Pawsibilities NY

Month: January 2015

The Importance of Feeding Your Pet on a Schedule

The Importance of Feeding Your Pet on a ScheduleI want to start by saying that the following does not apply if your veterinarian has given you other instructions based on your dog’s health, age and/or size. This article applies to the average, healthy, house-dog.

While you may have heard different things regarding feeding, I find it is very important to feed your dog on a set schedule, usually two feedings a day, and do not leave the food out for your dog to “free feed” or graze as she chooses. Some may tell you to feed your dog on a schedule to help prevent resource guarding, and to show that you bring the food, so you are the “boss,” or “in charge,” but the truth is those are not the best reasons for a feeding schedule.

The first reason most closely relates to my previous blog about Separation Anxiety. Again separation anxiety is probably the hardest behavioral problem to correct in dogs. Feeding on a schedule will allow you to know when your dog is most hungry. If your dog can eat all day and just eat three pieces of kibble here, and three pieces of kibble there, it will be much more difficult to pin point a time when she is hungry. If we know when our dog is hungry we can use this to our advantage in so many ways. For separation purposes we can feed our dog before we leave so she has something to look forward to, instead of something to worry about. If your dog free feeds she will likely just not eat while you are not home. Feed your dog her food, and leave your house for a little while; five minutes, and then come back in, and take the food away, even if your dog has not finished. This way she is learning that she should work on that food while you are gone, because it isn’t always around! This is a good activity for the weekends when owners tend to have more time, it is not necessary to leave each time you feed your dog.

If you are trying to house train your puppy or adult dog, having them eat on a schedule will make this process so much easier! Your dog will be on a more regular potty schedule if she is on a regular feeding schedule. Most dogs will got to the bathroom in a certain amount of time after they eat or drink, and if you are consistent with this, then your dog will be too!

When training your dog it is important to be reinforcing the training with rewards that your dog sees as high value. If your dog is eating on a schedule, you could delay the meal prior to a training session to ensure that food is an even higher reward. You can feed your dog dinner after the training is over.

If you plan to, or already have, young children, feeding on a schedule will also help during that “exploring” phase that most toddlers have. If you leave your dog’s food out all the time, then your crawling baby will likely find his way to the bowl at some point, and what he will do with it… well I won’t even try to think of all of the fun things a toddler could do with dog food, not to mention eating it—gross! If your dog eats on a schedule you can more easily monitor her while she eats so the food does not become a toy for your child.

If you have a dog that may be getting up there in years, skipping a meal can be a sign of a serious health issue, if you aren’t really sure when your dog eats, or even how much because there is always a full bowl, how will you know if she has stopped eating? It won’t be clear to you as quickly as a person who knows when their dog eats; this will make it easier to tell a vet exactly when the last time her appetite seemed normal. This could save your dog’s life! When a dog has an obstructions she often will stop eating because she is uncomfortable, and the sooner you realize this, the better the prognosis.

If you are already free feeding your dog I would recommend a gradual change over the course of a week. Choose the times you will be feeding your dog, and take away her kibble the night before you will begin. The next morning give your dog her food at the set time and let her have it for 10/15 minutes. After that time take the food away, but don’t throw it away yet. Put it somewhere she won’t smell it like the fridge. Wait another 5/10 minutes and give it back to her for 5/10 minutes. After this second try you can throw the food away. Your dog will eat when she is hungry, she may just need to build an appetite and get used to the new schedule. Repeat these steps for your dog’s second meal of the day, and as needed throughout the week.

I hope that I have convinced you, because just like it would not be good for us to eat all day long, it is not good for your dog, and feeding her on a schedule will help improve her house training, behavior and even health!

By in Training Philosophy 0

I Am a Treat Trainer

I Am a Treat TrainerWhen I was 11 my dream came true! I was in the car with my father, who is an orthopedist, so he had a cell phone, before I knew anyone else had one, but it was huge and you could always hear both sides of the conversation. Our family’s dear friend, the late Howard S. Kessler D.V.M. called my father to let him know that he had gotten his parents a corgi puppy as a gift, but they had decided after their last dog had passed, they wanted to travel. They were not eager to keep the pup if another home could be found. I couldn’t control myself, I was screaming at the top of my lungs that I was getting a Corgi puppy! A true dream come true for an 11 year old equestrian!

“Max” came to us less than a week later. He was perfect in my eyes in every way! He was a four month old Pembroke Welsh Corgi, he was fawn and white with a perfect lucky thumb print on the top of his head. I loved him from the moment I laid eyes on him! My mother told me if I wanted a dog I had to train (thank goodness she did!) So she took me to the book store and we picked out a dog training book. To this day i wish I knew exactly which one, but it was 1993, and the majority of people were training their dogs using choke chains. Somehow amongst all the other books we found one book that was a lure-reward book, and we weren’t even looking for it! We honestly just picked it because it wasn’t very long and had a lot of pictures showing how to train a dog to do specific things, while the other books were written descriptions.

I trained Max all his basic commands using his food and our bond was quite strong. He used to sleep back to back in bed with me, and I woke up every morning to walk him before I went to school. I loved him with all my heart, he was my best friend. Even though I loved him so, I still did stupid things; I was kid! I definitely put him in his crate when I was mad at him, and he definitely did not think of it as a happy place. I also thought a fun game was to chase him around my mother’s bed barking at him. I always thought he thought this was a lot of fun, but looking back I do realize it was probably quite stressful for him.

I know Max had his behavioral issues, but I can say as an educated dog trainer and behaviorist that his issues all stemmed from our lack of knowledge and using punishment as an easy solution. Unfortunately these choices had negative fall out, for example, even once Max was older and it would have been a lot easier to transport him to and from the vet in his crate, but he hated it, and it only caused more stress. Thank goodness he never had a serious injury and had to be confined. Don’t get me wrong, Max was a great dog with much more going for him, than against, but I just want to point out that our decisions on punishment had a lasting affect throughout his life, long after we used his crate for punishment.

Today I truly believe that part of the reason I am a dog trainer, besides Max, is that book. I love animals and always have, I think if I had tried training Max using forceable methods it would have upset me terribly, and I doubt he would have ever learned his commands, or I would be doing this today! There is nothing like the relationship that I built with that dog, and this is why today, I am a treat trainer; and when I work with my clients, I work to make them treat trainers too!

Too many people now a-days believe their dog is trying to “dominate” them, or they need to show him who is boss. I was 11 years old when I trained my dog, not only would it be very wrong for me to have ever tried alpha rolling Max, but it would have been incredibly dangerous. Even if you are an adult, why would you want to risk something that could potentially result in pain for both you and your dog?

Some people might think that treat training doesn’t stick with dogs, or it is an easy way out, but I can honestly say that using treats effectively is the same thing as using punishment effectively; without the negative fall out. If you train with treats properly you can, and should fade them to become sporadic life rewards as your dog knows the behaviors you are looking for. I can’t even say how many times I have seen people who use a prong collar for their dog’s entire life, or complain that their dog only behaves with their shock collar on. This is the same problem as a dog who only responds when you have food in your hands, it means training, or punishment has been used ineffectively. The difference is if you use treats ineffectively, the most serious risk you run is an obese dog, and while this not something that should be ignored it is far less serious than when punishment is misused. When punishment is misused you can teach your dog to hate children, other dogs or even their own leash. Negative associations can happen in one trial, all it takes is one choke chain jerk in the presence of a child to forever change your dog’s mind about children.

I am a treat trainer because it is a scientific fact that we can change a dog’s conditioned emotional response using food. We can follow something your dog finds unpleasant with his favorite things and hopefully through counter conditioning we can make this thing less unpleasant. So you can try your choke chains first, and then I can tell you to prepare yourself for a lifetime of treats at the ready to counter condition anything you have trained your dog to hate with your leash jerks. But that sounds like an awful lot of work! Perhaps trying the treats first isn’t so bad?

I am a treat trainer who believes that sometimes punishment is necessary, but I will say that punishment is never necessary for something you have not trained and proofed with your dog! This means that it is not ok to jerk your dog on a prong collar for pulling on leash, if you have never even taught him that you want him to walk by your side. I will never say that the use of painful punishment is necessary, so I will never condone the use of a prong collar, but sometimes punishment is necessary. Punishment should never be harmful or scary, and if you have to use the punishment more that a few times, it isn’t working. The definition of punishment is to lessen behavior, so if the behavior isn’t decreasing, than your punishment isn’t working, it is that simple. Even if you are shocking your dog every time he does something wrong, and he keeps doing it, the punishment is not effective, and really cannot be classified as punishment, it is really harassment.

I am a treat trainer who has a rescue dog who could be described as not that food motivated. Guess what? I can still find things that she is excited about! I have to be more creative than some other dog owners, but I can certainly find things she is eager to work for, such as bacon. You don’t need to jump to bacon if your dog will take treats but the point is there will be a point where your dog is hungry enough, and the reward is good enough to strike his fancy.

I am a treat trainer who has used to treats to train dogs to sit, down, stand, look, stay, come, leave it, drop it, take it, find it, heel, speak, quiet, hand target, retrieve, give paw, high five, roll over, play dead, on your side, stick ‘em up, bow, crawl, ride a skateboard, put his head in a person’s lap, walk with a wheelchair, alert a deaf owner to doorbells, and other alarms, signal a visually impaired person to safety, stay home alone comfortably, get used to his crate, not bark at the doorbell, walk nicely on leash, not be shy or anxious about strangers, to get along with other animals such as cats, to adjust to a new baby, or get used to a wobbly and unpredictable toddler, not to chase squirrels, or bark at traffic, and even counter act aggression against people, children and other animals.

I am a treat trainer and nothing will ever change my mind about that!

Teaching Your Dog a Reliable Recall

Teaching Your Dog a Reliable RecallWhat does recall mean when it pertains to dog training? Don’t worry, you don’t have to send your dog back to the factory! Recall is the fancy word dog trainers use to explain the behavior of coming when called.

Teaching your dog to come when called is very important, in fact it could be the most important cue you teach your dog. This cue could save your dog’s life, end a possible dog fight and especially bring you peace of mind when you are in an appropriate place to have your dog off leash.

How do you teach your dog to come when you call him? Remember CPR Cue, Praise, Reward; as this is always the best way to teach your dog a new cue. Choose the cue you want to use for your recall. If you aren’t sure check out our Five Rules to a Reliable Recall. I like to start indoors, with little distraction and I usually keep the dog on a 6 foot leach. Put the loop of the leash onto your wrist, or belt, and have some very tasty treats in your pocket or treat pouch close by, but not in your hands. Once you are set up this way you are ready for the warm up.

For the warm up start by getting your dog interested in you. Do this by doing some of his favorite things, be careful not to do things you love to do to your dog, these are fine for affection time, but not for our recall. You can test this out by petting and scratching your dog in different places and just see if he tends to move away from you or closer, for the areas he moves closer, these are his favorites! Once your dog is very interested in you, back up a few steps, about the length of the leash, say your recall word, only once, and if your dog is happily following along praise, and then reward with a tasty treat. If your dog doesn’t come along with you, try to stay low and make some movement such as tapping the ground. The warm up should almost seem silly because it should be that easy for your dog to get right! Do several of these short easy recalls so your dog can warm up his recall. Use your warm up anytime you are in a new environment, to ensure a
reliable recall.

Once you are getting it, you can add some distance. At this point you may want to use a fixed length long leash, 15-30 feet. These leashes are great for teaching a dog his recall, but use caution as they can be thin, you may want to consider wearing gloves when using one, or even buying a horse lunge line to use because these tend to be thicker, but are the right length. Don’t use your “stay” cue to try and increase distance, because if we ask our dog to stay and walk away and call him to come we are weakening our stay cue. Instead drop some treats on the floor, or practice with two people so one can help distract. Call your dog to come to you by saying your recall word only once and then encouraging your pup to come with fun noises, or tapping on the floor. A dog’s vision is attracted to motion so this will help, but try to make sure the movement is nice and low, don’t just clap your hands at full height because it will likely be out of the dog’s vision range.

Don’t ever chase your dog; let him learn to chase you. As you increase the distance for your recall, if your dog is dawdling to come over to you, run away a few feet, but be excited and make it a game so your dog speeds up to chase you and finishes his recall.

The final key to a great recall is to be sure you praise as soon as your dog even starts to get this right. Your praise should be very powerful to your dog at this point, especially if you have been training using CPR, because your praise is always followed by rewards. Try to think of practicing recalls like a game of hot and cold. If your dog isn’t facing you and sniffing the ground away from you: COLD, if your dog even looks your way, WARMER, so give him a little praise, as soon as he looks your way tell him “Good Boy” and see if he continues to come your way, if he does it means he is getting warmer and warmer so up your praise along with what he is doing. If at any point he veers off path, then stop praising, but as soon as he starts to get it right again praise again, and as soon as he gets to you, HOT! Shower him with rewards.

Finally don’t forget that part of your recall will usually include clipping on a leash or putting on a collar, so practice grabbing the leash and collar and clipping them on and off along with your training. This way your dog won’t come to you, but then run away when you try to put the leash on. It is always best to end with the treat, so clip on the leash and then give your dog a treat. This is the idea of the good follows the bad, if the leash is the bad because it is ending the fun, follow it with some tasty chicken and it won’t be so bad! Practice your recall every single day, and try practicing in different places adding distance and distractions. You only need to practice for five minutes, we all have a spare five minutes, and it could save your dog’s life so it will be the best five minutes you have ever spent!