Posts Tagged ‘positive reinforcement’

Shy Dogs & Dog Parks

Wednesday, October 24th, 2018

Shy dogs have a special place in our hearts! Anyone who has ever loved a dog will tell you that they absolutely have their own personalities and funny quirks.  Though their temperaments vary from pooch to pooch, shyness is a fairly common trait. It’s especially noticeable in dogs who have experienced abuse or poor socialization early in life. Rescue dogs are even more susceptible due to trauma associated with being in a noisy shelter, going from foster home to foster home and essentially a lack of stability.  For a shy pup, the dog park can be an overwhelming and scary place at first. Thankfully there are ways to safely introduce Fido to the dog park to ensure that they have a life filled with fun visits and play.

Signs your dog may be timid or shy:

If your family has recently adopted a dog and you’re unsure about their temperament, body language can help give you some insight into how they feel. If your dog exhibits some or all these traits, they may need some extra TLC and training:

  • Ears are flat against his head
  • Often in a cowering posture
  • Shies away from interactions with other dogs and/or people
  • Tucks his tail between his legs
  • Panting or shaking
  • Excessive yawning (a sign of stress)
  • Skulking, pacing, hiding, or escape attempt
  • Whining or barking
  • Raised hackles
  • Avoids eye contact
  • Nipping, biting, or sneering
  • Submissive urination

Dog Park Introduction Techniques

Basic Obedience: For safety purposes, every dog should respond to basic commands before visiting a dog park. Obedience training can be your best friend’s best friend here! If a shy dog knows exactly what you’re asking/expecting, he may be less likely to panic during a stressful situation. Start at home with simple commands such as “Sit,” “Stay,” and “Come”, and be sure to use lots of positive reinforcement!  Once your dog has mastered those commands indoors, try taking them outside where there are more distractions. Working closely with your dog will boost their confidence and give you peace of mind as well.

Additional Training: Sometimes a timid pup can overreact when they feel threatened or nervous.  This can be something such as anxious barking, but can also be more problematic if they resort to fear-based responses such as nipping or biting.  Fortunately, most reputable trainers offer classes and/or one-on-one sessions geared towards shy dogs.  These classes build upon basic obedience and focus on confidence building and strengthening the dog/guardian bond.

Doggy Playdates: If your dog is timid around other dogs, consider an at home playdate before introducing him to the dog park. The best BFF candidate is a calm and gentle dog who is confident around both people and pets. Not only is this a big step in socialization, but your dog will learn appropriate behavior just by being around a laid-back canine. If you don’t have any dogs like this in your life, ask a local dog trainer!  Many of them would love to bring a “canine mentor” to a training session or allow your dog to test out a day at doggy daycare where they can learn those same skills in a managed environment.

Practice Park Activities: Teach your dog games like “Fetch” and “Hide and Seek” at home or in your backyard. This not only gives your dog a chance to learn while playing, it also trains them for activities you’ll likely engage in at the dog park. Giving treats or using a clicker can help him focus on the positive and stay out of worry-wart mode.  It may sound simple but for a timid dog, just learning that they can initiate an interaction with a predictable outcome can make all the difference.

Putting it All Together: When it’s time to load your pup into the car and head to the park, start slowly.  That means doing some background research first: does your local park have a shy/senior dog section?  What are the slowest and busiest times (so you can plan accordingly)? Are there any reviews of the park from other park users that might be helpful? Can your dog trainer meet you there to provide an extra set of eyes?  Do everything you can to set your dog up for success, but be patient! It might take a few tries, or visiting a few different parks for the stars to line up.  And it’s possible that Fido just isn’t a dog park kind of dog, and that’s fine too!

Hopefully these tips will make the dog park a happier place for both you and your pup.  Woof!

 

 

Who’s a Good Dog? Positive Reinforcement Training

Tuesday, July 24th, 2018

Dog training is today’s hot topic! Whether you’re working with a puppy or teaching your older dog new tricks, positive reinforcement is key in any successful program. Positive reinforcement is a method that focuses on rewarding the behavior you want instead of only pointing out what they’re doing wrong (because who really succeeds in that environment!?). Like humans, dogs love being praised and getting special treats. When you do an especially great job at work, you may be rewarded with a pat on the back, a bonus or even a promotion. This makes you feel accomplished, appreciated, and ready to take on new challenges. The same is true for your dog when he’s learning basic obedience, agility or fun tricks. The more you consistently praise and reward your dog, the more excited he will be to learn!

Positive reinforcement training should always include one of your dog’s favorite things…treats! When selecting the best training treats for your pooch, there are several things to consider. First and foremost, avoid anything with ingredients your dog may be sensitive or allergic to. Second, go for small treats – you will be doling a lot of them out during your training sessions!  You can try using peas, small pieces of carrots, or blueberries as training treats for a healthier option or for dogs who will eat anything (we’re talking to you Labradors!). The most important thing to consider is palatability; you want to pick a high value treat that your dog goes bonkers for to encourage him to do his best.

During training, a dog’s attention span averages about 10-15 minutes, so it’s important you keep sessions short and sweet. We recommend using a mark to help communicate with your pet quickly and clearly.  A mark can be a clicker, a verbal cue such as “Yes!” or a hand signal. Right after you mark the behavior, verbally praise your dog and give him a treat. If the behavior was an especially tough one to learn, throw your pup a “mini party” by rewarding him with several treats, pets, and tons of praise. When first starting to train your pet, it’s best to work on the same command throughout each training session. As your dog gets more experienced with the process, you can add other desired behaviors or tricks in as well.

Patience is key to positive reinforcement training. Your best friend genuinely wants to make you happy and of course get a treat! There will be times when more challenging commands may take longer for Fido to get the hang of. Never shame, scold, or punish your dog for not understanding right away. The best part of positive reinforcement is that it strengthens our relationship with our dogs by fostering mutual trust, affection, and encouraging cooperation. With time, consistency patience and treats, your dog will impress your friends and family with all his new skills!

Puppy Proofing Your Home…and Office!

Tuesday, January 24th, 2017

With two rambunctious Great Dane puppies (and litter mates!) recently welcomed into the Dog-ON-It family, we’ve been busy puppy proofing just about everything we can.  Here are some tips to help make sure your pup is as safe as they can be when they’re not snoozing the day away.

Otto & Gozer

The Chew:  Puppies, just like human children, go through teething…in addition to exploring the world around them with their mouths.  We’ve found a few ways to help distract them from chewing on things they shouldn’t (like furniture or you)! Our blue Dane boys love elk antlers and bully sticks, and keeping them occupied with food dispensing puzzle toys is a fantastic way to direct their energy towards something positive.  The Kong Wobbler is especially popular here and we use them to feed Otto & Gozer their lunch; they have to knock it over to dispense the kibble and the hard plastic makes it pretty chew proof as well.  Another option is to stuff a standard Kong or other durable chew toy with treats, peanut butter, yogurt and/or anything else your puppy loves.  Even better?  Put it in the freezer for an hour or so for some relief for those puppy teeth and gums.

 

slippers

Crates are Great:  Ok, folks, this is a lifesaver.  Dogs are den animals and love having a quiet space they can call their own.  Make sure the crate isn’t so large that they could use part of it as their bathroom (crate dividers are helpful!) and also keep it stocked with a favorite blanket and some toys.  But…most importantly, never use the crate as punishment.  They should want to go in on their own and it always helps to use treats or positive reinforcement to reward that behavior.  We especially like the light travel style crates for the office and the sturdier wire, collapsible ones for our home.

Highway to the Danger (Free!) Zone:   Puppies are notoriously curious and even with the best of intentions, can get themselves into a pickle.  Whether it’s a particular food, something they’ve discovered in the yard, or anything that might not, ahem, pass, keep your eyes peeled for potential problems.  Also, if Fido is smarter than the average bear, child-proofing cabinets in both your bathroom and kitchen where cleaning supplies are usually kept is not a bad idea.

Keeping your puppy fed and full with the right foods can help to prevent dumpster diving for less than ideal snacks, and can also help to prevent pancreatitis, a painful and potentially deadly illness.  Some common foods to avoid:

Chocolate, raw onions, anything with xylitol, cooked bones – particularly poultry, caffeine, grapes/raisins, alcohol and even though it’s legal now in some states…marijuana.  Vet offices are seeing a huge increase in marijuana related visits, so please keep your stash “high” and out of reach!

We like to supplement our puppies’ meals with some healthy people food too.  Fresh veggies such as green beans, peas, shredded carrots are well received as are roasted root vegetables like sweet potatoes, turnips, and rutabagas.   Eggs are popular too, along with limited amounts of cottage cheese and plain yogurt.

OG

X-Ray Vision: Well, we don’t really have x-ray vision, but we do keep a super close eye on the floor.  Here at the office, things like random staples, paper clips, and tape can easily end up in a dog’s mouth.  Making sure your floors are tidy is an easy way to prevent obstructions and digestive upset. Another big one – cords.  Yep.  Our pups love cords.  And since you can’t really unplug everything, Bitter Apple Spray along with a firm “NO!” is a great deterrent. Remember to praise your pup when they drop or walk away from whatever you’ve asked them to!

Hopefully some of these tips might help keep your puppy safe and you sane – woof!

Boys

Featured Office Dog: Rory

Monday, August 29th, 2016

Lumina copy

Meet office dog Rory!  She joined the Dog-ON-It-Parks team in June of 2011.  Her humans, Sales/Marketing Manager Nora and husband Ben, saw her profile on Petfinder and being a sucker for puppy dog eyes couldn’t resist. Because Rory came from AARF, one of Seattle’s fantastic rescue organizations, there was a lengthy application process (other folks wanted her too!) as well as a home inspection, and playdate with Gus and Quincy, her Labrador doggy siblings to be.

three musketeers

It was thought she was a Mastiff/Malamute mix, and as it turned out thanks to the Wisdom Panel doggy DNA test, she is GSD/Malamute/Am Staff with a dash of gremlin. Not an official dog breed we know, but this girl is a big fan of mischief.  Rory gets complimented all the time on her unique looks especially when she’s feeling spunky and confident in her octopus costume and goes by Superhero/Code name: Octopitty.

Octopitty

Now a little about Rory; she and her littermates were all rescued at about four months old.  Her foster family did a wonderful job with her after she made it here to the Pacific NW.  However, she did miss a lot of the early socialization that makes all the difference for a stable, confident dog.  She was afraid of just about everything; shiny things like her food bowl, hardwood floors, new people – especially if they’re tall, loud noises, etc.  Her humans worked with her to help boost her confidence by taking her to training classes designed specifically for shy/fearful dogs, as well as private agility classes – the group classes ended up being too loud and stressful for her.

little red

She’s still a sensitive little gal, but all of the additional work and positive reinforcement has helped tremendously.  She lets her people know when she feels overwhelmed or needs some alone time by putting herself to bed in a quiet room (which she does a lot during football season.  Go Hawks!). Sensitive dogs like Rory can often benefit from a Thundershirt to help them feel more comforted and secure.  We discovered that Rory’s octopus costume also does the trick!

Rory loves napping in the sunshine, chasing squirrels, going for walks where she can meet new people (high value treats are helpful here!), playing with her best friend Hamlet and particularly going for rides in the car.

Thanks for reading about Rory and when possible, support your local rescue organizations by adopting or donating.  Woof!

Sunbathing

Time to Be Positive: Dog Training Tips & Tricks

Wednesday, June 8th, 2016

Pawsitive Reinforcement:

When it comes to dog training, there are many options and opinions as to the best method, however we believe that positivity breeds more positivity! Positive-reinforcement training techniques use non-confrontational methods to engage your dog’s brain. This is done by rewarding positive behavior, and establishing rituals and training actions that are incompatible with negative behavior. Essentially, you reward the positive and either ignore the negative, or direct them to a behavior you do want.  Easy, right?  Doing this can help to lessen your dog’s frustration with the learning process, while still allowing the dog to feel good. There should be no forceful actions as this can damage your pup’s trust. Think about you it…how fast would you sit down for a cookie, some praise or a nice pat on the back? To a dog, those actions are not only treasured but an important part of their lives. Here are some tips on how to incorporate positivity in your dog’s training.

Treat Generously: 

First of all, when using positive reinforcement timing is key; the reward must be given within seconds or your pet might not connect the dots.  An example is when you give your dog a treat for sitting down at your command. You don’t give them the cookie after they’ve sat back up and their attention is on something else, you reward them when all of their attention is focused on you and what they are doing. There are several types of positive reinforcement, it can encompass treats, praise, petting, or even a favorite game. Although most dogs (including our office crew!) are highly food-motivated, and this type of reinforcement can often yield the best results.

Sit. Stay. Play: 

You also want to pay attention to the type of commands you are using with your pet. Keep them short! Use simple one-word commands which are easier for your dog to understand. Some examples are: Come, Sit, Stay, Down, Heel, Off, etc… You might also want to inform your family or those you live with of these to help avoid confusion for your dog later – consistency is key! Your training sessions should also be short and fun, and the goal is to have your dog associate good things while training.

More How To’s:

As time goes on and your pet becomes more skilled (and hopefully better behaved!), it is a good idea to gradually back off the treats and use them only on occasion. Eventually, the treats should no longer be necessary, however you should always reward Fido with verbal praise and a pet. It is important that you continue to use these techniques to maintain the behaviors you want from your dog.

Reward-based dog training helps create a range of desirable behaviors, which builds mutual feelings of trust and confidence, and a bond that will last for years to come. If you’d like more info on positive reinforcement and dog training, we highly recommend Victoria Stilwell’s website.  It’s a wonderful resource for all things dog. Good luck and woof woof!

A-Frame: A Dog Agility Classic

Thursday, April 7th, 2016

A-Frame Storey Bark Park

The A-Frame is a traditional piece of agility equipment; it’s fun for dogs of all shapes and sizes. Now, not all dogs are natural climbers so it is important not to push them past their comfort level. Using treats, praise and positive reinforcement to encourage your dog can also be helpful! According to Pet Expertise there are four types of treats that work best and are healthy options for your dog. They recommend using regular dog kibble, cheese, chicken, and chopped veggies as healthy alternatives to dog biscuits or cookies.

dog-loves-cheese

There are several important differences between our A-Frame and others. First of all, ours is not as steep. We think all dogs should be able to safely and comfortably play on our equipment! When an A-Frame is too steep and/or too narrow, it’s not only unsafe, it will discourage dogs from using the equipment again if they lose their footing or feel they need to jump off the side. With that in mind, our A-Frame is only three feet high at the peak with an extra wide width of 38”. Another important consideration is the angle of the ramp; traditional (professional) dog agility requires it to be a very steep 98 degrees for large dogs and 104 degrees for the smaller pups. By design, our A-Frame is only 43 degrees, so about half as steep. This helps to ensure that any pooch, whether an agility champ or a novice, can feel like a top dog once they conquer the ramp. One last word of warning, if a dog park company says they are using AKC or USDAA standards for their equipment, be careful! It’s always a much safer bet to install recreation level equipment in a public park.

Our A-Frame is also coated with PawsGrip™, our exclusive highly textured material designed for maximum slip resistance. Other products may have rubber or textured polyethylene. Neither of these are really suited for the use a dog park sees, and the surface can crumble, degrade or crack quite easily. However, PawsGrip™ is made from the same materials used in truck bed liners, and provides a more stable and sturdy texturized surface that is super durable and holds up under frequent use and all weather conditions.

dog_on_it-189

So remember when comparing dog park agility equipment, we don’t just offer the widest range of products you will find, but also the safest and highest quality. Dog parks are essential in bringing your community together and sourcing safe equipment with a lifetime warranty will guarantee a long lived (and loved!) place for all the pooches and their people to play!

6401 - Greenwood Urban Wetland Park


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