Muzzle Tips!

Muzzle tips!!

Muzzles are one of my favorite dog training tools in existence. They have enormous benefits and keep everyone safe while working through things that may be challenging for some dogs or spark some sort of aggressive response. These are a couple of tips on what muzzles to use, how to introduce them, and why they are so important!!

First. What muzzles to use. I get messages every single day from people asking what brand muzzle I use and why. The only muzzle I use or recommend is Baskerville brand muzzles. These muzzles are basket muzzles that have TONS of ventilation, do not restrict the dogs ability to open and close their mouth or pant, allow them to eat and drink water through, and are INCREDIBLY secure. Fitted appropriately, there should be no way that the dog can get them off. You can purchase these direct through amazon.

Next. How to introduce the muzzle. There is a lot of talk and debate on the appropriate way to introduce a muzzle to your dog. Many will say teach the dog to stick their face into it on command with food. Others will say make the dog wear it and feed them treats while wearing it. And some will say don’t use it if your dog looks stressed with it on.

I do a slightly different approach. Though it can be beneficial at times to have a dog stick their face in on cue and no one wants to see a dog look stressed out due to them, the reality is that muzzles are weird to dogs. It is inevitably going to be very uncomfortable for them initially when you begin introducing it. Sticking their face into the muzzle is the easy part, wearing it for extended periods of time and living their day to day life with it on is where you have issues.

I take a natural approach to introducing the muzzle. The first thing I want to do is show the dog that there is no way they can get it off. I put the muzzle on securely and allow them to paw at it and fight at it for a little while. I do not ask them to sit or down or not do it. I simply let them realize there is no chance it is coming off. Once they settle down you can either reward with food. Or just leave them be. I do this a few times until the dog begins getting a bit more comfortable with it being on and doesn’t fight it as much. From there I set a strict 1 hour per day muzzle time where I put the muzzle on and go about my day to day routine while they wear it. This will help them get used to it and break any associations that hey may have with it always meaning vet time or something scary.

NOTE: be sure to trim your dogs nails down before doing this step. When pawing at the muzzle it is possible that they can scratch them self if their nails are too long.

In short I absolutely love muzzles. I think all dogs should be comfortable wearing them Incase if emergency’s or if they are ever injured and need handling that may cause them to want to bite. They allow owners, trainers, and any one else that may be handling the dog to be less anxious and interact them in a far more calm manner reducing the risk of the dog sensing insecurity and helping them to have more of a positive experience.

Hope this helps!

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Three Steps To Safe And Fun Dog Socialization

Since yesterday I did a workshop with a local doggie daycare in Columbus and tomorrow is day THREE of Friday doggie daycare at our Cleveland and Columbus facilities I figured I would stay on the topic of group socialization. Here are 3 of the most important tips for successful dog on dog interaction.

1.) No human interaction.

I’ve talked about this time and time again and made videos on this topic you can find in my past posts. Human interaction is AWFUL for dog socialization. It can create unnecessary arousal and an association of you as a resource creating a higher likelihood of a dog fight over you. Removing the human interaction allows the dogs to do their own thing with each other without the interruption of us or expectation of them getting anything.

2.) Advocate for ALL dogs.

This is HUGE. Almost every single dog fight can be predicted light years before it actually happens. 9/10 times that is because one dog is getting stressed out by another. When socializing, wether it’s with 2 dogs or 20 dogs, it is your responsibility to play the referee that lets each dog know when it’s too much before the other dog feels like they have to. Look for clear signs of stress or avoidance from one party and make sure to intervene right away and let the other dog know to tone it back.

3.) Be safe.

If you are planning to socialize your dog with dogs that they have never met before make sure to discuss with the owner what you are looking to get out of your dogs social experience with them. If they are not on board with the above rules, or they have the mentality of “oh well just let um figure it out” that’s likely not the dog and owner you want to socialize your dog with. Find people that respect the fact that socialization should not be a free for all and you guys are running the show.

Remember one bad social experience can REALLY set your dog back in their behavior. So be careful and play it safe!

Why Using An Ecollar Or Prong Collar With A Fearful Dog Could Help You Get The Breakthrough You’re Looking For

“Why would I use an Ecollar or a prong collar on a fearful dog??” This is something I get asked very very frequently. It makes sense. Your dog is scared so wouldn’t using electricity or anything that would be considered an aversive be counter intuitive to what we are trying to accomplish?? Wrong. And here’s why!!

Ecollars and prong collars get a horrible rap. This is in part because they can look scary and in part because of the fact that they can be easily misused. Old school dog training with these tools was very harsh and abrasive on dogs and to this day there are trainers that do not know how to properly use these tools. But the fact is that used properly they are INCREDIBLY gentle and non aversive tools that can be one of the most effective tools for breaking through the ice with a fearful dog.

Let’s break this down.. look at situations where you are dry nervous or scared of something. You usually will lose your appetite, shut down, and no matter how much someone tries to coax you with fun things you steer clear and avoid whatever it is that is causing you anxiety. Dogs are the same way. When encountering things that are scary to them they don’t want to take food and typically will shut down. This shutting down behavior is highly reinforcing to them and becomes stronger with repetition. The dogs have a perceived idea that whatever they are scared of will cause them harm. With appropriate training tools like prong collars and Ecollars we can bridge the gap between the dog not wanting to do something and us working them through it.

The way that prong collars and Ecollars are intended to be used in modern training systems is as a non verbal language. We should be able to communicate gently that the leash is not just a restraint but a means of giving information. On a flat collar or harness dogs are used to pulling all day long on them and not caring one bit. Since a pinch collar provides a tiny bit of discomfort it actually allows us to communicate using LESS pressure than a standard leash. This is far safer on the dog than them pulling constantly on a standard collar. Ecollars are used the same way. They become an invisible leash to the dog. Because they have 100 levels to them we are able to communicate at levels that most people can’t even feel and make sure that those very subtle sensations have value to the dog and mean to do different things.

Now how does this help the fear? Let’s use the example of a dog that is afraid to walk through doorways, climb stairs, or come out of a hiding spot. Once we have clear communication established with a tool like a prong collar or a Ecollar we can use that communication to block certain choices. If your dog is programmed to not walk through a doorway we can communicate non verbally with the leash to move in a specific direction (through the threshold). If your dog won’t climb stairs we can remove the option of running away from them using leash pressure and help steer them in the correct direction. If your dog likes to try to run to specific hiding spots we can use these communications to block those hiding spots as options. Once we have blocked that option it forces the dog to experience what they would normally be afraid of. Because there is nothing to actually be afraid of it shows them there is truly nothing to worry about. Repetition of this continues to build confidence until the dog is relaxed enough to take food. THEN we can begin using positive reinforcement to counter condition the rest of the “fear” they have. Without having these means of communication in place you will spend the rest of your time trying to bribe and coax the dog with food further showing them there is something to be afraid of because of how big of a deal we are making the situation.

For more information on beginning to establish these nonverbal communications watch my video entitled “introducing the pinch collar” on my YouTube channel!!

Hope this helps!

Using Food In Dog Training

Using food in dog training. I want to take a little bit of a twist with this post here. Everyone knows I’m a huge advocate of using training tools like prong collar and Ecollars and I also stress the importance of making sure dogs understand that they have to work even in circumstances where they may not want to. That being said I see time and time again people saying things like “using food in dog training is nothing but a bribe” and “your dog should just be working for praise and the RELATIONSHIP”. Let me explain why a lot of these thoughts are bogus.

First. Dogs understand yes and no. Period. Being able to communicate both of these in the most clear and effective way to your dog is essential and will make or break how quickly your dog learns. Yes, if you have a dog that you have an incredibly strong bond with you likely will be able to leverage praise as a suitable reward for communicating yes but most people don’t have that and quite a few dogs just don’t care that much about physical praise. In addition to that most TRAINERS have little no relationship with the dogs they are training. Some dogs are even aversed by new people physically interacting with them. In these situations it can be greatly beneficial to have something to bridge the gap between them getting used to us and our presence and serve as a suitable reward while we are working through training.

Second, the idea that all food is a bribe. Most times that I hear this statement, it is from people that do not understand how to effectively use markers or condition emotional responses in dogs. Yes, food CAN be used as a bribe, but that’s not the way it is intended to be used. No differently than an Ecollar can be used as an cruel abusing tool but that is not its intended use. Have a clear understanding on utilizing markers and teaching the dog to access reward is arguably just as important as teaching them to avoid corrections and pressure in training. Working for food accesses an entirely different part of the dogs brain that it is important to be able to understand and teach them to learn focus under.

In short, I absolutely love working with food. It can help speed up your training process and have certain dogs have a far more positive experience in the process. You just have to learn HOW to effectively do it.

Why Positive Reinforcement Alone Will Not Stop Your Dogs Behavioral Issues (Positive Reinforcement VS. Balanced Training Methods)

Positive Reinforcement alone vs. Balanced training methods

One of the biggest questions I receive all the time is why would I use prong collars, ecollars, or anything else when I could just use positive reinforcement with my dog. Before we answer the question we have to establish a few things first here.

First, using a prong collar or an ecollar on your dog does NOT mean that you can not use a clicker and food or any other form of positive reinforcement training that you would like. Actually, most of the top trainers in the world that use these tools are some of the most skilled trainers in teaching behaviors with positive reinforcement. We refer to these types of trainers as “balanced trainers”. This means utilizing all 4 quadrants of learning. Positive reinforcement, negative reinforcement, positive punishment, and negative punishment. This is the type of trainer I categorize myself and my trainers as.

So why do we utilize these methods? Why not just use treats to solve all of our dogs issues and teach them to be the best that they can be? Wouldn’t that be fantastic?! Of course it would! Most people that are against positive reinforcement don’t understand that thats what everyone would like to do!! Training our dogs with food is fun, its engaging, and it builds a fantastic relationship with your dog. If it truly worked alone in creating the results that we all want with our dog they would have the entire dog training industry monopolized.

But here’s the catch. It doesn’t.

It’s important to realize a couple of things about positive reinforcement. First and foremost, it is the leading cause of behavioral issues in dogs. Most behaviors that your dogs do are incredibly self reinforcing. Your dog jumps on the counter to grab a steak. Positive reinforcement caused that. Your dog barks at the neighbors dog. Positive reinforcement caused that. Your dog chases deer our on a hike. Positive reinforcement caused that. All of these behaviors are reinforced by the outcome of what happens when they do them. And unfortunately, a lot of these are so heavily reinforced that no matter how many treats you put in your dogs face they are going to want that reinforcer more than that food.

So heres the cool part.

Learning theory is a beautiful thing. That means learning through consequences. Both good and bad. It’s how humans learn and how dogs learn. It is a universal language. And it doesn’t always have to be harsh and cruel!

Modern day remote collar training or prong collar training is intended to be incredibly conflict free. And when you pair these methods with all of the GREAT things that positive reinforcement can offer you got yourself a REALLY capable means of training your dog. These tools and methods will give you the freedom to not only train your dog, but to enjoy your dog to the fullest by actually stopping the behavioral issues that are limiting your dogs ability to be a dog and teaching them a new way of life. By giving them the ability to be fully integrated into YOUR life.

So please can an open mind about all of this. Do your research when looking for a trainer. You can accomplish far more than you think with the right methods!IMG_9084

Why On-Leash Greetings with other dogs can be one of the single biggest mistake you make with your dog.

On leash greetings with people and dogs are the number one cause of behavioral issues on the walk.  They cause reactivity, condition excitement, and put dogs in immensely uncomfortable situations.  Lets break this down..

First and foremost the number one reason why we discourage on-leash greetings is due to the unnecessary social pressure that it creates for the dog.  In ideal social situations between dogs and dogs or dogs and people the dog is free to roam.  If they get stressed out due to another dog or person they can get up and walk away giving them space and reducing the social pressure.

Being on a leash is very restricting to most dogs.  They are stuck within a 4-6 foot radius of you at all times and are very aware of it.  This puts them in an innate position to tap into their fight or flight responses.  Since they do not have the ability to flee, we see them find alternative ways to deal with the stress.  You will see this in two major forms.  The first, and most common, is in leash reactivity.  Your dog will quickly begin to realize that barking, growling, or lunging makes other dogs or people go away before they have a chance to approach.  The other major sign that we see is your dog aggressing on the dog/person trying to make them go away.

Next, lets take the example of a dog that is not nervous or fearful, but overly playful and social as can be.  There are a few major reasons why we still discourage on-leash greetings, even with these dogs.

The big thing we want to avoid with a social dog by eliminating on-leash greetings is conditioned excitement.  Classical conditioning is a beautiful thing.. except when we are accidentally creating responses to things that we don’t want our dog responding to.  By allowing your dog to say hi to every dog or person that they see on the walk we are essentially telling them “Get excited every time you see a dog”.  This shows itself in pulling, barking, and other unwanted behaviors making it difficult for you to keep your dog under control.  Keep in mind that these issues can go from 0-60 very quickly and turn from playful energy to aggressive and dangerous behavior through continuous rehearsal.

The last reason is more of a precaution that we take than anything.  We don’t know the other dog!!  You could have the most social dog in the world but if your social dog says hi to another dog that doesn’t like it or isn’t quite as social as the owner may say, you could wind up with your dog being attacked.  And that in itself will cause a whole OTHER slew of unwanted side effects.  You may not be concerned about this for a number of reasons but the reality is that I see dogs every single day who have been attacked by another dog on the walk.  It just isn’t worth taking the chance.

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The growl or the bite

A lot of people mistake a growl as a separate behavior from a bite or any other aggressive behavior. A growl IS the aggressive behavior in a more minor form. Catching the behavior at the growl when the dog is more “subdued” increases your chances of the dog processing what you are correcting for.
Correcting a dog growling will NOT make them go straight to the bite. The growl is the first part of the sequence of escalation in dog aggression. You are punishing the THOUGHT of acting aggressive, not a separate behavior. Once you have done that and established a boundary then you can reward for an appropriate behavior knowing that you inhibited the response.
I have seen all too many times people use treats with aggressive dogs only to get bit in the process. Just because you have something that the dog wants does not mean that that will not flip in an instant.

One step at a time..

It’s easy to get overwhelmed with your ambitions.  Most of my friends and colleagues find themselves repeatedly bashing their head against a wall when they think about all that they want to accomplish, yet how far they are from it all.  These people all have high goals, strong work ethic, and a burning passion to better themselves, but still feel like they will never reach those goals or be the person that they want to be.

But when you stop for a moment a look back, there is a good chance that you’ve already gotten there.. again.. and again.. and again.

The problem isn’t that you aren’t meeting your goals.  The problem is that each time you meet them you immediately raise the bar even higher without taking any time to celebrate the little victories.

Take a minute the next time you start to feel overwhelmed and find 2 things that you once told yourself you would never accomplish that you in fact did.

Celebrate them.

You’ve come a long way.

Separate yourself from the mold.

We live in a time where anyone can do anything.  We have a wealth of information that took generations before us centuries to acquire right at our fingertips.  All of this information is up for grabs for any person who has a hunger to change LITERALLY any part of their life.

Yet many people see themselves and their current situation and get discouraged that they will never move forward.  They work 9-5’s following the crowd as they talk about the days gossip and how much they look forward to the weekend to get a break away from it all.  

Is this really the life that you’re meant to live?

Heres the beauty of the time that we live in. Everyone who has ever accomplished anything that you dream of or aspire to do has left BREADCRUMBS.

Challenge!

Pick just one area of your life.  It could be your financials, your relationships, your career, or your favorite hobby.. LITERALLY ANYTHING!  

Pick 3 people that inspire you in whatever area it is that you pick.  Don’t know any people in that area?  That’s fine.  Research that too!  Once you’ve found those 3 find one common trait or idea they all carry that has made them stand out above the rest.  

Get a notebook or journal and take that trait and write it down.  Each day that you write it down, document one thing that you did to move you towards your goal or to follow that habit.  Do this EVERY. SINGLE. DAY.  Document your results each week for a month.  

Watch as your brain shifts each day and week from “these people are superhuman, how can I ever achieve what they have?” To “WOW.  These are all achievable goals if I put in the work and follow the clues left behind”.  

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