Client spotlight: Daphne the Chi/terrier mix

Daphne is always smiling at our training sessions!

Daphne is always smiling at our training sessions!

Congratulations to our July client spotlight, Daphne the Chihuahua/terrier mix!

Daphne is a very special girl who is a total delight! She is also very lucky; her parents are very proactive in their care for her. At nine years of age, Miss Daphne is still a spunky, smiling girl who is ready for fun. She’s been picking up on clicker training fast! She’s proof in the pudding that old–ahem, mature–dogs can learn new tricks.

Another consideration Daphne has is that she is going blind; she has progressive retinal atrophy. Clicker training is a great way to help boost her confidence and give her some clear information about how to adapt in this time of her life. We are using tactile (surfaces) and scent (smells courtesy of Dr. Bronner’s fabulous non-toxic line) cues to help her navigate her home.

In addition, we are getting her used to noises, strange people and dogs in order to prepare her for anything that may become more fearful to her through her loss of hearing. By pairing these things with awesome stuff (like her favorite, freeze-dried raw chicken liver!), we will be able to help her feel more comfortable with them, rather than fear them.

I very much appreciate the dedication her parents are showing through working on training with her, and ensuring this big transition in her life goes more smoothly. Their trust in me to help them achieve these goals is very humbling. It is a real pleasure working with all three of them and having this wonderful experience in building a relationship together that can help Daphne remain happy for her golden years to come!

Thank you, Daphne and family!
Laura
Owner, Delightful Doggies

I am a Clucker Trainer

delightfuldoggies:

I loved this blog SO MUCH I just HAD to reblog it! I’ve often heard clicker training/positive reinforcement critics say “it’s just a fad.” This proves their argument and negative attitude moot! This is a wonderful read I hope you enjoy!
Laura
Owner, Delightful Doggies

Originally posted on awesomedogs:

Some claim that there is a new fad running rampant through dog training circles.

It is based on some of that sciencey stuff by Pavlov, Skinner, Watson and Thorndike.  A few well-known trainers such as Breland, Keller and Bailey furthered this fancy stuff by using geeky science outside the lab, causing this new age stuff to proliferate to the dog owning public.

Perhaps you have heard of some of these fads.  You’ll recognize these fancy methods because they use terms such as positive reinforcement, desensitization, counterconditioning and the charming though less scientific term clicker training… among others.  Some feel that these will quickly pass.

I’m still waiting.

It should happen at any moment.  After all, this fad has been around for at least 162 years.  Yes, you read that correctly.

One hundred sixty two years of “fancy” training and counting.

In 1882, S.T. Hammond published, “Practical Dog Training or…

View original 977 more words

Help for dogs with separation anxiety

A common complaint with dog pet parents are disruptive and destructive behaviors while they are away. Some of these may indicate boredom or lack of mental/physical exercise, while for some it may indicate anxiety, including separation anxiety.

sa dogWhat is Separation Anxiety?
Separation anxiety is distress a dog undergoes when separated from a certain individual, or individuals. Some dogs may have subtle signs of anxiety, while others may be in extreme distress. Signs of separation anxiety include: digging and scratching at doors or windows in an attempt to get to the person(s); destructive chewing; vocalizations such as whining, barking or howling; pacing, drooling and other signs of stress; escaping; and urination and/or defecation. Some dogs may also engage in copraphagia—eating their own excrement—something they may not do in the presence of their parent. Some extreme cases can result in self-injury.

It can be difficult to determine separation anxiety, so it’s important to set up a way to monitor the dog while you are away to see what is going on. Living in the digital age makes this relatively easy as there are built-in webcams and applications that allow for easy setup. By setting up a system you can then watch your dog for body language indicative of stress and evaluate if the dog is anxious, or simply bored while you are gone.

What Causes Separation Anxiety?
There is no single answer for why a dog may have or develop separation anxiety. Genetics may play a role, as may detachment issues (i.e., being weaned too early). Other causes include life changes (moving residences, losing a family member or other pet, or changes in regular routines), a traumatic event from the dog’s viewpoint, or being accustomed to never being alone and then suddenly being left alone.

How to Treat Separation Anxiety
First, it’s important to be patient. Understand that your dog isn’t trying to embarrass you or make your life awful. Punishment for any destruction or soiling can be very detrimental in treating the problem successfully. I never use punishment in training for any reason, and anxious dogs in particular should never be subjected to harsh, aversive training that is based on unscientific traditional or dominance-based methods. I highly advise obtaining professional help from a certified dog trainer, and/or dog behavior consultant, particularly in severe cases. Nothing can replace the help of a well-versed professional!

If your dog has mild separation issues, make your departures and arrivals uneventful. Ignore your dog for a few moments when you do come back home: get a drink of water, take care of other simple tasks first, and then say hi in a way that is friendly, but not over the top! Likewise, when you leave, you can say a simple goodbye, or I always say, “I’ll be back,” (Terminator-style, lol). Drawing less rather than more attention to your comings and goings is important.

Make sure you have project toys ready to keep him preoccupied when you leave; stuffed Kongs are a great option. Ten to fifteen minutes before you leave, give him a frozen, stuffed Kong and put on some soothing music (classical music is great, or I also recommend the music from www.ThroughADogsEar.com). Some dogs benefit from calming tools like Thundershirts, Rescue Remedy, ADAPTIL or ComfortZone diffusers/collars/sprays, aromatherapy sprays, or homeopathic supplements. You can read more about calming tools on a blog of mine here. Chewing items are important to consider: you want to use items your dog won’t hurt himself with, so don’t leave him with anything new that you haven’t tested. It’s important the dog has outlets for chewing, as it is relaxing for him, but you also want to ensure his safety.

Having a calm environment and using tools to help your dog relax is very important; by doing all this in advance of your departure, you can then get ready while he is busy with his Kong and draw less attention to yourself. However, to ensure that these items don’t become “triggers” for your departure, from time to time you will want to give him these items when you aren’t leaving. Triggers are items or situations that cause a dog to react in a way we do not want—so with separation anxiety, your routine for leaving can trigger anxiety in your dog. It’s important to render these triggers meaningless, so by picking up your keys and putting them back down periodically throughout the day, the dog sees that the keys don’t always signal that you are leaving. Repeat this process with your purse, jacket, briefcase or anything else in your routine that your dog may use to predict your departure.

For some dogs with separation anxiety, confinement may make the problem worse, so crating or confinement in a small room may not be a good idea. If you are worried about your dog being destructive, try managing the environment by using closed doors and gates as appropriate to limit your dog’s ability to roam in your home. Also pick up and put away items that are valuable or may be dangerous to your dog.

Practice smaller departures. Maybe don’t even leave at first; just touch your door knob or turn it slightly, on and off, throughout the day. This will also desensitize your dog to that being a trigger for your departure. You can then practice just stepping out the door, or staying outside for just a few seconds to minutes, then coming back in. Gradually doing this so that the dog isn’t too stressed is very important. You can then increase the time, decrease the time, and vary it as the dog can be comfortable while you are gone, to help him learn how to be alone.

Of course, it’s hard to manage this problem and do things very gradually if you have a regular 8 – 5 job, so you may need to get creative in managing the problem as you can treat it. Using dog walkers or friends to come by as needed to shorten the time alone is an alternative, especially in milder cases. Dog daycare may be a better option for some, or maybe you can take him to work with you. It’s important to do whatever possible to ensure the dog isn’t in distress on a daily basis, as stress will make it impossible to modify the behavior, so management is extremely important for success.

It’s important to do training that will help your dog gain confidence and independence. Clicker training cues such as sit-stay and simple tricks and games will go a long way in helping your dog build confidence. If your dog sticks to you like Velcro when you’re home, honing a good sit-stay and using some gates as barriers to gradually help them learn to be physically separated from you while you are with them, will help them cope when you are ultimately gone.

Likewise, if you walk your dog and do some basic training drills done before you are going to leave, he will have less energy to be anxious while you are gone! Physical as well as mental stimulation is important for a well-tired dog who can rest while you are away.

Consider your dog’s diet as well. Commercial diets are filled with ingredients that can make things worse for your dog. Fresh diets (raw or dehydrated raw, home cooked meals) are ideal, or at the very least, kibble/wet foods that are made using all-natural ingredients with no preservatives/artificial colorings or additives, are very important. Read the labels! Whole Dog Journal and DogFoodAdvisor.com are great sources of information about how to properly evaluate dog foods and understand your dog’s nutritional needs.

For extreme cases, especially where natural calming aids and management tools may not be enough to reduce stress to have success in behavior modification, a consult with a vet who specializes in behavior modification and medicines may be necessary. Pharmaceutical intervention is not always needed but may very well be helpful, depending on the severity of the anxiety and the individual dog.

Other Resources
There are two books I can recommend concerning separation anxiety: Nicole Wilde’s Don’t Leave Me! Step-by-Step Help for Your Dogs and Patricia McConnell’s I’ll Be Home Soon!: How to Prevent and Treat Separation Anxiety.

The Importance of Professional Help
While I hope this article is a good resource for anyone with questions about dog behavior and training, it does not replace the need for a qualified professional. Please do not try to go it alone if you have worries about your dog’s health and well-being. We have many great positive reinforcement trainers and behavior consultants in the greater Denver area, and throughout Colorado. I am happy to help you find a qualified professional who will treat you and your dog with the respect you deserve. Feel free to contact me for help.

Thank you!
Laura McGaughey
Owner, Delightful Doggies

June 2014 clients

Happy summer! Summer is always a busy time for the business, and June was another fun-filled month with your beloved pets, and their dog training and pet sitting needs. Thank you so much for choosing Delightful Doggies for your needs.

Click on the below photo icons to view the June client slideshow. You can see all client slideshow photos on our Flickr site. Don’t forget to join us at our Facebook page for daily photos and other great content.

Heidi Gemma Magik Trixie Patrick Nash Mowgli Samwise Bo Koa and Basil Pepper Lucy Teddy Luca Beau and Berkley Rilo Daphne Pablo Mac Buster and Arial Mochi Reese and Reg Holly Varly and Chase Charlotte Thea

Thank you!
Laura
Owner, Delightful Doggies

Client spotlight: Heidi the schnauzer

Congratulations to our June client spotlight, Heidi the miniature schnauzer!

Heidi practices

Heidi practices “down” in her yard

Heidi is a lucky puppy; her parents know the importance of good training for her and themselves and have enrolled Heidi in coaching as well as regular day training sessions. This means I get to work with her one-on-one regularly on basic cues and manners training, as well as do coaching sessions with her parents present so they can learn about how to work with her, too, and address anything they would like to as she grows and develops. It’s inspiring to have clients like Heidi’s parents, who see the value in providing her the tools she needs to grow into a great adult companion.

It’s enjoyable to work with Heidi because she, like so many dogs, responds enthusiastically to clicker training and loves working for special treats, as well as toy and play rewards. As with any puppy, her attention span can be short, but by taking breaks to play some fun “catch me” games, we can still reinforce things we want (like coming to me by catching me!) and also enjoy some belly rubs to relax and refresh for more training drills. Also like other puppies, Heidi is quite the sponge, picking up on new skills rather quickly. Her confidence is also bolstered by positive reinforcement training. It’s a joy to be part of all this!

Thank you, Heidi, for being such a fun client and for your parent’s trust in Delightful Doggies to ensure you’re a happy, well-trained pup!

Laura
Owner, Delightful Doggies

Sweet Miss Noel is looking for a new home!

Noel would love to be your new family member!

Noel would love to be your new family member!

Noel the shepherd mix is a sweet soul in search of a new home, and I am committed to helping her find it!

She is a little over a year old and is very active, fit and energetic. She can be a bit shy but once she warms up, is very affectionate and enthusiastic. She’d be a great fit for an active single person, couple or family with mature children, where she would be included in activities and given structure to harness her amazing intelligence and stamina!

I have had several training sessions with Noel and can attest she is a lovely dog with a vast amount of potential. She is looking for a new home because her current environment is scary to her. She is sensitive to noises and strange movements, and the apartment complex in which she currently lives is too noisy and chaotic, and it has made her nervous. This nervousness has led to a negative feeling toward the environment, and she is afraid to go out into the courtyard, especially after having some stressful run-ins with other dogs.

Noel has done better outside this environment and will no doubt be a great companion with someone who is patient and gentle, and who uses positive reinforcement to help her gain confidence and channel her energy. She would do best in a home with an active single adult or couple as the only dog, or possibly a family with mature children only, and with an easygoing yet active dog or two who will give her space as needed, It’s unsure how she’d react to cats, though it may work if given the right introduction. A home with a 6′ privacy fence yard would be optimal.

I am offering a FREE training session to whoever can take her in on a foster or permanent (preferably permanent) basis to ensure she and her humans are set with tools and support they need to succeed. Whoever does take her will need a commitment to long-term training using positive reinforcement ONLY. Click here for more photos of Noel and please email me at laura@delightfuldoggies.com if you are interested in fostering or adopting, or can help in placing her in a new home.

Thank you,
Laura
Owner, Delightful Doggies

Now accepting in-person credit card payments with Square

square-pictureDelightful Doggies is now accepting credit card payments through the Square reader. This means clients who wish to pay for services using a credit card may do so in person. Unfortunately we must swipe a card and get a signature so this option is not as viable for pet sitting clients who aren’t able to hand over payments in person.

We hope this will make it more convenient for training clients to purchase training packages and other services in person, and we are always happy to receive feedback about how to improve our customer service.

Thank you so much! I look forward to assisting you soon,
Laura
Owner, Delightful Doggies

May 2014 clients

May was a great month of growth. I feel like we’ve accomplished a lot together for the benefit of your dogs! It’s inspiring to have such wonderful clients who are committed to what is best for their furry ones. Thank you for allowing me to be part of the process!

Check out the May moments we shared in a slideshow by clicking on the photo icons below. You can also see all our client slideshow photos on our Flickr site, and don’t forget to join us for more photo fun, and other great content, on our Facebook page!

Lupo Charlie Pepper Lucy Watson Gemma Mowgli working with Jasper Samwise Mac Teddy Pablo Trixie Patrick Magik Noel Deacon & Percy Holly Turtle Oliver Lola Heidi Reg & Reese Mochi Nash Petey

Not pictured but still very appreciated: Moses the cat.; and Nina the boxer mix and Leroy the shepherd mix.

Thank you!
Laura
Owner, Delightful Doggies

Tools to help calm your dog

The market is full of products to help calm your dog. Here are some tools I and other trainers and dog owners have used, that could be useful to you if you have a dog that is fearful, reactive, anxious or easily over-aroused.

Uma models her Thundershirt

Uma models her Thundershirt

  • Thundershirt. The Thundershirt has become one of the most well-known products out there. It works by essentially swaddling the dog, which can be comforting. The pressure it gives can give an anxious dog some comfort, and relief. Alternately, taking a T-shirt and wrapping it on a dog can be just as effective; put it on the dog with the front of the T-shirt on the dog’s back, front legs through the T-shirt arms, and tie it snuggly in the back. To introduce it, I recommend putting a Thundershirt or T-shirt wrap on your dog when you know he will be calm, and give some yummy treats. This will ensure it has a positive association before you try to use it in less serene moments.
  • Thundercap. Formerly known as the Calming Cap and developed by Trish King for a client whose dog became agitated in the car, this tool can help with dogs who are easily aroused or anxious in public, as it helps filter the visual stimulation that causes a dog to go over his behavioral threshold. It can be a great tool to help keep the dog calm and assist in modifying the behaviors. I highly recommend working with a trainer when using this tool, and it’s also very important to acclimate the dog properly to the equipment so it doesn’t make problems worse. If it is too aversive for the dog, it can actually make things worse, so please contact us for help in using this tool.
  • Classical or calming music, or white noise. Calm music can help ALL of us, including our animals! Living in Denver and using Comcast’s basic cable, I have Music Choice and love the light classical and soundscapes channels for my pets. I always put it on several minutes before leaving (and leave it on when I’m there and working too!), and it helps to calm them and drown out other noises from the outside world that may over-stimulate them or make them more anxious. Fans can also be good–producing white noise to drown out sounds your dog may find bothersome. There is also music you can download from Through A Dog’s Ear.com; this is classical music that has been re-arranged to the rhythm of a resting heart beat, which can be very relaxing for your dog. Downloads are just $9.99, and they also have a version that you can play in the car if your dog has issues in the car, and music for cats too!
  • Diet. It’s very important to give your dog the best diet possible; artificial colorings, preservatives and additives definitely play a role in behavioral health as much as physical health! Read labels and know what they mean! The Whole Dog Journal is a great publication for both nutrition/training information for your dog and each year they publish a “best foods” list with an accompanying article about how to read pet food labels and choose food for your dog’s needs. Dog Food Advisor.com is also a good site for information about dog foods. Fresh food is great, and I often recommend turkey or chicken to clients because tryptophan can be calming and help their dogs. B-vitamins that can help with stress are also good supplements for consideration and dark green vegetables have B-vitamins so even just adding some green beans is simple and effective!
  • Dog Appeasing Pheromone. Also known as DAP, there are several versions of this product, like ADAPTIL and Comfort Zone. It can come in a diffuser form that you can just plug into a wall, or you can also get spray bottles and calming collars of DAP. DAP is a synthetic version of the pheromones mother dogs release as they lactate, which can be very calming to dogs. It has also been clinically proven to reduce barking in shelter environment!
  • Zylkene. This product has been used for a while in the UK and is now gaining popularity here. The active ingredient is casein, a milk protein that produces a relaxing effect on the brain. You can order the product online; my vet, Pets on Broadway, also carries it.
  • Massage and TTouch. The power of touch can help ease your dog if he/she doesn’t find being touched uncomfortable. There are many practitioners of massage who can show you basic strokes, or you can find a TTouch practitioner or courses to learn more as well.
  • Acupuncture and Holistic Care. There are more and more veterinarians who are learning about traditional Chinese medicine, herbal remedies, chiropractic care and more. Take care to ensure whoever you choose is adequately qualified and do your research. The American Holistic Veterinary Medical Association has some useful information as well as a referral list. In the Denver area, I can recommend Gentle Vet, Dr. Rhea Dodd. She does an awesome job providing my foster dog, Uma, with acupuncture and chiropractic care.

As with humans, each dog will respond differently to different types of products and combinations of products, and most of these are very safe. We do recommend working alongside your vet and trainer to determine the best options and ensure the best possible success! Trainers can add a behavior modification plan to help your dog learn relaxation protocols, alternate behaviors and counter-condition responses to build a path for a stress-free life together. Vets can help monitor the need for any traditional medications, and provide referrals to other health professionals. It’s extremely important to find qualified help and not place your dog at risk for any further injury.

I hope you’ve found this quick guide helpful! I welcome your feedback.
Laura
Owner, Delightful Doggies

Even good dogs can bite

This week is National Dog Bite Prevention Week, and I had so many things going through my mind to write about for this event, but the one I kept coming back to was, Even good dogs can bite.National Dog Bite Prevention Week

We all have our thresholds of stress we can handle, and our dogs are no different. A dog that is being challenged or whose signs are being ignored, even if he is a “model” dog, can be pushed too far. Think of it this way: a dog may feel slightly stressed by young children, and have a fear of men with beards. This dog may also have a noise phobia, and be more uncomfortable when the weather is stormy. Overall, however, this dog is very friendly and has never had any strikes on his record. In fact, he seems like a perfect pooch.

One day, the dog’s owner decides to have a party. Several men with beards show up; a few couples that show up have their children in tow; and as the party time draws near, clouds approach on the horizon. An hour into the party, the dog bites a young child that runs past the table under which he is lying. An unprovoked bite by an aggressively acting dog, some may say.

However, when you look at the situation from the perspective of the dog, you can see that there were several stressors in the mix; combining all these components is what we call “trigger stacking.” While one man in a beard may not elicit a strong response in a dog, several showed up, as did some children, and a thunderstorm. All of these together were just too much for the dog, and he felt he had no choice but to react. He went over his bite threshold.

When we can be aware of what our dogs are telling us and take measures to ensure they are without stress and not in situations that are uncomfortable and fearful, we can avoid bite situations. We can also take proactive measures to train to help the dogs learn more appropriate ways to deal with their stress. Far too often, not enough people see the value in understanding these concepts, and expect too much of their dogs.

So my plea to all those out there reading this is–remember your dog’s limits and keep him and others safe. Be proactive. Put in work to help your dog be less susceptible to “trigger stacking.” And never punish signals like growling–this is another area that can be detrimental. When we discourage their warning signals, they may forgo them and go straight for the bite.

For more information about bite prevention, see my previous blog post here where there are some other great resources, and a video for the kid folk out there. Also, check out this other great blog about bite threshold.

Thank you and happy training!
Laura
Owner, Delightful Doggies