Friday, January 27, 2012

Product Review: Cyber Dog Online Training Course

Since it is National Train Your Dog Month, what better time to review a new online dog training course designed for pet owners who want to train their dog at home! The course is called Cyber Dog and its unique design lets you choose what you want to work on and in what order. The teaching is done mostly using illustrative video online with access to a real live teacher, informative articles and online classroom as required.

The Cyber Dog course teaches you how to use clicker training, which is an exceptionally powerful and effective way to train. Doggone Safe recommends clicker training because of its effectiveness and ease of use and most importantly because it is a safe way for kids to train.

The first part of the course is called Start Smart and involves fun games to teach you how to have good clicker mechanics and how to deliver treats efficiently. After you have mastered these skills you are ready to start training your dog. You can then move on to any one of the modules:

Within each module there are various skills. Some skills are part of more than one module. There are 10 different skills to teach your dog. Each of these is presented in the course using a set of four videos. Each video teaches a more advanced version of the skill than the one before.

As you progress through the course you video tape your training sessions and send them in for your teacher to assess. You will work with your teacher and others in your group to improve your skills, discuss problems and find solutions together. Virtual classroom sessions are held regularly so that you will get the full attention of a world class clicker trainer.

The course is well-organized, yet provides a high degree of flexibility for the individual student. The instructional videos are excellent and show step by step how to train each skill. The videos are short and show real training with clicker training done right. If things are not going perfectly the trainer changes her strategy to make sure the dog succeeds. The trainers in the videos, who are also the teachers of the course are all outstanding and anyone would be fortunate to be able to work with any of them. I would highly recommend this course to anyone who wants to develop a strong bond of love and respect with their dog, who wants a well-behaved, happy dog and/or who wants to involve their kids in training the dog.

Click here to find out more or register for the course

Here is a video that explains the course:

Home based study is a great way to learn since you can work at your own pace and you can control the distractions that your dog will need to work with. It is also essential for your dog and especially your puppy to get out into the world and meet other people, dogs and animals. Be sure to include social experiences as a key part of your dog training. 

How to Love Your Dog - Believe It or Not!

Think that your dog likes hugs and kisses? Well if he is like most dogs, then he does not enjoy this type of human affection. Children want to show love to dogs by giving hugs and kisses, because this how they show affection to people they love. Hugs are not a natural form of canine interaction to show affection. To show your dog that you love him, learn to give him the things that he really does like and teach your kids to do the same.

Most dog bites are to children, by the family dog or another dog known to the child. Hugs and kisses are a major cause of facial bites to children. Doggone Safe offers suggestions for safe ways to love your dog that the dog will appreciate.

Children (and adults too) often want to show love to dogs the way we show love to each other, through hugs and kisses. Dogs do not naturally understand this, or even enjoy it. Hugs and face-to-face contact can be very threatening to dogs. The dog may tolerate this for a while, but at some point may bite or snap to protect himself once he has exhausted all his means of more subtle warning. Some dogs do enjoy a hug from a special person, if it is on their terms and done with some extra scratching on the chest. Few, if any dogs enjoy hugs the way young children do this, which is to clasp around the neck and hang on. Parents, teach your children to avoid face-to-face contact with any dog (even their own dog) and to show love to the dog in ways other than hugging and kissing.

Doggone Safe offers the following suggestions for Valentine’s Day about how to love your dog in a way that the dog will appreciate.

Touch Your Dog
  • Invite your dog to come to you for attention. If your dog turns away or moves away, respect his wishes and leave him alone. Many dogs like to be near you, but not necessarily to be touched.
  • Scratch your dog on the side of the neck or on his chest.
  • Avoid hugs and kisses. People enjoy this, but most dogs don’t like hugs and kisses. They might tolerate it, but few actually enjoy it.
  • Invite your dog to sit with you while your read or watch TV. Let him lean on you or put his head on your lap on his terms.
  • Some dogs enjoy a scratch behind the ears. Most dogs don’t enjoy hands coming down on the top of their heads.
  • Pet your dog and then stop. If he tries to get you continue then you will know he likes it.

Play With Your Dog
  • Play games like fetch and hide and seek that do not involve chasing or rough play.
  • Take your dog for lots of walks.

Understand Your Dog
  • Learn to read dog body language so that you can understand what your dog is trying to tell you.
  • A happy dog pants and wags his tail loosely. He may wag all over.
  • An anxious dog might show a half moon of white in his eye or he may lick his lips or yawn. He may turn his head away or walk away. He wants to be left alone.
  • A dog that suddenly goes stiff and still is very dangerous and might be ready to bite.
  • A dog with his mouth closed and ears forward and/or with his tail held high is busy thinking about something and does not want to be bothered.

Reward Your Dog
  • Look for things your dog does right and give him a treat or praise, petting or play. Never hit or yell at your dog.
  • Give your dog a stuffed Kong or Chewber or other long lasting chew treat to enjoy while he lies on a mat or in a crate.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

January is Train Your Dog Month - Free Webinars and Chats

National Train Your Dog Month is an Association of Pet Dog Trainers (APDT) annual campaign, and 2012’s event will be better than ever! Join us for FREE educational webinars and live chats with professionals!

Each year, hundreds of thousands of pets are turned into animal shelters because their owners couldn’t find a reliable resource to help them with their pets’ behavior problems. Sadly, the end result is often euthanasia at the shelter rather than rehoming the pet. In response, the APDT has designated the month of January as National Train Your Dog Month to bring awareness to the importance of socialization and training for all pets! January was selected as the perfect month because so many animals are adopted and brought home during the winter holidays. We hope to help families and their pets start the New Year off on the right paw with information on the behavior needs and training of their pets.

To help the pet-loving public, as well as professionals in the animal shelter and others in the pet care industry, the APDT has recorded free educational webinars featuring many well-known pet training and behavior professionals and experts. These webinars will be available starting in January through the Train Your Dog Month event website and are completely free. APDT has also filled the month of January with a variety of “live” Facebook “chats” where anyone can “talk” in real time with professional training and behavior consultants, on a variety of topics pertaining to the training and care of dogs, cats and even rabbits! Anyone with any behavior and training questions can join the chats to learn more about their chosen pet. Visit the event website,, for full schedule information, professional bios, as well as fun downloadable resources on training and behavior.

Free Webinar: Dog Safety - What to Teach Your Kids with Joan Orr
Free Webinar: Setting Dog and Baby Up for Success with Jennifer Shryock

Doggone Safe and the APDT believes that a better understanding of our pets’ behavior can lead to happier, healthier and harmonious households for humans and companion animals. Top trainer Ken Ramirez says:
‎"Training is not a luxury, but a key component to good animal care. Everyone who has a pet should understand that basic fact. Training is a way to enhance the quality of life for our pets. It is far more than just teaching a dog to do a cute trick. Training is about teaching a dog (or any animal) how to live in our world safely."
Read a fascinating interview with Ken about advanced training concepts.

Have Fun! Train your dog!

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

My Dog Growled at My Child - Now What?

We have given advice in previous articles that parents should not punish the dog for growling at a child. Please see these previous articles for additional information and tips:

This advice is consistent among dog behavior experts and the reasons are as follows:

  • The dog may associate the presence of the child with punishment and may become fearful of the child and thus more likely to act aggressively in the future.
  • The punishment may suppress the growl, but will not improve the way the dog feels about the child or the actions of the child which precipitated the growling. The dog may go straight to a bite in a future episode since the inclination to growl has been suppressed through fear of punishment.

It just does not make sense to take away the dog’s warning mechanism. Be grateful that you have a dog that warns and does not go straight to a bite if he is upset or frightened. Your dog is not bad or mean, he is extremely upset or agitated and is letting you know in the only way he can. Because growling represents a serious problem that requires careful handling, we recommend that you hire a professional dog behavior consultant to help you solve the problem. This must be done using positive reinforcement-based training and not with aversive methods (shouting, making aggressive sounds or movements at the dog, physical threats, tossing items at or toward the dog, yanking on the leash etc). The goal of this training is to teach the dog to enjoy the presence and the actions of children so that he does not feel the need to growl at them. We cannot give step by step instructions for this since all dogs are different as are all children and all family dynamics different. It may cost you a few hundred dollars to consult a professional to solve this problem, but it will be money well-spent and will be insignificant compared to the overall cost of dog ownership. The safety of your children and the dog are worth much more than the cost of a professional consultation. Perhaps the only trainers in your area would use punishment-based methods? More and more behavior consultants are using video conferencing to help clients remotely, so this is a potential option if you can't find someone suitable in your area.

Parents have asked us what they should at the time if a growling incident occurs. The purpose of this article is to answer that question.

Before we get into that, be aware that the growling dog may go on to bite before you have a chance to take any action or in spite of any action you may take. There are no guarantees that any of our suggestions below will prevent a bite. The best ways to prevent a bite are to learn and recognize the subtle signs that dogs send long before they get to the point of biting or growling and intervene proactively, supervise all interactions between kids and dogs, teach kids to be respectful of the dog and condition the dog to enjoy the presence and actions of kids.

If you are very close when the dog growls do the following:
  • Step in between the dog and child and pick up the child if he is small, or instruct him to move away if he is too big to pick up.
  • Do not grab the dog by the collar. This may cause him to lunge and bite the child or turn and bite you.
  • Put the child in another room or at a safe distance from the dog. so that the child may engage in a new game.
  • Call the dog to you, praise and give him a treat for coming and then put him in his crate with a long lasting chew toy or in some other location away from the child or the site of the incident.
  • Invite the child back to talk about what happened. Try to determine what precipitated the growl. For example, Is there a dog toy or food in the area? Is the dog guarding an area (his mat or the couch possibly)? Did the child threaten or injure the dog somehow?
  • Write down the who, what, when, why and how while the incident still fresh in your mind. 

This is not an interrogation or a punishment for the child. Be sure that the child understands that he is being a doggy detective and helping you to figure out why the dog was upset enough to growl. Be matter of fact and not judgmental. The goal here is not to lay blame, but to find out the facts so that you can work with a behavior consultant to prevent this from happening again. If the child is too young to talk, then know that the dog and child cannot be in the same space within contact range even with your direct supervision until this problem is resolved.

If you are at a distance when the dog growls do the following:
  • Call him to you in a happy voice. Use words like “want a cookie” or “go for a walk” or "who's a puppy wuppy" or whatever sure-fire words will get the dog to change his attitude and come to you. Even if you are feeling angry with the child or the dog, use happy talk. The goal is to make the dog wag his tail and thus be in a happy mood as quickly as possible. A happy dog is unlikely to bite your child.
  •  Be sure to reward him for coming and fulfill whatever promise you made.
  • If he is too engrossed to come to attend to your words, try dropping a book, or anything that is close enough to grab and drop or toss a toy or dog treats or other food on the floor to divert his attention. This is an emergency situation and you need to get the dog’s attention before the situation escalates. Any yelling or perceived threats from you (such as rushing over) could result in a bite to the child.
  • Once the dog has taken his attention off the child and has moved toward you, remove him from the area.
  • Have a fact-finding adventure with the child as discussed above (who, what, when, where and why). 

Behavior consultant Jennifer Shryock has this advice for her clients: "It's only natural to react if you see your child in danger, so forgive yourself if your automatic first reaction is to admonish the dog. Remember that what you do next is very important. You need to get the dog's tail wagging as soon as possible to defuse the bite risk. The best way to do that is with happy talk that you know he will respond well to".

Of course we are not suggesting that you reward your dog for growling at your child. Once the dog has diverted his attention from the child, the growling is over and the dog is thinking about what is going on right now and not what happened a few seconds before. The growling scenario with subsequent reward for the dog will only happen once, because from now on you are going to make sure that the circumstances cannot exist for it to happen again.

Once you have as much information as you are going to get about what happened, write it all down so that you can share it with the behavior consultant. Use this information to come up with a plan to prevent further incidents while the dog is being retrained. If you have a baby or toddler, this will mean coming up with a way to keep them separate so that the child has no opportunity to antagonize the dog. With older children you may be able to agree on changes to their behavior and also the use of crates and/or gates to help prevent a further incident. These temporary measures will be changed as time goes on and the dog and children learn how to interact safely under the guidance of the behavior consultant. In the meantime it is your job to ensure that the scenario that resulted in growling cannot be repeated. The ultimate goal is to change the dog's feelings about the child so that he can be a full member of the family and not isolated because he poses a threat.

Resources for Parents and Kids
Family Paws Parent Education
Doggone Safe online body language course
Doggone Safe wesbite pages on body language
Dog Detective ebook
Body Language Flashcards and ebook
Find a Behavior Consultant 

Monday, January 9, 2012

Doggone Safe Member with Training Success Story on TV

Congratulations to Be a Tree Presenter and dog behavior consultant, Melissa Millett for her role as host and trainer on the cable TV show "Doggy House Calls". Melissa visits the homes of families to help improve the behaviour of wayward pooches. Melissa teaches the owners how to use positive reinforcement-based clicker training to teach the dog the desired behaviours. Here is a link to a show segment in which a frightened  and aggressive dog learns to be less fearful and hence non-aggressive towards other dogs.

Doggy House Calls Episode

The owner explains that it required a consistent effort and that the training and vigilance are ongoing, but the results are well-worth it to have a happy and safe dog. The owner noted that the dog is calmer and safer around kids now as well. This is a terrific side effect of the training and provides a demonstration of the fact that training leads to a safer more well-adjusted dog. We can see from this example that the dog is a much happier and calmer now that she is not frightened by other dogs.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Dogs and Babies Blog Has Moved

This is just a quick note to let everyone know that the Dogs and Babies blog has moved. The blog contains excellent articles by dog behavior consultant and dog/child relationship expert Madeline Gabriel. If you have children and dogs or are expecting a new baby with a dog in the home, we recommend that you check out the information in this blog. Here is the link to the new location:

 Here are some recent posts:

should dogs lick babies

life with baby just another day at the office

your dog is not your baby ... and that's ok