Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Does your dog have selective hearing?


It’s fairly common to hear dog owners complain that their pup listens at home but not when they’re away from home or they might claim that their dog is stubborn, strong-willed or just plain dumb because he doesn’t always listen or follow commands. They say their dog has selective hearing.

Can you relate to any of these scenarios?

  • When the doorbell rings, you tell your dog to sit and stay but as soon as you open the door, he rushes to greet your guest and it’s hard to get him under control.
  • You’re enjoying a pleasant stroll with your dog walking politely on the leash until he spots another dog owner walking their dog. The closer the other dog gets, the more your pup pulls on the leash or whines, straining to meet the other dog.
  • When taking your dog along to visit a friend or relative, you ask him to sit and stay calmly by your side. He listens for a moment but his excitement gets the best of him and he soon breaks the command.

Yep, just when you’re feeling proud and confident with your dog’s training or obedience skills, one of these things happens and you feel like you have an out-of-control dog that won’t listen at all. It can be both embarrassing and frustrating. With Haley being a somewhat excitable dog, I can relate to all three of these scenarios, and maybe a few more.

You may think your dog has selective hearing but here’s what’s really happening. You’ve probably done a great job of training your pup when you’re at home and your dog listens well in most cases but then you stopped instead of moving on to the next phase which is training for the three D’s: distance, duration and distractions.

Once your dog listens and follows commands well at home in a calm and quiet environment, most of us ease up on the training and assume most of the work is done. But dogs also need to be trained for those same commands when you’re not standing right beside them or when there’s something interesting competing for their attention. If you make the effort to work on the three D’s, you’ll have a fully trained dog that will listen well in all types of circumstances and environments and that makes life with your dog a heck of a lot easier. Here’s how you can work on the three D’s of dog training.

Distance

Slowly work to increase the physical distance between you and your dog when giving a command. Here are some examples:

  1. Practice asking your dog to sit when you’re not standing right next to him.
  2. Slowly increase the distance you move away from your dog after putting him in a stay position.
  3. Work on recall by gradually increasing the distance before calling your dog to come to you.
Duration

Gradually increase how long your dog should stay in a command or position. Try these exercises:

  1. Slowly increase the length of time your dog should remain in position after you give the stay command.
  2. Gradually increase the time between saying your dog’s name to get his attention and issuing a command.
  3. Practice having your dog remain in a down position for longer periods of time.
Distractions

Work with your dog around low-level distractions, then slowly increase the level of distractions as your pup learns to listen and follow commands even though something interesting or exciting is nearby. Start with these examples:

Have a family member help you by occasionally ringing the doorbell while you work on training to keep your dog focused on listening to your sit and stay commands.

When working around distractions (other dogs, squirrels, blowing leaves…), start far enough away from the distraction so your pup will listen to your commands, then gradually work to decrease the distance while still maintaining control of your dog’s attention.

These are just a few examples of how you can train for the three D’s but you’ll want to customize your training for whatever issues your pup might need to work on. Training for distance, duration and distractions isn’t hard, it’s just that most of us don’t really think about it until we’re in one of those situations I mentioned earlier. Here are some helpful tips as you get started on the three D’s.

10 Tips for Training the Three D’s

1. One D at a Time!
To build your pup’s confidence and success, work on the three D’s one at a time. If you increase distance, duration and add a distraction all at once, your dog will most likely fail at all three.

2. Reward Your Pup
Always reward your dog and give lots of encouragement and praise as he’s learning the three D’s.

3. Work Slowly
Learning each of the three D’s is a gradual, step-by-step process.

4. Fallback When Necessary
If your dog is struggling with any of the D’s, you’ve probably increased the distance, duration or distraction too much. Go back a level to reinforce the behavior before the next increase.

5. Watch the Number of Distractions
Don’t combine too many types of distractions at once. Just like with distance and duration, it should be a gradual process.

6. Leverage the D’s
If you’re having trouble with one of the three D’s, try reducing the other two.

7. Use High-value Rewards
Whether you’re using food or your dog’s favorite toy as a reward, make sure it’s a high-value incentive to encourage your pup and to reinforce the behavior.

8. Don’t Skimp on the Number of Rewards
You may need to give more rewards than usual in challenging situations to keep your dog’s focus.

9. Attitude is Everything
Stay positive and view difficult situations as an opportunity to train.

10. Keep Practicing
Training is a process. Your dog will get there with your patience, persistence and lots of practice.

Distracted DogIt’s wonderful if your dog listens to you while at home, but it’s even better if you can take him anywhere and know that he’ll listen and be well behaved in any environment. If you think your dog has selective hearing, maybe a little work on the three D’s is all he needs. Haley’s pretty good at distance and duration, but she needs some work with distractions. Yes, it seems there’s always something to be worked on when it comes to dog training.

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Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Dogs Are Even More Like Us Than We Thought


It's likely no surprise to dog owners, but growing research suggests that man's best friend often acts more human than canine.

Dogs can read facial expressions, communicate jealousy, display empathy, and even watch TV, studies have shown. They've picked up these people-like traits during their evolution from wolves to domesticated pets, which occurred between 11,000 and 16,000 years ago, experts say.

In particular, "paying attention to us, getting along with us, [and] tolerating us" has led to particular characteristics that often mirror ours, says Laurie Santos, director of the Yale Comparative Cognition Laboratory.

Here are a few of the latest studies showing the human side of our canine companions.

Eavesdropping Dogs

Social eavesdropping—or people-watching—is central to human social interactions, since it allows us to figure out who's nice and who's mean.

According to a study published in August in the journal Animal Behaviour, our dogs listen in too.

In a new study, scientists tested 54 dogs that each watched their owners struggle to retrieve a roll of tape from a container. The dogs were divided into three groups: helper, non-helper, and control.

In the helper group, the owner requested help from another person, who held the container. In the non-helper group, the owner asked for help from a person, who then turned their back without helping. In the control group, the additional person turned his or her back without being asked for help. In all experiments, a third, "neutral" person sat in the room.

After the first round of experiments, the neutral person and the helper or non-helper both offered treats to the dog.

In the non-helper group, canines most frequently favored the neutral person's treat, shunning the non-helper. However, in the helper group, the dogs did not favor either the helper or the neutral person over the other. Scientists have previously observed similar results in human infants and tufted capuchin monkeys.

So are dogs taking sides by ignoring the people who are mean to their owners? Only future research will tell.

Made You Look

Gaze following is instinctual for many animals—including humans, chimps, goats, dolphins, and even the red-footed tortoise—because it alerts animals to everything from immediate threats to "a particularly tasty berry bush," says Lisa Wallis, a doctoral student at the Messerli Research Institute in Vienna, Austria.

Dogs were previously thought to follow human gazes only when food or toys were involved. Now, a new study suggests dogs also follow human gazes into blank space—but only if they're untrained.

"We know they should be able to do it," says Wallis, leader of the research published in August in the journal Animal Behaviour, but training was the "missing piece of the puzzle."

In recent experiments, Wallis and her colleagues recruited 145 pet border collies with a range of training levels and ages. The researchers wanted to see if age, habituation, or training influenced the dog's tendency to follow a human's gaze.

Wallis then observed the dogs' reactions as she gazed toward a door. Surprisingly, only the untrained border collies followed her gaze—the trained animals ignored it. That may be because trained dogs learn to focus on a person's face, and not where the person is looking.

When Wallis and colleagues spent just five minutes teaching the untrained dogs to look at her face, they began ignoring the instinct to follow her gaze.

Even more surprising is that the untrained dogs often glanced back and forth between her and the door, baffled at what she was looking at. The behavior, only seen before in humans and chimps, is called "check backs" or "double looking," she said.

"It's a lesson for us all that we should always examine whether training has an effect in these types of studies," says Wallis.

Next Steps in Dog Research

In humans, aging hastens declines in short-term memory and logical reasoning skills, making it more difficult to learn new tasks. Previous research has found similar declines in dogs, but long-term memory is a little-known aspect of dog biology.

That's why Wallis and colleagues are studying how dogs both young and old memorize tasks, and whether the animals can remember them months later.

The results are still in the works, but Wallis expects to discover that it's tough—but not impossible—to teach old dogs new tricks.


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Monday, April 11, 2016

How to keep your dog from escaping


Tell me if this sounds familiar. You’re doing some housework inside while your dog is safely hanging out in your backyard, barking every once in a while at interesting odors or offending sounds. Everything is normal until suddenly the barking is coming from a different direction — your front door!

Confused, you get up to see what’s going on and are shocked to see that your dog has gotten out. Thank goodness she ran to the front door and started barking, because she could have gotten herself into some serious trouble.

How to keep your dog from escaping is a frightening problem that has plagued many owners — though many may also simultaneously wonder if they should put their pup in some kind of Houdini-eque magic show to exploit his talents!

There are two things to consider if you have an escape artist of a dog: why he tries to escape in the first place, and what you can do to stop him.

Why dogs decide to roam

Dogs roam for all kinds of reasons, and in many cases, it will depend on the personality of your individual pooch. Here are some of the most common causes.

Protecting territory

If your dog tends to bark whenever neighbors come into their backyards or strange sounds are heard on the street, he may attempt to get out to keep his area safe and get those “bad” people to go away.

Loneliness

It’s all well and good to have a backyard for your dog to roam around in, but she needs your attention, too. For some dogs, this can be actual separation anxiety, and leaving is an attempt to find you, but others simply want to hang out with somebody — anybody! If you leave your dog alone in the backyard for too long, she may attempt to leave just to have some kind of social interaction. Along those lines…

Your dog has found something fun

When dogs escape and discover something exciting beyond the fence (another dog to play with, a field to run around in, food), they may keep trying to get out so that they can go have fun again. Why were they trying to escape in the first place? Probably because they were bored.

Your dog has found a friend

If you have an unneutered male dog and there’s an un-spayed female in heat somewhere in the neighborhood, he will smell her and he will try to find her — and have enormous incentive to get out of the yard however possible, whether over, under, or through the fence.

Chasing

Does your dog try to pounce on squirrels during walks and yank out of your grasp because he just knows he can get to that bird before it flies away? If you have a pooch that likes to hunt, he may be escaping because he’s after another animal and will do whatever it takes to get to it.

What to do to prevent roaming

First, install a fence

Hopefully this is obvious, but you never want your dog outside without your supervision if she’s not in an enclosed area of some kind. A physical fence is usually best, but if you are unable to do this in your neighborhood, using an electronic fence is better than risking the possibility of your dog running into the street.

Keep your dog engaged

If you believe that your dog is escaping due to boredom, try to find ways to keep him interested. This might mean getting a few more toys for the backyard, taking longer walks, or teaching him a new trick once a day.

Prevent digging

One of the most common ways for dogs to get out of fenced-in areas is for them to dig a big enough space to crawl under the wall or gate. You can decrease the chances of this happening by placing a chain link fence or large rocks along the edge of the yard, or by burying chicken wire under the ground at the base of the fence so they can’t dig through it.

Spay and neuter

If your male dog is neutered, he’ll be far less likely to try to escape in search of females, and if your female is spayed, she won’t turn your house into a magnet for every unfixed male dog in the area. Bonus points: spayed and neutered dogs can be healthier, live longer lives, and don’t contribute to the problem of too many unwanted dogs around.

For more tips and tricks about keeping your dog from escaping your yard, talk to your vet or a local dog professional. And of course, the best way to keep your dog from escaping is to not let her outside unless you are able to supervise her.


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Friday, April 08, 2016

Banana Pup-cicles

All you need is a blender or mini food processor to blend up the ingredients. THREE ingredients –  Plain yogurt, banana and peanut butter. Simple? I’d say. Let’s get on to the next step.

 You’re going to need 4 of those. After blending the yogurt, banana and peanut butter, fill your four cups a little over 3/4 full – just leave a little room at the top. Position a rawhide twist into the center of each pop. If you don’t like giving your dog rawhide, you could always use a peanut butter stick. Place the cups in the freezer for at least 4 hours. When pops are frozen, unwrap the paper cup from the pop. Share with your pup!


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Monday, April 04, 2016

4 Essential Commands To Teach Your Puppy


Along with cuddling and playing with your new precious puppy, it’s always a good idea to start teaching commands early. The earlier you start training, the better. I say this from experience.

When I first brought my Chihuahua, Diego, home, I was so wrapped up with finding him the perfect treats, toys, beds, collars, and shirts. Other than potty and leash training, my mind was far from teaching him commands. When I realized he was nearly one-year-old and still didn’t know how to sit, I realized I had made a big mistake. I’m not going to sugarcoat this — training my little Diego was a nightmare. Since he was used to getting treats without having to work for them, he felt no need to do what I said. My treat leverage was gone. I learned from my mistake, though. That’s why when I brought my Poodle, Gigi, home, I started her training immediately. Within a matter of five minutes, she knew how to sit. It took about two days for her to understand the word ‘down.’ Another command that came naturally for her was ‘come.’

Please use my mistake as a learning lesson and start training your new puppy immediately! Training doesn’t have to be time-consuming. Since your puppy’s attention span isn’t that long, aim for 10-minute sessions. This little amount of time makes a world of difference. Trust me, being able to communicate with your pooch is life-changing.

Commands To Teach Your Puppy

1) Sit

This is usually the first command dog parent’s teach their little ones. That’s probably because it’s one of the easiest.

Here are a few tips to help you teach your dog how to sit:

Hold a small training treat close to your dog’s nose.

Slowly move your hand up. This will cause your dog to look up and his bottom will lower. You shouldn’t need to press your dog’s tush to the floor. Let it come naturally.

As your dog enters the sitting position, say “sit.” Give him the treat and lots of praise. Repeat this process several times. Once your dog is comfortable with this process, start saying the command before he enters the sitting position. Practice this every day!

2) Stay

This command teaches your dog self-control. Once your dog has mastered “sit,” move on to “stay.”

Here are a few tips to help you teach your dog how to stay:

Show your dog a treat and ask him to enter the sitting position. Still holding the treat in front of your dog, tell him to “stay.” Then, take a small step back. If your dog stays, give him the treat and lots of praise. As your dog gets comfortable with the small step, gradually increase the number of steps you take before giving him the treat. Remember to always reward your pup when he stays.

3) Come

This is perhaps the most important command you can teach your dog. Chances are there will be a time you accidentally drop the leash or leave the door open. If your dog comes when called, it will help keep him out of trouble.

Here are a few tips to help you teach your dog how to come when called:

When you are first teaching your dog to come, put your dog’s leash on. Get down on your knees — to your dog’s level. Tell your dog to “come” while gently tugging on the leash. Make sure to celebrate when your dog comes to you. Reward him with treats and lots of praise. As you are praising your dog, gently pet or rub his neck. This will teach your dog that when he comes to you that he must come close.

4) Leave It

Puppies are curious creatures. As they explore the world for the first time, they will smell things, lick things and try to eat things they shouldn’t. Teaching your dog the command ‘leave it’ is just one more way you can help keep your fur kid safe.

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