logo final
August Newsletter

In This Issue
Management: The Never Ending Project
Is A Tired Dog Really a Good Dog?
Zo� Approved Activities For A More "Balanced" Life
Quick Links

August, 2010
Hello Friends of Bridges Dog Training,

This month's theme is sort of the holy trinity of dog training: Management, Exercise and Mental Stimulation.

SUMMARY: Pet owners are frequently told by professionals like myself to manage their dogs using crates, pens, tethers, leashes, etc. to keep them safe as well as to prevent bad habits from developing such as house-soiling, destructiveness, begging and other annoying, attention-getting behaviors. However, many pet owners also seem to feel intense social pressure to provide their dogs with hours of high-stimulation activities to make up for all this confinement such as daily trips to the dog park, miles and miles of jogging or hiking, and/or endless hours of fetch when they get home from work.

It is my belief that this "feast or famine" method of caring for your dog can actually backfire on you if you are not careful and may even be detrimental to your dog's health and well-being. Read on to find out more.

Management: The Never Ending Project


puppy in pen
"Training changes behavior, but management is
forever--a never ending project."
-Shirley Chong

Okay. True confession. I, a professional trainer, still sometimes ask my dogs to go to their crates at mealtimes so they don't pester us at the table. Yes. They have been trained to go to their mats when we eat. Yes. They are pretty good about not begging-- most of the time. :) However, there are nights when even I, the training junkie, just need a break from thinking about the pooches for awhile and want to enjoy my meal in peace; and I almost always still put them away when we have guests because I don't have them practice their table manners with guests around very often and my girls do still sometimes forget themselves in all the excitement.

Management involves temporarily limiting your dog's freedom usually via a crate, tether, exercise pen, fence, leash, baby gate, etc. to prevent him from practicing socially unacceptable (by human standards anyway) and /or unsafe behaviors. Management is an extremely useful and humane tool when used well, especially in conjunction with a good positive reinforcement-based training plan designed to teach your dog how to make better decisions on his own. Management is a great way to proactively keep your puppy from peeing on the carpet, for instance, while you teach her how to use the potty spot outside instead. Leashes and fences save dogs' lives each and every day and no one knocks that. However, Dani Weinberg makes a compelling point in her book Teaching People, Teaching Dogs when she writes: "When you manage your dog, you're taking responsibility. When you train, you're giving the dog the opportunity to take responsibility for her behavior. When you manage, you're taking the active role in the process while the dog remains passive. When you train, you're inviting the dog to be active. And that's when learning happens." (p.59).

So how do you know when it's the best time to manage your dog versus when it would be better to train?

#1 When the problem behavior is a safety issue

PROBLEM: Grandma is visiting and your dog could accidentally knock her over. SOLUTION: tether your dog out of the way and give him a nice Kong to keep him busy.

(Buy chew-proof tethers here)

PROBLEM: Your dog is unpredictable with children--either too boisterous or really just doesn't like them-- and your son is having ten friends over for a birthday party. SOLUTION: Crate your dog in another room and keep the children away from the crate. Tethers are not recommended for this situation because dogs who are uncomfortable with children can feel trapped on a tether and may bite if approached.

(Good prices on crates can be found here. Nice video on crate training here.)

PROBLEM: Your dog tends to bolt out the door and you live on a busy street. SOLUTION: Double gate your front door area. (See an example here. For larger dogs I also like go go pens stetched out lengthwise and hung on wall hooks.)

#2 When you are too tired or grumpy to train

I firmly believe that training should be fun for both you and your dog. If you are too tired and know you'll be easily frustrated, that is not the time to be trying to get your dog to behave. Instead, be proactive. Before your dog starts pestering you or chasing the cat or getting into the garbage and long before you lose your temper, why not just set him up nearby either in a crate or on a tether with a cozy bed and a nice chew toy like a Bullystick to gnaw on? Then, as you relax and watch TV or make dinner, you will be able to reward your dog periodically for being calm either with some low-key petting or praise now and then or a random food treat. Do this enough times and pretty soon your dog will automatically go to his bed and relax without the tether too.

TROUBLESHOOTING: If your dog whines and barks at you on the tether (and you know for sure he doesn't need a drink of water or to go outside for a potty break or is uncomfortable or scared or anything like that), do your very best not to even look at him until he settles down. Most dogs do better when tethered close to you. Stuffed Kongs, bullysticks and puzzle toys frequently help keep dogs occupied and relaxed. You can also teach your dog to lay quietly at your feet like this

#3 When you need to prevent your dog from practicing an unwanted behavior while he is in training

PROBLEM: Dog barks at people walking by the windows. TEMPORARY MANAGEMENT SOLUTION: block the dog's access to that room or cover the windows.
TRAINING SOLUTION: teach your dog the Look-at-That Game from Control Unleashed. See a video example here.

PROBLEM: Dog pulls on leash.
MANAGEMENT SOLUTION: Use a front clip harness like the Freedom Harness, Halti Harness or Easy Walk Harness.
TRAINING SOLUTION: Teach your dog how to walk on a Loose Leash using Helix Fairweather's J-Leash Method.

FINAL TIP:

NEVER USE MANAGEMENT AS A PUNISHMENT TOOL! Your dog should love his crate/bed/relaxation time--and so should you! Be proactive and make the experience rewarding. Teach your dog to enjoy being confined like this.
Is A Tired Dog Really A Good Dog?
woman jogging with dog Living creatures need exercise. That's a given. Whether you are a Homo sapien, Bonobo, or Canine, good health demands at least some aerobic activity, preferably daily.

However, and this is quickly becoming a hotly debated point in dog training circles these days, what we humans call "exercise" might not always be as good for our dogs as we think.

With all the Boot Camps, Kick Boxing, Gymnastics, Ballet, Soccer, Baseball, Marathon running--you name it-- these days, we humans have created quite a world for ourselves where if you do not have six-pack abs or have won at least five athletic championships by the time you are eight years old, you are somehow a loser or a slacker and/ or immediately designated a "nerd." So it is understandable that when we hear a veterinarian or a dog trainer on TV say something like: "A tired dog is a good dog," often what immediately comes to mind are dogs on tight leashes jogging down the street, dogs bounding up mountain trails, dogs madly chasing balls or other dogs, or dogs tied to treadmills or bicycles pounding the pavement for miles a day.

But as Nan Arthur writes in her book Chill Out Fido: How To Calm Your Dog, "observations and field studies of dogs living in the wild or in third world villages conclude that these dogs often 'exercise' much less than people would imagine...(and) With a few notable exceptions like specifically-bred dogs that are designed and trained for long distance, most dogs are sprinters, designed to move quickly for short distances." (pp. 11-12)

From an evolutionary standpoint this makes perfect sense. In the wild it would be a waste of precious calories to run for miles every day, and indeed the physiology of dogs is such that they don't dissipate heat very well like we do. Dogs do not sweat, for example, and can suffer heat stroke extremely quickly. Even modern day wolves who certainly have the muscle power to bring down big game need extended periods of downtime after a hunt just to recover from the energy they've expended while doing so; and the ancestors to the modern dog were clearly more scavengers than hunters and probably spent the majority of their days wandering around at a moderate pace looking for food followed by long periods of time just laying low.

So what then is an appropriate amount of exercise for your dog? Well, a working breed like a Border Collie or a Malinois will very likely need more physical outlets than a lap dog. However, professional trainers are increasingly finding that activities that stimulate a dog's natural foraging tendencies are often best for almost all dogs. New sports are emerging such as tracking and Fun Nose Work, that allow dogs to exercise their amazing sense of smell while at the same time ensuring that they work their bodies at a more natural pace.

(For Nose Work classes in the Los Angeles Area see My Best Friend Obedience)

Also recommended are leisurely sniff-walks on a loose leash for 30-45 minutes every day or even every other day, or, if it's safe, off-leash is best, especially if you take your dog someplace mellow and safe like a quiet park, trail or field, or you can simply just head out around your neighborhood early enough in the morning to avoid lots of other dogs and foot traffic (on-leash of course if there are cars).

TIPS FOR PLEASANT WALKS: Go at your dog's pace and stay focused on what he is interested in much of the time. Teach a go sniff cue to stay connected and invest some time in polite walking training so you aren't stressing each other out with a constant tug-of-war which can quickly amp up a dog's cortisol level (as well as your own).

Here's a great example of a fun way to combine off-leash fun with mental work.

And here are some wonderful scavenger games to play with your dogs. Guaranteed to wear them right out. :)

EXERCISE REGIMES TO AVOID:

� To protect their growth-plate development puppies up to 11 months and large breed dogs up to 18 months should not do high impact activities such as agility, Frisbee, and definitely no pavement pounding jogs or long hikes. Read more about this here.

� Dog parks and high quality doggie day cares can be just fine in small doses and during off hours--IF your dog is very well socialized and enjoys the company of other dogs. But be careful. Such environments are potentially problematic because they are often extremely overstimulating, so much so that I often equate day-cares and dog parks to taking a bunch of five year olds to Disneyland. The kids may seem to be having a great time but you're almost guaranteed an overwrought, crabby meltdown or two on the way home in the car.

� Competitive dog sports for dogs who don't handle high-arousal situations well and are showing signs of being over-faced like reactivity, shut down, redirected aggression towards you or other dogs in the family, sleep disturbances, eating disorders, OCD behaviors, etc.

� Long jogs on a tight leash on pavement with an unconditioned dog--especially through very busy neighborhoods filled with barking dogs behind fences or beaches/parks filled with bikes, roller bladers, children, etc. (For an excellent article on how to jog safely with your dog, click here.)

� Out of control, high arousal games like tug and fetch when your dog has not yet been taught how to "turn off." For an example of my own dog playing an appropriate version of tug/chase, click here.

� Dog/human combined exercise "boot camps." This may seem like a great idea at first glance. But after having been hired to help several dogs with increased aggression and impulse control problems after attending these types of classes, I can safely say that the whole "No pain. No gain" mentality is simply not good for dogs.
Zo�-Approved Activities For A More "Balanced" Life
woman jogging with dog So what this whole discussion boils down to then is this: you need balance and also awareness, because there simply is no one size fits all formula. Get to know your dog. Learn to see the difference between happy, engaged and relaxed behaviors versus overstimulated, stressed-out ones. If you need good examples of what well-balanced dogs look like, just check out the dogs in the video links I've posted in this newsletter. Each one represents a different breed type, temperament and energy level and yet each one is happily engaged in what he or she is doing with his or her handler. When in doubt, always err on the side of mental versus extremely high energy physical activities.

Here are some Zo�-approved activities for a rich and "balanced" life.

� 10-17 full hours of sleep a day
� Sleeping each night in the same room as my humans--never outside
� Cuddling and butt-scratches each morning when the alarm goes off
Foraging, Treasure hunts, and Puzzle-Toys
� Interesting sniffing projects like these dogs are doing
� 30-40 minute sniffy walks every other day or so with not too many dogs around
� Dunks in the kiddy pool out back to cool off
� Quick, crazy-dog sprints around the house or back-yard
� Chase games with my housemate dog Maya
� Rolling in the grass
� Laying in the sunshine
� Following mom up and down the stairs and all around the house
� Visiting the rabbits in the rabbit yard
� Short, super fun, Clicker Training lessons 3-5 times a day like this one.
Playtime! Lots and lots of playtime.

Share the wealth! If you've got or discover some special activities that seem to make your dog really happy--no matter how strange-- we'd love to hear about it! Please use the "contact us" link above and I'll post them next month so other people can try them too.

Thanks for Reading!
Sarah Owings, KPA CTP
Bridges Dog Training


Specializing in private consultations, dog training for kids, in-home/day-training and Clicker Training for the Eagle Rock, Los Feliz, Glendale, Burbank, Pasadena, North Hollywood and greater Los Angeles areas

Save 15%
Bridges offers a 15% discount on all services for newly adopted rescue dogs.