I meet a lot of people that say “my dog will only come or stay if I have a treat”. My answer to that is: “You may be using the treats incorrectly!”. For the most part, when you’re training come and stay, the treat should not be present. Treats should be in a pouch, in a closed fist and/or behind your back. It should be about the BEHAVIOR of the dog, not the reward. The reward comes later, as a reinforcer. The only time a treat should be visually present is when you are luring (see notes below for definition of lure) a dog into their first sits, downs and during leash training for heel work. For the sit and down, the treat should be replaced by a hand signal ASAP. Other than that, the dog shouldn’t see your treats on a regular basis. Obviously they know you have them but, if you’re using the treat to get your dog to come or stay, I urge you to change that by surprising them instead. For come you have to ask yourself “What can I do to get my dog to come to me?” This means: Am I EXCITING enough, positive and fun? Or am I simply standing still and saying their name? That’s not very enticing. Move your body, say their name in a happy voice and make coming to you FUN. Mix up your rewards between food, toys, praise and petting (surprise your dog with ALL once in a while).
Because food is a Primary Reinforcer for dogs training your dog using treats is a very effective way to change behaviors. Some dogs will even train with their dry food (kibble) which can be a great way to utilize their mealtimes for training. You can also try mixing their kibble half-and-half with treats. If you aren't using your dog's meal for training, be sure you deduct the same amount from their next meal so they don't become overweight.
Here are some ways treats are used in training:
With all of this being said, it’s important to be aware of WHERE the treat is during the training. If you aren’t using it as a lure (see #1 above), it shouldn’t be in plain sight.
If you'd like to see the video that goes with this post, you can do so here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ti6ASuZvjTA
Guest Blog By Nick Burton, Our Best Doggo
Are you the proud parent of a senior pup? Whether you raised your canine companion from his youth or recently adopted an oldie-but-goodie, there are plenty of ways you can ensure your friend’s golden years are wrapped in love, joy, and comfort. Read on for terrific tips to help you and your older dog make every moment count.
Health and Wellness
Aging dogs, just like aging people, tend to experience a decline in health. Sometimes, it happens very gradually, and other times it can occur quite suddenly. For example, older dogs frequently experience what is termed vestibular disease. This issue can quickly impair your dog’s balance, leaving him staggering and disoriented. Sometimes, dogs recover, but other times the effects linger for the rest of your dog’s life.
Another common concern is dementia. Your dog might experience symptoms like losing track of where he is in familiar places or more anxiety than in the past, or he might not interact with other pets or people as much as before. There are supplements and behavioral therapies that can help support senior dogs experiencing cognitive issues like dementia, so it’s important to talk with your vet if you suspect your older pup is showing symptoms.
These are just a few of the health issues that can affect older dogs. Your veterinarian can diagnose problems as they come along, and will often notice changes in routine exams. With that in mind, it’s important to schedule visits with your vet at least twice a year. The Grey Muzzle Organization explains senior dog exams might include things like diagnostic blood work, vaccines, and dental checks.
Senior-Friendly Equipment Ideas
Beyond veterinary and medical care, how you support your dog during his golden years can extend into everyday life, such as when your dog has mobility concerns. Equipment can make all the difference in allowing your dog to continue enjoying an active role in family life. For instance, dogs with severe mobility concerns might need a wheelchair. These devices are typically designed to fit your dog’s size and can assist front, back, or both sets of legs.
More commonly, dogs with arthritis use dog ramps or steps to climb onto furniture, laps, or into cars. Pet Life Today notes these helpful pieces of equipment come in lightweight, portable options, as well as more substantial styles to leave in place. Just be sure to examine the size and design to match it to your dog’s needs and the space where it will be used.
Another concern parents of senior pups experience is how to lift Fido without hurting him. Even if he is normally a floor type of guy, you might need to help him get in and out of the car or up and down steps if he becomes ill or injured. There are lifting harnesses you can purchase to keep on hand, or you can DIY a lifter from a shopping tote in a pinch. Just cut off the two narrow ends and loop the handled sections under your pup’s belly so it supports him fully.
Supplements and So Forth
One of the many ways dog owners can help their furry friends is with supportive supplements. As VetStreet explains, many of the vitamins, minerals, and other supplements available for senior dogs are potentially helpful, such as probiotics, fatty acids, and glucosamine with chondroitin sulfate. Before you add something to your dog’s health regimen, check in with your vet to ensure the supplement won’t interfere with other therapies.
As the proud parent of a senior pup, ensuring your friend’s health and happiness is a top priority. Make sure your dog is getting his medical needs met, check into assistive equipment, and think about supplements that could give him a boost. With your thoughtful choices, your beloved companion will enjoy the love, joy, and comfort he so deserves.
Written by Christine Durrant, Professional Dog Trainer and Pet Care Consultant
Barking is a natural behavior for dogs, for some breeds more than others. However, barking can be quite irritating. Below are some training tips and information that will help you to teach your dog to be a bit more “quiet”.
It’s important to remember that anytime your dog is doing something that is undesirable, you should offer them a “replacement” behavior. In this article we will be teaching you how to replace your dog’s barking with being quiet.
Equally important is to NEVER use a command (in this case quiet) unless you are sure your dog knows the meaning and will successfully complete the request. This takes time and patience but, I assure you, it’s worth it.
I will use the example of a Max, the German Shephard, barking in his backyard. I also have a corresponding video showing this training.
Max is a “barker”. He listens intently and barks at the noises of other dogs, squirrels, people, etc. Max lives near a busy dog park so this increases his barking behavior. This can be challenging for his family. He also has a habit of barking as soon as they let him out in the morning. He has no care of what time it is and this is disruptive to his neighbors.
To help Max:
I would advise that they take Max out on leash so they have more control over the situation. I would also recommend that Max’s family have treats (his morning kibble may be used in lieu of treats if this interests him). Then, when Max goes outside quietly, he should be rewarded with a treat paired with the verbal cue of “good quiet”. NOTE: You really can’t reward “quiet” too much in the beginning. The best time to reward Max is when he is relaxed, outback and being quiet. Max should be watched closely for any sign of “interest” in something he might bark at. As soon as Max shows interest (head turning in the direction of the noise, ears perking up, eyes widening, face tensing) he should be redirected. Redirection can be done by making a sound, tossing a ball or a treat. Then, before he has a chance to refocus on the sound, a “good quiet” paired with a treat would be in order. This should continue while he is outside and doing his business. This would need to be repeated many, many times before they could actually ask him to be “quiet” while barking. It takes time for a dog to understand the meaning of a word and it’s important to allow them enough time before expecting them to comply.
In the meantime….while they are working with Max and before he really knows what quiet means, I would recommend that if he does bark one or two times they ignore it for now but if he goes into a surge of barking and carrying on, they should immediately take him inside for a short break and start over, being observant to catch it before it gets going. It would be ok to distract Max after a bark or two but important not to REWARD him in order to distract him because they would then be rewarding the bark.
IMPORTANT: The moment after a dog exhibits any behavior is the PRIME time to reinforce that behavior. If you offer a reward after your dog barks you will be training them to bark more. A good rule of thumb it to reward what you want more of and ignore what you don’t want. Rewards are essential to dog training and can be tapered down once your dog understands and is doing well.
Punishing a dog for barking makes no sense to them, they are simply being a dog and doing what a dog is naturally meant to do. We need to teach them what we want instead of demanding they simply stop doing doggy stuff.
Check out our video section to see the video that pairs with this post and for more helpful tools and training techniques.
Written by Christine Durrant, Professional Dog Trainer and Pet Care Consultant
The best way to solve undesirable dog behavior is by teaching the dog a replacement behavior. This means that we train the dog to do what we WANT them to do instead of what we DON’T WANT. The entire philosophy is based on the idea of choice based dog training. Choice based dog training is about teaching dogs how to make their own choices and is by far the kindest and most effective way to change unwanted dog behaviors. It empowers dogs and helps them feel confident. All dog training takes time and patience but this method can also be fun and very rewarding!
When your dog is acting up I ask you to think about what you’d RATHER them be doing and start working on that. This will give the both of you something to do together and it will also increase your bond.
Please feel free to reach out to me anytime if you need help.
Christine Durrant, Professional Dog Trainer and Pet Care Consultant