Dog Training Tip of the Month

Tools, Toys, Treats and Accessories
  • The Long Line - August 2007
    A long line is essentially a 10- to 50-foot leash or length of material with a loop handle on one end and a snap or clip that attaches to a dog’s collar on the other––much like a normal leash, but longer. The material is generally nylon but can also be rope or, in some rare cases, chain. When using a long line, the dog should always be desensitized to it before any actual dog training can be done with it. The idea behind using a long line during instruction is to have it there for safety but to give the dog the illusion that she is "off leash" and can go anywhere she would like. The long line is a safety measure that a dog trainer uses when introducing distance and distraction to a trained dog who already comprehends a cue. It also has many other uses, including safely working on the “come” cue at a park. Your trainer will likely introduce this training tool during the training sessions. Make sure to follow all of the trainer’s instructions, especially for desensitizing your dog to the long line. This usually involves allowing your dog to drag it around the house for 20 to 30 minutes a day. Also, consult your trainer regarding usage of the long line. It is meant to be used during animal training and not as a tether for tying your dog up in the yard.
  • Squeaky Toys - October 2007
    Any dog trainer, or even just an experienced dog owner, will tell you that one of the most popular and attention-grabbing types of squeaky toys are the brightly colored, latex toys that have a high-pitched “squeaky” sound. The appearance of the toy and the sound it makes when squeezed (or chewed, in a dog’s case) are what usually capture a dog’s attention. These toys are great tools to use during obedience classes when teaching new behaviors such as the “down” or “focus,” as smaller squeaky toys are easily hidden in your pocket.

    Pros
    • Most are easily washable and dogs love the high-pitched sound.

    • They can be used during dog training sessions for a dog who finds toys rewarding.

    • They are small and easy to transport, so you can take them wherever you take your dog.

    Cons
    • These are not to be used as chew toys because they tear easily and parts of the toy (including the squeaker) can be swallowed, causing intestinal damage and blockages. Never leave a dog unattended with a squeaky toy.

    • Unlike other rubber toys, squeaky toys are not the best toys to use as chewing deterrents because of their imminent danger. Ask your animal trainer for suggestions regarding suitable chew toys.
  • Crates - November 2007
    Crates are an excellent dog training tool that allows dog owners to “crate” or confine their dogs for short periods of time. This can serve multiple purposes because dogs, being derived from wolves and thus being den animals, can quickly learn to love their makeshift caves. Here we will discuss one variation of the dog crate – the airline or travel crate.

    Airline Crate
    Airline crates are solid plastic construction crates with wire vents on the sides and a wire door that latches to keep the dog safely inside and unable to escape. They are sometimes used in animal training but are more often used for travel. There are several other variations of crates, including the puppy play pen and the wire crate (which a trainer is more likely to use for housebreaking and other dog training needs).

    Fit
    The dog should have room to stand up and turn around comfortably in the crate with the door shut. These crates come in many different sizes, so finding a good fit is fairly easy. If you are unsure of what size to buy, bring your pooch with you while you go shopping. You may also choose to ask your dog trainer to accompany you to the pet supply store if you need additional assistance.

    Usage
    The crate is a great management tool and an excellent housebreaking tool. It is extremely useful during training; almost any professional in an animal career uses some form of crate for training sessions and/or travel. The crate should contain safe toys that the dog finds interesting and should not be viewed as a form of punishment. Using the crate as a “time out” space will be detrimental.

    Pros
    • Crate training can be hugely helpful in dog training and can help to solve a number of behavior problems, including separation anxiety, house training, chewing, and unruly house behavior.

    • Dogs are den animals and the crate simulates the close, dark effect of the den. This is often soothing to a dog and allows him or her to instinctively feel safe while in the crate. Your animal trainer will utilize this reaction to accustom your dog to his crate.

    • The confining nature of the crate helps the owner to maintain control of the dog and prevents the dog from making mistakes that will cause setbacks.
    The crate dismantles for easy cleaning and storage.


    Cons
    • An uneducated dog owner may leave the dog in the crate for too long. Your trainer can provide you with guidelines regarding the minimum and maximum crate time you should allot your pooch.

    • The crate takes up quite a bit of space when you have a large dog, and they are somewhat unsightly, rarely matching any house decor.

    • Some people may be resistant to the idea of confining their dog in a crate. Again, consult your dog trainer for explanations and instructions regarding positive usage of the crate.
  • Rope Toys - September 2007
    Rope toys are tightly-knotted cotton ropes that are available in many different sizes, shapes, and lengths. Some have multiple knots, tennis or rubber balls, bones, or handles attached for various types of doggie fun and entertainment. When choosing a rope toy, have your dog trainer help you to find one that cannot completely fit into the dog’s mouth. Always choose a longer-length rope toy to prevent accidental ingestion or injury when using it as an interactive toy. Make sure that when playing interactively, you do not harm your pooch’s learning. Consult your trainer for methods of playing interactively with the rope toy without negatively affecting his or her animal training. By allowing your dog to win a game of tug-of-war, it can give him overconfidence and falsely place him in an alpha role, meaning an increased feeling of dominance over you, the owner. This can lead to multiple behavioral issues. However, allowing the dog to win during tug-of-war can be a positive training technique for dogs with low confidence as it will give them increased courage and self-esteem.

    Pros
    • Most rope toys are soft and flexible, which is attractive to many dogs.

    • Rope toys can be used for various interactive games, during dog training as a reward, or as a supervised chew toy.

    • They may be soaked in cool water for teething puppies, although you should never leave the puppy unsupervised while he chews on a rope toy. Consult your animal trainer to determine which toys are safe for puppies.

    • These toys are easy to transport, so you can take them wherever you take your dog. You never know when the perfect training opportunity will arise.


    Cons
    • Rope toys are not for aggressive chewers that may shred the rope toy into pieces and/or swallow strands or chunks of the toy.

    • Dogs may never be left unsupervised with any rope toy.

    • Because they are soft and flexible, some dogs may mistake them for clothing or other inappropriate fabric objects. This could stimulate problem chewing, which is a behavioral issue that may need to be handled by a professional dog trainer.
  • Food Treats - March 2007
    A professional dog trainer, depending on her style, commonly uses food treats during dog training to encourage her canine students. Using food treats during dog training is a wonderful and efficient way to motivate a dog to try new behaviors. There are many types of treats that are available in stores today, but always use a treat that is healthy for your dog and one he finds irresistible. When using training treats, try to keep the size as small as possible, such as the size of a pea. During dog training sessions or classes, some dogs fill up on treats too quickly which decreases their interest level for participating in the dog training exercises. It is recommended that you have a variety of treats in your bait bag because you never know which one will encourage the desired behavior in a highly-distractible situation.

    Using dog training treats during the learning phase of a new behavior will usually dramatically increase your chances of success. Once a dog understands the desired behavior, you can fade out the dog training treats over a slow period of time. If, at any time, the dog becomes confused or frustrated, you can always reintroduce a favorite treat to reignite the dog’s interest in the dog training session.
  • Kong! The King of Toys - August 2006
    The Kong is one of today's most recognizable dog training toys on the market. It not only acts as a great toy that bounces unpredictably when dropped, but is also a great way to keep your pooch occupied. It also is a helpful dog training tool, especially for housebreaking and inappropriate chewing.

    The Kong has a hollow center that allows an owner to stuff it with any treats the dog finds delicious, such as peanut butter, hard biscuits, or cheese. Many dogs will spend hours licking and playing with the Kong trying to get at the yummy contents. Your professional animal trainer is very familiar with the Kong and has probably used it in past dog training sessions.

    Kongs are available in two different natural rubber formulas to meet a dog’s chewing needs. The Red Kong is made for average chewers and comes in variety of sizes (S, M, L, and XL). The Black Kong is made of extra thick rubber, which is designed for tenacious chewers, and available in two sizes (L, XL). There are many different types and shapes of Kongs available in most pet stores for all types of dogs. Ask your dog trainer for assistance in picking out the appropriate size for your dog. Please note that dogs should always be supervised when using Kongs until the owner is confident they can be used safely when not home.
  • Chew Toys - December 2007
    Rawhide (Compressed and Knotted)

    Dog owners will often be challenged when it comes to solving their dogs' chewing habits. Most likely, the moment their first pair of $200 shoes is destroyed, they will frantically call their ABC Certified Dog Trainer for suggestions and immediate help. Your trainer, in addition to providing other training advice meant specifically for chewing problems, will most likely advise you to find an alternate item meant specifically for the dog to chew on.
    Redirecting a dog’s attention is an essential aspect of dog training that requires careful consideration and educated decisions.

    One type of dog chew to consider is compressed rawhide bones. Rawhides are made of bovine (cow) or swine (pig) hides which have been dried and processed into various shapes and sizes. As the name suggests, compressed chews are processed hides that have been tightly compressed into different shapes and often have added flavoring such as garlic, beef, or cheese for additional appeal. Some compressed rawhides have a knot tied on each end. A well-made rawhide should have some flexibility when twisted and should have been made in North America to reduce the amounts of added chemicals (such as formaldehyde). Rawhides are frequently washed in formaldehyde or bleached with titanium oxide (which turns them white), so use caution when selecting a chew. Your animal trainer, as well as your veterinarian, will warn you against bleached rawhides as they can be harmful to your dog.

    As any ABC Certified Dog Trainer will tell you, rawhides are great for relieving boredom, exercising teeth and gums, and satisfying a dog’s need to chew, as long as they are safe health-wise. When selecting a rawhide, consult your professional dog obedience trainer. Always choose a bone that appears too large for the dog so he cannot chew and swallow it too quickly. Also take care to make sure the dog cannot fit the rawhide completely into his mouth. When the dog is able to hold the entire chew in his mouth, it’s time to take it away. Some dogs manage to shred rawhide chews. This results in small pieces of rawhide hanging off the chew. If this occurs, simply cut them away with scissors as this will prevent the dog from ingesting them. Always supervise your dog while he enjoys any type of rawhide.

    Pros
    • Dogs love the intense flavor and aroma of most rawhides.

    • Compressed rawhide is more durable and long-lasting than shredded compressed rawhide.

    • Any type of chew that is safe and that the dog enjoys is a good redirector from chewing other household items, so they can be an asset to his animal training.

    Cons
    • An aggressive chewer may swallow large pieces or consume an entire rawhide quickly, which could cause an intestinal blockage. They can also potentially pierce the lining of the intestines or other organs, causing major medical problems.

    • Some dogs, especially aggressive chewers, may suffer from broken teeth or slab fractures of molars from chewing compressed rawhides, so always supervise any dog with any type of chew. If you are unsure as to whether your dog is chewing too aggressively, consult your animal trainer.

    • Some added flavorings (visible or not) may stain carpets, fabrics, and some porous floorings, which in turn can stimulate chewing on these items, making them an unfavorable dog training tool.

    • Chemical preservatives found in various types of inferior rawhide may be dangerous to your dog.

    Again, if you are unsure of the safety of a rawhide bone for your dog, consult your trainer or veterinarian. Also, when battling a chewing problem, providing an alternate item to chew may not be sufficient. Always seek animal training when your dog exhibits unfavorable behavioral issues.
  • Head Collars, Harnesses, and Leashes, Oh my! - November 2010
    Boy Leashing a Dog

    Dog Collar & Leash Selection Guide


    Have you ever felt puzzled about what type of collar and leash is right for your dog? Well, fear not. Whether he’s a big and goofy Great Dane, a docile and friendly Labrador Retriever, or a feisty but cuddly Pomeranian, there is a leash out there for him. You don’t have to go to a dog training school to know what issues you do, or do not encounter when walking your pooch. So here is a guide to what leash will work the best for your situation.

    The Stubborn "Tugger"

    For the insistent tugger, your best option would be to purchase a head collar. Most people tend to find a head collar daunting, as the general shape makes it seem like a cruel training tool. Plus, dogs have a tendency to be resistant to anything that you try to put around their face, so a lot of pet owners give up when their dog reacts negatively to the collar. However, for a dog that pulls on the leash, a head collar is extremely important for both their safety, and their health. Your pal can easily injure himself by having the restrictive collar choke him, and no owner appreciates being dragged down the street every time they go for a walk!

    Tips For Safe Head Collar Usage

    So, in order to desensitize your dog to the head collar, begin by putting a treat in your hand and holding it in front of the collar, so that your pal has to put his head through it in order to get the reward. Once he puts his face into the collar, give him the treat, and reward him with plenty of love and praise. Repeat this until he gets used to the collar. Your next step will be to put the head collar on him, and feed him right afterwards. The collar is not restrictive on his mouth, so he will be capable of eating while wearing it. Your dog will adjust to the head collar very quickly as long as you follow the steps, and exercise plenty of patience with him. By employing these simple dog training techniques, soon enough, the two of you will be able to go on safe and enjoyable walks together.

    Smaller Breed Tip - Harnesses

    For smaller breeds, harnesses are extremely beneficial for walking. As any dog trainer will tell you, a harness is a great tool to have. A lot of dog owners mistake harnesses as training tools to prevent tugging, however, they were actually created to do the opposite. Harnesses are meant to encourage pulling, as they are typically reserved for service dogs that are trained to haul sleds and other heavy equipment.

    Yet, a harness can also be used for a small dog. Many owners of small dogs encounter frustration when shopping for collars, as many of them are too big to fit around his tiny neck! This problem is easily solved with the use of a harness, as they are more secure than collars, and small dogs are less likely to slip out of them while on a walk. Using a harness for a small dog is both safer, and more comfortable for your pooch.

    Leash Tips

    Last but not least, leashes. Unlike head collars and harnesses, choosing the right leash is far simpler. Leashes are more a matter of personal preference than a breed-specific tool. You'll encounter different lengths, styles, and materials.

    Retractable leashes are nice for owners who prefer to choose and control the distance of their dog at will. However, keep it in mind that they are definitely not as safe as standard leashes. Should another dog unexpectedly appear while you have your dog at a long lead, you will not have enough time to retract your leash, and something devastating could occur. If you choose this type of lead, be sure you get a heavy enough grade leash to restrain your dog's strength and weight. For the most part, the retractable leads are really better suited for a leisurely stroll with a dog that does not pull or need any training.

    Leash Lengths

    Standard leashes are favorable for those who like having their dog relatively close to them at all times, or for dogs learning to heel or not pull on the leash. While standard leashes come in a variety of lengths, you will easily be able to determine the longest length you want for your training and walking. If you aren't working on any distance or recall training, a basic 4'-6' length is plenty. Style wise is completely a personal preference as to where you are most comfortable holding the handle. However, again, check for safety when it comes to this. Some leashes claim to have better handling by providing a rubber handle, but when put to the test; these handles can actually slide up the leash and prove to be counter-productive.

    Leash Material

    Which material you choose can also involve a cost factor. However, just about any leash materials are safe for your dog. Nylon leashes are typically the least expensive, but some owners do not like the fact that you can get a rug burn if you have a dog that is pulling severely or needs to be restrained. You will not encounter this issue with leather leashes because they are stronger, but often more costly. Chain leashes are strong as well, and are not as commonly used, but again, it's about personal preference. There also now chain and nylon meshed leashes available on the market. Whatever your personal style or preference may be, there are plenty of leashes to choose from.

    As long as you choose the right collar to ensure that your pal is comfortable and safe, you will be on your way to having long and enjoyable walks that both of you can enjoy.
  • Thundershirt - February 2011
    The Thundershirt is a new product on the market for dog trainers and pet owners. The Thundershirt is a shirt that velcro’s around the dog in multiple places. You put the shirt over your dogs back and velcro a strap under her belly. You will have another strap that velcro’s around the dog’s chest to keep the shirt on snugly. The material is made of cotton and has no chemicals or vibrations that may calm the dog. The Thundershirt acts like a hug for your dog in a scary situation. Most dogs will become very calm and relaxed when wearing the Thundershirt. As a dog trainer you can recommend this product for your clients that have dogs with separation anxiety, barking problems, fear issues and many others. You want to always remember to reward your dog when wearing the Thundershirt and showing calm behaviors in a stressful situation.

    First you want to begin by desensitizing your dog to the Thundershirt. Take the shirt out and let your dog smell it and reward her when she seems interested in the shirt. Keep these sessions short and enjoyable for your pet. The next step would be to introduce your pet to wearing the shirt for small increments of time. Remember to always reward you dog when she is showing signs of comfort and enjoyment while wearing the Thundershirt. Once your dog can comfortably wear the Thundershirt for more than 10-20 minutes at a time with no negative reactions you have successfully desensitized her. Now you can begin putting the Thundershirt on your pet while you are away.

    Throughout your animal career you will encounter many products that are new to the market. The best way to decide if you would like to recommend a product is to try the product out in several different scenarios on your own. It is your job as a dog trainer to keep up with the most current products on the market. Another great way to keep up on the most current products and training techniques would be to attend seminars and expos. This is where I found out about the Thundershirt! Once I saw it I knew I had to try it out. I have been using it and recommend this product to my clients and other dog trainers all the time.
  • The Kong Wobbler – The Perfect Solution for a Restless Pooch! - March 2011
    You don’t have to go to a dog training school to find a clever way to satisfy your dog’s appetite for fun! One of the favorite dog toy companies, Kong, has come out with an excellent and extremely useful new product called the Kong Wobbler. The Kong Wobbler is a toy and dog training tool that can be used to entertain an energetic dog, or simply alleviate the stress of dealing with a fast eater. It is a food / treat dispenser that is bottom-heavy, so your pooch will be able to access the food by tipping it over repeatedly.

    Oftentimes, our canine friends become so enthusiastic about their breakfast, lunch, or dinner, that they inhale their food rather than chewing it. Since our pals do not have the ability to reason like we do, they do not realize that eating this way could be harmful or potentially dangerous to them. The Kong Wobbler eliminates this problem, as your pooch will not be able to consume all of the food at once, thus reducing any chance of him choking.

    The Wobbler also aids you with occupying a fussy, excitable dog by providing him with a puzzle that is both time consuming, and rewarding to finish. Playing with your pooch is always the best recommended way to relieve excess energy, but not everyone has enough free time to spare each and every day for playtime, so this Kong product allows you to keep your dog busy without making him feel neglected.

    This new toy is also great for entertaining your dog while you are gone. You can leave the toy for him while you are at the store or even at work. This will give him something to distract his attention while you are away. Please remember if your dog is an aggressive chewer this toy is best suited while he is being supervised. Please make sure to check with your dog trainer before leaving any toys unsupervised with your pooch.

    Here’s how it works: simply unscrew the top of the Wobbler and fill it with a serving of dog food or treats (keep in mind that the Wobbler will not work well if you pack it full of kibble, so leave a little extra space for it to roll around inside) close it up, and set it down in front of your pooch. Be sure to give your dog adequate time to figure out his new toy. Some dogs understand it instantly, but not all of them do, so it is important to let him discover how to use it on his own. After all, solving the puzzle is part of the fun!

    The Kong Wobbler can be purchased in almost any pet store, for more information on where to get a Wobbler for your pup consult your dog trainer.

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