It's Back to School time!

Its back to school time!

With the craziness of back to school, sometimes our furry family member can go a little unnoticed.  When routines change, and less time is spent with our dogs, we sometimes see behavior changes in attempt to get your attention. These behavior changes usually aren’t for the better!

What can I do to help my dog adjust?

It’s important you take time out of your busy day to spend a little one on one time with your dog. A couple quick 5 minute training sessions daily can make a significant impact on your dog. Mental stimulation is a very important part of your dog’s mental health. A nice walk after work can also help you both unwind, allowing your dog to expel some of the physical energy. 

We’re gone for so many hours during the day, what can he do to keep busy while we’re gone?

There are several things you can do to help keep your dogs occupied while you’re gone during the day. Leaving a radio playing will help keep them from listening to things going on outside, and help them rest a little easier all day.  Crate games are things that keep them mentally stimulated by themselves, such as a frozen kong stuffed with peanut butter.  

He usually likes those things, but I don’t always fee like it’s enough.

Have you ever considered doggy daycare?  Sometimes a visit once or twice weekly can really help your dog get the physical energy out. You can also enroll in an obedience class for a little extra mental and physical stimulation for both you and your pup! If you need more help with misbehaviors at home, please feel free to contact us at 248-733-3776 to schedule your consultation. We service Royal Oak, MI and surrounding areas, as well as Fenton, MI and surrounding areas. 

When will my dog be trained?

When will my dog be trained?

This is a question that we're asked regularly, and it can be a very open ended answer. There is no real answer to this question. Ask yourself this, when will you know everything there is to know in school? Or at your job? Or in your hobby? Right, the answer is probably never. Not if you want to continue improving yourself, and your performance in your school/job/hobby. The same goes for dogs.  Training is never over.

So my dog will never be trained?

The answer to that question depends on the goals you set for yourself. We always encourage clients to set realistic expectations for their family and their dog. If you start training with your dog, and he's highly dog aggressive, what are your goals? The typical answer we hear is, "We want him to be friendly and play at the dog park!"  Wrong. That will never be your dog. Not all dogs like other dogs, and that's ok. But setting that as a goal for yourself and your dog, will only lead you to disappointment, and overall let down. Because that's not a realistic expectation.  Set your goals small, so you can work together to have several small achievements as you travel on your journey.  Learn to love your dog, regardless of your battle. And keep working together to improve, because when you're at the bottom, the only way to go is up!

How will I keep track of small achievements?

We always recommend you write down on paper, the problems you have with your dog when you begin training. This will help you remember where you started, because trust me, once you make progress its easy to forget where you came from. Once you've started to see progress, write it down. You can even set weekly goals for your dog, so you know when you reach them, and what your weaknesses are. It's much easier to take that to the trainer so they know what areas to help you! But most of all, it will help you reflect on your journey together with your dog, so you can be more impressed with your progress and keep up your confidence. 

What's the most frustrating thing you experience as a dog trainer?

The most frustrating thing we experience as dog trainers, is the owner not following our recommendations.  We paint a picture for ourselves of making recommendations, a client following our plan, and the owner and dog trot off into the sunset together, the happiest they've ever been!  Unfortunately, it rarely happens that way.  Life happens. People are tired after work. They had unexpected family matters come up. We've heard it all, folks.  The most frustrating thing we experience, is arriving at a home with our own expectations of the progress made since the previous lesson, to find out the owner hasn't done their homework.  It's impossible for us collectively, to reach any goal if the owner isn't putting in the work. The analogy we like to use most, is the comparison of hiring a personal trainer for yourself to get in shape. You can research and find the most expensive, hollywood worthy personal trainer, and pay a small fortune to hire them. But if you don't follow their diet and exercise recommendations, you're not going to be in any better shape than you were at the last lesson with them. So do everyone a favor, and do your homework!

What if I follow the trainer recommendations, but I'm not making progress?

The most important thing you can do, is let your trainer know. If the trainer doesn't know there's a problem, they can't help you fix it. Training is not "one size fits all", and sometimes different things may need to be tried to achieve the desired behavior. Training is also not a "quick fix".  Sometimes you may not be seeing results because you simply haven't given yourself enough time. Sometimes behaviors can be learned in a few short sessions, but when behavior modification is involved, it can sometimes take several weeks to months to see a change in behavior patterns. Don't get discouraged! Keep in communication with your trainer, don't get frustrated, and just remember that you and your dog are doing the best you can!

If you need training for your dog, or just want to talk with us about what's going on, give us a call! We service most of Genesee County, Livingston County, and Oakland County, MI.  Call us at 248-733-3776.  We can help with all ages, behaviors, and breeds. It's never too late to get started on fixing a problem behavior. 

Keeping your dog's mind healthy during cold weather months

A mentally exercised dog is a happy dog.

We all have an idea of the needs of physical exercise for the dog we’ve brought into our home. What we may not have put much consideration into, is mental exercise, or even physical exercise during the winter months!

As we know, some breeds don’t mind playing in the snow for extended periods, but many breeds get cold easily and lose interest in the outdoors on a cold winter day.  Some dog owners are also not aware of mental exercise needs of their dog.  Think about it like this: if all we did as humans was acted all day, without thinking, how far with that get us? We would get bored, and possibly get ourselves into trouble! Sound like a familiar situation at home?

What does mental exercise mean?

To start, let’s talk about mental exercise, what is that anyway? Mental exercise is making your dog think. In their natural habitat, a dog would have to constantly be thinking and problem solving for survival. Many of our dog’s natural instincts include what we consider to be nuisance behaviors such as digging, pacing, barking, chasing, biting, and being destructive. Being able to filter these instincts into energy level appropriate games will keep your dog physically and mentally healthy.

My dog gets plenty of exercise, he runs around the yard all day.

Would running laps around your house be adequate physical exercise for you? Dogs need to get out and explore to get the proper stimulation they need.  Taking walks in public places, going to the park, and taking car rides are all ways your dog can get some of the stimulation he needs. However, that’s still not typically enough for most dogs. Especially in the cold weather months, its not always easy to take your dog out if it’s too cold for you both!

My dog sits before he eats, is that adequate mental exercise?

That’s a great start!  Asking your dog to perform tasks for reward in your day to day life is a great way to make your dog think.  We call it “train as you live”. Rather than allowing your dog to act impulsively on everything he does, make him think before he acts.  This is not an easy task for most pet owners, especially dogs that are high energy or have a habit of doing things their way.  Asking your dog to do simple things such as sit before he gets what he wants will help your dog’s mental health longterm.  Ask him to sit before he gets anything he wants, such as going through doorways, going in and out of his kennel, getting a pet, getting on the furniture, getting in the car, etc. This will teach him to look to you for permission, rather than acting impulsively on what he wants to do. Reward does not always mean treat, either.  Reward is giving the dog something they value.  In this circumstance, the reward would be getting the pet, going through the door, or hopping on the couch. 

Other types of mental exercise would be stationary games for dogs to play.  There are hundreds of YouTube videos that show you different games you can make at home to occupy your dog mentally when you’re busy or away.  For example, putting a muffin tray in a box, putting kibble in the pan, then putting tennis balls over the holes. This makes the dog figure out how to move the tennis balls to get the food underneath. That’s a beginner game to play, and once your dog figures that game out, there are tons of other games you can create for your dog while you’re away!

I don’t have a lot of extra time to exercise him in the winter, what are some ways I can do physical and mental exercise together?

Some of the most effective methods of properly stimulating your dog would be activities that combined physical and mental exercise.  Anything that will make them think and physically move at the same time. A great toy you can make at home is called a flirt pole. With a narrow PVC pipe, a piece of rope through it, and a toy tied to the end, this “giant cat toy” for dogs is a great way to eliminate some of those natural instincts, while exhausting them physically and mentally.  Another great exercise is teaching your dog how to walk on the treadmill.  It takes a lot of thinking to keep themselves on the moving belt, and is a great way for them to walk or run for miles without ever leaving your livingroom!

A physically and mentally healthy dog is a happy dog.  Keep up the good work with your dog year round, and let us know if you need more ideas for physical and mental exercise! We offer training for all ages, breeds, and behaviors. Servicing Oakland County, Livingston County, and Genesee County, MI.  

Board and Train Lab X with Separation Anxiety - Rochester Hills, MI

Meet Bentley, a 2 year old Lab mix that is spending the holidays with us for a 12 day Jumpstart Boarding School program.  Bentley has a pretty severe case of separation anxiety.  He will break out of any kennel he’s in, then destroy anything keeping him from his owners - walls, doors, trim, etc. Bentley chewed through the wall at the owner’s front door, and destroyed the wiring to the doorbell.  He has a pretty serious case of separation anxiety!

During Bentley’s stay we put a ton of self control work into him.  Spent hours every day working on getting him comfortable with his kennel.  We worked on him being in his kennel with people home, in his kennel with the door open, as well as establishing a solid foundation of obedience and off leash training.  We had several successful attempts at leaving him for short periods, 30-90 minute intervals.  We set up a “nanny cam” to watch him, and we experienced no whining, no barking, and definitely no breaking out!

Bentley will experience a transition period when returning home into the same home he’s used to breaking out of his kennel at.  He will be spending some time during the day at doggy daycare, and working on in kennel relaxation when his family is home during the evenings and weekends.  We are working towards Bentley staying at home for longer periods, to eventually all day while his owners are at work.

One of the things I like to tell clients when dealing with this type of behavior, is the following analogy: if a child is so afraid of the dark, that he screams and screams when the lights go out, and you tell him to stop screaming or he’ll be in trouble, he may stop screaming.  It does not mean he’s no longer afraid of the dark, he just doesn’t want to be in trouble.  You still have to work through the actual fear.  When dealing with separation anxiety that leads to destructive behavior, the first thing we have to do is stop our dogs form breaking out and hurting themselves or destroying the house.  But it’s equally important for us to fix the way our dog is feeling, it’s not fair for them to be afraid every day.

If you’re experiencing separation anxiety or destructive behavior, please feel free to contact us to schedule your free consultation.  Serving Rochester Hills MI, Troy MI, Birmingham MI and surrounding.