Monday, October 25, 2010

Five Steps to Playing Fetch.

Step 1: Find a toy your dog is extremely interested in.  This may differ with each dog.  Some dogs love Frisbees, other love balls.  I’ve even known a dog to love an old water bottle.  If your dog is not big on any toys, try this trick:
Take a tennis ball and make a small slit in it.  Put a few treats in the ball.  Let your dog smell the    ball, and possibly even drop a few treats from the ball.  This should get his interest.
If your dog is easily distracted, refer to the guide “Give Your Dog Toys He Will Love.”

Step 2:  Make sure your dog is ready and willing to play.  A tired dog will not necessarily want to fetch.  Try playing a few games with the dog and the toy first.  Tug of war is a good game to start with.

Step 3: Start with small distances.  Not all dogs can or will run the length of the yard for a toy.  You have to let them know that it’s really fun to do, so we start small.  Practice in one room, with few distractions.  Throw the toy a few feet from you.  Your dog should go over to it.

Step 4: Praise, praise, praise.  Praise your dog as he picks up the toy.  Really praise him as he brings it towards you.  Clap your hands, jump up in down, call out, “Here Fido!  Good boy, Fido!  Who’s a good puppy?”  Make him want to come to you.  Really praise him when he gets to you.  If you used the stuffed tennis ball, give him a treat at this point.

Step 5: Rinse and repeat.  Keep your dog interested in the toy.  Play with him when he returns it.  Do NOT let him become distracted with something (or someone) else.  Really help him think that the toy you have is the best in the world.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Give Your Dog Toys He Will Love

How often have you seen it?  You have a bucket full of toys for your dog, but he still wants to chew on your hairbrush.  Or, you have a bucket full of toys for your dog, and he has to pull out every single toy and arrange them in some order on the floor.

As you spend money on new hairbrushes (or shoes, or furniture), and as you constantly pick up your dogs toys, only to have him remove them again, you start to wonder, “Why can’t my dog just play with one toy?  Why can’t he be happy with what he has?”  You’ve spent hundreds of dollars on the most expensive toys, but he just wants your shoes.  So what do you do?

1)       It’s not necessarily about how awesome you think the toy is.  That spinning, moving, light-up toy that you just spent twenty dollars on isn’t as cool to your dog as it is to you.  Your shoe, however, well, it smells like you.  Doesn’t that make the best toy?  When you pick out a toy for your dog, think of what your dog likes.  Does he like bouncy balls or squeaky stuffed animals?  Does he prefer something chewy that he can gnaw on, or does he really like the sound of a good crunch?  Find out what he likes best.
2)       Do NOT display all the toys at once.  Just like a child with too many toys, your dog will get bored with the toys he has.  He wants something new!  Something exciting!  So, hide the majority of your dog’s toys.  Keep one or two out for him to play with and hide the others.  After a few days, put those two toys out and bring out two more.  Do this every few days.  If you rotate the toys, your dog will stay more interested in them.  The thought process will no longer be, “Oh, that’s just my squeak toy…boring!”  Instead, it will be, “Oh wow!  I thought I’d lost that toy.  I’m so happy I found it.  I forgot how cool it was.”
3)       Play with your dog’s toys.  How do you expect your dog to enjoy the toys if you’re not enjoying the toys?  Interact with your dog.  Play tug or fetch.  A fun game on rainy days is hide and seek (you hide the toy, your dog finds it).  Make your dog see the toy as a really fun object.
4)       Give toys that offer a reward.  Puzzle toys (like the Kong or Squirrel Dude) aren’t only fun to chew on, they offer a tasty treat.  You can change the treat (peanut butter, cheese, sausage, etc.) without changing the entire toy.
5)       Put up the distractions.  No matter how awesome your dog’s toys are, your shoe still smells really good (and so does the garbage).  So, put it away.  If you don’t trust your dog at all, crate him.  Put a toy in his crate with him (preferably a puzzle toy), so he learns it’s ok to chew on that.  Otherwise, just keep him away from the “forbidden” objects.

Otherwise, have fun with your dog and his toys.  Keep in mind that you do not have to spend hundreds of dollars on toys.  Just find toys your dog will love, and keep him interested.  Good luck!

Monday, October 4, 2010

Eight Steps For Finding a Breeder

As a trainer, I am asked time and time again, "How do I find a good breeder?"  The answer is fairly easy, but it does require a bit of investigation.  So, I thought I'd make up a little check list.

1) Where do the puppies stay the majority of the time?
A good breeder will have them a clean, safe environment with shelter and access to the outside.  A great breeder will have them in her home, as part of the family.

2) How much time is spent with the puppies?
Some breeders let the mom do all the work.  They might be handled a bit as they get older, but really they only know each other.  A good breeder will pet them and handle them from day one.  A great breeder does more.  Not only will she get them used to being held, she'll also make sure they are familiar with all the things needed in grooming or a vet visit.  She'll touch their paws, check their ears, and open their mouths.  These puppies won't mind being touched in any way.

3) Are the puppies potty trained?
Most people think an 8 week old puppy is too young to potty train, but such is not the case.  Sure, that pup may only be able to hold his bladder for an hour, but in that hour he certainly won't mess his kennel.  He'll make sure he goes outside...making your job much easier when you get home.

4) How many people have they met?
A good breeder will visit the kennel as often as possible.  The puppies will meet her, her husband, and possibly a few friends.  A great breeder will throw puppy-meeting parties.  She'll want the puppies to meet as many people as possible as often as possible. (Note: This breeder also makes sure that safety precautions are kept so as to avoid the puppies getting sick).

5) Where have the puppies been?
I am not suggesting that breeders take their pups into the big, wide world.  Rather, I'm suggesting they put their puppies on as many surfaces as possible.  A good breeder has pups that are OKwith grass, carpet, and cement.  A great breeder has pups that are OK with everything from linoleum to asphalt to grass to hard wood.  Those pups may even be used to the sounds of cars (like in a parking lot) or to other loud noises.

6) Will they let you meet both parents?
Some breeders use stud dogs, and while this doesn't necessarily mean they are a bad breeder, it is not a breeder  I would use.  I want to know that my breeder knows everything about the parents from what they like to eat to when they like to nap.  Also, keep in mind that the pups will take after their parents.  Don't you want to know what their parents are like?

7) Will they let you see the facilities?
If not, run, don't walk away.  Some breeders may not let you into the room where the puppies are born, or into areas where very young puppies are kept, and that's OK.  However, other breeders don't even let you see a puppy or the area where they are kept until you've put money down.  This is a bad sign.

8) What do other people say?
Find someone who has purchased a puppy from this breeder before.  What is that person's dog like?  Are they happy with the results?  Do they have regrets or anything they'd change?  Honestly, this will probably be your biggest tip off.  If a previous adopter isn't happy then there is probably something wrong (Note: Some people are never happy.  It's often best to call more than one person).

When I found Cody, I had no idea what I was doing, and I just happened to luck out.  My breeder had actually taught Cody to sit in her lap, put his head and paw on her desk, and fall asleep.  We still use this trick with some lower counter tops.  Cody also potty trained very quickly, and I credit my breeder for part of that.  Not everyone is so lucky, though.  It's best to do your research.  Definitely avoid pet stores where you have no idea where the dog is from, and keep rescue shelters in mind.  You may not have a pure bred, and your dog may have other issues, but at least you know you're saving a life.  Otherwise,  GOOD LUCK!