Search results for: 'leigh pyron'

  • Keaton and Ramsey, Sumo Wrestlers at Play!

    Written By Leigh Pyron

    A few years back I received a call from a woman who was having some behavior problems with her year and a half old Yellow Lab named Keaton. Keaton had always been very mouthy as a puppy, but now as an adolescent he had started practicing another bad habit of nipping people and their clothing whenever he would greet them. In addition, he had started acting aggressively on the leash, barking, lunging and growling at other dogs.
    When I first arrived at Keaton’s house, I could already hear him barking before I reached the front door. As I approached the door, I could see through the window Keaton’s owner holding him by the collar as he leaped up and down, barking and lunging toward the door. As I got closer I could barely hear the owner in the background saying, “it’s ok, you can come in.” Being rather fond of my appendages and the clothes I was wearing, I instructed the owner to toss a few treats on floor for Keaton to find as I entered the house.   When I entered, I told her to toss a few more treats away from us as we walked toward the kitchen island where we sat down on a couple of high stools next to it. Keaton was trying his best to get our attention, while we were working hard at ignoring him. I watched him out of the corner of my eye nip at the tail end of my vest and at my treat bag. He did this a few times, but since I continued to ignore him he finally walked away and lay down on his dog bed.
    After interviewing the owner and getting bit more information on Keaton’s history, I asked her if Keaton had any familiar dog friends that he seemed to get along with. She said she did go on regular hikes with another woman who had a Yellow Lab, as well, named Ramsey who was close to Keaton’s age, and that they had been hiking and playing together for almost a year now. Knowing I could obtain an incredible amount of information watching Keaton interact with not only the owner’s friend, but her dog as well, I suggested she contact her friend and arrange a time for the three of us to meet with the two dogs.
    Unexpectedly, a few days prior to meeting with my client and her friend, I happened to run into Keaton and his owner at a large open space area where I took my morning group of 6 dogs. My dogs were already off leash when Keaton and his owner arrived. Seconds after the owner unleashed Keaton, he came bounding into the group invasively greeting each one of my dogs. As I stood by observing, ready to intervene if necessary, Keaton came upon a little, white Poodle mix named Mini. The two of them immediately started cueing each other to play. They took turns greeting each other with polite play-bows, followed by running around in circles and taking turns chasing each other. Keaton was surprisingly quite gentle with Mini. Compensating for the size difference, he would drop to the ground in order for Mini to interact with him. They would also take quick breaks or pauses on occasion and then start right back up again with another gracious play bow as if to say “let the games begin!” and off they would go chasing after one another. I was thrilled to see Keaton interact so well with Mini, and from what I observed, it seemed to be very healthy play.
    A few days later, I arrived at the Open Space trail a little early to meet my client and her friend. Her friend had arrived shortly after me with her Lab, Ramsey. As she drove up, I could see and hear Ramsey barking and jumping in the back of her SUV. He was jumping with such force that the vehicle was actually still in motion even after she parked the car. As the owner got out of the car, she waved to me and hollered a quick “hello” which was barely audible over Ramsey’s barking. I waved back at her with a concerned smile and wide-open eyes knowing she was going to release the beast at any moment, and he would most likely head right for me. I watched her as, without hesitation, she opened the back hatch to her SUV and this 90lb dog leaped out of the back of her car and headed directly toward me. Needless to say, he almost knocked me over once he closed the distance between us, with the owner in tow yelling, “Ramsey, get down, get down!” After many apologies, we greeted and exchanged a handshake. I asked her if Ramsey had always behaved this way when she took him for a ride in the car. She said, “oh no, he knows he’s going to see Keaton today, that’s why he’s so excited.” Not a minute later, my client pulled up with Keaton barking and jumping in the back of her car as well.
    Trying to be fast on my feet, I quickly rushed over to her car hoping to get there before she let Keaton out. If I could get at least one of them into a calm state we might be able to walk to the trailhead without so much drama. I got no further than a few feet closer to her car when the back hatch of the car mysteriously opened on it’s own and Keaton, already airborne, flew out of the car like a cartoon character wearing a Superman cape! There was no question in my mind where he was heading… In seconds Keaton body-slammed into Ramsey and the two of them went at it like two Sumo wrestlers. I immediately took off running after them directing the owners to try and pull them apart and put them on a leash. I instructed the owners to quickly start walking and to keep a distance between the dogs by keeping their dogs on the extreme opposite sides of each other. I wanted to try and get the dogs to relax and calm down before we let them go off-leash. Once they were both calm, sniffing about and taking care of business, I told the owners to quietly and slowly unclip their leashes and let them go.
    Within in seconds the two dogs bolted ahead of us, front legs plowing into the dirt like bulldozers as they crossed the gap between them in order to make contact. Keaton and Ramsey were already at the peak of their arousal and they hadn’t even engaged yet! Both dogs were locked in direct eye contact, tails high and erect, ears forward and hackle’s up from head to tail, mouths wide open, bearing their glistening white, youthful teeth. It all happened as fast as lightening. They both collided like freight trains, lunging and grabbing for each other’s necks, bound and determined to pin the other to the ground first. I stood there, in those few seconds, watching this violent dance between these two dogs.  I was shocked as I looked over at the two owners who stood by calmly smiling while they watched their dogs at what they thought was all fun and play. All I could think was that these two dogs had been practicing and perfecting this kind of “play” for almost a year now! Keaton and Ramsey’s “play” was no less than that of two fighting Pit Bulls. The only thing missing was a crowd of bystanders cheering them on!
    Within seconds, I hollered out to the women to immediately grab their respective dog and put him on a leash. We all dashed towards the dogs and the owners struggled to grab ahold of their dog. Both dogs continued to lung and snap at each other even after they were restrained on the leash. I quickly got out some treats and handed them to the owners, instructing them to pass the treat by their dog’s nose and then immediately toss several treats on the ground in the opposite direction of the other dog. All I can say is Thank Goodness they were Labs! Where Labs are concerned, food is the cure-all-end-all for diminishing drama and arousal. Once the dogs got a whiff of the treats the game quickly changed to a hunting expedition.
    Unfortunately, this type of “play” between dogs happens all the time. The most common place to find it is at your local dog park. Many people assume if their dogs are interacting and engaging with one another and they don’t draw blood, they are playing.  When aggressive and inappropriate play is practiced over and over again on a regular basis, it can further enhance or create various other bad behaviors, such as Keaton’s nipping at people and being aggressive on leash.
    Here are some things to look for in your dog and other dogs that will help you define what is healthy play and what is unsafe, more risky play.
    Healthy Play
     
    1.      Self Interruption – dogs take occasional breaks from playing, and then after a few seconds resume play again
    2.      Shared physical space – there is a comfortable amount of space between the two dogs at play
    3.      Ability to compensate or modify for size or strength differences – a large breed plays more gently with a small breed, sometimes laying on the ground so the small dog can engage better
    4.      Mirrored or tandem movement during interruption or during play – one of them stops to potty or sniff something, the other one follows and does the same
    5.      Accepted or reversible role – take turns with offensive and defensive roles, switching position of being on the top and on bottom at play
    Slightly Risky Play
    1.      Rise in intensity of arousal – dogs become more aroused the longer they play
    2.      Hackles are up – hair stands up on back of neck, body and or hind end.
    a.       Hackles that are raised from shoulders down to rump often denote fear or conflict in the dog
    b.      Hackles that are razor-thin between shoulder blades, often denote high arousal in the dog
    c.       Hackles that are widely spread in any area usually denotes conflict in the dog
    3.      Snarling and/or barking with teeth exposed
    4.      No self interruption – no interment breaks during play
    5.      Hard, physical contact – pushing and shoving each other
    Slightly More Risky Play
    1.      Direct eye contact – dogs stare directly into other dogs eyes as opposed to intermit glancing and looking away
    2.      Frontal and aligned body positioning – as opposed to uneven lines in body when they first meet or reengage
    3.      Faster interactions – respond without hesitation or pauses to every move
    4.      Recall with delayed response – if try to call dog to come, it doesn’t respond right away
    Most Risky Play
     
    1.      Relentless, uninterrupted engagement – non-stop combative response to each movement
    2.      Reorientation to the other dog’s neck or throat – constantly trying to orient head in a position that allows for the dog to grab at the throat or neck area of the other dog
    3.      Grab or bite with headshake – once dog engages teeth in other dog he starts to shake his opponent back and forth
    4.      Full mouth biting - dog intentionally tries to directly bite other dog
    5.      Ears are forward in position, intense chasing with open mouth, making physical contact at impact
    6.      More than one dog chasing another dog – ganging up on weakest link
    7.      Targeting another dog – amongst several dogs at play, one dog keeps an eye on one other dog and continually tries to get at the dog to make contact with it. Targeting dog will make direct eye contact with frontal body alignment, tail up and ears forward. Very difficult to interrupt or stop dog that is targeting another dog.
    Take the time to learn your dog’s body language and determine whether your dog is engaging in healthy play or risky play. Visit your local dog park one day without your dog and just sit and observe the dogs at play. See if you can assess into which group of play they would fall. Play is very important in a dog’s life whether it’s with humans or dogs just make sure it’s always safe play!
    There is an excellent YouTube video by Zoom Room, which shows great examples of dog body language. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=00_9JPltXHI

  • Jumping Dogs and Flying Crickets!

    Written by Leigh Pyron

    As an in-home pet sitter there have been many times when I’ve watched multiple dogs at one household. A few years ago, I had a client call to ask me if I was available to pet sit their five-year-old Spaniel mix, Ginger and their Leopard Gecko, Harvey. I told them I was available the first two nights, but after that I was booked at another client’s home to pet sit their two animated, vivacious eight-month-old Standard Poodles named Jupiter and Pluto. Since the two Poodles got along with other dogs, and the owner didn’t mind if I had other dogs over, I offered to take Ginger with me to their home. The client was thrilled, but wanted to make sure I would still be able to take care of Harvey. Now I thought to myself…how hard could it be to take care of a Gecko…sure, I said, no problem.
    So, the instructions on how to take care of Harvey were to change his water and feed him 3 to 5 crickets daily. That all sounded pretty easy to me until they mentioned that I would have to go to the pet store a couple of times to pick up more crickets. Now normally that would be a simple request, but as it was summer time, the busiest time of the year for me, I needed to figure out how to fit cricket-purchasing into my crazy schedule. Especially since the only pet store that carried them was a bit out of the way from where I would be pet sitting.
    Well, my cricket adventure began the first night I started watching Ginger and Harvey. The owners were running behind schedule the day of their departure and didn’t have time to purchase more crickets before they left. So, it looked like my dinner would have to wait, as I ran off to the pet store before closing time with the Kricket-Keeper cage in hand to purchase those priceless crickets. After I got the crickets, I remembered that I was to pick up some food for them as well. I found a container of these funny little orange cubes called Fluker’s Orange Cube Complete Cricket Diet… perfect! The container said they were, “…made from kelp, spirulina, brewer’s yeast and more to gutload crickets.” Ok, now my question is, has anybody ever inquired what exactly the “more” ingredient is in the orange cubes? I now realized I was definitely taking my job a bit too seriously. I was actually concerned about the health of the crickets that I would be feeding to the Gecko…are the crickets a pet too? I guess I should have charged for them too!
    The next morning, after I let Ginger out and fed her, I headed off to the garage, where I left the crickets, to get Harvey’s breakfast. As I approached the Kricket-Keeper cage and looked inside, I couldn’t believe my eyes. Almost every cricket was belly-up at the bottom of the cage. Yikes! I panicked, how could that possibly be, I just bought them yesterday! With a crazy day ahead of me, how was I going to fit in buying more crickets? Luckily, I managed to catch three of the ten or so crickets left alive out of the cage and put them into Harvey’s lair for breakfast. I then got ready myself, loaded Ginger in the car, along with the dead crickets, and started out for the day. Somehow I would have to squeeze in a trip to the pet store once again.
    I finished around 6:00 p.m. that day and decided to make one last stop for the crickets before I headed back to Ginger’s house. When I arrived at the pet store I found a clerk and told him what had happened with my newly-purchased crickets. I asked him if this time he could pick out a few crickets that had a bit more vitality and longevity. The clerk was more than happy to exchange them, the only problem was they were out of crickets and wouldn’t receive any more until tomorrow afternoon. This can’t be happening! How difficult can it be to take care of a simple little desert reptile from Pakistan. I couldn’t believe I would have to return again!
    The next day I had to pack up Ginger and myself to move to Jupiter and Pluto’s house. So, at the end of the day, all packed and ready to go, I fed Harvey the last of the living crickets and headed off to the pet store one more time to purchase those irreplaceable insects. Thank goodness they had received a shipment that afternoon. Now all I had to do was transport Ginger and the crickets safely to Jupiter and Pluto’s house.
    When I arrived at Jupiter and Pluto’s, I left Ginger in the car for a moment and picked up my precious container of crickets and headed for the front door. Normally, when the owners leave they always put Jupiter and Pluto in the back yard, so I knew I could enter the house quietly and put the crickets up and away before I let them in. As I approached the front door I could hear the dogs barking in the background, although it seemed a little louder than usual this time. I didn’t think much of it as I put the key in the lock, turned the knob and opened the door and…Kaboom! Two out of control, crazy, jumping Poodles hit me like a freight train when I opened the door. The only thing that came out of my mouth was “NOOOoooooooo!” as the Kricket-Keeper cage went flying into the air out of my reach over the top of Jupiter and Pluto’s head. Crash! The container hit the floor, the lid popped off and thirty crickets scrambled across the entryway floor heading desperately for a place to hide from the scary, hairy, four-legged creatures that hunted them. Out of shear desperation I yelled, “Leave-it! Leave-it!”
    Needless to say, it took me hours and hours throughout the night to collect the thirty or more crickets that scurried and bustled about all over the floor of the house. By the time I went to bed, as I tried to nod off to sleep, all I could hear was the disharmonious, incongruous sound of chirping coming from the last few crickets I couldn’t find. I felt like I was camping in the wilderness, it was not unlike the annoyance that one experiences with a persistent mosquito that buzzes by your ear just at the moment you’re about to drop off to sleep. How could these tiny little creatures cause such chaos?
    Why do dogs jump on people? 
    It’s not uncommon for puppies and dogs to jump up on people when they greet them.   When a dog greets another dog they immediately sniff each other’s faces. And, in the wild, the young wolf cubs will submissively sniff, lick and nibble on their mother’s face in order to stimulate the activity of regurgitating food up for them. So, since humans are much taller than dogs, the easiest, quickest way for them to get to our face is to jump! Dogs of all ages and sizes will jump up on humans for a variety of reasons, such as ritual greeting, playfulness, excitement or arousal and trying to dominate.
     
    Teaching dogs not to “Jump-Up” on People
    There are many ways to address a dog jumping-up on humans. Here are a few great ideas to try out:
    Ignore the Dog
    When you arrive home and open the door to a jumping dog, try walking right past him, totally ignoring him. Don’t look at him, or talk to him, or touch him. Walk right past him as if he wasn’t there and busy yourself with other things until the dog is calm. Once the dog is calm, you can now greet him. But, if he starts to jump again when you bend over to greet him, quickly stand up, walk away and ignore him again. Repeat this exercise until he can remain calm while petting him.
     
    Put “Jumping-Up” on Cue
    You can teach your dog to “jump-up” on command. First, take a high value treat, such as cheese, cooked chicken or any other type of food that your dog really loves. Call your dog and ask him to “sit” in front of you. Once he is sitting, take a treat and hold it up high just above his head. When he looks up at the treat say, “Jump!”  When he jumps for the treat say, “Yes!” and give him the treat.  After the jump ask him to sit again.
    Another way to get your dog to jump-up is to take two treats and hold one in each hand.  Place the treats between your thumb and first finger of each hand so your dog can see them.  Show the dog the treats and then hold your hands at chest level with palms facing out and say, “jump!”  Most dogs will jump-up and hit your palms with their paws.  When he does say, “Yes!” and give him the treats.  Be sure to ask for a “sit” before and after this exercise as well.
    Use a Distraction
    Have a small bowl of treats somewhere near the front door so when you arrive home or if you have guests coming over, you can toss a “find-it” treat. Simply pick up a treat, show the dog the treat, toss it away from the front entryway and say “find-it!” When the dog goes to find the treat, let yourself or your guest enter the house. When he comes back to the front door again toss him another treat before he gets there. When he goes to find the second treat, walk away and ignore him until he is in a calm state of mind.
    Dragging a Leash
    When you’re home with your dog and expecting company, you can attach a leash to his collar or a harness and let him drag it on the floor. When someone arrives at the front door you can step on the leash just enough to prevent him from jumping. Once your guest enters have them walk quickly past the dog ignoring him. Release the dog by taking your foot off the leash and walk away, also ignoring him until he is in a calm state of mind.
    Use a “Sit” or “Down” Stay
    If your dog already knows “sit” or “down” try asking him to do so at the front door before you open it. Before you open the door, put him in a “sit” or “down” position and ask him to “stay.” Give him a few treats to start off with as a reward. When you go to open the door, continue to ask him to “stay.” If he starts to get up when you open the door, quickly close the door and put him back in a “sit” or “down” again. Continue to repeat this exercise until he stays in position when you open the door.   Once your guest has entered, praise him, release him and walk away.
    Using an X-pen or Baby Gate
    Put your dog in a small room and close off the entrance with an exercise pen or baby-gate so he can’t get out. Leave your dog for a brief moment and then return, walking back to greet him. If he jumps up when you arrive at the gate, immediately turn and walk away from him. Walk about four or five feet away, pause and then return, walking back to greet him again. If he jumps up again when you get there, turn around and leave again. Repeat this until he stops jumping when you arrive at the gate. Praise him and release him from the room when he succeeds.
    Remember to remain calm and patient when practicing these exercises. If the human gets frustrated or angry during the process, it only creates more excitement and arousal in the dog, which causes them to jump even more. It usually only takes a few minutes for the dog to realize that what he is doing isn’t working. The first step to success is simply to get the dog to stop practicing the behavior.   From there, it’s just a matter of being consistent with the new rules you have established with him.

     

  • After Surviving Three Gastrointestinal Surgeries, Moose’s Separation Anxiety was a Serious Challenge!

    Written By Leigh Pyron

    All photographs © Leigh Pyron

     

    I met Moose, a very handsome Silver Lab, when he was about a year and a half old. Preparing to pet sit for clients of mine, I learned they had rescued him from a couple that had no time for a dog. Moose had lived most of his life all alone in a fenced in back yard. Thanks to his new owners, he would finally have the home he deserved with two wonderful, loving, caring, compassionate people who loved dogs, and another fun-loving Chocolate Lab named “Kodi.”
    Before I had the pleasure of meeting Moose, the owners warned me that he was a handful and the two dogs together could be quite explosive! So, I told them I’d try to work in a little obedience training with the two of them while they were away. When I arrived at their home the first day of pet sitting, the owners had already departed. They told me they would leave the dogs in the backyard. As I entered through the front door, all I could hear was a cacophony of dog barking and an intermittent thumping and scratching of nails on thick glass. When I walked into the kitchen I had a full view of the sliding glass doors to the deck and backyard. I couldn’t help but laugh at the two of them bouncing up and down simultaneously, doing Olympic jumps of four-off-the-floor in a syncopated rhythm. Moose would wiggle the front and back end of his body in opposite directions and then elevate his whole body up off the ground in one gigantic leap, followed by a resounding thump of 90 pounds hitting the wood flooring of the deck. Needless to say, I had my work cut out for me trying to achieve obedient calmness from these two. First things first, an off leash run in the open space would be our immediate event for the day!
    After an hour and a half of exercise, Moose and Kodi were two totally different dogs. The rest of the evening would be quite peaceful with them both crashed out on the couch. All was well until about 3:30 in the morning when I was awakened by the sound of Moose choking and heaving. As I staggered out of bed, he began to throw-up some unidentifiable white material in a ball on the carpet. I quickly rushed him outside and cleaned up what looked like the remnants of a white sport sock. All I could think was, thank goodness he was able to throw it up! Moose seemed to be fine the next day, so I decided to take them for a long hike. We were about 30 minutes into the hike when all of a sudden Moose started choking and heaving again off to the left side of the trail. I walked over to inspect it and this time he threw-up some kind of black, shiny pieces of material. I had no idea what Moose had gotten into, but from then on I made sure Moose had no access to any kind of clothing items. Luckily, the rest of the week remained uneventful.
    Neither the owners nor I had any idea at the time that Moose’s eating of non-edible objects happened to be a bad case of separation anxiety. But after Moose ingested a whole red potato (surgery number 1), a small cardboard encased light bulb (surgery number 2, in which he lost 18 inches of his intestines), and a chewed up plastic squeaker from the inside of a stuffed animal (surgery number 3, in which he almost didn’t survive), something had to be done!
    It seems to me that Moose must have been a cat in his former life that didn’t get the chance to use up his nine lives! It’s a miracle he is still here today — he wouldn’t be without the amazing work of Dr. Mary Press of Larkspur Landing Veterinary Hospital in Larkspur, CA. Thanks to Dr. Press, Moose still has six lives to go — let’s hope he never has to use them!
    By the way, I finally figured out what the black material was that Moose threw up that day in the woods… About three weeks later, I was pet sitting at another client’s home and I’d just gotten out of the shower and reached for my small, shiny black robe. I didn’t think anything of it until I stood in front of the mirror to dry my hair. As I raised my arms and looked into the mirror, I stood there in shock. Moose had somehow strategically managed to chew off the right and left side of the sleeves to my robe, they were completely gone!
    Separation Anxiety
    Separation anxiety is when a dog experiences a certain level of panic due to feeling alone and unsafe, being confined, and his inability to determine when his suffering will end. Dogs will do anything they can to try to escape and relieve their anxiety. People have come home to find their furniture torn to pieces, holes in the walls, curtains shredded, doors and window frames chewed, and their dog's mouth and paws bloody from endless attempts to escape.
    There are a number of ways to go about resolving separation anxiety. Here are a few things I think are very important to address:
    1.      Making your dog feel safe and secure in his own environment. Be sure the area where you are going to leave or confine your dog is free of anything he can destroy or that will hurt him. Use baby gates or exercise pens or a dog run to create this space. Do not crate your dog unless you are positive he is at ease and comfortable in his crate.
    2.      Creating routine and consistency in your dog’s life. Be predictable, if your dog knows that when you leave you will always return, then he won’t have difficulty being alone. The most important thing to do when you are ready to depart is to act very calm and relaxed. Take your dog to his confined area, ask him for a “sit” give him a treat and say a quick, casual good bye such as “see ya” or “off to work” and calmly leave. Then, when you return home be sure to completely ignore him until he is in a calm and relaxed state. Then reward him with a greeting and affection.
    3.      Building his confidence level. A dog that is confident feels a sense of security when his owner is gone. It’s important to be there to support your dog through this difficult process, but it’s also important not to coddle or nurture his neediness. You can help your dog gain confidence through basic obedience training by teaching him “Sit” and “Down,” “Wait” and “Stay.” Using these exercises you can build up on increasing distance from your dog and practice being out of his sight. Another fantastic way to build confidence in your dog is to enroll him in socialization classes such as, agility, herding, canine freestyle and scenting or tracking classes. Any of these exercises and classes will give your dog an ability to adapt to new situations and a sense of being safe in various environments.
    A few other great ideas…
    ·         Leave your dog a yummy, treat-filled smart toy such as a Kong or Buster Cube.
    ·         Leave some music on or the television. Be sure to choose a channel that you normally listen to and turn it on for a period of time before you leave.
    ·         Try using natural treatments such as “Rescue Remedy” Bach Flower Essences, aromatherapy or homeopathic remedies.
    ·         Be sure to exercise your dog before you leave.
    ·         In severe cases consider medications. Contact a professional behaviorist and your veterinarian if you want to explore the options of using pharmaceutical alternatives.
    If your dog’s case of separation anxiety is extreme, you should contact a professional to help you through the process. It’s imperative that you take the time to work with your dog through the beginning stages of this process. It can be very time consuming and arduous, but well worth it in the end for your peace of mind and your dog’s long-term health and well-being.

  • Could Chicklet and Bazooka have avoided running into the moving car if they had learned “Wait and Stay?”

    Written By Leigh Pyron

    I’m sure the first thing you’re thinking is Oh my gosh! are they alright? Yes, they did survive the collision with only minor injuries, thank goodness!
     
    It all started about six months ago when I received a call from a couple who desperately needed help with their two “out-of-control” Labradoodles named Chicklet and Bazooka. Both dogs had some basic obedience training when they were puppies, but unfortunately no one had taken the time to keep up with the training as they grew older. They had quite a few challenging behavior issues to address, such as, knocking adults and children over when greeting them, pulling their owners through the neighborhood on leash walks, and (one behavior they had truly perfected) “bolting” out of the house through the front door and from the back of their SUV.
    A few days later when I arrived at their home for a consult, a nice young couple, Denise and Mark and their two children, Jack and Samantha, greeted me at the door. As the kids ran off to play in their rooms, we took a seat at the dining room table to talk. I was very anxious to hear the story about the car incident. I was trying to concentrate on what they were saying, but all I could hear was the background noise of scratching and banging against a door somewhere down the hall. They had put the dogs in the kitchen and they could barely contain themselves anxiously waiting to meet the new human that had entered their house. I finally told them to go ahead and let the dogs out while I stood up and braced myself a bit against the table. In seconds, a burst of energy came bounding into the room and I was gregariously greeted by two very large Labradoodles, one apricot in color and resembling the curly poodle side of the Labradoodle, and a wiry haired chocolate one looking very much like an Irish Wolfhound. I was trying to practice my usual initial greeting of new dogs, ignoring them and keeping eye contact with the owners, but I wasn’t very successful. These two were bound and determined to win my undivided attention!
    As Denise and Mark were yelling out their names in redundancy, and with extreme embarrassment, they each grabbed a dog and peeled them off of me. The next thing I knew, they were tossing handfuls of treats in the opposite direction for them to fetch. As the dogs flew across the room in search of their treats, we were finally able to take our seats again at the table. They were just about to share their story with me again when our brief, peaceful moment came to another screaming halt. Because both dogs had Labrador in them, the treats were gone in a matter of seconds and before we knew it I had a chocolate, apricot parfait in my lap! Now someone who isn’t a dog lover would have probably left the house by now, but the two of them were quite comical in their battle to achieve the most affection from the visiting human. It was all I could do to keep from laughing as the poor couple turned red and grabbed the pooches off of me again! Needless to say, Chicklet and Bazooka ended up back in the kitchen for the rest of our visit.
    Now, finally, I would get to hear the long awaited story… One Saturday afternoon Denise had headed off to run some errands while Mark got the kids ready to take them to a friend’s house for the day. As the kids got into the car, Mark headed back into the house to get the dogs. He was the only one who could handle the two dogs, so he was the one responsible for exercising them. Once the kids were dropped off he headed for a hiking trail a few miles away. As he pulled over to park the car, he saw someone he knew going into a house across the street. As Mark caught the man’s attention he waved to the man, who hollered out to him that he was taking his son to a birthday party. Unfortunately, Mark could barely make out what he was saying due to Chicklet and Bazooka’s out-of-control barking, whining and scratching at the hatch door desperately trying to get out. He ended up just smiling at the man and waving goodbye. He then proceeded to change from his street shoes into his hiking boots. As he was putting on his boots, unbeknownst to him, one of the bootlaces had gotten tangled around a floor latch that just so happened to be the release for the back-door hatch. As he grabbed the second boot he realized it was caught on something and began to pull it towards him. All of a sudden the back hatch popped open and out bolted Chicklet and Bazooka into the street. As the dogs flew past him, Mark, flabbergasted and frantic, struggled to release his bootlace from the latch. He shoved his foot into his boot without lacing it and bolted out of the car himself to try and accost the crazy doodles at large!
    Chicklet and Bazooka immediately headed towards the house where the birthday party was commencing in the backyard. By the time Mark caught up with the two dogs and made it into the backyard, he found them standing on top of a picnic table devouring a Cookie-Monster birthday cake! The dogs were surrounded by a group of screaming, crying and laughing children and adults. Mortified by the scene his dogs were starring in, he ran at top speed hoping he could take them by surprise. The second they caught a glimpse of him they flew off the table and headed around the other side of the house back towards the car. As Mark made his way around the house to the street, he was just in time to see his two crazy dogs looking back at him as if to say, “hurry up he’s gaining on us!” Within seconds of that look, the dogs ran head-on into a moving mini van.
    Luckily for Chicklet and Bazooka the person in the van happened to be searching for a parking spot when they ran into it, so the van was barely moving. The dogs were a bit stunned and in shock, but they recovered just fine. Mark on the other hand was another story! Needless to say, Chicklet and Bazooka’s obedience training program would begin right away and it would definitely include “Wait and Stay!”
    Once your dog has learned “Wait and Stay” there are many ways you can practice using it:
    ·         At any entrance or exit of a house or building
    ·         Getting in and out of your vehicle
    ·         Ask for a “Wait” before releasing your dog to eat his meal
    ·         At street corners and intersections
    ·         To keep from entering an unsafe area, e.g., a glass breaking in the kitchen
    ·         Using it as a backup to recall. If your dog won’t “come” when you call, try “Wait or Stay” and walk towards him
    ·         Use it as a game to play with your dog inside or outside of your home. Ask your dog to “Wait/Stay” while you go and hide somewhere; then release him by calling to find you.
    Teaching “Wait and Stay”
    “Wait”– When you ask your dog to “Wait” they cannot move past the threshold where you asked them to wait, like the front door, but they can move about behind the threshold.
    Teaching “Wait” – Put your dog on a 6-foot leash and shorten the leash a bit only giving your dog a few feet of the leash as you walk towards the front door. As you reach to open the door, begin to turn your body around to face your dog with your back to the opening of the door. If your dog is used to going out the door ahead of your, you may have to quickly move in front of him blocking him from the exit. Once he is in place, ask your dog to “Wait” while holding out your hand with a flat, open palm facing him. Begin to slowly take a few steps backwards while keeping a hold on the leash. If he tries to move forward, take a quick step forward into his space forcing him to move back behind the threshold. Repeat “Wait” one more time. Once he has been successfully waiting for a few seconds, release him by saying, “OK” or “Release” giving him permission to pass through the threshold. You don’t have to treat him once you release him; he is rewarded by being allowed to move through the entrance. You can praise him and tell him he is a “good-boy.” Practice this both entering and exiting the house. Be sure not to make him wait too long at first, work on building up time and distance.
    “Stay- When you ask your dog to “Stay” he can be in a sit, down or standing position. He must stay in position, without moving about, until you release him.
    Teaching “Stay” – Once your dog is in position tell him to “Stay” while holding out your hand with a flat, open palm facing him. Take a few steps backwards keeping an eye on him to be sure he remains in position. If he tries to move out of position, step forward moving him back into position, and ask for the “Stay” again. After a few seconds of staying in position, release him by saying, “OK” or “Release.” Remember to take your time building up on time and distance. If he keeps popping-up out of his position, you may be moving back too far or too fast. Start out at a short distance apart and only make him wait a few seconds the first several times you practice it.
    Have fun with these exercises. Once your dog has achieved “Wait and Stay” at close range, practice these exercises outdoors where you can really expand on your distance and time. When a dog learns commands through the fun of exercise and play they tend to learn very quickly and they don’t seem to forget it!

  • Milo Takes “Find-it” Very Seriously!

    Written By Leigh Pyron
    I met Milo when he was just eight weeks old. I thought he was the cutest chocolate Lab puppy I ever met. I know… have you ever seen a puppy that wasn’t cute? Milo is four years old now, but when he was about six months old I started taking him out with my morning group of dogs. Now that Milo was a part of the group, there were a few things he would have to learn in order to fit in with the pack. I taught him various basic exercises such as, wait, stay, come, sit and “Find-it”.
    “Find-it” is so easy to teach and it’s a wonderful way to get the attention of one dog or even 6 dogs! All I have to do when I’m out with a large group of dogs is say, “Find-it!” and the dogs come running as the treats fall all over the ground. Now Milo always loved this game, but as he grew older he became much more interested in sticks and, most of all, tennis balls. Yes, Milo is one of those labs that is crazy about tennis balls. So, given that Milo understood the concept of “Find-it” with treats, I thought I’d try to use the same exercise but instead of searching for treats have him search for tennis balls. Sure enough, all I had to say was, “Milo find the ball, “Find-it” and off he would go with his nose to the ground in search of any lost balls hiding in the brush and long grass.
    Now, the space where I take the dogs for their morning outing is a very large, open marshland area that has many large Pampas Grass plants scattered throughout the middle of it. These ornamental grasses grow quite large with long, thick, graceful blades and delightfully fluffy off-white plumes, which grow up through the middle like a floral decoration. The long leaves are very coarse and sharp to the touch, but the dogs love to run through them and rub themselves against them.
    One morning at the marsh Milo was looking a bit bored so I told him to go and “find” a ball! So, off he went searching with high hopes of finding one. Not long after I sent Milo on his search I happened to hear a loud crash in the brush. I couldn’t imagine what caused the noise because at that moment my group and I were the only ones there. I continued to walk ahead and as I rounded the bend with the other dogs I happened to see something moving in the middle of a clump of Pampas Grass. As I got closer, I was trying to figure out what it was that was moving back and forth in the middle of the plant, I finally realized it was a tail! Yes, Milo’s tail! That crazy Lab went head-first and dove into the middle of the 5 foot tall clump of pampas grass. I was laughing so hard wishing someone were here to witness this when Milo’s head popped up out of the top of the bush with a tennis ball stuck in his mouth. Just as I called out to him he disapeared again head first down into the grass. I tried calling him to come out, but only halfheartedly because, at this point, it had become quite entertaining. All of a sudden, POP! out came Milo with two balls in his mouth.   He leaped into the air out of the clump of grass and took off running looking quite proud of his find.
    Now, I said to myself, what on earth gave Milo the idea to search for a ball in the Pampas grass? And then I remembered… when the dogs would get too crazy over a ball and I would have to take it from them, I would usually toss it high up into the middle of the Pampas grass so they couldn’t get to it. I thought it was a great idea because there is no way they could possibly jump up that high or get down into the middle of the grass. Well, let me tell you, the old saying really applies to Milo…“if there’s a will, there’s a way,” Milo’s way!
     Have fun when teaching "Find-it." Dogs love this exercise and, why not, there is always a reward of some kind that follows! It’s important to use high value treats when you teach this exercise, because you are trying to redirect your dog’s attention away from something. Usually the more scent the treat has the better. You’re asking him to come back for a treat instead of chasing that fast rabbit that just ran by! Omega Fields’ Omega Nuggets™ make a great “Find-it” treat. They have a strong, appealing smell that dogs love.   Another great dog training investment is a treat bag. Most pet stores carry a variety of these. They usually hook on easily to your belt or clip in the back like a fannypack. Load up your treat bag everytime you go for a walk or an outing with your dog. Before you start out, ask the dog for a “sit” or any basic command and give him one of the treats you are carrying. Then, let him get out a little ahead of you and call him back and give him a treat. Now your dog knows that you have treats and are willing to dole them out.
    Once your dog has learned the basics of “Find-it” there are endless reasons to use it to redirect your dog’s attention:
    • Another dog approaching or a wild animal off in the distance
    • If he is going for an object you don’t want him to have, such as something edible or a non-edible item like a childs toy
    • To catch his attention before he takes off down the road or heads off into the woods off the walking path
    • To get him off furniture or out of the car
    • To get him to change directions on an outing or walk when he is not on a leash. Simply toss a few treats in the new direction ahead of you and say, “Find-it.”
     
     
    Teaching “Find-it”
    Start out by taking a treat and toss it on the ground close by the dog and say, “Find-it.” Once he gets the hang of it you can expand the distance that you toss the treat. If he doesn’t see where you tossed it, guide him by pointing to the treat and when he finds it say, “Yes!” Let his attention wander and then throw a treat and give the command again. When the dog is breaking away from what he is doing and coming over every time you say “Find-it,” increase the challenge by having someone create a diversion. Use a friend with a toy or another dog. When your dog turns his attention to the diversion, call his name and say, “Find-it” and toss a treat. Increase the diversions until you can get your dog to break away every time.
    “Find-it” is also a wonderful way to engage your dog to interact with you and play. You can have someone take your dog to another room while you hide treats for him to find upon his return. When he returns simply tell him to, “Find-it.” Dogs have an instinctive hunting mode and most dogs find it enjoyable to look for things. If your dog is bored from being home alone all day while you’re at work, a ten minute game of “Find-it” works wonders to re-energize them and give them attention.
    “Find-it” is a great tool to have in your dog training tool box. When a big diversion is needed to get your dog to come to you and “Come” just isn’t working, “Find-it,” when effectively taught, will overcome many enticing distractions. It is also a great way to entertain and interact with your dog. A healthy dog/owner relationship starts with positive, fun, interactive training.

  • Could the Thanksgiving turkey have been saved if Bandit had learned “Leave-it?”

    Written By Leigh Pyron
    A few years ago I was invited to Thanksgiving dinner by a good friend of mine. There were 15 people in all and everyone was focused on drinks, conversation and preparation. It was just about time for everyone to take their seats as the turkey was being pulled out of the oven. My friend’s husband carved the turkey, filled a plate full of freshly carved meat and walked away from the bird to deliver the plate to the table of hungry guests. No one paid much attention or noticed that the big yellow Labrador named Bandit had somehow escaped from the bedroom where he had been secured until the food portion of the festivities were over.

    Labs are pretty well known for their voracious appetites when it comes to human food and Bandit was no exception.   As the turkey was being delivered to the dining room I saw Bandit, out of the corner of my eye, enter the kitchen. I looked from the dog to the bird and realized what was about to happen. I got up out of my chair and ran to the kitchen yelling for Bandit to “leave-it” as he went for the turkey. I was too late and all that could be heard was the loud crash of the plate hitting the floor. There in front of me stood good old Bandit covered in turkey juice with a big turkey leg hanging out of his mouth. He was looking at all of us like “What? It’s just a drumstick…” What else could we do but laugh! Thank goodness we at least saved one plate-full of turkey to feed the humans.
    “Leave-it” is a valuable command for many situations. It should be one of the first things that you teach your puppy. It’s uses are endless, but these are a few things that come to mind:.
    ·         Leaving food and clothing items alone
    ·         Staying out of the garbage
    ·         Leaving another dog’s toys or food alone
    ·         Stop eating or rolling in foul things on the trail or walk
    ·         Stop an attempt to go towards another dog or a cat, coyote, skunk or any other animal
    Try to be alert and proactive whenever you use this exercise. “Leave-it” works best if you use it the second before your dog gets a chance to react to something. In the beginning, be consistent by rewarding him every time he does what you want with a treat that has a high value to the dog, like chicken or hot dogs or any strong-scented and appealing dog treat like Omega Fields’ Omega Nuggets. After a few weeks or so you can begin to treat him every other time or less, and reward him alternately with praise and affection or even a favorite toy. Most importantly, have fun with this exercise. You will be very surprised how fast your dog will pick it up, and how often you will use it! Be sure to keep a positive, friendly tone in your voice whenever you practice this. Training should always be fun for you and your dog.
    This training exercise can be done from the floor or from a standing position.
    “Leave-it” Floor Position
    Take a large piece of treat in your right hand and show the dog the treat. Then put the treat on the floor and quickly cover it with your hand. Let him try to get at it by sniffing and licking at your hand. The minute he stops touching your hand say, “Yes” and reward him with a treat from your left hand. Be sure to keep the treat in your left hand out of sight by holding it behind your back while he works to get the treat from the right hand. Repeat this three times. The fourth time you do it add the words “Leave-it” as he moves towards your right hand. If he stops or hesitates say, “Yes!” and reward him with a treat from your left hand.

    Once you’ve seen that he’s getting the hang of it, start setting the treat on the floor uncovered and say, “Leave-it.” If he stops or hesitates say, “Yes” and reward him. Remember to always guard your treat on the floor and be prepared to cover it up with your hand if he goes for it.   Also, never reward him with the “Leave-it” treat, only reward him from the other treat hand.

    On occasions when I’m working with a dog or puppy that has been rescued and I don’t know how he may react to food, or when the owner tells me that their dog or puppy is very mouthy or aggressive when he takes treats, I use the standing position to train “Leave-it.”
    “Leave-it” Standing Position
    Start out by showing the dog the treat in your right hand and then make a fist, closing the treat inside your hand. Now extend your hand out with the fist still closed letting him sniff and lick at your fist as he tries to get at it. The minute he stops touching your hand say, “Yes” and reward him with a treat from your left hand. Again, repeat this three times and on the fourth time add the words “Leave-it” as he moves towards your right hand.   If he stops or hesitates say, “Yes!” and reward him with a treat from your left hand.
    Once you’ve seen that he’s getting the hang of it, move to showing him the treat in your right hand, leaving your hand open. As he goes for the treat say, “Leave-it.” If he stops or hesitates, quickly say “Yes” and reward him with the treat from your left hand. If he goes for the treat and doesn’t stop, close your fist and start again. Remember, never reward him with the “Leave-it” treat.
    After I teach the basics of “Leave-it” I step it up a level and move the training into the kitchen. Almost every client that wants basic obedience training for their puppy always asks me the same questions… “How do I get him to stop going for food and how do I stop him from going for the dirty dishes in the dishwasher?
    The first thing I do is ask the client if they have any tasty human food in the refrigerator that I could use to entice their dog with. Once, I even pulled out a whole precooked chicken and set it on the kitchen floor and believe it or not, after successfully perfecting the first stage of teaching “Leave-it”, this dog didn’t even try to go for the chicken! He waited patiently knowing that he would be immediately rewarded with yummy high value treats if he left it alone.
    When training the dog to leave the dishwasher alone, I open the dishwasher and pull out the lower rack of dirty dishes. Then I take the same tasty human food from the refrigerator and set it on top of the rack. I use the same steps asking the dog to “leave-it” and immediately rewarding for doing so.
    “Leave-it” is a very valuable command and one that every dog owner should teach their dog at an early age. Many of the frustrations of owning a puppy can be nipped in the bud by applying this command early and often. The puppy who will become the adolescent and then adult dog, will know what things are off limits and what things are Ok. Also, always be sure to provide plenty of durable toys for your dog to play with so he won’t look for makeshift toys in the bottom of your closet or the garbage can. Early obedience training is one of the keys to a happy and fulfilling relationship with your dog.

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