Have Fun While Training

February 5th marks one full year since Sasha came to us. We don’t know much about her life before she joined our household other than the bad situation that ended with her being surrendered to a county sheriff’s office.  We can surmise, however, that she had minimal attention and/or was neglected based on her appearance and behavior in early days with us. Daily doses of love and regular obedience training sessions helped strengthen her confidence, and learning new things added enjoyment to her days.

While Sasha was quick to master the commands routinely taught in basic and intermediate obedience, teaching her “the art of play” has proven more challenging. We took her with us to PetSmart for treats and toy selection, but the noise and people made those early trips less than successful. Still, we collected some toys in a basket just for her, and added an incentive to explore by dropping a few treats among the toys. The treats were a big hit. The toys? Not so much. In fact, she ignored all of them until we went to the Humane Society of the Ozarks‘ Dogwood Walk in May and fell in love with the Sock Monkey squeaky toy that came in her goodie bag. Here’s proof:

 

Since then, Sasha’s interest in toys expanded to her Squeaky Duck and a sausage-like fabric toy, also a squeaker. It’s only been in the past month that she’s begun carrying those toys from one room to another, and in just the past two weeks she finally caught on to retrieving! I can’t say I followed any particular training techniques to reach this point other than focusing on fun. It’s been months in the works, but seeing my Sasha girl happy as she learns something new makes the whole adventure worthwhile!

If you’d like to coax your pup into retrieving, you might be interested in The Whole Dog Journal’s tip this week written by author and WDJ’s Training Editor Pat Miller, CBCC-KA, CPDT-KA. If you’re in the Fairplay, Maryland, area, you can meet Pat at her Peaceable Paws training center. She offers dog-training classes and courses for trainers as well as writing books focused on positive dog training. Her newest is Beware of the Dog: Positive Solutions for Aggressive Behavior in Dogs (Dogwise Publishing, 2016).  And if you’re interested in more great tips and articles, consider subscribing to the Whole Dog Journal. I’ve found it a terrific resource!

Here’s the lead-in to Pat’s article. You’ll find a link to the full article below, with additional links at the end of the post. Happy training!

***

Teach Your Dog to Fetch by Training Him to Love Retrieval

Dog won’t fetch? There are several reasons why. Whole Dog Journal is here to teach you how to train your dog to retrieve – whether it be for honing obedience skills or just for fun.

Whether you’re interested in an informal fetch or a formal retrieve, your task will be easier if you encourage rather than discourage retrieve-related behaviors early in your relationship with your dog. When he has something in his mouth, praise him; tell him he’s a good dog! If it’s something he’s allowed to have, you can sometimes praise him and let him be, and other times, you can say “Trade!” and trade him a treat for the item. Or, trade him a treat for the item, and then give him the item back again. That’s quite a reward!

Continue Reading

If author and trainer Pat Miller’s credentials seem unfamiliar to you, I’ll translate. (The protagonist in my Waterside Kennels series is working toward these, so I had to look them up!) These credentials are issued by the independent Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers (CCPDT) after rigorous testing.  CBCC-KA stands for Certified Behavior Consultant Canine, Knowledge Assessed and CPDT-KA means Certified Professional Dog Trainer, Knowledge Assessed. To learn more about these credentials or to find a professional trainer near you, visit the CCPDT website and click on the directory of certified trainers.

For the love of a dog

7-14-16-smiling-at-park

Ozark Summer Highlands Sasha

It’s hard to believe that Sasha’s been part of the family for nearly a year. And what a year it’s been! She came to us timid, thin-coated, suffering from poor nutrition, and in dire need of love. Over the past 11 months she’s grown into a confident, sweet-tempered dog. She may never have the typical full-length Sheltie coat, but considering how much she sheds now, I’m actually okay with that! Good food and daily exercise (to include herding Buddy the Cat) combined with love and attention have her looking more beautiful by the day.

Here’s one of my favorite photos of Sasha. This one was taken in late summer at the neighborhood park and captures what I’ve come to think of as her “happy face.”

*

We’re still frequent visitors to the park, even though the summer grass has long since faded away and the wind whistles, clear and sharp, across the open meadow. The chilly temps discourage casual visitors, giving us plenty of space for training time and indulging in the Sheltie zoomies. For the uninitiated, picture a dog flat-out running in circles at the end of a 30-foot line. And since she’s a Sheltie, add in joyous barking with every revolution. The faster she runs, the more she barks!

If I were inclined to make New Year’s resolutions, I might be tempted to put “barking control” at the top of the list. Then again, she’s a Sheltie, and I suspect barking is hard-wired into her DNA. <grin> I can count on her to sound the alert for the UPS truck,  the coffee pot, and neighborhood boys out in the road. It’s taken months, but we’ve progressed to the point that she’ll (mostly) stop on command, although she often interprets “stop” to be an invitation to continue to vocalize; her range of mutters, grumbles, and almost-but-not-quite whines tend to be more entertaining than irritating.

As far as New Year’s lists go, I’ll stick to my own tradition of listing some of the many things I’m grateful for. To the many who have shared their experience and wisdom in All Things Sheltie, I’m thankful. To those who joined our vigil when Sasha had seizures and we feared the worst, thank you for sharing that burden as well as the joy when the tests came back clear. To all who have come into our lives because we opened our hearts and home to a Sheltie in need, I’m grateful beyond words. So I’ll close by borrowing the words of the late Roger Karas, known to millions as the voice of Westminster Kennel Club dog show:

“Dogs are not our whole life, but they make our lives whole.

 

 

 

Training Tales

Ozark Summer Highlands Sasha

Ozark Summer Highlands Sasha

This morning dawned clear and sunny, enticing Sasha and I to head outside despite the freezing temperature. We had the neighborhood park all to ourselves, so I traded leash for the 30′ long line and let her zigzag across the park in joyous abandon. (I’ve discovered that training time tends to be most productive when play time comes first.)

I can happily report she’s come a long way in our nine months together, with some skills sharper than others. (Isn’t that true of us all?) She’s happy, eager for adventures every day, and sweet-natured to boot. She’s a terrific guard dog who keeps us company no matter what we’re doing, and even keeps track of Buddy the Cat, whose bramble patch adventures will appear in Dangerous Deeds (book 2 of the Waterside Kennels series).

As you  can see from the photo above, we’re making good progress with the stand-stay command. We’re also doing well with sit-stay and down-stay, which I’m using to discourage her from lunging toward vehicles as they pass by.

The basic skills are regular part of our everyday training time, and now I’m shifting focus a bit to concentrate on the specific skills needed to earn the to earn the AKC Canine Good Citizen certification. I need to spend more time on every test item, even the ones she’s doing well. Here’s a rundown of our progress with each test item:

Accepting a friendly stranger
Sasha is perfectly agreeable to having strangers approach in pet-friendly stores, out on the trail, or in the park. She’s even polite to strangers walking through the neighborhood, although she’ll almost always have something to say to them as they approach. The test requires the dog show no sign of resentment or shyness, but there’s no (apparent) requirement to be silent. That’s good news for my talkative girl!

Sitting Politely for Petting
I’ve been coaching her on this one for a while. She’s okay with adults provided they don’t run up and thrust a hand in her face or grab her. (And really, who likes that?) She’s calm with strollers and toddlers, a bit cautious around older boys, and tends to stare at kids on bikes and scooters as though trying to figure out what they’re doing.

Appearance and Grooming
Thanks to the fabulous work of master groomer Alicia Broyles of Towne and Kountry Grooming and Dr. Hynes and Dr. Stropes of Crossover Veterinary Clinic, Sasha is calm and polite when standing for examination (and that’s why we practice the stand-stay). She doesn’t mind her ears being checked and quickly mastered the foot command–my own invention motivated by the need to wipe the mud off her feet after outdoor play time.

Out for a Walk (walking on a loose lead)
Sasha is smart and knows the difference between walking on the leash and having the long line clipped on, which is her signal to forget heeling and just have fun. Once on the leash, though, and she’s (mostly) a well-mannered dog who enjoys adding her own running commentary of mutters and low-voiced yips, yodels, and the ocassional bark.

Walking Through a Crowd
With the farmer’s market off the square for the winter, we’re relying on pet-friendly stores and the area parks for crowd work. Our local Lowes home improvement store has a pet-loving manager and a friendly crew, so we make a point of browsing there frequently. This has also proved good practice for the “sitting politely for petting” test. When other dogs react by barking or lunging, Sasha just sits or stands quietly at my side.

I follow the same protocol at PetSmart, but that’s due to inattentive owners with dogs on extended leashes. Neither Sasha nor I are fans of those leashes, but she enjoys our time there because she’s allowed to browse the items on the shelves!

Sit and Down on Command and Staying in Place
This is working well, likely because I take every opportunity to practice the sit-stay and down-stay when we’re out and about. Sure, it takes longer to finish the walk, but Sasha is rewarded with frequent sniff breaks in between heeling and the sit, down, and stay on command, not to mention the praise lavished on her by passersby who inevitably ask, “How do you get her to do that?” (The answer is “Practice every day.”)

Coming When Called
The test involves a distance of 10 feet, but we practice using the 30′ long line as well as the 6′ standard leash. Our challenge here is to have a consistent and reliable recall despite distractions. For Sasha, those distractions can be squirrels, birds, airplanes, passing vehicles, etc.

Reaction to Another Dog
This one is definitely a work in progress. As the test is described, “The dogs should show no more than casual interest in each other. Neither dog should go to the other dog or its handler.” We haven’t reached the “casual interest” stage. In the neighborhood, Sasha is on alert but interested: head up, tail up, body language and vocalization signaling excited interest.

The other challenge is that the neighborhood dogs always want to get up-close-and-too-personal with Sasha. We need to spend more time out of the neighborhood and along the lake trail, which is popular with dog walkers. I’ll gradually decrease the distances between us and the others. I’ll note, though, that Sasha participated in the annual Dog Walk back in May and handled being in a crowd of people and dogs with no problem at all.

Reaction to Distraction
More practice needed here. Any suggestions?

Supervised Separation
Sasha is comfortable with the down-stay as long as I’m in sight. This test, however, has me going out of sight for three minutes. So far, we haven’t made it past one minute.

The test description also says that the dog “does not have to stay in position but should not continually bark, whine, or pace unnecessarily, or show anything stronger than mild agitation or nervousness.” She won’t bark or pace unnecessarily, but she does have that tendency toward a running commentary, even if it’s quiet. I’m open to suggestions here, as well!

All in all, we’re both making reasonably good progress, and I’m looking forward to mastering the CGC and moving on to new canine challenges!

Pet-Happy Halloween!

Our neighborhood has some serious Halloween fans and the yard decorations get bigger (and some might say scarier) every year. In the past few weeks I’ve discovered that Sasha is no fan of skeletons rising from the ground, or ghostly wraiths swinging in the trees. She mutters past the tombstones propped in flower beds, skitters away from cobweb-shrouded bushes, and barks wildly at the assorted inflatable creatures that have taken possession of the lawns.

In contrast, my beloved spaniel Alix loved Halloween and was first to the door (followed closely by the two cats) whenever the costumed hordes rang the bell.  Before giving out the goodies we’d ask her “Shall we give them candy?” and time after time she obliged with a single happy bark. This became a neighborhood tradition and every year the kiddies waited eagerly for the dog’s seal of approval.

And so it went until the year that a youngster came by wearing a glow-ring necklace. Great for parents, I suppose, to keep track of their little ghosts and goblins in the dark, but apparently a bit too scary for my four-legged welcome crew. In fact, the cats retreated in rapid order and Alix hid behind me. When I asked the usual question she just peered past my legs, no doubt trying to figure out why that child’s head looked green. When no bark was forthcoming, the child begged me “Ask her again, please!”

Glow sticks aside, I’m fairly confident that Sasha won’t enjoy a night of endless bell-ringing and kiddie chatter.  So we’ll go dark and retreat to the rear of the house with a pet-friendly movie and extra treats for our own four-legged kiddies.

If you want your own pets to enjoy the seasonal celebrations, here are some tips to keep everyone happy and safe, reblogged from the American Kennel Club:

Dog Treats, Snacks, and Halloween Decorations

With all the candy and decorations associated with Halloween, you have to be extra careful. Many candies, snacks, and decorations can be tempting, but dangerous, for your canine pal. Make sure to pay close attention to your dog during this festive time.

Check out our list of items to keep away from your dog during Halloween. And we’ve got your general safety tips, too! Read those here.
beagle bee

Trick-or-Treating With Your Dog

Is your dog going trick-or-treating with the family? You’ll want to make sure he’s OK with all the Halloween chaos before you decide to bring him with you. If you do take him along, you’ll want to take certain precautions to stay safe while you’re going house to house.

This article will help you decide if your dog should come trick-or-treating and learn some tips on how to stay safe on the big night.
girl walking dog

How to Prepare Your Dog for Trick-or-Treaters

With Halloween come trick-or-treaters. If kids are going to be ringing your doorbell, you’ll want to make sure your dog is prepared.

Check out these best practices for making your dog part of the Halloween greeting committee.

dog with halloween bucket

What to Do if Your Dogs Gets Away From You

You think it will never happen, but with a crazy night like Halloween your dog might get away from you.

Learn what to do should he get away here.

Similarly, if your dog ends up lost, you’ll need a plan to jump into action and get him back home. Check out our tips here.

*

Wishing everyone a safe and happy holiday!

 

Love the Leash!

Responsible owners know their dogs need daily exercise, and a walk provides that for dogs and people alike. Whether you prefer strolling through your neighborhood  or trotting briskly along a trail, loose leash walking is a safe, responsible way to enjoy yourselves.

For some, though, leash walking can be an exercise in frustation.  If you’ve ever found yourself rushing to keep up with a super-excited dog or tried to hold onto the leash as your dog pulls ahead, you probably don’t find walking with your dog a joyous adventure.  And if your dog is one of the herding breeds–as my own Sasha is–passing vehicles, cyclists, and even running dogs can trigger the “chase” response (some call it the predator/prey response). When that happens, walking can become a downright chore. Let me assure you that you’re not alone, and there are simple strategies to help you and your dog learn to enjoy leash time. Read on to learn two fun and easy exercises I came across while browsing through AKC Dog Training Basics:

Who’s Walking Who? Tips to Teach Loose Leash Walking

***

I’d add one suggestion to this excellent advice. I’ve learned that Sasha is highly reactive when walking in our neighborhood, and perfectly calm and polite anywhere else. That tells me her herding instinct shifts into high gear when we’re in “her” territory. If you’ve had similar experiences with your own dog, consider a vigorous round of indoor training before venturing out into the neighborhood.  I put Sasha through some Rally Obedience basics and work on sit/stay, down/stay, and a variety of heel and come exercises. That gives her the mental stimulation she needs and releases some of that marvelous Sheltie energy!

Is it working? Stay tuned for further updates…

Take Responsibility!

akc-responsble-pet-ownership

My own sweet Sheltie Ozarks Summer Highlands Sasha (as she’s known to the AKC) is bursting with energy now that cooler temps are upon us, and we’re getting out and about to enjoy the turning of the seasons. And we’re not alone–the parks, trails, and sidewalks are crowded with people and dogs. We’re happy to report that most owners we meet honor the leash laws, pick up after their dogs, and are good ambassadors for the dog world.

Some, though, need a bit of a tune-up when it comes to being a responsible dog owner. I hope you’ll share this Responsible Dog Owner’s Pet Promise with your social media friends, post it to your blog, and include in newsletters and posters wherever dog owners gather.

First, some helpful links:

pet_promise

Here’s the link to the AKC’s Pet Promise to download, save, and share. Sasha and I both appreciate sharing our world with happy dogs and responsible owners.

Ozark Summer Highlands Sasha

Ozark Summer Highlands Sasha

“Pets in Vests” – the damage caused by fake service dogs

“Pets in Vests” – the damage caused by fake service dogs

Here’s an important message for everyone. Please take a few minutes to read about this issue.

The Dog in the Blue Coat

August 7 – 13 is International Assistance Dog Week (IADW)! Per IADW, “International Assistance Dog Week (IADW) was created to recognize all the devoted, hardworking assistance dogs helping individuals mitigate their disability related limitations.”

This year’s theme is public education around “fake” assistance dogs, raising awareness about the harm caused by people posing their untrained pet dogs as “assistance dogs.”

Next week, we will post more pictures like these of Helping Paws service dogs in action.

           image    IMG_2354

Here is a press release from IADW and Assistance Dogs International (ADI) about this issue:

Fake Assistance Dogs Cause Legitimate Harm

International Assistance Dog Week and Assistance Dogs International plea:

Don’t be a part of the problem. Fraudulent service dogs create serious issues.

July 24, 2016 | Santa Fe, NM and New South Wales, Australia—As more and more people with disabilities are paired with assistance dogs to…

View original post 754 more words