Saturday, October 22, 2022

Feeling SAFE!

Every dog deserves to feel safe at home and in their family, but sadly that is not true for many dogs.  
(This post is a small sample of a lesson in the Confident Canines Class.

If you have rescued an older dog that has a history of abuse or neglect, helping them feel safe is not always easy.  If you're used to training with "Alpha" mentality where your dog is expected to behave your every command, you've most likely damaged their feeling of safety.  Do this long enough and your dog can completely shut down and struggle with even the most basic of skills.  But I've got some great news for you!  It is possible to fix your relationship with your dog and nurture their feeling of safety around you and your family members!

Force Free Training
Training with kind and gentle guidance using directional cues instead of commands that must be obeyed is the first step in repairing your relationship with your dog and helping them feel safe.  If you're in my classroom, you are probably already committed to using Force Free methods but I want to take a moment to explain how this training method helps the shy or sensitive dog.  Some people think that Force Free, Positive Reinforcement based training is simply bribing your dog with cookies to do what you want them to do.  The truth about Force Free training is that it is based on communication from human to dog and dog to human.  It's that communication that helps to develop our dog's core confidence of feeling safe.  

The first step in helping your dog feel safe is to learn how they communicate with you and how you can communicate better with them!

Sign up for the Confident Canines Class to read the rest of this lesson!
Cam came to us with a very checkered past. Nothing in his previous life was safe. He was filled with anxiety and fear, little to no training, malnourished...a basket case. Then he learned that I was a safe person, as well as my daughter and slowly the men in our house. He had to learn that our female dogs in the home were safe. He had to learn outside was safe. When we moved, he had to learn our new home was safe! Cam has come a long way over the years with us and he is quite the amazing dog once he has had time to process any changes that happen in our world.

Thursday, October 20, 2022

Controlling the Puppy Environment

Preventing bad habits from starting by controlling the environment that pup is in is the KEY to raising a successful puppy!

Most bad habits are self rewarding making it harder to stop the habit when pup is older.  Pup starts chewing on a shoe, people chase!  This quickly becomes a fun game of catch the puppy.  It's fun for pup, but not people.  So the best approach is not to chase in the first place.  Present a treat or toy the pup wants, then toss it away from the object you don't want pup to have.  While pup is distracted, remove the item he wasn't supposed to have.

For years, the thought was that you are then rewarding the pup for picking up an item they shouldn't.  But science has shown that puppies can't think that far backwards to link those things together.  Instead they think, oh I heard my name and looked at my person, they had something I really like.  Let's look at them more often!  As they get older, their brain builds longer links or chains actions together more easily.  But right now your pup can't comprehend multiple links in the chain.

This is a sample lesson for the Positively Puppy Paws Class under the topic "Understanding Your Puppy's Brain." This topic also includes information about different age groups where puppies go through developmental changes, crate training, and helping your pup to relax or be calm.

The Positively Puppy Paws Class is a work at your own pace class with support offered for the first 6 months via message, text, zoom, etc. You can have lifetime access to the classroom materials and free ongoing support in the matching Facebook group.

Tuesday, October 18, 2022

Understanding Adolescence

Adolescences can seem crazy for humans & dogs!
Dogs enter the craziest time of their life around 6-9 months of age called the Crazy Teen Phase.  This typically lasts until the dog is about 18-24 months or slightly older.  During this time your puppy’s immature brain is changing and developing.  This can be one of the toughest times in your relationship and even more difficult if this period hits in the spring!

An adolescent dog can be rowdier, mouthier, jumpier, and more obnoxious than at any other time in his life. They can seem to have short fuses, test you, and even downright ignore you when given the opportunity. Our shelters contain a lot of adolescent dogs; dog parents often feel like they don’t know what to do and can’t control their dogs behavior.  In the Service Dog world, this is the most common time when programs and owner trainers "career change" or "wash" a dog from further Service Dog training due to behavioral issues.  Often this leaves the trainers feeling like they somehow failed the dog or messed up the training.  When the truth is, often they simply expected too much, too soon and needed to let their dog finish growing up and mature fully.

So how do you smooth the transition from puppy to mature adult?  HAVE PATIENCE … and have a little more patience. This is not a time to expect any quick fixes. Remember to breathe; realize that your dog is also going through changes in their life and they need you to coach and be a parent to them.  During this stage in development, teen dogs go through several brain development changes.  These brain changes often accompany times of personality changes.  Don't worry, these changes are often short lived too.  

Your dog might experience fear periods as their brain develops.  The happy social puppy might all of sudden seem to be afraid of people, barking at strangers when they happily greeted strangers previously. Fears are commonly to things in the environment that are not under owner control, such as the helicopter that just appears in the sky or that random car horn that your dog has never noticed before.  As you can imagine teen dogs can easily slide into sensory overload due to the simplest things.  Spring presents many "new" sights, sounds, smells, and objects to touch that your dog didn't notice as a puppy and have been hiding during the winter freeze. 

Sounds like a crazy time, right?  Try not to stress out!  This stage will pass!  But how you handle some of these issues can affect the type of adult your dog develops into.  For example, your dog suddenly does not like meeting strangers.  Our impulse might be to go back to the socialization period training where we try to set up happy meetings with people that we know.  The problem is, if we try to set this up during a "fear period" we could keep scaring our dog so intensely and repeatedly that they learn that strangers can't be trusted.  Instead give your teen dog some time off, away from people (or the scary object) until you're sure they are passed the fear periods then start with slowly increasing exposure.  

Most fear periods last 10-14 days, so it is much easier to wait it out and then begin desensitization practices after your sure the fear period has ended.  If your dog develops extreme fear reactions, you probably need help from an experienced trainer or behavior consultant to help you figure out what is really taking place and develop a plan to help your dog in that situation.  This is one of my specialties, so check out my website for more resources!

The adolescent phase is often broken down into 3 distinct periods.  Often the 3 stages are from 6-9 month olds, 10-14 month olds, and 14-24 months old is when you start to see changes within adolescent behaviors.  There will be more information on each of these stages in the Crazy Canine Adolescents Classroom.

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