Mental Stimulation: Getting the best out of your dog

Did you know, boredom and excess energy are two common reasons for behaviour problems in dogs. This makes sense because they’ve been naturally bred to lead very active lives. Wild dogs spend about 80% of their waking hours hunting and scavenging for food. Domestic dogs have been helping and working alongside us for thousands of years, for tasks such as hunting, farming or protection. For example, retrievers and pointers were bred to locate and fetch game and water birds. Scent hounds, like coonhounds and beagles, were bred to find rabbits, foxes and other small prey. Dogs like German shepherds, collies, cattle dogs and sheepdogs were bred to herd livestock.

Whether dogs were working for us or scavenging on their own, their survival once depended on lots of exercise and problem solving. But what about now?Dog Resting on Floor

Today that’s changed. While we’re away at work all day, they generally have not much else to do but sleep. The result is dogs who are bored, often overweight and have too much energy. It’s a perfect recipe for behaviour problems.

How do we fix this problem?

It’s not necessary to quit your job, take up duck hunting or get yourself a bunch of sheep to keep your dog out of trouble. However, we encourage you to find ways to exercise not only their body, but their brain. And because we all lead busy lives, and can’t always hire a Dog Walker or Daycare Service, if you give your dog “jobs” to do when they’re by herself, they’ll be less likely to come up with her own ways to occupy her time, like chewing your couch, raiding the trash or eating your favourite pair of shoes.

Nik Training Dogs

We, at Dharma Dog Services, have been putting this idea to practise with our Social Club crew, with a new program called “Today We’re Working On…”. We know that all of our Social Club dogs already get an abundance of physical exercise they need, and socialisation, at our Daycare, but what about mental exercise? This where we have stepped in. The results? Some very happy, tired, well behaved dogs! And of course, happy owners!

Below you will see some of the exercises that we have been doing with our dogs. Some behavioural exercises, some fun games and tricks – both just as satisfying for you and your dog.

If you want any tips on games you can play with your dog, or leave for your dog to do whilst you are at work, let us know! Or if you have any of your own, I’d love to hear them. We’re always looking for creative ideas, and requests, that we can put into practise with our crew. Learn more about our Social Club here – or like us on Facebook for more videos & updates.

Today We’re Working On… Patience!

Click here to view Video (1)
Click here to view Video (2)

…Listening!

Click here to view Video (1)

…Show Us Your Tricks!

Click here to view Video (1)
Click here to view Video (2)

Leash Training with Dogs

Dog on Leash

Dogs are not born knowing that they shouldn’t pull ahead or lag behind on a leash. Here at Dharma Dog we understand that some people find teaching leash manners to be challenging because dogs move faster than us and are excited about exploring their surroundings, in and around Vancouver. Leashes also constrain their natural behaviours and movements, to want to run around or even to stop and sniff. The most critical thing to remember is to never allow your dog to pull. If you’re inconsistent, your dog will continue to try pulling because sometimes, it pays off.

Until your dog learns to walk without pulling, consider all walks training sessions. If you’re doing this at home, keep training sessions short for maximum concentration. And since these loose-leash training sessions will be too short and slow to provide adequate exercise, find other ways to exercise your dog until he’s mastered walking.
Teaching a dog to walk without pulling requires plenty of rewards. Use desirable treats that your dog doesn’t get at other times. Soft treats are also great to use so your dog can eat them quickly and continue training.

If your dog gets wildly excited before you’ve even left for your walk, you need to focus on that before anything else. Walk to the door and pick up the leash. If your dog races around, barks, whines, spins or jumps up, just stand completely still. Do and say absolutely nothing until your dog calms down a bit. As soon as he/or she is calm, slowly reach toward her to clip on the leash. If she starts to bounce around or jump up on you, quickly bring your hands (and the leash) back toward your body, holding constant pressure. Wait until your dog has all four paws on the floor again. Then slowly reach toward her again to attach her leash. Repeat this sequence until your dog can stand in front of you, without jumping up or running around, while you clip on her leash. This may seem like a tedious exercise at first, but if you’re consistent, your hard work will pay off. Eventually, your dog will learn to stand still while you attach her leash.

Choosing the Right Walking Equipment

While you’re teaching your dog not to pull, you should be using a six-foot cotton leash. Retractable leashes, or leashes longer than six feet in length are great for trained dogs, but they don’t work if you’re trying to teach your dog not to pull on leash.

Cotton Leash

Having a retractable leash before your dog is leash trained can cause all sorts of panic. For example, in the above scenario, if your dog is being approached by an aggressive dog, it is nearly impossible to get control of the situation if the need arises. It’s much easier to regain control of – or protect — a dog at the end of a six-foot standard flat leash than it is if he’s 20 or so feet away at the end of what amounts to a thin string. The thin string of the these leashes can also easily break, or cause burns, cuts, or injuries to the dog if jerked too suddenly.

Dogs Who Resist Walking on Leash

Some dogs may actually be reluctant to walk on leash. Instead of pulling, they freeze or turn around and pull back toward home. Often these dogs are fearful, and they need help feeling comfortable when walking on leash.

When your dog freezes, you can try stopping a few feet in front of your dog and waiting. If he shows any signs of moving toward you, say “Yes!” and reach toward him to deliver a treat, showing good behaviour. Praise and reward him only for forward movement. It will also help to walk your dog in quieter areas at first. Instead of walking on a busy road, opt for a quiet residential street or a path through the park. Even sitting on a quiet beach might do the trick to allow your dog to get used to being on leash.

Bringing up the Perfect Puppy

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Did you or your family happen to get a new puppy for Christmas? Puppies can bring the greatest of joys! The affection, and sheer innocence can brighten everyone’s day and add a sense of anticipation to return home from a long hard … Continue reading

Happy HOWLoween Tricks and Treats Part 2

Halloween Yorkshire Terriers

HOWLween is fast approaching, and with your dogs enjoying the delicious treats from our previous blog post, it’s the best time to tell you about some tricks you can teach your furry friend.

Don’t forget that you can also use the dog treats for leash training and to reward any good behaviours you may be working on at home currently.

TRICKS

1. Army Crawl

This trick will come in handy for your pup to creep up on unsuspecting trick-or-treaters, have him master this playful trick:

  1. First, make sure to have a treat in your hand, and that your dog acknowledges this, but don’t let him/or her have it until the end. Command your dog to lie down.
  2. Whilst holding the treat in front of your dog, slowly drag it away from him/or her and say “crawl” as you move away.
  3. When your dog follows and crawls, even just for a few inches, ensure to praise your dog for his/or her efforts! However, if your dog jumps up or walks to you instead, don’t reward them and start over.
  4. Continue with the above steps, working on increasing the distance little by little until your dog can crawl over to you without a problem.

2. Kiss

What is cuter than a puppy kiss, so teach your dog how to do this, the polite way, to attract more trick-or-treaters to your house:

  1. Grab a treat and whilst holding it in front of your dogs face, say “Kiss!” and lean your cheek to his/or her nose.
  2. As soon as your dog touches your cheek with their her nose, give him/or her a treat and pull away. Ensure to be quick, so that your dog doesn’t have the chance to lick you before getting the reward.
  3. Make sure to practice this with your dog first before allowing any children to perform the trick.

3. Peek-a-Boo

Teach your pup to hide and pop out at the opportune moment, this trick will be a guaranteed surprise!

  1. Firstly, calmly sit your dog down in front of you.
  2. Stick a piece of tape on the end of his nose. Make sure beforehand that the tape can be easily removed.
  3. When your dog lifts his/or her paw to remove or touch the tape, say “peek-a-boo!” and reward them with a treat.
  4. Repeat these steps until your dog is able to make a connection of the words “peek-a-boo!”, to pawing his nose, to then receiving a treat.

4. High-Five

This is a cool trick for the kids! You’ll definitely get extra candy if your dog is able to high-five the whole neighborhood!

  1. Calmly sit your dog down in front of you and hold a treat in front of your dog’s nose.
  2. Say “high-five!” as you tap his/or her foot.
  3. Your dog should lift his foot to paw at the treat, but you want to quickly move the treat away and instead tap his paw with your palm. Now praise them and offer the treat.
  4. Repeat this until your dog will be able to automatically high-five you on his own, without the treat present.

5. Sing

Now this trick may not be for every breed, and will take some experimenting, but it will be a blast to see your dog take the term “HOWLoween” to the next level.

  1. The first thing you need to experiment on is figuring out what makes your dog howl or sing. This can be an can be an instrument, a siren, or maybe even your own singing voice. In this case, most dogs will howl in response to a high pitched noise.
  2. Play the sound that makes your dog sing, but before you do so, make sure to command him/or her to “sing” when it happens.
  3. When your dog responds with his own song, reward him with a treat.
  4. Keep practising until your dog gets the hang of it and responds to your command rather than waiting for the sound.

Now when you go trick-or-treating with your furry pal, you’ll be able to show him/or her off for more delicious treats in your candy bag!

“Bark” is the New “Tweet”

The Dharma Dog twitter account, @dharmadogcares, is now being written from the perspective of a dog. “Bark” is the new tweet for Dharma Dog and the posts are a mixture of hilarity, irony and absolutely outrageous.

An example of a tweet from our dog is “I practice barking at the door constantly, my neighbours aren’t supportive of my aspirations. I will keep trying!” We also find our bark

Dog on cellphone

This dog hasn’t figured out how to tweet like our dog yet!

tweets in the form of backtalk, even to @cesarmillan, #BOL Bark Out Loud!

Not sure if you know this, but there is a heck of a lot of social media out there for dogs in today’s world. Many of them are for dog owners to create dog profiles for their pet.

Woof.co is the website for the dog app called Woof by Woof Labs. The clever logo is a dog’s paw with the heel in a heart shape. This app claims it will bring you closer to your dog as well as document your dog’s life through photos, marking its territory and sharing photos with other dog owners in your area. Better back up your iCloud or Android phone regularly to save all your hard work!

The website for Pack Dog almost looks like a dating profile webpage with dog photos and their names showcased in a thumbnail photo collage taking up your entire screen. The eye catching webpage greets you and interacts with you until you can’t take it anymore – add my dog to this beautiful display of canines! At the top it says “PACK” with the tagline, “discover the magic of everyday dog moments”. Enticing enough? Hover your cursor over the button to add your dog and this message pops up, “Pack is the beautiful new photo community for people who love their dogs. Add your dog to get started,” it says. How can I resist? Of course I think MY dog is the most beautiful! BOL (bark out loud). In moments, I joined. The picture I chose? My beautiful husband Nik and his handsome dog, Vegas from our Dharma Dog Team photos. I think it’s time you tried it out and experience it for yourself!

TO BE CONTINUED…

On Leash Trails Can Be Awesome

On leash trails can be awesome! Only if everyone respects the by-laws though.

We had a run-in with the same woman who I wrote about before. Click here for a recap.

Only this time really rubbed us the wrong way.

As we were visiting the creek bed I hear scampering just a few metres away from the bushes. I assumed correctly that it was going to be some off-leash dogs. This wouldn’t

Dog Leash walking

Nik manages to handle these four dogs on leash at our favourite trail.

really bug me except for the fact that the woman who owns these two German Shepherds has literally no voice control over them. The younger of the two shepherds approach my dog very assertively and went nose to nose with him. Joanne had Vegas on leash and I had my son Miles on my back in a baby backpack and I had one of our boarding guests “Charlie” on leash with me. I shouted up to the woman who was probably 20 metres away, “Please call your dogs off they are making my dogs uncomfortable”.

She tried…. but failed.She was still out of sight from the dogs and therefore had virtually no shot of being able to actually help.

The younger of the two dogs tried to mount Vegas, who as I mentioned earlier was on leash and unable to run from this situation, thus creating a very dangerous circumstance. A fight occurred and Joanne and I  both had to break it up. Still, there was no physical sign of the owner as she was too far away to get there in time.

What occurred next surprised and upset me.

Joanne mentioned to the woman “Please keep your dogs on-leash, this is a leash only trail.”

The woman shouted back bitterly “I will NOT! ”

I assume that this upset Joanne, and I let her address the woman. I simply observed the interaction.

Joanne replied, “We take our dogs here with our son because it’s a leash only trail. That’s why we come here.”

The woman, again very angry and bitter yelled this time “EVERYBODY let’s their dog off-leash. EVERYBODY does! I have lived in this area for 20 years and you JUST moved in a year ago. You can’t change the rules! I will not stop taking my dogs here off-leash!”

Now, here are a few important facts:

#1 She owns two dogs, both of which are under the age of 7 years old.

#2 The park is less than 8 years old.

#3 We take the trail a few times a week and she is the only person who we’ve witnessed letting their dogs run-free.

#4 Although the woman lives a mere 10 minute walk from the trail she chooses to drive them to the park because she cannot handle being pulled or tugged on leash. She cannot walk them off-leash either in public because as I have mentioned, she has literally no control over the two dogs.

The back and forth did last for some time and I couldn’t quote it all because it was repetitive. Joanne soon realised that it was like speaking with a brick wall and not even worth her time.

The woman began to curse under her breath  and tell us off as she left.

 

So here are my questions that I pose to you all out in Dharma Land:

Does it matter if she’s lived in the neighbourhood longer than us? Should that allow her to treat us and the rules differently?

Do you respect leash only signs? If not, do you understand why they’re important to follow?

How do we go about dealing with this situation? Do we call a by-law officer? After all my dog was bitten while he was on leash and her dogs were not.

I was going to use today’s blog as a resource for you all to really understand the importance of respecting on-leash or off-leash parks. However, I already wrote that joanne and Mileblog over a year ago it seems. The fact this is the same woman and it’s been a year shows a complete lack of respect for others and a selfishness that I do not admire. Are we so entitled as dog owners that we don’t actually care anymore that our behaviour or our dog’s behaviour might be affecting others?

I was very proud of Joanne for letting the woman know that her behaviour was affecting us negatively and we would no longer take the harassment.

So please understand that a rule that may inconvenience you ever so slightly may be helping many others.

Thanks for reading,

 

Nik

 

 

 

Vancouver’s Best Dog Trainers

Here is my list of Vancouver’s best dog trainers.

This list will be a little biased because I will most definitely include myself 😉

I’m comfortable writing a list like this because we all have a little something to offer. Although I am confident in my abilities to teach and help rehabilitate dogs, I only offer one on one services. This may not be the right fit for some of you. There are also circumstances where I will help you learn to understand your dog better, but you may desire a group setting where you can work on agility!

Here are a few of my favourite Vancouver based dog trainers in no particular order.

Shannon Malmberg  from Zen Dog

Shannon is pleasant to speak with and is extremely knowledgeable. She offers a large group class or private consults if necessary.

Donna Hall From Hot Diggity Dog

Donna is a clicker training wiz and a really nice person who truly cares about the dogs she works with. She’s also a pretty decent poker player 🙂 Unfortunately she’ll be moving to Victoria! : (

Shelagh Begg from Dizine Canine

If you have a “bully breed” she’s an excellent choice!

Dog Smart is an alternative that offers long term training for those of you that feel you’d like constant guidance. Class settings, clicker training and a cool store.

I may as well include Dharma Dog! Call 604-327-3649 or email us at: info@dharmadogservices.com

As a certified behaviour specialist  and member of CAPPDT and of the APDT  I offer a variety of methods but really focus on the natural communication of dogs and learning how to build a lasting bond with them. I believe in a hands off approach and really focus on teaching you to better understand your dog. Recently I made a video of a leash training session.

Dog trainer vancouver

Dog Trainer Nik Fabisiak and his trusty sidekick Vegas

Good luck on your search for a dog trainer, but remember, it’s all about finding someone that you’re comfortable with and willing to follow their direction.

P.S. If your dog trainer makes you fee small and dumb for asking questions I suggest you fire them! No room for ego in any industry, especially dog training! 😉

 

Have fun!

 

Nik

 

 

 

 

How to teach your dog the perfect “Sit”

How to teach the perfect sit.

It’s actually not too difficult. Does your dog lift his but off of the ground immediately after being told to sit? Or does he simply ignore your request?

Do you hunch over your dog repeating”sit” “sit” “sit!!” and still nothing?

dog training

This puppy is learning to sit

Let’s work on 3 things:

Your body language

Your patience

and the timing of your reward

When trying to train your dog anything, practice in a quiet and calm environment at first.  You may even want to consider leaving his leash on.

First of all, NO MORE LEANING OVER YOUR DOG! Stand up nice and tall with your feet in a comfy position. By keeping your height elevated and not moving your dog can see that you are in your most confident position. Believe me, they can recognize this.

What motivates your dog? Is it treats? Praise and affection? Toys? Fetch? Most people with have a pretty good idea of what makes their dog tick, and once you have established this we can move on.

Patience: Say the word “Sit”. Don’t ask them, don’t shout it, just say it like you truly mean it. Some people like to implement a hand gesture along with the command and this does help too!  After giving them their command, just wait. Stand Tall, Stand still and wait.  This is where the leash can help with a high energy dog initially as you can restrain his movements.

Believe me that your patience here will pay off! Once your dog does sit don’t reward!!! Not right away at least. To teach a very good sit it is imperative to have the dog stay in the position for a few seconds. Over time you can even push this to minutes! When your’e completely satisfied with the result call your dog out of the position and reward immediately with a treat, or praise, or toy etc.. I taught my dog using fetch as his number one motivator and avoided treats whenever possible.

So remember,

Stand tall and still

Give command

be patient

Let the dog learn that sit really means sit

and reward like crazy when you invite him out of the position!!!

 

Warm regards,

 

Nik

 

 

Bark! Understand why your dog appears to bark unnecessarily

To understand why your dog barks unnecessarily is a tricky subject.

Barking is something dogs often do to sound the alarm of a potential threat (in his mind).  Unfortunately for you and your neighbours, these ‘threats’ can include squirrels, birds, people or dogs walking by, noises, the garbage man, etc. Dogs may also bark when excited to initiate play, however this isn’t the focus of this blog.

 

A dog that barks at everyday occurrences is not a good watchdog. A dog like this is similar to a car alarm that keeps going off for no reason. People will eventually take no notice, even when he barks for a legitimate reason. He will only annoy the entire neighbourhood.

A good watchdog is one that barks only when something out of the ordinary happens; when someone attempts to enter your property or when there is imminent danger like a house fire.  Dogs naturally protect their territory but you need to teach him what is not a threat to you, your family or the territory.

 

Dogs that bark a lot can be of various personality types.  The very confident dog will feel it is his duty to ward off everything and everybody from his turf.  He is insistent in his warnings and is vigilant in keeping things away.  The timid or fearful dog may be very worried about these scary threats, as he feels vulnerable. He will do everything in his power to keep them from approaching his domain so he or his pack isn’t hurt.  This can even escalates into growling and biting.

 

 

A dog may also be barking to call the pack back to him (separation anxiety) as he is worried for his safety and that of the pack.

 

These are all natural survival instincts for dogs.  Since they are dogs living in a human society, we need to teach them in their own language what warrants concern, what is acceptable barking, and what is not.

 

Things that you can put in place to help the situation include:

 

Don’t react to your dog every time he barks by calling him, going to him, or yelling at him.  You are only reinforcing his ‘calling of the pack’ responsibility.

Provide a safe place for him to sleep and relax when he is left alone.  Patrolling an entire house is a huge job that will require lots of barking.

Provide your dog with a sense of strong leadership from you.  He will feel less vulnerable if he knows you are capable of taking care of him and the pack.  This includes setting rules, getting him to work for you by following and focusing, and not acceding to requests from him for attention, games, coming in or going out, etc.

Understanding the temperament of your dog, the constant messages he’s sending to you and others, and the scope of his concern is paramount to educating him and controlling the barking.  Some solutions that are available to stop barking can possibly make the matter worse. So any gimmicky item (bark collars etc) can actually put a great deal of stress on your dog. Although it stops him from barking unnecessarily he definitely is still feeling the need to bark and will not actually understand that he shouldn’t be.

If you’re frustrated by your dogs barking and require help understanding your pet, I highly recommend that you seek proffessional help. Find a trainer that you’re comfortable with and follow through on their instructions.

Good luck!

 

Nik

dog barking out window

SOme dog’s think that it’s necessary to announce the presence of danger…

Fireworks and Dogs = Bad Mix

Well, it’s that time of year again. Leaves falling,raking them up, leaves falling again, raking them up again. I could go on for another few paragraphs about the gentle ebb and flow that is our fall season but I digress. Another guarantee is the loud bangs and pops associated with a plethora of fire crackers and fireworks that will be illuminating the nights sky and providing a cacophony of irritatingly loud noises over the next few weeks. Just to clarify, I don’t mind fireworks personally as much as the opening paragraph may lead you to believe, it’s just that my favourite dog Vegas isn’t a huge fan and I really feel for him. So here are a few suggestions to help your dog cope with the loud and high pitched noises that are terribly confusing and freightening to many canines.

For scientific explanation of why dogs may feel pain when hearing fireworks please click this sentence.

It’s really important to provide your dog with a safe, quiet place that may muffle the noise. Instinctively dogs are denning animals so providing a crate may help them feel more secure.

Provide soothing music, and aromatherapy to help create a more peaceful and stress free environment like we do at Dharma Dog.

You can also try to counter condition the intense reactions by building a more positive association with the noises such a offering special treats which they dont usually consume or playing some of their favourite games.

Remember, living with a dog means learning to understand your role and often in the case of fear issues your role is to be calm and protective so your dog will trust your judgement.

Fearful dog

This dog is hiding under it’s bed because it wasnt provided an alternate den to call home