Saturday, February 28, 2009

A couple notes about dogs

First off, I am now 6 hours removed from the humane society as I went home to my parent's house and will be here for two weeks. That means no updates on the humane society dogs. On the upside I will still be posting about different techniques and tools that I have found to be helpful but just haven't written about yet. This post is just a heads up for what is to come. I will also be working with my brother's dog so I will make some posts about her. That is all for now.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Dog walking, Chance

I have been told a number of times that Chance is the worst dog we have when it comes to walking on a leash. I disagree. Today was my first opportunity to walk Chance. He started out a little head strong and stiff necked but I was firm, consistent, and calm as his leader. First things first, I wait until every dog is calm before a let them go through the door, after I do. This means that I am the leader and I require a calm-submissive attitude before I let them do anything. Since there are three different doors that I need to take a dog through before we get outside the repetition does amazing things. Some dogs, like Chance, will still want to pull when I first get them outside but after about two blocks of timely and consistent corrections they tend to settle down and assume a follower role, even Chance.
Obviously one walk in which Chance was able to eventually assume a follower position is not enough to deem him a good walker. This does however give us a very good starting point from which we can improve.
My tool of choice is becoming more and more a chain. Most dogs are already used to having a collar around their necks so they usually accept a chain very easily. I find this the best for me to use with most dogs, although with dogs who put their heads down to sniff constantly I prefer a halti or gentle leader. With these dogs a chain will slide to the base of their necks and make it useless. The halti or gentle leader maintains control over the heads and necks of these dogs.

It is becoming more and more obvious to me that Cesar Millan is right when he says that 99.some% of all dogs are able to become balanced dogs. Every day I work with these dogs they become one step closer to better balanced and better behaved dogs.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Some of the Dogs

The dog on the top is Zoey. Middle is Boomer. Bottom is Chelsey. Boomer and Chelsey you have heard about already. Zoey was a stray that came in some time yesterday. She is still a puppy. She walks very well on a leash. I don't know much else about her because I haven't had much time with her yet.

Dog Socialization

Socializing a dog is one of the best things that you can do for your dog. When you socialize your dog with other dogs he is forced to learn to interact with other dogs. This goes a long way toward becoming balanced. Socializing your dog means that you provide frequent opportunities for your dog to interact with other dogs, getting to know them and playing with them. In doing this it is very important to pick dogs that are already balanced to be playmates with your dog. If you introduce your dog into a group of unbalanced dogs it will do more harm to your dog than good.
Your dog is able to pick up on the energy, or attitude, of the dogs to whom it is introduced, and start to exhibit that same energy. This means that if you introduce your dog to a pack of dominant and aggressive dogs that push everyone else around your dog will probably either be pushed around and become extremely timid or your dog will adopt the same energies and attitudes of the pack and become dominant and aggressive as well.
Socialization is important but so is finding the right dogs for your dog to socialize.
The second part of socialization is with humans. For a dog to be comfortable among strangers that dog needs to be socialized and shown that strangers pose no threat and at the owner's decision they can be approached or simply ignored.
Along the topic of socialization, Chelsey was introduced to another dog today. While I was bringing her back to the Humane Society another volunteer was taking out Chance. I had already established a trusting bond with Chelsey so when I corrected her for inappropriate behavior such as mounting and biting she complied and stopped her bad behavior. Chance on the other hand did not do so well. He repeatedly tried to assert dominance in ways unacceptable.
There are a number of things that will be put into order to help move Chance beyond this behavior and help him associate with other dogs. This will come in a later post.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Boomer is getting better

Boomer does great in a place without distractions. I was able to work with Boomer for about an hour and a half again today with a good chunk of that time doing some work at the park. On the way to the park Boomer was the most aggressive. At the park and after the park Boomer become much more calm and submissive but not completely.
An empty park is a nice place to work on a particular problem without distractions like cars, people, and other dogs. I used a long line of about 20 feet. We ran and did some basic obedience work.
The run is what set up the bond that made it possible to do obedience work. Even though I gave him the full 20 feet of line I made it clear that I was his leader. I didn't hit him or punish him. I led and corrected him. I started by giving him about 5 feet of line and had him run next to me. Almost immediately he moved behind me and I rewarded his submissive behavior by giving him more line and inviting him to come next to me and even in front of me. After running for about 20 minutes I had him stop and sit. I had him sit until I had stretched the rope out and then would call and have him come to me. Every time I bent down to reward him with petting. After the basic obedience work we ran a short time again and then we went back to the humane society.
The walk back to the humane society started a little rough as Boomer wanted to take control once we moved to a new setting. By being a calm-assertive leader I was able to get him to calm down and he was totally ignoring both cars and people but still had a little trouble with other dogs by the time we got back.
If we are able to get Boomer out for workouts like this he will be well on his way to becoming more adoptable. We will still need to work on introducing him to other dogs and how he interacts with them but I think it is a very good possibility that this can happen.

Walking, regular collar with a leash

The most obvious option for walking a dog is probably the regular collar/leash combination. This is a collar adjusted to fit around the neck and not slip off over the head. This is one of the last steps before you are able to walk your dog off leash. A collar like this does not increase control beyond the point that the dog cannot actually run away from you. If your dog is one who leads you it will most likely be pulling you down the sidewalk rather than being calm and submissive next to or behind you.
With a dog that recognizes you as leader 100% of the time you will have no problem walking your dog with a regular collar/leash combination.
I would not recommend only this set of tools for teaching any dog how to walk properly on a leash or in your pack.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Walking, halti, gentle leader, etc.

The halti, or gentle leader type collar is a second type of tool that you can use to teach your dog how to walk on a leash. It does not have to be one of these brands. The basic concept is that in addition to the collar that goes around the dog's neck there is a loop that goes over the muzzle and is fed through a small hole in the collar. The leash is attached to the loop that goes over the muzzle after it is fed through the small hole in the collar.
These halter type collars operate on the idea that the dog will follow his head. You are now able to determine how far you will let your dog go away from you. When the dog reaches this limit and tries to go beyond it the loop around its muzzle gently turns its head back toward you. Whether you let your dog walk ten feet in front of you or you don't let it lead your side as soon as the dog tries to go past your boundaries the leader will turn its head back to focus on you.
This is a tool that can help prevent your dog from becoming stiff-necked and stubborn. When your dog fixes its attention on any object other than you it is very easy to make a quick correction to refocus your dog. A quick little pull toward your body will direct your dog's head away from the object it is focused on and back to you, its leader.
The downfall of these halter type collars is that it can be very hard to get your dog to accept it. The idea of something looped around its muzzle regardless of whether or not it inhibits jaw movement is foreign and unnatural. Some dogs will toss their heads continuously, some will use their front paws to pull it off and some will chew until the leader is broken.
One way to help your dog accept a halter type collar is by associating the collar with food and treats, also start slowly. First, you can clip just the collar part around your dog's neck without putting the loop over the muzzle (how long you need to do this will very from dog to dog). Most dogs are ok with a collar around their necks so this shouldn't be a problem. Second, you can use food treats to intice your dog to put its muzzle through the loop but be sure to give a treat every time your dog puts its muzzle through the loop. After this has become comfortable for your dog you can move on to putting the loop around the muzzle and clipping the collar in place(give a reward treat) and leave the halter on for a time. At this point you can start walking for short amounts of time with the halter collar. Continue to increase the time your dog has the halter collar on little by little until you reach the amount of time you need for a full walk (you can continue above and beyond that).