Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Holiday Gifts Ideas for Pet Lovers

Do you need to give a gift for an animal lover?  Want to give something meaningful for the holidays?  Here are some ideas and suggestions:

Books

Here are some books that make nice gifts or are good holiday reading:

  • The Dog Whisperer Presents - Good Habits for Great Dogs: A Positive Approach to Solving Problems for Puppies and Dogs by Paul Owens.  This book covers positive approaches to solving problems for puppies and adult dogs.  It tackles modifying dog behavior from the perspective of changing habits.  This book also has a unique approach to dog training called “Take a Vacation from Canine Education.”  Those of you who have taken my classes might recognize this approach as a comprehensive version of the “Magnet Game” we play in class.  Not only is this approach easy to follow but it takes the stress and pressure out of dog training.  Small brag:  my Akita and Shiba Inu are in some of the pics.



  • Reaching the Animal Mind: Clicker Training and What It Teaches Us About All Animals.  This book explains why clicker training is such an effective training tool.  Karen Pryor is a former marine mammal trainer that popularized the use of clicker training with dogs.  Her book has many entertaining anecdotes that demonstrate the theories involved with training animals whether it be a dog, a dolphin or even a hermit crab!



  • The Science of Consequences: How They Affect Genes, Change the Brain, and Impact Our World.  Here is one that is on my reading list this holiday season.  Featuring illustrative human, pet, and wild-animal anecdotes, this book is a unique and fascinating introduction to a science that is truly epic in scope. Children quickly learn that actions have consequences. This elementary lesson is repeated again and again throughout adulthood as we adjust our behaviors according to the reactions they produce in the social and natural environment.








Donate to an Animal Rescue

During this time of year, animal rescues are in need.  Consider donating money or even your time to an animal rescue.  With the cold weather, many shelters and rescues need blankets and old towels to help keep the animals warm.  If you are no longer using your dog’s crate, x-pen or leash, consider donating it to a rescue.  Call first, to see if they have a need for your equipment.

Pet Portrait

There are many talented animal photographers in town who specialize in pet portraitures.  An animal lover would love to have a professional portrait of their pet as a keepsake.  A couple of people in town are:

http://www.pawprintspictures.com/about2.html - the photos on my website were taken by Erin Tomanek.

www.furryfotoes.com – I have used this company as well for pet portraits.


Gift Certificates

Many pet boutiques, pet stores, pet groomers and even certain dog trainers offer gift certificates you can give your friends. Recently, a client purchased some private training lessons for her mom to help with a newly adopted dog and another client purchased group lessons for her son and daughter-in-law.  These make great gifts for someone who has a new dog or a dog that needs a bit of training.




Gift Baskets

Many companies can make dog-themed gift baskets.  You can build a gift basket with dog treats and bowls or doggie toys.  Here are some fun ideas for interactive dog toys that they will be sure to love:

http://www.blog.pawsitivefeedback.com/2010/01/interactive-dog-and-cat-toys.html



Monday, December 8, 2014

Peeing in the Rain


A common complaint from dog owners is that their dog does not like to go outside to pee in the rain. My dogs are the same way.  I open that back door, my dogs take a peek outside, see and smell the wetness and in the house.  So what do I do on rainy days?

Wait for a break or light rain - most dogs don't like to go outside during torrential downpours so wait for a break in the rain or at least when it is a light drizzle.

Misery Loves Company - the simplest solution is to put on my raincoat and boots, leash up my dogs and walk around the neighborhood.  My dogs are willing to go out on a walk in the rain because, well, their walks are a positive experience and walking out in the neighborhood is always fun and exciting for them.  I also believe that dogs are more willing to walk on wet sidewalks than wet grass.  So, while it is not so fun for you to walk out in the rain, I find that this is the easiest way to coax your dog outside.

Put Peeing on Cue - the other thing I did when my dog Kiku was a puppy was to put peeing on cue by teaching her to pee when I said the words "go pee pee."  On rainy days this helps keep your excursions outside short and efficient. Even if your dog is an adult, it is not too late to teach your dog this verbal cue.  So this is how I taught my dog to pee on cue:
1) When you go on a walk, watch for signs that your dog is about to pee.  For female dogs, it is when they begin to squat and for male dogs leg lifting is a good sign.  When you see your dog begin these behaviors, say your cue (e.g. go pee pee, go potty, etc). Some people say "hurry up"  or "go now" but I never liked that phrase because people have a hard time saying it in a positive tone.  It tends to come out anxiety-ridden or impatient
2) When your dog finishes eliminating, say "yes" and reward my dog with a treat.
3) You will need to do this for a few weeks so your dog makes the association between the words, "go pee pee" and the actual act of urinating.
4) After a few weeks, test your dog to see if they understand what the verbal cue means. When you get close to a spot your dog likes to pee at, say the words, "go pee pee," wait 10-15 seconds and see if your dog begins to eliminate.  If your dog eliminates, say "yes" and give a treat. If not, you may need to repeat steps 1-3 for a few more weeks before attempting step 4 again.  Eventually, you will be able to tell your dog "go pee pee" and your dog will know that it is time to go.
The above tips have been tried and true for me however, the following tips may also work for your dog:
Raincoats - some dogs do not like being rained on and a raincoat may help.  

Wee wee pads - on very rare occasions where I had to leave the house for extended periods of time on a rainy day, I may leave a wee wee pad by the back door where they normally exit into the backyard.

Covered balconies and outdoor areas - for apartment and condo dwellers, sometimes it is helpful to teach your dog to go out on a balcony.  Putting wee wee pads or boxes of sod can help encourage the dog to use this as an alternate elimination area but it helps if the dog is introduced to these areas early on when it is not raining.  

Monday, December 1, 2014

Foul Weather Friends

Now that the rainy season has officially started here in Southern California, you may find that you are holed up in your house with your pet because of inclement weather. Your dog may not be able to take his/her daily walks and whenever you look up you find a pair of big, sad eyes staring at you expectantly, anticipating every move that you make.

Fear not, being indoors just changes the activities that your pet can engage in. Rainy days are when I break out some of my favorite interactive dog toys and play some indoor games that reinforce my dog’s training. Here are some examples:

Training – why not use that time in the house to reinforce some of your dog’s training? Put together a series of behaviors for your dog to perform and reward your dog for the last behavior in the chain. Go to your spot, lie down and stay is an example of a training combination. Or teach your dog a new trick. YouTube and other websites have videos of how to teach your dog to do simple tricks.

Hide and Seek – playing hide and seek games where your dog has to find you in different parts of the house is a great way to reinforce your dog’s recall (coming to you).  When training a dog to come when called, always remember that when they find you to reward them with praise, petting and/or treats.  Teach them that finding you is a big party.

Toys
Some toys can be used when the dog is left alone or for times when you need to keep your dog occupied (e.g.when you have guests over, you are busy at the computer, when you are having a meal). These toys must be fairly indestructible and have no small parts. Most people have Kong toys but there are many others you can order online or obtain from most pet stores.

Kongs (http://www.kongcompany.com) are great toys that can be stuffed with your dog's kibble, treats, and other foods. Your dog will spend a lot of time trying to get the contents out of the Kong. Think of it like a doggie pacifier. For heavy chewers the Extreme Kong (black version)would be a better choice. The Kong website has instructions on how to use it with recipes and I also posted a blog about the many uses of Kongs which you can read about here.

One of my favorite ways to use a Kong is to hide one or more Kongs around the house (I like to use places other than the kitchen or dining room) and ask your dog to find it. My dogs have been taught that the word “find it” means go hunt for the object. An empty Kong makes a great fetch toy as well.

Tug a Jug - This toy, made by Premier Pet Products, requires the dog to manipulate the jug and rope to try to get the treats out. If you use smaller treats, it is easier for the dog to get the treats. If the rope is destroyed, you can place balls in the jug for continued play. The other nice thing about this toy is that the jug is see-through so the dogs can see the treats inside. This toy has a high difficulty rating in my book so it may be too difficult for inexperienced dogs like puppies.

Here is a video of my two year old Akita, Kiku, who takes a patient and systematic approach to problem solving:


Twist and Treat – this is another similar rubber toy called the Twist and Treat is made by Premier. This toy is probably better for smaller dogs and less powerful chewers. This toy has the advantage of being adjustable depending on the size threat you are using so I find it easier for most dogs.

Buster Cube - The Buster Cube has been on the market a long time. This was one of the original toys I used with my 10 year old Shiba Inu when she was a puppy. The Buster Cube dispenses dry treats randomly when the dog moves the toy around. You can also adjust the level of difficulty depending on the skills of your dog.

Kibble Nibble: This is another Premier toy similar to the Buster Cube. The object of the game is to roll the ball around to make the kibble come out.The ball is see-through and the dog can see how much kibble is left. It takes some experimentation to determine what size kibble/treat works best so that it is not too easy or too hard.

Here is video of my Shiba Inu, Mitsu, playing with the ball. She is almost 11 years old now and she is going after the ball with gusto. This video is not sped up, this old gal is actually this frenetic. She ended up playing with this ball for about 15 minutes, did a couple of shiba yells at the ball, got a drink of water and came back for another 10 minutes before I took it away from her. During the video you can see a treat flying out of the ball:



Toys Requiring Owner's Participation
This category of toys are toys that involve the participation of the owner. Examples of traditional toys requiring owner participation are balls, fetch toys, tug of war toys and frisbees. There are also toys that involve problem solving skills. Nina Ottoson has created a whole line of toys which help hone your dog's problem-solving skills and at the same time help develop the bond with your dog. These toys require human supervision and they must not be left alone with your dog.

The Dog Brick - this toy requires the dog to remove the bricks and slide the covers to get to the treats. The link provided contains an instructional video on how to use this toy. Below is a video I made showing how my dog solved the brick.



Dog Tornado: This toy has a higher difficulty rating than the Dog Brick and it is definitly more challenging. What is fun about this toy is that you can potentially put your dog's entire meal (especially for small dogs) in the Tornado thereby slowing down their eating and preventing gulping their food. Again, these toys require your supervision because there are small parts.



Here is a video of my female akita, who is a little more sophisticated at solving puzzles, using the Tornado at a more advanced setting to make it more difficult to have access to the treats:



And some of these toys are not limited to use for dogs. Even cats can get in on the fun. Here is my cat using the Dog Tornado as a way to keep her occupied and to prevent her from gulping down food too fast.