Monday, March 7, 2016

I hate walking my dog

I hate walking my dog.
Pixie is reactive. She flips out on people, kids, dogs behind fences, people with leashed dogs, and the occasional cat or squirrel. Nice days are showing up more frequently, and I have to be careful when I decide to take my dog out for a walk. The stresses of all these people who also want to walk their dog, are just too much for both of us. For example, last Sunday I got home from appointments while it was still light outside and decided I should get the dogs out. Once I turned into my neighborhood I saw ALL the people. I mean ALL. THE. PEOPLE. I felt my blood pressure rise while I was still in my car so Pixie was not getting a walk on Sunday.
I hate this. I hate that I have to compromise my plans because there are too many people outside with their dogs, and I can’t just go do what I want with my dog. I hate that I get embarrassed and frustrated with her when she flips out. I also hate that going out on a day like Sunday would have stressed Pixie out to the point of melt down. I really hate that going out for a relaxing or exciting sniff walk is so stressful for my pup. I can’t imagine what that feels like for her, so I make the decision not to put her in that situation.
Pixie and I have been working on this for about a year now. Some areas have improved greatly, others we still have a long way to go. There is no quick fix for having a reactive dog. Its working together to change the emotion associated with the trigger. She never gets punished for flipping out, I make a mental note of what went wrong, and change tactics next time. Walks never involve answering the phone, or zoning out to the song on my Pandora station, it’s actively keeping her engaged with me and always watching for triggers to make sure she knows I am going to get her through them safely and calmly. They often involve changing directions or choosing another street to walk down because there are loose dogs, or kids playing, and I know that would be too stressful for her to deal with. Walks at the state park often involve me headed into the woods to give plenty of space for her to deal with a passing runner or barking dog.
One day she will be able to handle going for a walk on a sunny Sunday afternoon, but for now I am committed to teaching her to trust me.  On our journey I rejoice in the moments when she looks at the barking dogs behind the fence, takes a deep breath and looks at me for instruction. Learning is happening at her pace, and I will continue to keep her safe. So if you see me in the trees at the park, you can laugh but please don’t talk to my dog because she might flip out.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Cold Weather Games

Well most days its been cold outside. I am really enjoying the 70 degree days in February that Mother Nature has given us.  On those cold days however, my dogs have been going a bit stir crazy. Opie would be happy to just stand around in the cold but Pixie can’t wait to get her bald butt back in the house. I am inclined to agree with Pixie. 

For those days when all the layers in the house can’t make me get out and walk my dogs, we stick to puzzle toys, and learning new tricks. I’ll share a few puzzle toys with you here and walk you through teaching your pup a few new easy tricks to get you through the winter and beyond.

Box Game
The holidays are over but we all have those Amazon prime boxes lying around the house or garage somewhere. Take 2 boxes and open the flaps so your pup can easily get into it. Place them on the floor a few feet apart and drop a small training treat in one while your pup watches. Tell them to “get it” or “find it” and point to your treat. Move to the second box and repeat the process. When you get back to the first box, your pup may have figured out this game so, while they are getting the treat out of the first box, put a treat in the second box when your pup is not looking. Make sure you tell your pup to “get it” or “find it” each time so they understand the game. 
As you practice a bit more and your pup is getting better at “finding” the treat, you can start moving the boxes farther away or closing the flaps of the box to make things a bit more difficult. 

Cup Game
Grab 2 or 3 solo cups and a handful of training treats. Place a treat under a cup while your pup watches. Encourage your pup to knock the cup over to get the treat. You may have to show your pup the treat under the cup a few times before they get the hang of it. Once they have the concept ask them to find the treat after you have moved the cups around a bit. 
Fun Tricks! 
Opie is working on Backing up and Pixie is working on a Hold right now. These guys have been doing crazy things for a while so I will start you off easier for now. 

HA! This is much more
fun than stealing laundry!
Paws up
Dogs have no idea where their feet are unless you teach them that they actually have control of them. Paws up is a great starting place. Grab a dish towel or wash cloth, depending on the size of your dog. Make the cloth big enough they can easily put their feet on it. Take your cookie in hand and lure your pups nose toward the towel. Once one of their paws touches the towel click and treat. When you are reliably getting one foot on the towel begin to click only for both feet on the towel. 
I taught Pixie to put her feet on a laundry basket one day while she was trying to “help” me with laundry. Now, it’s been good for her conditioning work, and often I will ask her to “paws” on fallen trees at the park, or fence posts on walks just to look cute. 

What fun things do you do to keep your pup entertained during the colder months?

Monday, January 18, 2016

New Year, New Ideas for Crazy Dog People!

You love your dog. Everyone knows because of the pictures all over your office, and your iphone cover. Are you giving your pup everything he could possibly want? Many of my clients contact me because they do love their dog, just not some of his behavior, and they are confused why Fido is acting up when he gets anything he wants. Here are a few ideas from your dog to keep them mentally happy and healthy!

Bob-a-lot is a great way to engage
your dog during meal times

  1. Puzzle toys. Sitting on the couch waiting for you to come home from work might be okay, but having something to do while you are gone would be even better. Dogs want to use their brains to settle those innate desires to scavenge and hunt. Giving them a bowl full of kibble, while satisfying, can be quite boring. Enrich your pups life a bit more by using a slow feeder like the Kyjen Slo-Bowl, or the Bob-a-lot Wobbler. When I leave the house my pups get a stuffed Kong to work on while I am gone. I think they appreciate some homework while I can’t entertain them.
  2. Good Health. Dogs don’t live long enough as it is, so help them make the best of the short life they have with us by making sure they get the Vet care and quality nutrition that they deserve.  I am a firm believer that a quality dog food is an investment in your dog’s overall health. We can survive on chips and ice cream, but is it a nutritious diet? Make sure your dogs food is a good quality as well.
  3. Safe space to retreat. I have worked very hard to make sure my dogs enjoy their crates. It makes my life easier, knowing they are not getting into anything in the house while I am gone, and it makes travelling with them much more comfortable and safer. Since I compete with my dogs as well, it makes sitting at events much nicer for them knowing they are not stressing out in their crates while we wait to play. Just like us, dogs need a place to go when they feel overwhelmed or scared. During the holidays, many people have guests over, which can be stressful for your four legged family members. Giving them a safe space to retreat allows them to make the decision to leave the chaos. 
  4. Consistency. Dogs thrive with routine and boundaries. Make sure you have ironed out the rules for your dog, and you stick to those rules. Allowing your dog to jump up on you when you get home, but not any other time, drives your pup batty! Most people have a fairly steady work schedule through the week, so make sure to incorporate walks and feeding times into that routine as well.
  5. Playtime. As my dogs get older, they don’t engage with me as often by bringing toys to me. Instead, I find myself engaging them to play. Playtime is great for muscle development and keeping your aging pup active. Most importantly, it helps build a bond between you and your pup. I like to throw some playtime into my training sessions as well, to break up the hard work for my dog as well as keep things fun. 
  6. Training. Yeah, I know I am a dog trainer, so obviously training is going to be on the list. Dogs enjoy working with us so why not let them. Basic training is the foundation of communication between you and your pup for a lifetime of interactions. Dogs that have solid understanding of basic commands are more confident living in our world and are much easier to live with. If you are finding yourself frustrated with some of your pups behaviors, go back to the basics! 

Owen hasn't quite figured out the tunnel but hes having fun!

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Halloween Safety

I just realized that my last post was in 2014. That is just not acceptable and I promise to do better! Here at The Freckled Paw we are finishing up our busy summer competition season and getting ready for the holidays and the cooler weather.

Pixie is going to be a punk rock dog for Halloween, even though she does not do any trick or treating. The strangely dressed people coming to the door and yelling, is too much for her to handle. We will be hanging out inside the house with a stuffed Kong or a bully stick to pass the time, and that is okay with both of us!

As Halloween comes closer, keep in mind what your dog can and can not handle. If people in hats or sunglasses are too scary for your pup then keep them confined to an interior room, away from the door, while the kids are showing off their scary attire. If your pup is overwhelmed by the activity, then you can also make halloween a great training opportunity. Praise your pup for going to a designated place when the doorbell rings, and reward for staying while someone else passes out candy. You can also play some crate games or bring out a puzzle toy to keep your pup concentrating on something else.
I don't recommend leaving your pet unattended outside, because pranksters are also out on Halloween. Pets have known to be teased, let loose, or stolen from yards. Don't let your pet be one of them!
A few of my clients sit outside to pass out candy, which I think is a fantastic idea!  If the doorbell sends your pup singing a song of her people, or if you are worried about her bolting out the door, this is a great alternative. Again, a stuffed Kong or a puzzle toy is a great way to occupy their time while you are enjoying the holiday.
If you are among the lucky few who have a dog that enjoys being out and about for Halloween, then remember that while the 2 legged kids enjoy a halloween goodie while walking around, its not a good thing to give your 4 legged kid. Chocolate in any amount can be toxic to pups, and many candies also contain Xylitol, a sugar substitute, which can cause your pup liver damage, and can lead to death if not treated quickly. Watch the ground and yards for dropped candy that your pup may snag while walking.
Just as a precaution, make sure your pup has accurate information on their tags, and they are visible on a collar. In case the worst happens, your pup is at a much higher likely hood of being returned with tags on.
I hope everyone has a safe and exciting Halloween weekend. Post pictures if your pup was dressed up this year! They may end up on my facebook page or website!

Monday, February 3, 2014

The Science of the KONG

I have to say the greatest invention in keeping dogs (or cats) occupied has been the KONG. If you don’t know what a KONG is, head to your local pet supply store and get one! It will change your life!
There are 4 KONGS in my house. Pixie gets one when she goes back in her crate after lunch each day. (except the day she goes to daycare, which is why I only need 4) Since she gets them everyday, I like to change the stuff that is inside the KONG to keep her intrigued and occupied with the toy. Got to keep that crate a fun place to be!
If this is your first try at a KONG with your dog, make sure to make it easy for your furry friend. Fill with a few more “dessert” items or make sure the “stuff” comes out easily once your pup finishes the “cap.”
Here is my basic KONG logic when I am stuffing:

Dessert: the really smelly yummy piece goes on the top so pup has to work through the rest of the KONG to get it.

Stuff: This is usually a mixture of “cement” (see below} and Kibble

Cap: something that keeps the “Stuff” inside the KONG while it rolls around my freezer

Bonus: Usually something that sticks out of the KONG as an easy              reward

What my friends and I put in our KONGS:
Lunch meat
Super smelly jerky treats or training treats
Leftovers, meat and veggies are all okay
Cheese cubes
Canned pumpkin or sweet potato (not pie filling!)
Leftover Mac and cheese (mix with some water to go easy on the cheese)
Mashed potatoes
Chicken or Beef broth (dilute to go easy on the salt) freeze for better results
Mushy canned food (gravy based doesn’t hold as well)
Refried beans
Cream Cheese
Peanut Butter (everyones favorite)
Milkbone (or something similar)
Rawhide stick (only if your dog is not a hoover with the rawhides! Don’t want pup to choke while you are gone!)
Pizza crust
Apple slice
Pupperoni (or something similarly shaped)

Uh oh I need a KONG and forgot to make them: Peanut Butter around holes on top and bottom, put a smelly treat on the bottom, and fill with kibble. Cap with Peanut Butter

Use this as a guide and use your imagination to keep your pup occupied while you are gone. If you have any other suggestions or ideas to add to the list let me know! 

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Monday, January 6, 2014

New Years Resolutions from your Dog!

Everyone hears the same resolutions in January. Eat better, go to the gym, lose weight, read more, you have heard them all, or read about them on Facebook. Have you ever thought about what your pet’s resolutions would be? I’ve read quite a few articles this New Year about resolutions for your pets, and here were my top 4:
1.       Loose the excess weight. Pet obesity is the number one health problem in the United States and I am sorry for being blunt, but it is our fault. Your dog does not go to the cabinet to get into the cookie jar, and they don’t understand the calories involved in eating the last bite of your sandwich. Make a pledge this year to knock those few extra pounds off your pal. Talk to your Veterinarian for ways to help your buddy shed those pounds.
2.       Don’t judge a dog by its looks. Just like you don’t judge a book by its cover, every dog is an individual first. I have met very dog friendly pit bulls and very aggressive golden retrievers. Just because a dog has a certain look really tells you nothing about the dogs personality. Take a minuet to ask about the dog or if you are planning to add a furry companion to your family this year, make sure to visit your local shelter and talk with the staff and volunteers there to help make the perfect match for you, regardless of what they look like.
3.       Fix that annoying behavior problem. Does your dog jump on people when they come in the house or pull you down the street on walks? Commit to your dog in 2014, and work to correct that one thing that irritates you. It will make your time spent with your dog more enjoyable and your friends and family will appreciate it too!
4.       Volunteer. Okay this one has nothing to do with your pets but it will definitely help a pet. Our local shelters are full of great companions that are just waiting for their perfect family to come along and take them home. In the meantime its volunteers that make sure they get a scratch behind the ear or a new toy to keep them occupied. Take just a few hours this year and donate some of your time to helping these pets on their journey. If going into the shelter is too much for you, contact a local rescue group and see how you can help. Next year you can tell people you spent 2014 saving lives!

Whatever your resolution for yourself or your pets, The Freckled Paw wishes you a joyful and prosperous 2014!