What is your dog doing this Halloween?
As the air turns frosty and the leaves start falling it means that Halloween is not far away.
A night of fun and candy, children dressed up in a variety of costumes Halloween can be a very fun evening. But, not all dogs enjoy superheros, princesses and an assortment of ghosts and goblins showing up on their doorstep.
So, how can we help our dogs? First, start by taking a good objective look at your dog. Does your dog enjoy children? Does your dog take new things in stride, or will the costumes cause concern even though the children would be fine if they were dressed normally? Does your dog enjoy children a little too much - bouncing and jumping, pulling at their costumes? Will your dog be into the candy or bolt out the door?
Which options you choose will depend on your situation and your dog.
Whatever option you choose, thinking about it in advance of the actual night will help make your Halloween enjoyable and less stressful than just winging it.
Here's to a safe and enjoyable Halloween for all.
When do you introduce a cue?
When people watch me train puppies, they often ask me when I'm going to say the cue word "down" or "stand" because when I'm first teaching a puppy these behaviours I do it silently. Why do I choose to just use food to get the puppy to do what I want rather than giving a cue word with the lure?
Sometimes puppies aren't sure about lying down, especially in a new place with other things going on. I don't want the puppy to practice ignoring my words, learning that what I say has no relevance to them. Do you remember the Charlie Brown tv cartoons? They had a teacher in the cartoons that only spoke in sounds, not actual words. When she spoke it was just "wah wah wah". I don't want to be that teacher.
This can apply to so many other behaviours, especially those with props such as a perch where the prop itself provides a cue. So next time you want to teach your dog a new behaviour, think about whether you can set up the situation to explain to your dog what you want so that you can get the behaviour to look the way you want it to before you attach a name to it.
This quote (from Julie Daniels) was shared by a fellow student at Fenzi Dog Sport Academy in a discussion thread about memorable instructor quotes and it really resonated with me.
How do you like to be taught? Although we are all individuals, with our individual preferences, my guess is there are some common preferences we share. I like to have things explained to me, and my questions answered before I try something new. If I'm trying something new under my teacher's supervision I like to feel like they are encouraging and patient, especially if I'm moving out of my comfort zone. Constructive feedback to help me improve and time to practice will help me get better.
So, what would it be like to be my dog? To be your dog? Do we break things down into small pieces so we can explain what we want? Do we listen to our dogs when they tell us they don't understand? Since they can't speak to us with words to tell us they are unsure or confused, we need to look at their responses and body language for this information. Are we encouraging and patient with our dogs? Do we set up times for them to practice?
But there's another way to look at this quote. I don't just train dogs, I train people how to train their dogs. How do those people feel when they are learning from me? Do I explain, listen and encourage? Am I patient and kind? How can I do better?
I love teaching dogs and people, I love seeing that moment when things click and the light bulb goes on. I also love learning, I love discovering new things. I hope you do too. Happy training!