Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Dog Training and Coaching Tips Blog is on the Move

Hello fellow inquisitive canine's and inquisitive guardians!

It's official! My sidekick Poncho and I have completed the Great Blog Migration over to our newly updated www.inquisitivecanine.com website. This means that:
  1. Poncho and I have joined blog forces! We get to have more meetings together, but come on, that's a total perk, right?
  2. Poncho and I will be updating our blog directly on our own site.
  3. I won’t be updating posts on this Blogger site any longer.
What does this mean for you? Simple. All you have to do is point your browsers to the new site: www.inquisitivecanine.com/blog where you can read our posts while being able to hang out directly on our home website. Very convenient I must say!

Also – if you subscribe to this via RSS, the new feed is here:

If you receive updates via email, please subscribe at the new blog address:

And please change all bookmarks to:

In addition to the new blog address, we also have some really exciting changes to our dog training offerings - We hope you’ll check out our new services and products for enhancing your everyday relationship with your dog.

Thanks for reading my dog training tips blog. I always enjoy your comments and support. Oh, and if you think your friends and their inquisitive canine's would enjoy reading and sharing, please feel free to forward it on. We'll look forward to seeing you on our new site!

Friday, March 19, 2010

Dogs Attacking Make News but What About Dogs Who Behave Well?

Saw this question posted from a reporter. Of course I had to add my two cents...

"There has been a spate of pit bull attacks and mauling's of children in metro Atlanta. What can dog owners do for ALL dogs to help socialize them and raise them so they are not a threat to children or anyone else? Also looking for any classes or programs to help dog owners."

It's unfortunate that pit bulls have received the reputation they have. There are SO many other pure bred and mixed breed dogs that bite, but often get overlooked or go unreported. As a certified professional dog trainer I've worked with many dog training students whose dogs were bullied and even bitten by non pit bull canines. I even knew someone whose Manchester Terrier was killed by a Golden Retriever - but you don't hear about those stories. It would be nice to see more stories about how the sweet pit bull behaves graciously around other animals and children.

Although breeds were bred for specific traits, and certain breeds can do a lot more damage that others, I think it's unfair that we "profile". And if we do, then as a society we need to do something to help the situation, not make it worse. Educating the public on dog behavior, more humane training methods that are effective in more ways than just getting the behavior, better monitoring of irresponsible breeding, and the cessation of dog fighting. And this is just a start!

Let it be known that 1) I am not breed biased 2) I adore pit bulls as much as any other breed, pure or mixed...But I'm more attracted to personality, not looks or pedigree. I mean hey, look at me, I myself am a mixed breed and not supermodel material - so you're looking at someone that has relied more on her personality than anything else...except for my ability to cook ;->

To address this query allow me to say:
  • "What can dog owners do of ALL dogs to help socialize them and raise them so they are not a threat to children or anyone else?" > If the owner(s) begin with a puppy, begin socialization as soon as possible. This doesn't mean taking their dog to an off-leash dog park when they're 8 weeks old. But they can certainly introduce the puppy to new sights, smells, sounds, people and activities (car rides to the mall, schools, sitting on a lap in an outdoor cafe area) etc...You can protect the dogs health, while still exposing him or her to their new human surroundings. I understand vets wanting dogs to be protective health wise, but there are still safe measures for allowing dogs to be socialized to all I've mentioned above. More dogs are euthanized because of behavioral issues versus dying of health related problems.
  • Make experiences fun and non threatening: understand dog body language - Dogs will let you know if something is causing stress (stop eating is the first). Go slowly to socializing experiences, allowing the dog to build confidence.
  • Train using humane, non-threatening, non-coercive methods. Again, this goes back to "make it fun!" Some of the pop-culture methods involve intimidation and fear invoking methods. No animal responds in a happy way to that. He or she will "behave" out of fear of being hurt. Not a good way to motivate any animal.
  • For adult dogs, still practice taking him or her to various places to help them adapt, but again make it fun - and watch for signs of stress and other triggers that might cause a negative reaction. And if the dog does behave in an undesired way, do NOT punish. If you were upset, yelling at you, smacking you, and telling you were wrong wouldn't make you less upset, right?
  • "Any classes or programs to help dog owners." > Being a graduate from the SF SPCA Academy for Dog Trainers, as well as other programs that are more science-based, I'd say to for dog owners to begin by looking for classes that are taught by certified professional dog trainers that have the same philosophy and use the same methodology for teaching - both the dogs and the humans.
There are some trainers that use "Positive Reinforcement", but then they will also recommend choke, prong and electronic collars for "training". The former is fine, but the latter can actually have the opposite effect and inadvertently train aggression into a dog. The same goes for squirt bottles and Citronella collars. A good site to look for trainers is the Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers.

I would also suggest owners contact the person training (or a knowledgeable assistant) and ask questions. Ask if they can observe a class, even for just 10 or 15 minutes (watching an entire class intrudes on those who have paid for the trainers time and information). Ask to talk with other students and get their feedback too.

Just like parents sending a child off to school, it's important to check the school out and meet the staff and teachers first. Not just show up or ship them off without investigating. Same thing should go for dogs and dog training classes. Word of mouth is also a good way to go, as long as you trust the source.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

A Useful Approach to Listening to Your Dog is Simple Observation

Joan Mayer

A recent Dear Inquisitive Canine reader asked about her beagle Bill and his enjoyment of playing with larger dogs. I explained the similarities of how humans of different shapes and sizes can learn to play with one another without getting hurt. The best way to tell if your own dog is enjoying him or herself is to pay attention to his or her body language. She or he will “tell” you if he or she is enjoying play or not very clearly, you just need to be watchful of the signals s/he is sending. To view the complete article, check out our Dear Inquisitive Canine column.

Regarding this readers comments of how she described Bill’s behavior, I wanted to add this about what to watch for:

From what you’ve described it appears you have a very keen eye for details of Bill’s body language and that you’re “listening” to what he is saying. I say bravo! Bill is excited to play with the larger dogs and appears bored with the smaller dogs. Although I haven’t witnessed their romping social functions myself, I’d like to first address your comments “hardly pays attention to us, and becomes the center of attention as he runs around with a pack of big dogs playfully chasing him all over.”

  • Make sure you are still the center of Bill’s universe. He can certainly run off and play with his friends, but work on a nice (and more reliable) “coming when called” so he learns to check in with you more often. It’ll be rewarding for him, while enhancing the bond you share. Plus, if you need him to come back to you, for whatever reason, he’s more likely to want to. For additional information on teaching your dog to come when called, check out these dog training tips on Recall (aka: coming when called).
  • Make sure Bill isn’t being targeted or ganged up on. Even if Bill keeps going back for more, sometimes "horseplay leads to tragedy" (as our mothers taught us). One dog can end up being the recipient of all that exuberant doggy energy. You’ll want to make sure the dogs are interrupting themselves, or you interrupt before the built-up energy takes the group past the point of no return. Note: you’ll want to check with the daycare staff that play is being monitored carefully for appropriate play.
For the remainder of this Dear Inquisitive Canine article, as well as additional dog behavior advice columns written by Poncho the dog and yours truly, check out the local Noozhawk website.

I have to say, this dog guardian was superb on watching out for the safety of her dog Bill and “listening” to what he was saying. I would nominate her to be the dog park playground monitor if she were ever interested :-)

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Upcoming Dog Activity Options in Ventura: Mutt March Madness Headed our Way

This March brings lots of fun choices for you and your dog. The Inquisitive Canine will start it off with a dog social for your puppy or younger smaller dog (up to 12 months and 25 pounds), followed by a leash walking workshop for dogs of all ages. Then there's our popular Canine College for learning good manners, and finally the St. Patrick's Parade Ventura Dog Mile event in downtown Ventura!

Each one provides mental and physical stimulation, so come join in for one or for all of these fun and rewarding activities! Here's a little breakdown of each one:

Girls just wanna have fun!
Social for Puppies & Small Younger Dogs
Sunday March 7th, 1:00 - 2:00 PM
Puppies learn by exploring their environments and by being exposed to new stimuli - including people and other dogs. While it is important to introduce your puppy to new situations and encourage social behavior, it is also important to provide positive and pleasant experiences that won’t overwhelm and stress out your dog. Puppy Play Groups help you raise a well-adjusted and healthy dog by providing a safe and relaxed environment for your young pup to socialize and play. Your puppy will burn energy while learning how to make friends and investigating new sights, sounds, and smells. The positive experiences that your puppy has during this critical socialization period will have a long-lasting influence on your dog’s developing confidence and sociable temperament.

Puppy Socials are for all puppies 10 weeks to 5 months old. However, small dogs up to 25 pounds and 12 months in age are also welcome.

Cost: $10.00 advanced registration (by Thursday March 4th) $15.00 at door. Social is one hour. See our
website to register, and for policies and safety guidelines. You may contact us directly for additional information.

Please provide us with current copy of vaccination records if you are a new student. You may fax a copy to our office: 805.650.8501 or bring with you.

Teach Your Dog to Walk Nicely on Leash
Girls just wanna have fun!
Sunday March 7th, 3:00 - 4:15 PM
This 75 minute workshop for you and your dog covers everything from equipment, simple techniques and training steps that will make walking your dog more enjoyable for everyone.

Cost: $20.00 per dog if registered by Thursday March 4th, $25.00 thereafter. $30.00 same-day registration.
Workshop is for all dogs who are comfortable around other dogs and people while on leash.

The Inquisitive Canine website for additional information and toregister, or to contact us.

*Perfect class to get your dog ready for the
Ventura Downtown Green Mile on March 13th!
A current copy of your dogs vaccination records is required at the time of sign-up. You may fax a copy to our office: 805.650.8501 or bring with you.

St. Patrick's Day Parade Dog Mile Run/Walk
An exciting mile run or walk event in Downtown Ventura taking place on Saturday March 13th before the St. Patricks Day Parade.

To register for event, please see the Ventura Mile website. For additional information on this fun and exciting event, please click here! (Our Loose Leash Walking workshop on March 7th is the perfect way to prep your pooch for this event!)

Canine College

With Ventura College Community Education
Class is filling quickly ~ Register now!

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Bringing Dance Class Tips to Dog Training

Believe it or not I love to dance. You'd think as a certified professional dog trainer I'd be into Canine Freestyle - Trust me, if there were local classes I'd take them. Spending time dancing with my trusty sidekick and inquisitive canine Poncho the dog (besides in the kitchen and backyard) would be a total blast! Unfortunately there are zero canine freestyle dog training classes in our area - at least at this time. However, there are some alternatives for yours truly.

One of my favorite styles of dance is called West Coast Swing - it happens to be our official California State Dance. My friends Woody and Louise Bretz are the founders and owners of Connexions Dance Studio here in Ventura. They teach West Coast Swing, along with many other styles of dance. I've been having tons of fun revisiting the dance world, seeing lots of friends from the past and getting the ol' dance shoes warmed up again - makes for great cross-training too.

Why do I bring this up? What does West Coast Swing dance classes have to do with dog training classes? Well, as a student I get to see things from a different perspective. Listening differently, out of my comfort zone, trying to pay attention while learning at the same time. It's always humbling to put oneself in another's position - or, having the shoe on the other foot (HA! no pun intended). Anyway, I was reminded of a few tips when it comes to partner dancing - I thought it would be good to bring up because these dance tips also relate to the dog-human partnership, making them good dog training tips.

You've heard me talk about the "The Four F's" - now I want to bring up The Three T's: Timing, Technique and Teamwork! All are important elements of partner dancing, and all are important when working, or partnering, with your dog - no matter if it's taking dog obedience classes or canine freestyle classes. Here's what I mean.
  • Timing: When it comes to rewarding behaviors you want your dog to perform, precise timing is key. When it comes to punishing behaviors you don't want your dog performing timing is absolutely critical!
Let's take house-training for instance. The ideal time is as soon as your dog is eliminating! Or immediately after! And I mean hang out with your dog while he or she goes, then throw a party, right then and there! Rewarding any time after that might result in training other behaviors - which can be a good thing, but it might not be the intended one.

An example for precise timing and punishment would be the Greeting Nicely behavior (because we never punish for eliminating in a forbidden area). If you want your dog to sit politely to greet, and he or she jumps up on you (because that's normal dog behavior), then ignoring (which is the "punishment") your dog as soon as his or her front paws started towards you would be ideal - not after he or she has made contact and you've reacted with any form of attention.
  • Technique: No doubt about this one. Positive reinforcement, humane, reward-based training methods. If you want it, reward it, you'll get more of it. It's that simple. I question the integrity, decency and coping skills of anyone who feels the need to use coercion, aversive and bullying techniques to get any animal to do something. Do such unpleasant techniques work? Sure they do - but not as well (science has proven this), plus other, often worse behaviors end up appearing.
  • Teamwork: It's much more fun and pleasant to work with a partner whom you enjoy spending time with - this is why we adopt dogs in the first place. If you want your dog enjoying spending time with you, I say, do unto others!
For instance, understand your dog and his or her species specific traits. Think about the times when you take your dog out for a walk. Do you make it about his or her needs? Allowing to mark, sniff, even pull on leash once in awhile? Or is it all about you and having to get your walk or run in? How about when you run a few errands? Do you bring your dog with you, just so he or she can get out of the house? Or are they left at home?

When it comes to dancing I certainly use the title "leader", but that's because there is usually a "follower". I prefer to use other terms with dog training. One of them being teamwork, which happens to be important for any type of relationship.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Dog Behavior Down on the Farm Causes Issues With Owners

My sidekick Poncho the dog and I received a dog behavior advice question from an inquisitive canine named Kia. This lucky dog lives on a lovely coffee farm in Hawaii where, in addition to the coffee, there are avocado trees and wild pigs.

Seems these environmental conditions have resulted in plentiful amounts of avocados for Kia to hunt and dine on, as well as piles of pig poop to roll in. Poncho, being an inquisitive canine, confirmed that this is the ideal place for a dog! I mean, how much fun is it to have your own "entertainment center" (aka: enrichment) right outside your front door? Snacks and one doggone fun activity such as rolling in nasty stinky stuff.

As you can see from these photos, Poncho likes to "rock 'n' roll"
too! Maybe because he's smaller and easy for me to bathe I allow him to roll in whatever he finds appealing - as a matter of fact I'll use it as a reward if I can! I call these "environmental rewards" or "real life" rewards.
For instance when we're out on a walk he sees something interesting and starts showing signs of wanting to roll. For Poncho this includes: lots of sniffing, followed by scratching the area with one of his front paws, more sniffing, scratching, then rubbing the side of his face against the surface. If he likes what he's "sensing" then he starts his rolling....

If he's on leash I'll ask for a behavior first, like "watch me", sit or "touch" - then I'll send him off to roll, after I've given him his release cue of "okay". This allows Poncho to be a dog, but still minding his loose leash walking manners - as opposed to just pulling me wherever he wants.

The guardians of Kia can use this same training plan. Allow Kia to roll in the pig poop, but only when she's been given the cue to do so. (And she's had clearance from her veterinarian that it's okay to roll in that stuff).

A few other training tips for both the rolling and avocado issue I'd recommend are:
  • Reward Kia every time she ignores an avocado or pile of stench. And I mean reward! More than just a “Good dog!” Set it up where you are actively walking Kia near to where these items are, and whenever she looks at one and ignores it, throw a party!
  • If she goes towards either of these items, use the “Leave it!” cue, lure her away from whichever item you want her to ignore, then reward her.
  • If Kia decides the item in question is more motivating, give her a “Time out!” penalty - put her on leash for 20 seconds or so. But then let her off leash so you can give her another chance to make the preferred choice.
Lastly, management of a dogs environment is key when setting him or her up for success! A farm filled with a bounty of avocados and piles of stinky stuff to roll in is an ideal place for total fun! It's unfair of us to expect they wouldn't want to go and explore, so we need to take the time to teach our dogs what we want in a way that he or she would understand.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Social Media Helps Bring Dog Training Game Winners Together!

Thanks to Facebook and my inquisitive canine newsletter announcements, Poncho and I ended up receiving an inbox of winners for our Out of the Box Dog Training Game app! So many in fact we had to ask Apple iTunes for a few more codes!

And the winners are: Hailey and Nash, Nicki, Kathy and Coco, Emilia and Nellie, Nellie's nanny, Sabine, Jennie, Traci, and Neal!

Thanks to all of those who responded! And yes, Poncho Gonzales Hunter Mayer is the original inquisitive canine!

For those who are interested in finding out how you can get your own copy of our Out of the Box Dog Training Game app or the hard copy of the game, check out our dog training game website page and iTunes store.