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Category: “Canine Training”

Head Collars

Is that a muzzle? Does that dog bite?!!

Many of our dogs wear a head collar called a Promise collar or a Halti. Often people ask us if dogs wearing these collars bite or if the collar is a muzzle. Head collars are not muzzles at all. They are designed to aid in training and controlling dogs. Dogs are free to open their mouths, pant, get a drink, and yes, they could bite if they were so inclined.

How do head collars work?

Head collars loop around the dog’s snout and the leash is attached to the collar underneath the dog’s jaw. When the dog pulls on the leash, the dog’s head is pulled downward which stops the dog from pulling. Additionally, when walking a dog you can easily control the direction of your dog’s movement. A little tension on the leash moves the dog’s head which easily and effectively changes the dog’s direction.

What are the benefits of using a head collar?

Head collars are more humane. They do not pull on the dog’s throat, as do other training collars. Nor do they work by causing pain to the dog. The dog will not damage his throat or choke himself when he pulls.
Head collars allow people to have better control of their dogs. When wearing a different type of collar, strong dogs are able to yank the leash, sometimes pulling away from or dragging their owners, simply because they are stronger than their owners or they outweigh them. With a head collar, the dog is unable to pull away because he is pulling against his own strength.
Head collars are self-correcting. When the dog pulls on the leash, the dog’s head is immediately pulled downward. You do not need to yank (or “pop”) the leash to correct your dog. The immediacy of the correction from a head collar helps the dog learn more quickly.
How long does it take after your dog pulls on his leash before you correct him? Head collars correct immediately.
How many times does your dog pull and you do not correct him? Head collars correct the dog every time he pulls.
Head collars offer you peace of mind and more peaceful walks. You have better control of your dog so you can relax and enjoy taking Rover for a walk.

What types of dogs would benefit from using a head collar?

  • Large dogs.
  • Strong dogs.
  • Dogs that are highly excitable, that jump about and pull while on leash.
  • Dogs whose owners have difficulty holding and controlling them on leash.
  • Dogs that pull when on leash.

What types of dogs are not appropriate for a head collar?

Most dogs do benefit from head collars. The following are examples of dogs for whom the head collar might be unnecessary or not beneficial.

  • Dogs that are exceptionally well trained do not need head collars.
  • Dogs that walk slowly and do not pull might not benefit from a head collar.
  • Dogs that are small and are easily handled due to their small size. Note that a head collar might benefit them in terms of walking more calmly with less pulling, but due to their small size their pulling and yanking on the leash does not cause a problem in terms of controlling the dog while on leash, regardless of what collar they wear.

Where can I get a head collar?

Head collars are relatively new and are not carried in all pet stores. Locally in Greensboro you can purchase head collars at All Pets Considered (ask for a Promise collar) or at PetsMart (ask for a Halti). Other pet stores in Greensboro may carry them as well. Haltis are the more common brand of head collars sold in stores, but the Promise collar is available in a variety of collars. Be sure to bring your dog with you so that you can get the right fit.

Disclaimer: Animal Rescue & Foster Program does not benefit from the sale of these collars. Although we do feel that head collars are an extremely helpful training device, we do not offer any type of warranty regarding the use of a head collar. We recommend that you consult a dog trainer who is knowledgeable in the use of head collars for more specific information regarding training with head collars or any other type of collar.

Play Biting

One of the biggest complaints we hear about puppies is about their play biting. Puppies begin to learn bite inhibition from their litter mates and mother when they are young, and it becomes our job to continue this education. At the same time play biting seems to be self-reinforcing to the puppy; it just plain feels good to chew on us, especially during the teething stages. Unfortunately, we sometimes unintentionally reinforce the problem by letting little puppies nibble on our hands (when it doesn’t hurt at all), and by letting them pull on our pants legs and bite our shoe laces ( when they are too small to do any damage).

Puppies must learn that biting is never acceptable, even in play. Traditional force methods such as clamping down and holding the muzzle shut or jabbing your finger in the puppy’s mouth, are not effective in 90% of dogs and can be very dangerous. These methods can make your dog afraid of you as well as turn him into an aggressive biter.

As with most behavioral problems, mouthing and play biting usually stop once the puppy learns more acceptable ways of getting attention. If you teach your puppy to Sit and to Sit for Attention, then you can tell the puppy to Sit whenever he starts to present an unacceptable behavior. By distracting the puppy away from negative behavior and having him respond with a positive replacement behavior, the negative behavior will often go away with out stern physical corrections which, if used, could lead to more serious aggression.

The games you play with your puppy and how you play them are very important. Rough play such as pushing side-to-side or back and forth at the shoulders, tug-of-war, or chase games result in an adrenaline rush which encourages play biting and mouthiness — behaviors which could continue for the rest of the puppy’s life. Until your puppy understands the command “Enough” and instantly stops whatever he is doing, you should not rough house with your puppy. Aggressive play lessens bite inhibition and is actually a “game” used to teach protection dogs for “bite” work.

What should you do about play biting? First, teach Sit. When your puppy starts mouthing, withdraw your hands, tell him to Sit, praise calmly and offer an acceptable chew toy. Never let children put their hands in or around the puppy’s mouth. Do not ever let the puppy use you or any family member as a chew toy, but do not make a big fuss out of play biting, either! If you give play biting too much attention, you are still reinforcing this unacceptable behavior.

If your puppy is wound up and totally out of control, help calm him down and start to learn self control. Say “Enough” in a calm , but firm voice. Take him out side to run off excess energy, try a toy of play fetch. Whatever you do, suspend the play that was resulting in play biting. At times, some puppies can get so wound up and overstimulated that a quiet time-out for a nap in a crate will help. Since some puppies can only handle very limited playtime with young children before biting gets out of control, it is especially important to supervise these interactions. The puppy must not be allowed to practice this unacceptable behavior, and must learn respect for the children as well as adults.

If your timing is right , a loud and dramatic “Ouch” or a moderate scream of pain the instant the puppy bites can be very effective. You really have to mean it (which usually is not hard since play biting can hurt). Then, stand back and fold your arms and give the puppy a disapproving look, and then turn your back and walk away, as if to say, “I won’t play this game.” Ignore the puppy for a minute or two and then call him to you, have him Sit, and offer praise and reward in the form of a dog treat or play toy.

Another option is the “freeze and ignore” technique. If the puppy puts your hand in his mouth , stay still, do nothing — do not even look at the puppy until he gets the message that biting is not getting your attention. When he quits biting, you should praise him, tell him to Sit, and calmly praise and pet him. If he goes for your hands again, freeze and totally ignore him (no eye or physical contact) until he sits, repeating as needed until he understands that biting gets nothing, but sitting gets positive attention from you.

Consistency is crucial! All family members need to handle the play biting problem in the same way. By addressing the playbiting problem while it is a minor behavioral problem, you can prevent it from becoming a major and painful (for you) lifetime habit. The sooner you interrupt the play biting cycle by helping the puppy understand every single time what behavior is required, the faster the puppy will become a welcome and well-adjusted member of your household.

The above information was furnished by Melanie Schlaginhaufen and Judy Allen of Best Friends Bed and Biscuit. Reprinted with permission. For more information or a consultation contact Best Friends Bed And Biscuit @ (336) 643-9096.

Jumping Up on People

Most normal young dogs have the tendency to jump up on people they greet. Many of us have  unintentionally conditioned our dogs to want to be near our faces by picking them up and holding them up to our faces when they are young. This causes problems later on when the dog is large and insists on jumping up on us in an attempt to be closer to our face. This jumping up to greet is seldom appreciated and can be dangerous when small children are involved. Since the majority of serious dog bites are to children’s faces, it is important to teach the dog not to instinctively reach for the child’s face for attention.

It is wise not to let your puppy lick your face, and children should be taught not to get right into a puppy’s face. Dominant/submissive roles are often expressed this way in canine behavior, and the dog can misinterpret an action and become aggressive when not handled properly by children.

When calling your puppy to you, greet him while crouching down and pet him while he is in the sitting position. Do not let him jump on you to be petted. It can be cute when small puppies run up to you and jump up to be petted. However, if you allow or encourage this behavior, you are unintentionally training the dog that jumping up leads to affection. Never pet or praise the puppy while he is jumping up or immediately after he has done so. Simply put, If he learns that jumping up leads to affection, he will continue to jump.

If your puppy or dog has all ready developed a jumping up habit, you can help him break it. First of all, make sure you are not unintentionally encouraging the dog to jump with your hand motions. If you wish to use a command, such as “Off” or “No Jump,” be sure to use downward hand motions. Most people pull their hands to their chests and yell “Get Down!” when a dog starts to jump. For several reasons, this actually makes it more likely that the dog will jump. First, the upward hand motion encourages the dog to jump on your chest. Second, the yelling excites the dog’s adrenal system, making it more hyperactive and less likely to respond calmly in its attempts to secure your attention. Finally, your reaction definitely gives the dog the attention, and though its negative attention, the dog gets what he was after.

We have found the most effective and humane way of reversing the jumping up habit is to try to replace the behavior with a “Sit” command. If you have trained your dog to sit this should get him off of you. Try to keep treats in your pocket and use the “praise – pat – treat” method of reward for sitting. If your dog will not sit when you give the command then completely ignore him while he is jumping up – – do not even look at him. Your dog will soon tire of leaning against you, especially if if he is not receiving any attention and he will get off. Then, tell him to sit, and if he does, use the “praise – pat – treat” method. If he gets excited and jumps up again, completely ignore him. most dogs will learn in 5 – 10 days that sitting is a more effective way of getting attention than jumping up. Make sure you acknowledge your dog when he comes up and sits in front of you. Give lots of positive reinforcement for good behavior.

Until your dog understands that jumping up results in ZERO attention, you must be patient and ignore the jumping up behavior.

Traditional training methods of kneeing the dog in the chest and stepping on his feet are usually not effective and can be dangerous to the dog. Plus when you make intentional contact with the dog, you are giving him exactly what he wants — attention! Dogs prefer negative attention to no attention at all!

Jumping Up on Children

If you have children old enough to understand, have them practice telling the dog to sit for praise and treats after you have already taught the “Sit ” command. The most important thing in teaching a dog not to jump on children is teaching the child how to react when they see the dog coming. Tell the child to say “Sit” very cheerfully (but not yelling); also, tell them not to run, and not to yell “No” at the dog, and not to pull their hands up toward their chest or face. Instruct them to push their hands downward as they say “Sit.” This will help them teach the dog that he receives attention when he is in the correct position.

No puppy is too young (or dog to old) to learn an acceptable way of greeting. Starting your relationship with your new puppy or dog by establishing a good family routine will help prevent and deter the undesirable jumping habit.

The above information was furnished by Melanie Schlaginhaufen and Judy Allen of Best Friends Bed and Biscuit. Reprinted with permission. For more information or a consultation contact Best Friends Bed And Biscuit @ (336) 643-9096.

Crate Training

The most talked about new method of training dogs is crate training. More and more dog owners  and their pets are learning the benefits of starting puppies on crate training as soon as they arrive in their new home. Crate training is the use of a plastic airline crate or a wire cage to confine a puppy when the family is not home or is unable to supervise the puppy’s activities. The crate in effect, becomes the puppy’s bed. Other terms used interchangeably with crate training are den and kennel.

You may feel that it is cruel to confine a dog to a crate. It would be cruel to just close him in the crate and leave. But if you introduce him to the crate properly, you will find that your puppy will quickly come to prefer it for sleeping and quiet time. Too many dogs are surrendered to animal shelters because of the damage done while they are unattended. Since over 85% of these puppies are euthanized, it is kind, not cruel, to crate train a puppy to prevent behavioral and housebreaking problems.

Why Crate Training is Recommended

Dogs in the wild live in dens. The den provides wild dogs protection from predators as well as the elements, and it allows for a feeling of security. That’s why you often find dogs curling up under a table, chair, or bed. By giving dogs a secure place that is all their own, pet owners can take advantage of a dogs’ natural instincts to help the dog feel safe, thus reducing isolation-induced stress.

Crate training, if done properly, is a wonderful training tool with many benefits. Apart from the obvious uses for transporting dogs, a crate can be used for short term confinement –to keep your puppy out of mischief so he does not develop bad habits when you cannot give him your undivided attention. A crate can also be used to develop good habits –to housetrain your puppy, to establish a chew-toy habit, and to reduce inappropriate barking and digging. Also, if your dog ever injures himself or becomes ill, the crate will be invaluable during recovery. If you move, your dog’s adjustment to a new home will be quicker and less stressful if he is crate trained. If you stay in motels or visit relatives, your dog will be “damage-proof” if he travels with his crate. If you travel by car, placing the dog in the crate will keep him out from under your feet, away from the driver, and more safe in case of an accident.

Who Should Crate Train

Owners of new puppies and any adult dogs with destruction and/or housebreaking problems should crate train. The only time crate training would not be advisable is in a situation where a puppy will be left alone for an extended period of time and a family member cannot come home to let the puppy out during the day. It is a dog’s natural instinct to keep his crate/home clean, so he will “hold it” as long as he can before eliminating in the crate. The maximum time an 8 week old puppy should be in his crate without a break is 4 hours. Puppies younger than 8 weeks have to “go” about every 2-3 hours so they should be given a crate-break at those intervals. Except for overnight sleeping, crate confinement approaching 8 hours is strongly discouraged. As the puppy gets older (4-6 months) you can gradually leave him in his crate for longer periods of time, but you should never exceed 8 hours for any dog.

If a family member is unable to come home midday to let the puppy out, there a couple alternatives. The most desirable would be for a pet-sitter, relative, or neighbor to come by the house and let the puppy out while he is young. If this is not an option, leave the puppy in a confined area with his crate with the crate door open. This way he can sleep in the crate and come out of his crate to use the bathroom. A collapsible wire barrier called an “exercise pen” (or X-pen) can be used to create a damage proof, safe inside area or a small bathroom can be used. However, using this type of set-up will lengthen the housebreaking process because the puppy will be learning to eliminate in the house. Also, some puppies can quickly learn to climb out of the X-pen.

When You Should Crate Train

Owners of all age puppies and dogs can start crate training at any time. It is best to start puppies immediately, so they do not have the opportunity to develop bad habits. Most adult dogs can be taught to like using their crates if they are introduced to it properly. In most cases, it will take an adult dog longer to adjust to a crate than it will a puppy. The key is to let the dog get comfortable going in and out of the crate on his own. Never force the dog into the crate. To get your canine interested in the crate, you can put his food dish inside so he has to go in to eat. Also, you can make going in the crate a game by throwing treats or his favorite toy inside for the dog to retrieve.

What Type and Size of Crate to Use

There are two basic types of crates: a plastic “airline kennel” and a wire cage. Each has certain advantages. The plastic crates are usually more portable than wire cages and are more “cozy” for the animal. Wire cages typically have more width and height space than plastic cages of approximately the same size. The angled design of the plastic crates makes their width at the base more narrow than the box design of wire cages. You can buy wire cages that are easily collapsible and can be carried like a suitcase, which is helpful when traveling. Most wire cages have removable pans that can slide out for easy cleaning. If you select a wire cage, cover the back completely and top and sides 1/2 way down with a towel to create a den-like atmosphere. If you do not cover a portion of the cage, the dog may not feel safe and secure because of the openness of the cage.

The ideal situation for housebreaking is to use a size crate that is 2 times the puppy’s body length and big enough for the puppy to stand-up, turn around, and lie down in. However, for most people, it is not feasible to purchase new crates as the puppy grows. The best alternative is to buy a crate that will be large enough for your dog when he grows up. As an adult, the dog should be able to lie down comfortable on his side as well as stand, sit, and turn around without difficulty. For housebreaking a puppy, the crate should can be made smaller by using a partition (made of a safe substance) or a divider panel to limit space. If the puppy has too much room, he will eliminate in one area of the crate and sleep in another, thus increasing the time it takes to housetrain the puppy.

Plastic crates and wire cages are available at most pet stores and by mail order from companies such as wholesaler R.C. Steele (800) 872-3773 and Doctors Foster & Smith (800) 826-7206.

Where to Keep the Crate

Keep the crate in a lived-in part of the house (dogs are pack animals and prefer to be with their pack/family); a bedroom, kitchen or family room is good –not a garage or unused basement! When the puppy is young it is recommended to have the crate near the door he will be going out to use the bathroom. Having the crate close to the door will help prevent any elimination accidents as the puppy leaves his crate and heads for the door to go out.

How to Crate Train Your Dog

Your dog should thoroughly enjoy spending time in his crate. This can be accomplished by introducing him to the crate properly, making it comfortable and fun to go into the crate, and by giving him something entertaining to do in the crate. Below is a step-by-step outline of the recommended process:

Set-Up

  1. Set up the crate with the puppy out of the room, so as not to startle him.
  2. Use old blankets, towels or sheets as bedding. Note: many puppies will chew bedding which can be very dangerous so take time to observe if he is trying to chew his bedding. Do not make the bedding material too absorbent because the puppy needs to be severely inconvenienced if he urinates in his crate.
  3. DO NOT use housebreaking pads in the crate because this will attract and encourage the puppy to eliminate in his crate.
  4. DO NOT put a water bowl in the crate because it will spill and wet the bedding.
  5. DO put 1 – 2 safe chew toys in the crate with the puppy so he has something to occupy his time — a Tuffy Kong toy is one of the best and safest toys to leave a puppy alone with. Stuffing a Kong toy with freeze-dried liver or a biscuit can keep the puppy entertained. Do not leave a puppy alone with a toy that can splinter or break off in small pieces, such as rib bones and rawhide bones. These are chew toys that should be supervised as they may cause the puppy to choke.
  6. If you are using a wire crate, place an old blanket or sheet over the top and sides in order to create a den-like atmosphere. Tuck the ends of the covering under the crate so that the puppy cannot pull them inside to chew on them

Introduction and Use of the Crate

  1. When it is time for the puppy’s meal, place the bowl just inside of the crate so the puppy has to stick his head into the crate to eat.
  2. Between feedings, you can make going into the crate a game by tossing in treats or toys. Allow your puppy to come and go at will — do not force your puppy into the crate.
  3. When the puppy gets in the crate on his own or because their is a treat inside, this is your cue to start associating a command with the action. You can use statements such as “kennel up” or “go to bed.” The most important thing to remember in giving commands is to be brief and consistent.
  4. Always leave the crate door open when your puppy is out of the crate so he can get in it when he wants.
  5. When you are home, make going in the crate a game. Give your chosen command, such as “go to bed,” and throw a treat or toy into the crate. Let your puppy walk in and out of the crate at will. Whenever your puppy goes into the crate on his own, lavish him with praise!
  6. Each time the puppy enters his crate for confinement, give him a tasty treat such as Bil-Jac Liver Treats, jerky treats, cat treats, or a small piece of hot dog or cheese.
  7. ALWAYS use your chosen command when calling your dog to the crate for confinement. DO NOT simply call him to you, as he may become wary of approaching you when called.
  8. NEVER USE THE CRATE AS PUNISHMENT! Your dog will pick up “vibes” from you if you put him in the crate when you are angry. The puppy’s crate should be his secure place. It should not be associated with punishment, fear, or anything negative. If you treat the crate as a wonderful, gentle, lifesaving tool to prevent accidents, destruction, and behavior problems, your puppy will feel positive about the crate, too.
  9. Every time you let the puppy out of his crate, even if he has only been confined 30 minutes, take him straight outside to his “potty” area and give him your command such as “go potty” or “hurry up.” Praise him when he eliminates outside. If the puppy does not eliminate within five minutes and you know it is time for him to do so, put him back in the crate. Wait approximately 30 minutes and then take him outside again. In the morning, be sure to take the puppy out the minute he starts to fuss.
  10. If the puppy eliminates in his crate, clean it up immediately and thoroughly. After cleaning up the urine, wipe the bottom of the crate with a pet odor eliminating product or a solution of vinegar and water. It is necessary to clean up the odor completely so the puppy does not smell it later and urinate there again.
  11. During all unsupervised times, the puppy should be in his crate with the door closed. Normal, healthy puppies will generally get into mischief if unattended. The tendency of puppies to “learn” about their surroundings is too strong for them to control — learning means chewing, scratching, and digging. If the puppy is unable to get into trouble, destructive habits will not be formed.
  12. As your puppy gets older (probably close to 1 year old), you can start leaving him out of the crate unattended for short periods of time. When you first leave him unattended and out of the crate, restrict him to one or two rooms in the house. If the puppy behaves in your absence, gradually increase his time out of the crate with the ultimate goal being never having to close him in his crate. However, he should continue to have access to his crate whenever he wants. If the puppy gets into mischief in your absence, begin to crate him again whenever he is unsupervised and try again later.