A Dog's Tail Never Lies
I love what I do. There are certain circumstances that can make me frustrated about my job. My goal is to build the relationship with your dog and through that there comes a respect and love with your dog like no other. When I see an owner/dog team struggle with their relationship I take that as a challenge to change, but sometimes what the owners want and what the dog is, don’t match. What I mean by that is there are owners who have goals for their dog. Maybe they want to be a therapy team, compete in agility or have hunting or show dog. And sometimes all they want is a well-behaved pet. But you have to consider the other side of the leash...your dog. They can think for themselves and have their own abilities and limits. I have struggled through this before with my own animals. Hunter my Shiba Inu, loves people and I wanted to make us a therapy team. As life and training went on with him, I realized he would not enjoy it. He has fears and I can work through them with him but will he truly enjoy it? Keira, my guide dog in training, does fantastic when working, but there is a chance that she won’t make it through the program. And as heartbroken as I’d be, I want what’s best for her. I’ve worked with clients that just want a mellow companion but their dog needs a job of some sort. It’s unfair to have a German Shepherd or Border Collie and expect it to be well behaved with out addressing their mental and physical needs.
I want my clients to enjoy working with their dog. Think back to when you were in school, what memories stuck with you, what material in school was easiest for you to retain? For me, and I think for most, it was when I had a teacher who had a great balance of challenging me, and making learning fun. When you find out what motivates your dog, you will see a drastic change in training. And training becomes more fun for you both. Your connection will be stronger, you will be less frustrated, have more patience and that’s where training can be a stress reliever for you both.
Do you struggle with basic commands? Try teaching your dog a few tricks and in between start adding basic commands. Does your dog love to play fetch? Add a solid drop it command and you can work on basics such as sit and stay before you through the ball again. Hunter loves to be off leash hiking. I work with him throughout the hike with recall and different commands, and his reward is being off leash hiking. There is a communication we have and respect for what each other wants. I want him to listen when I need him to, and he wants to run free, it’s a win/win. And we both leave the hike, happy and fulfilled. I set him up to succeed. I don’t throw him in a busy trail with lots of going on and expect him to be able to listen, he is a Shiba Inu after all, it takes time to develop.
When we have fun and enjoy working with our dog, our dog enjoys working for us. And to me the ultimate goal is a happy and respectful relationship from both ends of the leash.
Upcoming this fall and winter I am looking to hold a few classes to help encourage you to have fun!
Keira -5 ½ months
I get lots of interest in people wanting to start training around 6 months old to a year. If you get your puppy sooner start sooner. Don’t wait until all the problems start to arise. I know lots of people adopt older dogs too and I love that, but start off on the right foot with your new dog. I started working with Keira at 8 weeks old and Fidelco did training with them before I even got her. Of course we start very simple and basic but that is the best way to start if you get your dog young. By 5 ½ months old Keira knows: sit, down, stand, come, stay, look, touch, close (her sitting between my legs facing out), down and under (which means to lay between my legs when I’m sitting in a chair), leave it, drop it, place, crate, get busy and more. Now I don’t spend all day working on these things. I spend a few minutes throughout the day working with her and then I use every day rewards such as food, toys, play time, attention and walk to reinforce good behavior. She hasn’t had an accident in at least a month and lets me know when she needs to go outside. She may pick up the occasional towel or clothing but most of the time she brings them to me. She hasn’t destroyed any furniture or tried to jump on my counters. And the reason is because I don’t give her the opportunity and I give her enough to do or play with. Dogs, especially breeds like German Shepherds, like to have a job. If they feel like they don’t have one, they will find one. And I promise it will be a job you hate like chewing your couch or trying to grab everything on your counters.
She goes into her crate with just a verbal command or hand signal. I may get a whine or two then immediately knows to settle down and relax. She almost never jumps but in times where she is overexcited I still have to work on her. But I never allowed or encouraged it so it definitely is no issues with me or my husband. She lets me clip her nails and check her mouth out. Walking is going well but in times she can struggle. Once she has her “working jacket” on she is a pro and behaves very nicely. I also understand that she is still a puppy. She needs to be goofy and just play. There are times when I break play and do some quick training and there are times when I just let her be a dog and explore and sniff.
There are still things she needs to learn especially
for a guide dog, but she has already learned so much in such a small amount of
time. With her continuing to grow up, there
are things that we work on to build her confidence and exposure. I let her investigate things she may be
unsure about like a plastic bag blowing in the wind. Sometime we just sit outside and I let her take in the
sights and sounds of the world around her. I look forward to taking her new places with the warmer
weather and watching her learn.
I’ve had Keira about 5 weeks now and I sometimes forget the frustration, fun and work that goes into having a puppy full-time. Usually I get to train them for an hour and go home to silence and the easiness of having an adult dog. I am very lucky to get to take Keira with me most places during my day, but with that comes a hefty amount of supplies. My co-workers laugh and comment on how it’s like I have a newborn. And there is some truth to that. I have to make sure I have enough food, water, a variety of toys, treats, her jacket if it’s cold, poop bags, paper towels and cleaner in case of an accident, her play pen (she isn’t old enough to touch the ground everywhere), her crate for the car, leash and bowls. It takes me 3 trips to get everything in the car. I have to remind myself to presoak her food before she eats and keep her on a potty schedule to avoid accidents. Taking her with me places is essential for her socialization and training but carrying around a 25lb German shepherd is exhausting! I get creative and use different things to place her in like shopping carts to tote her around.
While we are home we work on the basics, appropriate playtime and bite inhibition. But it took me 3 WEEKS to lure her into a down. We spend a lot of time taking trips outside and telling her “get busy!”, my neighbors must think I’m nuts. I yelp “OUCH” when she is using her teeth too much. But the hardest thing about raising a puppy is how much I see other people reinforce bad behavior with her. Even my husband! I must seem like such a snob when I ask people to not continue to pet her while she is jumping, or to ignore her if she is whining. It’s not their fault. Look at her! She’s adorable! I want to kiss her and pet her all the time! I want to snuggle with her in bed, lay on the couch with her. But I can’t. There are rules I have to follow since she is supposed to be a guide dog. I also have to be her advocate and explain to people what they can do with her instead. It isn’t cute when she 70 lbs!
At this age it is important to teach her things like sit and come but it is even more important not to reinforce bad behaviors. I can’t chase her when she’s running around with my slipper. The second I say “she’s doing great with housetraining” to my husband it then seems to be the day I mess up and she has an accident. It can also be difficult in training class for me since they may do certain things different then I teach. It makes me sympathize for my clients when they get frustrated on something they my struggle with. But overall it has been a complete joy. I can’t wait until I get her vest and start working with her in stores. I also know that this process will fly by way too fast and before I know it I will have to say goodbye. But currently I am enjoying her playfulness and willingness to learn and am bracing myself for the “teenage years".
Ever since I started Polite Paws, I have the opportunity to attend lots of events and meet the best people. On several occasions I have met Fidelco dogs out and about and was always intrigued on how these people could raise a dog and hand it back after a year. I only had Tazzy a couple years and losing her was incredibly tough, but I remember the comments I would get when I told Tazzy’s story. Rescuing a dog in their senior years is something a lot of people are hesitant about doing. It’s never easy losing a dog whether after a couple months, years or for having them 10 years. Tazzy taught me so much and truly changed my life for the better and I am so thankful for her. I am a big advocate for senior dogs and they deserve wonderful homes and shouldn’t end their lives in a shelter.
With the loss of Tazzy in October, I have felt a hole in my heart. At first I thought Hunter was enjoying being the only pup for a bit, and I think there was some truth to that. Then I noticed a change in him and he definitely missed his buddy. I knew then it was time to start looking. We spent countless hours looking online and searching. But it didn’t feel right yet. Then I remembered meeting a couple who were raising a Fidelco puppy a while back at an event and I thought to myself that this was something I wanted to do. Thankfully my husband was on board. Fidelco breeds German Shepherds and trains them to become guide dogs. These guide dogs are provided to a person in need at no cost. A puppy raiser will have the puppy from 8 weeks old for a little over a year until the dog is ready for formal training. During the puppy raiser period these people attend weekly training sessions to get the dogs started off on the right track. I grew up with German Shepherds and have always loved them and wanted another. I also felt like this was the right time to do this. I have high hopes for 9 week old Keira; I hope she gets to provide the freedom to someone in need. Tazzy was my life changing dog, she helped guide me into this career after struggling on what to do with my life when I found out I had medical issues that conflicted with my original plan. This is an opportunity for me to be a part and help someone who needs a dog that will change his or her life too.
Check out our facebook page to see pictures of Keira!
Often I hear people say "I don't give my dogs human food" and I feel the need to explain....there are "human foods" out there that are very good for your dog. Yes chicken nuggets or toxic things like grapes are no good. But I use yogurt, carrots, apples, sardines, chicken, salmon, bananas, pumpkins, eggs, and lots more to boost my dogs diet. I feed a combination of kibble, canned, raw (safe and tested freeze-dried raw is my preference), and fresh food (not all at once) to make sure Hunter has a balanced diet. Not to mention there are times a certain thing works better then others.
Since also working part-time with a dog food company I have learned A LOT about dog nutrition. I decided to do more research for both economical reasons and the scare of all these dog foods and treats lately. A dog’s diet is a combination of all their meals, and it cannot be good to get the same thing every day. Changing proteins is also very important, but I am a firm believer in using a few varieties to make a well balanced diet. The better your dog’s diet the healthier they are = less trips to the expensive vet.
Kibble- Now I know the cost of higher-end kibble can be expensive, but what people don’t realize is dogs need less kibble for better quality food. One of the kibble brands I feed Hunter is Orijen. Now this is an expensive kibble. The small bags are around $20, medium $40 and large $80+. However Hunter eats less than 1 cup per DAY. Hunter is a 40 lb dog; in most other foods he would be at least double that. If I fed strictly kibble he would probably be 1/2c morning and evening. Kibble is also great for training, I use it when teaching a new behavior or I’ll put some kibble in an interactive toy, Hunter goes crazy for that!
Raw or Freeze-dried raw- now there are a lot of opinions on the raw diet. And not all raw or freeze-dried is equal. It is also a very expensive option. I use freeze-dried food often for training since it is such a high-end reward and also very convenient to travel with. I’ve really been working with Hunter off leash (Shiba’s are notorious for being VERY bad off leash and are one of the few breeds they recommend never having off leash) but dogs go crazy for it and it can add extra nutrients. Some of my favorite brands are Stella and Chewys and Nature’s Variety.
I hope you are all aware of the food not to give your dog such as grapes, chocolate, onions, alcohol, and avocado are just a few. Click here to check out a more complete list. But there are lots of great foods out there they can eat.
Yogurt- can be a great addition to kibble or used in a Kong. Pick a yogurt that has no sweeteners, sugars or fat substitutes. Yogurt is a great way to add calcium, protein and probiotics.
Sardines or Salmon- Sometimes I will get a can of sardines and add a little bit to his kibble. He loves the extra treat and it provides omega 3’s.
Vegetables and fruits- this can be added to kibble or used as healthy snacks. Some of Hunter’s favorite is sweet potatoes, green beans, apples (no stems or core), pumpkin, cucumbers, asparagus, blueberries, and watermelon. For more great food click here.
I know this is not a training blog however I meet lots of dogs and I see how low grade food has an impact on their health and behavior. Do you have a dog that licks themselves a lot or has chronic ear infections? These are signs of an allergy and is mostly likely linked to the food they are eating.