Dominance dog training may seem like a “been there, done that” issue, but while the science has moved beyond that concept, many people haven’t. Physical punishment may provide an immediate response, but does it teach a dog anything, really, except to avoid the punishment? Just as with the practice of hanging dogs up by their leashes was once used as a corrective “training” tool, we now must deal with the legacy of dominance training, its array of bad ideas for dog training and how they impact development of the bond of trust we should have with our dogs. That’s really a major talking point in the video below: what kind of relationship do you want with your dog? Continue reading
I recently wrote about playing with dogs and its role in communicating and bonding with my dog, and have used play after a dog training session to reinforce the idea that it’s all fun. It was great to see this video with Steve Dale talking about this topic to the always impressive Patricia McConnell, author, certified applied animal behaviorist, international speaker, and adjunct professor in Zoology at University of Wisconsin, Madison. Continue reading
Therapy dogs provide comfort and affection for people in a variety of stressful situations, from disaster afflicted areas, the recent Connecticut shootings, to children testifying in court, and for those in long-term health care and other facilities.
One group, Angel on a Leash, enhances quality of life and human health through the work of therapy dogs in hospice, rehab and other health care facilities, schools and other venues. David Frei, yes the voice of Westminister Kennel Club, is founder of this organization and has authored a book by the same name filled with the wonderful stories of all the lives Continue reading
Fearful dog behavior can be quite a challenge to live with and witness. It’s both frustrating and heartbreaking to watch a fearful dog navigate a world populated with scary sights and sounds. Our hearts go out to these poor shy creatures that are often even afraid of their own shadow. But what to do? How does one go about making a shy dog more comfortable in her environment? Is it okay to comfort your dog when he’s feeling nervous? Should you ignore the behavior?
In this interview, dog trainer Amy Cook answers these questions and provides empathic insight into life with a shy canine. Amy is a shy dog specialist who is also working towards her doctorate in Psychology at the University of California, Berkeley with a focus on the human/canine relationship. She is also the owner and moderator of the Shy-K9s Yahoo Group, which is an excellent resource for people who are dealing with fearful dogs.
In this interview, Amy and I chat about the origin of shyness, what defines it, the trial and tribulations of living with a shy dog, and how to best address shyness or fear from a behavioral standpoint.
Is a shy dog born or made?
What are the chances that a shy dog will make a full recovery and overcome her fears, and to what degree?
How do you integrate a shy dog into your home and how do you build trust in your relationship with your fearful dog?
Most importantly Amy wants everyone to know that it is not really possible to reinforce fear and make it worse. Fear is an emotion and emotions cannot be so easily manipulated or contrived operantly. A frightened dog deserves comfort and a safe place to hide and peek while you do your best to resolve the issue via classical conditioning and training, which will take some time, patience, and understanding.
Please listen to the podcast below to hear Amy answer the questions above and more. If you’d like to learn more about fearful dog behavior and training, or have a shy canine and would like to reach Amy directly please join the Shy-K9s group on Yahoo.
Shelter dog training and behavior is enhanced by playgroups in many ways and Cindy Bruckart of the Multnomah Animal Shelter, an open-admission, official Open Paw Shelter, is here this week to tell us why playgroups are good for shelter dogs and how to go about doing them in a safe and manageable fashion.
Shelter dogs are often quite pent up, as they generally spend about 23 hours a day in a kennel environment, often with lots of frustrating stimulation going on right outside their kennel run door. While manners training, practicing household skills such as settling and chew toy training, and continued socialization are very much top priorities when deciding what sort of environmental enrichment to provide for shelter dogs (see openpaw.org for more info), playgroups may be incorporated as one ingredient in a wellness program for maintaining or creating healthy, adoptable shelter dogs.
Exercise provides a much needed outlet for amped up dogs, but it also provides an opportunity to build confidence for shy dogs and some much needed cheer for dogs displaying signs of depression.
That said, a shelter dog playgroup should not just be a willy-nilly free for all. Cindy runs her playgroups bases on the SIRIUS Puppy Training methodology of incorporating training into play sessions. Doing so both blurs the line between training and play, to make them one and the same in the dog’s mind rather than mutually exclusive, but it also offers handlers a fantastic opportunity to use the super-high value reward of play and dog-dog interaction as a reinforcement for following their requests, such as recall out of playgroup or a brief “down-stay”. In other words, there are lots of training breaks in the play session to maintain control and focus at all times.
In order to initiate shelter dog playgroups it’s essential to have at least one trained professional, who is experienced in both reading dog behavior/body language and in managing multiple dogs, involved in each session. Volunteers must be trained before participating and Cindy believes that the ratio of dog to human should be no higher than four dogs for each human helper.
In the podcast below, Cindy also talks about what kind of dogs are suitable for playgroups, lists the top three reasons to incorporate playgroups into your shelter dog training and behavior program, and shares a heartwarming story about a shelter dog who’s life was turned around, and likely saved, by the opportunity to grow and shine outside of her kennel.
Circus tricks for dogs? Indeed! Recently I had the privilege of chatting with renaissance man and circus dog trainer extraordinaire, Francis Metcalf, of Friends of the Family Dog Training.
Francis is someone I’ve known for nearly 20 years now and I can honestly say he is a uniquely gifted man who always advocates for dogs. They love him. Adore him. Can’t get enough. When Francis walks into the room my dogs act like it’s Christmas morning; and it is, because he always gives them the gift of his full attention and works to make every interaction with dogs as positive and and fun as possible. I’ve not met anyone quite like him in dogs.
In this podcast, recorded in the cozy confines of his european-styled training clubhouse where we sat by a roaring fire and sipped wine, Francis and I first cover his early career and how he first got into dog training. We chat about his first dogs and his first Belgian Malinois, Turbeaux (a dog legends are made of), as well as his introduction to the fine sport of French ringsport.
In the second half of this conversation Francis talks about his circus class, a class that’s taken the San Francisco Bay Area by storm! Circus class teaches dogs to be confident and comfortable with their bodies while also teaches people to take the time to enjoy the process of dog training. The motto of the class is, “Try, try, try!” Rather than focusing on perfect performance, this class is all about learning to enjoy the process. Francis wants people and dogs to enjoy the ride! And because circus class is not about competition or life and death issues, people learn to relax when communicating with their dog. They learn how to be animated and fun to draw dogs out and build focus.
Circus class is also an excellent parallel class, meaning in doesn’t interfere with any other training your dog may be doing, but rather, the skills learned seem to enhance performance in other realms, be they basic manners or agility or nose work.
I had such a fun time creating this podcast, and I hope you have a blast listening to it too. Also, I hope it motivates people everywhere to get out there and teach their dogs some fun tricks.
Oh, one more thing… Francis is such an interesting character and has so very much to offer that my interview ran a bit long. I’m still learning how to audio edit and ran into some difficulties, so, while I did split this interview into two parts, it’s all in the same podcast. The first part of the interview introduces Francis to the Animal Cafe listening audience and is about 10 minutes long, I wanted listeners to really get a feel for the man himself before launching into his latest project… The fabulous circus classes that he offers to pet dogs to help make them the most interesting dog on their block.
If you’d like to learn more about Francis or his circus tricks for dogs classes please visit his website, Friends of the Family.