The Super Quick Way Of Teaching Your Dog Who is Boss

Herding dogs are truly awesome pets – they are smart, quick, agile dogs with a whole lot of personality! But how do you keep your genius dog from stepping all over you? Some quick tips on reinforcing who REALLY wears the human clothes in the relationship:

  1. Feed the dog their meals by hand (sounds weird, but it works). Make sure it is a CALM feeding – no kibble is given for nosing the hand, pushing, barking, etc. Sitting and waiting politely (if impatiently) is the only way kibble will be dispensed.
  2. Have your dog sit before going out the door.670px-Teach-Your-Dog-to-Sit-Step-13
  3. Practice Calm Leadership – for undesirable behaviors, correct the dog with a sharp “ah-ah!”. If behavior continues, dog is led away and put into a crate/time-out spot. Do not speak to the dog or do any verbal correction other than a sharp “ah-ah!”. Dog gets two chances to stop the behavior or the dog is sent to “time out”.
  4. Clicker training!!! ß the easiest way EVER to show your dog who’s boss742583782279D
  5. Teach a classic “Come!” command, a super “Sit!” command, and a wonderful “Watch Me!” command.
  6. Give your dog a “job” – let them be the CEO of Good Behavior (ask them to give you certain behaviors prior to receiving whatever it is they want, most times).
  7. Remember that YOU are the gateway to all that is good in the dog’s life – they get access to the outside, to walks, to attention, to food, to everything through YOU. Be a strong gate, not a swinging door, and ask that the dog do a simple thing (“Sit”, “Stay”, “Paw”, or any other simple command) prior to gaining access to those wonderful things. Your relationship with your dog will reap the incredible benefits.bigstock-dog-running-6241804-300x199

A Game For Reactive Dogs: Look At That!

Have you ever had a dog that just won’t stop barking at other dogs on a walk? Maybe they obsess over kids playing basketball in the street. If you have that problem and can’t get your dog to leave it alone, it’s time to teach the Look At That! Game.barking dogs

This is a progressive game – you want to start in areas that have low distractions. A parking lot works well (make sure the pavement isn’t too hot or cold for your dog’s paws!), or a quiet, open room in the house. You progress to areas with more distractions – a yard, an empty dog-park – and yet more distractions.

The first key is to finding out what triggers your dog. Is it kids? Kids playing basketball? The basketball itself? If you don’t know, try figuring it out, using observations with your dog to understand what they are keying in on. As in the basketball example, break it apart: have your dog observe children playing from a distance. Is it the movement? If it’s not the movement, have a friend bounce a basketball at a distance. Is it the bouncing of the ball? If it’s not either of those, it may be the noise and excitement generated from play – the yelling, movement, or a combination of all.

85492891Next, you need to figure out where the dog’s threshold is. How close can you get to the stimulus before the dog stops paying attention to you at all and is obsessed by the stimulus? Now take 20 steps in the opposite direction – this is most likely your “threshold”. Increase or decrease as necessary to have the dog willing to pay attention to the stimulus, but where you can still capture your dog’s attention easily.

The “Look At That!” game has a combination of excellent qualities when taught correctly: it teaches the dog to look at a scary/exciting thing and then re-orient on you, it teaches the dog that scary things can be good, it lessens the frustration that many dogs have about being “on leash” and unable to “do” anything about it.

  1. Using a toy or low trigger object, hold it behind your back (you want a fairly boring object, one that the dog will look at and then look back to you as if to say, “So…?”). Put the dog in a “sit”. Show it to the dog, holding it at arm’s length, and tell the dog to “Look at that!”. When they look at it, and then look at you, click and treat. Repeat 10-15 times, using progressively more exciting, different objects. You will know your dog is ready to move on when they glance at an object and then look back at you and stare at you, waiting for the click/treat.
  2. Use the “threshold” distance as explained above to determine the distance you need to be from an exciting stimulus. Command your dog into a “sit”, then say “look at that!”, pointing at the stimulus. Your dog should look at the stimulus, then look back at you. Click and treat, and move progressively closer to the stimulus as your dog “gets” it. Go slowly – you don’t want to lose your dog’s focus. If the focus begins to fade, do the exercise one more time and then stop.
  3. Move as close as is comfortable to the stimulus, using several sessions over several days. Give the dog permission to look, and then re-orient to you. Progress to moving at a walk, if it’s a nice walk that’s desired.5913123

This is very nearly a “fool-proof” game – it works nearly every time, even with dogs that are showing aggression or intense fear. The key to the game is to keep your dog “under threshold”. If you are “over threshold”, the dog will be unable to focus and will go crazy, paying no attention to you. Make sure you back up and try again – your dog will thank you!

Leash Training the Easy Way, By Choice

Leash training need not be difficult! If you have a reactive dog that barks at everything and everyone, or a dog that pulls you down the street, or even a dog that likes to wrap you in circles, try the easy way.

The principle of easy leash training is that a.) you are in control of the walk, and the walk consists of very regular components: a sniff-walk, and an exercise walk, and b.) bad behaviors aren’t rewarded by letting the walk

Important note about treats: ** Use tiny, tiny treats, pea-sized or smaller, that are smelly and soft. Bil Jac Small Dog Liver Treats work well, or you can cut up hotdogs or use bits of lunchmeat, bologna, hot dogs, etc. You MUST use high-value treats while training these exercises. Your dog will not work as hard for a Milk Bone as they do for a hot-dog coin, and you want them to work hard! **

If you have two dogs, it is best to split them up while leash training as they can feed off each others’ bad behaviors and make them more difficult to control.

Leash walking, by choice:

There are two components of this practice: the first is “with me by choice”. This is an easy exercise that, when repeated frequently, results in dogs that are incredibly easy on the leash (frequently = 2-3 times a day, in a variety of locations – does not need to be outside, but can be practiced in a garage, an open room, or around the house). Limit to 10-15 minute sessions.

  1. In an open but secure area, wander around. Bring a clicker and treats. Anytime your dog comes up to your left or right side, in the magical area where you would like them to walk with you, click immediately and give them a treat (if outside, make sure to have very high value treats). At first, it will be a “novelty” one-time experience for the dog, so don’t expect them to clap on to the idea immediately. Over time, your will find that your dog wanders with you, anticipating the treat, as they realize that being in the “magic position” earns them a treat. Many treats are required at first, but you can slowly decrease the frequency until you are walking without barely giving a treat at all (if your dog’s attention begins to wane, up the number of times you are clicking for a treat). Also, as the dog begins to “get it”, increase the speed of the “wander”.

The second component of this practice is “with me, by choice, on a leash”. When you have completed the first component and your dog is spending at least 75% of the time by your side, gamely wandering with you, you can progress to the leash walking.

  1. With the leash on, wander with your dog around a quiet area. This is done the same way as the free-form wandering, but with a leash. The dog is allowed to move anywhere around you and the “wander” is allowed to continue, as long as the leash is slack. This part introduces a new “rule”, which is that if the dog pulls on the leash, the “wander” stops (so, plant yourself like a tree immediately and do not move until the dog slackens the leash. If the dog does not slacken the leash after 10 seconds, turn abruptly 180 degrees and move away from the stimulus). If the dog is in the “magic position”, the dog gets a click and a treat. Slowly increase the speed of your couples-walking-with-dog-jpgwander, and feel free to use right-hand and left-hand turns.

The idea of the “by choice” walking is to bring your dog to an understanding of what you want them to do and that it is pleasant and rewarding to walk with you, but that no reward is given for pulling on the leash.

The goal of the “by choice” method is to have an easy, force-free method of walking your dog. There’s no yanking on a leash, no prong collars, no intense training routines – you’re just walking with your dog. Repeat twice a day for 10-15 minute sessions, and in two weeks, you’ll have a well-trained dog that is a joy to walk.

Help! My dog is being unruly!

Unruly dogs – how well we know thee. After having many foster dogs over the years with vastly different personalities, issues, and learning curves, I can tell you that dogs are amazing creatures with depths of personalities that rival humans’, and with many of the same tics and particularities. But what do you do when your dog is being unruly? Maybe your dog is getting into the trash, or jumping and biting, or has decided that all pillows are evil and must be de-stuffinged, or maybe your dog has decided that countertops are excellent for lounging (all of these have happened in our household at one point or another). So how do you correct the behaviors?crazy-dog-face

All behaviors have different ways you can approach them, but here are a few general tips for anyone looking to improve the behavior of their dog:

More Walkies! Yes, more exercise can broadly improve your dog’s behavior. Herding breeds especially benefit from additional exercise. An extra-long walk 3-4 times a week, or maybe a romp at a nice dog-park, or even a swim in the lake can help tone down undesirable behaviors. “Getting the ya-yas out” (giving the dog adequate time to run to their heart’s content) is the best way to help curb undesirable behavior. Say it with me: A tired dog is a happy dog.

Give them something to think about! Think about a time that you were bored out of your mind, and perhaps how frustrated you were, and how you wanted to be ANYWHERE but there, doing that boring thing again. Herding dogs, being some of the smartest dogs in the world, need to exercise their gray matter just as much as humans. In fact, a half-hour of training and learning new things and exercising their brain is as good as an hour walk! Here are some of the best “thinking” behaviors that tire our dogs out:

  • – Training – learning a new skill is nothing to sneeze at! Take a clicker-training class and learn how to “shape” and “capture” your dog’s behaviors, or check out one of the numerous clicker training videos on YouTube. In no time, your dog will be crawling, rolling over, opening doors, and fetching a soda for you. Training is one of the easiest ways to tire your dog out mentally.
  • – Nosework – We’ve mentioned this before, but nosework is a great “rainy day” game for your dog, and requires nothing but a few cardboard boxes and some treats.dogs6
  • – The “Follow me” Game – This is a game I play in my own household with my dogs, AND I can get the housework done at the same time! Training your dog to hold something and open a door is the only precursor for this game. I clean the house, the dogs carry the feather duster, open the doors (which are rigged with rags tied on to them), lie down or sit on command, “sing” along with me, turn on the lights, or fetch toys for me to throw for them for treats.
  • Buster Cubes and Interactive Toys – For the times when you just want to watch the news in peace. Toss your dog’s dinner in a Buster Cube or Kibble Nibble and let your dog go to town rolling, pawing, and pushing the toy to release the kibble. FoodCube_2010_07

One Handful of Kibble is Better Than Two Handfuls In A Bowl – Hand feeding is one of the #1 ways to treat an unruly pup to respect you, the Giver of Things. Bowls are so impersonal – change it up by taking your dog’s dinner and feeding it to them one handful at a time. This reinforces the idea that YOU give the food, not the bowl. It’s also a good way to train your dog too – incorporate some “sits” and “downs” into the session, and before you know it, you’ve reinforced your dog’s training skills AND are teaching them to respect you!

It’s a Family Affair – Everyone in the household should take a turn at training your dog. This reinforces respect for ALL family members. Before you say “my kid is too young!”, just remember that kids are often the BEST dog trainers because of their intuitive qualities. This should be attempted only with parental help and supervision, of course. Pass the treats and the dog around for 10 minute training sessions with each family member, and you’ve got nearly an hour of learning!

Of course, many of these need to be accompanied by formal training, but all of them are easy ways to help occupy and calm the unruly dog and return some peace to your life (without having to buy all new pillows).


Fourth of July Safety For Your Pups, Dos and Don’ts

All of us have probably had, at one time or another, a dog afraid of thunderstorms or loud noises. With herding dogs, this is especially prevalent as they are bred for keen hearing and senses, so often the booms and crackles of fireworks are enough to scare any dog into bolting. Read on to learn how to keep your dog safe!

1. DO confine your pets! This may seem cruel to crate or confine your pets, but there is a reason that most animal control centers work round-the-clock on 4th of July weekend. Many family pets are frightened by fireworks and people setting off firecrackers, especially in urban and suburban areas, and go missing from yards or run away from their owners. The safest way to make sure your pet is not going to pull a Harry Houdini in your yard is to make sure they are confined indoors. We recommend confining your dog at the very least during the major fireworks hours when most cities or counties are setting off their large, official fireworks displays.Fireworks_-_Adelaide_Skyshow_2010

2. DO check your fence! If your dogs are in a fenced area, make sure to check your fence a couple of days prior to the fireworks to make sure there are no areas where your pet can escape. Despite some counties’ restrictions on fireworks, they can still be easily obtained and set off in neighborhoods, which can frighten your pet, so to keep from having to chase them through yards and over hill and dale, it’s advisable to check your fence. Look for any gaps or any areas that could be easily dug away. It only takes a few seconds for a frightened dog to dig under a fence.

3. DO make sure your animals have identification! This is key in helping animal control reunite you with your pet if your pet does go missing. Make sure any tags are up to date, and that your address and phone number are prominently displayed on their collar. It’s a good time to check and make sure that their collars are properly fitted and in good condition as well, and replace as needed.

4. DO check for alternative methods! If your dog is frightened by loud noises, employ some calming methods. There are lots of over-the-counter products that can help your dog calm down or remain calm. We recommend trying:

  • Bach’s Flower Remedies – Rescue Remedy – this is a simple tincture that only requires a couple of drops. It does take 45 minutes or more to kick in, so make sure you prep this well in advance and read the instructions on the bottle for how much to give your pet.
  • Thundershirts – These are extremely user-friendly and will often help calm a pet down quickly. They can be used in a variety of situations (stressful car-rides, during thunderstorms, vet visits) and are machine-washable. They are simply wrapped around the dog snugly, and act as an anti-anxiety wrap to help calm your pet.
  • Through A Dog’s Ear music – This is a great way to induce calm and help keep your pet on an even keel. Simply press “play”. TADE music is specially written for pets and they offer a variety of calming CDs and downloads to choose from. They even offer music to help train your dogs to no longer fear fireworks!
  • Adaptil collar – This is a collar that contains the same type of hormones that mother dogs release when puppies are feeding, and it can assist a dog to remain calm even much later in life. Simply place the collar over the dog’s head and allow the collar to do the work.

There are many other natural ways to help calm your dog, and some of use a combination of all or some of the above to help our dogs fight anxiety, especially during the fourth of July.

1372863437_7783_Flickr5. DON’T be afraid to seek professional help for your pet! If your pet is a danger to themselves because of their anxiety, please seek veterinary assistance! There is no shame in medicating your pet if they truly are anxious and excessively fearful, and we would rather seek veterinary help than let a dog go into a panic and possibly hurt themselves trying to escape. Medications do take time to work, however, so if you know your pet is going to be very fearful of all the loud noises and may seek to escape in any way possible, seeking veterinary help now is key.

6. DON’T take your pet to the fireworks displays! We know you love your pet and want them to be with you, but the loud noises from fireworks displays can be hurtful and even injure your pet’s hearing permanently, not to mention it is very scary to most of them. Keep them safe at home.

7. DO close your doors and windows at home. This will not only help reduce the noise, but it will also help prevent your pet from escaping your home in a panic.

There are plenty of other recommendations for, as some of our herding dogs think of it, The End of the World AKA the Fourth Of July, and this is only a brief overview. Help keep your pet sane and help make Animal Control’s life easier by making sure your pet is safe at home during the holiday.

Herding breeds and dog sports

Dog sports are a big topic with herding dogs – not only are herding breeds intelligent, but they are also bred to be athletic problem-solvers with a knack for speed. Many families that adopt a herding dog have some kind of dog sport in mind, outside of training the dog to actually herd sheep or cattle. So what sports are herders good at?

1. AGILITY. Many owners of herding breeds to agility, which is the dog equivalent of a steeple chase course. There are jumps, chutes, tunnels, A-frames, and more obstacles that dogs clear in an effort to have the best time. It’s also important that the dog have a “clean run”, where the dog clears each obstacle cleanly, without error, and in perfect order. Many cities have agility clubs and classes available. The benefit is having a fun sport to play with your dog that occupies their mind and body, and improves the coordination and bond between the handler and the dBorder collie agilityog. Herding breeds are especially good at this given their natural athleticism and how attuned they are to their owners.

2. FLYBALL. Flyball is a fun sport where a dog must clear several hurdles, hit a box that releases a ball, catch the ball, and return to their handler after clearing all the hurdles again. This sport is an amazing game to play with ball-crazy dogs! Points are given for the best times. Given that many herding dogs LOVE to play ball, this is an especially good sport for them. The handler just releases the dog at thNOSEWORKe right time, and the dog has to do the rest – a true test of the bond between the handler and the dog!

3. NOSEWORK. This is the process of teaching a dog to sniff out a certain odor, like bomb-detection dogs or search and rescue dogs. It is a long process but in the end, your companion can be taught to “track” a scent through a room, or find objects with a certain smell on them. Beginner levels are taught with a lot of cardboard boxes, some of them containing a smelly treat. Advanced courses teach the dog to smell out one particular odor. This is a great rainy-day game for your dog, as it exercises their mind and nose as they attempt to find a tasty treat!

4. RALLY. Rally, rally obedience, or simply Rally-O is a game that challenges dogs and handlers to complete a course where certain commands are given on cue cards. Points are awarded for smooth performances and time. Some commands might be simple – like sit, down, or stay – while some are more challenging – Heeling through turns, making circles, or a sit-stay-recall. If your dog is great at obedience, this might be a great sport to start! Rally classes start at informal, local levels and go all the way up through AKC competition and are a great way to exercise your dog’s mind.

5. TREIBBALL. Dogs that love to herd may also love treibball! Treibball is a relatively new sport where inflated balls must be carefully herded into an enclosure within a set time limit. Balls are “herded” one at a time, and the handler can only communicate with the dog through verbal commands, hand signals, or whistles. Originally created to help herding breeds that do not have regular access to sheep or cattle, treibball has become a worldwide sensation. This is a wondimageerful way to see your herding dog exercise their innate knowledge of herding even in big cities!

There are many dog sports out there to pursue – this post only covers five out of a hundred fun activities – and the important thing to remember is to find a sport that you and your dog both enjoy. Dog sports are a great way to mentally stimulate your dog as well as improve the connection with your companion, and come very highly recommended for herding breeds!

Why do we have fundraising events?

People often ask me why we have to havamber and austin 1e fundraising events when we have an adoption fee.  Shouldn’t the adoption fee be enough to cover taking care of a dog until it is adopted?  I wish I could say that it is.  Many of the dogs we take in come to us with seen and unseen medical issues that must be treated before the dog can be adopted.  There is also the on-going monthly cost of heartworm and flea /tick preventative as well as the cost of high quality food, collars, toys, bedding and crates.

Just recently, we took in two 9 month old dogs that had been living on a farm without any medical attention at all.  When they came to us they were covered in ticks and had not been socialized.  As soon as we got them they went directly to the vet for a complete check-up.  It was discovered that they both had tick borne diseases that required treatment with 30 days of antibiotics.  They also needed to be spayed and brought up to date on all of their vaccinations.  Just taking care of their initial needs cost over $350 per pup.

We also have a beautiful Border collie that came to us from a Virginia Shelter.  A good Samaritan paid to have her spayed and vaccinated, but even with someone paying those expenses, we have incurred another $1,000 in vet bills to take care of other medical issues.

The average monthly cost to take care of a healthy rescue dog is between $35 and $40.  This just covers food, Heartguard and Frontline.  So you can see, an adoption fee of $250 can’t cover many months of just the basic care.

So why do we hold fundraising events?  We do it so we can take care of the dogs already with us and to make sure we can give the best care to new dogs we take in.

Please consider making a donation, or participating in one of our events.  And remember, adopt don’t shop.  If you can’t adopt, foster.  If you can’t foster, donate.  If you can’t donate, share.