Monday, January 10, 2011

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Monday, July 26, 2010

Lightening Storms and your Dog

Does your dog act like it is the end of the world whenever a storm hits? Does he or she cower, run and hide at every clap of thunder? Fortunately, there are ways to minimize this behavior and cast away your dog's fear.


1 During a thunderstorm, do not console your frightened dog. Do not cuddle and be their protector. If you do this, how do you think the dog will cope when you are not there? If you hug your dog each time that he runs to you during the thunder, and say, "It's okay, it's okay...", your dog will assume that you are available to do this whenever the dog comes looking for protection. If you act like he needs protection, he's going to assume he needs it. Additionally, your dog might think that you are praising it for being afraid. If it learns that cowering in the corner during bad weather yields hugs and kisses, it will form the habit of doing that every storm.

2 Train your dog to chase away the thunder and lightning. During a thunderstorm, get your dog's attention by saying in an excited voice, "What is that?" a few times. Then command him/her to "Get it!". The "Get it" can be done by barking at the vile noise. This gives them power over their fear. Guess what? The lightning/thunder stops after a few seconds. Your dog has saved the day by making it stop! Verbally reward your dog, thanking them for stopping the thunder and lightning!

Limit the amount of time the dog spends chasing the thunder. After three laps, for example, the thunder will have subsided and you can say, "Good !! Okay, come on. It's all gone!" Lots of love and hugs for his astounding job of protecting both of us! If he tries to continue after three laps, though, gently but firmly, reprimand him, "That's enough. It is all gone. Come!". Don't replace one obsession with another.

Train the dog so she is able to do this inside, in case there is a concern about lightning striking, or if the dog is home alone when a storm comes.

3 Desensitize the dog. There are CDs that you can purchase which make the noises of a thunderstorm. Play them at various times of day, starting with the volume very low. Make it louder and louder until the dog is used to it. This will only partially desensitize the dog, since there are also electrical disturbances in a storm that can't be mimicked by a CD.

4 Use dryer sheets. It sounds weird, but many dogs dislike lightning because it causes static in their fur. Rubbing your dog down with a dryer sheet will help make the uncomfortable sensations go away, and maybe even send him back to sleep! (But see Warnings, below)


If the dog's anxiety level is so high that it destroys the house trying to find refuge from the storm, or it spreads anxiety to other dogs in the house, ask a veterinarian about having a sedative on hand to deal with this

If your dog is very young and is experiencing thunderstorms for the first time, you will have a much easier time to keep him from being frightened. Simply act around him like there's nothing going on. If the dog see's his/her owner acting like usual, the dog is going to assume everything is fine, and will act according to that. This also works for dogs that are afraid of fireworks.


Do NOT let the dog chew dryer sheets as he/she can get VERY sick!

Be careful when playing rough games, especially indoors. If a loud clap of thunder booms, the dog may get scared and bump into something or try to bite.

Sedated dogs may have a difficult time traversing stairways, so be careful! Carry your dog if at all possible, or walk lower on the stairs relative to them, to stop them if they slip and fall.

Don't scold your dog for showing fear during a storm. That only gives your dog another reason to be afraid.

Our thanks to WikiHow

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Second Service Dog Class

Several weeks ago we welcomed two new dogs into our *active* Service Dog training program. Jade is a Giant Schnauzer and Lexi is a Springer Spaniel. Jade is being trained as a Physical Assistant dog and Lexi is working to become an Emotional Assistant. Both are doing well for their prospective *jobs*.

Jade learns fast and is very eager to do her job. She is assisting her owner in a variety of ways already. She has learned to help her off with her clothes, open wheelchair access doors, retrieve a variety of items as instructed pick up things that her owner drops and hand them back to her, and to *go get______* when her owner needs help. She will go to that person, paw them and then lead them back to where ever her owner is at. She is in the process of learning to drop items into a basket or throw things into the trash.

Lexi has a little more trouble staying focused to her task, but she too is learning to open wheelchair access doors, *give hugs*, pick up items that have been dropped, and generally stay at her owners side, lending comfort and support when needed. She is working on bringing items back as directed (medicine bottles etc).

We have been working at various stores, Castleton Mall, and an ever changing array of eating establishments. Both Lexi and Lade are doing extremely well in the LEAVE IT department. Two weeks ago we were working at the food court in Castleton Mall where I pushed the envelope on their LEAVE IT training. To start with the owners were to go get in line (a line of their choosing), order food and or drink and pay for it. Their dogs needed to remain in a polite sit position at the owners side. When they received their orders they were to go sit down with their dogs under their tables out of the way. The dogs were not to bother any other patrons, nor disturb their owners in any way. The dogs all did really well with this so I *upped* the stakes again.

I bought a plain hot dog and had them cut it into pieces. I put them in the card board *boat* and placed it on the floor between the two tables/dogs. Neither bothered it or broke their position under the tables. Seeing this we upped it a little bit more. I took the hot dog pieces and scattered them in a line on the floor. I then had each owner/dog team practice the conscious decision leave it while walking their dogs past the food. Since they did well with this exercise we tested them further. I had the owner put their dog on a sit stay on one end of the line of food and then they moved down to the other end. We stationed helpers along the line just in case one of the dogs made a break for the food. After leaving them to sit/stay for 30 seconds or so, the owners then called their dogs to COME. Jade went first in this exercise and never bothered with the food or tried to run beyond her owner. EXCELLANT JOB JADE!

Next was Lexi's turn, she too did well though she made one try for the food with the second hot dog piece she went past. Our helper grabbed the food back from her as her owner corrected her. We then tried again, each dog/team running through this exercise several times. Each time after Lexi's first mistake was a good run for her as well. GOOD JOB LEXI!

All in all both of these teams are doing very well and have progressed nicely in their training. We have three more classes to go through before we test off for their first level. In tonight's class we will be at the local hospital working our dogs in the elevators, hallways and the lobby. I have high hopes for them both! After this class completes we will be welcoming one or two more into our program. Keep looking for us!

And please remember, the dogs are in training and are not to be petted while working! We all thank you for your co operation.

Service Dog Trainer

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Furthering the training with our Service Dogs

Our two current Service Dog in training puppies have completed their second round of obedience training and are doing VERY well. They both passed their Canine Good Citizen tests and have ordered their Service Dog vest and badges. Both Jade and Lexi are off to be spayed now, but when they have healed and are ready to rejoin us, we will be out hitting the stores malls and restaurants with them, furthering their training. When we work together you will be once again seeing Lugnut, Sophie 1 and Sophie 2 leading the way, with Lexi and Jade working hard to catch up to their skill levels. Soon we will also have Jake, an American Pit Bull joining us, along wth Aster the Airedale. Both Jake and Aster have a long way to go though, as they are  involved in just their first training class.

Most often you will see our class working at the Castleton mall on Thursday evenings, but during the week the owners train and practice with their dogs all over town. Please keep in mind when you see us out and about working (either as a group or individually) that these are Service Dogs in training. When you see their vests you will know who we are!

This means; please try not to disturb them and please DO NOT PET! They are working hard to learn how to be model canine workers in a busy environment. Their ultimate goals are in being able to help their owners in whatever Service Dog tasks they are needed for. They do need to learn to concentrate and not go seeking attention from others. This is hard to teach our dogs when we have others coming up and petting without thinking.

We all know how hard it can be for true dog lovers to pass them by, if you ask ahead and not just reach out to pet, many times we will give the dogs permission to be petted. Then it is ok, but please try not to just reach out to them first. Give us a chance to give the dogs the release for it first. We thank you for your co-operation in this!

Monday, March 1, 2010

Seperation Anxiety

As a trainer, one of the most common issues I am asked by owners is how to deal with Seperation Anxiety. I hear of dogs doing everything from whining and barking the entire time the owner is gone, to eating electronics, baseboards and walls.
The first thing you need to keep in mind in dealing with this is that it is NOT your pets fault! It is all part of a panic response and they just can't help their reactions. For that reason alone, punishment will simply never work.

Seperation Anxiety can be caused by several things but the most common are: when a dog is used to constant human companionship are suddenly left alone, when a change in the routine or family structure occurs, or a traumatic event. Identifying the root cause for your pets Anxiety will help to determine the best course of action in helping them learn being alone is Ok.
Short term solutions would be placing your pet with a neighbor or family member, or if your pet likes to play with other dogs, enroll them in a Doggie Daycamp program. Another temporary measure is putting them on an anti-anxiety medication. Talk to your Veterinarian about this!
Working your pet through their anxieties in being left alone is not a short quick fix. It does take time but if you are willing to invest in that time and effort you will both be a lot happier and more relaxed!

If your pets anxiety is on the more mild side you can try leaving a t-shirt or small towel with the pet, that has the owners scent on it. Sometimes this is enough for your pet to be happy with until you return. Leaving a radio on for background noise can work in some of the more milder cases as well. I have even recommended to clients that if you have a dog that does pay at least some attention to the TV, video tape yourself in your normal home routine for a good 8 hour play time. Then when you leave put this to play on the TV your pet will be near. Sometimes the sound of our voices, being able to see our images on the screen can be a calming influence on our pets, even in our absense!

You can also work on their anxieties by utilizing the sit-stay and down-stay, with positive reinforcement. This will slowly reinforce to your pet that he or she can remain calm in one place while you are out of sight. You will want to use this command, then briefly move out of your dogs line of sight, gradually increasing the amount of time you remain out of sight, and the distance between you and your pet. On your return use positive reinforcement by praising him quietly or giving him a small treat. You can practice on this one each time you leave to go to a different room.
One of the most important things is to keep your arrivals and departures low key. Don't make leaving or coming home a big deal. When you return, try to ignore your pet for 5 minutes. When that time has passed greet him quietly for a brief time, then go about your normal routine. Build on a key phrase for short absenses, like *be right back*. You can offer them a favorite chew toy before leaving. Then stay out only for a few seconds, building up to several minutes. Don't use this when you know you will be gone for an extended period of time.

You can also practice leaving to slowly build your pet up to a true departure. Do this by putting on your coat, getting your car keys and then just go sit down. Wait for a few minutes then take the coat off and go about your business. You do this without any real intention of ever leaving! Do this a few times a day and as your pet becomes more and more relaxed with it you can extend the amount of time you leave your coat on or hold your keys in your hand. From here you can actually work on going to the door, opening it and stepping through, closing the door behind you. In the beginning stay out only for a few seconds before returning inside with your pet. When you do go back in, ignore them for the 5 minutes rule. Work on this, gradually increasing the length of time you stay outside the door until your pet is more comfortable with you being gone. Your goal should be to leave your pet for one hour without coming home to any issues.

This does all take time to work on, but the end result is a much happer, more *sane* pet when you are gone. This leads the owners to a peace of mind as well. It's not a quick fix but it is one that, once you've succeeded, will last a life time. As they say, any thing good takes time!

If you try these things and find it still doesn't help or if your pet has a really severe case of seperation anxiety, please contact your local Best Friend's and ask to speak to their trainer. Don't wait until they eat your house out from under you. They are not made of gingerbread!

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Service Dog puppies

Thursday night (Feb 18, 2010) we started a new puppy class. This isn't just one of our usual Puppy Kindergarten classes. There are only two puppies in this class. Both of them were in a past Puppy K class and did well. They are back now in another class, working toward becoming a Service Dog for their owners. We have a LOT of work to do and a long road to travel still. I hope you will stick with us for this ride, to watch how they grow and develop into full fledged working Service Dogs. I will update on them from time to time, keeping up with their progress. All the ups and the downs. And there WILL be some downs to work through before they complete their training in a year or two!
First we have Jade. She is a 6 month old Giant Schnauzer. Jade is doing very well with her obedience work, her focus on her owner/trainer has improved a lot since the last class, showing mom and dads determination to work with her and have her do well. Jades mom has some mobility issues that she needs a large breed dog (like Jade) to assist her with in her daily life.
We also have Lexi. Lexi is a 5 month old Springer Spaniel. Lexi's mom is a retired Veteran from our Armed Services and has specific needs she wants and needs Lexi to help her with.
Lexi has slipped back a little in her training, but she's still a youngster and some times this happens. Mom is ready to step up and do some good hard work with Lexi to get her to where she needs to be. Lexi's biggest issue right now is her focus. She is still pretty easily distracted but with some good honest work over the next several months, this is an issue we will conquer together!

Stay tuned for progress on our Service Puppies!

Friday, February 19, 2010

Dog Scout Testing day!

We held our monthly Dog Scout meeting on Saturday Feb 13, 2010. After the business portion of our meeting concluded, we started testing several dogs for different badges. The first badge we worked on was for Basic Manners.

To earn their Basic Manners badge the Scouts need to pass certain tests. Heeling with us as they follow (and TOUCH) our hand is one. In this they need to walk several steps at our side and make a full turn, following the direction of our hand and touching when told to. They also need to be able to *go to bed* when told. Which means they have their own blanket, rug etc and when the owner gives them the command to go to bed (from at least 10 feet away) they must go right to their blanket and lay down on it. We are only allowed to give them one cue to do this! It's NOT as easy as it sounds either! Here Bailey is doing his best to impress Gayle!

The dogs also have to walk up to a *stranger* when given permission to go *say hi* and then they are to sit and wait quietly while being petted.  Sophie is doing her best to pass this one!
The dogs aren't the only ones who have top pass a test. Each owner must demonstrate that we know and understand the use of *Operant Conditioning* with our dogs (using a *reward marker* in their training). An oral test is then given to each of the owenrs, and we too must pass our portion of the exam for the dog to quallify for their badge! Dog Scouts is a team effort!
One of the more difficult tests for the dogs to pass is waiting inside a door when the owner walks out. By command they are to sit and wait in place until the owner calls them through the open door with them and they the dog is to get back into a controlled position. Sara and Saba are showing their expertise in this step.
They also need to stand and wait while someone else runs a hand down over their back etc. The dog needs to hold their stand position. A down command using one command is also a must, as well as from the down position the dog needs to be able to move when given the command so that they get up out of our way as we walk in a direct line to where they are laying down. We also have to show our dogs will get down off of a person or an object when told too.
We are proud to announce the Scouts who passed their Basic Manners Saturday!
Please congratulate Sophie Dudley, Bailey Burger, Lugnut Day, and  Saba Barefoot.

We also tested for our First Aid Badges Saturday. A big Thank You WOOF to Gayle Sprinkle who taught the First Aid class to the rest of us and tested owners/dogs for their badges. All owners had to demonstrate on their own dogs, how to take a pusle and count respirations and take the temperature of each of our dogs (giving Gayle their correct numbers). We also had to apply an emergency muzzle and a regular *hard* muzzle on our own dogs. The dogs then had to show they could walk several steps and sit with the muzzle on. We had to show capillary refill and the mucus condition of our own pets. Along with all of this we also had to decide on an *injury* to our pet and bandage accordingly, and then show two methods of emergency transport on our pets. Lugnut being the biggest of the bunch was the most difficult to move but Gayle and I persevered and moved him, albeit not very far! Here Sophie is practicing being the *injured* pet.

Following are the hard working Scouts who each passed their First Aid badge as well.

We have Sophie, Halle, Bailey, Lugnut, Noche, Saba and Jacque as our newest First Aid badge Scouts

Below are all of our Scouts who are now First Aid Scouts.

Charlie, Halle, Bailey, Sophie, Lugnut, Noche, Saba, Oslo, Ted and Jacques

Congratulations to all of our hard working Scouts!