How to Get the Most Out of Your Kong!

Kong toys are my favorite! They are one of the few toys that my lovely 6-year-old pit, Tank, hasn’t destroyed and can provide dogs with tons of mental stimulation. They can be stuffed in a thousand different ways and have an almost magical ability to keep my dog busy for hours! They can be given to dogs in a crate in a multiple dog home and offer the added benefit of making the crate a HAPPY! place. They can be given right next to your work desk to keep your furry child from saying “Mom! Mom! Mom!” all day long while you try to write a blog post (…or binge watch that TV show).

First, let’s find the right toy for your dog. Kong makes a number of different stuffable food toys. I personally have had the most luck with snow-man shaped Kong Extreme. These toys are designed for epic chewers and have stood the test of time in my house. The company recommends a size from small to XXL based on a dog’s weight. I suggest going up at least one size for extra, anti-chew security. We actually have gone up 2 sizes (to the XXL Kong Extreme) in my house with great success.

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What I Wish I Knew Before Bringing Home a Dog

I don’t want you to have to learn the hardway. That’s why I’m giving away some of the best advice a trainer can give… for free.

(Let’s get this out of the way.)

1. Hire only a Certified Professional.

Don’t give a trainer a penny until you read this.

  • If a trainer does not does not have enough experience and education to earn this certification, it may mean that they that use outdated methods.
  • Check reviews online, ask for references, discuss professional memberships (and required ethics agreements), and validate credentials.
  • Grill the trainer on their training philosophy. If they use forceful methods such as prong collars, you need to know right away. If they’re vague, move on.
  • Expect the trainer to be insured, a formal contract, and the ability to pay with out cash. If someone asks you to pay cash only, it is a red flag that they do not own a legitimate business.

2. Find the dog that fits your family. 

  • Is the dog social or aloof with people or dogs? Is the dog easily excitable or relatively relaxed?
  • What job was the dog born to do? Dogs that were bred to herd… will herd.
  • Learn about the grooming, training, and veterinary care your dog will need ahead of time!
  • Don’t expect to totally rehaul your lifestyle to fit a dog’s. Try to find a dog that will fit in with your family.

Don’t pick a breed due to its popularity.

doodle

This doodle is incredibly high energy and social. Plan to dedicate yourself to training if you bring home one of these cuties!

3. Be prepared to socialize. For life.

  • Begin as soon as your dog receives his first set of vaccines. Don’t wait one second!
  • Socialization is not just exposing your dog to new things. It’s teaching the rules of life, and making new experiences positive.
  • If you kept teaching, you’ll have a better life with your dog!

4. Use a Crate

  • No use it, seriously.
  • Teach your dog to love the crate by practicing teaching him to love and relax in the crate.
  • Use it to prevent unwanted behaviors when you’re not able to supervise.
  • This is the easiest thing to tell your dog “what to do” if a break is needed.

5. Supervise, constantly!pencildog.jpg

Treat your dog like he’s got a crayon and a freshly cleaned wall.

  • Listen, your adult dog is as intellectually developed as a toddler. Treat them like it.
  • Use the crate (or a tethered leash) when you can’t fully supervise.
  • Supervise in the backyard as well!

6. Exercise

  • Dogs need 30-60 minutes a day varying by age, general activity level, size, and breed.
  • Your dog will not exercise by himself in the backyard. If you think this counts, you’re in trouble.

7. Learn to read dog body language.

  • Be prepared to rescue your dog from a situation if your dog displays excessive fear or inappropriate behavior.
  • If you are seeing stress, anxiety, or fear, reach out for help as soon as possible.
  • Learn this information to keep your dog happy in any situation!

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8. Don’t expect your kids to do all of the work.

  • Dogs require extensive supervision, socialization, exercise, and training which is difficult for children and teens.
  • Dog training is a family affair. Expect for everyone in the family to be involved! If you aren’t involved too, it will not end well.

9. Create rules for your house and consistently follow them. Here’s a handful of mine.

tankcouch

Tank still hogs the couch.

  • Rule #1 Privileges must be earned.
  • Rule #2 Say Please when you want attention, toys, play, food, anything really.
  • Rule #3 If you don’t ask politely, too bad. Out of luck, kid.

11. Begin teaching loose leash walking immediately.

  • Look into alternative exercise while teaching your dog to walk on a loose leash.
  • Always use a regular leash (not a retractable) with buckle collar with tags (or harness) unless in a safely contained area. No exceptions.

12. Do Happy Visits at the Vet and Groomer

  • Go to the veterinarian and groomer to happily socialize your dog.
  • Desensitize your dog to handling including frequent nail trims and nail grinders.
  • Seek out  a FEAR FREE certified veterinarians and staff such as St. John Animal Clinic

13. ASK FOR HELP.

  • If you haven’t trained a puppy before, or its been a few years, it may be time to learn current training methods.
  • Do not rely on Google searches or unprofessional YouTube videos.
  • Ask a professional trainer or veterinarian. We are all here to help.

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I’ve learned from my mistakes. Doing so has given me the opportunity to expand my relationship with my dog, Tank. May you seize the opportunity to grow with your dog. Here’s to a better life with our canine partners!

Get Off! Teach Your Dog to Never Jump on Guests

Teach Your Dog to Never Jump at the Door… just in time for the Holidays!

“Anytime, anyone is struggling with a dog behavior problem, I ask them one simple question. “Well, what do you want your dog to do instead?” I get a lot of surprised looks! Most of us haven’t actually thought about it that way!”

Andrea Kutzko, CPDT-KA

 

In fact, most of us have never gone out of our way to teach our dog what to do and how to act in specific situations like when guests come over.

Tank loves to be in his “place”.

So, let’s simply ask, “What should my dog be doing when guests arrive?” Simply put, sitting is just a fantasic answer. Your dog can not simulataneously jump and sit at the same time. If you teach him to sit, he will sit instead! (Honestly, though, the coolest dogs hear a door bell ring and run straight to their “place”, relaxing, until given permission to greet guests!)

Think “incompatible behavior”. Your puppy can’t sit and jump at the same time. He can’t be on his place 10 feet away and charge through the door at the same time. Thank goodness!

Let’s say your dinner guests have just arrived. They’ve rang twice and knocked. It’s freezing out. You’re busy cooking, and you can’t make it to the door without burning the gravy! You yell “Just come in!” and your guests take one foot inside the door… and there’s your best furry buddy taking over as host! He pushes through the open door, greets each guest with enthusiasm, jumping, bouncing, each movement a little closer to licking your guests’ faces.

If you’d rather skip that, I have a much better plan. You could teach your dog to sit next to the door as soon as he hears the door bell ring. He could even go lay on a mat out of the way so your guests can come in and remove shoes and coats undisturbed! Until you ask, your darling dog can lay down politely waiting to meet your guests . Bonus points for teaching him to sit politely for petting.

Tip: Without any distractions, ring your door bell and ask your dog to sit at the same time. Immediately, say “yes!” and reward him for it!! Remember, repetition is key. After a few days of practice, test it out! Ring your door bell while your dog isn’t paying attention, pause, and exclaim “Did he just sit?!?” (If not, you just need more practice! Keep it up!)

I have tons of different and creative tools in my toolbox to prevent and solve jumping! I may suggest using a leash at the beginning and even practicing at the door without a guest. For serious situations, we can even talk about elimating the door bell – Just like I did. (I sort of just pulled it out of the wall and well, happily, it no longer works.)

I have so many more creative tricks up my sleeve to help even the worst jumpers! Have me come to your home to help you work through jumping exactly where it’s happening! We’ll start working on polite door behavior as soon as I ring the bell!

Can’t wait to help! Let’s try to get together before the holidays so you’re ready!

Andrea Kutzko, CPDT-KA

Certified Professional Dog Trainer (Knowledge Assessed)

My cell (219) 973-7538. Call, text, or e-mail to kutzko@gmail.com.

 

 

 

Puppy Class & Socialization – When to start?

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The Late Dr. Sophia Yin

The truth is that puppies need to start vaccines as early as possible  so they can begin a group class as early as possible. Training at home should start even earlier – the moment you bring your new bundle of joy home.

Socialization goes hand in hand with dog training. Do note that socialization does not simply include meeting dogs or a visit to the PetStore. It means very carefully evaluating if you puppy is afraid of something and addressing it with a Certified Trainer. This key socialization period is about 8 to 14 weeks. You can see why its important to get that first set of shots as early as possible! Please view this link to Dr. Sophia Yin’s excellent socialization checklist!  It’s an oppurtunity to explore the things that you not realize you needed to socialize. Remember that phobias and fears frequently escalate. Don’t hesitate to call me to address the issue.

But what happens when your vet says that your puppy needs all 3 rounds of shots and rabies before leaving the house? Just in case, print out the linked articles for your vet. Ultimately make being an advocate for your dog is the most important part!

The real problem is your veterinarian may not be aware of the guidelines from the American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior (AVSAB). The AVSAB “encourages veterinarians to recommend puppies be socialized before the vaccine series is complete.”

This is serious business. While veterinarians are appropriately concerned about infectious disease in young puppies, the fact is that behavioral issues—not infectious diseases—are the number one cause of death for dogs under 3 years of age, according to the AVSAB.

Ultimately, I recommend finding a veterinarian you trust and follow their advice.

Remember socialization and training are for life!

Riding in the Car

I’ve been thinking about one of our dog’s favorite past times quite a bit lately. The warmer weather is here and our dog’s heads are hanging out the car window, no doubt capturing each and every scent. The problem is there’s nothing safe about this scenario. You would never let your child run free in the back seat (or gasp! the front seat).

Your dog poses an amazing distraction to you as a driver. I hear time after time how Poochie has to sit up front. Don’t forget how dangerous the air bags are! If you are in a wreck and the air bags deploy with such force, you are risking your dog’s life!

While it’s not the perfect way to transport your dog, a car approved harness that was scientifically tested by the Center for Pet Safety can be one option. It helps strap your pup in the backseat safely. No air bags, no roaming, no distraction. Studies have shown that these offer less than ideal safety but they are always improving. Seat belts work by attaching a car approved harness to the seatbelt. It is the best option for larger dogs who can’t be crated in the car.

Dog Safety & Summer Holidays

Summers here and its all about safety and holidays! Get the lawn chair and the kiddie pool for your pup. It’s easy to get caught up in the picnics and festivities, we sometimes miss signs the of stress and the general safety of our dogs.

First, let’s talk signs of distress that may occur during the holidays, storms or fireworks, in a situation with too many kids and adults and even other dogs. Be sure to read the BEET. BEET stands for body, eyes, ears, and tail. It over simplifies canine body language but B gives you a starting point. Look for stiffness in the body or cowering and look at E for eyes, partially white eyes. Then look at E for ears. If they are tucked, your pup may be under stress. Finally the T in tail. A tail waving to high may mean trouble. Just like a tail too low. We want tail about neutral height and preferably wiggly summer time tail! Learn more about canine body language thanks to Victoria Stilwell.

1. Do NOT EVER leave your pet in the car. No, leaving the windows open does not work. Keep them at home or with lots of water and shade WITH YOU!

2. Leash your dog with ID tag at all times. More dogs are lost during holidays than any other time of the year.salty dog kisses

3. Cooked bones are dangerous for dogs. They are usually thin enough to cause choking in and of itself but all cooked bones will splinter.

4. Avoid leftovers. Tons of harmful chemicals lurk in those hot dogs and other processed foods. Not to mention the condiments we slather our food with. Think about the sodium, sugar, and uber fat load. Just skip it.

5. Finally, train them for all summer events. Teach them to not jump on guests, not to beg for scraps at summer barbecues, and even to go to a kennel on cue in the event you or your pup needs break. If you are seeing any of these issues, call me at (219) 973-7538.

Happy Summer!

Why is my pup eating grass?

Its true. Our pups tend to eat that early summer grass. This could be caused by a number of medical conditions from upset stomach, low quality food, or intestional parasites so you should seek out a vet’s advice just in case. A student of mine just contacted me to ask how to get her dog to stop eating grass so let’s help everyone with this frustrating problem!

First off, the simplest answer is usually the best answer. So here goes – your dog probably just likes to eat grass. Which of course changes nothing so we then ask the same question as any problem. If you don’t like what your dog is doing, teach them something to do instead. So of course there are a ton of options but I have a couple of favorites!

Dog eating grass

One is to teach a solid “leave it”. “Leave it” means to “stop what you’re doing and look at me”. It’s a fabulous safety cue but it also allows you to give your dog another cue just in time to stay out of mischief (i.e. “leave it” followed by “sit”). The best way to learn this is in a class setting where a Certified Professional Dog Trainer can coach you through the process.

The other is to take your dog out on a leash and work on loose leash walking skills. You absolutely need a trainer to learn this one but if I had to summarize loose leash walking would be to teach your dog to be at your side offering lots of eye contact. Dogs who know how to walk on a leash will offer plenty of eye contact – so much so they’ll ignore that silly grass.

For more information, check ask about home lessons or our upcoming classes here!

Let’s Play: Interactive Toys

Dogs need stuff to do.

When dogs have stuff to do it keeps them busy (and out of trouble!). It burns up extra mental energy and can help relax. It builds confidence by learning new skills.

All with minimal effort from you.

Step 1. Put treats or dry dog food in toy.

Step 2. Supervise while your dog plays.

First on the list is The Buster Cube!
This glorious cube shaped toy has not only lasted years in my home, it’s also been a great resource for keeping my dog busy. Fill with dry food or your favorite treats and watch as your dog gleefully rolls the toy around to make the goodies inside slowly fall out. You can purchase one for around $15 from Amazon.com here! Do note that these toys come in two sizes – mini and large. If you’re in doubt about what size is appropriate, get the larger toy.

Next up is the Kong. As I described in my blog post, this Kong toy is big chewer approved. Check out my post for some fun and creative ways to fill this toy for tons of entertainment. Easy ideas include a swipe of peanut butter or cream cheese but can include just about anything that is dog safe. These keep my Tank busy for a looong time! You can purchase from Amazon here.

Raw marrow bones can be another great choice. They are an excellent way to keep teeth clean and can be a safe way to chew away boredom. Watch your dog carefully the first few times to make sure your dog isn’t taking chunks of bone off. Chewing can also help relieve stress in dogs. Do be sure to give in a crate or on another easily sanitized surface. I have found these available for purchase at speciality the butcher pet boutiques, pet stores, and even my grocery store. Be sure to check with your veterinarian to make sure this is a good choice for your dog.

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Home made toys can be another fun option! Check out some of these great ideas from BarkPost. Home made toys tend to be less durable but are fun and inexpensive to make. Picured at left is an easy to make treat dispenser from a few pieces of PVC found at a local hardware. Get out your drill and voila!

 P.S. Join the “Canine Enrichment” group on Facebook.

I’ve saved the best for last. It requires a smidge more effort on your part.

This… is a flirt pole. It uses play to train, to exercise, and is a great alternative to walking.

It burns both physical and mental energy!

There are rules to this game. They help you train your dog while playing.

Rule #1 Dogs must stay and wait patiently and politely until the game starts.

Rule #2 The game doesn’t start until you say your release word – “release”, “okay”, “free doggie!!!”.

Rule #3 Your dog always wins the toy. (!!!)

Rule #4 Once your dog gets the toy, ask for a “drop”. If your dog drops it, start playing again!

Watch this fantastic video showing how to use the toy and even great training tips!

Follow this link to watch a flirt pole in action.

Hope you try these ideas. They can totally help improve your dogs overall behavior and mood.

Let’s Play: Find it!

Find it! is Tank’s favorite game in the.entire.world. It turns out that it is a great training exercise as well! In find it, dog’s use their nose to locate a hidden toy or treat. It’s an excellent way to begin nosework and can build confidence in dogs!  This is another great idea for a game to play with kids and dogs. Here’s how to start:

Step 1: Which hand? Find it
Start with a treat in one fist, but not the other. Offer both fists to your dog and say “Find it”.When he nudges the fist with the treat, reward him with another treat! Try practicing by switching hands. When your dog catches on, you’re ready to play the next part of this game.
Step 2: Basic Find it
With your dog nearby, “hide” a treat in plain sight. Say “Find it!” If your dog runs to you, show him your open hands. If you spent enough time on the first step, your dog should start looking for the treat right away! If not, go ahead and practice the first step again. Once you are confident that your dog understands the cue “find it”, you can start to make the game more challenging. Try hiding a treat or toy in a single room. Let your dog watch you “hide” the item at first. Always try to set your dog up for success. If they are struggling to find the item after looking, help point them in the right direction!
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Kids & Dogs: Keep It Safe! – Part 2

In my previous post, Kids & Dogs: Keep It Safe! – Part 1, I discussed a number of things kids (and adults!) should never do for the happiness and safety of our entire families. It’s time to take a positive spin and discuss fun activities that give kids an opportunity to safely play with pets.
Training!
Kids constantly astound me with their brilliance, patience, and almost natural knack for dog training. I’ve seen it develop confidence in even the shyest of children. With adult supervision, kids can help teach their best friend basic obedience cues and even tricks! “Sit” is a great place to start, especially if your dog already knows how to sit.
If your dog doesn’t know sit:
First, demonstrate these steps for your child. Children often learn best by doing!
1) Put a treat in your right hand. Let your dog smell your hand.
2) Slowly move your hand upwards so that your dog’s head follows. As your dog’s head goes up, his bottom will go down!
3) Do not worry about saying “sit”. After your dog reliably responds to this hand signal, you can add the word “sit” but remember – only say “sit” once.
Tips to remember:
  •  Make sure treats are held in closed fists held against the body to prevent treat snatching and remind children to give treats with flat, open hands.
  • Show children that they need to practice with slow movements.
  • Be patient with your child and dog and offer both lots of praise!

Kids and dogs know that training is really a game! Children in particular are amazed at their new found skills! Try other basic cues such as down or paw next!

Come
Kids can do an awesome job teaching dogs to come when called as long as they remember one rule: Never chase your dog. Have your child call your dog while running the opposite direction for a few feet. Your dog will undoubtedly follow! Have your children deliver a treat (with a flat, open hand) as soon as the dog comes to them! Later, this can even be used to help teach your dog to fetch!
 
Hide and Seek
In this game, your child is the “hider” and your dog is the “seeker”. Instruct your child to find a hiding place. After a few seconds, let your child call the dog. They will giggle with delight when the dog finds them!
 
Find it
Find it is Tank’s favorite game. We play by hiding a treat or toy and then telling Tank to “Find it!”. I start by telling him to “stay” for this but you could easily keep your dog busy while the child hides the item. After your child has hidden the item, tell your dog “Find it” and off he will run in search of good things! If you need more help playing find it, check out my post here.