Puppy Nipping: A Plan to Stop It March 6, 2014 No Comments
Puppy nipping is one of the most frustrating behaviors that new owners report. It hurts! But you’ll see a big reduction in puppy nipping in a short period just by getting some human cooperation.
Let’s start by examining why your puppy is putting his mouth on things. I don’t like to spend a ton of time pondering why a dog is doing what he’s doing, but this is such a frustrating behavior for owners that I find it helps to consider the puppy’s point of view.
Beginning at a young age, puppies bite each other during play. This behavior starts before you bring your puppy home from the breeder or rescue organization. The puppies are play-fighting and learning their own strength. If they bite a littermate too hard, the other puppy will respond with a high-pitched yelp. This tells the biter to tone it down next time.
This is why a common nugget of advice is “If your puppy bites you, shriek in a high-pitched voice.” This sometimes causes the puppy to stop. But sometimes the puppy thinks your noises are fascinating and bites harder next time; it gets him excited and worked up!
It just depends on your puppy… and your ability to make a high-pitched puppy yelp, something most men can’t do. I prefer to use methods that work more reliably. Here is my plan.
Institute a new house rule: everyone interacting with the puppy is “armed” with a soft, biteable toy. It should be long enough to keep your fingers away from the puppy’s mouth when playing. This is always within the puppy’s reach when you’re petting her, playing with her, or snuggling together. Praise the puppy for interacting with the toy.
Set yourself up for success by keeping a soft toy in your back pocket, another in a basket on top of the puppy’s crate, and another in the room where you tend to hang out with your pup the most. I recommend braided fleece toys and “unstuffed” plush toys (the kind that resemble roadkill).
Don’t tempt your puppy! For at least the first few weeks, avoid wearing nice clothing or anything loose-fitting or dangling around her. Change out of your nice work clothes before interacting with your puppy. Tuck in shoelaces and sweatshirt drawstrings, and remove large earrings and necklaces, too.
This eliminates the puppy’s opportunity to grab on to these things and elicit an exciting reaction from you. We don’t want the puppy to learn things we wish she wouldn’t, such as “grabbing my mother’s earrings makes her squeak and push me around. That’s fun!” Not a good lesson.
You can also use bitter-tasting spray on things that you’re not likely to touch often, such as your shoelaces. The bitter taste can transfer to your fingers, so if you use this method, be sure to wash your hands thoroughly before handling food or touching your face.
When your puppy mouths your hands, pull them away from her and keep them out of her reach for several seconds. I recommend sticking your hands in your armpits – your puppy can’t nip them there! Ignore your puppy for about 5 seconds. If she continues to try to nip during this time, it may be necessary to stand up or even leave the room.
After this little time-out, calmly present your toy to your pup and resume interacting with her. Praise and play with the puppy for engaging the toy, licking your hands, or just being polite. Repeat this step when the pup bites. Be consistent!
Remember that screaming or shouting at the puppy, pushing her away, or physically punishing the puppy by pinching her lips or clamping her mouth closed will either intensify the biting or scare the puppy, potentially leading to fearful and aggressive behaviors in the future.
If your pup bites on your clothing, gently remove the clothing from her mouth and prevent her access to that article of clothing. If she’s chewing on your shirt sleeve, stand up and roll up your sleeves. If she’s chewing on your pant leg, leave the room or step to the other side of a baby gate or puppy pen so she cannot reach you. Ignore her for a few seconds, then offer her the toy to play with.
The purpose of these training steps is to teach the puppy that when she has the urge to put something in her mouth, she should pick an appropriate toy rather than your hands or clothing. Puppies need to bite, mouth, and chew as they grow, so rather than fight that instinct, channel it into appropriate items.
If you need to give your puppy a “time out” more than two or three times in a 10-minute period, she is either very wound up and needs a bit of exercise, or is overtired and needs to be put in her crate for a nap. Remember that the time out does not teach the puppy anything. It just provides an opportunity for your puppy to calm down enough to try other ways of interacting with you, which you must then reward.
Dog Treat Review: Canidae Lamb-Licious TidNips February 21, 2014 No Comments
This month, my friends at Chewy.com sent us a bag of Canidae TidNips treats to test out. I was pleasantly surprised to learn that Canidae had expanded into the “soft treat” market. Last I heard, they were only making kibble and biscuits. When the treats arrived, we quickly started testing them!
First, the hard data. TidNips are a soft jerky treat that come in approximately 1″ flat squares, reminiscent of Wellness’ WellBites treats. They come in a 6oz resealable bag. These treats are made in the USA and have a 100% satisfaction guarantee, too!
After last month’s stinky review, I was pleased to find that these treats have minimal odor. It was also very easy for me to use my fingers to rip the treats into tiny pieces for training.
The boys gave these treats two paws up! All three of them eagerly took the TidNips bits from me and they maintained their interest through a short training session. I doubt they are high-enough value to keep Spark or Finch’s focus in a distracting environment, like on a walk or on an outing to the pet store, but they are a great treat for learning new tricks inside. (Strata says he’ll happily eat them anywhere, any time!)
Tessie was asleep while I was handing out these treats, and you know what they say about sleeping dogs. She’ll be 15 years old (!) at the end of next month so that’s how she spends the majority of her time these days. At this point, I don’t think she’ll be participating in too many product reviews – she’s earned her retirement!
These are good treats, and I’ll definitely finish the bag. I don’t think there’s anything overwhelmingly special about them and while my dogs enjoyed eating them, they weren’t following me around praying I’d drop a few crumbs, either. They’re a pretty run-of-the-mill training treat.
I appreciate that they have only one protein source (lamb) which was one of my complaints with WellBars when they first came out. If you’ve got a dog on a limited diet, these may be a good choice for you, but do note that they aren’t grain-free.
The product reviewed in this blog post was provided by Chewy.com.
Canine Good Citizen Dog Training Class – Advanced Training in Holbrook, MA February 19, 2014 No Comments
We just added a Canine Good Citizen (CGC) Preparation dog training class to our schedule in Holbrook, MA! If you want to improve your dog’s manners and obedience beyond what they learned in puppy class or Basic Dog Manners, this is the right class for you!
The Canine Good Citizen test is a 10-part examination created by the American Kennel Club to evaluate a dog’s ability to behave appropriately in a variety of real-life situations.
Skills tested include calmly greeting a friendly stranger, walking on a loose leash through a crowd of people, and waiting patiently for their owner to return during a three-minute supervised separation.
In our CGC Preparation class, we take the skills your dog has already developed – loose leash walking, stay, coming when called, focusing on you around distractions – and kick ‘em up a notch.
We introduce a variety of distractions and begin to reduce the dog’s reinforcement schedule, which means your dog will learn to work for longer periods of time before receiving a reward. This is necessary to succeed during the examination, where no treats, toys, or clickers are allowed!
If you’re ready to get started, enroll today! This 6-week class is on Saturdays and begins in March.
Puppy Kindergarten Training Class in Holbrook, MA: Now at a New Time! January 15, 2014 Comments Off
By popular request, we have changed the time of our Puppy Kindergarten group training class in Holbrook to 11AM on Saturdays! If you have a puppy between the ages of eight weeks and five months of age that needs training, come join us.
Our Puppy Kindergarten class combines basic manners and obedience training (sit, down, come when called, loose leash walking) with socialization opportunities (puppy playtime, novel objects, and body handling) to help your pup develop into a companion you’ll enjoy for years to come.
Join our Puppy Kindergarten Class!
Like all of our group training classes, Puppy Kindergarten is open enrollment which means you can start immediately as long as there is a spot open in class. We limit our classes to just four students each, to make sure everyone gets plenty of one-on-one instruction. This is not one of those big-box-store free-for-alls – you will get the attention you deserve!
Ready to join us? Enroll online today! All of our classes take place at A Dog’s Day Away, 440 Weymouth Street, Holbrook MA.
Dog Treat Review: Evanger’s 100% Whole Meat Treats – Wild Salmon January 9, 2014 Comments Off
This month’s dog treat review, courtesy of Chewy.com, is very fishy! They sent me the “Wild Salmon” variety of Evanger’s 100% Whole Meat Treats. These treats are nothing but dehydrated salmon with no flavoring or other “stuff” added, are kosher, and are made in the USA.
My dogs tend to be fish enthusiasts and these treats were not an exception to the rule. In fact, even Tessie, who is usually snoozing away while I’m giving snacks to the younger dogs, got off the couch and came over for one. She will often give up on crunchy treats, but she stayed right in front of me, hoping for more. (And of course she another one. She’s fourteen and a half, she can have whatever she wants!)
These treats are very odoriferous, but weren’t too oily, so the smell did not linger on my fingers (nor on my dog’s breath) which was a pleasant surprise. They were somewhat easy to break up with my fingers, though occasionally I stumbled upon a slightly thicker-than-usual piece that I needed to use a knife on.
They are crunchy treats, but the back of the package suggested letting them soak in warm water for 3-5 minutes for a “savory snack.” I decided to give that a try, too, and my dogs seemed to prefer the treats after they had been soaked. Unfortunately soaking them made the odor linger on my skin after feeding them to the dogs, but that’s sort of an occupational hazard when you’re a dog trainer.
I have a couple of problems with this product, though. Everywhere on both Chewy.com and Evanger’s website, these are described as “freeze dried” treats and appear as large, orangey-red strips that almost resemble jerky. The product I received, as you can see in the picture to the right, doesn’t resemble that at all. Additionally, my package reads “Gently Dried” not “Freeze Dried.” Freeze drying is a process that results in a pretty distinct spongey texture and these treats don’t seem to be freeze dried. So which is it? And which will you receive when you order this product? I have no idea.
So although my dogs enjoyed this product, it’s not something that I would purchase for them. I’m a little bothered by the fact that these treats aren’t “as advertised” – I don’t think they’re freeze-dried, and I can honestly say that if I had ordered them based on the promotional picture, I would have contacted customer service for a refund. For the price of this product (currently over $6 on Chewy.com) I don’t think I’m getting much “bang for my buck,” either.
The product reviewed in this blog post was provided by Chewy.com.
Dog and Puppy Training Classes in Holbrook, MA January 6, 2014 Comments Off
Want your dog to learn something new this year? Our free dog training orientation class in Holbrook, MA is just for dog owners who want to know more about training dogs.
About Our Dog Training Classes in Holbrook
Meet our instructors, learn about our methods, and find out how our training program will improve your dog’s behavior at home, on walks, and around the neighborhood.
Talk with our trainers one-on-one after the program to find out which class is right for you, or if private training lessons in the comfort of your own home are a better option.
We use clicker training and positive reinforcement to create real behavior change. Our techniques work for dogs of all ages and all breeds. Whether you’ve got a playful puppy nipping your hands and clothing or peeing on the carpet, or an adult dog dragging you down the street or lunging at strangers, our training program can help. In addition to teaching group dog training classes in Holbrook, we also offer dog training in Milton, Dorchester, Randolph, and surrounding towns.
Free Dog Training Orientation
Start Smart is a no-strings-attached opportunity to learn more about us. We know you have a lot of options when it comes to dog training. Meet us in person, get to know us a little bit, and ask us questions. We love questions! We understand our methods inside and out and want to help you achieve success with your dog.
Ready to get started? RSVP online to reserve your spot at our Start Smart orientation. All classes and orientation take place at A Dog’s Day Away, 440 Weymouth St, Holbrook MA 02343.
Contact us today. We look forward to helping you with your dog!
Dog Treat Review: Halo Liv-a-Littles 100% Beef Freeze-Dried Treats November 29, 2013 Comments Off
The kind folks at Chewy.com sent us more treats to review! This time around, they gave us a package of Halo Liv-a-Littles Grain-Free 100% Beef Freeze-Dried treats. Since the Springers are allergic to beef, it was up to Strata and Spark to do the testing this time around. They were happy to oblige.
These treats were exactly what I was expecting: “standard operating procedure” freeze-dried dog treats. The size of the pieces vary from 1/4″ to 1″ and the larger pieces are easily broken by twisting them gently or slicing them with a knife. Most of these pieces were too large to be used as training treats and needed to be broken up into smaller pieces. They are slightly crumbly and ever-so-slightly greasy. Most store-bought dog treats are kind of oily; freeze-dried treats usually aren’t, but these did leave a bit of residue on my hands.
Both Strata and Spark enjoyed the treats. Strata will eat anything, but Spark is a little finicky when it comes to freeze-dried treats and will often spit out other brands, so I was pleasantly surprised that he would eat these.
My only “beef” with these treats (come on, I’m entitled to one bad pun per blog post, right?!) is the packaging. They come in a nice hard plastic container with a screw-on lid. The problem is the safety seal on the lid. It was very difficult to get the safety seal option and it took me, Dan, and a small pointy knife to get the hard plastic safety seal to come undone. Compared to most dog treat packaging, that was a hassle. The good news is that the lid is very secure and the container is reusable. I’ll definitely use it for holding other treats in the future.
These treats come in one container size, a 2.75oz jar, which is what we received from Chewy.com. The dogs and I thought these treats were good, but nothing special, and I probably will not purchase them in the future. There are a lot of freeze-dried treat options on the market, and I’m not inclined to fight with the safety seal on the jar again.
The product reviewed in this blog post was provided by Chewy.com.
Spark’s First Agility Trial: An Analysis November 15, 2013 Comments Off
As I mentioned in my post about Strata’s MACH, I entered Spark in his first couple of trials in the fall. He made his début at my club’s trial, Colonial Shetland Sheepdog Club, just in Novice Jumpers with Weaves. He was a very good boy!
His run on Saturday was adorable. His start line was lovely and he did the first two jumps with gusto. Then the judge, Ken Fairchild, took a couple of steps towards him in preparation to judge the weave poles. Spark turned and stared at him. “Why is this guy in the ring? And who said he had permission to move?” In the process, he drifted past the plane of the next jump for a refusal, then back-jumped it for an off-course. Once he was back on track, he did nicely, hitting his weave pole entrance on the first try and keeping all of his bars up. It was a very cute run for a baby-dog!
On Sunday he had this whole concept of “goin’ to run agility now” firmly planted in his head. He wanted to drag me into the ring. He tugged on his leash (!) while we waited for the bars to be set. The dog running after him was barking, which bothered him a little (you can see him give that dog “the look” over his shoulder after I set him up on the start line) but once he started running, he was on fire! Here’s the video…
The ending was classic baby-dog – that’s his buddy Lynda in the ring crew seat.
This was my last agility trial of the year. (Not to be outdone by his little brother, Strata was a complete rock star all weekend, with a QQ on Saturday and a single Q on Sunday. The NQ was 250% my fault.) We’ve been trialing almost non-stop since late February, so it’s time for my dogs and my checkbook to take a well-deserved break!
Here’s my analysis of Spark’s two performances.
- Great start-lines
- Good enthusiasm while waiting his turn
- Came right back to me at the end of his runs
- Missed weave pole entry at speed
- Distracted by people in the ring
- Jumping form a little “creative” at times
I’ve taken those “needs improvement” skills and added them to my training to-do list in my training notebook, so we can work on them this winter. I’m really pleased with how he did at the trial. My goal was just to see how well our training would hold up in a trial atmosphere, with no concern for Qs or results. I knew it would give us great material for this long winter off to train, and it certainly did!
Dog Training Record Keeping with the Staples Arc Notebook September 25, 2013 3 Comments
I’m always excited to write product reviews for items that work for me and my dogs. Two months ago while shopping for office supplies at Staples, I stumbled across the Arc notebook system. As soon as I saw it in stores, I knew this would be the solution to my dog training record keeping conundrum. I have used it daily ever since, and I dare say it is perfect for me! In the hopes that it might be useful for other dog trainers, I’m outlining my notebook here.
First, a review of what I’ve tried in the past…
- Not keeping records at all. This is one of my biggest regrets of my dog training journey! I wish I had notes from the great workshops and lessons I took in my “early years.”
- Spiral-bound notebook. It was hard to find a size that was portable but still comfortable to write in. Little ones caused a wrist cramp when taking lots of notes at a seminar. The other downside was having to choose between either lined pages or grids, and for agility seminars I prefer access to both – grids for drawing courses, and lines for taking notes.
- iPad apps. I blogged before about Daily Notes. My problem was that the tagging functionality got worse and worse with every update. It was easy to check what I did the day or week before, but difficult to track progress on an individual skill (like the dogwalk). I have also used Noteshelf to take seminar notes, but it is difficult to draw courses on the iPad, so it’s no better than a paper notebook. (As an aside, I use Noteshelf for taking notes at consultations and lessons with clients and find it to be excellent for that purpose.)
Without further ado, here’s the Arc notebook I use for tracking my dogs’ training progress. It’s 6 3/4″ by 8 3/4″ and I got it for less than $20 at Staples.
Arc is a “discbound” notebook system. The binding consists of removable plastic discs. It comes standard with 0.5″ discs but I quickly upgraded to 1″ which is the perfect size for my needs. They also make a 1.5″ set of discs.
These discs allow you to add and remove pages in seconds. This means I only carry the paper I need and not hundreds of blank pages which I may or may not need in the future. I can also remove pages for “finished” behaviors. (Is any behavior truly “finished?”)
My notebook is divided into five sections. One for each dog (Spark, Strata, and Finch), one for notes on DVDs/books/seminars, and one for agility courses. I have further divided each dog’s section into Agility behaviors and Obedience behaviors. (For puppies I would also have a “Life Skills” section for things like sit, down, loose leash walking, recall, etc.) I made more dividers out of cardstock for those secondary sections (more on that below).
Because the paper is customizable, I have regular lined paper in the DVD/books section, graph paper in the courses section, and this AWESOME “project planner” paper in the dogs’ sections. Here’s a picture of the project planner paper in action for Spark’s 2×2 weave pole training.
I can draw quick diagrams or outline bullet-point criteria for a behavior on the left, record my sessions on the right, and reiterate key points on the bottom. Needless to say most behaviors need several sheets of paper, so I just clip ‘em all together with a paper clip.
Here’s the mind-blowing part: You are by no means limited to using the paper and dividers that Staples sells. You can buy a punch and add whatever you want to your notebook. (That said – the Arc accessories are extremely affordable and well-designed. I’m impressed with everything I have purchased so far!)
That’s how I made more dividers – I bought cardstock at a craft store, cut it in half, and punched it:
The possibilities are endless! Agility competitors can punch course maps & copies of score sheets to keep for future reference. (No picture – I haven’t felt the need to actually do that yet.) If you opt for a letter-sized (8.5″ x 11″) notebook you could punch handouts from seminar presenters. I just started punching my trial premiums to keep with my calendar in my letter-sized planner.
Staples sells a desk-sized punch for about $45, but I bought a travel-sized punch from Levenger through Amazon for $20. (The Levenger and Arc systems are completely interchangeable. Levenger is much pricier, but they have some drool-worthy notebooks!) The travel-sized punch is very portable and would be easy to keep in your car or training bag if you wanted to punch things at a trial.
Well, there you have it. I hope this post has piqued your interest in the Arc notebook line. They often go on sale for 30-40% off, so keep an eye on your Staples weekly ad. I also heard through the grapevine that they have a new line of quilted leather covers coming out this month! If you have questions about the system, post a comment and I’m happy to answer it for you!
Disclaimer: Staples has provided me no compensation whatsoever for this blog post. I’m just a happy customer! Maybe they’ll see this and send me free refill pages, though?
Finch Goes to the Agility Trial September 19, 2013 Comments Off
Finch has progressed by leaps and bounds. His reactivity toward people is almost non-existent at this point. Unless they have a strange object or do something very threatening, they won’t scare Finch. Recent “tests” in my neighborhood have included multiple kids riding one bicycle at the same time, joggers carrying umbrellas, and a sight-impaired man using a pole as an aid. Finchy says, “No big deal!”
Our goal is that Finch can one day compete at an agility trial with his brothers. He loves doing agility and is more of a “natural” than any dog I’ve worked with – it’s like he popped out of the womb knowing how to balance on narrow objects and use his legs independently. Jumping 16″ is a breeze. He learned the entire chute obstacle in 3 clicks. Ninja spaniel!
The next stage of Finch’s training is all about building his comfort level with unfamiliar dogs. Previously Finch has attended some of our Reactive Recovery classes which helped lay the foundation that other dogs = treats & toys from me. But with my busy trial schedule, I could no longer get to RR, so our opportunities to train around other dogs have been few and far between.
Because Finch has done so well with people we decided to try bringing him to some outdoor shows. In particular, the events at Westfield Fairgrounds are particularly “Finch friendly” as the show site is large, with plenty of open barns and small buildings to act as visual barriers. Basically, I can easily manipulate Finch’s level of exposure there.
So last weekend we packed all three of the boys in the car and headed off to Pioneer Valley Kennel Club’s agility trial.
I came ready with a full squeeze tube of peanut butter, two bags of Orijen duck treats (still his favorite!), and his beloved orange nubby ball. Equally important was all the gear we brought to keep the car cool, since we kept Finch crated in the car when I wasn’t training him. I’m going to cover warm weather car gear in a separate post.
When I wasn’t walking a course or running Strata, I was off training Finch. Here’s a summary of his experiences that weekend:
- In the “too much, too soon” category we encountered two Briards in an exercise pen that exploded in a fit of barking when Finch looked at them from a distance of about 20′. Finch responded in kind.
- The good news is that later on, when the dogs had fallen asleep, Finch got lots of opportunities to earn rewards for looking at them. By the end of the day on Sunday, both he and the Briards seemed quite comfortable with one another at this distance.
- Finch practiced matwork when the rings were busy and dogs weren’t visiting our section of the fairgrounds. Shame on me – I forgot his “special” mat that we use for relaxation – but it didn’t seem to matter; he generalized his “flop over and chill out” response to the dog bed I keep in the car crate.
- He got to watch dogs of different breeds pass by at a distance of 30-50′: Labs, German Shepherds, lots of shelties, a Bulldog, Standard Poodles, Goldens, and a few Border Collies.
- Finch thought the hotel was great fun! He enjoyed wrestling with his brothers and sleeping on the bed (a rare treat). Something woke me up in the middle of the night and I looked down to find Finch crammed between me and Dan, sound asleep on his back, his paws twitching as he dreamt. SO cute!
- On Sunday, he walked past a Flat-Coated Retriever at a distance of about 25′. He kept a nice loose leash and looked at the other dog softly, with no intensity or excitement.
- The cherry on top: as the show quieted down at the end of the day on Sunday, enough cars and tents left the ringside area that Finch could watch dogs running in the ring at a distance of 80′. He thought this was *very* interesting but did not go over threshold, even when noisy and fast dogs ran!
I’m so proud of all that Finch accomplished. This weekend was perfect for expanding his horizons and learning how to be calm and focused around other dogs. Dan and I are already checking our calendar to find out when we can bring him to another show!