Do you have a dog in need of exercise? Do you find yourself wishing your dog had an off-switch? Is your dog jumping and nipping at you or your kids with uncontrolled excitement?
'Red Light' is a game you can play with your dog to help him learn self-control. It can be beneficial for your kids too because it teaches them an important safety tool if they're ever chased by a dog. Kids will see how their behavior contributes to a dog's reactions, and it provides a positive training management tool. Best of all, it's a fun way of helping your dog learn that all important "Chill Skill".
I play a modified version at all my Safe Kid/Safe Dog demonstrations.
How to play:
Step One - (Dogs and puppies should know 'SIT' before starting this game.) First teach Fido to sit for a treat by holding one just above his nose and slowly lifting it upward. As the pup's nose moves up for the treat, his rear will move down towards the floor and he should adopt a sitting position. Click and give him the treat. Next, teach the kids and other players how to get the dog to sit for treats.
Now you're ready to start the game!
Step Two - In the beginning an ADULT should be in charge and holding the dog on a leash. Start by taking just a few steps and have the dog 'SIT'. Be sure to reward your dog with praise and treats for all sits he performs correctly. Slowly add more motion and excitement to your game and begin to lengthen the intervals of movement time.
Step Three - (Add more players.) With your dog on leash or with his leash dragging, Call 'Green Light!' and have the players jump, run and wiggle while making happy noises. Just as the dog starts to get excited, call 'Red Light' and have the players stand quietly with hands at their sides like a tree. Depending on your dog's level of training and excitement, you can gradually work up to waving your arms, dancing, whooping and hollering or running wildly about the house or yard. This can be a great tool for controlling a young puppy who may bite or nip. Again, an adult should be monitoring the dog very closely and be ready to step in and regain control if he becomes too excited or out of control.
Step Four - In no time you will playing off-leash and will be able to incorporate some pretty wild behavior by the (human) players. When 'Red Light' is called, the person closest to the dog is responsible for helping to make sure the dog sits and should be the one to reward him with a treat for good behavior.
Safety warning! - Be sure to take your cues from your dog. If your dog is becoming more aroused (instead of less so), be sure to call 'Red Light' more frequently in order to give dogs and kids sufficient time to regroup. If that doesn't work then it may be time to end the game. It is always a good idea to play this game on-leash or with it dragging when kids are involved so you can quickly get your dog back under control in case the game's excitement level escalates.
If your dog is still misbehaving, try playing the game again at another time when your dog might be in a lower key, or perhaps they need remedial training help with sit. It is always best to introduce the game when your dog is already in a calm state. This is a great tool to have in your training tool box for use in real-life situations where your dog's behavior has become too wild.
Variations on the game - You can incorporate music, making it similar to the game of "Freeze Frame" you played as kids yourself. Many of you will find that your dog is quick to catch on to the musical version. Try playing it like a race from Point A to Point B and back again. Remember - less is more, so don't overdo things!
Gooddogz Training will be returning to the Children's Museum this summer for several Dog Bite Prevention events. Bring your kids and come play 'Red Light' with Charlee!
Every once in a while I’ll get a really annoying dog in class. A dog that barks and barks and just seems to have his own agenda.
Meet ‘Sailor’, a 7-month-old chocolate Standard poodle, sporting an overgrown Afro, and a recent addition to a very nice family. Mom is a pediatrician with three lovely kids. Dad was convinced that this big, overgrown dog, (affectionately nicknamed ‘Clifford’ and "Baby Huey" due to his substantial size) was a very dumb dog and should be returned. They had chosen a Standard Poodle because they liked the breed and appreciated an intelligent companion. What they got instead was….Bark, pull and play! Sweet dog…but more than a handful.
On his first night, Sailor sailed into class quite the free spirit. We worked on lots of attention exercises but Sailor was engrossed in being loud, distracting and wasn’t particularly motivated to learn or work. (Enough so that one pup’s owner switched to a quieter class, if that gives you a visual.) He arrived at his second week of class displaying more of the same. I told his owners that I believed his incessant barking stemmed from frustration and was concerned that it might progress into aggression.
So why am I telling you about Sailor? Because we finally found out what truly makes him tick after six long weeks of hard work by his owners. By graduation day he’d been transformed into a quiet, focused student. More importantly, he was happy! (Almost as much as his family and his classmates!)
Understanding your dog’s behavior can take time. If you have a problem dog, ask yourself what motivates him? What does he like best of all? Then use that knowledge to your advantage. For some dogs it isn’t necessarily about food or training treats. Some dogs may learn and work best for the chance to play with their favorite toy, go for a ride in the car, a chance to chase squirrels or herd sheep as a reward. In Sailor’s case, he wanted contact with doggie friends.
Sailor was obsessed with other dogs. By his second class, we were rewarding good work (not barking) with the chance to play off lead with two of his 6-month-old puppy classmates. He was very gentle and sweet and quite happy. The play session resulted in very little barking afterwards. However, each week Sailor continued announcing his arrival at the outset of class with a bout of frenzied barking. But he’d settle down, get back on track, and remain so until he decided another play reward was in order.
I was especially pleased with Sailor’s progress because his problems could potentially have resulted in the loss of his home and possibly even his life. Underneath that cute, floppy Afro was a fundamentally smart dog. But that intelligence was handicapped by a pushy nature and a determination to have it his way. So you may be asking yourself, “What was the key to Sailor’s turnaround”? Sailor, like most dogs, is a very social animal. On Saturday, his graduation day, before I’d even finished with an earlier session, I heard Sailor arrive, barking to excess anouncing to the world that he was here. He came into his class once again, like gangbusters, barking and maneuvering his way over to a Lab puppy friend. His owner allowed him to sniff, but as soon as he was pulled away, the barking began again in earnest. A light bulb went off in my head and I asked his owner if we might try a method referred to as ‘abandonment training’. I have had success using a modified version of this to help some aggressive dogs and it seemed worth trying with Sailor.
‘Abandonment training’ doesn’t mean we abandon the dog. Instead we take away (or remove the dog from) the one thing the dog wants most. I snatched his leash with a firm “Too Bad!” and whisked him into the office, shutting the door on his lead. He became quiet instantly. Immediately thereafter, I opened the door to let him out, praised him verbally with a “Good Quiet!” and walked slowly with him towards the group. But he caught sight of his little Lab buddy and began whining again. This earned him a quick U-turn and a return trip to office isolation for several more seconds. The Sailor who emerged from the office a second time was a dog who was now starting to realize his barking/whining took him AWAY from what he wanted most. The final revelation came after his third trip to the office before handing him back to his owner. The entire session occurred over a three-minute period. He tried the same (mis)behavior with his owner but she did a great job of mimicking exactly what I had just done. And guess what? Sailor didn’t make a peep! The remaining Fifty-seven minutes left for class and he was as quiet as a mouse. I couldn’t have been happier for all concerned.
In class Sailor did get to play with his friends a bit, but only at the discretion of his owner. Now his owner decided with whom and when he could play and it painted a striking contrast to his first night in class.
There are lessons to be learned from Sailor’s situation:
Lesson One: Beware of the older pup still available from a breeder. Sometimes you may indeed be getting ‘pick of the litter’ and score a great pup that the breeder held back or planned to keep for themselves. But it might also be the case of a problem pup that didn’t sell and the reason(s) may not have been obvious to you. I can relate story after story of people acquiring older puppies they fell in love with from a picture on the Internet. Use caution and common sense here. Think with your head and not your heart. Not all personalities may be a good match for your family.
Lesson Two: If you are having a hard time with your dog or puppy, don’t delay in getting help. The longer they practice what you don’t want them to do, the better they will become at doing so. Sailor did not train himself. Don’t employ quick-fix programs from a book or experiment with suggestions from well-meaning friends. Consult a professional dog trainer. I am convinced that, had Sailor’s owners not enrolled him in an obedience training class, they would have been headed for far more serious problems down the road.
Lesson Three: Incentive for your dog doesn’t have to involve food treats. Use real life rewards. Find out what matters to your dog and use it to your advantage. Also called Premack's Theory, it is much like having to eat your vegetables in order to be able to eat dessert.
Lesson Four: Be sure to control all of your dog’s resources. It is important to find out what motivates your dog and be consistent in its use. Leaders control all resources.
Lesson Five: Focus on what behavior you’d like your dog to START performing rather than what you want him to STOP doing. Train an alternative behavior. For example, if your dog is jumping up on guests when they arrive, think about what you’d prefer they do and train that. (Teach them to ‘Sit’ or ‘Down’ instead.) Don’t leave things to chance.
Sailor was fortunate to have found a wonderful family who love him for who he is. They are committed to putting the time, effort and energy necessary into helping him achieve his full potential. Sadly, not every dog is as lucky as Sailor.
With rain rain and more rain to come, it is time to laugh at the weather with Triumph the insult comic dog...
Many years ago before the rest of the commercial world caught on, I helped to litter box train quite a few clients dogs.
We didn't use a Pet a potty , with real or fake grass. Look close. The design flaw here is that it needs higher sides or guess what, stuff will get on the floor. Never mind that Business Weekly on line wrote about it this week, or that Sharon Osbourne is "putting one in her bedroom." We all know where the Osbourne dogs do their business and I don't see this as their solution at all. Attention Sharon and Ozzie! Send me a ticket out there, pay for my time and I will help you potty train your animals in no time, no problem!!! Pet- a- Potty would only work well for a few select dogs. Overall it is a bad idea, and especially for male dogs, if you get my drift.
But I did put my head together with clients and we used the bottom of an old crate. It worked out fine. The only problem we had was that the dogs liked to have something underneath, like a rubber bath mat, so that the crate didn't move around and scare them. This web site does a great job at explaining the process! These days you can also buy doggie litter, and wee wee pads to help you out.
Litter box training can be an excellent solution for small dogs with tiny bladders, for dogs who continue to have accidents no matter how hard you try, and I have even heard of larger dogs being taught to use the litter box from time to time. Litter training does not take the place of walks or a professional pet walker. When I lived in Boston, we used it primarily with dogs in high rise apartments, and small dogs who would not go outside in inclement weather.
If you decide to try this I wish you good luck!
What's that? You are wondering about teaching your dog to use the toilet, like the cat in Meet the Fockers, or the dog in Bruce Almighty? You could easily teach a dog to put their paws on the top of the bowl and even flush by teaching them to target, first, but if you think your husband has bad aim...
I was alerted to the "presence of danger" this morning by my dog. When I went upstairs to investigate what she was so upset about, I found Charlee, up from her early morning siesta with hackles raised and body posture alert, barking ferociously at the bird cages. We had covered them after they chose to be particularly squawky and irritating. The birds rarely have their cages covered and this morning we used the closest towel, which happened to have a picture of Simba and Mufasa, from The Lion King.
Imagine my poor dog's surprise to think that lions had snuck in her living room while she napped blissfully on her bed.
Seriously though, I have blogged this to show an example of S.E.C, a very common occurrence in dogs. S. E. C. stands for Sudden Environmental Change and some dogs do tend to have it more than others, especially the herding breeds and dogs that lack early socialization. It is why your dog will not bark at a parade, but will bark at one lone marcher coming down the street. S.E.C. can explain why a dog flips out at the sight of a wind blown flying plastic shopping bag, a lone wagon left in the yard, or anything else of out the usual. It explains why dogs out walking on trash day are fine, but won't go near the same lone barrel your neighbor left out the very next day.
When my clients come to me freaked out that their dog just had a hissy fit over an object they see every day, I explain S.E.C. to them and tell them that to the dog "one of these things is not the like others, one of these things just doesn't belong". Once the dogs identify an object as "safe" they are usually fine.
When Charlee realized that the towels were not actual Lion predators hanging from the Parakeet's and Canaries' cages, she actually looked quite embarrassed.
One of my favorite places to go walking with my dog, Charlee, is the Evergreen Cemetery.
There are 150 acres to explore in this designated off leash area.
From Stevens Ave. Portland, drive straight through the cemetery to the pond. Park on the left side and walk in. Dogs must be leashed in the cemetery but are allowed off leash on the far side of pond. There are numerous side and back ways in that let you access the woods without going through the actual cemetery. Sorry- you'll need to need to find them yourselves, I don't want to be responsible for aggravating the neighboring property owners!
Head straight back from the pond. Letting your dog in the water here is not recommended due to animal feces, waterfowl, and stagnant water. I have been warned several times by the locals (with heavy local accents) that my dog will give us all The Duck Itch.
Beware (or be prepared for a bath when you get home) of the first swamp on your left as you enter the woods. Very nasty! Fork right if you are looking for water to cool off or go left up the hill if you prefer a rockier trail.
Maps are available in the office on the right as you enter from Stevens Ave.
What to watch out for:
These woods are well known to bikers, birders, and families walking to feed the ducks. Spring brings a large collection of Warblers and other migrating birds. May 11th-20 is the Audubon's Warbler week. Be prepared to share the road and remember that not everyone likes dogs! Most of the birders are near the pond, so take care not to disturb them.
Check out the amazingly huge snapping turtles in the ponds. I have seen them kill ducks, so keep a keen eye on your dog to avoid potentially injurious encounters. Many people stopped walking here because of coyotes. As of my walk this week, they appear to have moved on. When they are around, my dog acts nervous and urinates everywhere they have been. Also, the coyotes leave their scat in the middle of the trails. I saw no sign of either today but please do use caution. This a great time of year to visit before the mosquitos can make these woods unbearable by mid summer.
Why we love it:
It is an oasis in the city as it was intended in 1852. It is an easy hike for the kids and not near any roads whatsoever.
There is a lot of room to run and my dog loves the water under the high tension wires. We both find it very relaxing.
Charlee and Sadie meet for 13-week-old Sadie's first time ever off leash adventure in the woods.
Being so young, she follows along willingly. I have warned her owners that this may change in a few months!
Sadie, a 'Golden Doodle' (Golden Retriever and Standard Poodle mix) is my cutest client of the month by far!
Sadie ventures out just a bit after my 3-year-old daughter.
Charlee's favorite way to cool down. Be sure to visit Evergreen soon before the mosquito invasion begins.