Why do our dogs bounce off the walls when we come home? It’s not because they really need to go to the bathroom. It’s because they love us. My youngest pup, Kai, has an entire routine when I let her out of her crate. She sings like a baby Chewbacca  - "awh-ewh-woo–woo"! She uses her entire butt to wag her tail that’s banging off everything.  You’d think she just won the lottery.  It really feels like she unconditionally loves me. Hell, my husband barely acknowledges my return home unless I have groceries. Dogs show us they love us all the time. They have an entire house to choose a resting place but they choose to sleep right by our feet. Why is it a parade every time we go to the bathroom? We really don’t need the company but our dogs want to be with us. They don’t care if we didn’t brush our teeth or combed our hair.

According to Business Insider, U.S. pet owners spend roughly $681 million dollars on their pets for Valentine’s Day; that’s a lot of kibble! We go to big specialty stores and buy everything from heart-shaped cookies to doggy perfume. I’m sorry, but the quality and ingredients of these treats are questionable besides being overpriced. The last thing my dog wants is to smell like perfume.  This Valentine’s Day why not look for something a little different your dog. Something he will love and won’t break the bank? How about freeze-dried banana chips. Canned beef tripe if you can’t find fresh (smells horrible but your dog will love it). Try some homemade Tuna Fudge Dog Treats, your dog will love you for it!

Tuna Fudge Recipe:

$1·         2 -6 oz. cans of tuna do not drain (you can substitute canned salmon)

$1·         1 ½ cup whole wheat flour

$1·         1 tsp. garlic powder

$1·         2 eggs lightly beaten

$1·         ¼ cup grated parmesan cheese

$1·         Mix all ingredients together using a mixer or food processor

$1·         Spread onto a greased 9”x 9” pan. Bake in a 350°oven for 20 minutes

$1·         Store in the refrigerator for up to 3 days or cut into little squares and freeze for tasty little training treats

 When Kai gazes into my eyes to see if I see her, and I do, I can’t do it without smiling. Face it we love them just as much as they love us, Bone appetite!

 

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How to Get the Most Out of Your Dog Training Classes

To start, finding the right trainer can make a huge difference. Hiring a reputable and well-educated dog trainer can be a challenge. If a dog trainer says they’re certified by a particular organization, remember that you don’t have to take their word for it. You can go to that organization’s website and verify certifications.  Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers has a website verifying the list of certified trainers. Interview your potential trainer, they’re working for you. What methods of training do they use? What is their educational background? What recent continuing education have they attended recently? What kind of equipment do they use? Can they provide references? What actually happens when my dog gets it right or wrong? What kind of motivation do they recommend? A couple of things should raise red flags in your assessment. Don’t use trainers who say they’re not cookie-pushers. This is the easiest and quickest way to motivate and train a dog. If the trainer uses language like” balanced”, “dominant”, and alpha” or uses primarily punishment-based methods, be aware that trainer doesn’t meet the standards of science-based training.

 Your behavior is just as important as your dog’s. The following tips will help you and your dog get the most out of your training experience:

1. Do your best to come prepared. If the instructor sends pre-class information, be sure to read through it so you know what to bring.

2. Communicate with the instructor.  If you’re struggling with something between classes, speak up! The instructor can’t help you if she doesn’t know you have a problem.

3. Be patient. Your “bad habits” don’t go away overnight. Your dog's won’t either! Avoid being too quick to label a training technique as “not working” just because you haven’t seen results in a week. Keep at it. Think in terms of progress, not perfection. Persistence is key.

4. Practice! Training your dog is like joining a gym. You have to spend time working out to see results. Be sure to do your homework between class sessions.

5. Focus your attention on your dog during training. Try to set the kids up with an activity to keep them safely occupied and turn off mobile phones and other distractions.

6. Come to class with an open mind. Be willing to experiment with techniques that might be different from what you’re used to like clicker training. At the same time, remember that you are your dog’s best advocate. Never let a trainer talk you into doing something to your dog that makes you uncomfortable.

The Work Pays Off

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Teach your Dog to Love the Veterinarian

 In a typical exam, a veterinarian will look in your puppy’s eyes, ears, and mouth; listen to her heart and lungs; touch and probe her belly; manipulate her joints; and - nobody’s favorite - take her temperature. Puppies that are regularly handled and touched all over are less fearful and more likely to regard touching as affection.

 A great way to help your puppy tolerate handling is to play a game called Touch. Grab a handful of pea-sized yummy treats. Find a quiet comfy spot. Now say “touch” to your puppy then touch the dog’s ear for a second; release and give her a treat. Say “touch” then touch the other ear for a second and give her a treat. I progress from there to actually lifting and looking into the ear canal for a second, but be sure to say “touch” before and offer the treat right after the exam.  The puppy usually starts to gets happy when she hears the word “touch” because she knows a treat is coming next.

From there, work on a simple lip lift on the left side of her mouth and then right side. You can make it more fun by smearing a little peanut butter or yogurt on the gums instead of a treat. Always say “touch” followed by the reward after the exam. Now progress by lifting one side of the puppy’s mouth to expose the teeth. Remember it’s a game. If the puppy isn’t having fun, stop.

 Lots of puppies are sensitive about having their paws handled. Say “touch” then gently and quickly stroke your puppy’s paw then hand her a treat. Once your puppy is happy about the brief touch you can leave your hand on her paw just a little bit longer before giving her the treat. Gradually work up to holding the paw, then giving gentle squeezes, and eventually touching the toe nails.

Remember to add the tail, belly and back with this game. You may not want to do a full session of touch in one sitting. Break it up into short fun sessions. In addition, when you regularly spend time touching your puppy, you will be more likely to notice changes such as lumps, swelling, or tenderness that may indicate health problems. Remember to bring yummy treats like canned cheese, pieces of real meat, or peanut butter with you to the vet!

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Dig, Service Please!

Housebreaking a dog can be a huge challenge.  Frequently dogs won’t let you know that they have to go. It was always kind of eerie, but I knew when my girl Shadow had to go potty. It always became super quiet, then I would find her just standing at the front door.  I think she was willing me with brainwaves for me to open the door for her.  Maybe she thought that standing there long enough, somebody might notice that there was an eighty-five pound Black Lab with her paws crossed. Sometimes I wondered how long she was there before I noticed her. Hey, I’m human!

So how do we get the dogs to tell us they have to go potty? One of the easiest ways to teach your dog to let you know that she has to go potty is to stand by the door and act like a goofball! The idea is to jazz up your pup. You stand by the door jump up and down or hop from one foot to the other foot while clapping your hands as you excitedly ask your dog “who wants to go potty?” Do this every time before you take your dog out for potty. Now if you notice your dog jumping around at the door or even barking at the door, she’s letting you know she has to relive herself. Take her out on a leash even if you have a fenced-in back yard. Don’t fall into the trap of I-really-only-wanted-to-go-out-and-play. The idea is when the dog does go potty you take her for a walk or let her off the leash to go play. These are huge, real-life reinforcing rewards for your dog.

You can teach your dog how to ring a bell or push a button for potty service. Make your own potty bell by using any bell (loud enough to hear from another room) tied to a ribbon then hang it from your door handle. It should be about nose high.  You use a push button toy that’s says “I gotta go” when pushed.  It also comes with instructions. You can even use a concierge bell. Clicker training is one of the quickest and easiest ways to teach your dog how to use any of these tools (to find a great dog trainer go to CCPDT.org). It took me about two days to teach my Ziva to - Ding, service please!

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What’s In a Wag?

The biggest myth is, a wagging tail means “happy dog.” Yes, dogs wag their tails when they are happy, but they also use them to communicate feelings. While barking can be used to broadcast feelings, dogs mostly rely on their body language to communicate. They use many parts of their body: eyes, ears, lips, stance, and tails to convey information. If you observe dogs closely for a period of time, you will quickly notice that there is no such thing as a uniform tail wag. Instead, dogs use different wagging speeds and different tail positions to communicate. Generally speaking, the position (or height) of the tail can be used as an emotional thermometer while the speed of the wag indicates how excited or aroused the dog is.

 Tucked tail- when the tail is tightly tucked under the dog’s body this is a sign of intense fear or can also be a submissive display. Low Tail- usually associated with worry or being submissive.  Middle or Neutral- how a dog carries his tail most of the time and is a sign of a relaxation. Some dogs naturally carry their tails high (Basenjis) and others carry it low (Greyhounds).  Horizontal and Tense (straight out at the back) - means that the dog is alert and attentive.  High Tail- usually used to show assertiveness or to challenge others.  Vertical tail- is a clear challenge and is used by dogs to say they are confident and in control.

 In general, the faster the wag, the more excited the dog.  Intensity- slight barely noticeable wag of small breadth (often seen during greetings) means the dog is hesitant.  Broad wag- a sign of friendliness or contentment. This is the “happy dog wag.” If the dog is very excited, you may also see his hips wiggling from side to side.  Tiny, high speed wags- if the tail is wagging in such a way that it looks like the tail is vibrating it means the dog is ready for action, usually to run or fight. When looking at your dog for clues about how he is feeling, remember to look at his entire body. Does the body look relaxed or are all the muscles tense? Is the dog staring hard at you (another person or dog) or is he giving you soft eyes? Observe your dog regularly and take note of his postures to better understand him.

Submitted by Marion C. O’Neil CPDT-KA, CTDI Owner and Trainer of Molasses Creek Dog Training, LLC Quakertown & Bethlehem PA

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My New Fur Baby

People say the only time that a good dog will hurt you is when they die. My heart has been broken for a long time.  It has been almost three years since I lost my beautiful Black Lab, Shadow.  A couple of months ago I took down the makeshift memorial to her, but left one photo and the mold of her foot print. The hurt isn’t as raw anymore. She will be in my heart forever. I still have tears for her streaming down my face just writing this paragraph. They say time heals all wounds and it does.

 I’d been kicking around the idea about a possible addition to my home. I wanted a playmate for my four year old Mizz Ziva before she was too old to really enjoy one. Time, money, and the stars were all in line and got me thinking, I was definitely ready for a new fur baby.  I looked on line at different rescue sites. I had my criteria ready. I wanted a smart, smaller-than-40 pounds, and not-all black dog. The search went on for weeks. The moment I saw her sweet beautiful face it stopped me dead in my tracts. A thirty pound, nine month old white Australian Shepard mix with a big brown patch over the left side of her face with a cute black nose. I began to read her bio: “good with dogs, cat, and children.” There was even a video of her playing with a kitten. I was lucky. We did a meet and greet with Ziva. They acted like they were long lost sisters from another mother. The adoption process with Wags Rescue and Referral went very smoothly.

Kayleena H. Wilson was her name for about 30 seconds. Now she is just Kai. All I can say is the first month with her has been hell. I understood Kai was scared and nervous in her new surroundings. She had been though a lot in the past month according to her paperwork. She knew nothing, except how to look cute.  This dog had no training at all: she crapped and peed in my house; tried to eat my underwear, shoes, and pens; gave me no personal space while I’m on the toilet; couldn’t be left alone in a crate without freaking out; and stole my towel when I was taking a shower. I watched how fast toilet paper can stream from the bathroom into the living room. Greetings consisted of her jumping, then raking her nails all the way down the back of my legs.  Like a doggy version of Freddy Krueger.

The good news is that she’s getting a lot better. Thank you from the bottom of my heart to Camp Jean’s Doggie Day Care. Jean and all the ladies there take care of Kai while I’m working. Kai doesn’t have to be crated and left alone to freak out. She gets to submerge herself in the pool and play all day while I’m working. It should be the other way around. This has really helped tremendously with the speed of her training and the ease of her separation issues. A tired dog is a good dog. I love Doggie Day Care!

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  The Two-Treat Method

$1·        This is a great way to work through distractions plus have your dog pay more attention to you. Have two treats in your hand. Praise your dog, now give one treat from your hand while you back up so that you are farther away from the distraction. Then give the second treat. Your dog is likely to run back to you instead of heading to the distraction. What a deal! Remember your reward should always be higher value than your distraction

Don't worry if your dog fails. Failure is a natural part of learning. Remain calm and resist the urge to yell "no" or physically move your dog around. Instead, follow this procedure:

$1·        Go to the distraction. Pick it up. Talk to your dog about it. Admire it together.

$1·        And then put it back.

$1·        Go to the same place you were before and ask the dog for the behavior again.

$1·        If your dog fails again, make the task just a bit easier.

$1·        For example, you might stand closer to your dog, or move the distraction a bit farther away. Or if you asked for a stay, you might change your duration from five seconds to three seconds.

If your dog fails three times in a row, stop. The task is too hard for your dog. Go back to the previous step or find a way to make it easier for your dog. Ask yourself the following questions:

$1·        Did you use a low enough value of distraction?

$1·        Are you using a higher value reward?

$1·        Does your dog KNOW that you have a higher value reward?

$1·        And this is the big one: are you SURE that your dog knows the base behavior in that environment when no distraction is present? If your dog does not know the command, you can repeat it till the cows come home, but you will not achieve success.

Each training session should be 5 minutes long OR LESS. Training should be fun, so don't keep going unless both you and your dog are enjoying it. You can repeat a lesson up to (but no more than) three times in a day. Ten minutes a day is an excellent target. 

If she's not having fun, that training session has not been successful, no matter how well she performed! Work smarter not harder.

Submitted by Marion C. O’Neil CPDT-KA, CTDI Owner and trainer of Molasses Creek Dog Training, LLC Quakertown

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Is Your Dog Telling You What To Do?

While I was visiting a friend the other day, I observed in horror as one of the most obnoxious behaviors a dog could offer unfolded right before my eyes. Not only was her dog Demand Barking but my friend was reinforcing it!  Yep, that little bugger was barking at my friend because she wanted a cookie. Little Sophia the Yorkie knew exactly where those cookies were stashed. She parked herself right in front of the cookie jar and she was not budging until she got her cookie. The more my friend ignored her dog, the louder the little devil dog became. After a couple minutes of Sophia’s temper tantrum, my friend laughed and said “Isn’t she so cute and smart that she can tell me she wants a cookie” and then gave her the cookie.

I know we all wish our dogs could talk sometimes but be careful what you wish for. I can only imagine what my dog would say, “I love you, too; come on scratch my butt; let me out; let me in; what, that kibble again; once more around the block, James, throw the ball;, you little wimp; oops, sorry I have gas.” Most people think it is amazing that their dog knows exactly where the cookie is, plus can communicate that feeling. Then there are some folks like me who think it’s pretty rude to be barked at.

Hey, I’m not perfect; I have been known to occasionally bribe my dogs with the words “cookies” to get their attention. I regularly treat my dog with a cookie - if she asks nicely. I think it is so cute that my dog can sit nicely in front of the cookie jar, glance at me, then back to the cookie jar as if to say “please, mom.”  I will ask her “would you like a cookie?” So when she sits and is quiet as if to say please, I then ask her to perform a simple known behavior like speak or sit pretty. I will then reinforce her by giving her the cookie. If I think it will ruin her dinner I simply say “not now, sweetie.” What I don’t like is for her to be demanding. Asking and telling are two different things. I am a firm believer that dogs should do things to get things. What you reinforce is what you get.

Submitted by Marion C. O’Neil CPDT-KA, CTDI owner and trainer of Molasses Creek Dog Training in Quakertown

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Who’s Walking Whom?

Did you ever think that you might be the reason your dog pulls you on walks? Ask yourself this question. Are you consistently being inconsistent? Here’s a classic scenario: you are out taking your dog for a walk around the neighborhood. Now your dog sees the friendly neighbor and his dog. You then allow your dog to pull you, to greet the friendly neighbor and his dog. Yup, unbeknownst to you, what you have just done here is positively reinforced your dog for pulling. The gigantic reward was getting to meet the friendly neighbor and his dog.

Now you continue your walk to the next block. Then you see a very deceased squirrel in the ditch (poor squirrel). Your dog is pulling and rearing like a bronco buck. All he wants to do is get to that putrid bug-infested roadkill. To exacerbate the issue, you are yanking on the leash to keep your dog from pulling towards the squished squirrel. Dogs have a thing called an Opposition Reflex which means if you pull the dog, they’ll pull back in the opposite direction. So now you are giving your dog even more reason to pull! Why is it okay to pull in the instance of the neighbor and his dog, but not for the expired squirrel? You are actually being consistently inconsistent.

Loose leash walking is exactly what it sounds like. You have a nice loose leash between you and your dog.  Not enough practice with too many distractions is where the problems start. You have to start at the shallow end of the pool, then work toward the deep end. Start your training by having the dog on a leash follow you around the house. Every couple of steps give your dog a treat for following you. Make kissy noises or slap the side of your leg to encourage the dog to follow you. You need a high rate of reinforcement in the beginning.  Gradually ask more from your dog as he is getting it. Slowly add more steps with less treats. When your dog is following you from one end of the house and back for only one treat it is time to take it outside but only in the backyard or someplace not too distracting. Up the ante on the value of treats (real meat not a dry biscuit) as you add more distractions. Set yourself up to succeed. Be  consistent.

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Chew on This

Ignoring unwanted behavior is very confusing for dog owners. I am not giving you permission to ignore the dog when he chews on inappropriate things like rocks, dirty underwear, or your furniture. I want to be very clear how to help your dog learn what is appropriate to chew on and what is not. Above all else I want your dog to be safe.

Your most powerful tool for changing a dog’s behavior is using positive reinforcement. The reward makes him more likely to repeat the behavior again. Reinforcement is not all about treats.  Giving the dog feedback by giving praise is reinforcement. You are letting the dog know he has made the right decision on what is appropriate to chew.  Always pay attention to your dog when your dog is being good.  Reward pottying outside versus punishing for pottying inside. Reward sitting versus punishing jumping.

  Out –of- date compulsion trainers may have you yank on a prong or choke collar, throw a can filled with pennies, or even scream and yell at your dog. Attempting the use of violence and intimidation may stop the unwanted behavior, but falls short of providing the information that corrects the unwanted behavior.  Did you ever try to teach a child how to ride a bike by yelling at them “no, no, no” then wait for them to somehow figure it out how to do it right?  Without feedback how is your dog going to make better decisions?

Force free trainers do administer corrections, but it is how we administer them. We do it proactively through management, not intimidation. Management is simply not giving the dog the opportunity to get in trouble in the first place, so we have don’t have to be reactive, but hey poop happens!

  The 3 R’s Remove, Redirect, and Reinforce

Remove: Remove the dog from the environment or things in the environment. Dog eating your underwear? Remove the dog to another room or better yet put your underwear where he cannot get it.

Redirect:  Give the dog something else to do. Having the dog play fetch is incompatible with swallowing rocks or chewing on your shoe laces.

 Reinforcement:  Reinforce by praising the dog for chewing on his toys, instead of yelling at the dog for chewing on your furniture or your pant leg.

It’s easier to teach a dog what to chew on then what not to chew on!

Submitted by Marion C. O’Neil CPDT-KA, CTDI, owner and instructor for Molasses Creek Dog Training, LLC Quakertown www.molassescreekdogtraining.com

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New Classes Starting:

Puppy I Manners                  2/10 Sat. 12:30 p.m            (sorry this class is full)

Puppy I Manners                  2/15 Thur. 6:00 p.m.

Puppy II Manners                 2/24 Sat. 11:00 a.m.

Teenrover/Adult-Manner    2/24 Sat. 1:30 p.m.

AKC Canine Good Citizen 2/19 Mon. 7:00 p.m.  

Novice Trick Dog (NTD)            2/24 Sat. 10:00 a.m  

Focus with Distractions       3/11 Sun. 1:00 p.m.

Check calendar for more scheduled classes!