My Smart Puppy

with Dog Expert, Sarah Wilson

April 30, 2016
by Sarah

To Gollum; Dogs Who Covet

Gollum: verb
To obsessively and compulsively covet without the ability to enjoy that which you covet.
Derived from: Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings

Pip gollums toys in her crate. Every week or so, whenever I notice that her private stash in the back of her plastic kennel has grown so large that she is forced to sleep pressed up against the gate, I get down on my hands and knees to unload her wares. Here is a list of her most recent collection:

3 stainless steel bowls
3 Kongs
1 Kong-like toy
1 Twist ‘n Treat
1 Everlasting Fun Ball
1 Bad Cuz toy (dehorned by one dog or another)
1 fleece off a small Wubba Toy
1 hard Nylabone (only sort we use)
1 sterilized bone
1 Everlasting Fire Plug (with a thin ring of treat still left)

Note that food (something Pip enjoys at all times, in all forms, in any amount) remains in the fire plug. That proves golluming. If this was out in the livingroom, she would make short work of any deliciousness available, but once it is in her hide away, she cannot. All she can then do is watch over it, lie in front of it, ward it from imagined dangers.

Note also how many toys can be AWOL without us noticing, which means we have a lot of dog paraphernalia around. It’s an occupational hazard. So golluming is not a response to scarcity, nor is it because there is household tension over stuff. Around here there is always something for a dog to play with. My other dogs could care less about who has what. Only Pip cares. And she cares all the time. If I allowed it, it would take up her entire day.

And that’s the thing about golluming anything: it’s an inside job. The succinct definition is anytime the item owns the owner you have golluming. Pip gollums.

April 26, 2016
by Sarah

The Power of Praise

Praising a dog can be a powerful tool or wasted effort. The results are up to you. You have more power and influence in your voice than you might realize, and not just when you tell your dog to do something. The tone and rhythm of your voice can have a huge impact, which, when you understand it, can greatly enhance your communication with your dog, improving both her response to commands and your overall relationship.

Your voice conveys energy and, as a social mammal, your dog is likely to respond according to the energy you communicate. As an example of another social mammal’s response to sound, think of how people tell a horse to slow down—a long, low “Whoa.” Then, when they want the horse to speed up, they often make fast, high-pitched, repetitive clicking sounds. Dogs respond similarly to such sounds, In fact, as I typed, I said “Whoa,” and one of my dogs cocked an ear in my direction, but otherwise no one moved. Then I clicked my tongue a few times, and all the dogs immediately raised their heads with an eager look. The one sound is calming, the other exciting.

So how do you use this to your advantage? If you let your praise match the situation, you are far more likely to get the response you’re looking for. For example, if you want to praise your dog for sitting or downing, times when you want your dog to be still, use a relatively low, drawn out Gooood Doooog. Be warm and sincere, but don’t put a lot of excitement or energy into your voice. This way your dog is more likely to remain in position.

By contrast, when you call your dog and want her to come running, or when she’s sniffing something icky and you tell her to “Leave It,” follow up with a higher-pitched, faster “Good Dog, Good Dog, Good Dog!!!” If your praise sounds excited and eager, your dog will pick up on that and will be more likely to speed up and rocket toward you with enthusiasm and joy.

So, when you want to praise your dog, think about what you want her energy to be like—calm and quiet or fast-moving and eager? Match the energy of your praise to the energy you’d like from your dog, and watch how it helps your dog understand what you want from her.

by Melissa Fischer,

April 26, 2016
by Sarah

More than Compliance: Building Connection

We’ve all known smart students who got great grades in school but were disruptive outside (or maybe even inside) the classroom. Or coworkers who were well-qualified as far as job skills, but were disrespectful and difficult in the work environment. Dogs can be like that too.

I know someone whose dog had been through several obedience classes, knew a bunch of tricks, and had his CGC (Canine Good Citizen), but he wasn’t actually such a good citizen when the leash was off and he was out of the class environment. My friend turned his back, and the dog jumped up and stole the leg of lamb off the platter right next to him. When my friend headed for the door, his dog barged past him, almost knocking him over. When impatient, he jumped on and mouthed my friend. At the vet, he was a nightmare to handle. This dog had impressive mastery of skills, but he didn’t have a relationship of trust and respect with my friend. What makes the difference, and how can we build relationship as well as skills?

First, we need to understand what this relationship looks like. If your dog is convinced that you can handle any situation and that looking to you for direction is always a good idea, then he will readily seek your guidance, rather than only cooperating when you first tell him what to do. The difference is your dog is taking the initiative to look to you, rather than you having to always tell him what you want him to do. Like a good friendship or family relationship, this results in teamwork and connection.

How do we get to this point? First we make sure that whenever the dog voluntarily looks to us, we respond with joy and praise. Not just with a treat, though food is often helpful, because we want the dog to have connection with us, not just motivation for food. If you praise and show your delight (yes, your dog can easily read your emotions) before giving a food reward, then the dog will learn to really value your praise. This will result in your dog will seeking you out more and more, even when you don’t have a treat in your hand.

Next, with the dog on leash, we teach him to look to us in the face of distractions, starting with easy ones and gradually increasing to more challenging ones. This way, you eventually get to the point that when your dog sees that leg of lamb, he will look to you, because he knows that all good things come from you, not from grabbing for them on his own. He will also look to you when he’s worried about something, because you’ve taught him that anything that distracts him is a cue to look to you. This is a foundational building block of a trusting relationship.

Another foundational aspect of relationship building is teaching the dog to respect our space and body. For this we use the Space Games—Mine and Off in particular, to help the dog understand that he should never barge into or push past us. We also use space games to teach the dog that certain things (legs of lamb on the counter, for instance) belong to us and are not fair game for grabbing. In all these cases, the dog learns that acting with respect for our bodies, our space, and our possessions is the way to “get to good” and he is more likely to want to choose respectful ways of behaving, even without you telling him to.

Finally, in all our interactions, we apply the principle “always pleasant, never optional”. By doing this, we create an eagerness to connect with us — the dog understands that is what causes pleasant results for him. Once the dog is fully convinced that this principle is a basic fact of life for him, he will gladly live in a way that pleases you, without constant instruction from you. And you will constantly be noticing and praising wonderful things your dog does, which reinforces the growing connection between the two of you. And that is a fun – and satisfying – way to live with a dog.

By Melissa Fischer,

April 26, 2016
by Sarah

Getting to Good

Your job, as your puppy’s coach and teacher, is to “get to good” – meaning look at puppy training as a process of rewarding rather than correcting.

Here are a few examples:

  • If your pup is jumping up – work on “sit.”
  • If your pup is barking while looking out the window – work on “come” or “place” or “kennel.”
  • If your pup is licking you too much – work on “down” or “go.”

Making the behaviors you want your focus makes training works and, side benefit, is more fun for both of you.

Your puppy wants to be rewarded, he loves being rewarded but he doesn’t always know what do to create that reward. That’s our job, to give your dog a better idea and then reward him for that.

Once your pup understands that, if you need to add in a mild negative to stop a behavior that is still lingering, your pup will know the alternative you prefer and hustle right to it.

Teach him what you prefer him to do, practice that and see what happens. It’ll be good – for both of you.

by Sarah Wilson

Author of handbooks: My Smart Puppy (book with DVD), How to Train Your Dog to Come and Childproofing Your Dog

April 26, 2016
by Sarah

Understanding Your Herding Dog

Created to work closely with people, think independently when necessary, work long hours and control large moving things, herding breeds are smart problem solvers. Certain breeds bark to move their charges.

These dogs need work; if you don’t supply it they will make their own. Eager to learn, they are usually a joy to train. They can also be overprotective of house and family. Individuals of these breeds can have severe shyness problems and sensitivity to noises. All need intensive, early socialization and training to grow up to be the most stable, predictable companions they can be.

Chasing Behaviors
Expect, prevent and correct car chasing, bicycle hounding and the like from these movement-stimulated breeds.

Movement Stimulated Nipping
Predictably, many of these dogs nip at the heels of humans the way they nip at the heels of livestock. Running children who emit high-pitched sounds can be favorite targets. This behavior is controllable through training and sensible management.

Unwanted Activity
Pacing, spinning, and circling are all normal behaviors if your herding dog is under exercised, and sometimes, even when he is adequately exercised. These dogs have the desire and the endurance to work all day. You must exercise them mentally with training and physically with activity – everyday. Rain or shine, sleet or snow, these dogs need to work!

Several of these breeds (Shelties, Pulik, and Beardies spring to mind) use their bark when they work livestock. Because this was a desirable trait, these dogs still tend to bark when excited, eager, happy or frustrated. Training may give you some control over barking but it is doubtful you will ever control it completely.

Highly Trainable
These breeds worked closely with humans, consequently all are highly intelligent. Some people do not realize that a well-trained herding dog responds instantly to a command, but does it in a way that makes sense in that situation. A herding dog will execute a command to “come by” (go clockwise around the flock) one way if he is rounding up a small flock of frightened sheep, and another way if he is working with a large herd of feisty young cattle. The dog will still go clockwise, but he will do so faster or slower, closer or farther away depending on what he thinks will work best with those animals. He thinks — so he may interpret your commands. They learn quickly and retain information well, but persistent training is necessary to get decent verbal control over these dogs.

Common Problems: Shyness, overprotectiveness, barking, hyperactivity, sound sensitivity, car chasing, dominance and territorial aggression, and dog fighting.

Good Home: Active, calm people with the time for exercise, training and intensive socialization. A fenced yard is a must. Owners must enjoy training, be decisive, consistent and persistent.

April 26, 2016
by Sarah

Understanding Your Toy Dog

When society developed enough to have an upper class, they had developed enough to give some lucky folks free time. They wanted companions; not rough-and tumble-companions, but sweet, adorable, charming companions. That is how many toys came into being, as entertainment for royalty. Other toys are scaled down versions of larger breeds. They all have one thing in common; they were created for companionship. Small they are, playthings they are not. These are some of the most intelligent, strong-minded and creative dogs around. Never underestimate them.

Easily Spoiled
Because of their size and their purpose (amusing us) they lend themselves to fabulous amounts of spoiling. They are often doted on, allowed to run wild, and permitted to do pretty much as they please. This indulgence can lead to aggression, leg lifting, fearfulness, shyness and general neurosis. Do your toy a favor and treat him like a dog.

Housebreaking Challenges
A dog likes to keep his “home” area clean. The problem for toys is that your kitchen feels more like a football stadium than a cozy den (as it might for a larger dog). That proportional largeness makes it easy for them to think that one area is OK to use as a toilet because there is still plenty of room left to live in.

This proportional perspective applies to us but in different ways. While it is immediately clear that a Saint Bernard pile in the house is a problem, a tiny little Maltese dropping may not seem like much of a bother. Housebreaking is not difficult to achieve. All you need for success is information and commitment.

There is no stupid toy. Interactive, demanding, endearing, infuriating, these dogs are never boring. If you are not ready for a dog to become an integral part of your life, do not get a toy. They will settle for nothing less than being your best friend, most trusted confidant, fearless protector, favorite lap warmer and, oh yes, bathroom pal too, because youíre never going there alone again.

Bad Attitude
This comes from the spoiling, not from the dog. But endless cooing, stroking and babying would bring out the worst in any of us. If you want to avoid aggression, leg lifting and general brattiness, hold your bright little toy to a high standard of behavior, not to your breast.

Common Problems: housebreaking, aggression, leg lifting, barking, hyperactivity, finicky eating, shyness and other owner supported problems

Good Home: Adults and older, careful children with time for daily play, training and grooming. Homebodies are fine. If you stick the pup in your shoulder bag when you do errands he’ll get socialized in no time. Owner must be firm and consistent in the face of extreme cuteness. No babying allowed!

April 26, 2016
by Sarah

Understanding Your Pointing Breed

Created to run, often covering more than ten miles over rugged terrain in a few hours. Pointers worked independently and at a distance from the hunter. To do their job well, they had to be single minded, and remain undistracted by other sights and smells. Several of the pointing breeds were also expected to protect the hunter’s possessions and family. This being the case, what can we expect from a Pointer as a pet?

Great Endurance
First, because they were bred to run long distances, they have wonderful endurance. If you jog a few miles a day, or think that throwing a ball for 45 minutes twice a day is fun, consider these breeds. Otherwise, look elsewhere.

Physically Tough
Because they had to run through brush and briar, they are physically tough. They think nothing of pinning you against a wall when saying hello or shoving you out of the way as they leap out the door. This translates into training time for you.

Remember that single-mindedness? When training a pointer, you have to be more determined than they. You also have to be a step ahead of them mentally, and that’s not always as easy as it sounds.

Common Problems: hyperactivity, jumping, pulling on lead, overprotectiveness, chasing other animals, running off, destructive chewing, and aggression.

Good Home: Experienced dog owner with the time, interest and energy for all the exercise and training these breeds require. Generally good for children, though may, in exuberance, knock over smaller kids. Too much for people who don’t like a strong, active, physical, directed dog. Patience, firmness and absolute consistency are mandatory. Early training is a must!

April 26, 2016
by Sarah

Understanding Your Livestock Guardian

Breeds: Akbash Dog, Anatolian Shepherd Dog, Caucasian Shepherd Dog (Caucasian Ovcharka), Great Pyrenees, Komondor, Kuvasz, Maremma Sheepdog, Pyrenean Mastiff, Tibetan Mastiff

When we humans started amassing large numbers of animals, such as flocks of sheep, we issued an open invitation to local predators to come get the goods. Sheep — slow, easy-to-find, abundant — are a predator’s dream come true.

With our flocks threatened, we decided to fight fire with fire. We created a large predator of our own to help out. To further protect our flocks, we often bred these guardians to look as much like sheep as a dog can. Large, white, and shaggy, our canine stealth weapons blended into the flock seamlessly until a threat arose. Then out they came, bark furiously, defending against – but not pursuing – the threat. It is no help to the shepherd if the dog chases an individual wolf all over creation while the rest of the wolf pack attacks the flock.

What kind of dog does this history create?

These dogs act on their own. When your friend, Bob, jumps out from behind a door to “surprise” you, do not expect your dog to wait for your command to act, nor will he stop in mid-air on command. These dogs are serious; they need extraordinary amounts of training to be responsive in a moment of perceived crisis. Of this group, the Great Pyrenees is the softer and easier to control breed.

Many of these dogs bark, especially at night and not always at anything you can put your finger on. Some people suspect the dog is posting an auditory “Beware: Guard dog on duty!” sign.

Does not Wander off Territory
Normally not wanderers, these dogs want to patrol their territory daily. If your boundaries are made clear early in his life, your dog will respect them. If you allow him to form his own, he may include parts of neighboring properties. A secure fence is your best ally.

Large and Powerful
These are huge dogs with little sense of humor about their work. Amazingly intelligent animals, if they are not socialized extensively, trained persistently and managed responsibly, they can be a hazard.

Single-Family Dogs
Once these dogs have bonded to you, they have little use for anyone else. Again, Pyrs are the most social of this group, but in general, they will only have eyes for you. This may sound flattering, but it is a great deal of responsibility.

Built to protect, these dogs will warn with a bark if given a chance. But if a threat appears in their home, many absolutely will act. Don’t send your neighbor into the house for a beer – not, at least, if you like him. These dogs can also be fierce if any strange dog enters his territory.

Common Problems: Aggression of all types, difficult to control, barking, digging.

The Good Home: Experienced dog people who want a canine project. Flock guardians are not casual dogs, but high-maintenance animals that need an endless amount of socialization and training to be their best.

The exception to this is the Great Pyrenees, who, after years of breeding for show, is generally a kinder, gentler dog than his more primitive counter-parts. If you want a white mountain of fur and are ready a serious commitment, the Pyrenees is your best choice.

Kuvaszok and Komondorok are amazing dogs: loyal, intelligent, and focused but they are not appropriate for a casual home looking for an easy companion dog.

April 26, 2016
by Sarah

Understanding Your Setter

Irish, English, Gordon, Red and White

Another athletic gun dog group, Setters share a similar history with Pointing Breeds, but tend to be a bit more pliable and a lot more clownish. They were not expected to be guards. All these breeds require grooming time.

The English and the Gordon need daily runs, particularly when young. But neither is especially prone to hyperactivity unless they come from field-lines. If they do, expect them to be kinetic, hard-muscled running machines. The Irish Setter is another matter, needing several long runs daily and even then, do not expect long periods of calm behavior.

Softer than many of the Pointing Breeds
Most setters are owner-sensitive, they desperately want to please you. Gordons can be determined and strong-willed, but most come around with training.

Common Problems: Same as the Pointing Breeds but with less aggression in their ranks.

The Good Home: People of all ages who have the time for the grooming, training and exercise critical for these dogs. People aggravated by constant activity in the house may find the Irish or some field-bred setters annoying. On the whole though, we don’t see many setters in for training, which usually means they are relatively problem-free.