From adorable Pup to terror Teenager
Congratulations, you and your puppy have learnt and grown together after attending Puppy School or you've adopted an adolescent dog.
Your Pup loves hanging around you and everyone remarks on how cute they are when you ask them to sit or fetch. You are understandably proud of your Pup and the training effort so far.
However, as time progresses and your Pup continues to develop you notice a change in their behaviour. They appear to only listen to you when they want to. That command to sit goes ignored. They aren't coming back to you when called and seem to be more pre-occupied with everything else other than you! They may become reactive to people or other dogs. No matter, what sort of treats you try and entice them with or how many times you call their name, you might as well be talking to a brick wall.
You're thinking what's happened to the Pup that adored me and did everything I asked? Do I now have a dog that's gone rogue? Is there something wrong with me? Have I failed as a fur kid parent? Why do they like and listen to other people and not me anymore?
It's okay, all that time and effort is not lost. Firstly it's important to understand this change you may be witnessing is typically normal. They have likely entered the "Teenage" phase (aged 6 to 18 months old). Let's go back in time and remember what it was like to be a teenager ourselves. Ah yes, the teenage years! That period in life moving from when they looked at their parents with adulation and hung off their every word to all of a sudden waking up and the last thing they want is to be seen are those same parents!
Guess what? Puppies go through a similar developmental journey and turn into the equivalent of teenagers (and then into adults). Brain and hormonal changes occur just like humans. Unfortunately, for some dogs, this is also the vulnerable period of their life in which some owners simply give up because they didn't understand (or like) this change from cuteness to rebellion. It is not unusual to learn of dogs at this age sometimes being abandoned or handed over to shelters.
At K9 FUNdamentals, we believe that a strong bond between owner and fur kid is fundamental right from the start of the relationship. Having this strong bond means that heading into those teenage years can be more easily managed with the right guidance. This is where practice, persistence & patience are going to be your greatest test and asset.
Many of our One-on-one training sessions are with owners who have become concerned or frustrated with their teenage dog's behaviour. What we are able to do is reassure them that there is an opportunity to remedy the situation. For owners, training with dogs at this age can almost feel like taking a step backward. However, going back to fundamental commands and learning more about the change phase is important to rebuilding & then moving forward.
If you would like to know more as to how we can help you and your fur kid on how to get through the teenage phase, please get in touch & take a look at our website. We offer various classes and also hold One-on-one sessions. To finish off on a positive note, teenage dogs go through this phase over a period of a few months (while human teenagers will take years!) before moving into adulthood. The reward of the right type of training results in both owner and fur kid better adapting to the change during this stage of the life cycle.
I learned about the 3/3/3 rule a while back now during my certification at Unitec.
It’s a great guideline to go by when you’re adopting a dog or getting a new pup. Every dog is different though therefore will react differently.
But the simplistic message is:
Give them space for the first few days to settle in. Use this time to start to build a relationship with them. Start developing routines.
Continue with routines. Start training, making it fun and engaging. Mental and physical exercise. Introducing them to the human world around them.
Routines developed. Training continues (actually it never stops). Watch for and work on unwanted behaviours that develop.
But most importantly - build a relationship and have FUN with your training.
A dog having fun is a dog happy to train
Micro-chipping & registering your dog
There is often confusion on where to register the microchip number for your dog. So I thought I’d explain:
(1). COUNCIL database:
Your Local Council requires all registered dogs to be microchipped. The chip number is logged in the Council database. This means that if your dog wanders and is picked up by Animal Management, the Council can track you down.
(2). NZCAR (NZ Companion Animal Register):
This is a NZ-wide database and optional. There is a small one-off charge to register on this database which the vets, pet shops and councils can use to track the ownership of your pet. As this database is nationwide it means no matter where your pet ends up, it can be traced back to the owner.
Note: both databases rely on YOU updating your contact information if you change address, email or phone number
e-Collars, Sound & Citronella collars
On the odd occasion I have clients ask about e-collars, sound collars, citronella collars.
Here’s a good article (with scientific studies to back it up) on why they SHOULD NOT be used.
At K9 FUNdamentals, we only use force-free training.
Enrichment with food
If your after some ideas on how to create some fun and enrichment for your fur kid when it comes to food, recycling household items can sometimes be the way to go. For example, at our house so we use empty egg cartons before they get thrown into the recycling bin.
Leave the lid open and place their dry food inside. If they cotton on real quick, then loosely place the lid back over and let them explore and work out how to get to the food.
We're are great fans of feeding our dogs using something different whenever possible. It gets them using their nose and thinking about how to get their food out - puzzle solving. Our own Snuffle Mats are fantastic for this! (go to our "Shop" tab to learn more).
Apart from their usual kibble we might pop in some carrots and apple also (and if they’re extra good they just may get a tiny bit of cheese )
Think of different ways you can feed your dog rather than using their bowl.
If you have a chewer or a destroyer, make sure feeding like this is supervised so they don’t eat the carton also!
Reactivity in dogs - what it is versus what it isn't
WE came across a great poster that reminded us of conversations during initial One-to-one consultations. We sometimes have owners saying:
"She never listens, even when I yell No at her."
"I think I got the naughty dog of the litter."
"I was told to socialise him so I took him to the dog park where he was scared to start with and now he barks and nips at all the dogs."
"My dog thinks he’s the alpha in the pack and is trying to dominate me."
Reading and understanding your dogs body language is an important part of being a dog owner. They tell you a lot, often subtly to start with. If you’re not watching you miss these subtle signals, so your dog will tell you in ways you won’t miss - growling, barking, nipping and biting.
You don’t have a naughty , dominating, manipulating, stubborn dog. You may have an uncomfortable, scared, overwhelmed or overtired dog.
What dog reactivity does mean:
I am having a really bad day
I need your support
I need you to be the calm one
I am overwhelmed
I need some relaxation time
I am feeling nervous/fearful and don;t know what to do
I need to get out of this situation
I am overtired and need rest
I am in pain and discomfort
I need to learn to make better choices in his situation
I am trying to tell you how I feel
What dog reactivity doesn't mean:
I want to dominate you
I am manipulating you
You are a bad owner
I need you to shout at me
I ma being stubborn
I refuse to listen
I need to face my fears
I refuse to obey you
I don't like you
I am a bad dog
Importance of understanding dog body language
At K9 FUNdamentals, teaching our clients to read their dog’s body language is similar to teaching someone defensive driving. In other words, it not just about force-free methodologies on how to train your dog to heel, sit, lie or walk nicely but also becoming aware of what to look out for and anticipate ahead of an undesirable behaviour occurring.
Think of scenarios such as the following:
You’re both enjoying a walk and you happen to meet someone else’s dog. All appears calm and fine at first and the greetings between the two dogs are going well. However, a few moments later things escalate and then either one or both dogs are growling which then turns into a fight.
Your dog is happily playing or walking when all of a sudden it spots another dog nearby or in the distance. Barking and lead pulling ensue as your dog furiously wants to get near the other dog. Your every attempt to calm it down isn’t having much success.
We’ve all heard that all too common calling out by other dog’s owners when their dog comes running up to meet yours – “It’s okay my dog is harmless and is REALLY friendly!”. However, you fur kid doesn’t appear to be that keen with a strange dog rushing up to it. Out of politeness you decided to take the owners word for it.....
We all come across that complete stranger at the park, street, beach who wants to pat your dog. In the past you’ve obliged and all goes well with the impromptu meet and greet. However, this time you notice that your dog seems to take exception to this person by shying away.
Communication channels between dogs and humans is usually through our voice commands or hand signals, then our dog feeds back to us through their actions or body language. For humans, reading dog body language feedback shouldn’t only be used when we want our dog to do something. This is particularly pertinent when you know that your dog is displaying reactive tendencies, has a sensitive nature or can be over-excited.
In the dog world our dogs are communicating with each other all the time, solely through their body language. Once you start to get the handle of what your dog is saying through its body language the same observations can then be applied when it comes to reading the body language of other dogs.
At K9 FUNdamentals, when we work with owners and their dogs, we take the approach of not just what your dogs is telling you but also signals of what other dogs are saying through their body language before or during an interaction. In other words, knowing when greetings and play are polite or when its time to separate and create a manageable distance before things escalate. Can you spot the signs?
While there are many common body language traits displayed by dogs, the triggers that sometimes result in a less than desirable reaction tend to be more unique to individual dogs. At K9 FUNdamentals, we work with owners to identify what these triggers might be and then work with you on a plan to help desensitise and manage your dog. If you’d like to learn more by having a One-to-one consultation, please get in contact with us either by phone or email. We'd love to help!
How sniffing benefits your dogs health
One common comment we hear a lot when helping dog owners with lead training is “they’re always sniffing, I just want to go for a walk”.
Below is a good article to read. Have a think about the benefits of your dog sniffing - why they do it and what they get out of it.
We're not advocating that you don’t teach your dog to ‘Walk On’ so you can control the sniffing, however not allowing them to sniff because you think it’s ‘your’ walk doesn’t cut the mustard.
Training - Focus on progress not perfection
Training a dog. It all seems so simple and straight forward doesn’t it? After all, how hard can it be for a smart, intelligent dog to learn sit, stay, down, heel and a myriad of other commands that you want them to perfect quickly.
Well, to be honest that depends on what your expectations are and how quickly you want things to happen.
From today, we want to remind everyone that when it comes to training - focus on progress not perfection
When it comes training , think of all those times when they gave you reason to smile because they showed glimpses of understanding what you wanted them to do. They might not have done it perfectly, but still, you wanted to punch the air and yell “YES, finally!”. That’s the thing about training, to get from “Here’s what I want them to do” to “YES, finally” is a journey i.e. progress.
First time dog owners and even those more experienced owners who adopt a fur kid into the family, aren’t immune to sometimes thinking “OMG, what have we gotten ourselves in for!” when they see unwanted behaviours. Hey, guess what, it’s a dog! If you think of a human toddler, our expectation isn't that we expect them to have perfected and know their times-table or even eat nicely with a fork and spoon at such as young age. We accept the fact that it is up to us to help them positively learn and progress.
At K9 FUNdamentals, we emphasise to owners, the importance of positive reinforcement not only for the big break through moments but also the small wins you will have with your dog. Sometimes these small wins are what we describe as ‘micro-moments’. It could be micro-moments such as:
Your dog is regularly making eye contact with you when out walking
Your dog places 2 paws on their mat when given the command “Go to your mat” (2 paws still equals progress before getting all 4 paws!)
You give your dog the “Leave” command and even though it is intent on getting to whatever it is, for a split second or moment, they do leave it alone
So what are the ingredients to successful training? It’s all about the 3P’s:
Patience (a ton of it as dog's in general have a short attention span. Puppy attention span is even shorter)
Persistence (never give up on your dog)
Practise (keep reinforcing and being consistent with the right training)
All 3P’s should be conducted as a Positive interaction between you and your dog.
So next time your training, lookout for those moments to celebrate success – no matter how big OR small.
Remember, focus on progress not perfection.
The world has been through a lot recently. 'Normal' for most was getting up 5 days a week, heading out the door to work, being away from home all day, then back at night. Our dogs were used to this routine and often you could swear they knew when it was the weekend and you'd be home for a couple of days!
Then things changed. Adults home from work, kids home from school, activity happening throughout the day that our dogs weren't used to. During lockdown you may have noticed your dog's behaviour change when all of a sudden the humans were at home most of the time. You see, dogs like routine and suddenly that 'normal' routine was turned on its head.
Fast forward to mid-2020, the new 'normal' may still look different from the past, however people are back to leaving the house, being away from home most of the day, then back at night. This has meant yet another change in routine and there are a lot of dogs who are struggling with this change.
At K9 FUNdamentals we've been having a lot of conversations recently with dog owners about how to ease their dog into this change. So, we thought we'd share some tips and tricks:
If you're still working from home or just doing a few hours back at the office, then take this opportunity to start your dog getting used to you being away from home. Pop your dog into a different part of the house with something to keep them amused. Give them the opportunity to be alone for short periods of time while you're actually still at home yourself.
Dogs love routines. You may not have noticed but you have a daily routine when you leave the house. It could be the jingle of the keys, closing the windows, putting your shoes by the door - your dog will know your routine. Time to start adopting that routine again. Get your dog used to the build up of you leaving the house before you actually have to leave for a long period of time.
The other part of routine is to make sure your dog is still in their daily routine. Meals, sleep time, playtime, walks or car rides. If they know what to expect then they're more likely to be relaxed about it.
Start to develop your leaving routine (as mentioned above) and go out for short periods of time to start with. This lets your dog get used to being alone for short bursts, knowing that you'll be coming back. Gradually stretch out the length of time you're away.
Keep your dog occupied
Surprisingly when we're away from home our dogs spend a lot of time sleeping. However, during the times that you are away throughout the day it's a good idea to give your dog things to keep them amused. This can be anything from some toys to play with, a puzzle to do, having the TV or radio on, something to chew on. As long as it's safe to leave your dog alone with the item, give them something to focus on rather than noticing you're not there.
Ask for help
If you notice that your dog has developed unwanted behaviours while you are preparing to leave the house or while you're away from the house, ask for help from a certified dog trainer or behaviourist. Your dog is trying to tell you that they're not comfortable with this routine change. They're not being naughty; they're trying to communicate with you.
Loose Lead walking (or any training for that matter) …. it starts with relationship building
Many of us love the idea of having a fur kid that walks beautifully beside us. The one that keeps up, never pulls on the lead, constantly looks at you and pays no attention to distractions.
Okay, cue the sound of the record being scratched! In reality for some puppy and dog owners (no matter how old the dog is), as soon as that lead comes out and gets clipped onto the collar or harness, it seems like your fur kid transforms into being a sled dog that wants to win the race at all costs. Your dog has no concept that you are attached to the end of their lead when they are dragging you.
In our training sessions we often refer to the behaviour change you see when your dog is at home versus stepping out the front door. At home the environment (sights and smells) is familiar to them, however outside of home the smells and the distractions are too numerous to count on all four paws. For dogs who are intent on constantly sniffing everywhere, we refer to these moments as the equivalent of their social media time. For example, they’ll constantly stop at spots and sniff out how many times a (Lamp)POST has been “liked”!
How and where do you start with training your dog with loose lead walking?
It starts with looking at what sort of relationship do you have with your fur kid. The bond between owner and dog can be strong one or an indifferent one. This is where the responsibility falls squarely on us as owners.
For example, when we adopted our deaf fur kid Bailee, her habit was to do nothing but pull on her lead. Bailee was with a new family and in a new environment. We had to start from scratch in terms of building a relationship and setting her up for success.
Our first step was to work out the best way to communicate with her. Bailee’s language was all about body signals and noises she’d make. Learning sign language was next (coupled with lots of thumbs up and ‘jazz hands’).
Next up was ‘Focus n Fun’. We trained Bailee to understand that when she was out with us, that by constantly checking-in, she was going to have fun. By this we mean regular eye contact with us i.e. “Hey, I’m okay if you’re okay”. To start with, the reward was a mountain of treats and being made an absolute fuss over each time eye contact was made.
Third up was helping Bailee understand that when it matters, WE are a way better option for her to focus on rather than the thing, person, animal that gets her attention.
Well this sounds simple, I hear you think… well truth be told, it wasn’t. We spent a huge amount of time, effort, patience, persistence developing a relationship with her.
Before commencing and thinking that your fur kid MUST be trained to behave in a certain way that suits YOU, make sure you have a mutual relationship that each of you enjoys and is rewarding.
Our video is of Bailee and Vince out with a longline. The relationship is evident with Bailee constantly making eye contact with Vince and happily follows his movement, pace and change of direction. When Bailee decides to take a slight wander she is allowed to (it’s her walk after all) but it is made fun for her to make the choice to go back to Vince’s side. All this done while the lead is loose the entire time.
If you want to help with loose lead walking and how to create a fun, learning and rewarding relationship with your fur kid, please don’t hesitate to get in touch by phone or email.