In This Chapter
- Considering your attitude toward training
- Setting up for success and checking out teaching tools
- Crate-training your dog
- Teaching the basic stuff they don’t always teach in obedience school
- Knowing how to travel with your dog
An old dog-training adage still applies today: Every handler gets the dog he deserves.
Resolve that you must train your dog, and that training is not a one-shot deal, but an intrinsic and ongoing part of the promise you make to your dog when you bring her into your life.
A Few Words about Aggression
– Has your dog ever stared you down? Not with a loving gaze, but with a hard, fixed, glassy-eyed stare that may be accompanied by erect body posture — stiff legs, ears forward, hackles raised.
– Do you avoid doing certain things with your dog because doing them elicits growling or a show of teeth? For example, are you unable to approach your dog while he’s eating or ask him to get off the couch?
– Do you make excuses for his aggressive behavior or figure he’ll grow out of it? Or do you think a growling puppy is cute?
– Do you consider your dog safe — except around a particular group of people, such as children? When he growls at the veterinarian, do you tell yourself that the behavior is reasonable and that a veterinarian should be able to cope with it, after all?
– Has your dog ever bitten anyone, even only once, because it was an accident, because he was scared (even though he’s usually so good), or because of some other equally inexcusable rationalization? People often make excuses for the behavior of little dogs, but growling and snapping is no more acceptable from a Pomeranian than from a Pit Bull.
If, after answering these questions, you suspect that you have a problem, get help from a professional dog trainer or veterinary behaviorist. Now. You should no more attempt to cure aggression yourself than you should try to treat cancer. The reason is the same: You don’t have the training and the expertise to do so. If you suddenly try to eliminate your dog’s self-appointed role of leader of your pack, you’ll find trouble. If you even attempt to make eye contact with such a dog, you may get bitten. So don’t.
Finding an aggressive dog a new home — one with no children, perhaps — is not the answer. Children are everywhere, and you may be responsible for one of them being hurt if you pass a problem dog on to someone else — especially if you do so without admitting the real reason you’re finding him a new home, knowing that no one wants to adopt a biter. You do the dog no kindness, and you put the new family at risk.
Aggressive behavior never improves on its own. It only gets worse. So get help — now.
Developing the Right Attitude toward Training
Expect success from her and be willing to work for it. Praise her not only for succeeding, but also for trying. Learning is hard for her — and stressful. Think of your dog as a person who has just moved to your house from a country where the language and customs are different — a trans-species exchange student. After all, she was born a dog, and you’re asking her to live as a member of a human family. You’re asking her to learn the language and follow the rules. The fact that this feat is ever accomplished is nothing less than a miracle. So celebrate it with her.
We all get cranky sometimes. If you’ve had a horrid day at work, you’ve had a fight with your spouse, or the mechanic just told you the cost to fix your car is $2,700, you’re probably better off skipping any efforts at teaching your dog something new. Instead, use your dog to ease out of your funk: Play fetch or just hang out with her. Pet her while you watch TV — it’s good for your blood pressure.
Anyone who has ever walked a dog has experienced that terrifying moment when a vicious, unleashed dog is intent on doing harm to your dog. It’s a dangerous situation, even for owners of big dogs; for small dogs, it could be a fatal encounter.
If you have a male dog, getting him neutered may help keep him out of fights. Even if your dog is a cupcake, one dominant unneutered male may take your dog’s very presence as an insult to his dominance. If your dog is neutered, this particular fight trigger is usually not an issue.
Always try to avoid dogs who appear aggressive — dogs with erect body stances instead of the relaxed, ears-back attitude of a dog coming over to play — but sometimes you can’t escape a dominant dog.
If the other dog’s owner is nearby, demand that he put his canine terrorist on leash. If he’s clueless enough to say “Mine’s friendly,” yell back “Mine’s not,” and make your demand again.
If a fight starts, stay out of it. You may be badly hurt. If you’re willing to risk a bite and another person can help, pull the dogs apart by their tails — not their collars! If you’re alone and there’s a hose nearby, hitting them in the chops with a high-volume water spray usually stops the action.
If your own dogs are constantly fighting, call a trainer or behaviorist to help you develop strategies to make it clear that you require your dogs to get along. Realize, however, that peace may never be possible, and you may have to find a new home for one of the dogs.
Keys to Success
Be on the same team
Be fair with corrections
– Training consistency: When your dog knows a command and demonstrates that knowledge consistently, use that command the same way each time; never change its meaning. The most common example of inconsistency is probably saying “Sit down” to a dog when you really mean “Sit.” Now, you know that when someone says “Sit down” to you, it’s the same as saying “Sit.” But if you teach your dog “Sit” and “Down” as two separate commands, you can understand why it’s confusing. Which do you want? The same applies for saying “Down” when you really mean “Off” (more on this in a bit).
– Situational consistency: Some dogs start to recognize situations in which ordinary rules don’t apply. They learn, for example, that when you’re in a hurry, you’ll shrug off disobedience: You’re in a rush to feed your dog, for example, and when you say “Sit,” he doesn’t. You throw the food down anyway.
If “Sit” doesn’t always mean “Sit,” eventually it will never mean “Sit.” Teach your dog that “Sit” means “Sit,” no matter where or when you request the behavior.
Another kind of inconsistency is when you never expect your dog to mind until you’ve repeated the command a few times. After a dog knows a command, follow through in having him perform the behavior. Then praise him.
Build on your successes
Tools for Teaching
Getting your dog’s attention
Catch your dog’s eye by swooping your hand under her chin, bringing your fingers back up near your eyes while you make a clucking noise, and saying her name, followed by “Look” or “Watch.” The motion upward and the sound orient your dog’s eyes up so that she’s looking right into your own. When they lock in, hold for a split second, smile, and praise. This command may take time to learn, because dogs avoid eye contact to show respect. Build up your time until your dog gives and holds eye contact until you release her. Practice this command several times a day, and always be loving and encouraging.
On the cutting edge: Clicker training
One of the most exciting developments in dog training in recent years has been the widespread use of a little piece of plastic and metal known as a clicker (or sometimes a cricket). The clicker brings classic operant conditioning to dog training, and it first became known for training dolphins and whales for those popular shows at marine parks.
Consider the dolphin, if you will. You can’t put a leash on him, and he’s really too big — and too slippery — to force him into doing what you want to do. (Trying to wrestle in the water with an orca would be even harder — and dangerous, too!) So trainers had to come up with a way to communicate, to shape behavior in a nonphysical way. Enter the clicker.
Trainers — dog and dolphin alike — begin by associating the sound of the clicker with the reward: Fish, in the case of dolphins, and a dog treat for a canine pupil. Soon the animal understands that the clicker — which is easier to time properly than verbal praise — means that he did right and that he’s earned a reward. This technique is especially good for shaping complex behaviors — in the obedience ring, for example, where high-scoring dogs must not only sit, but sit square on their haunches and in proper position relative to their handlers to get a high score.
This level of precision is attained by shaping the behavior. The dog gets a click and treat for sitting, and when that’s mastered, the trainer waits to click/treat until the dog offers a behavior that’s just a tiny bit closer to the goal, and then a tiny bit more, and so on. Soon the dog is being clicked/treated for the perfect position only.
If you have a click trainer in your area, take a class — you’ll enjoy it! If not, you can find the best selection of books on clicker training at the Dogwise Web site, www.dogwise.com.
You’ll definitely be hearing more about clicker training for dogs in the future, and more trainers will be switching to this novel way to train.
– Use the right tone of voice: Dogs communicate with one another through sounds easily duplicated by humans. If you’re angry with your dog, for example, dropping your voice to a low rumble closely approximates the growling of a dog. For praise, use a sweet, high-pitched crooning voice: “Goooooooood, doooogggg. Aaaren’t youuuu a gooood doooog?”
– Tailor your petting style to your dog: Some dogs go crazy when petted; others hardly notice. Use a little chest pat or scratch for dogs who tend to be overly enthusiastic, and be a little more boisterous for the ones who really warm to being jollied. Don’t let the dog use petting as an excuse to go crazy — lighten up on the pats, but don’t correct him — and let your voice do most of the praising.
– Smile: Dogs understand many of our facial expressions because they use similar ones to communicate with each other. A smiling face is understood in both species, but if you really want to get through, make the smile as wide open as you can. You’re trying to approximate that big, panting grin a happy dog has. Panting is optional (but kind of fun).
Training with treats
Treats are great for training — they’re especially useful for trick training, or for teaching any behavior that requires your dog to be in precise positions, such as behaviors demanded of top-level competitors in obedience trials. But they’re for training, not for life. You should not be carrying around a pocketful of treats to bribe your dog into doing what you want. Your dog needs to learn his proper place in your pack by using the commands without food after he learns them, or you’re not really teaching him much of anything. Vary his rewards — always praise, but don’t always treat after he’s learned the lesson. When you teach a dog to figure out that a particular behavior gets him what he wants (food and praise), and then put a word on it (the command word), you are truly teaching, and he is truly learning.
Maintaining control and giving correction
Put the emphasis on the correction word, not on your dog’s name, to which there should never be any negative connotations.
Using a release word
Using a Crate: A Playpen for Your Puppy
To speed the process of training, we strongly recommend that you use a crate or similar means of confinement from the time your dog is a puppy.
– A crate is a babysitter — when you’re busy and can’t keep an eye on your dog, but you want to make sure that she doesn’t get into trouble, put her in her crate. You can relax, and so can she.
– Using a crate is ideal for getting her on a schedule for housetraining.
– Few dogs are fortunate enough to go through life without ever having to be hospitalized. Your dog’s private room at the veterinary hospital will consist of a crate. Her first experience with a crate shouldn’t come at a time when she’s sick — the added stress from being crated for the first time can retard her recovery.
– A crate is especially helpful when you have to keep your dog quiet, such as after being altered or after an injury.
– Driving any distance, even around the block, with your dog loose in the car is tempting fate. Stop suddenly, and who knows what could happen? Having the dog in a crate protects you and your dog.
– When you go on vacation, you may take your dog. Her crate is her home away from home, and you can leave her in a hotel room knowing she won’t be unhappy or stressed, and she won’t tear up the room. (See the section “Traveling with Your Dog” later in this chapter for more on dogs and travel.)
– A crate is a place where she can get away from the hustle and bustle of family life and hide out when humans become too much for her.
A crate provides a dog with her own special place. It’s cozy, secure, and her place to get away from it all. Make sure that your dog’s crate is available to her when she wants to nap or take some time out. She’ll use it on her own, so make sure that she always has access to it. Depending on where it is, your dog will spend much of her sleeping time in her crate.
Finding the right crate
If you frequently take your dog with you in the car, consider getting two crates, one for the house and one for the car. Doing so saves you from having to lug one back and forth.
Coaxing your dog into the crate
To coax your dog into the crate, use these helpful hints:
Put a crate pad, doggie bed, or blanket in the crate.
If your puppy isn’t lured in, physically place her in the crate, using the command you’ve chosen.
There’s no rule against gentle persuasion to get your pup enthused about her crate.
If she doesn’t follow the treat, physically place her in the crate and then give her the treat.
The treat doesn’t have to be a dog biscuit, as long as it’s an object the dog will actively work for.
For the puppy who’s afraid of the crate, use her meals to overcome her fear. First, let her eat her meal in front of the crate; then place the next meal just inside the crate. Put each successive meal a little farther into the crate until she’s completely inside and no longer reluctant to enter.
Helping your dog get used to the crate
Never use your dog’s crate as a form of punishment. If you do, he’ll begin to dislike the crate and it will lose its usefulness to you. You don’t want him to develop negative feelings about his crate. You want him to like his private den.
Great Things They Don’t Teach in Obedience Class
Don’t let your mind stop because a trainer’s — or author’s — suggestions do. After reading this chapter and the next, you’ll know how to train a dog, so build on your own success. If you have something you want to teach your dog, give the behavior a name and do it!
Go to Your Bed
Don’t Touch or Leave It
This command is another one with many useful applications. A dog leads with his nose, after all, and a dog who knows Don’t Touch isn’t going to head in a direction you don’t want him to go in. Use this command when you’re walking and he dives for some dreadful leftovers in a fast-food bag. Use it to keep him from lifting his leg where you don’t want him to on walks — because the sniff is the prelude to the leg-lift, this command works well. If you drop your sandwich in front of him, saying “Don’t touch” ensures that you get to finish it — assuming you still want to, of course.
If your dog isn’t a natural-born retriever, realize that you must be very patient, and be content with small advances. The dog who first makes even the tiniest move forward to take an object on command has made a huge achievement. Recognize it, and build on your successes. Don’t lose patience.
Before you start, go to pet supply store and get a dumbbell — a wooden or plastic retrieving tool that’s a dowel with wide pieces on both ends to help keep it from slipping out of your dog’s mouth. Dumbbells come in various sizes and weights; pick one wide enough for your dog to get her mouth on the dowel part comfortably, without being squeezed by the side pieces.
Fetching isn’t just one skill: It’s a combination of skills. Taking the object is one part of it. Holding the object is another, and so is bringing it to you. Releasing the object on your Give It command is the final part. Each piece must be taught, and then merged into a seamless behavior. Some dogs put it all together quickly and naturally; other dogs don’t. But if you work slowly and patiently, your dog will learn.
Traveling with Your Dog
The well-equipped travel dog
– Your dog should be wearing a sturdy collar with a license and an up-to-date ID tag with at least one number, area code included, that’s not yours — someone who’ll be there to answer the phone if you lose your dog miles from home.
If your dog is more comfortable in a harness, put the tag on that, but remember, a harness isn’t a good option for a dog who doesn’t behave well on leash, because you have less control with a harness.
Ideally, your pet should also be “chipped” — see Chapter Canine First Aid for details.
– Bring along a 6-foot leash. A longer leash is handy, too, especially a reel-type leash such as the Flexi, which is great for giving your dog a little room to stretch his legs in areas such as rest stops. Think about bringing an extra leash, as well as a nylon, one-piece slip lead like the ones veterinary hospitals and kennel operators use. Keep it in your glove box.
– Pack two bowls: one for food, one for water.
Water bowls that either collapse for easy storage or don’t spill are perfect for travel. Keep a collapsible bowl in your car trunk, along with a bottle of water.
– If your dog eats a widely available brand of food, pack enough to get you started and pick up the rest on the road, if you’re going to an area with a market or pet supply store. If your dog eats prescription food or anything out of the ordinary, bring enough for the trip. If your pet eats canned food, you need a spoon or fork and a can opener, unless your pup’s brand comes in pop-tops.
– Don’t forget some treats!
– A comb, brush, and tweezers or ready-made device for pulling ticks come in handy, especially on back-country trips.
– Some basic first-aid supplies — scissors, gauze, tape, and Pepto-Bismol, for diarrhea — are handy to have around. Your veterinarian can prescribe some motion-sickness medication, if need be, and you certainly want to pack that.
– Don’t forget to pack any regular medication your pet takes.
– Bring cloth towels, for drying off wet, dirty dogs, and paper towels for cleaning up more things than you can imagine. You may want to pack an old sheet and blanket, for covering bedspreads, furniture, and carpets in hotel rooms, and perhaps a multipurpose cleaner in a spray bottle.
– Plastic bags are a must-bring, too, for poop pick-ups.
– Bring dog shampoo. Trying to find shampoo at 10 p.m. in a resort town after your dog has rolled in something vile will convince you of this necessity.
– For owners of little dogs only: A shoulder bag for carrying your pet. With this tote — or any oversized bag — you can slip your dog into areas the big dogs can only dream of, and most of the people around you will never notice.
– Don’t forget your pet’s health records, including microchip number, and especially proof of rabies vaccination. The latter is absolutely imperative if the unthinkable happens and your dog bites someone or tangles with a rabid creature in the wild.
– Last, but certainly not least, from your dog’s point of view: a couple of his favorite toys.
The well-prepared dog lover
Travel by car
Making car rides safer
As with all other training, ending up with a good car rider starts with molding correct behavior when your dog is a puppy. No matter how cute or how small, do not allow your pup to ride in your lap, and don’t make a fuss over her while you’re driving. On short neighborhood trips, ask your pup to sit quietly, and praise her for proper behavior.
Just about everyone understands that dogs shouldn’t be left inside a car on a hot day, but fewer realize that the danger is just as great on a warm one. It’s a horrible way to die. A car functions similarly to a greenhouse, and heat can build up to lethal levels in minutes, even on a pleasant day in the 70s or low 80s. Even with the windows rolled down, a dog can show signs of heat stress — heavy panting, glazed eyes, rapid pulse, dizziness or vomiting, or a deep red or purple tongue — in the time it takes you to get a six-pack through the Ten Items or Less line. Brain damage and death can follow within
An overheated dog needs prompt veterinary attention to have a chance of survival. Don’t delay! Better yet, don’t risk your dog’s life by leaving him in the car. Another danger to the unattended dog is theft, which, when combined with heat dangers, means a few minutes looking through that cute little shop really isn’t worth the risk posed to your pet.
Dramamine prevents car sickness in dogs as well as people, but other remedies are available — talk to your veterinarian. A dog-handler’s trick: Your dog should travel on little or no food, and the dog should get a jelly bean — or any other piece of sugar candy, except chocolate — before hitting the road.
When you’re on the road, if you want to spend a few hours kicking around an area where dogs are not welcome, a local veterinary clinic is a safe place to leave your dog. You can usually manage to find one amenable to a short-term boarder within a couple calls, and you’ll know your dog is in safe and secure surroundings while you’re not with him. The price for this service is negotiable — a half-day’s boarding is a good starting point.
Although leaving a dog loose in a hotel room is not a good idea — most places forbid doing so, in fact — you can leave a crated dog alone, provided he’s not a barker. Just another reason why a crate is one of the most versatile pieces of canine equipment your dog can have.
Travel by air
To make sure that your dog is one of them, talk to the airline. Some carriers — especially the no-frills companies — don’t take animals at all. Even the carriers that do have limits to the number of animals on a flight because a set amount of air is available in the sealed cargo holds. You also need to know where and when your dog has to be presented, and what papers — health certificate and so on — you need to bring.
– Be sure that your dog is in good health and isn’t one of the pug-nosed breeds. These dogs find breathing a little difficult under the best of circumstances, and the stress of airline travel may be more than they can handle.
– Make sure that your dog is traveling in a proper carrier (crate) that has contact phone numbers at both ends of the journey. (Your home number won’t help if you’re not home.) The crate should be just big enough for your dog to stand up and turn around in. Be sure that all the bolts securing the halves of the carriers are in place and tightened.
– Although your dog shouldn’t wear a collar in her crate — it’s not safe, because it can get caught on other objects — put an ID tag on a piece of elastic around her neck; in addition, you may want to consider having her microchipped before travel.
– Don’t ship your pet when the weather is bad or when air traffic is heaviest. Avoid peak travel days such as around the Christmas holidays, and choose flights that are on the ground when the temperature is neither too hot nor too cold, not only at the departure airport, but also at the connecting and arriving airports. In summer, a night flight is likely better, whereas the reverse is true in the winter. Many airlines have their own temperature restrictions.
– Fly with your dog whenever possible. Keeping on top of things is easier when you’re on the same flight.
– Choose a direct flight; if that’s not possible, try for a route with a short layover. Most canine fatalities occur on the ground, when dogs are left in their crates on the hot tarmac or in stifling cargo holds. Direct flights liminate layovers, and short layovers reduce the time on the ground.
– Remember, your dog’s life relies on the attentiveness of airline personnel. Most of these employees are excellent and caring, but mistakes do happen. Be prepared to pester airline personnel to confirm that your dog has been loaded and has made the same connections you have. If your pet is flying unaccompanied, talk to freight-handling personnel at every airport your dog will visit. Be polite but persistent; don’t take “I’m sure she’s fine — have some delicious honey-roasted peanuts” as an answer from a flight attendant. Make the staff check and report back.
A piece of doggie heaven
It used to be that dog lovers were happy just to find lodgings that accepted dogs. How things have changed — some vacation options today are designed with dogs first in mind. These doggie vacations take two forms: Dog resorts with planned activities, and dog resorts without.
Places with planned activities are known as dog camps. The organizers rent a campground, school campus, or similar location for part of the year and bring in trainers, lecturers, and other experts to teach campers and their human companions about various dog sports. Dog camps leave plenty of time for hiking, fetch, silly games, and just plain hanging out with other dogs.
Camp Gone To The Dogs is the prototype and still a place many dogs and dog lovers dream of visiting someday. Honey Loring puts the camp together every year, offering everything possible to keep human and canine guests deliriously happy. For information, check out the Web site at www.camp-gone-tothedogs.com.
The other kind of dog resort is typified by the strangely named Sheep Dung Estates in Northern California. Sheep Dung’s cabin’s are dog friendly to the maximum extent possible, with tile floors and easy-to-clean furnishings. And each cabin is set in a private setting away from the others, so staying at Sheep Dung is like having your own ranch — your dog can be off leash the entire stay. For more information, visit www.sheepdung.com.
While Camp Gone to The Dogs and Sheep Dung Estates are definitely pioneers, their trailblazing efforts have not gone unnoticed by others in the travel industry. Similar businesses have followed the great example set by these dog-friendly operations — and the trend is sure to grow.
Contrary to popular belief, it’s generally better not to tranquilize your dog before flying. The combination of high altitude and limited oxygen is a challenge that your pet’s body is better prepared to meet if she’s not sedated. Still, your pet may be an exception. In the end, you and your veterinarian should decide on this issue.
Some people spend their vacation not in some fancy resort, but in the great outdoors — and they want to take their dogs with them. Fortunately, sturdy, well-designed packs are on the market, designed to let your dog carry his share of the load and even some of yours. An adult dog in top condition can carry up to a quarter of his weight, evenly distributed in a properly fitting pack. Get your dog used to the feel of the pack on short walks and trips, and gradually build up the weight and distance.
Dogs aren’t welcome everywhere, and the biggest danger to the future of canine backpacking is other hikers more than wild beasts. Don’t give the dog haters any ammunition: Keep your dog under control, and that means on-leash in areas with other people or animals. Take either tools to bury waste or supplies to pack it back out.
You don’t need to take much into the back country — food and water are the basics — but you do need a few extra things. Grooming tools — a brush or comb, and tweezers or a tick remover — keep your pet healthy and comfortable. Also include basic first-aid supplies for human and canine packers, and bring a light rope for tethering your dog when necessary.
Charlene G. LaBelle’s A Guide to Backpacking With Your Dog (Alpine) is an outstanding book that offers invaluable tips on how to train and equip your dog, and where to take him.
Getting past “no dogs allowed” — it’s possible
– Offer a deposit. If you’re confident that your dog won’t cause any damage — and if you aren’t, you shouldn’t be traveling with him — put your money where your mouth is and offer to guarantee your pet’s good behavior.
– Show off your dog’s good manners and well-groomed appearance. Obviously, this plan is not a good one for someone with a muddy, out-of-control, 125-pound shedding machine. But if your dog is clean and well behaved, show him off.
– Show the manager your crate. A dog who will sleep in a crate and not be left to his own devices is a much better risk for the manager to take.
Keeping the world safe for canine travelers
– Keep ’em clean. Your dog needs to be well groomed and clean smelling. Always dry off wet dogs and wipe off muddy feet — using your towels, not the hotel’s — before allowing your dog inside. Cover furniture, carpets, and bedspreads with your old sheets and towels, and if you need to bathe your dog, be sure, again, to use your towels and to clean up all the fur.
– Keep ’em under control. Your dog should be obedient, friendly but not annoying, and never aggressive — to people, pets, or wildlife. Do not allow your dog to bark uncontrolled in a car, camper, or hotel room. Use your best judgment on when to let a dog off-leash — even in areas where doing so is allowed — and be sure that your dog isn’t annoying other people or dogs.
– Pick up after ’em. Isn’t it astonishing that well-mannered people who would never consider tossing a soft-drink cup on the ground will look the other way when their dog deposits something 5,000 times more vile? That “it’s biodegradable” excuse doesn’t wash, either. Pick up after your dog. Dog mess is the single biggest complaint dog haters have against our being in public areas, so don’t give them any ammunition. When you check into a hotel, stress that you intend to pick up after your dog, and inquire if they have a place where they prefer you take her to relieve herself. Don’t let a male dog lift his leg on the shrubs while you’re walking there, either.
by Eve Adamson, Richard G. Beauchamp, Margaret H. Bonham, Stanley Coren, Miriam Fields-Babineau, Sarah Hodgson, Connie Isbell, Susan McCullough, Gina Spadafori, Jack and Wendy Volhard, Chris Walkowicz, M. Christine Zink, DVM, PhD