So, I am now the lucky owner of a 7 year old Long Haired Dachshund my husband and I adopted from North Fork Animal Shelter last week, and we had a chuckle as we were introducing little Miss Sophie into her new digs.
As dog trainers, it is Dawn and my job to offer advice to beleaguered dog owners regarding behavioral issues and training. I have a feeling that some of you wonder if we practice what we preach, as sometimes the tips we give may seem difficult to follow.
Well, I can proudly say, Yes, and what a joy it is to see the hard work come to fruition!
Here was the dilemma:
Since I did not know Sophie’s history via housetraining, I followed the procedure that we give our clients who get a puppy or new dog: I have started to crate train her. Sounds easy, right? Hah! Patience and persistence will be tested when teaching a dog to love her crate, which Sophie certainly did not at first, but now she is racing into her crate every chance she can get…how did I change Sophie’s opinion of the crate?
Here is what I did:
I started slowly by throwing some treats in the crate with the door open (way into the back so she had to go all the way in to get them). I praised her and she was allowed to come out at her own will. Next, I started breaking up the treats so she had to spend more time finding the goodies, and I would close the door while she rooted around. When she finished, I opened the door. I repeated this all day (I had the day off) and left the door closed for longer periods of time. Once she willingly went into the crate with just a point of the finger, I started cueing it, saying House. Next I started leaving the room with her in the crate, still giving her treats that she could discover in the crate. If she noticed that I was gone and started to whimper, I DID NOT return until I was positive she was quiet.
The big test was night time. She happily went into her crate, but all hell broke loose when she realized I was not coming back. That is when the misery for my husband and I began! Crying, scratching, barking until about 2:30am It was heartbreaking but what would I tell our clients to do? Do not give in. It was REALLY, REALLY hard, but I knew if I gave in, she would have learned that if she carried on enough, I would let her out.
The next day, the same procedure was repeated throughout the day - go into the crate and find goodies! That night, my husband and I held our breath as we put little Sophie to bed. The howling started immediately, and we looked at each other in dismay. But miraculously, after 20 minutes, she piped down! We were so afraid to wake her that even though we should have done our nightly routine of brushing teeth, etc., we skipped it. (We had very furry teeth the next morning!)
On the 3rd day, we left Sophie in the crate for short periods of the day, never letting her out until she had quieted down. What was amazing was she was starting to run into the crate on her own, hoping to find treats, which told me she had not developed a negative association with the crate. That night, into the crate she went, and my husband and I waited. And we waited. And we waited. We waited to hear a whimper, a bark, something. But we heard nothing! We looked at each other in amazement…Sophie had accepted the crate! We were so happy we did a very quiet high five and fell into peaceful slumber.
So, my husband and I chuckle when Sophie runs into her crate just to see if there are any goodies, or if she wants to have some quiet time and take a nap. And yes, we do practice what we preach, because it works!
Sometimes, but happily to say, not very often, a dog owner will ask, "Why do I have to give my dog a reward when I want him to do something? He should do it because I say so."
We reply by asking, "Do you like money? How motivated would you be to go to work all week for a pat on the back?" Just like us, dogs like to be paid for a job well done.
What is your dog's currency? Is it a specific food, toys, petting, chasing a ball, going outside, swimming, or maybe playing with another dog? All these rewards can be used to train your dog... you just have to find out what your dog will "work" for. Some dogs will turn their nose up at a piece of leftover chicken, but go berserk over a tennis ball. It's a matter of motivation, and it is up to us to find out what motivates our dogs. We like to call this process "audition time", and it's a lot of fun finding out what makes your dog go nuts!
Most dogs love food. It's important when using food that you keep the reward varied and that you don't use boring old milk bones. Do you prefer crackers or warm, freshly baked bread with creamy butter? The same applies for your dog. Just remember, save the really special treats for teaching a new or difficult cue. You don't want to use those extra special meatballs for a standard "sit" in the house with no distractions. That meatball would make a much better impression with your dog if he earned it for a Down Stay in the front yard when Mrs. Jones is walking past with her barking Labrador Retriever.
One last word on food rewards: once your dog can respond to a cue under a variety of different situations, you should cut back on food treats and give your dog a pat instead, or play a game of fetch. Keep your guessing on what his payout will be. That way, he will always be interested in working for you. Think of a coke machine vs. a slot machine... do you get a fluttering in your chest when you insert money into the coke machine? Probably not. But what about the slot machine? That anticipation is a powerful motivator and that's how you want your dog to feel when you are training with him.
Below are some ideas for treats. Remember you can use toys, affections, freedom or access to people, things or other dogs too. It's okay to use people food... really, it's Ok!
We can all learn from each other, and we would love to hear from you - post to this blog and share your dog's favorite treat!
Soft treats (like Zuke's)
Chicken, leftover steak, pot roast or roast pork
Ham, Deli Meats or Liverwurst
Chicken or Beef Livers
Stove Top or leftover bread
Cat Food, Cat Treats
Raw meat or vegetables
Recipe for Chicken Livers (dogs love them!)
1 package of fresh chicken livers
Boil chicken livers for 10 minutes
Drain in a colander and run under cold water
Lay out livers on baking pan and sprinkle with garlic powder
Bake at 350 degrees until brown (about 15 - 20 minutes)
Hiking on the North Fork is a great way to get some exercise for both you and your dog. We have many preserved lands and walking trails that are the perfect for both of you to explore, not to mention some dog friendly beaches. The key to enjoying the trails and beaches of the East End is to be extremely respectful of others and pick up after your dog. Courtesy gets you very far with the locals!
Aside from walking being great exercise, it's also a great way to bond with your dog. Dogs view walks as adventures, and when you accompany your furry friend, he will relish the shared experience. As a matter of fact, we always recommend our clients who have adopted a rescue dog to take a long walk with their new friend right away. Once you have built a strong relationship, you can add in a little training to keep both you and your pooch sharp.
While walking around the North Fork is beautiful, there are some precautions you should take when you are enjoying the scenery with your dog. Preparedness is essential to minimizing potential hazards. For example, the other day, Dawn was walking through a vineyard about a mile away from her house and her dog discovered a wasp’s nest and was stung several times! As Dawn is always prepared with her trusty backpack, she was able to give her dog some antihistamine, call the vet on her cell phone, and tell them they were on their way to the office. That was a life saver.
Here is a check list that we take when walking our dogs:
Dog/Dogs (of course!)
Cell phone with a full charge
Leash /Extra small leash (you never know when you find a loose/lost dog)
High value treats for off leash recalls
Travel water bowl
Hiking stick (optional)
Animal repellent (mace)
Small boat horn (to scare an aggressing dog/animal away)
Benadryl (for stings)
Bandage/tape for paw cuts
Now that you and your dog are prepared for your walk, see you out there!
For more information about walking with your dog or our dog training school, contact North Fork School for Dogs at: www.northforkdogs.com.