Teaching Phase

There are 3 phases of training a dog, teaching (first phase), proofing (2nd phase) and maintenance (3rd phase).

In the first phase we are teaching the dog to learn and the meaning of each command. Dogs don’t come to us speaking English or any language other then their own. They are visual learners and quickly learn what our body language means, but they need to be taught the words we use as commands.

Trainers use different techniques to teach a dog. Motivational training rewards the dog for good behavior encouraging the animal to want to learn and obey you. Praise, lures, rewards, and play are often used with this style. When teaching your dog, practice each command three times this will build consistency. Praise and reward your dog when they are in the correct position or giving you the behavior you want. Use the same commands to make things clear for your dog. Consistency, clear expectations and boundaries will make it easier for your dog to learn. Your dog should be happy and eager to please you, so make learning fun!

My Teachers

Throughout my life I have owed and been around many dogs. With each dog and dog interaction I have learned. One of the many reasons I love being a trainer is because there is always more to study. Prior to taking my Instructor Course I had developed knowledge and skills training animals. During my course I learned principals and foundation and continued to build my handling skills. I was very fortunate to train under someone who was highly skilled and knowledgeable and I continue to work with her so that I can offer my clients and their pets a high level of skill.

I have worked with other experienced trainers, attended seminars, read books, watch DVDs and other people who work or are interested in dogs. I appreciate that I have had various resources in which to gain knowledge and build my skills.

Some of my best teachers have been the dogs I have owed and worked with. Living with multiple dogs has taught me about the pack mentality, how they respond to each other and how they learn. I have seen dogs, correct, dominate, play, distract, and interact with each other on a daily basis. Dogs have been my best teachers, and once I learned the principles and foundation I was able to understand what I was seeing. Dogs are visual learners and communicate using their bodies. The way they hold their tail, head, ears all have meaning. Reading a dog can be challenging as humans don’t know their language it is something we learn. Some dogs can be very expressive just as some give very minimal changes. The flicker of an ear or tail movement, the absence of movement or expression all have meaning. There are dogs that will give warning prior to aggression and some that don’t. Each dog is different, although there are similarities in signals that they give. Learning from the dogs I live and work with brings me great joy as I am often amused by their antics and how they interact. I love the challenges and rewards of working with dogs they are remarkable creatures!

Separation Anxiety

Canine Separation Anxiety is defined as destructive or disruptive behaviors every time a dog is left alone. Dogs are social animals who form attachments to the people they live with, some dogs will panic or become anxious when separated from the person they are most attached too.

Signs of Canine Separation Anxiety:

  • Urinating or defecating while you are out
  • Excessive licking, drooling, vomiting or diarrhea in your absence
  • Excessive whining, howling or barking when left alone
  • Prior to leaving your dog may show anxiety, depression, bark or whine excessively, or follow you around the house
  • In your absence your dog may chew or be destructive in your home
  • Your dog may cause injury to him or herself
  • Escape behaviors such as scratching or destroying doors or windows, digging under fences, jumping fences or opening gates.
  • Exaggerated greeting behaviors

Possible Causes:

  • Lack of Leadership and owner behavior.
  • Lack of exercise
  • Genetics – abnormal predisposition to dependency, pre-existing phobias/anxiety disorders
  • Lack of understanding of expectations (obedience training)
  • Abandonment, or unusually long confinements, or long kennel stays
  • Early separation or deprivation of attachment or social isolation early in life
  • Change in lifestyle, home environment, or absence of family member (divorce, death or child leaving home) or the addition of a new family member
  • Dogs that are re-homed, adopted or purchased from pet store
  • Sudden or significant change in daily routine or time spent with owner
  • Traumatic event experience by a dog when owner was absent or an emotional traumatic experience
  • Cognitive dysfunction (Senility)

Helpful Hints

  • Have you dog checked by a vet to rule out any health issues
  • Use a qualified trainer/behaviorist who can develop a plan specific to your dog
  • Never punish your dog this is not his/her fault it is a behavior issue
  • Don’t treat your dog like and human, provide leadership, consistency, boundaries and limitations
  • Increase vigorous exercise especially before leaving, but give dog chance to relax before you leave
  • Do not make a big thing when your leave or return, do not touch your dog when you return, wait and remain very calm
  • Using a crate will depend on the issues your dog is having, some dogs become worse in a crate, some will be more relaxed
  • Leave a TV or radio on, leave your pet with an article that has your scent
  • Desensitization training for departure cues (picking up keys, putting on coat), as well you may need to consider anti-anxiety medication with the behavior modification
  • Do not spoil or baby your dog, this will only increase its stress and anxiety levels
  • Practice coming and goings for short periods, sometimes it may just mean leaving the room, gradually allowing your dog to become comfortable with being alone
  • Withdraw attention 15 minutes before leaving and 15 minutes upon returning
  • Change your routines so your dog does not notice leaving patterns
  • Obedience train as this will help to build the dogs confidence including sit/down stay program to increase independence at home
  • Leave a Kong toy or other long lasting treat only when you leave so the dog has something new to occupy his/her attention
  • Do not respond to pushy or needy behaviors when you are home. Praise your dog when they are resting quietly
  • Gradually get the dog use to being alone with short departures (this may start with only seconds), as the dog becomes comfortable, slowly increase the time of the absence while the dog remains calm
  • Some with separation anxiety do not do well when locked in unsocialized areas of the home, such as basements or laundry rooms

Separation Anxiety can be resolved but it takes time and patience by the owner. Never punish or get mad at a dog with Separation Anxiety, as the dog has a disorder. Contact a qualified dog trainer or behaviorist to develop the best strategies for your dog.

Above are listed tips that should not be used without the advice of a trainer or behaviorist as each dog is different and a trainer/behaviorist will develop the best plan for your dog. It is irresponsible to implement strategies without the advice of a trainer/behaviorist.

The Pack Changes

Our original pack consisted first of Cosmo, than Jasper and Sable. Jasper was very protective of Cosmo and would often use a distraction with Sable to prevent her from rough housing with an older Cosmo. It always amazed me how Jasper, would grab and toy and redirect Sable’s attention and than as soon as she was interested in the toy, he would relax knowing he had done a good job. Jasper’s ability to redirect Sable’s attention using toys and play always amazed me, he is such a gentle boy.

Now Jasper is the older dog and Rogan is the middle dog, with Gracie being the youngest. Although I am working with Gracie, she gets very high in drive and excited every time Jasper has to go outside, trying to get him to play. She is very aggressive in play and Jasper tries to avoid her. Rogan has taken on the role of protecting Jasper doing an astounding job. Rogan will grab Gracie and start playing with her, and when this doesn’t work, Rogan has used her body to shield Jasper from Gracie trying to grab him or jostling him. It is truly remarkable how she will even block Gracie from getting close to Jasper. I have seen her do this quite a few times as Gracie is so quick and powerful when in drive or excited. I am continuing to work with Gracie and teach her that her play style with Jasper is inappropriate. She is used to rough play with Rogan, but Jasper is not interested. Ironically the only time Jasper with rough play is when he is loose in a field with the girls but he will not do this in our home or yard.

Watching how the pack changes over time and when one animal is either old or sick is so interesting. I have learned more about dogs and how they communicate by the dynamics of the pack. Each dog is different and has a different style but it is easy to see the bond between the animals and how they relate to each other. Even the cat is in the mix and lately I have noticed that Gracie is starting to play in a gentle manner. Although the cat does antagonize her and she chases him, their relationship seems to changing in a positive direction.

Always controlling the pack and teaching them appropriate manners with training is vital. I do not let my dogs make the decisions with two dominate females I would have major issues if I did. Gracie is still young very determined and requires additional training which I continually work on. I am starting to see positive results but we still have work to do while I continue to learn and build my skills as a trainer.

Until you have owned a pack and watched the changes over time as some dogs pass and others join the pack you really cannot understand the dynamics. It is so interesting and such a learning experience that cannot be taught any other way!