Tuesday, December 8, 2009


Training related questions are the most common questions that I get asked by my puppy buyers.

One mistake that I find many pet owners make is to ignore good behavior and correct for bad behavior. While this may seem to be the obvious route to take, doing this will inhibit your dog's ability to learn quickly and happily.

Dogs do not learn without being reinforced for their good behaviors. How else are they to know what we want from them? We can teach what we do not want with a negative voice and response, but it takes a huge amount of time to shape a correct behavior using negative responses to incorrect behavior. Dogs work for praise/games or food. Most people do not use praise correctly as it requires much more than a monotone "good girl" to be a high level positive reinforcement. This is why cookies are generally more effective, but both work if used correctly. If you want your English Cocker to work for praise, "have a party" with her when she has done something great and have a short play session with a toy. Alternate food and praise as rewards. A dog who already knows something well can receive very low level rewards (such as verbal praise) and be happy. A much higher level of reward is required with a young dog. When I am doing obedience training with a novice dog, I use tons and tons of treat. With a higher level dog, like my six year old Sophie, a stick of cheese can go a very, very long way.
Another thing to remember is that if a puppy or novice dog does something wrong twice, go back to an easier step where she can be successful. It is important for your dog to be successful more often than she is wrong. This will build her desire to please. It may not seem like it, but she is learning more when she does something correctly and is praised than she learns if she is corrected for the wrong behavior. So, if I am working downs, I put the puppy in a down wait, wait one second, say good down wait, and feed (happy voice). I try again, waiting five seconds. If the puppy waits, it is good down wait and feed, if not, I lure the puppy in to a down or gently push her down (depending on the puppy as some resist being pushed) and say, no, gotta down, gotta wait (still a happy voice.) You can pull gently down on the collar while saying this. Give the command again, if she is wrong again, go back to one second so that you can praise and feed for the correct behavior.

The other mistake that pet owners often make is to faze out food too quickly. Question: When do I stop using treats?? Answer: Never!

Once your dog understands a behavior and reliably offers it to you when asked, you can switch to intermittently offered treats. However, if you completely stop rewarding the behavior, your dog will eventually stop giving you that behavior (-: When I visit the dog park with my dogs, I always have my pockets full of cookies. I call my dogs and feed cookies for their recalls. I often get asked how my dogs have such nice recalls even around so much distraction. My answer is that my dogs are continually rewarded for coming to me. They are just waiting until the moment I say their names to start running to me as fast as they can.

My dog doesn't know how to (?)

I suggest that you take a class with your dog. The majority of dog owners (myself included) learn much better when receiving feedback from an experienced trainer who is watching you work with your dog. You may not have the correct timing for your rewards or commands and may need help before your dog will completely understand the behaviors you are asking for. I know quite a bit about training my own dogs and I still take classes. Every time I take a class I learn something new or remember something that I have forgotten. Also, classes provide an environment full of distractions to train around and a structured training schedule.

When you are taking classes DO YOUR HOMEWORK. It is not enough to take a class and not work your dog in between classes. In order to get the most from your class, train your dog at least 2-3 times in between classes. Your training sessions can be short and sweet. Set a kitchen timer for the length of time you want to train for (I recommend under a half hour) and work until the timer goes off. Keep it positive and make sure you end on a successful note. If you get stuck on something, make a mental note to ask your instructor to work with you on that in class, and move on to something else. Never work the same command unsuccessfully. If you are unsuccessful, you need outside help before you and your dog become frustrated.

One other comment I commonly get is: My dog is too wild when I train with food!

This means that your dog is highly motivated by food. Please do not stop using food, which may be your initial response. If your dog or puppy becomes a little crazed when you bring out the cookies, you need to take the time to work through this. Continue using food and continue training. Eventually, your puppy will concentrate more on learning and working to get the cookie. It may take a bit of time for your puppy to understand that the point of training is not to leap for food, but to work for it. If your puppy is highly motivated by food, it is a blessing and not a curse. Continue working through it and continue building the association between food and training. A highly food motivated dog who understands that certain behaviors will be rewarded with food will eventually be very reliable about offering those behaviors (-: I love to work with an energetic, food motivated puppy myself (-:

I can't seem to get motivated to train (or) I don't have time to train my dog.

Neither of these are a very good excuse for not training your dog. Training time provides mental and physical exercise for your dog as well as time for the two of you to bond. An obedience class is just 1 hour a week. If you are lacking motivation, sign up for a class as the structure will be good for you. If you are lacking time, try to train for just ten minutes every night. Short training sessions are great for your dog, and ten minutes a night becomes 70 minutes of training a week.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Bed Dogs

I'm snuggling in bed with Lexi Lou and Sophie while downloading new apps to my iPhone. A nice way to end the day! While not all dogs have the appropriate manners to be allowed to sleep on the bed, I have no personal problem with dogs sleeping on the bed with their owners. Sleeping on the bed and other furniture is, however, the first priveledge I will recommend dog owners take away from a dog who is acting dominant or possesive in *any* way or at *any* time, so sometimes people think I do not believe that dogs should ever be allowed on the bed. As a side note, if your dog is continually getting on and off the bed during the night, I recommend a crate or dog bed on the floor. Interestingly enough, in my experience, many dogs are actually happier sleeping in a dog bed on the floor. Also, I do not recommend allowing puppies to sleep on the bed until after a year of age. Puppies are safest crated at night and need to become accustomed to sleeping in a crate in case they need to travel or be boarded with a friend. Puppies also should not be given such a high value priveledge, in my humble opinion.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Monday, October 26, 2009

Puppy Play Dates

I am sure most of my puppy buyers have heard me lecture about the importance of socializing a puppy in order to end up with a friendly, well adjusted adult dog who is good with everyone, both human and canine. If you expect your new puppy to be friendly with other dogs, he or she needs to be socialized with a variety of dogs. If you expect your new puppy to be good with kids, he or she must be socialized with children from an early age.

Puppy play dates are an excellent way to socialize your puppy and also to provide the exercise and mental stimulation that your puppy needs. I recently received these photos from the owners of Bella and Maggie from the M Litter. These two girls had a play date together and obviously had a fabulous time. I am so happy their owners took the time to get them together!! Socializing and training puppies can be very time consuming, but the effort will be rewarded with a well behaved and social adult dog.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

English Cockers - The worst thing about this breed!

Why did I have to fall in love with a breed that requires so much grooming???

Those of you who know me know that I am completely and totally in love with this breed. They are almost a perfect match for me. Energetic, smart, funny, athletic, friendly, cheerful, and biddable. They are a great breed for someone interested in performance events. They love to work and their love for cookies makes this a fabulous breed to train for someone (me) who prefers to have a lighter hand when training. In fact, heavy handed training methods do not usually work with this breed. There is no need for a battle of wills with my dogs... they work for food and a few extra snuggles.

I also love the size of this breed. A 200 vari-kennel is just about perfect for traveling with to shows, yet they are large enough and hardy enough to play at the dog park with goldens and labs. I cringe sometimes when I see smaller breeds of dogs at the dog park running with much larger breeds of dogs. No need to worry about my cockers. They run, jump and play with the big dogs and yet make nice playmates for smaller dogs as well.

I love the snuggling capabilities of this breed. They are never happier than when they are in your lap, shoving a toy in to the crook of your neck and then dropping it in favor of wet kisses all over your face. They are so charming and happy. All people are their friends, all dogs are their playmates. All tennis balls are for fetch and birds are for chasing.

Overall, this breed is a wonderful match for an active home that does not mind a dog who can't keep four on the floor (-:

However, this breed needs regular grooming!!! They need to be combed out every other day and need to be groomed about every 6 weeks. When an ECS is spayed or neutered, or clippered, they tend to grow even more coat and will need even more grooming. They need their nails trimmed, ears cleaned out, clippering, stripping, feet scissored, the list goes on. If you like grooming yourself, that is great, but if not, you should expect to have a *very* good relationship with your groomer. You should shop around for a groomer just as you would look for a veterinarian. Try to find someone that you like and trust as you will have an ongoing, long term relationship. It is in the best interest of your dog if you can find a groomer who will listen to you and who you can completely trust. All groomers are NOT created equal. Find one that you and your dog like and feel you can work with.

Get your English Cocker on scheduled grooming visits and stick with the schedule. Puppies should be taken to the groomer for face and feet trims and baths in order to get accustomed to the environment. It is not fair for you to expect your puppy to have a full haircut for the first time at 6 months of age. Your puppy need to be trained to accept and behave for grooming just as you will train a sit and a down. If you will use a professional groomer, your puppy needs to learn to be groomed and handled by strangers at a young age. I recommend the first grooming appointment be made for age 16 weeks, as soon as your puppy has had all of his or her puppy vaccinations.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Off Lead Play For Puppies

Risa, our liver puppy, formally known as Calypso's Barista, is now 12 weeks old. She is such a good puppy, but a bundle of energy and enthusiasm. Meg, from our M Litter, who is now 13 weeks old, came over today for a play date with Risa. They had a TON of fun playing together. They sounded quite wild and crazy as they raced around barking, growling, wrestling, and leaping at each other. Meg's mom works as a veterinary technician, so she had the patience to stay here for several hours and watch puppies play with me, knowing, as I know, that off lead play time with other dogs is an essential part of socializing a baby puppy. Dogs learn so much from each other. They learn appropriate play styles, greetings, when to be submissive, etc. They learn how to interact appropriately with dogs only by playing with other dogs. Puppies also learn proper bite inhibition by playing with other puppies their age.

Many pet owners neglect this part of socializing their new puppies. This can lead to an adult dog who is fearful of other dogs or who gives the wrong cues while playing with other dogs which can lead to inappropriate behavior, either from your own dog or from the other dogs interacting with your dog. Dogs are not miniature humans and one of the best ways to allow them to develop proper canine language is to allow puppies plenty of off lead play time with other dogs and puppies while they are growing up.

If you have a puppy growing up at home, schedule a play date with another puppy your puppy's age. If you do not know another puppy, consider taking a puppy class where off lead play time is part of the curriculum. Once your puppy has had all of his or her vaccinations, you can look for a doggy daycare that will allow your puppy to visit for a few hours or a dog park with a "small dog" section where your puppy can make friends with dogs his or her size.

Properly socializing your puppy will take work on your part!! Remember, though, that in order to end up with a well socialized, well behaved adult dog, you must first put the appropriate amount of effort in to raising your puppy correctly.

One added benefit to puppy play sessions... a very tired and happy puppy! Risa is currently quietly sleeping in her crate. Too tired to even chew on the bone I gave her!

Friday, July 24, 2009

Dunkin x Sophie Puppies Age 3 Weeks

Peter x Jasmine Puppies age 4 weeks

They are growing up too fast!! I think these pictures are self explanatory. Just a glimpse of the puppies in their little puppy world. They think life is way too much fun!