Category Archives: Dog Training

Match Game – Adopting the Right Dog Part 2 — Adjustments and Accommodations

Sometimes, there is that moment when your eyes lock onto an adoptable dog’s eyes and there is an instant bond just like in the movies but that is a rare occurrence.  For a majority of the animals in a shelter you are going to see a sometimes shut down, scared or anxious dog.  It’s loud, often smelly and, did I mention, loud in shelters.Woman Rubbing Noses with Puppy

Then there is the cuteness syndrome…there are reasons we ooh and ahh when we see a cute animal or human baby.  When we see those cute little faces, our brains are washed in a wave of dopamine which is the same chemical reaction we have when we fall in love, have sex or use drugs.  So, the cuter the dog, the more our brain tells us we need that animal. Big eyes, round, bulbous foreheads, wrinkles of skin…all these trigger this thing in our brains that makes us feel good and want to protect these “babies.” Some of the cutest dogs I’ve known have been extremely fear aggressive and are not a good match for anyone but the most experienced dog handlers and guardians.

So, as hard as it might be, we need to fight off the dopamine and cuteness factor when choosing the right right dog for the family.  When you find the right dog for you, I guarantee he will be the cutest looking after a while.  All human babies, to me, look like Winston Churchill with their big bald heads and rolls of fat but human instinct of the moms always say their baby is the cutest.

One of my friends, Laurie, went out to shelters one weekend looking for a Yorkie or Silkie Terrier or something that was scruffy and fluffy.  She came home with a large, red, short-haired dog that looked like a Vizsla or Rhodesian Ridgeback mix. and has since adopted three more largish, red dogs!  The point is that looks are really only a small part of that bond you will establish with the dog in your family.

This is the advice I give people who are visiting a shelter to choose their next family members:

  1. Look at less subjective things about your new family member rather then how cute he is.
    1. Energy level – I always use the example of a border collie who is adopted by a family of couch potatoes.  Neither dog nor humans will be happy in the situation.  The dog wants to work and herd whatever it can.  The people want to lie on the couch and watch sports or movies…not participate in them!
    2. Sociability – if you are looking for a furry companion that loves all people and dogs and can join your family on outings and vacations then you probably don’t want the dog cowering at the back of the kennel who is terrified of all around. But, please, keep in mind, that shelters often are scary and a dog is not himself there.
    3. History with Children – if you have kids or grandkids then you want a dog who can be around them and interact with children.  Some dogs are so frightened by children that they shut down so you want to make sure your new dog is comfortable and unphased by the lively antics of a kid!
  2. Ask if the rescue or shelter has a “Foster to Adopt” program.  This allows you to see how the dog lives in your environment and allows the dog to show you their true selves.  But there is generally about a two-week “honeymoon” period when bringing home a new dog.  This first two weeks is where everyone is on their best behavior and not quite accustomed to their new situation.  Humans aren’t habituated to their new family member and the dog is getting adjusted to this new life.  As an adoption counselor I want to make sure my adoptions stick so if there are any variables in the situation like other pets, disabled individuals in the home, etc. then I suggest we try a Foster to Adopt first.  One couple came to adoptions and fell in love with a lovely pitbull mix we had available for adoption.  They let me know that the husband had done several stints in Iraq with the Army and is now suffering from PTSD.  We knew that the bond was already starting to form with him and this young girl pup but we all wanted to make sure that the daily stress of keeping a dog wasn’t going to make the husband’s PTSD worse.  I’m happy to say it was a match made in heaven and they are all living happily ever after.
  3. If you can take a few days off when you get your new dog everyone will be happier! There are a few days needed for adjustment period for both you and your new dog. You can ease that adjustment by taking a few days off to acclimate your new best friend to your house and your rules.  We see a lot of new puppies in the spring/summer time and that’s a great time for adoptions during vacations!

Bringing a new family member into your home is not something that should be a spur of the moment event.  You want the best family member you can get and your dog wants the best family he can get!  Do your homework and you’ll soon have a great new member of your family.

Need advice on training, dog selection, behavior or dog sports?  Hit me up and maybe your question will be my next blog!  –the Kritter Keeper

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What does CPDT-KA Mean?

In my field of pet services there are not any hard and fast rules as to who can put out their shingle advertising their services as a dog trainer.  Sometimes you luck into finding a wonderful trainer who has read everything under the sun, has mIMG_2623any years of experience and has a wonderful rapport with the animals.  And sometimes you find a “trainer” who taught her own dog to sit so therefore she’s a dog trainer. So I became a Certified Professional Dog Trainer – Knowledge Assessed (CPDT-KA).

Since there is no legal standard, the Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers (CCPDT) was established in 2001.  The CCPDT is the leading independent certifying organization for the dog training profession. The CCPDT is the leader in the development of rigorous exams to demonstrate mastery of humane, science-based dog training practices. Thousands of dog training professionals worldwide maintain the CCPDT’s certifications as a mark of high professional distinction.

Before I could even sit for the test, I had to prove I had the following qualifications:

  • A minimum of 300 hours’ experience in dog training within the last 3 years.
  • Provide a signed attestation statement from a CCPDT certificant or a veterinarian

The last requirement was to sign the CCPDT’s Code of Ethics.  This, to me, was one of the most important pieces of becoming a CPDT-KA.

A certificant of the CCPDT pledges to abide by the following:

  1. To operate as a certificant without discrimination on the basis of race, color, ethnicity, national origin, gender, disability, physical limitation, marital or familial status, sexual orientation, religion, or political beliefs.
  2. To assist clients in establishing humane, realistic, training and behavior goals in accordance with the CCPDT Humane Hierarchy Position Statement.
  3. To understand and fully comply with the CCPDT Training and Behavior Practices Policy.
  4. To use training and behavior modification methods based on accurate scientific research, emphasizing positive relationships between people and dogs and using positive reinforcement-based techniques to the maximum extent possible.
  5. To always provide for the safety of clients and animals in training programs and behavior consultations.
  6. To act with honesty and integrity toward clients, respecting their legitimate training and behavior goals and the autonomy of their choices, provided they conform to societal and legal standards of humane treatment for their pet.
  7. To refrain from public defamation of colleagues, respecting their right to establish and follow their own principles of conduct, provided those principles are ethical and humane according to the CCPDT Humane Hierarchy Position Statement.
  8. To provide truthful advertising and representations concerning certificant qualifications, experience, performance of services, pricing of services and expected results; to provide full disclosure of potential conflicts of interest to clients and other professionals.
  9. To refrain from providing guarantees regarding the specific outcome of training.
  10. To use properly authorized logos and credentials provided by the CCPDT when marketing in print or electronic media.
  11. To obtain written informed consent from any client prior to photographing, video or audio recording a dog training session.
  12. To work within the professional boundaries of the CCPDT certifications and individual expertise and refrain from providing diagnosis, advice, or recommendations in areas of veterinary medicine or family counseling unless certified to do so. This does not preclude referring the client to a veterinary or behavior consulting professional.
  13. To maintain and respect the confidentiality of all information obtained from clients in the course of business; to refrain from disclosure of information about clients or their pets to others without the client’s explicit consent, except as required by law.
  14. To be aware of and comply with applicable laws, regulations, and ethical standards governing professional practices, treatment of animals (including cases of neglect or abuse), and reporting of dog bites in the state/province/country when interacting with the public and when providing dog training or behavior consulting services.
  15. To keep accurate and complete records of clients, their animals and the training and behavior services provided; to ensure secure storage and, when appropriate, confidential disposal of such records.
  16. To continue professional development as required for maintaining the CCPDT credentials in accordance with the policies of the CCPDT.
  17. To refrain from making material misrepresentations as part of the application for certification or recertification.
  18. To maintain and respect the confidentiality and security of the contents of any and all certification examinations of the CCPDT including, but not limited to, refraining from: stealing portions of, or the entire, examination(s); removing written examination materials from a test or meeting site without authorization; reproducing and/or disseminating examination materials without authorization; using paid test takers for the purpose of reconstructing an examination; using improperly obtained test questions to prepare person(s) for the examination; cheating during an examination; impersonating an examinee or having an impersonator take an examination.

If you are looking for a dog trainer in your area and you can’t come to see me please go to the CCPDT website to find a certified dog trainer in your area!

 

The Pros and Cons of Board and Trains

As much as I like to portray a gruff personality, the truth is I can’t say no, especially when it cscoobyomes to animals.  Opening Kritter Keepers Club is a dream come true for me because it will allow me to say, “Yes!” more.

I’m saying yes to board and trains where I can exclusively work with a dog 5-7 times during the day at their lessons. Board and trains are great for learning basic obedience, housetraining, puppy basics but I don’t feel like they are good for extensive behavior modifications for aggressive or fearful dogs.

Lately, those are the clients that want a board and train. Depending on the dog’s triggers, being in a strange environment can send him over the edge. When a dog shuts down there is not a whole lot of learning going on and what can happen is the opposite of what trainer and owner really want — now the dog’s fears are associated with a facility or the trainer or the method of training. Then there’s what happens when the dog gets home…

We are always learning more and more about how our animals learn and retain information which is a great boon for the dog training world.  Misconceptions about fear-based or aversive training can be argued against using data from studies rather than emotions.  So what we do know is that consistency is key so when a dog returns home from a board and train it is essential that the humans are trained as well as the dog is!

Everyone should be using the same verbal cues, same visual cues.  A dog’s humans should practice these newly gained behaviors all over the house.  And don’t forget the rewards!  If you want to get a dog to continue to do these behaviors rewards are a must!

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At Kritter Keepers Club, we will offer board and trains in our dog-sports oriented facility. To help facilitate the transition to the family environment, we will have different Kritter Keepers working with your dog and we will proof each behavior.

Board and trains are not inexpensive so before you sign up, make sure you understand what you are getting.  You should not only understand how much one-on-one training your dog is getting but how much time he’ll be alone, how much time will be dedicated to teaching the humans and and how long you have to follow up with the trainer if issues occur.  Your board and train trainer should be able to provide you with a schedule of what your dog is learning and that should coordinate with the skills you are trying to build with your pup.

shepherdMake sure you get all the info you need and make the best decision you can!

Timing, timing, timing!

Everything is about timing in the dog training world and how we can help our dogs learn to live compatibly with their humans. 

Forgive the awful video quality and the cooing voice in the background (it’s me!).  The first thing I did when we let the puppies loose is lay down on my back like Gulliver and let the Puppyputians jump all over me!  My friend Suzy Houpt and fellow dog fosterer for Mostly Mutts Animal Rescue in Acworth, GA actually came up with the Gulliver’s Travels reference!

Did you know that from about age six weeks to about 12 weeks is what animal behavior scientists call the Optimal Socialization Period for a dog?  This means that you need to get those puppies exposed to as many dogs, humans, other species, etc. as possible.  I’m not saying take your baby puppy to a dog park or PetSmart to walk on the floor — you have no control over anyone bringing a sick dog to those places and you definitely don’t want your pup exposed to that until fully vaccinated — but take your puppy to meet all types of people and dogs you know are healthy and social.

What about those dreaded “accidents” in the house as you train your puppy that going potty outside is way better?  Well, if you come across a puddle and you didn’t see it happen, if you reprimand the pup he will just think you are a crazy person because they won’t put the two together.  Too much time has passed.

Now if you catch the puppy in midstream, that’s perfect timing!  Don’t wait for him to finish — yell “Hey” or clap loud and pick him up and take him outside to finish (or on the wee wee pad if you are training that way).  When the pup potties outside, I have a “Potty Party” and give lots of excited praise.  Some people give actual treats but the act of relieving oneself and some good praise should be sufficient.  You know that feeling when you really have to go…you can almost hear the “Ahhhhhh!”

The timing of giving the dog a treat when teaching basic obedience behaviors is also very relative.  You really want to time the giving of the treat with the behavior you are rewarding.  Sometimes we humans are just not fast enough so teaching these commands using a marker like a clicker or even the word, “Yes!” gives you time to get the treat ready to give.  A treat pouch is helpful but you want to make sure the dog is paying attention to the hand signal, your verbal cue and you — not the treats!  If you are doing a down/stay, you want to reward the dog for the down and the stay but if he breaks it, well then no reward!IMG_0492

When I was first learning how to teach clicker training, our instructor had us get a pile of dried beans and a paper cup.  We would click and pick a bean out of our treat bag and place it in the paper cup.  Mark and then treat.  Mark and then treat. Mark and then treat.  I think I dream about marking and treating!

To practice my timing for marking a behavior, I used my table mirror.  First I would crinkle my nose and mark it with a “Yes!” just to get the rhythm and timing down.  I can imagine anyone who walked into my room at the time would be calling for the crazy wagon! But I needed (and still need to!) practice the timing.  But it’s all about timing, timing, timing!

Do dogs seek vengeance?

dog_urine_in_houseI do it all the time…I assign my dogs complex thoughts.  I used to believe they know right or wrong. I would say things like “he knows better than to steal that wooden leg!”

I see the videos where the dog has a submissive grin when the guy asks who stole the cat treats or who got into the garbage (and the trashcan lid is around the “guilty” dog’s neck). It sure feels like they are vindictive when I’ve just taken them home from the boarding place and they look at me and pee on the carpet in the bedroom!  In Jean Donaldson’s book, The Culture Clash, she states that dogs are completely and innocently selfish.

“Although some of their behaviors are socially facilitated, there is no good evidence that they have the all-purpose Swiss Arm Knife imitation tool that humans have. Here is the important point: this does not make them stupid or any less valuable than they would be if they could think more like us.”

Assigning these very human behaviors to dogs or any other species besides humans is called anthropomorphizing.  It’s pretty easy to do when you don’t really understand how small the dog’s brain is and how they really can’t think up these complex thoughts.  In Dr. Patricia McConnell’s book, The Other End of the Leash, she tells the story of a dog owner, John, who came to her with a male Chesapeake Bay Retriever named Chester who didn’t like to be corrected.  When John said “No!”, Chester would run into the bedroom, jump on the bed, wait for his owner to come and then, staring directly at him, lift his leg and pee on the pillow.

That has to be a vengeance pee, right? Well, in a nutshell no. John had been warned that Chessies are often stubborn and willful dogs.  The breeder had advised him to yell, “NO!” at    Chester and grab him by the scruff and shake him.  John was a good student and did what was advised. Chester was freaked out frightened and flattened his ears, rolled over and peed some more.  John realized he’d gone over the top with his correction.

For the next few days, the same scenario ensued.  John would yell, “No!” and run toward Chester.  Chester would cower and urinate.  John would stop realizing it would just make the dog more anxious.  Chester learned that if he peed, John would stop his offensive movement.  Later Chester learned to combine his peeing with a game he’d been teaching John called “Tag, I’m It!” As with a lot of adolescents, it was pleasurable to be chased and to watch Dad go gaga (Chester had found the right button to push!) but the trigger to this behavior was John yelling “NO!”bedpee

The behavior was turned around with John changing his correction word from “no” to “wrong”.  Chester learned that if he stopped what he was doing when he heard “wrong,” something good happened. John and Chester lived happily ever after.

So the next time you think that puddle in your bed is a vengeance pee, think about all the things that might have led up to it.  Dogs just don’t think in terms of justice and vengeance.

Day 1 and I’m still here!

st. Elizabeth home-backgroundDay one of class was fun! We got to meet each other and find out a little bit about each other. St. Hubert’s is beautiful and they do such good work there. Our classroom also holds about 35 bunnies that the Sanctuary is putting up. They are evidence in a lawsuit so I can’t take pictures or show you the set up. There were volunteers in and out cleaning cages, feeding and watering. Even when had some of the rescue dogs in the room with us, the bunnies didn’t make a peep!

We worked with 10 dogs today — mainly just observing and trying to guess what their genetic make up is.  Most of them were obvious pit mixes but unless we do a DNA test, it is anyone’s best guess.  One of my favorites from today was a white pit mix with brindle patches on his ears named Caesar.  There was definitely something else in there, maybe lab.  Another fav was Tiger who looked like a mastiff/boxer mix.  He was brindle and lived up to his name as he had tiger stripes.

My first dog we took out was named Faith.  She was a seal colored pit lady who looked like she had just had some puppies.  This girl was so sweet but was very anxious around the rabbits.  My partner and I were able to calm her a bit by taking her into a hallway away from the rabbits.  After a little head and neck massage, she calmed down enough to lay on the cool tile floor.  It was then that I knew I was in the right place at the right time.

Up until that moment, I must say I’ve been a little dubious.  St. Elizabeth’s campus is beautiful and has a college as well as a convent.  Dorm life is, well, different.  There is a reason why the young go away to college and not 50 year-old ladies.  First of all, I had to go to Target and buy a step stool to get up on the bed.  I’m deathly afraid of turning over and falling out of the bed.  No TV, no mini fridge…not even a curtain!  But I have an air conditioner, wifi, a bed and a desk and chair.  I also have a sink and vanity so I don’t have to go anywhere to brush my teeth.  I do have to walk across the hall the the showers and the toilet and the kitchen (not all in one place).

dorm roomYou don’t realize how plushy life is until you change your surroundings.  I’m grateful for the opportunity to do this and I know it will change my life!

I’m driving in a Kia Soul…to the wilds of New Jersey

The title above should be sung to Leaving on a Jet Plane by the formidable John Denver.  Today, I’m embarking on my drive to dog training school!  I’ve made a list and checked it 1.5 times…I didn’t make it through the second check because a squirrel walked by while I was reviewing it!  Six weeks of classroom and hands-on training in New Jersey hosted at St. Hubert’s Animal Sanctuary.  I can’t wait to meet the dogs we are helping!

Dirk

Dirk

So Dirk and I are about to depart.  He’s loaded to the sunroof!  I’m staying in a dorm at St. Elizabeth’s College in Madison.  It’s a dry dorm.  But having only spent a single night in a dorm before getting an off-campus apartment in my college years, I’m just not sure what to expect! I have to bring my own linens and towels.  I packed every single pair of underwear I own!

I’m going to be six weeks without my own dogs…it will be ok during the day when I’m working with the shelter dogs but what about at night when I’m all snuggled in with everyone having to touch at least a part of me?  How am I going to sleep on a twin bed????

Maybe I’ll just lay the seats back in Dirk and sleep in the familiar with the sunroof open under the stars of…New Jersey?  New Jersey gets a bum rap but it is actually a very nice state.  i’ll be in central Jersey that has some very nice communities. I’m pretty sure I won’t see a lot.  I just got 11 emails from Amazon for all the books included in this course!

Last night I sat in the middle of piles of clean laundry and just didn’t know what to pack.  If I pack for cooler weather, it will be hot.  If I pack for GA weather, I’ll freeze. I know I’m just going to Jersey and they have stores there but I was having a major panic attack!  Of course, I feel this way anyway when I jump into the unknown.

More to come on the Adventures of a Dog Trainer in Jersey to come…today I just want to get at least half way there!