Foods to Avoid Giving Dogs

When choosing treats for your dog, avoid the following foods as they are toxic to dogs’ health:

  • Onions
  • Grapes
  • Macadamia nuts
  • Avocado
  • Chocolate
  • Raisins
  • Mushrooms
  • Candy or anything with xylitol (type of sugar)
  • Check to make sure peanut butter does not have xylitol, since some kinds do contain it
  • Alcohol
  • Coffee/caffeine
  • Garlic
  • Salt and sugar should be limited

Always check with your veterinarian for food/treat advice as well, since they have the latest medical knowledge.

By Dan Raymer

I Tried It, But It Did Not Work

Intro

There’s a common phrase in dog training: “training is simple but it isn’t easy.” When broken down into larger functions, we are rewarding behaviors with treats and toys (sounds pretty simple), but in order to correctly train solid behaviors long-term we need to have a broad knowledge of concepts including topics like biology and psychology and we need to master many fine skills (making it not so easy at all times). Because of this truth, many people are quick to try training (with appropriate reward methods) and then claim it didn’t work, and try to move onto something inefficient or even worse, something detrimental to their dog’s well-being like force/aversive training methods. Here is more information and solutions.

State of the Profession

First, worth noting is not all professional dog trainers are competent. That might sound strange, but the fact is the dog industry does not require certification to practice, there is no oversight to make sure trainers are using best practices based on science, and so it’s possible to hire someone that is uneducated or has very little or no hands-on experience with dogs. This means even hiring trainers that claim to use rewards could land you with someone who does not use rewards, or someone who incompetently trains with rewards.

Also, beware trainers who guarantee behavior results. It’s impossible to guarantee the behavior of another living creature regardless of training methods used and unethical from a professional standpoint. Furthermore, many behaviors have medical-related pathologies, meaning only a veterinarian/veterinary behaviorist can diagnose and treat them, or work in conjunction with a professional dog trainer to solve them.

For example, if a dog has aggression due to a brain tumor, adding pain by shocking a dog is not going to solve the medical problem or the aggressive behavior problem; it is very likely to make it worse as well as compromise the dog’s welfare; and ultimately this is exactly why aversive/force training methods should never be used on any dog at any time.

Good Dog Trainers

When you find a qualified and skilled positive reinforcement trainer, it will relieve you from worrying about the non-easy aspects of the process. You won’t have to worry about trying to know everything all at once, and instead can rely on the trainer for advice and making sure everything is on the right track to success.

How to Solve the Dilemma

If the training seems like it’s not working, check the following:

1. Compliance – it’s worth noting that if the advice of a qualified trainer is not followed or enough repetitions are not completed, the behavior won’t get trained, or won’t be maintained long-term.

2. Execution – this concept is so important and another one to rely on professional help. There’s many minute parts of properly completing the training process – training the steps in the appropriate order, following the right mechanical skills, knowing where and when to deliver rewards, knowing what type of reward to use, understanding when to advance to a more challenging trial or reduce the difficulty for the dog, reading the dog’s body language, and so on.

3. Identification of the problem – this is another area where a professional dog trainer and/or veterinary behaviorist can help identify the problem and triggers or causes of the behavior, and put together a training plan to follow in order to change the dog’s behavior.

As the dog training knowledge and science has grown over time, the industry now has positive reinforcement training methods and solutions that work for all types of pet dog behavior problems. There is no reason to resort to scaring or hurting dogs in order to train them. If the training process seems stalled or before issues arise, work with a competent reward-trainer to assist you with the process.

By Dan Raymer

Raymer Family Dog Training News: October 2020

Canine Academy Updates

The SPCA of Wake County’s Pet Behavior Network discount is now available for our Canine Academy. See the details here. This applies to anyone who adopts a dog from the SPCA. If you’re thinking about adopting a new dog, it is an excellent organization with lovely pets.

If you enjoy reading our blog/articles and want more free videos on YouTube, consider signing up for a monthly Canine Academy membership as it supports those projects as well as all the other dog training benefits.

Next Up

In November I’m going to start providing animal behavior and training book reviews. If you would like to read along, we will start with a new book: Separation Anxiety in Dogs: Next Generation Treatment Protocols and Practices by Malena DeMartini-Price.

Does anyone have fun Halloween traditions with their pets? Usually Mocha will get a longer-lasting chew treat (probably a frozen peanut butter Kong this Halloween), while I pass out candy or watch a scary movie. Let us know your pet plans for Halloween below.

By Dan Raymer

Puppy Socialization for Halloween

Pre-Halloween

In the days leading up to Halloween complete your normal, daily puppy socialization activities. Expose your puppy to positive experiences with other puppies, friendly adult dogs, things/objects in the environment, veterinary procedures and gentle body handling, etc.

Two main socialization strategies to apply:

  1. Habituation – allowing your puppy to view and experience things passively, watching them and learning they are not scary, but normal everyday events.
  2. Creating positive associations – Actively pairing things/events with treats. Anything that is already scary to your puppy, should now have training target it to teach your puppy it predicts treats.

Allow your puppy to investigate decorations/pumpkins and receive treats for sniffing or approaching them. If you have kids and their costumes are easy to create and wear before Halloween, allow them to put them on and feed treats to your puppy, then take the costumes off, and stop delivering treats. This will provide some positive interactions on a smaller, more controlled scale than the busy holiday.

Planning for Halloween Day

If you have children, decide if your puppy will go trick-or-treating with you. If your puppy goes, bring plenty of high value treats and deliver them to your puppy any time he notices something new or potentially scary. For example, give a treat after your puppy sniffs a yard decoration or pumpkin. Give some treats after a group of children run by in their costumes screaming.

If you will be passing out candy at home, decide where your puppy will be:

  • At the door to witness the trick-or-treat transactions.
  • Somewhere else in your house – for example, behind a baby gate, or in a crate.
  • With you in the front yard passing out candy.
  • Or by the door with your puppy to observe, but allow children to take the candy themselves out of a bowl.

In each of these cases, deliver some treats to your puppy when he sees children, or hears them laughing/talking/screaming (and the doorbell rings), or another dog walks by the door/windows.

You can allow children to feed some treats to your puppy as well, if your puppy is not apprehensive.

Prepare your treats ahead of time. Fresh meat treats of high value are best for these procedures.

You can also give a longer-lasting chew toy, like a Kong, stuffed with canned dog food to allow your dog to calmly eat during the trick-or-treating process, allowing you to focus more on passing out candy and less on your dog. You can wait for the first doorbell ring/children talking sounds, and then deliver the Kong, so those things will predict a positive event for your dog. This could be a great option for older dogs, if you are planning on keeping them away from the children anyway.

Freezing the Kong with canned food will make it last longer for your puppy/dog.

If you have crate-trained your puppy or dog, you can place him in his crate for safety as well, so he will not escape the front door.

Evaluating Your Puppy’s Fear Threshold

Whatever strategy you’re using, make sure no experience is over your puppy’s threshold of fear. This means ideally you will keep your puppy from becoming frightened at any point. Gradually increase the intensity of experiences your puppy is exposed to; for example, if your puppy is scared of kids coming all the way up to him, allow him to remain farther away but view the kids and receive treats for watching, then build up to allowing calmer kids to approach, and then to hand-feeding treats to your puppy.

Adolescent and Adult Dogs

You can follow the same procedure for remedial socialization for older dogs, but be extra careful to keep them below their fear-threshold (so they are not afraid at all), and to not push them into more challenging experiences too quickly, since they already will have previous experiences and emotions attached to things like Halloween, costumes, children, people approaching, etc. – meaning if they are unsure or afraid of any of these things you could actually sensitize them (make their fear worse). This is true for puppies too, but since they are in their puppy socialization period, it’s easier to turn these experiences positive, and average puppies are less likely to do damaging bites than older dogs.

Never force any interactions between puppies/dogs and children or anyone/thing else. Always work to create positive associations.

Post-Halloween

Keep up the socialization work after Halloween as well. If the procedures are applied correctly, you will reap the benefits of early puppy socialization for the rest of your dog’s life.

Happy Halloween!

By Dan Raymer