27 September, 2013

P.A.T the dog....part 1....new pup in the home

Positive association training, or PAT for short, is by far one of the most important things to understand as an owner.....whatever the age, or history of your pet.

The aim of PAT is managing new experiences, meeting, visits to new places etc.... so they create no fear whatsoever. Just the opposite in fact, they are seen as fun & rewarding.
Take your average puppy for instance, raised (we would hope) with his mother & littermates, in a safe warm environment. He wants for nothing & becomes used to his familiar surroundings.
A good breeder will get each pup used to being handled & spend time with each individual, so they get used to being apart from their littermates.

Pups usually go off to their new homes at 8-9 weeks old, unfortunately this period is also when they start to go through a fear period. Instead of being bold with their encounters, they can develop a fear  of people , things & places. This is perfectly normal development & with good management & a little thought & preparation , it shouldn't cause any problems at all.

Put yourself in a pups shoes (yes, I do realise they don't wear shoes as a rule... !!!)... there you are, tucked up with Mum & your Brothers & Sisters & somebody reaches over & picks you up.
That's ok , you're used to being picked up, fed treats & cuddled.
But wait a minute, who are these people & where are they taking me ?

The pup arrives at your home, full of lovely things you've bought for him, new toys, new bed,new bowls, new collar & so the list goes on.
But, to your new pup,he's with strangers, in a new place, full of strange things, NOTHING is familiar & there's no Mum & siblings to offer comfort.
At bedtime the lights go out & he does the only thing he knows how, he cries.
This too is normal.......but what can we do to make it easier ?

The 1st thing is try & visit the pup as often as you can before bringing him home. Then you will be familiar to him.
Leave a few blankets, so they can pick up familiar scent, maybe a teddy too.
Prepare your home,  have pups bed or crate set in a quiet area of the home. Think about where it's sited in terms of easy access to the garden (for house training)
When you bring your pup home place the items with familiar scent in pups bed/crate.
I always feed pups in their crate, this makes it a positive/rewarding place to be thus forming a positive association.
A stuffed puppy kong at bedtime is also comforting, as is a nightlight, radio at low volume, cuddly toy with familiar scent(Takes the place of littermates) , some people also use a heat source & ticking clock (which replicates a heartbeat) Whatever you use, you are trying to create  a positive 1st night in his new home.

Don't forget, a puppy with a full tum  will sleep better BUT be prepared for toilet trips throughout the night. Choose a spot in your garden, carry pup there & wait.......... & wait............... & wait !!!
As soon as puppy performs, lavish on the praise.
You may feel a bit silly at 3am, but it will be worth it & again is forming a positive association.
You'll soon see a pattern forming between meal times, sleeping & play times & the need to toilet, the trick is to be one step ahead & ensure pup is in his spot in time.

To be continued............

24 September, 2013

Remember, remember.............

Firework season will be upon us before we know it.
Nov 5th
Diwali...Nov 7th
New Years Eve
Plus all the weekends inbetween , if last year is anything to go by.

Some dogs get really worried by the noise, smells & flashes.... but with a little preparation & effort on your part, it can be a lot easier for them.
If you have a puppy, or young dog, with no prior experience of fireworks, you have a blank canvas with which to work.
Your dog can be taught that fireworks are a positive, rewarding thing !!!

Ensure your dog is walked before dusk.
Draw the curtains earlier.
Raise the volume on TV's & radios slightly.
Pop the heating up a wee bit higher.
Feed a meal higher in carbs....it has the effect of us eating a heavy meal & just wanting to snooze. (Sweet potato is ideal for this, boiled & mashed, it's a natural calmer)
Try & keep everything as normal as possible.

Whenever I have a pup or young dog, at the 1st sound of fireworks I start a training session indoors, loads of treats, lots of praise, doing things the dog knows well (this isn't the time to try & teach a new behaviour)

If your dog stops & listens, that's completely normal (Don't forget their hearing is incredibly sensitive)
If they want to run off & hide, let them.
If they want to go outside & watch, let them, as long as it's safe for them & they are free to come back in (Go outside with them)

All dogs react differently !!

Older dogs that may have been ok all their lives, can react as they get older. It's because of changes in their hearing. They lose mid range ability & only hear really high, or really low sounds (Making fireworks & thunderstorms more audible.)

The following link has a Dogs & FIreworks guide, plus a free MP3 of fireworks sounds, which you can use to accustom your dog to the noises before the firework season starts.


21 September, 2013

When is my dog "trained" ?

  I get to meet most people the first time in good circumstances, they call me all excited, having just brought their puppy home (or even better , before they bring him/her home). They want to start off training on the right foot, with supervised socialisation & training in a safe environment.
Week by week I see progress, sharing in their achievements & helping out with fresh ideas & encouragement if things go a bit off track (Which they always do, it's perfectly normal !!)
Progress varies tremendously as the pups grow, dependant on many factors, breed, home environment, owner dedication etc, but everyone finishes the puppy course with the basics under their belt.
This is when one of 2 things happens, the owner gets the training bug & we see them week after week, or, the owner is happy that their dog is "trained" & we never see them again.

This week I've had a couple of calls, from people with older pups, wanting help.
They've all attended puppy classes elsewhere & when the course has ended not enrolled for more classes, as they were happy with what they'd been taught.
HOWEVER, 6 months down the line, their now adolescent dog is much less than the well behaved dog it once was. They are too embarrassed to return to the classes they first attended, as they feel like they failed, so are seeking to join us at K9 Capers.
This got me thinking, I wonder who OUR former puppy attendees & their owners will turn to if they hit problems? I'd like to think they are confident they can come back & carry on their training, with us.

The answer to the question posed in the title?

A dog is never trained, they are constantly learning behaviours & these can be unwanted ones , as well as good ones. 

Every new situation your dog finds itself in is a new learning experience & how YOU handle it will make all the difference.
Training's not a race to see who can teach the most, the quickest.
It's all about repetition, in various locations , with varying distractions.
Puppy owners often tell me; "Oh, he/she does it at home...just not here" !!!
The whole point of the class , is having the opportunity to test what you teach at home, in an environment with managed distractions.
These basic exercises  ,look,settle,sit,stand,down,wait & come (along with their associated rewards of course) are the foundations on which you can build all your dogs future behaviours ....rush them & you'll have a wobbly, unsafe future. Take your time & you'll have a good strong base on which to build.