How can I socialize my dog during a pandemic?

yellow lab puppy

How can I socialize my dog during a pandemic? This is a question I have been asked almost every day since the COVID-19 pandemic began last March. Just because you can’t be around other people doesn’t mean you can’t socialize your puppy. Socialize means showing your dog that new things are no big deal, or they are awesome! Sure, meeting dogs and people is an important aspect of socialization. But socialization isn’t just about dogs and people. There are many categories of “new” that your puppy can safety be introduced to during social distancing.

Grooming

Grooming is important to dogs. It’s even better when dog love grooming. Grooming includes brushing, bathing, and nail trims. Ear cleaning and eye cleaning are also grooming elements that puppies need to learn to be comfortable with. Patience with gentle restraint is also an important skill for young puppies to learn too. What is the best way to do these things with your puppy?

Brushing

When your puppy has had some exercise – so he is not loaded with pent up energy – is a great time to work on handing. Sit somewhere comfortable where you can securely hold your puppy. Your puppy can be on your lap or on the floor or on a piece of furniture.

Start with one aspect of handling to work on at a time. Say you start with brushing. Your puppy’s brush should not snag or pull at his fur. We like to start with a soft, rubber bristled brush (click here to see an example: https://amzn.to/2JsuibK). Start in an area on your puppy’s body that he likes to have petted. Back and shoulders are a good place to start. Gently brush your puppy following the grain or direction that the fur naturally goes. If your puppy doesn’t seem to mind the touching – he doesn’t pull away or try to bite the brush, continue. If he seems agitated, stop brushing for now.

Wait a day or so and then try brushing again. This time, show the dog your brush and then give him tasty treat. Repeat this a few times, then gently touch the dog with the brush and then give him the treat. Repeat this a few more times and then stop the session. Practice this over several short sessions over a few days. Your dog should be starting to associate the brush with food. This is what you want. Brushing = awesome! to your dog. Repeat this same process for brushing, teeth brushing, and handling.

Nail Trims

Nail trims are scary things for many puppies and adult dogs too. Start by showing your dog the clippers. Let her sniff the closed and locked clippers. Move the clippers toward your dog’s feet and then treat. Repeat many times, gradually moving the clippers closer and closer to your puppy. Work up to touching the clipper to your dog’s nails and then gently clipping the tip of your pup’s nails. Gently tip your puppy’s nails once per week and nail clipping will become no big deal to your dog.

Socializing Out & About

Think about your long term goals for your puppy. Do you want you dog to feel like he can say “hi” to every person and dog you see on a walk. Most people say no, this isn’t really what they want. When they walk their dog, they want to walk – not constantly stop for every dog or person they see. COVID time is a great time to reach your dog that seeing people on walk – not greeting everyone he sees – is normal.

Socializing to your dog to people

To get your dog used to the idea that seeing people is normal, you need to take your dog some where she can see people at a distance. Let your pup sit and take in the scenery and watch people and dogs walk by. Walking trails near fields are a great place to do this. Have your puppy on leash 20-30 feet away from the trail (move further away if being this close it too exciting for your dog). As people pass on the trail, gently praise your dog for just watching. If your dog barks or gets excited, don’t reprimand her. Move a little further back from the trail and let her get used to seeing people moving in the distance.

Socializing your dog to other dogs

This same technique can work for seeing dogs at a distance too. When your dog sees another dog and does not bark, praise and even treat your dog. You are essentially rewarding your dog for an absence of behavior (you are rewarding the “not barking”). The more dogs and people you dog sees, and the more he gets rewarded for NOT interacting with them, the more this behavior will become your dog’s normal or default behavior. When the COVID social distancing requirements are lifted and your dog is around more people, he will have developed a habit of not barking at people at a distance and you can then work on seeing and passing people at closer distances.

Socializing to New Experiences

What are three things you want to be able to with your dog in 3-6 months? Where are 5 places you want to be able to take your dog in 6 months? Just because these places or businesses are closed now doesn’t mean you can’t still visit many of them.

Have a favorite outdoor cafe you want to take your dog to this spring? Stop by now for a visit! It will likely be lesson crowded now than usual. It won’t be as exciting, because you may be the only ones there. This is a great time to get your dog used to going! Walk by the area, or sit for a few minutes at a table with your dog if you can. Stop by every few days and let your dog explore the outdoor area. By doing this, the first time you take him there in the spring, it won’t be nearly as big of new, big deal because he will have already been there many times with you.

Car Rides

Do you want your dog to love care rides? Now is the time to start taking your puppy on short car rides that end in fun! Short trips to the mailbox, down the street, or to the next street over followed by a short walk in a new area is great for dogs. Short car rides help dogs get used to riding in the car. By adding a walk to the end of the car ride, your puppy will start to learn that not all car rides end at the vet!

Socializing your dog to new surfaces

It is a great ideas to gently expose puppies to all different types of surfaces and flooring. You want your puppy to learn that new = fun and safe. Grass, dirt, wood, concrete, wood chips, and metal are all great surface options to introduce your puppy to. Don’t forget to have your puppy experience all of these surfaces when they are wet from rain and also at night too!

Don’t let the pandemic stop you from safely socializing your puppy! Need help getting started? We are offering Zoom lessons for puppies and dogs and we’d love to help you with your pup!

About Pepper’s Paws Dog Training

Pepper’s Paws, LLC provides in home dog training for basic manners, behavior problems, and fear aggression in Chester County, PA. We also offer group classes in everything from Puppy Basics to Advanced Adult Dog Manners to Tricks and Fun! 

Head trainer Deb Murray, is Certified Canine Behavior Consultant (CBCC-KA) and Certified Professional Dog Training (CPDT-KA) by the Certification Council of Professional Dog Trainers, a Fear Free Certified Traineran AKC Evaluator, and a Distinguished Graduate and Mentor Trainer for the Catch Canine Academy.

Absolute Dogs Training Academy

Absolute Dogs Training Academy is an Online, self-paced, games-based training resource for you and your dog! Looking for a fun way to keep your training skills sharp and have fun with dog? The Training Academy is the netflix of dog training – games based training for you and your dog, weekly lives, a new game each week and a game for any struggle you have with your dog!

Click here for more info!

Absolute dogs training academy

Pepper’s Paws Fit Dog Club

Pepper's Paws Fit Dog Club featured in February 2020 AKC CGC Evaluator's Newsletter
Pepper’s Paws Fit Dog Club – out for group walk on a beautiful day!

About Pepper’s Paws Dog Training

Pepper’s Paws, LLC provides in home dog training for basic manners, behavior problems, and fear aggression in Chester County, PA. We also offer group classes in everything from Puppy Basics to Advanced Adult Dog Manners to Tricks and Fun! 

Head trainer Deb Murray, is Certified Canine Behavior Consultant (CBCC-KA) and Certified Professional Dog Training (CPDT-KA) by the Certification Council of Professional Dog Trainers, a Fear Free Certified Traineran AKC Evaluator, and a Distinguished Graduate and Mentor Trainer for the Catch Canine Academy, and a Mentor for the Victoria Stillwell Dog Training Academy.

Getting started on training with your rescue dog

Your new dog is a stranger in a strange land

Imagine how you would feel if you were dropped into a foreign country where you did not speak the language, you didn’t have any money, and you didn’t know how to get your needs met. How scary would that be? Imagine if every time you did something wrong or tried to ask a question, someone yelled “NO!” at you? How scary and difficult would it be to learn the language and how to get a meal? That is exactly what we do with rescue dogs. These dogs don’t know how to get their needs met. They don’t know if they’re safe. They don’t know who to trust, and they don’t speak English.

Pepper at shelter

Many of our rescue dogs come from unknown backgrounds. We don’t know if they have ever been hit, yelled at or abused. We also don’t know what they have seen or been socialized to. Yet we expect them to know and follow our rules. We think they should know how they are supposed to behave. They should know what they are and are not supposed to chew on. We think they should know where the bathroom is and how to tell us they need to go, the list goes on and on.  

By showing your new dog kindness and compassion through positive training – being clear on your expectations, and rewarding behaviors you want more of and preventing behaviors you don’t want more of – you will set your newly adopted rescue dog up success with you in your home. 

When and how to get started on training

The best time to start on training your new dog is the first day you bring your dog home. Training on the first day is all about setting your dog up for success. Establish routines, boundaries, and habits to last a lifetime with your dog. Keep things simple. Reward behaviors you want more of – like sitting for petting and not jumping, sitting to have the leash put on, and politely waiting for a food bowl. Make sure to not reward behaviors you don’t want more of. Yelling at or trying to correct a dog for jumping gives the dog a simple message “I love it when you do that! Please do it again!” because to a dog, all attention is good attention (they can’t easily differentiate between good attention and bad attention). 

Of course, you can’t always just ignore behavior that you don’t like in your new dog. Behaviors like trying to run out of doors, jumping up on people, and stealing things off the counter are all things that we don’t want more of, so we need to prevent from happening in the first place. By simply following the two-week shutdown rule and keeping your dog on a leash, you can prevent your dog from running out the front door, jumping up on people, and stealing things off of the counter.

2 Simple things to do with your new rescue dog

Dog on leash have fewer house training accidents.  If your dog is on the leash and you are paying attention to her, you will notice when she starts to sniff the floor or walk in a circle or start to squat – all signs that she is about to go to the bathroom – you can quickly run her outside your potty spot. 

You should also keep your dog’s world small. Your dog does not need access to your entire house on day 1. Start by handing him in one or 2 rooms – with you actively supervising him on leash to prevent chewing problems and house soiling accidents.

What training methods work best with rescue dogs?

We recommend you use positive reinforcement training with your newly adopted dog. The premise of positive reinforcement training is simple: you reward behaviors you want more of. You also prevent behaviors you don’t want more of by using a leash or crate or active supervision. This prevents the dog from rehearsing unwanted behaviors. The more your dog rehearses behaviors that you like, the more he’ll realize how to get his needs met. He will offer these pleasant and positive behaviors more and more, because they work for him. Rewards that your dog can earn are food, treats, play and toys, access to the yard or a walk, petting, and praise. Consistency and contingency are key. They speed up your dog’s learning because he learns that he has the power to make things happen.

Why we don’t recommend shock collars and prong collars

Tools like shock collars, prong collars, e-collars, choke colors, pinch collars are all punishment-based training methods. The premise of punishment-based training is the dog learns how to avoid pain or fear. Punishment does not teach the dog what he is supposed to do. Dogs can have their necks punctured by prong collars if they suddenly pull or lunge. Prong collars can also pop off without warning. Choke collars can crush tracheas. Shock collars or e-collars can make dogs nervous, fearful, and unpredictable in situations they find scary or intimidating.

Almost all aggressive behavior is rooted in the dog being fearful. By punishing the dog for telling you he’s afraid – be it a growl, snarl, or refusal to do something – you do not make the dog’s fear go away. The dog learns that it’s not safe to show you he’s afraid, so behavior can be much more unpredictable. Also, if you punish a dog for growling, you risk him escalating his behavior the next time he’s afraid. The next time he is afraid, instead of saying “I am afraid” with a growl, he may say “I am afraid” with the snap because the last time he growled it got him a shock to his neck and the scary thing didn’t go away.  For more information on the negative effects of punishment-based training, read this article published by the American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior: https://avsab.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/03/Punishment_Position_Statement-download_-_10-6-14.pdf

Training and bonding takes time and patience

Studies have documented that it takes 3-4 days for dogs’ stress hormones to return to normal after going to a new home. It can take 3-4 weeks for the dog to feel safe, and 3-6 months for his personality to start to really show. What this means to the new dog owner is that it will take time and patience for you and your new dog to settle in and feel comfortable with each other. Look for teachable moments in the first few weeks with your dog. Teach them to say please and they say it over and over again when they want something.

If you find yourself feeling overwhelmed, in over your head, or don’t know what to do with your new dog – ask for help! A class or few lessons with a positive reinforcement trainer are very effective ways to get started on a great life with their dog. If you see behavior that looks aggressive or scary, definitely don’t wait to ask for help. The longer you wait to start to change this behavior the harder the process can be and the lower the likelihood for success. 

About Pepper’s Paws Dog Training

Pepper’s Paws, LLC provides in home dog training for basic manners, behavior problems, and fear aggression in Chester County, PA. We also offer group classes in everything from Puppy Basics to Advanced Adult Dog Manners to Tricks and Fun! 

Head trainer Deb Murray, is Certified Canine Behavior Consultant (CBCC-KA) and Certified Professional Dog Training (CPDT-KA) by the Certification Council of Professional Dog Trainers, a Fear Free Certified Traineran AKC Evaluator, and a Distinguished Graduate and Mentor Trainer for the Catch Canine Academy, and a Mentor for the Victoria Stillwell Dog Training Academy.

Boredom Busters: How to Keep your Dog Mentally Challenged in the Winter

Indoor ideas to keep your dog challenged and have some fun too!

Ah Winter…shorter days, slippery roads and sides walks, colder temperatures. None of these make exercising your dog sound like any fun. Dogs need more than just physical exercise, though. Many dogs benefit more from mental exercise than physical exercise. This is especially true for puppies and older dogs who can’t run for miles due to age or physical limitations. Young dogs can often go for miles and never seem to get tired, but are ready for a nap after a “brain training” session. 

Winter doesn’t have to mean boredom and no fun with your dog. When it is too cold or dangerous to go outside, work their brain’s inside! This is called enrichment – and it is critical to a dog’s overall well-being.

Ways to beat winter boredom

  • Daily training using your dog’s kibble can be a great way to give your dog some mental “work” to do. To dogs, this is fun!
  • Food puzzles – things like frozen Kong’s, Kong Wobblers, and treat balls or toys can all be great ways to teach your dog to work for his/her food – and get some mental stimulation too. Think food + fun!
  • Playing hiding seek inside with your dog is a great way to have fun and work on the ever important Come! command!
  • You can even practice leash walking skills inside too! Load up a treat pouch or pocket with your dog’s kibble, pat your leg and say, “Let’s go!” as you start walking, when you dog appears at your side, feed some kibble and say, “Let’s go!” and set off again. With practice, your dog will start to build the habit of walking at your side – instead of in front of you – which is the first step toward polite leash walking!

How to keep things fun and challenging

  • Change up what you do with dog. Some meals, use a Kong wobbler. Other times, use kibble for training. Try not to do the same enrichment activity several times in a row, or for the same meal each day. Changing this up will keep you dog guessing what is coming next!
  • Get creative! Does your dog know any tricks? Simple tricks like roll over, spin, or paw can be fun to teach your dog – and he’ll love it because it’s attention from you AND food for him — double win!
  • Have each member of your family work on the activities. When you change trainers, you change the learning picture for your dog so they have to work harder to understand the new trainer. Keep these sessions short and fun and your dog will love to play along and learn with your whole family.

When you can get outside, make it fun!

As the ground thaws and snow melts, the scents your dog gets to smell are amazing! Give her time to take them all in all walks. These sniff walks are great ways to enrich your dog’s life. When walking: think quality of the time, not quantity in miles. The more your dog uses her brain sniffing, the more tired and fulfilled she will be at the end of the way.

About Pepper’s Paws Dog Training

Pepper’s Paws, LLC provides in home dog training for basic manners, behavior problems, and fear aggression in Chester County, PA. We also offer group classes in everything from Puppy Basics to Advanced Adult Dog Manners to Tricks and Fun! 

Head trainer Deb Murray, is Certified Canine Behavior Consultant (CBCC-KA) and Certified Professional Dog Training (CPDT-KA) by the Certification Council of Professional Dog Trainers, a Fear Free Certified Traineran AKC Evaluator, and a Distinguished Graduate and Mentor Trainer for the Catch Canine Academy, and a Mentor for the Victoria Stillwell Dog Training Academy.

Tips for Hiring a Dog Trainer

Finding a Dog Trainer

Where to find a dog trainer

There are many ways to find a dog trainer. You can ask your vet for recommendations. Neighbors and friends may have used a trainer in the past and will recommend him or her. You can ask your Facebook network. Or you can do a Google search. You can also search leading industry group websites for dog trainers. All of these sources will yield dog trainer or dog training company names.

group dog training class puppy class
Harper loved puppy class!

We recommend you first do these two dog training industry websites: www.APDT.com and www.petprofessionalguild.com. When searching on APDT.com, we recommend you limit your search to certified trainers. This ensures that you hire someone who has taken the extra step of obtaining a certification. This shows their understanding of learning theory and also that they have experience (hundreds of hours of hands on experience are required to sit for most certification exams).

If you have a fearful dog, www.fearfreepets.com will gives you names of trainers who have a certification in fear free training. This training is focused on helping pets feel safer at the vet and being handled by the vet and grooming professionals.

Dog training is unregulated industry. Literally anyone can put out a shingle that says they are a dog trainer. Certifications do not a guarantee that the trainer is excellent. They are a great step toward proving competency and dedication to the profession, hundreds of hours of documented experience, and that the trainer has a solid grasp of important topics like learning theory, and in most cases science-based training techniques.

How to know a trainer is good fit

Once you have some dog trainer names, contact the dog trainers and see how they respond. Do they answer the phone when you call? Do they respond to your email in a timely manner? Are they willing to talk with you for a few minutes? Yes’ or no’s to these questions don’t mean the trainer is good or bad, but they should give you a feel for whether or not you want to work with him or her. If a scheduling office answers the phone, are you able to talk with the trainer before they come to your house or you go to their class?

private training
Private lessons were a great fit for Mickey

We find that, at minimum, a quick chat or email exchange is the best way to get started in relationship with a dog trainer. This is a person that you are going to trust with your dog, and that will need to teach you as well. If your personalities do not mesh, or you are uncomfortable with how they talk to you, it can make learning difficult for you.

Bottom line: you (and ideally your dog) should feel comfortable with the dog trainer. Don’t just hire the first person to answer the phone, there may be a reason they are the easiest to reach.

What to ask prospective dog trainers

When you are interviewing your prospective trainer, here are some great questions to ask: What methods and tools does the trainer use to train dogs? What does the dog trainer do when a dog does something he/she doesn’t like? What type of rewards does the dog trainer you use? How many times does the dog training class meet, or how many private lessons are included in the program? What certifications does the dog trainer have? How long has the dog trainer been a trainer? Does the dog trainer have references? (either on line success stories or clients who you can talk with?)

Not all dog trainers have clients you can call. We generally don’t offer up client names because it would involve a lot of back and forth between the existing client, us, and the new client. We do have lots of Google and Facebook review and success stories on our website. Because our primary referral partners are dog rescues and vets, we rarely get asked for other references. Make sure to ask the dog trainer how much the training will cost. If they won’t quote a price – at least a ball park figure – over the phone, I would move on.

Deciding who to hire

At the end of the conversation, ask yourself “Did I enjoy talking with that dog trainer? I am OK with all of the answers to my questions – especially about what they do in training and how they get behavior?” If the answer is not a certain “yes!”, keep interviewing other dog trainers. It is imperative that you are comfortable with the dog trainer and the dog trainer’s methods.

Different Venues for Dog Training

Group Dog Training Classes

puppy class graduates

Group dog training classes are typically help in a facility of some sort. The facility may be a pet supply store, dog daycare or boarding business, vet office, or stand alone training business. Group dog training classes typically meet 4-8 times for a set fee. Fees vary by location, but generally fall into $25-50 average per class meeting. Group dog training classes can be effective for learning basic commands (sit, lay down, come, stay, leash walking). Classes are usually not recommended for dogs with fear issues, severe dog reactivity, or aggression towards people or dogs. They are also less effective for things that only happen in the home. Chasing the pet cat, house training, and separation anxiety are good best handled in private lessons.

Private Lessons

Private dog training lessons are the way to go for home-specific challenges. Aggression toward dogs or people should be handled in private lessons. They are also very effective for people who need faster results than group classes. They are also great for people have varying schedules or who can’t meet when the group class meets.

Day Training

Day training is where the trainer comes to your home and trains the dog one-on-one. Training happens in the dog’s home with owner not home or not always participating. This type of training can be great for leash walking, basic commands, leash reactivity, and more advanced obedience commands. In our day training programs we do several lessons with the owner involved throughout a 2-4 week program. These lessons are called handover lessons. They help the owner build on the progress the trainer is making with the dog. Owner included lessons are typically held every 4-8 lessons.

Board and Train

Board and train is an arrangement where the owner drops the dog off at the trainer’s location. The dog lives at the location for a set duration of training. If you decide to go this route, make sure you understand what tools and techniques the trainer will use on your dog. This type of training should also have a handover process for the owner to learn what the dog learned and how to continue the training.

When to start training

The best time to get started on training with a new dog is within the first few weeks the dog is in your home. For puppies, get started within the first few days of getting the puppy. There is no replacement for starting out right with your dog.

puppy socialization and kindergarten
No time like puppy time to start working on training & socialization!

If your dog is starting to show challenging and potentially dangerous behaviors like aggression to people or other dogs, guarding objects, or separation anxiety, contact a trainer right away. These behaviors are unlikely to resolved on their own. Googling or reading about how to resolve these behaviors is not recommend as a replacement for working with a professional.

At the end of day, remember this: doing training with your dog is really about investing in you and your relationship with him or her. Learning how to understand your dog’s needs helps you feel more relaxed and comfortable with your dog. Your happiness with your dog is what makes him or her awesome, and you are worth it!

About Pepper’s Paws

Pepper’s Paws, LLC provides in home dog training for basic manners, behavior problems, and fear aggression in Chester County, PA. We also offer group classes in everything from Puppy Basics to Advanced Adult Dog Manners to Tricks and Fun! 

Head trainer Deb Murray, is Certified Canine Behavior Consultant (CBCC-KA) and Certified Professional Dog Training (CPDT-KA) by the Certification Council of Professional Dog Trainers, a Fear Free Certified Traineran AKC Evaluator, and a Distinguished Graduate and Mentor Trainer for the Catch Canine Academy, and a Mentor for the Victoria Stillwell Dog Training Academy.

yellow lab

National Train Your Dog Month

yellow lab

Did you know that January is National Train Your Dog Month?

The Association of Professional Dog Trainers started National Train Your Month 8 years ago to promote training your family dog to have everyday manners. Their website, trainyourdogmonth.com is chock full training tips and videos on everything from new puppy challenges, safe interactions between dogs and kids, what to know when you own a large breed dog, and how to choose a kennel or groomer. New content will be added throughout the month too. Make sure to check out their site.

Why should you bother training your dog?

Dogs who have had some training are less likely to end up in shelters or being returned to rescues or breeders. Dogs who get regular mental stimulation through training are happier, more relaxed, and are easier to live with because they aren’t always brimming with unbridled energy. Training can take the edge off of a nervous or anxious dog. Training teaches a dog to look to his owner for guidance. And last but not least, training is fun for dogs and people.

What behaviors should you train?

Start with the basics. Sit, Lay Down, Come, Stay, and Touch are great commands to begin with. Think of your dog learning these commands as putting tools in your toolbox – behaviors you can call on your dog to do instead of things you don’t want him to do.

Have a dog that jumps on people? Teach him a rock solid sit and call on this behavior when she wants to greet people. If she sits, she gets attention, and a dog that is sitting can’t be jumping at the same time! Same thing with a solid down – a dog that is lying down is not jumping on people. A dog who comes when called can’t be doing a myriad of other things we don’t like – barking at other dogs, getting into the trash, chewing on your shoes – the list is endless!

By teaching your dog to follow these commands you are effectively teaching replacement behaviors – things your dog can do instead of the things he is doing that you don’t like. Remember – training and investing in your dog really is all about you. Training makes your life with your dog more fun (and the dog gets the benefit too!)

How do you get started?

If you are a DYI kind of person, YouTube and Facebook have great training videos and groups. Our recommendation for training is always to use positive training methods. Our favorite YouTube channels for this are Kikopup and Zak George. These two trainers have hundreds of great videos that are easy to follow and get great results.

If you prefer to have someone teach you one on one, private dog training lessons are the way to go. When we work with clients we customize our programs to meet our clients goals and dreams for their dogs. We provide written training plans and handouts and lots of other great materials to support you in your training.

If you prefer to learn in a group setting, group classes can be lots of fun for dogs and people – and we offer those too! Check out our group class schedule on our website https://Pepperspaws.com

No matter what route you take to train your train, remember to have patience with your dog. Dogs don’t speak English, and some dogs take longer to learn new things than others do. If you dog doesn’t follow your commands, assume he needs a minute to translate from people to dog language or he doesn’t understand what you want him to do. Believe it or not, most dogs are not stubborn. We just haven’t made our instructions clear enough for them 🙂

Pepper’s Paws, LLC provides in home dog training for basic manners, behavior problems, and fear aggression in Chester County, PA. We also offer group classes in everything from Puppy Basics to Advanced Adult Dog Manners to Tricks and Fun! 

Head trainer Deb Murray, is Certified Canine Behavior Consultant (CBCC-KA) and Certified Professional Dog Training (CPDT-KA) by the Certification Council of Professional Dog Trainers, a Fear Free Certified Traineran AKC Evaluator, and a Distinguished Graduate and Mentor Trainer for the Catch Canine Academy, and a Mentor for the Victoria Stillwell Dog Training Academy.

Puzzle Toys for Dogs

Why should you use puzzle toys with your dog?

Puzzle toys are great for dogs! Dogs really do enjoy having something to do. Puzzle toys give them a problem to solve. This gives puzzle toysthem mental stimulation (think tired brain)! Toys come in all shapes, sizes, and challenge levels. Most puzzle toys reward the dog with food for solving the puzzle. That makes puzzle toys a great way to feed your dog a meal too! Puzzle toys are great for cold or hot days when a long walk isn’t safe. They add some run to a boring rainy day inside. They can also provide lots of challenge for very little owner work too!

Different Types of Puzzle Toys

Basic Food Puzzle Toys

Toys that are filled with kibble are great for feeding your dog her meal. All you do is put the kibble inside and let the dog go to work! Some of our favorites are the Kong Wobbler, Treat ball food puzzle, stop bloat food puzzle, slow feeder, and the original Kong.

More Challenging and Elaborate Puzzle Toys

Outward Hound has several more challenging and elaborate food puzzle toys. The Dog Brick Treat Puzzle has compartments that lift and slide, adding more challenges for the dog.

The Dog Twister Dog Puzzle Toy Dog Game is even more challenging for dogs.

If you have a hound or dog who loves to use his nose, check out the Wooly Snuffle Mat. This is a great way to your scent-driven dog to work for his food!

Some dogs need help using food puzzles – especially more challenging ones. If your dog seems stuck or frustrated by the puzzle, help him. You can give him a sneak peak at the reward, help some food to fall out, or just encourage him to not give up! If you make a puzzle too difficult (freezing the Kong, for example), work with him to get to the reward.

Low tech puzzle activities for your dog

Simple, low tech activities can provide enrichment for your dog too. Load up a muffin tin with your dog’s dinner, then put tennis balls over each muffin hole. Then let your dog figure out how to get to his food!

Scatter your dog’s food in your yard or a room in your house. Then tell your dog to “find it!” and let her search around for her food.

How to keep your dog interested in food puzzles

Just like with your dogs other toys, rotate the puzzle toys! Switch up which ones he gets and how often he gets them. If he seems to lose interest in a puzzle toy, put it away for a week or two. The next time your bring it back out he just may love it the most – just because it is new again to him! You also freeze the food in Kong toys. Or you can change up the food reward in the Kong. Things like new treats, baby carrots, blueberries, squeeze cheese, and other yummy food are great to entice dogs to dig into the puzzle toy. The Kong Company website has lots of great info on this!

As with all food training and enrichment for dogs, if your dog growls, snaps or bites when you go near him when he is eating or his food do not do these activities with him. Immediately consult a positive reinforcement trainer. Children should be supervised at all times around dogs. 

Pepper’s Paws, LLC provides in home dog training for basic manners, behavior problems, and fear aggression in Chester County, PA. We also offer group classes in everything from Puppy Basics to Advanced Adult Dog Manners to Tricks and Fun! 

Head trainer Deb Murray, is Certified Canine Behavior Consultant (CBCC-KA) and Certified Professional Dog Training (CPDT-KA) by the Certification Council of Professional Dog Trainers, a Fear Free Certified Trainer, an AKC Evaluator, and a Distinguished Graduate and Mentor Trainer for the Catch Canine Academy, and a Mentor for the Victoria Stillwell Dog Training Academy.

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Introducing Dogs to Cats

Properly introducing dogs to cats can help ensure they get off on the right paw. Many dogs can live successfully with cats if introductions are done properly and slowly. Here are some tips to prepare your home for a dog when you have a cat, how to select a dog to live with your cat, and how to lead the introductions so they are successful.

Preparing your home for a new dog and your cat

Before you bring your dog home, make sure the cat’s litter box and feeding area are out of the dog’s reach. To a dog, a litter box is Dog Cat Introa big temptation, as is the cat’s food. To avoid behavior problems with your cat, the cat should be able to eat, drink and use the litter box without the dog being able to see or get to them. Baby gates with cat doors or adding cat doors to doors work great for this. These management tools and preparations should be put in place before you bring the dog home.

Your new dog and your cat should be separated for the first week that the dog is in the home.

Introducing dogs to cats: what to do

  1. The dog should be on a secure collar and leash for the introduction and any other time he could meet or see the cat. The goal  is to prevent the dog chasing, lunging, or getting too close to the cat. If the introduction goes well, keep the dog on a leash (with the leash handle removed or cut in half to prevent it from catching on furniture) for the first month in the home. Having a leash on the dog at all times ensure that if a chase looks imminent, you can grab the leash to prevent it.
  2. Have the dog sit and take treats near the cat. If the dog is able to sit and take treats, let him approach and sniff the cat. Many cats who are new to being around dogs will get defensive and can hiss, growl, swat at or try to run from a dog. Let the cat move away from the dog if it chooses too. Do not punish the cat for defensive behavior or the dog for being too interested in the cat. If the dog is excited by the cat, back him away return to having him sit for treats. Repeat this step several times over the course of a few weeks before progressing to the next step. It can take 30 days or more for dogs and cats to get comfortable around each other. Go slow and have patience with dog and the cat.
  3. If the dog and cat meeting sessions continue to go well (no chasing or fixating on the cat), drop the leash and actively supervise the dog and cat when they are together. Interrupt any inappropriate behavior on the dogs part (fixating on the cat, playing rough, or otherwise doing things the cat does not like) and ask the dog to sit to refocus the dog on you. Again, have patience, this can take 30 day or more.Do not leave the dog and cat unsupervised until you have seen 60 days of appropriate interactions.

If the dog is the newcomer, make sure the cat gets plenty of dog-free attention from you. Make sure the dog has had a long walk orIntroducing Dogs to Cats training session before introducing him to the cat. Dogs qualities that make for good cat friends: puppies, adult dogs who have lived with cats in the past, dogs who are laid back, dogs who don’t have a high prey drive (i.e. dogs who don’t get excited by squirrels outside). Cat qualities that make for good dog friends: relaxed and laid back cats, cats who have already lived successful with other dogs.

Introducing Dogs to Cats: Cat Tests

Many rescues and shelters will introduce dogs to cats – referred to as a “cat test” – prior to adoption. A positive cat test does not always mean that the dog will instantly be a good cat buddy. Many dogs are overwhelmed in shelter environments, so seeing a cat doesn’t register as exciting to them because they are also around dozens of other dogs, strangers, sites, and smells. If you are told a dog is “good with cats” that generally means that the dog did not have a negative reaction to a cat when exposed to one. Sometimes dogs don’t react in a shelter environment, but do get excited in a quiet home environment. Always assume that a dog will need time to adjust to a new cat, and the cat to the new dog, and make keeping them both safe a top priority for the first few months of them living together.

If things aren’t going well…

If you bring a new dog home to live with your resident cat and things don’t seem to be going well, ask for help. A skilled trainer can help manage the introductions and also assess if the dog is a good fit for the cat. Making sure your dog gets some basic training can greatly enhance his listening skills around cats as well.

Pepper’s Paws, LLC , All 4 Paws Rescue training partner, provides in home dog training and behavior consultations for basic manners, behavior problems, and fear aggression in Chester County, PA. We also offer group classes in everything from Puppy Basics to Advanced Adult Dog Manners to Tricks and Fun! 

Head trainer Deb Murray, is Certified Canine Behavior Consultant (CBCC-KA) and Certified Professional Dog Training (CPDT-KA) by the Certification Council of Professional Dog Trainers, a Fear Free Certified Traineran AKC Evaluator, and a Distinguished Graduate and Mentor Trainer for the Catch Canine Academy, and a Mentor for the Victoria Stillwell Dog Training Academy.

Leash Walking Basics

 

Leash walking basics – does your dog walk politely on leash? Spring is fast approaching – now is a great time to brush up on your dog’s leash walking skills so you both can enjoy long walks in the warm Spring weather!

Does your dog pull on the leash and make walks uncomfortable? Do you dread the thought of walking your dog? If so, you are not alone. Many dogs struggle with leash walking – too many distractions on walks, lack of connection with the owner, the wrong gear, and lack of basic training can all contribute to dogs pulling on leash.

Leash walking basics: How to deal with distractions on the walk

Does your dog ignore you or disregard you on walks? Do and go wherever he wants? Have you given him a reason to pay attention to you? Many dogs focus on everything but their owner, but everything but their owner is interesting on walks. It’s not that they don’t love you, it’s just that everything else is so exciting! So how do you get your dog to pay attention to you on walks?

Be unpredictable! If your dog pulls one way say “ah ah!” and then go in the other direction. Don’t yank the leash, let the leash stay taut and then use your feet to move in the other direction. Do this every time the dogs pulls and they will soon realize that they need to pay attention to you because you are all over the place! When doing this, and your dog joins you at your side again, be generose with praise. A happy “good dog!” will help your dog get the idea that staying with you is a great thing. You can also punctuate the “good dog!” with a tasty treat for super fast attention.

Leash walking basics: Reward your dog for being at your side

It is amazing how many dogs figure out where to be when their walking buddy delivers the occasional tasty treat (or more than occasional in the beginning – a treat for every step may be needed for completely green polite leash walkers). Think of this exercise as rewarding your dog for being in the place you want him to be. It isn’t a forever thing either – but it IS worth working on for a few minutes every day to help your dog get the hang of where they are supposed to be (and who should be paying attention to) on walks.

Leash walking basics: Walking gear we recommend

A 6 foot leash is a must for a pleasant dog walk. Don’t use a retractable leash ever on a walk. Retractable leashes teach the opposite of polite walking – dogs have to pull to make the leash work and there is constant tension on leash – neither of which we want! I also do not recommend a short leash. The walk should be fun for the dog and you. Occasional sniffing and exploring is a great reward for polite leash walking. A 6 foot leash is great for this!

Sometimes dogs need some additional help to not pull. Our favorite harness is the Freedom No Pull Harness. This harness is well made, doesn’t change the dog’s natural gait, is padded and comfy, and helps deter pulling in a humane way. If your dog is much larger than you and a puller, a serious puller, or you feel need extra control, a Gentle Leader or Halti is a good option. If you aren’t sure how to get started with one, ask a trainer to help you. We don’t use or recommend prong, choke or pinch collars.

Basic training can help with walking behavior too

A dog who knows how to sit, lay down, stay, touch, and watch (make and keep eye contact) can be easier to manage on a walk. A sitting dog isn’t lunging excitedly at other dogs. A dog looking into his owner’s eyes isn’t eyeing up a squirrel. A dog doing a stay at a curb isn’t running into traffic. Doing obedience on walks is also a great way to get twice the bang for your buck in terms energy drain on a walk – thinking dogs become tired dogs.

Ready to head out for a great walk? See you on the trail or in the neighborhood! Here are come more tips for a great dog walk!

Looking for new places to walk your dog? Chester County has great parks!

Pepper’s Paws, LLC provides in home dog training and behavior consultations for basic manners, behavior problems, and fear aggression in Chester County, PA. We also offer group classes in everything from Puppy Basics to Advanced Adult Dog Manners to Tricks and Fun! 

Head trainer Deb Murray, is Certified Canine Behavior Consultant (CBCC-KA) and Certified Professional Dog Training (CPDT-KA) by the Certification Council of Professional Dog Trainers, a Fear Free Certified Traineran AKC Evaluator, and a Distinguished Graduate and Mentor Trainer for the Catch Canine Academy, and a Mentor for the Victoria Stillwell Dog Training Academy.

As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.