Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Banish April Showers Boredom with Tips from Trainer Colleen Pelar

Rainy Day Activities for Kids and Dogs
by Colleen Pelar, CPDT, CDBC

“It’s raining, it’s pouring, everything is boring!”

Rainy days with stir-crazy kids and dogs can try your sanity. When your kids wail that there’s nothing fun to do, have them try some of these simple games with the family dog.

Hansel & Gretel Trails. This is a really basic activity, but kids love it! Give your children a small bowl of treats and tell them to create a trail for the dog to follow. Keep the dog near you while the kids put a treat every 2 to 4 feet. When they have laid out the entire path, have them come back and tell the dog to sit before releasing the dog to follow the trail. They’ll follow along behind the dog cheering for each successful find.

Commando Crawl (for mid-sized dogs). Have the kids lay a trail of treats running under your coffee table from one end to the other. Teach the dog to belly-crawl across the floor to get the treats.

Dog Bowling. Arrange empty plastic 2-liter bottles in a bowling triangle in the hallway and have the kids take turns calling the dog for a treat. Whoever gets the dog to topple the most pins as he races down the hall wins.

Tiny Teeter-Totter. Lay a piece of plywood on the floor. Have the kids give the dog treats for stepping on the board. Once the dog is not at all concerned about walking on the board, lay the board across a broom to make a 2” high teeter-totter. Keep rewarding the dog for walking over the board. Remind the kids to keep their fingers away from the board while the dog is on it!

Rainy Day Come. Give each child a small cup of dog treats. Tell one child to go “hide” in the kitchen. At first the child won’t really hide, she’ll just stand in the center of the kitchen and call the dog. While dog is trotting toward the kitchen, send another child to the dining room.

After the first child has had the dog sit to get a treat, the child in the dining room can call the dog . . . and while the dog is coming to the second child, the first child will head to the living room. When it’s her turn to call again, she’ll call and the dog will head for the kitchen only to find that she’s not there! While the dog looks for the first child, the second chooses a new spot.

As your dog gets better at this game, the kids can make it more challenging by standing behind doors or sitting in unusual places. The game is over when the kids are out of treats; then everyone can head to the kitchen for a cookie break.

Remember to use lots of treats to make these games as much fun for the dog as for the kids. The idea is to offer the children simple training opportunities in fun, easy-to-implement ways.

Don’t allow anyone to push or pull the dog to get him to do something. If the dog seems confused or resistant, look for ways to make the challenges easier. Watch for any signs of frustration—on either the kids’ or dog’s part—and step in right away to help.

Soon your kids will be hoping it rains more often.

Credit: Colleen Pelar, CPDT, CDBC, author of Living with Kids and Dogs . . . Without Losing Your Mind, is America’s Kids and Canines Coach. Colleen has more than 15 years’ experience as the go-to person for parents trying to navigate kid-and-dog issues. Because a knowledgeable adult can improve every interaction between a child and a dog, Colleen is committed to educating parents, children, and dog owners on kid-and-dog relationships.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

The Hunt for the Best Dog Toy

A long time ago, in far simpler times, the question of which toy(s) to purchase your dog never plagued the human population. There was either a bone or a stick from the backyard. But experience and common sense has shown that sticks and bones aren’t the safest playthings for your pup. More popular today are rawhides and chewing sticks, but even these pose some risks to your dog’s health. Because of this, efforts have been made to produce better, safer toys that produce a variety of squeaks, moos, and even songs. The sky’s the limit! And while having an array of options is great, it can be overwhelming. If you’re struggling to decide where to put your money in the canine toy arena, we can help! The following is our “Pick of the Litter” of dog toys, and methods of deciding which is best for your particular pooch.

Chew Style
What type of chewer is your dog? Does your pal rip all toys to shreds, or gently nibble? If your dog tends to settle down with a toy and really go at it, it’s best to purchase playthings that are made of durable rubber like Kongs made by the Kong Company®. Kongs have been known to withstand the roughest chewers. When the rubber begins to crack and tear, its time to throw it out and buy another.

If your dog has a softer approach to playing, or loves toys that squeak and squeal, consider sewn plush toys. Canvas toys are a terrific option for rough chewers that are fans of the squeak. Semi-aggressive chompers can also enjoy rope toys which break apart less easily and are wonderful for your pet’s dental health.

Planet Dog has even devised a system to aid consumers in the purchase of dog toys called the Chew-o-Meter. Their system takes into account the chewing style of your pup compared to the durability of their products to help you make the best purchase possible. Furthermore, 2% of your purchase is used to fund the training of service dogs. 

Know Your Material
It is important to be aware of the materials used to make your dog’s toy because they spend a lot of time in your canine’s mouth where harmful substances can be easily absorbed. Be careful; the Consumer Product Safety Commission only deems pet toys harmful if they put the owner at risk! As mentioned previously, Kongs® and Nylabones® are safe products that are made without harmful toxins but if you are unsure, check the label.

Safety First
Instead of smaller toys that may be a choking risk, stick to Frisbees and large balls that can’t reach the back of your dog’s mouth. A reader of The Bark recommends lacrosse balls which are large and come in a variety of fun colors. In addition, regularly check all toys for cracks or holes so that your dog’s mouth stays in tip-top shape.

Forward Thinking Pet Companies
Companies like Kong®, Tough by Nature, and Planet Dog are innovative toy producers that keep the safety of your pet in mind. They constantly take our pets’ needs and health concerns to heart and consistently provide new modes of fun and recreation.

The dog toy frontier is also pioneered by designers who wish to actively and mentally engage dogs with puzzle-like toys that require your pet to move pieces in order to reveal hidden treats. Nina Ottosson has a line a of dog toys that seek to work the canine brain by encouraging them to discover concealed treats using their nose and paws. Some of Ottosson’s products are made from particle board and should not be eaten or chewed, so it is important to watch your dog while playing with them. Another great option is the Buster Cube, which comes in different size cubes that must be rolled around in order to dispense the treats inside. Resembling a gumball machine, the Yuppy Puppy Food and Treat Machine has a large bone handle that when pressed down by your pup’s paw, dispenses treats! However, if you have any hesitations about whether your dog will chew off pieces of these brain teasers toys, opt to only use them when you can monitor your dog.

To keep the good times rolling for you and your best friend, consider your dog’s safety and well-being when selecting from the large range of toy options on the pet market today. Ready, set, play!

Sources: Sheila Pell The
The Happy Dog Spot

Thursday, March 17, 2011

The Treat Dilemma

Simply put, treat rewards are a fail-proof method for teaching your dog to do a number of tricks and obey commands. They are an essential part of training. Unfortunately, if your cuddly canine is only motivated by food as a reward for good behavior you run the risk of creating a treat-reliant pup or a somewhat obese dog. If you need to wean your dog off their dependency on treats, but still want them to listen and comply with your instructions, try these techniques.

-Discover what else motivates your dog besides food. Perhaps a scratch behind the ears or a game of ball. Start to incorporate these rewards into your training by providing other means of compensation. For every other trick your dog successfully completes, throw a favorite chew toy or wrap your arms around your dog, providing lots of love and cuddles.

-If your dog tends to favor healthier snacks like carrots, take advantage of that and substitute them for treats.

-Portion control is essential. Break the treats into smaller pieces.  If your dog eats kibble at meals, use one piece of kibble per obeyed trick and reduce that amount from what you normally feed at mealtime.

-In the summertime why not try ice cubes which are crunchy, hydrating, and can keep Fido occupied? 

There are an overwhelming number of dog treats, biscuits, cookies, and chewy bones available for our beloved pets, and with their enthusiasm for this special reward, it can be downright difficult to navigate the shoulds and should nots of our dog's delicacies. Treats are vital for training but also a main culprit of dog obesity. So apply the same rules you do to your own weight loss goals such as moderation, healthy when possible and experiential rewards (petting and praise) over food, and both you and your dog will want to wag your tails!


Friday, March 11, 2011

Jump for Joy: A Solution for Dog Jumping

We know our dogs love us as much as we love them. One of the ways dogs express their emotion for us and others is by greeting us enthusiastically--tail wagging, wet kisses, and over abundance of happiness that can include jumping. Unfortunately jumping on us, or worse our guests, can be an irritating problem. 

Here are some tips to nip that bad habit in the bud so you and your dog can enjoy your time together:

The Turn Around Approach
 When you arrive home, as soon as your dog jumps on you, turn away. Keep turning away from your dog if she continues to follow and jump on you, until she stops.

The Cold Shoulder
Give your dog the cold shoulder when you return home and ignore her for 5 minutes. This might be difficult but if you make a scene when you arrive, your dog will only become extremely excited and be more likely to jump on you. The less of an ordeal you make your arrivals and departures, the less your dog will make of them.

The Sit Approach
The second your dog jumps on you, tell her, “Sit” or “Down” and shower her with praise and love or a small treat as soon as she complies.

The Leash Method
Keep your dog on a leash when you get home and have her sit. If she jumps up, pull her leash taught so she can’t jump and is forced to sit. Praise her when she sits.

Toy Time
Throw your fuzzy friend a toy or her favorite bone when you enter the house to entertain her and keep her distracted from the temptation of jumping.

Once you have found an approach that works for you and your dog, you can request that your guests  reinforce this approach to help your dog become a well behaved companion in all situations. 

Which approach works for you?


Friday, March 4, 2011

Classical Canines

Though we know the auditory range of dogs far exceeds our own hearing capabilities, what we often forget is just how acutely they hear sounds. As a result, noises that typically do not disturb us or that we have grown accustomed to, like the sound of thunder and fireworks, can have a much greater impact on the delicate ears of our dogs. It goes without saying that loud, excessive noise can be grating to our canines and is probably why dogs become frenzied and riled up when they hear rock, jazz, or rap music.

On the other end of the spectrum, new research shows that classical music has the opposite effect, and tends to calm canines. Lisa Spector, a classical pianist, noticed the soothing ramifications her piano practice had on her dog, a generally rambunctious pup that became noticeably calmer whenever she played. Approaching this subject with Sound Analyst, Joshua Leeds, the two developed a line of CDs designed for dogs, called Through a Dog’s Ear.

The CDs are an effort to provide anxious dogs with deep relaxation. They focus on classical music and break the music down with easy, slow melodies to follow in which the majority of the music is played by a single instrument: the piano. There are no rich harmonies or dynamic chord progressions to tickle the eardrums, just classical music in a pure, simplified form that provides easy listening for dogs and humans alike. The music is played an octave lower, which according to Spector, lowers dogs’ heart rate.

When interviewing the team behind this concept, the CBS Early Morning Show conducted their own experiment at a doggie daycare facility and found that when rock, jazz or rap music was played, the dogs became energized and when classical music was played, the dogs slowed down, some even curled up for a nap. A book with the same name, Through a Dog’s Ear, written and researched by Joshua Leeds and Susan Wagner, a veterinary neurologist, tackles the science behind the concept by illuminating the auditory world of our canine companions.

Morris K9 Campus actively applies this concept by understanding the importance of rest following activity and play. After the dogs have spent time romping around with their other canine pals, we allow them to rest to the sounds of calming and relaxing classical music. 

Do you use calming music for your dog at home? Tell us about it!