Posts tagged #dog behavior

Food Rewards - What should you use for training?

Food selection is a very important part of the reward-based training process. All food is not equal. You can train your dog in less time, with longer lasting results if you choose the right reward for a job well done.

The first concept each trainer needs to understand is that the food you are using needs to be rewarding TO THE DOG. It sounds so obvious, but I have seen countless new trainers use their dog’s kibble, or buy some super-fancy-dehydrated-omega-something-or-other, that their dogs just didn’t like. You are not incentivizing your dog to work with you if they don’t want what you have. With a huge variety of options at the pet stores, it’s easy to go for really expensive, thinking you’re getting ‘the best’ treats. Or, you might go cheap, thinking you’ll save a dime. But neither are necessarily true. Be sure that what ever you’re using is of high value to your dog.

Food should be soft and easy to swallow. Nothing halts a good training flow like the crunch, crunch, crunch of a big biscuit. Your goal is repetition of the right behavior. It’s hard to get reps in when the dog spends a lot of time chewing.

Food should be easy to handle to avoid dropping it on the ground. Dropping food on the ground encourages your dog to break their attention from you to search for hidden treats in the grass. That can be quite counterproductive. Tiny treats, or treats that shred and crumble are not good choices.

Maybe your dog isn’t very in to what you have that training session. What do you do? Don’t switch training rewards mid session. Instead, do your best to end on a successful repetition of the command or behavior you’re working on and end the session. Make a mental note, that next time, you will need to up the value of the reward for that particular circumstance or environment and try again later. If you switch, your dog can learn to ‘hold out’ on you, and wait to perform until you have just the right thing. 

Use a variety of rewards. Try to find five or six different rewards that your dog goes bananas for…..but not in the same training session. Diversity and interest is key, but each type of food has a value rating to your dog. They will like one type of food over another, if used in the same session, and feel disappointed (instead of rewarded) when they get the less desirable treat. Switching the food out each session can also reduce irritation to the digestive system.

Foods that are nutritionally balanced are ideal for dog training. Many of the products you find at the pet stores are full of sugar, artificial ingredients, dyes and chemicals. There are healthy, tasty options out there if you know what to look for. Our favorite food rewards are high in value and easy on the budget. Give these a try:

RedBarn meat rolls

Natural Balance meat rolls

Fresh Pet Select Vitals

Hotdogs (yes, good old fashioned hot dogs)

Cut up cheese

Happy Howies rolls

Looking for a budget option, or does your dog have dietary restrictions? Follow our Dog Dynamix Board on Pinterest for delicious home made dog treat recipes.

Dog Training Best Practices

We have compiled a list of 'Dog Owner Commandments' to help our clients have the most happy, well-adjusted, and behaved dogs around. Follow these guidelines, and you are sure to have a Dynamic Dog. We'll forgo the 'thou shalts,' and get straight to the point.

1. Never give a command you cannot or will not enforce. Say what you mean, and mean what you say.

2. Freedoms should be earned and not gifted. Freedom to be off-leash, and freedom to be loose in the house are all contingent upon having solid obedience and reliability. If you have those goals for your dog, help them earn those freedoms through management and training.

3. You are always 'training your dog' whether you are making a conscious effort to do so or not. You are either training behaviors you like, or behaviors you don't like. Be sure to think about how your actions may be affecting your dog's behavior.

4. Your puppy is learning to be an adult dog. What ever they practice is what they will become. Keep this in mind when you are deciding the house rules.

5. Dogs needs physical and mental exercise. Make sure you're using a balanced approach for total wellness.

6. The pet industry sells products for money, not results. Gimmicks like calming aids, 'special' harnesses, leashes and collars, and various other products are no substitute for a good training plan. Some products may even exacerbate behavior problems instead of curing them.

7. All healthy relationships have love and respect in common. Your dog can adore you and not respect you. Harmonize your relationship by ensuring both parties are invested. Make sure you're giving your dog what they need, and not just what they want.

8. Your dog needs rules and routine, exercise, and affection, in that order. 

9. Crate training is an essential protocol, even for dogs that will eventually have free roaming privileges. The last place your dog wants to learn about confinement is his first day of boarding in a new place, or worse yet, at the vet when she is sick or injured.

10. Spend time with your dog everyday; Quality, dedicated, invested time. Your dog needs 20 minutes (minimum) of your undivided attention, daily. Choose one activity to do with your dog (play frisbee, run, walk, hike, swim, agility, nosework, teaching tricks, obedience training etc) every day.  If you lose a thing, you can replace it. If you lose money, you can make more. Time you can never get back. It is the only true commodity. Never waste a moment with your dog. 


Muzzles. Should You Use One?

Dogs are social animals, which is what makes them great pets. But when a dog has social anxieties, the human solution is often the over-use of isolation. Dogs who are suffering from issues related to aggression are truly doing that; suffering. If a dog can't be around other dogs or people, that means they are usually caged for long periods of time, relegated to a single room of the house or in the yard, spending most of their time isolated from other living things. While trying to keep other animals and people safe, the dog is often getting worse, and not better, due to the social isolation. The use of a muzzle is a responsible and humane dog training solution.

The word 'Muzzle' definitely has a negative connotation, and brings all kids of other unpleasant words to mind. So it stands to reason that most people have an ill opinion of them. However, the muzzle is an excellent tool if you have decided to move forward with training a do with aggression issues with other dogs, people, or vet visits. Let's look at what safety a muzzle does and does not provide.

  • Muzzles increase the confidence of the handler in their ability to control a given situation, which allows them to think and react with logic and less emotion. Training the dog in an objective manner is the key to success.
  • Muzzles allow dogs (who would otherwise be isolated) to enjoy normal, environmentally enriching experiences while keeping them and the general public safe.
  • Muzzles cause the public to steer clear of the dog, and usually, that's exactly what the dog needs; just a little more space. The muzzle can usually keep the 'He's Friendly!' types at bay, and cause the overly friendly humans to cross the street. For dogs struggling with fear aggression, having those people avoid eye contact can be a game changer in a positive way.
  • A muzzle alone is not enough. The last phase of police dog training is muzzle work. We teach police K9's to muzzle fight the bad guys. In the video, you can see the helper (the guy the dog is trying to bite) is wearing a ballistic vest. That's because a large dog in a muzzle can break your ribs, knock you out, or kill another animal using blunt force. Using a muzzle on a dog without a leash is a terrible and irresponsible idea! The bottom line is that a muzzle does not equate total safety, and needs to be used in conjunction with an overall training plan and protocol.
  • Muzzles, when used and trained properly, can teach dogs that there are alternatives to aggressive behavior. By taking their ability to bite away, the dog learns he has to use body language and rely on his human to diffuse uncomfortable situations. Most dogs don't actually want to bite, they feel forced to, and learn that biting gets what they want (distance, control, resources) through experience and repetition. Muzzle training takes that option away, and helps the dog realize there are other ways to get what they want.

First, muzzles can only be used under direct supervision. No matter what kind of muzzle you are using, they restrict your dog's ability to regulate their body temperature to some degree. Dogs cool their body by panting, and all muzzles reduce the amount of airflow required to reduce their temperature effectively. They can get caught on things, and cause your dog to panic and thrash, resulting in serious injuries. Muzzles are not safe for dogs who are left unattended. Muzzles are not safe on hot days for the same reason. Safe operating temperature depends on breed and the fitness of your dog. If you are muzzle training your dog, make sure you know how to recognize heat stress.

The type of muzzle you use depends on what you are trying to accomplish through training, and also the size and shape of your dog. NEVER USE A CLOTH MUZZLE.

Any muzzle that completely closes the mouth of the dog is very dangerous. Most dogs that are required to be muzzled for any reason are stressed in some way. Dogs under duress have increased levels of adrenaline and epinephrine in their body, causing their body temperature to rise. A stressed dog is very likely to become dangerously heat exhausted in a cloth muzzle.

Basket muzzles are the most versatile muzzles for training applications ranging from leash walking to vet visits. They allow the most 'breathing' room, while keeping people and other animals relatively safe from the toothy end of the dog. Italian basket muzzles have the widest range of sizes, and fit long-muzzled breeds (shepherds, sight hounds, etc) best. Baskerville muzzles are best for shorter muzzled breeds (pit bulls, Labradors, Spaniels, etc.), that aren't brachiocephalic or snub-nosed. For snub-nosed breeds like boxers, pugs, bulldogs and the like, a custom-fitted muzzle is recommended.

The muzzle should fit snuggly, but there should be about 1/4 of an inch between the end of the dogs mouth and the muzzle. The muzzle should not obstruct your dog's vision. It should be wide enough that it doesn't squeeze the sides of your dogs mouth. The muzzle should allow your dog to take food through the muzzle, pant, and drink water.

Each time a muzzle is used, a safety check should be performed. The handler should grab the muzzle underneath and gently but firmly lift the dog straight up by the muzzle. The muzzle should stay securely fastened. Next, grasp the muzzle top and bottom in both hands and try to “roll” the muzzle down off the dog’s snout to mimic the pawing action the dog can make to insure that the muzzle cannot be taken off by a determined dog. Do this gently but firmly, and don’t wrench the dog’s neck.

Never strap an inexperienced dog into a muzzle. The act of wearing a muzzle requires training. We believe dogs should accept their muzzle willingly, and wear it comfortably. It shouldn't add to their stress! The muzzle should be introduced slowly and with positive reinforcement techniques.

If you think you and your dog could benefit from muzzle training, please contact Dog Dynamix. We will help you find the right solution for you and your dog.