and salt water.
  13. Dry out your dog’s ears after playing in the water to prevent ear infections. Please contact your veterinarian to determine which product is best for your dog.
  14. If your dog has a heavy or soft coat—as do, for example, retrievers, collies and shepherds—be sure to brush her thoroughly after she’s dried following a swim. Soft coats can mat when wet and trap bacteria that can create local areas of infection called “hot spots.”
  15. If you have a swimming pool, keep it securely fenced off or covered with a sturdy pool cover when not in use. Never leave your dog unsupervised around an uncovered pool. Your pool should have graded steps, to give dogs and children a way out of the water. Dogs and toddlers cannot climb ladders. If your dog can’t get out of the water, she will soon tire and drown. Also, don’t assume that your dog will automatically know where the steps are and how to exit the pool. You need to show her and teach her several times.

Jumping

Most dogs love to jump. You can make your own jumps from materials you have around the house, like cardboard boxes or a broomstick laid across two low pieces of furniture. At first, try using treats to lure your dog over jumps that are just a few inches high. As your dog catches on, you can gradually raise the jumps a little higher. However, keep jump heights at or below the level of your dog's elbows to avoid stressing her bones and joints. Also, avoid encouraging your dog to keep jumping if she hesitates or seems tired after a few minutes. She might be a little sore, especially if she’s over six years of age, and continued exertion could cause injury.

Dog exercise balls Dog exercise balls, such as the Boomer Ball® and the Best Ball, are made for soccer-style play. They come in different sizes and are made of hard plastic. Many dogs love to play with these, using their paws and nose to play soccer—with you, of course! You can also play soccer with your dog using KONG toys, which bounce in unpredictable directions because of their shape, or soccer balls made for dogs or humans.

Dog Sports

Sports like agility, flyball, obedience, rally obedience, musical freestyle and tracking can give you and your dog a whole new world of fun exercise and competition to explore. Activities for specific breed groups include herding, lure coursing, hunt tests and go-to-ground trials.

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Published in Canine
Wednesday, 25 July 2012 18:53

Enriching Your Dog's Life


Boredom and excess energy are two common reasons for behavior problems in dogs. This makes sense because they’re meant to lead active lives. Wild dogs spend about 80% of their waking hours hunting and scavenging for food. Domestic dogs have been helping and working alongside us for thousands of years, and most are bred for a specific purpose, such as hunting, farming or protection. For example, retrievers and pointers were bred to locate and fetch game and water birds. Scent hounds, like coonhounds and beagles, were bred to find rabbits, foxes and other small prey. Dogs like German shepherds, collies, cattle dogs and sheepdogs were bred to herd livestock. 

 

Whether dogs were working for us or scavenging on their own, their survival once depended on lots of exercise and problem solving. But what about now? 

Today’s Job Description: Couch Potato
Today that’s all changed. Now the most common job description for dogs is Couch Potato! While we’re away at work all day, they sleep. And when we come home, we serve them free food in a bowl—no effort required from them. They eat more calories than they can use. The result is dogs who are bored silly, often overweight and have too much energy. It’s a perfect recipe for behavior problems.

What Does Your Dog Need?
It’s not necessary to quit your job, take up duck hunting or get yourself a bunch of sheep to keep your dog out of trouble.

However, we encourage you to find ways to exercise her brain and body. Read on for some fun, practical ways to enrich your dog’s life, both when you’re around and when you’re not. You’ll find that these ideas go a long way toward keeping your dog happy and easier to live with. Try out a few and see what you and your dog enjoy most. 

Tips for Alone Time
Because we all lead busy lives, our dogs often end up spending a good portion of their day home alone. If you give your dog “jobs” to do when she’s by herself, she’ll be less likely to come up with her own ways to occupy her time, like unstuffing your couch, raiding the trash or chewing on your favorite pair of shoes. Plus, she’ll be less likely to enthusiastically tackle you when you come home, after she’s spent a day doing nothing but recharging her batteries!

K-9 to 5: Will Work for Food
Food puzzle toys Food puzzle toys are sturdy containers, usually made of hard rubber or plastic, that hold food or treats inside but don’t give dogs easy access to the food. They usually have holes on each end or on the sides, and dogs must work by shaking, pawing, rolling, nibbling or licking the toy to get the food to come out. Food puzzle toys require time, patience and problem-solving—all skills that are good for your dog and will help her enjoy quiet time alone. Since our dogs’ wild counterparts spend much of their time scavenging for food, food puzzle toys offer a natural solution to pet-dog boredom. Puzzle toys also encourage chewing and licking, which can have a calming effect on dogs. Examples of food puzzle toys include KONG® Toy, the Buster® Cube, the Tricky Treat™ Ball, the Tug-a-Jug™, the Twist ‘n Treat™, the Atomic Treat Ball™ and the TreatStik®. You can find these toys online or at most major pet stores. Feed your dog at least one meal a day in a food puzzle toy to give her brain and jaws a great workout. You can also stuff these toys with your dog’s favorite treats or a little peanut butter, cottage cheese, cooked oatmeal or yogurt.
When you first introduce your dog to a food puzzle toy, make it really easy for her to empty it. She’s probably accustomed to getting her food served in a bowl, so she has some learning to do! Choose a toy with a large dispensing hole and make sure the goodies you put inside the toy are small enough to come out easily. As your dog becomes an expert, you can make it harder and harder for her to get food out of her toys. Use bigger pieces or food or, to provide an extra challenge, freeze the toys after stuffing them. You can also place the frozen toys inside a cardboard box or oatmeal tub so that your dog has to rip through the cardboard container to get to her meal. For recipes and detailed pointers on how to stuff a KONG® food puzzle toy, please see our article, How to Stuff a KONG® Toy. Hunting for dinner You can make your dog hunt for her meals by hiding stuffed food puzzle toys or small piles of her kibble around your house. Hide one of your dog’s meals right before you leave her home alone, and she’ll have great fun hunting her chow while you’re away. To try a variation on this activity, scatter a couple handfuls of kibble around your yard so your dog can search for the pieces in the grass. Most dogs love this game!

Chew Time
Dogs of all ages need to chew. Both wild and domestic dogs spend hours chewing to keep their jaws strong and their teeth clean. They also chew for fun, for stimulation and to relieve anxiety. Whether you have a puppy or an adult dog, it’s important to provide a variety of appropriate and attractive chew toys, like Nylabones® and hard rubber toys, natural marrow bones, rawhide and pig ears. Although chewing behavior is normal, dogs sometimes chew on things we don’t want them to. Giving your dog plenty of her own toys and chewies will help prevent her from gnawing on your things.

Social Opportunities
Just like people, dogs are social animals, and many enjoy spending time with members of their own species. Off-leash play with other dogs serves multiple purposes. It can give your dog opportunities to practice her social skills with other dogs, wear her out mentally and tire her physically. If your dog enjoys romping with dog buddies, give her regular opportunities to do so. Try taking her to a local dog park or doggie daycare. If you have friends or family with dogs, you can also arrange “play dates” at your respective houses. For more information about these activities, please see our articles, Dog Parks, Daycare for Dogs and Choosing Playmates for Your Dog.

Things to Do Together
In addition to fun activities when you’re not around, your dog also benefits from spending plenty of quality time with you. There are many fun and exciting things you and your dog can do together. Read on for some suggestions.

Get Moving
Don’t underestimate the value of a good walk or jog with your dog. Taking at least one outing per day will help keep your dog physically fit and give her opportunities to explore the world. Follow different routes and visit new places whenever you can so that your dog can experience novel smells and sights.

Games to Play
Learning how to play with your dog in ways that are enjoyable and safe for you both will greatly enhance your relationship. The games listed below will exercise your dog’s body and satisfy her deeply rooted instincts to search, chase, grab and tug. Tug-of-war Playing tug with your dog can provide a wonderful outlet for her natural canine urges to grab and pull on things with her mouth. You can also use this game to exercise your dog and teach her important lessons, such as how to listen to you when she’s excited.

Fetch

Teaching your dog to play fetch is great for a number of reasons. It requires your dog to exert a lot of physical effort—but you don’t have to! You can also use the game of fetch to teach your dog useful skills, like how to drop things when you ask her to. Show your dog a toy and then toss it a short distance. (If she doesn’t follow the toy, try a different one.)

Praise her as she follows the toy. When she picks it up and starts to return to you, praise her. (If she doesn’t return to you, don’t chase her. Just encourage her or play with another toy yourself.) When your dog reaches you, position your left hand under her mouth to catch the toy. Say “Give” or “Drop it” and then put a delicious treat very close to her nose with your right hand. When she drops the toy into your left hand, give her your treat and praise her! When she’s good at fetching in the hallway, you can practice outdoors. After many repetitions your dog will learn the “Drop it” cue. Then you can stop using the treat. When you give the cue and she drops the toy, reward her by throwing the toy again.

Find It

Giving your dog a chance to use her powerful nose can really wear her out! It’s easy to teach your dog to find hidden treats. Just put her in another room, out of sight, while you hide a few treats. When you introduce the Find It game, start out by choosing hiding spots that allow your dog to find the “hidden” treats easily. Try placing treats behind the legs of furniture, partially in view. After you’ve hidden the treats, go get your dog and say “Find it!” right before letting her into the room. Encourage her to look around for the treats. (You might have to point them out the first few times you play the Find It game.) As your dog becomes better and better at finding the treats, you can hide them in more difficult places, like behind pillows or underneath objects. You can also play Find It with your dog’s favorite toy. Follow the directions above, but hide the toy instead of treats. When your dog finds it, you can play a game of tug or fetch as a reward. Hide-and-Seek This game is similar to Find It—but instead of teaching your dog to hunt her favorite treats or toys, you’ll train her to search for you! Like Find It, Hide-and-Seek will exercise your dog’s mind and give her an opportunity to use her amazing sense of smell. It can also help her learn to love coming when called. 

Chase

Dogs were born to chase! Try tying one of your dog’s favorite toys to the end of a sturdy rope. You can attach the other end of the rope to a stick or plastic PVC pipe. Then use the stick or pipe to drag the toy around on the ground or twirl it in the air around you so that your dog can chase it. Many dogs find this game exciting and will chase the fast-moving toy until they’re exhausted. Of course, you want to let your dog catch it at times! If you’d rather not make a toy on your own, you can purchase one, such as the DogFisher™ made by Bamboo or the Chase It® Pet Toy. You can also buy an inexpensive lunge whip from a horse tack or feed store and tie a ball or other toy to the end of the whip. Tennis balls you can buy on a rope are good for this—or put a squeaky toy in a sock and tie the sock to the end of the whip. Then twirl the whip in a big circle and let your dog chase it. Your dog can get a good workout in a relatively small space. When playing outdoors with you, your dog may enjoy chasing a stream of water from a hose. Use a sprayer attachment for maximum enjoyment. Try spraying the ground a few feet away from your dog and then rapidly moving the stream of water away from her, along the ground. Many dogs can’t resist chasing and trying to bite the water. Another unique way to satisfy your dog’s desire to chase is to purchase a bubble-blowing toy made for dogs, such as the Fetch a Bubble Big Bubble Blaster or the Bubble Buddy™. These toys produce bubbles that taste like bacon, chicken, peanut butter or barbeque!

Round-Robin Recalls

This is a fun obedience game you can play with the whole family. Have everyone spread out around your living room. Take turns calling your dog to you, and treating and happily praising her when she reaches you. Make her earn her entire dinner in a game of Round-Robin.

With family members at least 20 feet apart, have one person happily say your dog’s name and then give the cue “Come!”
If your dog hesitates, don’t say “Come” again (nagging just teaches dogs to ignore you) but encourage her with clapping, slapping your thighs or making high-pitched noises. When your dog gets to you, gently grab her collar, say “Good girl!” and treat her. So that she’s ready to focus on the next person when she’s done eating, look away from your dog, and put your hands and treats behind your back. Then it’s the next person’s turn to call. Whenever one person is calling your dog, the other(s) should remain quiet and boring (treats behind back and looking away) so your dog isn’t confused about whom to go to. When your dog’s good at recalls in your living room, spread out further around the house, even where you can’t see each other. When she’s a champ at that, take the game outside into your yard or a fenced area.

Training
Enroll in a reward-based training class to increase your dog’s mental activity, enhance the bond between you and your dog, and help her understand your expectations of her. Contact a CPDT (Certified Professional Dog Trainer) for group or private classes that can give you and your dog lots of great skills to learn and games to play together. Please see our Finding Professional Help article to locate a CPDT in your area. There are many kinds of training to investigate, such as basic obedience training, clicker training and trick training. To learn more, please see our articles, Training Your Dog and Clicker Training Your Pet.
If you’ve got a competitive streak, you and your dog can participate in competition obedience or Rally Obedience (Rally-O), an exciting new sport in which dogs navigate a numbered course with their handlers and perform a series of heeling patterns and obedience exercises. If you have a mixed breed dog, please see www.apdt.com/po/rally, http://www.ukcdogs.com/WebSite.nsf/WebPages/Home or http://www.ambor.us/ for more information. If you have a purebred dog, please see www.akc.org/events/obedience or www.akc.org/events/rally.

No Free Lunch

When you and your dog have learned some new training skills, you can start a No Free Lunch program. Here’s how it works. You control all the valuable resources in your dog’s life, such as food, water, affection, toys, walks, petting and playtime. Instead of giving these things for free, ask your dog to work for them! The work will exercise her brain and help her become more obedient. Just give your dog what she needs and wants after she does something you ask her to do. For example, if your dog wants to go on a walk, ask her to sit before you clip on her leash and open the door. If your dog wants dinner, ask her to sit-stay while you put down her bowl. If your dog wants to play a game of tug, ask her to lie down before you start the game. Your dog will happily learn to work for everything she loves in life.

Short on Time?
It’s often difficult to work time with your dog into your hectic daily routine. But if you’ve got a busy schedule, you can find help.

Consider the following time-saving ways to add some excitement to your dog’s life:
Look into the possibility of taking your dog to a dog daycare at least once or twice a week.
If you live close enough to work, consider going home to spend your lunch break with your dog.
If you can’t make it home during the day, hire a dog walker to take your dog out for a stroll instead.
If you have friends or family members who don’t work during the day, ask if they’d be willing to let your dog visit them while you’re at work.

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Published in Canine