Dog Christmas Gift Ideas

Here’s a list of some dog items that your friends and family (or even yourself) may find useful for dog training.

Leashes:

A 6-foot traditional length, or try a 10 or 15-foot leash if you have safe areas to allow your dog more room to roam on walks.

Harness:

The Seattle Balance harness (by Lori Stevens, a professional dog trainer) remains one of the top quality harnesses. It includes attachments on the back, and front for reduced pulling.

Clickers:

The i-click is great for indoors and handling comfortably. The box clicker may be less ergonomic to handle, but produces a louder sound, which provides utility for outdoor training depending on your distance from your dog or other ambient sounds.

Target Stick:

Target training is fun to implement and can apply to many different training scenarios. The Treat&Train box comes with a target (see below).

Treat&Train:

This is an ingenious device created by the late Dr. Sophia Yin, a veterinarian and animal trainer. Its basic function is to dispense treats either on demand with a controller, or on different pre-settings: such as set amounts of time (e.g., every 10 seconds), or on a variable rate (e.g., on average every 10 seconds). It provides many different strategies for training.

I have occasionally used the Treat&Train as a slow feeder to dispense my dog’s normal kibble meal. Rather than her eating it in a few seconds out of a bowl, she gets the food dispensed in different amounts of time, so it acts like an enrichment puzzle toy. Because of its design, this product is a bit pricey at about $100. It also needs a separate purchase of batteries.

Treats:

These are always a great choice of gift, and dogs will love them. Look for softer treats in smaller sizes or easy to break apart treats for training. In addition, there are even Advent calendars for dogs now that provide a treat a day for December 1st-25th.

Treat Pouch:

The Doggone Good treat pouch is excellent for holding treats and clickers. The magnet that closes the pouch works better than the treat bags with hinges, which rust over time.

Puzzle Toys:

Some quality enrichment toys include:

  • Kongs
  • Squirrel Dude
  • Twist-n-Treat
  • Kong Wobbler
  • Nina Ottosson puzzles
  • Tug-a-Jug
  • Buster Cube
  • Kong Satellite
  • Snuffle Mats
  • Green Interactive Feeder

By Dan Raymer

Tuna Fudge Recipe

Here is a relatively quick recipe for creating some tasty dog training treats. I’ve used this successfully with many dog training clients, and all of the dogs so far have approved of the taste.

One additional note to consider:

This particular recipe may contain ingredients dogs should have in limited amounts, so use it sometimes, but not in large doses on a daily basis, and always check with your veterinarian if needed, or if you have concerns about the ingredients or amount you should feed your dogs.

I’m also grateful for one of my clients who used chicken instead of tuna, so that is another option as well.

Recipe:

  • 12 oz of tuna with the canned water (do not drain)
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 to 1.5 cups of flour
  • Mash tuna and eggs in a bowl or pan – add water as needed
  • Pour into a pan, add flour, and mix
  • Spread into cookie sheet or keep in pan
  • Bake at 350 for 15 minutes – it will be the texture of putty
  • Cut into tiny squares (about the size of a pea or dog food kibble). These can be frozen for storage, or refrigerated for more immediate use.
  • For chicken fudge, simply substitute canned chicken for tuna.
Before Baking
After Baking
Cut into smaller pieces (which can still be broken up more if needed)

By Dan Raymer

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