Thursday, December 23, 2021

Teaching a Hand Delivered Retrieve

Using Tug to Teach Retrieve

I find it much easier to teach a puppy to retrieve than an older dog, but I’ve also taught older dogs to retrieve objects.  With puppies, I start by teaching them to love a game of tug by making their toys come to life.  Once the dog loves to play tug, I develop a 2 toy game where you switch rapidly back and forth between toys.  I will play tug for a few seconds then when the pup drops the toy automatically, I’ll toss the toy a few feet away.  Most often the pup will grab the toy, at which point I present the other toy making it more fun which gets the puppy coming back to me and dropping the first tug somewhere along the way.  I will play this game a few days in a row before I work toward getting the pup to bring the tug all the way back to me, dropping it near me then eventually dropping it in my hand.  During this game, I’m not using any cues for Get It, Drop, Bring It…only happy, engaging words.

Here is a video compilation showing how I move away from tug towards other objects to keep playing the retrieve game. 

I like to start with an empty bottle because it’s part of my socialization items list and it’s something that I will eventually teach my Service Dog to retrieve on a regular basis.  I will then play toss and tug the bottle.  After just a few sessions, my puppy is typically bringing the bottle right back to me.  But there are few things you can do if your puppy is not returning to you.  To build up more speed try tossing the bottle just a foot away from you so you can pretend to beat the puppy to the bottle.  To get the hand delivered retrieve try waiting with the second toy, presenting it right as your puppy gets back to you and placing your other hand under to catch the bottle that is being dropped.  To build distance try tossing the item a little further each time.

Once I’m getting several successful bottle retrieves in each session, I will start switching to other objects.  I’ve found a small box, such as a travel size toothpaste box, is easy for a puppy to grab and they tend to think it’s just another toy.  I’ll also try an empty medicine bottle or small bowl which is my trick for teaching an older dog how to retrieve.  At that point I will start using some common items such as my keys that have something non-metal on them, phone, glove, etc.

Want to learn more about how I trained Azul to do his Service Dog Tasks?

Check out my +R SD Tasks Group.

Tuesday, December 21, 2021

Positively Puppy Socialization

 The first week you have your new puppy home can be exhausting!  Here is a short part of my Socialization Lessons available inside the Positively Puppy Paws Virtual Training.

Socialization in your household.

Socializing your puppy to your household is a step many people forget about.  This is my general outline for how I go about household socialization with a new puppy.

Day 1- Letting your puppy get used to you.  This is commonly “travel home” day which is often filled with new experiences such as the car ride.  So let puppy relax and get accustomed to you and the people in your house 

Day 2- Getting your puppy comfortable in their general puppy safe environment.  I pick one room of the house, typically a laundry room or kitchen without carpet for easy clean up.  This becomes the pup's safe spot; naps, meals, games all happen here.  If you don’t have one room of the house you can use for this, an X-pen set up in a family will work too.

Day 3- Letting your puppy see and spend short periods, well supervised, in other parts of the house.  At first, just carry the pup with you through the house.  If you are using a backpack or stroller for outdoor socialization, start using it at home today.  All houses and families are different, so if your house is on the quiet side you may be able to disengage from the pup while they take a cat nap on a blanket but if your house is on the busier side you simply want to put them in a stroller or x-pen so they are not interacting with the environment for another day or two.  You need to be especially cautious with this if there are other pets in the home.  (See introducing your puppy to other animals.)

Day 4-  Letting your puppy explore the house one room at a time.  Eventually, as the puppy grows up, I want them to be able to be calm in any room I’m in so today I start to set the tone for that.  Make use of baby gates and other barriers to block the puppy in one room of the house with you.  For example, you need to make sure you are eating while dealing with an exhausting puppy so take the puppy to the kitchen to make a snack.  The barriers help ensure your pup isn’t going to wander off but also helps to prevent other family pets from interacting with the pup while you are distracted with a snack.  FYI- make sure your puppy goes potty before gaining temporary access to this new room.  I will typically take a blanket and a few toys with me while exploring a new room to give pup something that is familiar to them.  And make sure you make the room puppy safe before you let the puppy start exploring.  Throughout the day and maybe some of the next day, do this activity with every room of the house.

Day 5-  Making the pup’s world a bit bigger.  If there is a person that lives elsewhere that will be a “puppy sitter” or have a regular presence in the pup’s life, today is a good day to meet them.  We might go for a “walk” mostly carrying the pup or placing it in a stroller around our neighborhood.  Or we might simply take a 5-10 car ride without any real destination in mind.  Remember socialization is about making experiences, so you don’t have to interact with anyone or anything in these environments, simply being present in the environments will help socialize the puppy.

After this I will pretty much start checking off boxes on my Socialization Checklist trying to hit 3-5 new or novel items on the list each day. Commonly I’ll try to check off items that affect each one of the senses each day.  For example, a car ride might expose people to sounds of traffic, smells of restaurants if go thru a drive thru, seeing people walk through a parking lot, feeling the vibration of the car driving at different speeds, and of course tasting wonder treats along the way to make sure that riding the car is a wonderful experience.

Monday, December 20, 2021

Special Christmas Treats

 Safe special treats for the Holidays

This is not meant to replace the advice of a Veterinarian, please ask any questions specific to your dog's diet to a trusted medical professional!  This post is filled with general information about what is nutritionally safe to use for doggie treats and what common holiday foods should be avoided.

There are quite a few human foods to avoid feeding to your dog but there are some yummy staples of a Christmas dinner that your dog can safely eat in moderation.
Your dog can enjoy small amounts of boneless, skinless white meat.  Most other meats are OK for dogs as well as long as there is not a bunch of seasoning or spices in it.  Use ham or other processed meat very sparingly as it is high in salt!  Ground beef, shredded chicken, salmon are some of my dogs favorites.

A tasty festive treat but make sure you only feed your dog plain mashed or boiled potatoes with nothing else added (e.g. salt, butter). Moderation is important. Potatoes, no matter how they are prepared or cooked are very starchy, which dogs can struggle to digest.  Sweet potatoes are also a great option and can easily be baked right in the peel for a delicious treat without added seasoning.

Take it easy with veggies but you can feed your dog some carrot, parsnip, green beans, brussel sprouts, broccoli florets (very small amount only), peas, spinach, cauliflower etc... Most green or mixed veg is fine for dogs. Avoid corn on the cob and bulb vegetables such as onions and leeks.

We like to start Christmas off with a breakfast buffet of sorts that changes from year to year. As a treat you can cook your dog an egg too. Eggs are a great source of protein, vitamins and minerals and are good for our dog’s health. If you are worried about the salmonella risk of feeding raw eggs, cook them. Scrambled is a great way to cook eggs for your dog, but don’t add milk, butter or salt of course. 

Can be high in sugar and can also be acidic, which can upset your dog's digestion so give in moderation and remove the pips/stones first. The fruit to avoid is rhubarb. The stalk of the plant and also its leaves are toxic to canines.  Some dogs really love blueberries, apple chunks, and bananas.

These items are dangerous for your dog!

Bird bones
They are hollow and whether raw or cooked they can easily splinter, making them a dangerous puncture or choking hazard.

Turkey or chicken skin
This is far too fatty for your dog. Fat can cause inflammation of the pancreas (Pancreatitis).

Very tasty but too salty and fatty for dogs. They will enjoy their turkey dinner just as much without gravy. It is best avoided.

Onions, garlic and other bulb vegetables (e.g. chives, leeks, shallots)
Onions are a definite no as they are poisonous to dogs. This includes any variant such as onion powder. Also avoid feeding your dog other bulb vegetables e.g. chives, leeks and shallots. Garlic is a contentious issue and while a little bit of garlic is not toxic to your dog it can have a dangerous cumulative effect.

A mixture of breadcrumbs with onions, spices and herbs. Therefore best avoided (see above).  Dogs are not used to eating herbs and spicy foods and stomach upsets may result

Grapes, raisins, currants, sultanas
These are fatal to dogs, even in small amounts. Seek veterinary help immediately if your dog eats these foods. Some dogs can cope with eating a few but many cannot and you have no idea which way your dog may react so don’t risk it at all.

Mince pies, Christmas pudding and fruit cake
Apart from being full of dangerous fat, these festive treats contain dried fruits (such as raisins, see above), spices and sometimes alcohol.

A festive favorite for many of us but both the fruit and the stone of the avocado contain a chemical that is dangerous to dogs.

So tasty but a big danger to dogs. It contains Theobromine which can be deadly to canines, even in small amounts. Keep it well out of their reach at all times.

Yeast and uncooked dough
It rises and ferments in the stomach. Not only painful but can be fatal. Keep yeast and dough safely away from your dog when doing your Christmas baking.

Human deserts and sweets
These are way too sugary or if they are sugar-free they contain artificial sweeteners. The sweetener Xylitol is very dangerous to dogs and sugar is bad for your dog’s waistline and teeth.

Macadamia nuts and walnuts are toxic to dogs and salted peanuts of course won’t do your dog any favours. Other nuts such as cashew nuts, pistachios and almonds are OK in small quantities but may be hard to digest and may cause stomach upsets.

Fruit pips and stones
Dogs love fruit but only in moderation and be sure to remove all pips and stones first. Many fruit stones and pips (e.g. apple, cherry, peach, pear, plum, and apricot) contain cyanide, which is poisonous. But actually the danger of intestinal blockage is why this is on our list, which probably poses the greater risk.

Milk and dairy products
Take it easy when it comes to giving your dog any milk and dairy products. Dogs have difficulty digesting lactose so upset stomachs can result.

Other dog Christmas food tips

  • No booze or caffeine – clear cups and glasses away and put all coffee and alcohol out of reach of your dog.
  • Keep pets out of the busy kitchen to prevent accidents.
  • Don’t over feed your dog – with dog food/treats or with human food/treats.
  • Dispose carefully of wrappers, human food and especially bones.
  • Take the rubbish out and whether the rubbish bags are inside or out secure them so they can’t be broken into. Dispose of leftovers, especially the bird carcass, carefully.
  • Ask all visitors not to feed your pet anything. It is easier than trying to get everyone to follow the food rules above and if everyone gives your pet tit bits it will soon add up to a lot of extra food.

Sunday, December 19, 2021

New Service Dog Services will be Available in January!


I am developing a new Virtual Workgroup for helping Service Dog handlers train the tasks that go along with Medical Alert & Response!  This service will be available in January 2022!

We will be focusing on these issues:
  • Migraine Alerts
  • Cardiac Alerts
  • Diabetic Alerts
This workgroup will be based inside my +R SD Task group, so workgroup members would have automatic access to this Facebook Group with lifetime access to information on training several key Service Dog tasks.  

The work group would meet every 2 weeks with a virtual Zoom meeting for a minimum of 3 months, with the potential for more virtual meetings if needed.  

I'm looking for Beta Group Members to help me develop this virtual resource, which means right now this workgroup will be very reasonably priced at a 1 time fee of $75 which covers access to the +R SD Task, all the Zoom meetings, and 1-on-1 support as needed either virtually or in-person.  

This workgroup will be starting in January 2022 so anyone interested should contact me ASAP.  I will be screening all interested participants because I'm searching for people that are dedicated to teaching with force free, aversive free methods, who have dogs that are already at an advanced training level.  If you are interested, contact me ASAP!

Text: 906-399-0548
Or find me on Facebook

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