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How do I Get my Dog to…

Have you ever wondered just what us professional trainers are doing that gets dogs to listen, cooperate, and have excellent doggy manners? This article is all about answering the most common canine questions we receive with simple yet powerful dog training solutions.

How do I Get my Dog to Stop Jumping up on People?

There’s a saying I love to share with people who are working on their dog’s polite greeting skills and this is, ”you get what you pet.” If you pay attention to your dog when they are super excited, then you are training them that being excitable is a great way to get what they want. And an excited dog is 1000 times more likely to jump, bark, and even nip when greeting. Rather than just focusing on what your dog’s body is doing (jumping up,) the best training helps your dog get into the right mental state so they are prepared to make good choices. If you want your dog to stop jumping up, ignore them until they are calm and reward them with CALM attention, praise, or treats when they make good choices.

How do I Get my Dog to Come When I Call?

It’s always important to consider your dog’s point of view. If come= giving up a wrapper they pulled out of the trash can, leaving the park, or having to do something they just don’t like, it’s going to be a real struggle to convince your dog to follow the command. But what if 90% of the time come means getting to go for a walk, eat a meal, play fetch, or do something else your dog loves? If your dog believes come = amazing stuff, they’ll consistently return to you when you ask. Try spending the next 2 weeks giving your dog their favorite rewards when they respond to the come command and you’ll be amazed at how quickly almost every dog will come racing over to you.

How do I Get my Dog to Stop Pulling on Leash?

Pulling on leash may sound like a simple problem to solve, but in reality, this skill often requires a good amount of practice for many dogs. It’s an exciting world out there and most dog’s natural pace is faster than our human preferred speed of walking. So what can you do to teach your dog not to drag you around on leash?

  1. Practice leash walking where it’s easy like inside the house and yard. It’s too distracting for many dogs to try and learn leash manners when they are out and about in the world. By giving your dog the opportunity to practice in a quiet and easy environment, they can develop positive leash habits.
  2. Reward when the leash is loose. Carry around some treats and use both praise and food as a reward for your dog staying close enough to keep the leash loose.
  3. Don’t let your dog pull you on the leash to reach things they really want like rushing through the door, greeting strangers, or hopping into the car. If pulling = getting amazing stuff, your dog will keep it up.

How do I Get my Dog to Stay?

Teaching a dog to stay is all about starting easy and building. The biggest mistake I see people make is simply going too fast. Start by teaching your dog to stay for 1 second, then 5 seconds, then 10 seconds, and so on. Make sure to reward your dog’s efforts with CALM praise and treats. Also, remember to keep your dog’s leash on so that you have the ability to keep your dog from running off and self-rewarding if they break their stay command. Lastly, for your dog to comply with a stay command, you must have a signal to your dog that the stay is now over (otherwise how are they supposed to know when the stay ends?). Pick a word and hand signal that will let your dog now, ok now you can get up from the stay position and use it each and every time.

How do I Get my Dog to Stop Barking?

Dogs bark for a lot of different reasons. The first step of getting a dog to stop excessive barking is to figure out why it’s happening. Is your dog barking to get your attention? Barking at squirrels in the backyard? Barking at sounds from the neighbors? Barking because they are anxious or scared? When you figure out why your dog is barking, you can start to address the root issues. In all cases of barking, you can work on increasing your dog’s access to mental and physical exercise, rewarding quiet moments, and teaching your dog a shhhh command. In many cases, barking is a symptom of a deeper issue that may warrant a call to a dog trainer for help.

How do I get my Dog to Listen to me?

The way you get your dog to listen to you is to “listen” to them! By listening to your dog, we mean watching their body language and behavior to figure out what they are thinking and feeling. How does your dog tell you that they are confused by what you are asking of them, bored by your commands, or unable to follow your instructions due to stress or shyness? If you don’t know how to listen to your dog, don’t expect them to listen to you. Once you have made it a priority to see the world from your dog’s point of view, you’ll be prepared to utilize training that is all about being clear and consistent, paying your dog for their efforts, and building to more difficult distractions as your dog is successful. One of the BEST things you can do is hand feed your dog one meal a day playing fun games, teaching tricks, and working on their commands. Just investing 15 minutes a day to hand feed your dog can be all the difference between a dog who enjoys cooperating with you versus a dog who won’t listen and struggles to behave.

Capturing Calm

As a dog trainer who works heavily in behavior modification of dogs who have fear, anxiety, and aggression issues, one of the most important things I would like my clients to know is how to implement calmness in their human/canine relationship. We live in a fast paced world where it’s easy to feel stressed and rushed in day to day life. And there’s no doubt those feelings can trickle down to our dogs as well.

The first step to thinking about the role of calmness in dog training is looking at your dog’s point of view. Imagine you had a simple chart with 2 columns, one titled “excited interactions” and one titled, “calm interactions” and you made a checkmark under each column when you chose to interact with your dog while they were in each of those states. How many checkmarks would be in the excited column versus the calm one?

For a vast majority of dog owners, the excited column would significantly outweigh the calm one. We naturally greet our dogs when they are so excited that we have arrived home, we place food in front of them when they dance around in delight for mealtime, we throw the toy and play when they excitedly nudge us, we leash them and take them outside after they tremble in anticipation, and we may even encourage the excitement with stimulating questions like, “WANNA GO FOR A WALK??!” or with wrestling and fast movements.

Conversely, how often do we see our dogs resting, relaxing, or just hanging out and approach them with our own calm energy to reward that state of mind? Once again the answer, for most dog owners is, not often. So what is the message that we are sending our dogs and more importantly, what behavior are we paying them for (and thus training them to repeat)? Many of the dogs we see in for training have been taught that excited behavior= access to all the good things in life (affection, leaving the house, food, playtime).

Why Calmness Matters

Hopefully, now the wheels are turning about how you and your family members interact with your dog and maybe encouraging excited behavior. But just how does a dog’s excitement contribute to problem behaviors? Well, first let’s define what we mean by excitement. It may seem obvious but we frequently, in fact constantly, see dog owners view excitability as directly equated with happiness (and conversely calmness as sadness). Frequent overexcitability is not a sign of stable happiness and if repeated over and over in the long term will create a dog who is more likely to have issues with leash reactivity, stimulation aggression, separation anxiety, lowered impulse control, and difficulty following commands. It’s hard to believe that just lack of calmness could have such a dramatic impact on behavior but overstimulation increases stress hormones like adrenaline (fight or flight response) which makes a dog much more susceptible to problem behaviors. The more often your dog is in this state, the more unraveled their training is likely to come and the more other dogs may react to them in a negative way.

That’s not to say there isn’t a place for excitable behavior for your dog. It’s all about balance! Just like kids need a balance between resting and playing, dogs need to strike a balance between channeling their calm energy and getting out their wiggles. When dogs have a healthy balance between excitement and calm, it makes life more enriching for you and for them.

Contributing Factors to Canine Calmness

  1. Some breeds/types of dogs are simply more active than others. If you have a “working” style of dog, chances are high that they are going to need a job to properly channel their energy and need for employment.
  2. Young dogs are understandably more prone to excitable behavior. Puppyhood is a great time to start teaching a young dog about what behaviors and mental states get them access to all the great things in life.
  3. Newly adopted dogs, especially those arriving from a shelter environment, may have an uptick in excitable energy. It’s especially important to help these dogs learn how to channel their calm as overexcitability can often be an indicator of anxiety. 
  4. In order to have a calm dog, their mental and physical exercise needs must be met. We can’t tell dogs to be relaxed when they have pent up energy that needs to come out. Ensuring they have interesting and tiring experiences will go a long way in helping them achieve a good calm/active balance. 

How to Implement Calmness with Your Dog

Here are the 2 key elements to utilizing calmness in your dog’s training:

When: “You get what you pet.” If you talk to your dog, pet your dog, give your dog food, let them out the door, leash them, or otherwise interact with them while they are in an excitable state, guess what…you just paid them for being overstimulated and they are now much more likely to repeat that behavior and even intensify it as time goes on. Many trainers get focused on dogs earning things through obedience commands like sit, down or stay but at Tug Dogs we would honestly rather a dog earn things through calmness which focuses on what a dog’s brain is doing instead of just what their body is doing. Dogs don’t repeat behaviors that aren’t successful for them so if you want to start promoting calmness, stop rewarding excitability. Yes it’s cute, yes it makes you feel special that your dog is so excited to see you or interact with you but if it’s causing a behavior problem, taking steps to address is now will ultimately help you and your dog live better together. It takes some dedication but once you get used to paying attention to when you interact with your dog, it will become a great new habit and you will wonder why you never realized this before!!

How: “Act the way you want your dog to act.” If you model excitability, your dog will respond in kind. Fast petting, high pitched rapid talking, and quick movements all tell your dog they should be in a stimulated state. If you demonstrate that too frequently or with a dog who is naturally excitable, it encourages your dog to be hyperactive. If you want to practice turning down your dog’s excitement level, speak in a lower tone of voice, and speak slowly…think soothing tones, not animated ones. In addition when you go to touch your dog, massage them moving your hands at a slow pace rather than rapidly petting. You will be amazed at how with just a little practice, you can coach your dog to be mellow and how that will help them to become a better doggy decision-maker.

Give Calmness a Try

Working with dogs who have serious behavior problems over the past 15 years has given me an incredible perspective, not only about what dogs need to live full and happy lives, but also about what we humans need (and are often missing) to do the same. Giving our dogs (and ourselves) permission and guidance to move slowly and find our zen is an incredibly rewarding experience that brings peacefulness to a household and helps problem behaviors melt away. Spend the next couple of weeks focusing on giving your dog relaxed experiences with you and pay attention to the positive impacts on their behavior (and maybe yours too!). 

Country Road, Take Me Home

I am incredibly blessed. After a busy holiday season at Tug Dogs, I scheduled a few weeks off to participate in 2 very different trips. The first was a girl’s trip to New Mexico where I got to spend time with an amazing group of friends as we ventured out onto Pueblos, visited local Santa Fe markets, and made our way through the very unique “museum” Meow Wolf. Next, I was off to Maui to meet up with family and spend some quality time soaking up the sunshine and spotting turtles along the beach.

Both of these trips were incredible and I felt very fortunate to have such wonderful people to adventure with. But nothing (and I mean nothing!) beats returning home. As I got back into my normal routine at home, I really began wondering…just what is it about home that makes it so special to me?

I started off by considering the heavy hitters of what makes home, well home: my dogs and my bed. And sure, those two elements (mostly my pups)  are BIG part of why returning home is always so amazing. But there is something else about home that I couldn’t quite put my finger on that makes it what it is. So I pondered and reflected until during an afternoon walk along the countryside in my neighborhood it suddenly struck me…part of what makes home life so enriching for me is, at home, I have the ultimate control over everything I do.

Traveling comes with compromise. I cannot control how vegetarian-friendly the local cuisine is, whether my plane door loses a screw (leaving me stranded in the airport for 6 hours,) if the tram ride we drove 90 minutes to get to will be unexpectedly closed, if the museum is at max capacity, or which random person I am squeezed in next to during a 5 hour flight. 

While traveling with friends and family, I must be willing to give up the control I enjoy at home over things like where I will sleep, what time I will go to bed/wake up, where we will eat our meals, what activities we will partake in, how we will drive, and a whole bunch of the other small day to day decisions that come with traveling away from home. And this perpetual state of having things decided for them is often how dogs live a large portion of their lives.

That is not to say that we shouldn’t be making decisions for our dogs, we absolutely should. Dogs need coaching and guidance to be able to live mentally and physically safe in our very human world and to learn about when and how it’s appropriate to engage in normal dog behaviors like barking and using their mouths. But I do believe that training should not be solely focused on giving commands that control how a dog moves their own body but instead should be about working on helping dogs arrive at appropriate decisions and giving them access to freeing experiences that come when you have built a positive training relationship.

My personal dogs have a wealth of experience in polite leash walking, following commands and focusing on me yet because of the depth of our work together, I rarely use those skills. Instead, I find our most enjoyable time spent walking off leash in the countryside where my dogs are free to roam, sniff, and munch grass because I trust in their ability to make good decisions and to follow coaching when it’s needed. 

Ultimately the compromises and experiences I receive when traveling are a good way for me to grow perspective and build character that doesn’t come from staying in the comfort of home. But being a dog trainer means that a big part of my point of view is always comparing things to how dogs experience the world. And where I practiced compromise during my adventures, I ultimately got to return to a home where I have the ultimate control over how I choose to live my life. 

The longer that I train dogs and the more my personal perspective grows about what it is we are trying to accomplish when working with a dog, the more I confirm that giving freedom is my ultimate goal. Freedom is undoubtedly one of the most enriching elements of life and to be able to help a dog learn how to let go of the thoughts, feelings, and assumptions that lead them to make poor behavior choices is one of the most rewarding parts of my job. I know that once a dog starts understanding how to make decisions that align with their humans’ needs, they are on the road to enjoying more freedom and a better dog life.

-Erin Kramer, Tug Dogs Owner

Why Your Dog is Out of Control

Reread the title of this article one more time. I choose it carefully because as a professional dog trainer with a lot of experience in working with dogs and owners I have found one consistent fact in dog ownership that is almost always true: Dogs are often out of control because they have no control.

If you have ever sought training for your dog, watched dog training videos, listened to dog trainers talk, or really spent any time around dog training, then you have likely heard over and over again the statement that owners need to control their dogs. And it’s true. To live safely with you, your dog needs to be in the habit of looking to you for guidance and following your lead.

But control is not the whole truth. Training shouldn’t alleviate you from listening to what your dog has to say and preparing them for how to better make their own choices. The topic of less control is almost never discussed because it flies in the face of most training methodologies and because it addresses a much bigger (and more challenging) problem to solve. That problem is, the way we relate to our dogs. In all of my training and writing, my goal is to help dog owners learn to see the world from their dog’s point of view and gain a better appreciation of why dogs behave in problematic ways. When you understand your dog, you can make the real changes it takes to modify your dog’s behavior in a way that positively impacts you both.

So lets really put your empathy skills to the test to examine the issue of control between you and your dog. Imagine a world where you spend your entire life having nearly all decisions made for you. You don’t control when or what you eat, where you go, what access to healthcare you receive, how much and what type of exercise you get, what doors you can go through, how often you are alone, who you meet, how you meet them, what you can touch, what you can climb on, how much you can talk, and how others can interact with your body.

Even further, consider an entire life where you can only leave your house/yard with a guide while wearing a short leash (if you’re lucky enough to have a guide who will take you out). You cannot decide to run, which direction you move in, how long you are out of the house, who you greet, when you stop, or (with some training) where you can look or sniff. Your guide will try to control how your body moves by giving you verbal instructions that you are supposed to follow each and every time. But most importantly, picture not having the freedom to react to things that happen to and around you in the way that you want.

It is a frightening thought to have such little power over the day to day actions of your life and to be so heavily dependent on someone else to make the right choices for you. (Especially someone who doesn’t speak your language!).

This is the life of most of our dogs and yet, I have heard many wonder as to why we are seeing dogs with increasing levels of problem behaviors like aggression and anxiety. Without being able to have some basic control over what happens to and around us, there is no doubt our emotional well being would quickly disintegrate. I have to believe that the same is true for our dogs.

 

So, Why Do We Need So Much Control Over Our Dogs Anyways?

 

  1. Owner Education: Because we consider our dogs family, the well-intentioned dog owners I work with often forget that there are distinct differences between how humans and dogs experience the world. And we do our dogs a disservice by not making it a point to educate ourselves about what our dogs need to live their best lives. When you make the effort to learn about who your dog is and what they are experiencing, it becomes a motivating force to make changes in how you live with them. If you are able to work with a skilled trainer, for example, you will learn the importance of not just teaching your dog to follow your commands, but instead, you will realize how critical teaching your dog cooperation and focus is. Creating a team relationship with your dog produces a companion who chooses themselves how to successfully navigate situations by your side instead of under your thumb. This is one of the most rewarding and amazing parts of training that I experience and it makes me sad to think so many dogs and owners are missing out on this truly special bond.
  2. Lifestyle Choices: Dogs may be one of our most obvious warning systems that the way we are living is ultimately unhealthy for us as their behavior can stem our own. Spending time with the amazing dogs and dog owners I work with has lead me to completely change my own life. I get 8 hours of sleep every night. I moved from city to country where there is fresh air, quiet, and a calm space to just be in. I refuse to rush anymore. I pay attention to nourishing my body by eating good food and getting regular exercise. I balance my work/life better. I notice when I am stressed and take active measures to address it. In short, I prioritize self-care and living a life that is not just about working and rushing to meet the next deadline. In case dogs haven’t given us humans enough, your dog’s behavior problem may actually be an incredible gift to you if it causes some self-reflection about how you are living.
  3. Unbalanced Relationships: It makes sense that we aren’t very aware of our dog’s emotional states because, the reality is, most of us are not even aware of our own. Working too many hours, not practicing self-care, getting lost in technology, and not fully connecting with other humans can quickly leave a void that dogs so wonderfully fill. After all, who is excited each and every time you step through the front door? Who always wants to snuggle and cuddle with you? Who is always there when you have had a bad day? Who is always ready to party with you without any hesitation? Your dog! But when we only look at our dogs only through our own emotional lens, we miss out on forging a relationship that is built on what both parties need to live their best lives. Yes, your dog wants to be your best friend and constant companion but they also need you to think about the other elements they need to live a fulfilling life too.
  4. Body vs Mind: One of the most troubling trends I see in modern dog training is the focus on what a dog’s body is doing. A dog growls and so we focus on stopping them from growling. A dog jumps on guests and so we focus on not allowing them to jump. A dog runs off so we focus on a command that makes them come back. If this is how you are approaching your dog’s training, you’re missing the big picture! The best dog training is not primarily focused on changing what your dog’s body does but instead, is most interested in changing what your dog’s mind does.  I absolutely love being a coach to a dog as they learn how to problem solve and work in tandem with me to change how they feel about different situations. If a dog I am working with is growling, I work hard to alleviate whatever fear or negative association it is that they have. If a dog is wildly jumping up on guests, we master the art of calm brain together. If a dog is working on getting off leash, we practice focus and cooperation drills that are all about making being around their human an awesome experience. When you focus on shaping a dog’s mind to want to work with you, when you change their expectations of what they believe to be true, and when you teach them to be free of fears and anxieties, you no longer have to dictate what their body does to arrive at good behavior.
  5. Cultural Stigma: The truth is, there is an alarming cultural stigma that extends far beyond how we look at our dog’s health, right into the human realm. If your dog suddenly started limping or wincing in pain, you would not hesitate to take them to the vet. After all, your dog’s physical health and well being is a top priority. Yet that same focus on mental and emotional well being just isn’t prioritized (not for our dogs, and not for us). But if you start looking at how your dog behaves with the mantra that, behavior is language, you will shift how you view treating your dog’s fearful, aggressive, anxious, or otherwise out of control behavior. Remember that dogs have no consistent way to communicate inner, emotional turmoil. They are relying on us to notice the signs that they are increasingly depressed, anxious, or fearful and then to take action. Treat your dog’s mind like you would their body and you will have a much happier and easier to live with companion.

Austrian Neurologist Victor Frankl once said, “Everything can be taken from man, but the last of the human freedoms is to choose one’s attitude in any given circumstance and to choose one’s own way.” We must carefully proceed as dog owners to thoughtfully balance the control that is needed to keep our dogs safe and to invest the time into teaching our dogs the skills which will ultimately allow them more freedom.

-Erin Kramer, Tug Dogs Owner

You Get What You Pay For

We’ve all heard the say, “you get what you pay for.” Nowhere is this truer than in your dog’s training. Dog’s are not born with the innate desire to please humans (or even to understand what it is we want from them).

So let’s talk about 2 payment error you may be making with your dog:

1) Not paying enough. Would you continue to perform well at your job if you were paid 10% less? How about 30% less? How about 90% less? Very few of us would continue to show up and give our best at work if we aren’t being properly rewarded. The same is true for your dog!

It requires such little effort for you to notice when your dog is doing something right and acknowledge it with a treat, praise, or pet that communicates your satisfaction to your pup.

The key is to find out what motivates YOUR dog the most and pay for the things you really like or that your dog finds challenging on a regular basis.

We don’t just get paid once at work and then continue to work for free! Keeping up with continual payment to your dog is the BEST way to ensure they are motivated to make good choices.

2) Not paying for the right things. What would happen if you paid your kids for dropping dirty clothes on the floor, your employees for watching youtube videos while at work, or your auto mechanic for closing up while you waited on your car?

You would never pay for any of those things because you inherently understand that if you reward that behavior, it will continue. Yet you may be paying your dog for many behaviors you don’t truly like (and not paying for the ones you do!).

Are you paying your dog for being calm and keeping all 4 feet on the floor when you get home or are you rewarding (with praise and attention) over exciting jumping?

Are you paying your dog for being pushy and demanding to get your attention rather than being calm and polite?

Are you paying your dog for running around like a crazy to go for a walk instead of sitting and waiting to get their leash put on before exiting the house?

So as you work on your dog’s training, be sure to ask yourself if your dog is getting properly paid! And if you run into trouble, reach out so that one of our skilled trainers can assist in helping you and your dog live your best lives together.

A Message From Your Dog

Today I went to my new home. Leaving the shelter was amazing! I was very nervous there. Everything was loud and different around me. What would my new home be like? I was hoping I would have quiet time to check it out. After all, I’m in a new place with people I don’t even know! But that’s not what happened. The very first thing that happened was a large, strange dog came running at me. I was shocked and I didn’t know if he was friendly or not. So I growled. Then strangers crowded all around me, touching me without asking first. I’m not sure if I’ll be safe here.

Newly adopted dogs need safe time to decompress and not to be rushed to greet others.

Today I went to the dog park. At first I was excited. There was green grass and a big place to run. But when we stepped through the gate, a lot of dogs ran up to me and swarmed all around me. I got worried and snapped. I just wanted them to give me some space! I got more comfortable once I wasn’t the center of attention. I even made some new dogs friends. But then another pushy dog started to pick on me. He barked in my face, nipped at my ankles, and stood over me. I didn’t like it. I told him to stop and he wouldn’t. It scared me! I was hoping you would help me get away from him. When you didn’t, I lunged at him because I didn’t know what else to do. I’m not so sure about meeting new dogs now.

Don’t gamble with your dog’s well being by putting them in social situations you can’t control, (dog parks included) and advocate for your dog’s safety.

Today an off leash dog rushed me. I heard you tell the other humans about it when we got home. You told them it scared you but that it ended up OK because the dog didn’t actually bite me. But I wasn’t OK! I was hoping you would understand that just because I wasn’t bit doesn’t mean it didn’t terrify me. This was the first time I realized that anytime we are out walking, a scary dog could run up and try to hurt me. Now I’m worried when we go out on walks that it might happen again so I scan for other dogs and bark at them as soon as I spot them.

Consider your dog’s mental well being just as much as his or her physical well being.

Today I met a child. She was loud and didn’t act like any other humans I knew. She stumbled when she walked and yelled loudly. When she touched me, it wasn’t soft. She grabbed me and I thought she was scary. I was hoping you would notice that I was really uncomfortable like when I wouldn’t look at her and started to freeze. Even when I moved away, she followed me. When she wouldn’t stop, I nipped her. Now I am scared of all kids.

Monitor ALL dog/child interactions while teaching children appropriate dog manners.

Today I went to training. I was barking and snapping at people and dogs. You didn’t know how to get me to stop so you hired a nice lady to help. I was so thankful when you listened as the teacher explained that I was just scared and needed your guidance to feel safer. As we practiced together, I learned that I didn’t need to panic when meeting new dogs and people because you would protect me and help me when I needed it.

Seek help from a qualified dog trainer who will assist both you and your dog in making better choices.

Today I went to the vet’s office. At first, I got really scared. When I peered around the corner, there were two other dogs who barked at me. I wasn’t sure I’d be safe.  I was so thankful when you brought me back to the car to wait my turn instead of making me wait inside. Then when we did go in, you gave me really yummy treats which made me feel better. Now I can’t wait to visit again and get more snacks!

Make vet visits more enjoyable by avoiding interactions with other dogs (who may be sick or injured) and bringing your best treats.

Today I got a calm massage. I was used to playing, jumping, and wrestling with you so I assumed you wanted me to be energetic all the time. But today you decided to gently pet me and speak in soothing tones instead. I was so thankful to have the chance to fully relax and enjoy a different way to hang with my human. Instead of being over the top excited whenever humans are around, now I know sometimes I can just be calm too.

Practice calmness with your dog as much as you practice excitability (if not more).

Today I growled. A strange man was approaching us and I got scared. You had me on the leash so I knew I couldn’t run away. And I don’t know how to say words that would tell you I was afraid. So I growled. I was so thankful you understood that I was feeling fearful and didn’t let the man come any closer. When you bent down next to me and reassured me with petting and praise that I was ok, I felt a lot better. Next time something scary happens, I’m going to look to you for guidance.

Your dog’s behavior (growls included) is their language. Listen to what they have to say and take action if they communicate they are uncomfortable.

Re-read each of the above scenarios putting yourself into your dog’s shoes:

  • Arriving in a new place with strangers only to be bombarded with unsolicited interactions
  • Stepping into a park only to be rushed by a large, unruly crowd
  • Walking down the street when suddenly a person runs towards you aggressively threatening you
  • Meeting a strange acting person who invades your space and won’t leave you alone
  • Going to a class where someone who speaks your language can finally help your family understand your needs
  • Not being forced to wait in a doctor’s office where you are scared and nearby patients seem aggressive or unstable and then getting cookies during the exam
  • Enjoying a relaxing massage from your favorite people instead of always engaging in high energy activities
  • Communicating your discomfort so that a friend or family member can help you feel safer

These are important life lessons your dog wants you to understand. As trainers who specialize in behavior modification for dog facing all kinds of issues from manners to aggression and fear to anxiety, getting you to recognize how your dog experiences the world around them is what our training is all about!

If you have a dog who is struggling with a problem behavior, get in touch! Our experienced trainers will help you learn how to speak dog and transform your pup into the happiest, healthiest, and most well behaved dog they can be.

 –Erin Kramer, Tug Dogs Owner

Could the Solution to Your Dog Problems Come Down to Just One Thing?

“Leadership is not a position or a title, it is an action and example.”

Dogs thrive with proper leadership. Especially those dogs who are struggling with fear, aggression or anxiety issues. This is why we invest time into teaching the dog owners we work with how to become better leaders to their dogs.

A dog who is used to checking in with their human for guidance is a dog who is much more capable of handling the stresses of life. They look up to you as a provider of information and safety, and instead of making their choice about how to act in a potentially stressful situation, can look to you for assistance.

But becoming your dog’s leader doesn’t start at the moment they have intense reactions to things around them. It starts at home. If your dog is not used to you providing leadership at home, they won’t just naturally default to you when you’re in busier or more problematic situations such as encountering a stranger or new dog.

Becoming your dog’s leader means getting them used to the fact that you have valuable information they should listen to and then motivating them to follow your cues. It can be as simple as consistently enforcing simple household rules, following the nothing in life is free protocol, working on your obedience command training, or practicing impulse control exercises.

Once you have developed leadership in your dog/human relationship, your dog will find navigating difficult situations so much easier because they will be able to rely on your guidance rather than making their own, panicked decisions.

This is the exact process we use so successfully here at at Tug Dogs. Even our most extreme cases of dogs struggling with aggression and anxiety respond wonderfully to this type of leadership training. We spend time demonstrating to the dogs that we work with that when they are with us, we keep them both mentally and physically safe. We also assemble custom treatment plans centered around motivating good choices and practicing listening to us humans.

Being a leader isn’t about being rough or mean. Quite the opposite actually! It’s about relieving a dog who is a chronic, poor decision maker from the job of making all their own decisions. It is a weight off their shoulders when done correctly. Dogs who react from fear or stress desperately want and need a leader who can help them to alleviate their discomfort.

If you want to see your dog behave better and be happier, start with leadership at home. If you’re struggling, give us a call so we can help get you and your dog living your best lives together.

Are You Training Your Dog To Fail?

Let’s talk about different types of dog training and why one is always more successful than the others. Growing, puppy Jett is mastering his house manners. As an adolescent, working line German Shepherd who loves affection and play, he has a strong desire to greet and interact with guests. An overly social puppy is a great problem to have, if you know how to properly teach manners.

So how do we handle a parade of visitors coming through the front door (in this case our trainer’s club students)?

Nearly all dog trainers and many dog owners would attempt to use obedience commands like sit, down, leave it, park it (place) in an attempt to control their dog’s excitable behavior. Other dog owners would start to punish their dog for jumping up, barking, or being impolite with loud NO’s or noise makers designed to startle the dog into stopping. Still others would try to use high value treats to capture their dog’s attention and (hopefully) keep the focus on you.

But all of those are flawed training systems.

To find the real solution, you have to understand the problem. Why is your dog excited when people come over? For social dogs, a visitor at the door means petting, attention, affection, and sometimes even treats! That combination of amazing rewards is pretty irresistible to a lot of dogs and causes them to get into a high energy, low impulse control state of mind.

So if you are practicing a pattern of having guests immediately interact with your dog and then expecting your dog to be able to follow obedience commands, calmly take treats, or respond to your loud NO’s, you’re setting them up to fail. It’s like giving a kid 3 cupcakes and a soda and then asking them to sit still. It just doesn’t work that way!

So what does work?

Since you now know the source of your dog’s rude behavior is getting too excited about having company over, how about changing your dog’s expectations about what happens when guests arrive?? For puppy Jett, he has seen friendly faces come in the door time and time again who ignore him for the first 15 minutes of their stay.

This gives Jett time to settle and reduce his over excited behavior so that when it’s time to interact with friends, he makes appropriate choices all on his own. Rather than trying to battle against Jett’s excitability by asking him to preform sit stays or park its, we choose instead to reward a calm state of mind where Jett naturally offers the behavior we want.

This is the difference in Tug Dogs training philosophy.

Our trainers work hard to give you real training solutions that take into consideration your dog’s point of view and experiences to ensure training sets both of you up to be successful. With just a few days of practice, Jett is now silent when the door bell rings and simply sniffs and wags his tail at guests but then chooses to grab a toy and lay down on a dog bed instead of barking and jumping at them wildly.

Want your dog to be like Jett? Start considering what you are teaching him or her to expect when people come over and if you run into trouble, give us a call. Our skilled trainers can help you develop a plan to ensure your dog is a well behaved family member.

Gambling With Your Dog’s Well Being

Your dog’s genetics and past life experiences are not in your control. But the experiences they are having, and will continue to have, are. What kind of choices are you making for your dog?

Let’s start with some perspective about how your dog sees the world around them. Living with human beings often means dogs get to make few choices about their well being. Stop and think about your own dog…do they decide where they live? Who they meet? How they are greeted by strangers? Which dogs they get to interact with or choose to avoid? Where they can move their bodies if they are feeling stressed or unsafe?

The reality is, we have to use leashes, walls, and fences for dogs to fit into modern living but it leaves them with little opportunity to make decisions about their own safety. In actuality, they are relying on YOU to make choices that will help them to have positive experiences as they interact with the world around them.

If you are simply letting situations around your dog occur and hoping they will play out positively, you could very well be gambling with your dog’s well being.

Often dog owners only pay attention to what physically affects their dog. Overlooking your dog’s mental safety is a huge mistake that can easily lead to fearful, aggressive, or anxious behavior.  Sadly, I often hear owners recounting stories of their dogs being charged by off leash dogs or having unsafe dog to dog interactions.  When those stories result in no physical damage, they are regularly brushed aside as if they no longer count.

But they count to your dog. You see, he or she has just learned (or reaffirmed) that at any moment, with little warning and no option to escape, they may subject to a terrifying attack.

And what have you, your dog’s source of safety and stability, demonstrated during these scary moments? Are you prepared to handle the situation and able to keep your dog mentally and physically safe? Does your response instill calm, confidence to a stressed out dog?  Do you watch your dog’s behavior when they start to communicate their discomfort and take action?

If you’re in charge of your dog’s safety and you’re not taking active steps to ensure that they are put in safe situations, you’re definitely gambling with your dog’s well being. And you’re losing. Or rather, your dog is losing.

The good news is, whether you are guilty of behavior gambling or just have a fearful, aggressive, or anxious dog, you can turn things around. In fact, that’s exactly what we do here at Tug Dogs with our customized training treatment plans. We go WAY out of our way to ensure that dogs have positive experiences with us that inspire trust and confidence in our ability to keep them safe. And you can too.

Here are a few common sense tips to consider:

  1. If you don’t know how a situation is likely to turn out, avoid it. See an unknown dog walking down the street? Don’t let the dogs meet (and certainly not face to face). Sure your dog might briefly get to meet a friend. But your dog might also get their first terrifying experience of dog on dog aggression. And dog on dog aggression is like virus. Read the dog aggression virus blog here: http://teachtraintug.com/2018/09/the-dog-aggression-virus/
  2. Are you unsure about how your dog feels about cats? Kids? Bikes? Etc… Then don’t just push them into those experiences and hope for the best. Take control by doing slow introductions, making sure to carefully watch your dog for signs of discomfort. If your dog seems concerned, stop and contact a quality trainer for assistance.
  3. Want to bring your dog into a busy environment while secretly knowing it makes them uncomfortable? This one’s easy…just don’t do it.
  4. Hosting a party with a shy, anxious, or aggressive dog at home? I’m hoping by now you’re getting the hang of this! Have a safe plan for your dog such as being secured in a quiet bedroom with an activity (like a stuffed kong) so that he or she doesn’t have a stressful time.
  5. Bringing home a new dog? Don’t let your existing dog rush up and give a potentially scary or confrontational greeting. Let the new dog get comfortable with your surroundings and then introduce the dogs with an on leash walk, where you have more control of what happens. (This is an area where hiring a skilled trainer can make a world of difference and I highly recommend you do so to prevent problems from occurring).

The truth is, loving your dog and being a capable leader who can keep your dog safe are two entirely different things. This is why we devote SO much time in our training treatment plans not just to working with dogs but also in working with dog owners to develop their skills in keeping their dog mentally and physically safe..

Whether you have a dog who is struggling with serious behavior challenges or you’re one of those amazing (and smart) people who seeks training BEFORE a problem has the chance to occur, get in touch with Tug Dogs today. We can help coach you and train your dog so that you can live better together.

TUG DOGS

916-429-6469

Tugdogacres@gmail.com

The Dog Aggression Virus

Tug Dogs owner Erin likes to say that dog on dog aggression (including leash reactivity) is like a virus. Once a dog is exposed to it, they are much more likely to develop symptoms themselves and pass the illness along. And it seems more and more dogs are becoming “infected.”

So just how does that happen?

Most dog owners (and even many dog trainers) don’t realize that an overwhelming amount of dog aggression stems from fear instead of confidence. But what makes dogs fearful in the first place?

Let’s look at it from your dog’s point of view. If your dog has never experienced another dog aggressively barking, lunging, or attacking them, the chances that they will feel the need to protect themselves with their own display of aggressive behavior is very low.

Dogs who have only had positive experiences aren’t even aware they are in potential danger and will treat every new dog approaching as a friend…if that’s all they know.
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But that all changes as your dog has new experiences such as being aggressively barked at, lunged towards, and rushed by other dogs. In these moments, your dog learns that not all other dogs are safe and that they are unable to run away because they are tied to you!

Even worse, many dogs learn that the humans they are attached to, lack the understanding or skills to respond appropriately in these scary situations and thus they must protect themselves by any means necessary.

Your dog has now learned how dangerous the world is and what little ability they have to keep themselves safe. Violence is often the only resource available to a scared and vulnerable dog who is unable to flee.

Keep in mind that even if your dog does not sustain a bite from another dog, that doesn’t mean that mentally they haven’t experienced trauma. The first time your puppy or dog learns that at any moment an off leash dog could appear suddenly and present a threat to their safety, for example,can leave a deep and lasting impact on how they see the world.

The resulting trauma that is carried is the spread of the dog aggression infection. In a dire effort to keep themselves safe, many dogs will start to display unprovoked aggression towards other dogs they encounter as their stress and fear boils over into panic. Which each new dog your dog reacts to, you are likely spreading the infection further as other dogs learn they too are not safe.

So what can you do?

First off, investing in preventative training with a skilled dog trainer like the team at Tug Dogs, is the best vaccine you can give your dog for avoiding problem behaviors.

Our trainers can help guide you through the experience of how to handle dogs barking and lunging at your dog in a safe and effective manner. Rather than your dog learning you are useless in keeping them safe, your dog can instead take comfort in the fact that you have the skills needed to provide for their mental and physical well being. Rather than trying to desperately keep themselves safe with violent outbursts, they will look to you to handle the situation.

This is exactly the training we provide to our “role model” dogs like Ruby and Cassie who work with dog aggressive dogs daily. How can they do it without lashing out in a need to protect themselves? It’s simple…trainer Erin has rightfully earned their trust by showing them time and time again she can handle scary situations so they don’t have to worry. And with one on one sessions together, we can teach you and your dog to have this relationship too.

What if your dog is already infected?

Just like with a real infection, the sooner we see your dog after they have been exposed, the better. Addressing trauma and teaching you how to avoid it and handle it better will help your dog become a more confident, happy, and stress free companion.

Our goal at Tug Dogs is always to teach both you and your dog so that you can work together as a team and build a closer bond. When your dog trusts you, they don’t feel the need to be aggressive which makes life so uch more enjoyable for you both.

It’s simply not enough to love your dog, you also must be able to keep them safe if you want them to behave well and live comfortably with you.

Where can I get help?

If you can’t get to Tug Dogs to work with our highly experienced trainers, we still have some advice to help you find a local professional.

It’s important to note that dog training is a totally UNREGULATED industry. That means there are no educational or ethical standards in place. No one is making sure your trainer knows what they are doing except you. It’s up to you to ensure you are working with a skilled trainer who will not put your dog in jeopardy and will not waste your time and money.

We suggest searching for established trainers with positive reviews and references. In addition, spend time talking with your dog’s trainer prior to signing up and ask lots of questions.

A great dog trainer is always happy to provide you with lots of information about how they train and what their treatment plan is for your dog’s specific needs.

Stop spreading the virus!

Exposing your dog to the terrible illness of dog on dog aggression is a choice. Tug Dogs trainers can help coach you through how to “vaccinate” and “treat” the epidemic of dog aggression so that you and your dog can live your best lives together.

To get started, contact us today.

TUG DOGS
916-426-6469
Tugdogacres@gmail.com

 

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* Please Note: Tug Dogs is unable to provide re-homing services or requests for training outside of Northern California.