Intentional or not, dogs learn

One of the best tips I ever read regarding training dogs was something along the lines of “even when you’re not intentionally teaching them, dogs learn.” In other words, if you aren’t correcting a behavior in your dog that you don’t want, you are essentially condoning that behavior.

Umm….oops.

I have to admit that I haven’t been consistent in the training of our dogs. And as a result, which should come to no surprise to anyone, they have a few…err…issues.

 Intentional or not, dogs learnBelieve it or not, Maddie graduated from not one, but two, training classes. Here she is pictured, with my husband, as she passed level two training a few years ago. I’m still convinced it was sort of a pity pass. Maybe like “no Schnoodle left behind” or something?

At any rate, Maddie is actually a very smart dog. But Maddie has focus issues. When she can focus, she’s a rockstar, but focus is not her strong suit. As a result, we stopped working with her as much because it seemed frustrating for everyone involved. She also has barking issues, and everything we were trying wasn’t really helping. She is an awesome and loving dog, and she’s mostly fine in the house, but not really a dog we could take places. And we wanted to change that.

So, a few weeks ago, we bit the bullet and signed up for an evaluation with a veterinary behaviorist. I really wasn’t sure what to expect. I’ve admittedly watched a few episodes of what I assumed were animal behaviorists on tv, and frankly, it’s usually a problem with the people. I became prepared for the behaviorist to tell me it was entirely my husbands our fault.

As it turns out, we didn’t really understand where Maddie was coming from. She had needs that weren’t being met. And our approach wasn’t necessarily what was right for her, even if it had worked with other dogs. Speaking to a veterinary behavioral professional really gave me some insight into what it is going to take for Maddie to effectively learn what she should learn.

Not very far into our reinvigorated focus on training, Maddie loves to learn and be guided. She has been doing well. She is not very food motivated, but is eager to please, and loves to be praised for doing the right thing. This time, what Maddie learns will be intentional.

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Wordless Wednesday – Birthday girl!

 Wordless Wednesday   Birthday girl!

This post is part of a Wordless Wednesday blog hop via BlogPaws, a community for pet bloggers. Take a look around at the entries shown below, and have fun!

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Managing your dog’s energy

Have a dog that runs around the house in circles at 10:00 pm on a Tuesday? Have a dog that gets into mischief just to have something to do? Ever consider their energy needs aren’t being met?

Now, I’m by no means an animal behaviorist, I just know I have a dog that has a high amount of energy and I’ve learned what an amazing difference it makes in her behavior to tire her the hell out on a regular basis.

I call this “managing my dog’s energy.”

Maddie is a dog that needs regular and consistent exercise or play every day. When she hasn’t had enough activity in the day she practically bounces off the walls. But exercising a dog every day can sometimes be inconvenient – in rainy or really cold weather, sometimes neither you OR the dog really wants to go for that long walk outside. However, you can trick your dog into getting exercise in the form of playing.

 Managing your dogs energy

Maddie midway through a game of extreme tug.
Still more energy left to burn!

With Maddie, she is very motivated by toys. She LOVES playing ball, playing fetch, playing chase, playing tug, chasing bubbles, and generally running around. On a day when it’s too nasty outside to run around outside (quite often in Seattle) I can employ one of the above play techniques inside the house….then don’t stop until her tongue is hanging out the side of her mouth. That is my measure of success, as unscientific as it may be, when she is breathing really hard and her tongue is hanging out of the side of her mouth. Usually she starts to slow down a bit after that and doesn’t quite seem to mind when you put away the toy or ball.

I joke that I need to wear Maddie out to the point of “side tongue” at least three times a day. But it really isn’t a joke. When I make a point to do exactly that she is a different dog. She is happy from all the playing, and she is more mellow and well behaved in the evening. Win! Win!

fitDogFriday 180x150 Managing your dogs energy
This message is part of a Fit Dog Friday blog hop sponsored by SlimDoggy, makers of the SlimDoggy app (available in the Itunes App Store) for tracking your dog’s activities and food intake (calories in and calories out).

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