Ever wonder what dog trainers do with their dogs every day? A trainer’s dog is their business card. How their dog behaves speaks much louder than anything they post on a web page or may speak. I asked several trainers what they do every day with their dogs and they all said almost exactly the same things. Many trainers have more than one dog. One is frequently a demo dog (this is the dog that goes to class and seems so very well behaved) and they often will also take on dogs with more behavioral issues (because they feel up to the challenge). Consistent daily routines are the key to well adjusted pets.
Walks — Trainers walk their dogs. Most spend time on-leash. Many work off-leash as well. Trainers realize that there is a huge difference between letting a dog run around the backyard versus taking the dog on a walk. Walks are bonding and training opportunities. They incorporate sniff and focus exercises, heel, and loose leash walking. Walks are also used to desensitize reactive dogs.
Training — Trainers train every day. Most only spend 5–10 minutes of formal training per day. But, that doesn’t mean that the dogs can do whatever they want the rest of the day. Training opportunities present themselves all day. Using the commands during daily life is why we train after all. Most dogs enjoy learning and training for short periods of time.
Socializing — Trainers take their dogs as many safe places as possible. They go to class, run errands, visit family, and many go to dog parks a couple times a week.
Play — Trainers play with their dogs every day. Play is fun and another opportunity to learn for dogs. Agility, flirt poles, nose work, fetch, tug, puzzles, and games like hide and seek all teach different things. Play is also another enjoyable way to bond with your dog.
Getting a young active dog to stop pulling on walks can be challenging. Some dogs “get it” right away. I have never had one of those dogs though. I tend to like active breeds so I have had some major “pullers”. The most important thing that causes this is also the simplest.
Consistency is more important than the technique that you use to curb pulling. If you let your dog pull for the first 5–10 minutes of a walk to “let them burn off some steam first”, you are telling the dog that it is okay to pull some of the time. Since they want to pull naturally, they will be confused and constantly test you to see if this is one of those times that pulling is okay.
I have been guilty of this myself. Sometimes, I want to get to the car with my dog and not have to stop 50 times on the way to the car because my dog is pulling. I frequently take her to work with me and the car is about 5 minutes from the house. Sometimes if she is pulling, it can take 10 minutes. I don’t want to wait. I get impatient. Sometimes I am just tired and don’t feel like “training”. I just want to go for a nice walk. I got Betty to be my running partner and all the pulling was really frustrating in the beginning. After having her for a year, she was still pulling. I had to evaluate what I was doing to allow this to continue for so long. She is a very smart dog, so I know it isn’t because she can’t learn. I realized that I was not being 100% consistent. I let her pull sometimes. I didn’t stop EVERY time she pulled. I didn’t turn around EVERY time. I did it most of the time. It wasn’t good enough. There are a few different things that you can do to help teach a dog to stop pulling and walk on a loose leash. If you don’t do them every minute that you are walking your dog, your dog is not going to completely stop pulling. At least none of mine every did.
Here are some ways to help train your dog to stop pulling on a leash:
When they pull, stop walking. Do not start walking again until there is slack on the leash.
Turn around each and every time that your dog pulls. Yes, you will look crazy. Your dog will figure out that the only way to get going again is to pay attention to you.
Get a no-pull harness like a gentle leader or a halti front-clip harness. It makes a huge difference in training. You can’t substitute a harness for training. It will definitely speed up the process though.
Take regular daily walks. If you live in a house and are just letting your dog run around and go potty in the backyard, the pulling during walks is going to take a lot longer to remedy. Most dogs enjoy a couple of good walks per day or more. The more often you walk, the more practice you will get and your dog will learn faster. If your walk sporadically, it is going to take a lot longer.
Be patient and consistent — really consistent.
Once I got consistent, making to sure to not miss any walks, and required good manners the entire time, my dog got a lot better. It is amazing the results we can get when we examine what we, the owners, are doing.
I have lived all over the United States and I have to say that California gets it right when it comes to recycling and reducing trash. They have been promoting Reduce, Re-use and Recycle programs for many years now. They have been changing the laws regarding recycling as well. If you go to the grocery store, you will not get a brown recycled paper bag unless you ask for it and pay for it. Most people bring their own bags. Recycling bins are being used routinely. My mother is a master at this process already. We could all learn from her habits. I used to make fun of her for saving jars and cool whip containers. Then I wanted to do some crafting and she had almost everything that I needed on hand neatly put away to be re-used for some later purpose. How much trash do you create in a week? How much in a month? For the next 30 days, I challenge you to reduce your trash by as much as possible. Here are 10 simple ideas to help get you started:
Nikki was a Labrador Retriever puppy that was brought home by my ex-husband one day while we were still married. She was about 8 weeks old and super cute. He brought her home as a surprise. I love dogs and we didn’t have a dog because we both had agreed that we moved too much because of his job. A co-worker had told him that if he didn’t find a home for her that day that he would hit her in the head with a shovel and bury her in the woods. Of course we kept her. She became my dog very quickly. I fed her and trained her. I walked her. When our marriage started falling apart several years later, she was my companion. When he would yell at me or get angry, she would sit at my feet between us. She was protective of me. I loved her. After my divorce, I moved to California to be closer to family.
Nikki came with me. My ex wanted nothing to do with her. I went through a seriously depressing period in my life during that first year after I divorced. I was running out of money and I had a job that I worked 14 hour days with one day off per week. Nikki had been a house dog. I took a job a few hours away from family and Nikki stayed with my very pregnant daughter while I found a house to rent. Nikki joined me after a few weeks. She was stressed out from being left behind and all the changes. While I was at work the first day, she ate the metal mini blinds in the living room of the home that I was renting. I figured this out when I came home at lunch to check on her and let her out. I didn’t have a crate back then. People were just starting to take their dogs to doggy-day cares — but I couldn’t afford it. I didn’t even know about crates. I couldn’t tie her outside. I didn’t have a kennel. The backyard was not fenced completely. The second day she tried to eat her way out of the front door and damaged much of the door frame. I tried putting her in the backyard next and she ran away two days in a row. I had to leave work to get her from the local pound — twice. I had a terrible boyfriend at the time that was completely wrong for me. Dating too soon after my divorce was just one of many bad choices I made that year. The job didn’t work out. The boyfriend left (thank goodness). I ran out of money and I couldn’t afford my rent. My son had just joined the Navy. My daughter had just had her first baby and had moved to Washington with her husband that had just joined the Navy too. I had no friends or family that could or would take Nikki. I didn’t know where I was going to live or work. If I could have thought of ANY way to keep that dog, I would have kept her. Looking back, I probably should have stayed in California. I ended up moving back eight years later anyway. I didn’t have the benefit of hindsight back then though. But, at the time, I felt like my best choice was to move back to Arkansas where I knew people in the car business (my line of work at the time), and could afford the cheaper cost of living (my rent went from 2000 per month to 800 per month). I knew I could work there and afford it. I also knew that I would be living out of a very cheap hotel for the first couple of months and dogs were not allowed back then. I made the choice to find my dog another home. I hated the idea. I couldn’t think of any other way though. I found a lab rescue group and they took my dog. A week later, they told me that they had found a retired couple living near the beach that wanted Nikki. I still miss that dog. I still feel guilty about having to give her up. My children were mad at me. I was mad at myself. It wasn’t a decision that I made lightly for a dog that had been there for me for 7 years. I received a very kind letter from them telling me what a great well behaved dog she was and how happy they were to have her with pictures of their grandchildren playing on the beach with Nikki. I know that Nikki had a better life with them than she would have had with me post-divorce. So, when I hear about someone that has to make that choice, I go a little easier on them. Many people are very quick to judge anyone that says that they need to re-home their pet. I have been that person. It was not my first choice. It was my last resort. It was a terrible decision for me. It was the right thing for my dog though. I hope I never have to make a decision like that again. I am glad that there was a rescue group to help me. Five years later, when my circumstances had changed, and I could be a good pet owner again, I chose a rescue group for this reason. I have been on both sides of the rescue process. I don’t judge Betty’s former owner for surrendering her. He did the best thing for her if he could not care for her. I am thankful.
I wrote about estate planning yesterday. It started a conversation that I was not expecting. I did not realize that a growing trend is to be buried with your pet. In the last few years, laws have been changed in the UK and New York (among others) to allow the burial of cremated pet remains with human remains. Several articles have been written about this lately. On the surface, it seems like a sentimental notion. What is not mentioned is very dark in my opinion and was shared by friends that work in veterinarian offices across the country.
Do you know that people are putting directives in place to euthanize their healthy pets to be buried with them? Yes. You read that right. They are putting in their wills that when they die, to euthanize their pets so that they may be buried with their owners. Some of these people have older pets and believe that their animals are better off dead that with someone new. In fact, convenience euthanasia is common. Thankfully, not all veterinarians perform euthanasia on healthy pets. But, unfortunately, many do. The thinking is that if the owner wants their pets to die, at least they can die in peace rather than be possibly tortured and neglected by owners that are “stuck” with them. Animals are property by law in most areas. But, these stories are animal cruelty in my opinion. I have heard stories where a woman brought a cat to the office and was embarrassed that the cat had fleas so she requested euthanasia for the cat. Another had a puppy with a broken leg and couldn’t afford the medical bill so they requested euthanasia. It is no wonder that veterinarians have higher than average suicide rates.
Some veterinarians work with rescue groups and have the owners sign the pet over to them so they can coordinate with a rescue group to save the pet and place it with an adoptive family that can afford medical care. Many people refuse to place their pets up for adoption though. They would rather euthanize their pets than have them re-homed. I don’t understand this kind of “love”. I don’t want my pet killed so it can be buried with me. If I was unable to care for my pet and had no family or friends that could care for my pet, I would stipulate in my will that my pet be put up for adoption. Many seniors do not want a young active dog but would like to have a senior pet. I know when I get much older, I will not be able to handle a large active dog like I have now. I plan to have a dog in my family for as long as I can care for it properly. If the time ever comes that I cannot care for a dog in my home, I will find it another home. Things happen that are out of our control. We may have a dog that is aggressive or has behavior challenges that are beyond what we can handle. Thank goodness we have other options. There are trainers and rescue groups that are devoted to saving as many pet lives as possible. At some point, a pet may be too sick or injured to recover and euthanasia may be kinder and more merciful. If you can’t manage your pet or care for it, please try a rescue group before euthanasia if the pet is healthy. My birthday is this month. I am donating my birthday to Best Friend Animal Society. They are a group dedicated to saving the lives of as many animals as possible.
I don’t think that anyone gets a pet with the mindset of not being able to take care of the pet. Sometimes a pet turns out to be more than you can handle or dangerous. You can lose a job or home unexpectedly, get divorced, get sick or injured. Whatever the reason and in spite of good intentions, you may need to re-home a beloved pet. I don’t understand how you could have a healthy and balanced pet killed because you don’t want it to live with someone else though.
I am a pet sitter. As a pet sitter and a dog owner, my first priority is the safety of the pets in my care. I connect with many other pet sitters and I hear of sad stories every single week about dogs that have become injured or have escaped a yard because someone left a door or gate open. The saddest of the stories are the accidental deaths that occur: the dogs that run out a door and into the street, the dogs that run away and are lost forever, the dog that slips out of a loose collar while walking, the poor dogs that fall into a pool and are not discovered in time to be saved, and the list goes on. How can you keep your pet safer at home, when visiting family and friends, or leaving your pet with a sitter?
First off, let’s examine the potential dangers and ways to prevent a tragedy:
Escaping the yard or front door — This happens far too frequently. If you have a dog that wants to dart out of the front door or backyard, teaching the dog to wait and not bolt is the best choice for when they are home. However, if you are dropping your dog off at a different location, assume that your pet will have some anxiety initially about being in a strange place and is much more likely to try to escape. When you meet the sitter, do they have baby gates blocking the front door? How do they handle drop-offs and pick-ups? Do they separate multiple dogs to minimize the chance of an escape with crates or kennels? How many people live in the home? Do they have gardeners, housekeepers or others that might let your dog escape? Are there kids in the home that might be more likely to leave a door open? Is there a doggy door? It is harder to keep track of dogs if they can come and go as they please. For this reason, I am not a huge fan of doggy doors. Not to mention, I have seen videos online of coyotes following small dogs into homes. Is the backyard securely fenced? Are the gates solid and locked? When you meet a potential sitter or visit a friend, walk the perimeter of the yard and look for any places where a dog could escape. Will the sitter ever allow the animals alone in the yard unattended? An anxious dog will look for ways to escape. A visiting dog should never be left outside alone or with other dogs unattended — not even for 5 minutes. Is the fence high enough to avoid a dog from jumping over the fence? How about squeezing under the fence? Can they easily dig their way under the fence? Small dogs can and do escape through some very small holes. It happens all the time.
Swimming pools — Will the dog have access to a swimming pool? Is the dog a great swimmer?Don’t make the mistake of thinking that a good swimming dog can be fine in a pool alone. Dogs that are great swimmers can and do drown. If the dog has a seizure or some other medical event while swimming, if no one is there to scoop them out, they will drown. Can the dog find the stairs? If they can’t get out of the pool, they will tire eventually and still drown.
Predators — Birds of prey and coyotes are in many neighborhoods now. They don’t just pick up dogs out of backyards in the movies. I live in Los Angeles and we have urban coyotes pluck small dogs from their yards weekly — and it is increasing.
Poisoning — Dogs can easily get into things that are dangerous. Your neighbors may have a rodent problem. Rat poison and antifreeze are both highly poisonous to dogs. If your dog captures a poisoned mouse or rat, they can consume a fatal amount of poison. Many fertilizers are also lethal. A garage can be a very dangerous place.
Theft — There are evil people out there that will steal or poison an animal left in the yard unattended. I have a friend that had her dog stolen from her front yard this year while she was standing there! A few weeks ago, a handyman that I met at a client’s home lost his dog to poisoning. He suspected a neighbor’s kids. Watch for any unusual activity or people. Cameras have gained a lot of popularity for this very reason.
I wish that I was being overly cautious — but I am not. Dogs are dying too often because we are not being careful enough with their surroundings. Our animals trust us to keep them as safe as possible. We would do just about anything to keep them from harm. It hurts my heart every time that I see another post on Facebook or the local news about a dog that was accidentally hurt or killed because someone thought a dog could be safe in a yard. Everyone that has experienced this says the same things, “It happened so fast” or “I only left them alone for a minute.” Don’t be afraid that you will offend a pet sitter by asking too many questions. Any professional pet sitter will want to keep your pet safe above all else. If their yard or home doesn’t seem safe, get someone else. Accidents do happen. Let’s prevent as many as we can and be ready for the ones that we cannot prevent. If you move to a new location, get recommendations for a new Veterinarian. Locate the closest 24-Hour Veterinarian Emergency Clinic. Take a First Aid/CPR course for pets. Prepare a first-aid kit for your pet (and your people). I keep mine in a backpack in my car. It is amazing how handy it can be to be prepared. I am a strong believer that many accidents can be prevented or minimized with some good preparedness and constant vigilance.
If you could ask your dog why they love to dig so much, you might get one of the following answers:
It feels so good. I just love the feel of fresh soft dirt on my paws. This big hole in the cool dirt feels so great when I want to rest. I learned it from a friend.
It is really entertaining. Just watch how I can make this dirt fly through the air.
It is great exercise and I need to do something with all this energy.
I am so bored. I am just occupying my mind with something interesting.
I smelled something suspicious out there and I am going to find it.
I have to get out of here.
So it is easy enough to understand why they love to dig. A tougher question is what do you do about it once it has begun? Digging is very self-rewarding. How do you get your dog to stop doing something they clearly enjoy so much?
Have a designated place to dig. If you can give them one spot that is just for digging, It is easy enough to teach them that this is the only spot to enjoy the digging. A kiddie pool filled with dirt is great. You can even bury some toys in the dirt to make it even more exciting.
Exercise is a great way to occupy your dog’s body in a positive way. A tired dog will be less inclined to dig up the yard.Mental stimulation is a must for most dogs. The smarter the dog, the more you will need to stimulate them mentally. Obedience training is great for mental stimulation. Training sessions will tire a dog out as much as a walk — just in a different way.Monitor behavior. Catch the digging early. A firm “no dig” and re-direction helps. Reward good behavior. Bury chicken wire in the holes and cover with rocks to make the digging areas less desirable temporarily. Make sure to roll sharp edges away from digging surface. If the pet is intent on escaping, a concrete border poured along the perimeter and at least 12″ deep may be necessary to keep some breeds from digging their way to freedom. As with all habits, the longer it is allowed to persist, the harder it will be to correct. In addition to the previous tips, the one that is often the quickest and easiest is to bury the dog’s poop or coffee grounds in the holes. Fill with some cheap vinegar. I like to stock up at the dollar stores. Dogs don’t like the smell of vinegar and most do not want to dig in poop or coffee ( I have used both). Once the holes are filled, cover them with dirt. You won’t smell the poop or coffee once it is covered. But, your dog will definitely smell it. You will have to be consistent. After a couple weeks of this, most dogs will give up and go onto something that smells better to occupy their time. They may try a few other places as well. But, if you are consistent, they WILL give up. As with all things concerning dogs, patience and persistence is the most important quality for a dog owner to possess.