gowalkeaze


Collars, Leashes & Harness – Part II in a series

Collars, Leashes & Harness – Part II in a series.



Collars, Leashes & Harness – Part II in a series

The first piece of this puzzle that we should tackle is the easy part – puppies! Many people are anxious to run out and get a collar and leash for their new puppy before they bring it home. They don’t want their new baby to run away, and they are sure that they need it for training. Well, you can save yourself some money! A puppy is a clean slate – he hasn’t learned any bad habits, no poor training to overcome, he is just eager to do what you ask.

The first thing to remember about puppies is that they love to play! They also learn through play, much like children do. Rather than put a heavy leash and collar on your pup and try to force them to “do your bidding”, I have a better idea. Don’t put a collar on your puppy. Instead, when you want to go for a walk, use a slip lead and a fun toy.

20121024-225920.jpg

A slip lead, sometimes called a kennel lead, is an inexpensive, lightweight leash, that you can easily roll up and put in your pocket. No collar is needed, you just “slip” it over your puppy’s head. Keep the toy on your left side, and every time your new friend looks at you, praise her, then play for a few seconds and continue on your way. As your pup looks at you more frequently, praise, but don’t play every time. This will happen over time, so relax and remember to enjoy your time with your new friend! Once she learns that you are so much fun, she will pay more and more attention, and stay closer by your side.

20121024-230859.jpg Pretty soon, you can add the command “Heel”, or whatever you choose to tell your dog, “Walk next to me, and pay attention”. Remember to play as reinforcement sometimes, even when your puppy has this down pat. In fact, play as reinforcement even when your new puppy has grown into a 12 year old dog! Dogs love to play! Besides, it keeps us humans from taking ourselves too seriously!

Next time, we’ll talk about what to do with a dog that has learned to pull.
See you soon!



Collars, Leashes & Harnesses Part I in a Series

I haven’t written in quite awhile. It’s been a very busy late Summer and early Fall for my family. I’ve wanted to write about collars, leashes, and harnesses for a long time, but haven’t been able to decide on the best way to tackle the subject. Then it finally dawned on me, it’s not one subject, it’s not even three subjects – it’s somewhere between six to ten, or more. I’ll try to outline where I’m going with this, and you can jump in or out of the conversation wherever it works for you.

This article is not a defense of my “favorite” item. Think of collars, leashes and harnesses as tools. They help you to get a job done. Choosing the correct tool is a personal decision that varies for each dog/person team. Each person in the house may need different equipment for the same dog!

Your dog’s age and your level of training are both very important. It’s always easiest to teach a brand new puppy. While it is possible to teach an old dog new tricks, it takes much longer, requires more skill & patience, and is generally more difficult. But NOT impossible! Is this your first dog? Or have you owned (and trained) many dogs over the years?

We also need to discuss what you want out of your relationship with your dog. Are you looking for titles in Obedience, are you satisfied if your dog doesn’t pull you on your face when you go for a walk, or do you want something in between?

What about strength and size? This refers to both you and your pooch. A 67 year old woman with arthritis in her shoulders walking a 100lb untrained rescue dog that she just brought home will require far different equipment than a healthy, 25 year old, man walking a 5lb puppy that he just brought home.

Take a couple of days, think about it…
I’ll be back to talk about collars.



How to Choose a Dog Breeder

Rosie and I have been going to Obedience training at the breeder where I bought her. It’s EZ Brook Kennel in Nottingham, PA, USA, owned and run by Susie Zeiner. This is the type of breeder you should be looking for, Susie stays very involved in her dog’s lives beginning to end, and has a clause in her contract that she can repossess a dog if it is not being treated/cared for properly. She has done that a couple of times in the short time that I’ve known her – she really cares.

We took Teresa and Fiona the Border Collie along for some lessons. If you don’t know already, you should know, that the term “Dog Training” is a misnomer. It really is the humans that are being trained. If we aren’t trained properly, we let the dogs get away with whatever bad behaviors they want, or we are too strict or anxious and cause bad behaviors in our dogs. We should all have to do the same kind of training before we have children! ūüôā

The weather was horrid on our second trip. Probably over 100 degrees with high humidity and not a cloud in the sky. We were all trying to stay under the shade and work our dogs. Not Susie! She was determined that each person/dog team got the individual attention and work that they needed. This was a very mixed group, there were a couple of 12 week old puppies, a few dogs that were older but still under a year, then some adults and a couple of dogs that had just whelped litters and were still with Susie. The people were a mixed bag too. Some of us have always had dogs, but want to learn other ways of teaching our new dogs, some had never had a dog ever, and needed to learn everything from the beginning, others were somewhere in between. What impresses me so much, is that Susie knows every single dog’s individual personality, what they and their owner need to work on to progress, and how to explain to a human exactly what the dog is understanding every time we interact with them. We learn more from her in an hour than I’ve learned in entire 6 or 8 week programs at other places.

This is what makes EZ Brook a truly unique place though – Susie keeps tabs on all of her dogs to the best of her ability, and is always willing and eager to answer any questions that she can about training, health, general care, anything that will make the human-dog bond better. There is a Facebook site for all of the owners to talk and share pictures of our “babies”. Every new one is welcomed as wholeheartedly as the long-timers. Everyone shares successes, heartbreaks and tips, and everyone is entitled to say their piece. Not only does this help us as owners to know that we have support, but Susie knows how her dogs are doing once they go out into the world. She also holds “Puppy Play Day” once or twice a year, all the dogs are welcome to come and see each other, and we owners can finally meet face to face. The last one that was held this spring had 37 GSDs playing in ine huge fenced yard, off-leash, no fights or aggression. It was amazing – here are some photos…

20120722-162522.jpg

20120722-162550.jpg

20120722-162644.jpg

I’m not saying that everyone has to go buy a GSD! Get the right dog for you and your family. The point that I am trying to make is to find a breeder who will be your partner and helper in raising your dog(s). Take the time to do the research. Look up the AKC or UKC registered breeders, call and talk to them a bit. You will quickly get a feel for whether they are involved for the long haul or not.

You will also come across some interesting people! In our search for a good breeder, we found a woman whose female had a litter. When we got to the house, the puppies were in the open yard unattended, they had fleas and were listless. The stud dog’s owner had passed away, and they couldn’t find the papers, so the litter couldn’t be registered. We said no thank you to her. I also talked to a man on the phone that had so many puppies, that he was keeping them at friends’ houses and in a neighbor’s barn. He wasn’t even sure how many he had. We told him no thank you also.

When we met Susie, I knew we were in the right place. She has quite a few dogs, they live happily together in the basement and play in her 2 acre yard. When strangers come to the house, the adult dogs come calmly to the door and greet everyone nicely. If you walked in there blindfolded, you wouldn’t even know the dogs were there. It smells like bleach, not like dog, and Susie is adamant about cleaning up after the puppies right away when they go in the house. That really worked in our favor, Rosie never had an accident in the house. When anyone has a question about their dog’s health or behavior, she encourages them to contact her so that she can either answer, or point the owner in the right direction to get help.

Good luck in your search for your new best friend! If you have any questions that you think I can answer, don’t hesitate to get in touch. My email is cbyron@GoWalkEaze.com, if I don’t know the answer, I will at least point you in a direction where you can find the answer you need.



Collars, Leashes & Harnesses, Part III in a Series or How To Stop Your Dog From Pulling on the Leash

The point of this blog and my webstore is to educate you about how to make spending time with your dog more enjoyable so that you can get out with them and enjoy life! I don’t want you to go for a walk, then come home and be sore for two days, and think “Ugh, that was horrible, not worth it, I’m never going out again with that dog!” People and dogs both need exercise!

Even though it sometimes seems impossible, you can get your dog to stop pulling when you walk. As with all things “dog”, the younger they are when you teach them, the faster they learn it. But it is possible to teach old dogs new tricks.¬†(Hmmm, maybe I’ll start a 2nd blog about how to train from when you first bring a puppy home…What do you think?)

I had neck surgery and carpal tunnel surgery this past winter (11/2011 & 2/2012), this picture was taken in May 2012. Am I crazy walking 90lb Ranger and 65lb Rosie together on a leash with a coupler? Maybe – but I knew that they wouldn’t pull me, and yes I cheated with a pinch collar just in case. But they didn’t pull, so they never got pinched! Now that I’m more confident in my own rebuilt strength, I walk both of them without the pinch.

Image

I know that pinch collars are a touchy, controversial subject in the dog training world. It’s not my job to judge what people do to control their dogs. I am trying to help people to understand how dogs think, how to let your dog be a partner in your healing, and to find some methods to let you work with your dog without giving you undue pain.¬†So my perspective is this… Yes, pinch collars are meant to be a training tool and the dog should be weaned off of them as quickly as possible. Some dogs are gentle souls and never need them, others never seem to understand the whole leash concept. I’ve owned dogs on both ends of the spectrum. The other factor that comes into play is the strength and physical capabilities of the dog owner vs the strength and training of the dog. I had 2 German Shepherds that I bought when I was fully capable of handling them. When they were 1yr and 1 1/2 yr old is when I had my surgeries that were completely unexpected. They weren’t fully trained yet. Should I have given them back, or found tools to help me keep them? Believe me when I tell you that if you feel that you always need a pinch collar, I won’t judge you, sometimes it is the best choice!

So here is the “trick” to teaching your dog to stop pulling on the leash.¬†Choose a leash that is comfortable in your hands, and feels good when you hold it.¬†(That will be the subject of an upcoming blog when I’m done taking all of the educational pictures!) This is especially important if you have arthritis in your hands like I do.

Know your dog and what makes them respond. Are they thrilled just to hear you say “Good Job!”, or do they need a treat, or a chance to bite on their favorite toy? Whatever it is that works for you & your best friend, take it along when you go out, also bring a lot of patience.

The first part of this has nothing to do with walking. It’s all about developing attention.Your dog must know that he needs to always know where you are and what you are doing. He needs to understand that no matter what other exciting things are out there in the world, you are the bearer of the best things, and that he should stick with you. This exercise you can do from a park bench. If you are not strong enough (yet!) to hold your dog for a long period of time, tie the leash to the bench. Keep an eye on your dog, (you remembered your treat, toy or kind words – right?), every time he looks at you say. “Good Look!” or “Good Watch!”, treat him and then let him go back to watching the people or squirrels, or whatever is fascinating to him. Pretty soon, (it may take a few trips to the park, but what is so bad about that?) he will learn to look at you every so often, just to check in. When that is solid you can move to the next step, the actual walking part.

When you first try ¬†to get your dog to walk without pulling, if at all possible, go to a place, or at a time when things are fairly calm, and your dog won’t be too distracted. This is just an extension of the exercise above, so fewer distractions means that you get more attention. You have to be sneaky and fake your dog out, they’re smart!

When you walk your dog, watch them very carefully. When they get almost to the end of the line, but before they start to pull – STOP in your tracks. Your dog will get a little tug. They may: 1. walk back over to you, 2. look at you in surprise, or 3.¬†try to pull you. Any reaction is ok. If you get the 1st reaction, it will be fairly easy to teach your dog to stop pulling on the leash. Tell him how good he is and reward him, then start to walk again. Repeat, over and over! If you get the 2nd response, call her over to you, tell her she’s a good dog, reward her and start to walk again. Repeat over and over! If you get the 3rd reaction, your life will be a bit more difficult, but there is hope! It’s all up to you, and you can do it! DO NOT let your dog pull you forward. If you are not strong enough to do this, try to find someone to help you. They hold they leash, you get to give the rewards! Eventually your dog will look back to you. Tell her “Good Look!”, reward her and when there is no tension on the leash walk again. Repeat over and over… (Reminds me of the awful joke from 3rd or 4th grade: Pete & Repeat are on a boat, Pete jumps out. Who is left? Repeat. Pete & Repeat are on a boat, Pete jumps out, who is left…?) Keep the first few tries at this short, or you will both get tired and frustrated – keep it fun and upbeat.

If you are feeling really good, or are fortunate enough to have recovered from whatever illness slowed you down, or have a friend or family member to help, there is another more difficult exercise that also reinforces this. Take a very thin leash and put some rocks, pylons or other markers in a straight row, about 2 feet apart. Keep the dog close, and move very quickly around the obstacles. You can also just walk in a random fashion, changing directions quickly. The idea is that the dog has to stay with you and pay attention to you in order to move forward. This is difficult and can be tiring at first. Don’t try it if you’re not up to it. It’s like putting the extra trim on a nice car. It looks good, and finishes things off, but not completely necessary if you can’t afford it.

Eventually your dog will understand that pulling means stopping, being near you on a loose leash means being allowed to walk. As the two of you turn this into a more solid behavior, try walking in busier places or at busier times of day. Eventually it will gel, and both you and your dog will be happier!¬†More walks = more exercise = ¬†a healthier you¬†+ a¬†calmer dog in the house¬†– it’s all good! Patience and consistency are the keys – you can learn them. If I did, anyone can! Sometimes it’s easy, others it is not, but the time and effort are always worth it.

Go have fun – enjoy your dog!



More Indoor Training

I know I promised to give you some fun ways to train your dogs. Rosie used to get very bored doing the same routine at home she had already mastered in class. Also, in the first 6 months after my neck and wrist surgeries, I wasn’t quite up to really “making her do it the first time I asked…” ¬†So, yeah, I had to be a bit creative.

As I’ve said before, Rosie is very bright, and tends to anticipate what I am going to ask her for. She learns the set up instead of, or in addition to, the command.¬†She is very attached to me, so in class we never had trouble getting her to Recall in general, but would have lost points for jumping the gun, and positioning. Watch your own dog, when you put them in the stay position, are they relaxed and waiting for you to tell them what to do next, or more like Rosie, staying, but every muscle tensed and ready to spring into action? If they are ¬†relaxed, you’re golden. Even if they don’t “come” when called, you can teach them the Recall using a long leash and their favorite treat. I would put Rosie in a Sit-Stay or Down-Stay, turn and walk about 20 ft away. She would be there just waiting for me to call her back. Her hind legs were quivering in anticipation of the command to come and be with me, sometimes she couldn’t contain herself and she would come to me before I even asked. ¬†Then she would get to me, and instead of sitting nicely in front of me, she was so excited, that she would run around me, or jump up to kiss me!¬†It’s nice to be so loved, but not really what we’re working toward!

Ready to GO!

See how her weight is forward, her ears are perked, both hind legs are under her and she’s staring at me? Not how I want her in a long stay situation.

So I had to learn to mix it up a bit. Really, it was when ¬†I was recovering and trying different methods to get results that she made the most progress. ¬†So the first thing that I had to do was teach her to “relax” or “settle” before I walked away from her. That was pretty easy; I started with down-stay, because it is a more comfortable position for a dog than sit. I ¬†would tell her “down”-“stay”, then “settle”. As I told her to settle, I would put my hands on her shoulders and hips and kind of push/massage so that she would relax a little bit. When I saw that she was in a comfortable lying position, I would walk just a few steps away so that she didn’t get so anxious. If she stayed calm, I told her “good stay” and would take a few more steps. I kept repeating this until I could see that she was getting uncomfortable, anxious or distracted by something else, if that happened, Iwould tell her “good stay” and take a step or two closer. If she was too distracted or anxious, I would call her to me right away. Better to have a successful short stay than a “broken” long one.¬†Set your dog up to succeed! It took us a couple of weeks to get to the point where she was OK with me being 20-30 ft away and not looking like a race horse at the gate.

Notice the difference? She is smiling, her tail is flat on the floor, her hind leg is out.

Once we had that part solid, we moved on to getting her to sit in front of me when she came. (To be honest, we’re pretty good at this inside, but outside, we are still working on it.) All you need to do this inside is a hallway or a few chairs that you can set up to create a “lane” where the dog can’t get around you + your delicious stinky treats, or toy whichever gets your dog more motivated. Can’t get much cheaper than that for training equipment! Put the dog in a down-stay on one side of the room, then walk into the hallway or lane of chairs. Make sure they are relaxed, if they are not, bring them closer. Wait as long as the dog seems comfortable, but not more than a minute at this point, then call them. You can use whatever command you want, there are several, the point is that to the dog it should mean, “Get your butt over here now!” As your dog approaches you, make sure that you stand up very straight, fingers together holding the treat, elbows out a little to the side, these are the visual cues that your pup needs to understand that you want them to sit when they get to you, and not run around like it’s a party because they found you! When they get to you, tell them “Good Come…Sit” then give them the treat. Eventually, they will learn that “Come!” really means “Come,!sit in front of me!” We’re working on an outdoor version of this now using a soccer(football) goal or a Lacrosse goal. I’ll let you know how that works out! Once they get all of this solid, ¬†start introducing distractions, like a cat, or walk around, don’t stand still, or have another person walk through the room. But take it slow, set them up for success, because every time they (you) get it wrong, you have to redo it 4-5 times correctly so that they will learn.

Let me know how it works out for you. Remember to have fun!



Patience is a Virtue
June 7, 2012, 2:19 AM
Filed under: Obedience, Training | Tags: ,

My mother always tells me that she should have named me Patience so I would have some…
Well, after lots and lots of training, Pat & I (or should I say Ranger and Rosie?) both reached new milestones tonight. We were about 1/4 mile apart across the pond, both working on off- leash obedience. Pat has been worried that Ranger has no drive b/c he is so mellow. Rosie on the other hand (paw), has extra… I had her in a sit-stay, while I meandered around. All of a sudden, I saw her look right. I turned and there was a deer running across the field, but she stayed!

A few minutes later she was in a down-stay, she looked right again and the same deer was sprinting back across the field. She stayed again! I walked back over to her, reattached the leash, and saw her little paws were dug into the mud! She really wanted to go! I told her to sit, then released her. She must be growing up – I’m so proud of her!

Ranger on the other hand, when he saw the deer he was playing with Pat. He turned and looked at Pat to ask permission to chase it. Pat said go ahead, and Ranger almost caught it. Don’t know what we would have done if he did…but at least he is showing some drive!

20120606-221650.jpg

20120606-221724.jpg




%d bloggers like this: