Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Every dog is different

I work with so many different dogs every day at the shelter but I also work my own dogs every day and I have to keep reminding myself that whether it is the same dog or a different dog- that each day is different as well. I am coming to understand more and more that dogs gravitate towards the reinforcement. What a powerful concept- think about it -WE are the REINFORCER -meaning that we have what they want and therefore they will gravitate to us! Find out what reinforces your dog and use it to your advantage. We know food is a big reinforce for dogs because they have to eat to survive. But dogs are individuals and we need to find what the right food is for our own individual dogs. Work to eat programs are great. Dogs love to work for their food- so stop feeding out of a bowl and start making them work for their food. Do training at home with their dry food- but when you are out in the real world with your dog use some higher value food to compete with all those distractions out there- for my two dogs I use chicken and meatballs do help them gravitate towards me. You can also use toys for motivators IF a toy motivates your dog- It is only a reinforcer if it motivates your dog- Just like money is a motivator for us because it buys us food, pays our rent etc.. but if one day the government says the green money no longer will buy you food it will then stop being a reinforcer for us. Understanding what motivates our dog will help us get the behaviors that we want. It really can be as simple as that- if we have what the dog wants they will pay more attention to us and do what we ask but only if we have what they want. So figure out what motivates your dog and before you give it to them have them ask for a behavior and when they give you the behavior that you want then you give them what they want. Dogs have to trust you as well and they have to have a good working relationship with you built on trust. If you hurt them or yell at them they will tend to avoid you or shut down. Dogs gravitate towards the reinforcer and avoid pain and conflict. Dogs learn what is safe and what is dangerous and they are genetically programmed to avoid dangerous situations! Keep this in mind when interacting with them and when training them!

Sunday, July 31, 2011


I find myself reminding myself and clients when I do private sessions for them and their dogs that Dogs Will BE  Dogs and DO not take it personally when they act like dogs, i.e barking or pulling on leash, eating something gross on the ground, playing with dogs instead of coming to you at the park. DOGS do what dogs do: Get excited, pull to get to where they want to go, have fun with their doggy friends, eat things off the ground, bark at you for attention. If they do not listen to you sometimes is is NOT because they are upset with you or that they are being stubborn. It is simply because they are being dogs. They really do have lemon brains- and that they do what works and does not work. Barking works because it usually gets your attention or it gets the other dog to play with them. Barking out of fear makes the perceived threat go away. Pulling on leash works because your dog gets to where they want to go. Honestly do we really expect our dogs to understand the concept of a leash? That 6 foot nylon thing that hangs off my collar is expected to hold me back to get to where I need to go? Consistency is the key- for teaching your dog any behavior- Communicate directly to your dog what you want and then be consistent about it- Dogs need stability and consistency and guidance. OH yeah they also need love, pets, playtime and food and water!!!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

A muzzle should not be dirty word

I am such an advocate of dogs wearing a muzzle out in their daily life. Because I tend to work with dogs that have dog on dog aggression and have had a bite history or clients who have never let their dogs around other dogs so they do not know the dogs history- I encourage owners to put their dogs on a muzzle for the safety and liability purposes. YOU can get a dog used to wear a muzzle quite easily and there are some great muzzles out there that are comfortable for the dog and the dog can take treats and pant and drink water. I do NOT recommend using a groomers type muzzle or a nylon muzzle because these types of muzzles can only be on for 15 minutes maximum. Dogs can not pant properly in these types of muzzles. The muzzles I recommend are the basket type muzzles-and you can actually cut out the piece in the front to feed treats through. This is a good website to buy muzzles from www.morrco.com
The Italian basket dog muzzles is the ones I prefer for any type and size of dog.

There is such a stigma for dogs that wear muzzles  and I think that is why owners are reluctant to have their dog wear one out in public. I encourage owners to remember it it NOT a reflection on them as a person AND it does not mean they have an evil dog. It is the responsible owner who understands the type of dog  they have and knows that the dog needs to go out and about and is not good with other dogs so they do the right thing and muzzle their dog so their dog can have a good quality of life.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Dog Collars for Training

Here are the collars that I generally recommend clients use to help with pulling on leash and to also help with those dogs that bark and lunge at other dogs when they are on leash. If you are using a prong collar or choke collar, I would encourage you to invest in a Gentle Leader or a Halti. These are head collars that
are gentle human collars that "gently leash your dog around"! Where the head goes, the body follows! Most dogs are not used to walking with something on their face, so some time is need to help the dog adjust to the head collar. A simple plan for head collar desensitization can be found online at www.gentleleader.com. It's a little extra work, but well worth it.
Sense-ible harnesses are similar to traditional body harnesses with one small important twist: their design discourages pulling instead of encouraging it! These anti-pull harnesses go on like traditional ones, but the leash clips to the chest to help you direct your dog. The trade-off with this choice of equipment is that you get less power steering that with the head collars, but most dogs acclimate to these immediately, so no need for desensitization. More information on this great harness can be found on line at www.softouchconcepts.com

This is an excerpt taken from my book called Reactive Rover : An Owner's Guide to On Leash Dog Aggression

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

The Power of Positive

I am currently reading a wonderful and inspirational book on animal training called ZOOmility by Grey Stafford. I like that he states  "training should be about helping animals succeed, not boosting our egos. Zoomility -a combination of humility and positive reinforcement-never punishment. Each day for our dogs is a struggle to gain reinforcement and avoid punishment, whether it comes from the handler or the environment." I like that he says PUNISHMENT does nothing to communicate what behaviors the trainer really wants to see- but it somehow makes us feel better right? This is where the ego comes in...
Reinforcement trainers should try to think in terms of requesting behaviors NOT commanding it!
Reinforce more, request less, and punish NOT at all!
We must learn how to communicate effectively to dogs and if we do request less but reinforce more we will get the behaviors we want.  I remember when I went to Spain to lecture to a room full of Spanish speaking trainers  I had an interpreter because I could not speak Spanish and it was easy for me to get my points across. The hard part came when I would sit down with my colleagues for dinner and then try to communicate on my own without an interpreter- and I found I could get some points across by using my body much like charades or draw pictures- or the tendency is to speak louder or shout-thinking if I talk louder they can then understand my English- and this often reminds me of how our tendency is to SHOUT the command at the dog if they do not hear it the first time- like somehow they will understand it better if we shout it? Dog's do not speak English  so we must learn how to communicate effectively to them through visual cues and reinforce the little things we like. So let go of the ego and learn how to communicate effectively to your dog through positive reinforcement. Punishment trainers REACT to mistakes whereas Reinforcement trainers RESPOND to successes.
Build a relationship with your animal based on mutual trust not fear and you will get the behaviors you want- no lets go train!

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Reactive Rover Class with Kim Moeller

Here's a glimpse into one of my Reactive Rover Classes!
You can find out more about the classes at moellerdog.com

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Reinforce the Owner

I was out with my own dogs at an off leash dog park the other day and I am constantly watching and observing how other owners and trainers train. I always believe in positively rewarding the dogs for good behavior and good interactions with other dogs since my specialty is dog dog aggression issues and I am constantly encouraging my client to reward with treats and praise for good dog interactions instead of using more traditional methods of screaming and correcting the dog. I cringe when I see these punishing types methods being used especially when dealing with dogs that have issues off leash with other dogs. If we use corrective methods which means using force it tends to make the aggression worse because if the dogs feels pain around other dogs then they then start associating dogs as bad.
Then they tend to get more reactive when they see another dog because barking and lunging works because it makes the other dog go away before they feel pain!

Well on this day I observed an owner who had his dog on a gentle leader and he had a doggie back pack (which sometimes help dog associate the doggie back pack with working mode and if they are in working mode they are more focused on the job they are doing with their owner instead of reacting to dogs)! This owner allowed his who was on leash to meet my dog-BUT when his dog went to greet my dog- he kept his leash nice and loose and happy talked a nice greeting and after a second or two he said “leave it” without pulling his dogs leash and when his dog came away from my dog and back to him he rewarded his dog with a treat!

I was so impressed with his training methods because this is exactly what I teach owners to do- keep the leash loose, use a happy voice when greeting then get your dog back to you and when they come back give them a goodie and then move on!

I praised and reinforced the owner by commenting to him that he was using a great training strategy! And he smiled and told me it has taken a lot of work to get to this point but he has made huge progress and he now feels confident to bring his dog around other dogs! He said it will always be work but he is happy to come out to the park with his dog and now has a better relationship!

AHHH a good day at the park!