Positive puppies, delightful dogs

A number of people I know or have bumped into when out walking were lucky enough to get a puppy in the last few weeks and I’ve had a number of conversations about all things baby dog. We’ve spoken about everything from chewing, confinement, barking, sleeping, eating, playing, toileting and training techniques.

It’s great to see that everyone I’ve chatted with are getting the ‘positive’ message and rewarding their dogs for doing the right thing whether it’s settling in their crate or peeing on the lawn at night. It’s clear they want to set the right foundation for their dogs.

My advice has been:

  • Keep everything positive. They are absorbing the world and how it works like a sponge. Don’t make anything punishing. Either reward what you want; or interrupt the behaviour that’s unwanted, ask for something else and reward that; or ignore it.
  • Dogs are social creatures and have been bred for companionship. Make sure they’re allowed in the house but on your terms. Close doors to rooms while you’re toilet training and if you don’t want them on the furniture provide a comfy alternative that’s their spot.
  • The three basics of enough exercise, stimulation and training will help prevent the behaviours that aren’t desired. Tired dogs don’t bark, those that have enough chew toys are more likely not to eat the couch. And it’s never too late to teach a dog a new trick.
  • Get toilet training down pat by taking them out every hour, after a sleep, play or feed and anytime they are looking unsettled. Reward heavily for toileting where you want them to and make sure you get them to go on wet grass too.
  • Make all new experiences happy – from the sound of the vacuum cleaner to different ways human being dress (hats, sunnies, uniforms) and the objects we carry such as umbrellas or back packs. Sound Proof Puppy Training has a great app available to help dogs get slowly and gently used to the many noises they’ll encounter and not to be scared such as storms, buses, grooming tools, fireworks etc.
  • Read as much as you can from good quality dog training sources. Positively has some really good articles and tools on how to raise a happy, confident and well socialised puppy. Work on building a relationship of trust and you’ll be rewarded by years of unconditional love, lots of laughter and a fabulous member of the family.

Have fun with your new furry friend and remember that the strong and positive foundation you set now will be the behaviour you are likely to see from your grown dog in the next few months as they grow up so fast.

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Ode to the dog

I think I may have written the world’s first-ever positive reinforcement dog training poem. Published by Pedadoggy for the first time. Enjoy!

Ode to the dog

 

Isn’t it a little treat

To have a dog rest at your feet.

Deeply gives a contented sigh

And so past the hours fly.

 

But all is not right with this pure scene

For how do these two make a team?

One so tall and standing on twos

The other takes great joy in smelling poohs.

 

To really understand this anomaly

Let us review the family tree.

Visit scenes from long ago

Before human beings grains did grow.

 

So cast your mind to years have gone

When camp fires through thick forests shone.

Safety, warmth, water and food

Were priorities of the human brood.

 

But in that dark lives wolf – big and scary,

Fiercely proud and extremely hairy.

Who made the first move by that camp fire,

Who overcame fear with their bold desire?

 

As the humans camped and sang and clapped

Fed and laughed and took their naps.

Wolf was curious and could smell their cooking

Stole some pieces when they weren’t looking.

 

So was it man who threw a spare bone

Without following it swiftly with a stone?

For with this creature he could connect

As its priority was to defend and protect.

 

Or was it wolf in a moment of need

Traded fear in return for some feed.

Learnt to hang out with the human pack

No teeth bared in exchange for a snack.

 

 

Perhaps one day a hand leant out to touch

Standing still was wolf, it wasn’t too much

For following quickly was the prize of a bone

Isn’t this a place you’d want to call home?

 

Now generations of wolves and human kind

have passed since that first meeting of minds.

Today with humans dogs do stay

Eat and sleep, run and play.

 

Around us the dog’s shape takes many forms

And between the two a new bond has been born.

Whether labrador, malamute, pekinese or poodle

Staffy, whippet or even cavoodle.

 

They’re part of the family, a member of the house

Except for the time when they bring in a mouse.

Man’s best friend became their name in time

And so these two creatures live lives intertwined.

 

So next time your doggy is pulling on the leash

Be kind to them when manners you teach.

For inside them still lives the wolf who is strong

And to punish them at all is so very wrong.

 

Remember the campfire and what it did show

That food helped the wolf learn new things and grow.

Let them catch flies and chase smells that allure

As their happiness will be yours too for sure.

 

 

 

 

Written by Grazia Pecoraro

Sydney, Australia

 

Beware the play time parasites

Symbiotic play is about give and take. It’s about revving up and revving down. And too many dog owners don’t know how to look for the signs that their dog is distressed and needs them to step in-between to ratchet down the level of play or give their dog a break.

Symbiotic play is about give and take. It’s about revving up and revving down. And too many dog owners don’t know how to look for the signs that their dog is distressed and needs them to step in-between to ratchet down the level of play or give their dog a break.

Bulling, especially at schools, has received a lot of attention in recent times as we try to eliminate poor behavior and protect children from getting hurt.

But do we know how to recognise the signs when our dog is getting bullied? Often we don’t because dog play may appear to be fair and equitable, when it isn’t. Dogs naturally run around when playing with each other and just because there isn’t fur flying or we can’t hear growling does it mean that everyone is having a good time.

Consider this scenario. It’s a sunny afternoon and a couple of owners have brought their dogs down to the off-leash park. A young Kelpie and Labrador retriever are playing together, or so it seems at first glance. The Kelpie doing what it does best, tries to round up the Lab as if it were still a working dog on a sheep farm. At first the Lab give a great play bow – the universal invitation to play in dog language – crouched down on his front legs, backside in the air with the tail wagging slowly from side-to-side.

As the Kelpie makes its running approach, aimed like an arrow at the Lab, the Lab runs away in that goofy run from side-to-side that dogs do when they are pretending to be chased. The Lab then decides it’s time to turn the tables on the Kelpie, turning around to give chase. But the Kelpie will have none of it, perhaps even giving the Lab little nips to keep it in check as its fore bearers on the farm would have done with their wooly charges.

What happens next is critical as not all play is equal. If the Lab keeps running away without being given any reprieve over and over, it is being bullied. I have seen this happen over and over again in dog parks all around Sydney. The owners stand sipping their coffees, looking at their mobile screens or talking to each other about the weekend’s footy result.What I call symbiotic play is about give and take. It’s about revving up and revving down. And too many dog owners don’t know how to look for the signs that their dog is distressed and needs them to step in-between to ratchet down the level of play or give their dog a break.

So what does symbiotic play look like? It’s about mostly equal parts chasing and running away. It’s about dogs giving each other a ‘time out’, even if it’s just for a few seconds, if one dog shows signs of being harassed. Then letting the chased party resume the play, not the other way around.

The problem is that when in that highly excitable stage, some animals forget their manners and just don’t read the signs in their playmates. Or they have not learnt to moderate their play. Puppy schools that let dogs free play with no moderation by the trainer is one of the causes of this, as well as owners who let their dogs play with others without any supervision or management.

This leads to what I call parasitic play. All chase from one or more parties with no give, no time outs allowed for the one being chased or sniffed or followed or whatever. I’ve seen dogs back up between their human’s legs for protection, the dog trying to make frequent eye contact, with the human simply stepping away to avoid spilling a drop of their precious coffee – ignoring the obvious signs that their dog is requiring assistance.

As the thinking party in the companion animal relationship, the human owner can make a significant difference. Simply even separating the dogs for a few seconds, rewarding the calm with a food treat and seeing if your dog then goes back for another round of chase-my-tail will make for a happier, confident and less fearful dog (one who may later lash out with a growl or a bite in self defense if this level of fear is allowed to escalate). Nobody likes being bullied and neither do dogs.

So what are the signs your dog is experiencing distress? There are some quite obvious signs you can look out for:

  • The dog is constantly running away with no opportunity to become the chaser
  • The dog runs under a chair, under your legs, under a tree and backs up against it in an attempt to find a physical shelter from their playmate who has turned aggressor
  • Making eye contact with you within this context of other signs, signaling for help
  • Typical fear or stress-related body postures such as tail tucked between the legs, lip locking, ears flat or back and eyes wide open.
  • If the dog does get a chance for a time out it may start sniffing the ground which is one of the ways they diffuse stress.

If your dog is being bullied, speak up calmly to other owners and ask them to help you help your dog – making them aware at the same time what good manners at play time look like.

Similarly, watch for your dog being the bully by observing how the other dogs are interacting and if necessary, break up the play until the other dog shows signs of wanting to resume the chase, or not. This is a good opportunity to ask your pup for a sit and give them a treat to distract from the play.

If necessary – whether the victim or the bully – remove your dog from the environment as keeping it there longer is not going to be beneficial for anyone involved. Walk away if you have to.

I wish I had somebody to speak up for me when I was being bullied at primary school for wearing glasses. So I’m sure your dog will appreciate you for it.

Bark bark, all the way to the park

This is my doggy-themed calendar’s July message: “Dogs feel very strongly that they should always go with you in the car, in case the need should arise for them to bark violently in your ear” (by Dave Barry). Quirky pic, funny quote. Until it’s happening to you.

While barking is a natural behavior for dogs and for most a way to express their excitement when going out to somewhere exciting or one of the places they love best (or frustration that they’re not there yet!), it’s not just annoying but also painful and dangerous to have a baying, howling, yapping, barking or squealing dog in your ear.

Most dogs are reportedly able to bark at 100 Decibels, with most countries’ national recommended safety standards for preventing hearing loss being limiting exposure to noises over 85 Decibels. Driving with continuous barking from a furry passenger in an enclosed space is certainly not recommended.

Incidentally, an Aussie dog holds the Guinness World Record for the loudest bark. Charlie, a Golden Retriever, earned the title in 2013 by registering an incredible 113.1 decibels, with his woof apparently producing the same noise output as a loud rock concert. It was reported by his owners that he thankfully only barks on command.

Pedadoggy’s top tips for stopping dogs barking in the car:*

  • Desensitise the entire car trip experience and condition (rewire) the dog for calm. If the excitement or fear starts when you pick up the car keys, pick them up a few times a day for a few days without going anywhere and reward the dog for other calm behavior such as sitting. Same goes for the leash or whatever is the signal that it’s park time. Eventually build up to getting in the car and not going anywhere, rewarding for calm. Then progressing to travelling even just a few metres. This will also be a lot easier if you offer the dog a chew or yummily stuffed Kong while they are in the car to distract them.
  • If you can teach your dog to bark on command then you can teach them to shush or be quiet on command too. Once the dog has mastered this ‘trick’, you can progress to practicing it in the car without going anywhere, then graduating to when you are traveling, with the help of a human training partner in the back seat.

Remember before heading off to secure the dog in the car with either a harness clipped into an anchor point, or by putting the dog in a crate. In NSW, road safety legislation stipulates that motorists must not drive a vehicle with an animal on their lap or preventing them from having proper control of the car – a penalty of three demerit points and a fine of $338, rising to $422 if caught in a school zone. Also, if an animal is injured as a result of being unrestrained, owners also face up to six months’ jail and fines of up to $5500 under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act.

Do you have a car barker? What has helped you ?

* Ones that don’t use citronella or shock collars, shouting at the dog or any other punishing training techniques or tools.

Who, exactly, is being trained?

Going to “dog school” is a great step many people take in building closer relationships with their canine companions. They’re prepared to invest the time and money to make this happen, which benefits both the animal and the humans it shares life with.

As the thinking party in the human-canine relationship, it comes down to us to make the change we want to see in our dogs.

As the thinking party in the human-canine relationship, it comes down to us to make the change we want to see in our dogs.

We’ll explore on another day the type of things you need to consider when signing up for dog training – including the training tools used and experience of the person running the classes. What is greatly rewarding is to watch the relationship between the dog and its owner/s develop over the course of a few weeks as they come to class.

However, there’s still the view in some circles that dog school works similarly to the way we educate children. That you hand it over to a trainer who teaches the dog new, acceptable behaviours such as not chewing the lead while it’s walking, or jumping up when greeting new people – like children going to school to learn from their teacher and coming home knowing the alphabet. I recently had a conversation in a dog park with a lady who had sent her Bull Terrier to just such an outfit.

The dog went on a ‘training camp’ to a purpose-built facility in Sydney and returned home two weeks later with the verdict that it was no longer bouncing off control at the end of the lead and was able to provide focused attention when requested.

The lady told me that all was well on day one when the dog got back home, day two there was some regression and by the end of the week the dog was back to its old tricks of jumping up, not listening and other shenanigans.

She was disappointed and also upset that she had paid good money, for no result. I could tell she wanted to blame the dog for the outcome or that it was something to do with how it saw their relationship – that she wasn’t to be ‘respected’. So I asked her a simple question: “What did you learn while the dog was away being trained? What do you need to do differently to get a different outcome? She looked at me. Then the realisation dawned that she had not acquired any of the skills needed to help her dog learn what was acceptable and to make that behaviour more rewarding than, say, playing tug-of-war while on lead.

If there’s one thing that will foster a closer relationship between owners and their dogs and get better behavioural outcomes, then it’s this. Training a dog to have good manners only works if the humans also learn and make their own behavioural adjustments. Such as – not pushing down when the dog jumps up so that it doesn’t become a great game that in itself is rewarding for the dog. Rather asking for a ‘sit’ instead and rewarding that.

It’s not always the easiest option and takes patience, time and perseverance – but the result is getting the behavior consistently and the dog doesn’t get shouted at or have to be locked away when visitors come to the door. It means less negative energy invested or having to manage a problem rather than creating a long-term solution. Like life coach Anthony Robbins said: “If you do what you’ve always done, you’ll get what you’ve always gotten.” And as the thinking party in the human-canine relationship, it comes down to us to make the change we want to see”.

Make the rules, don’t shake the rules

Imagine one morning you get to work. You boss starts shouting at you about being late as soon as you walk in the door, although it’s the same time you arrived the whole month before and it’s well before office opening hours.

keep it consitent

Make the rules wisely and apply them with kindness and consistency.

You sit down at your desk as you always do and then he comes running from across the room, pushes you by the arm out of the chair, glares at you and angrily tells you to use a chair from the kitchen today. Hopefully this isn’t a typical day for most of us…

Confusing? Certainly. Frustrating. Absolutely. Inconsistent. Yes-sirree. But at least both of you speak the same language.

Now imagine the premise of this scenario which many dogs face. One moment they’re being fed roast chicken skin from the table when they make whiney noises under a chair. But the day stern Auntie Marg comes to visit, the dog is admonished by the owner for the same begging behavior. Or a dog that is invited onto the bed on the day the laundry is due to be done, but told off for jumping up there at other times.

Confusing? Certainly. Frustrating. Absolutely. Inconsistent. Yes-sirree. With an additional consequence added for the dog – fear of doing the wrong thing, which creates a lack of confidence and certainty. If you’re not sure of doing the right thing you’re certainly not going to be sure of doing a lot of things, to avoid punishment – whether it be verbal or physical.

The thing is, dogs don’t know when it’s washing day compared to when the sheets are clean. They also don’t know about social etiquette as not jumping on the couch they usually lie on when a visitor comes around. That’s their spot. From their perspective they’re allowing the visit access to and sharing their couch space.

We expect our dogs to intuit, deduct, instinctively understand or at best guess what the rules are. Isn’t it far kinder to them to make one rule and stick to it? If the outcome you want is a dog that is well behaved, which in my experience is what most people want from their companion animals, then you’re better off thinking about the rules you make and being consistent in their application (I have chosen not to use the word ‘enforcement’ here.

I personally don’t like cleaning very much and therefore don’t allow my dog to sit on the furniture. However, he has his own dog bed and comfortable mattress in the lounge which he is free to sit, lie or play on. When guests come, they can sit on the couch in peace without being covered in dog hair or have their face licked as they sip their cup of tea – and the dog knows exactly where he has to be, though sometimes the excitement is just too much for him and I have to lure him back to the mat which is also okay. Nobody’s perfect! I’m not saying dogs shouldn’t go onto furniture as it’s a personal choice – but it doesn’t work for me and I therefore make it a consistent rule for Zac.

For a happy dog that understands the rules, make them wisely and apply them kindly and consistently. For as American politician Lincoln Chafee said: “Trust is built with consistency”. This lesson applies as much to dog training as it does to running election campaigns. With dog training involving a lot less barking and jaw snapping of course.

Make this long weekend a fun weekend!

The prospect of a public holiday on Monday means an extra sleep in and more time to spend with my dog. Woohoo!

Try as he might, the Jakaranda tree always wins! Make sure to buy a specially-designed pet tyre as they don't contain steel as tyres for vehicles do.

Try as he might, the Jakaranda tree always wins! Make sure to buy a specially-designed pet tyre as they don’t contain steel as tyres for vehicles do.

My top five fun things to do with my dog on long weekends:

  • Tie his pet tyre to a tree and watch the tree win tug-of-war every time.
  • Go for a walk – anywhere will do, as long as you take time to sniff the roses and the lamp posts (erm, just to be clear, I go for the roses).
  • Train a new trick to show off and yes old dogs will happily learn new things if you make the food rewards worthwhile. Roast chicken, anyone?
  • Play ‘hide the treat’. He sits and stays in one room. I hide a treat in another and only when he is called can he come and search for it.
  • Take him with me to as many places as possible, as just getting out and about is great enrichment which keeps him from barking and digging. I signed him up for companionship, not isolation.

How do you and your pet have fun together?

Welcome to Pedadoggy!

Pedadoggy's doggy and training inspiration.

Zac – Pedadoggy’s doggy and training inspiration.

Dogs, life and learning. They’re all intrinsically intertwined if you enjoy the companionship of dogs and having them as another member of your family.

The definition of ‘pedagogy’ is the art or profession of teaching. Pedadoggy reflects on the process of learning for both humans and their dogs. Whether it’s the revelation of a new skill, insight into what drives us or simply doing what we enjoy doing best, even just a small amount of time with a dog and you’ll know exactly what I mean.

Modern dog training is based on well-established learning principles that have been chartered by scientists and psychologists over many years. While some dog trainers still advocate punishment in various forms to change behavior, it simply is more fun and builds a better relationship if you focus on reward through a positive approach.

And in the process you may learn something about yourself too. So welcome to Pedadoggy – where the dog is both the student and the teacher.