Train your pet to use a pet door

plexDior mediumMost pets take to their cat door or dog door quickly. They are eager to be outside, and love the option to go in and out whenever they want to. Some pets are intimidated by the door at first, but with a little patience your cat or dog will learn to use the door. Most pets learn in between five seconds and five days.

The PlexiDor is different from traditional cat flaps and dog doors in many ways. The difference most important from the pet’s point of view is that your cat or dog can see through the panel. Many cats and dogs like to lie just inside the door and peek out at what’s happening outside. Being able to see through also makes it easier for many pets to learn to use the door – they can see the outside, and they want to get there.

If the pet doesn’t take to the door, try propping one of the panels open and tempting the pet with a treat. If the pet is reluctant, start with propping both panels up. Never force your cat or dog through the door, and give praise once they do come through. Be patient – they’ll get it.

For the electronic door, it usually works well to put a treat on the bottom lip of the pet door. The dog or cat approaches to get the treat, and the collar key triggers the door to open. It doesn’t take long for the pets to figure out that the door will open when they come close to it.

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What is flyball?

If you have an energetic dog that loves balls, Flyball might be an ideal sport. It’s a team sport, and a form of controlled chaos that involves a lot of running and jumping. The dog needs to be able to focus around distractions and in good enough shape to run and jump.

Flyball is played in teams with four dogs in each team. One end of the course holds a starting line, and the other a specialized box where the dog will release and catch a tennis ball that is to be carried back to the starting line. In between are four jumps.

Each dog in the team must complete the course. That is, run over the jumps, trigger the box to release a ball, catch the ball, and return with it, going over all four jumps. The next dog in line can’t cross the line before the dog currently on the course returns. If a dog would run on the side of a jump, or return without the ball, he or she must run the course again.

The height of the jumps are based on the team’s shortest dog, so everyone wants to have a small dog on the team.

Flyball is one of the most athletic dog sports. At a flyball tournament, a team might run between 18 and 24 heats in a day. Add in reruns for starting too early, missing a jump, or some other error, and a dog can easily run 40 times during a weekend.

To start training, your dog needs to get used to noisy and busy places. At a competition there will be dogs running around, barking, people running back and forth, balls, and other distractions. Train to stay calm around distractions, and train recall with distractions.

You can also train jumping, chasing you, tugging, and building the dog’s general strength through swimming and jogging.

Search for a club and classes in your area. This is a great sport with a lot of fun, and an opportunity for both humans and dogs to make friends.

 

Agility for beginners

AgilityAnyone who has seen an agility competition can feel awe at the talented dogs scaling ladders, running through tunnels, and balancing on teeter boards. Agility is a great sport that strengthens the bond between dog and human, and it poses a healthy challenge for the dog.

If you want to try with your dog, you can do so at home. You can make your own obstacle course, and once you have that, it just takes some patience and training.

A basic agility course has weave poles, a dog walk, standard jumps, a pause table, a tunnel, and a tire jump. All these things are for sale, but you can also make them yourself with materials from a hardware store or a flea market.

You can make your own weave poles through sticking PVC pipe into the ground. Make sure there’s enough space between the poles for your dog to navigate around them. Bamboo poles also work very well.

The dog walk is basically a long bench where the challenge for the dog is staying on the bench instead of jumping down. You can use a picnic bench, or make a dog walk by placing a piece of plywood across cinderblocks.

For pause table you can use an old coffee table. Just make sure that it’s stable and not too high off the ground.

When it comes to jumps, make sure they’re low enough for your dog to be able to get over. You can increase the height as your dog gets in shape and figures out what to do. Many build jumps out of PVC pipes, but you can also balance a broom stick on two flower pots.

For a tire jump you can use a hula hoop tied sideways between two chairs. Just make sure the construction is stable enough not to fall when the dog jumps through.

Most department stores and children’s stores have collapsible tunnels. One of these won’t last as long as a specially made agility tunnel, but it’s a good start that will last long enough for you to figure out if this is the right thing for you and your dog. You can also make your own tunnel with a row of low tables and blankets.

Before starting on the course, make sure your dog knows basic commands such as sit, come, stay, and lie down. Once you have that down, help your dog through the course. Take your time and start slow.

Make your dog’s bed the best spot in the world

Sleeping puppySome dogs are always on the go. Physical and mental exercise are the best ways to keep a dog occupied and stimulated, but it is possible to train a more relaxed behavior even when you’re not directly playing or training.

It is a good idea to give your dog a spot of their own. This can be a doggy bed, the crate, or other suitable place. Odds are your dog will appreciate a snuggly place with a comfortable bed, but this might not be enough to make it the best spot in the world.

Leave a treat in this special spot at random times through the day. Your dog will discover them eventually, and this makes the bed one of the most interesting places in the house.

It is also a great idea to stop by with a treat every now and then when the dog rests on the bed. If your dog loves to be petted, make a point out of noticing when she’s on her bed, and give some extra attention. Unless she’s really sleeping, of course.

It might take a little time before your dog figures it out, but keep sending the message that resting on the bed makes good things happen. It is much easier to handle a dog who begs for attention and goodies through resting than one who jumps and barks.

Dog training tips, part 2

In yesterday’s post, we mentioned five dog training tips. Here are five more that will hopefully make training and everyday life easier.

1. Have realistic expectations

Changing a behavior takes time, especially if it’s a deeply rooted habit that has been going on for a long time. Re-training an adult dog takes longer than teaching a puppy the first time. It is never too late to change a behavior, but some things will take longer than others.

For example, if you’ve allowed your dog to jump up to greet people for five years,  but decide that the behavior isn’t okay anymore, it will take a while to learn a new way of greeting.

2. Some behaviors are harder to change

Barking, digging, and jumping are “normal” behavior for a dog, and these things will take longer to change even with diligent training than re-learning a trained behavior. Be patient and consistent.

Barking, digging, and jumping are often considered problem behaviors. In order to teach a dog not to bark, it can be useful to teach him or her to bark on command first. If your dog loves to dig, it can help to give an allowed digging spot, like a doggy sandbox. If your dog jumps on people, try teaching a good “sit” and give the command “sit” before he actually jumps.

3. Watch what you reinforce

The philosophy, “do as I say, not as I do” will not work on a dog. If you accidentally encourage an unwanted behavior, it will take a long time to “un-train” it.

For example, your dog jumps on the door to make you open it. If you give in, the dog will know that jumping on the door makes it come open. Instead, make your dog sit before you open. It might not work at once, but dogs are smart and good at making connections.

Another example is if your dog brings you a tennis ball and barks to make you throw it. If you throw the ball, the dog learns that barking makes you play. The next time he comes with the ball and barks you say no, but he keeps barking. If you throw the ball now, your clever pooch will know that persistence pays off. Ignore the barking and tell your dog to sit before you throw it.

It is much easier to handle a dog who thinks sitting brings good things than one who knows that barking or jumping brings good things.

4. Rewards are good

Many dog owners feel that using treats to train their dog is the same as bribing the dog. You don’t have to use treats for training, but there’s no harm in it if it helps you keep your dog’s attention. Other good rewards are a toy, praise, and play. As long as the behavior you want produces the reward you’re good.

5. Give new dogs and puppies limited freedom

Limiting freedom to the house can sound harsh, but when you bring home a new puppy or a dog from a shelter, both your life and the dog’s will be easier if you start with a small area and gradually open up your home. Let your new furry friend get used to the new place, the family, and your rules.

Dog training tips, part 1

PlexiDor_150x150As a dog owner, training is both fun, necessary, and a responsibility. Dogs generally want to please their humans, but they aren’t born with general knowledge of how to behave, so we have to teach them. 

Whether you want to teach your dog basic obedience, to do tricks, or to use a dog door, the training process will be easier if you know the basics. We’ve collected some training tips, and here are one through five. Come back tomorrow for five more!

1. Learn to listen to your dog

This might sound like a strange tip – the article is supposed to be about dog training and not human training – but learning to listen and understand the dog sets the foundation for everything else. Paying attention to dogs helps us learn their body language, and you will soon know exactly what your dog wants or feels.

2. Be generous with affection

We’re usually pretty quick to say no, or scold the dog when something goes wrong, and less prone to give praise when things are right. Give your dog lots of affection and attention when he or she does the right thing. It’s okay to be over the top – it makes your dog feel that sitting, staying, coming, whatever it might be was a really good thing that’s worth the effort of doing again.

3. Figure out what your dog likes

When you’re training your dog it helps to have a reward they really like. This is often a treat, but can also be a toy, or your affection. When it comes to treats, most dogs prefer soft, chewy, and smelly treats over hard and crunchy treats. If you find something your dog really loves, training will be a breeze.

4. Be clear about what you want

Humans generalize well, but dogs don’t. This often leads to a clash when we say “no” and think it’s perfectly clear that no means “stop jumping,” or “get off the sofa.” A dog can draw the conclusion that no means “jump higher” or “lie down instead of sitting.” You will get better results if you tell the dog what you want him to do instead. For example, if the dog is jumping, making him sit will work better than just saying no.

5. Be consistent

Your dog is learning how to handle the world, and being consistent helps. Some dogs are quite able to learn that “release” and “drop” mean the same thing, but it will be much easier for your dog to learn if everyone in the family uses the same command. Agree on family rules. Is the dog allowed in all rooms? Is the dog allowed on the furniture?

 

Teach your pet to use the PlexiDor

PlexiDor largeMost pets take to the PlexiDor pet door, because they can see the outside through the panel, and it is easy for them to open the dog door or cat. Teaching a cat or dog to use the Plexidor pet door usually takes somewhere between a few seconds and a week.

If your cat or dog doesn’t immediately go through the pet door, try propping the panels open and calling for the pet. Put something they really want on the other side, like some stinky treat. The smellier the better, and small pieces of cheese or meat usually does the trick.

Be patient, and praise progress.

When it comes to the electronic PlexiDor pet door, the trick is to get the pet close enough for the panel to open. Place the treat on the bottom lip of the pet door. When your pet approaches to get the treat, the collar key will open the door. Most pets catch on quickly.

Pets are different, just like we are. Some will get it and love their dog door or cat door at first sight, others need a little longer. Don’t hesitate to contact us if you need help!

Five common mistakes amongst dog owners

There are many health benefits to petsDogs and humans are so different, and even though we want our dogs to be happy, there are some common mistakes that are stressful for dogs. Small changes can have a big impact on the dog’s well being, and in the long run make the whole family happier.

1. Dogs need exercise

Most people have crammed schedules and it can be hard to find the time and energy to exercise the dog. It’s wise to choose a dog breed with energy needs that fit your lifestyle, but even breeds that are mostly inactive and content with being indoors need some exercise.

Letting the dog into the yard isn’t enough. Take your furry friend for a daily walk, or play ball together. There are many ways to make sure your dog gets sufficient exercise, and you can have fun while doing it together.

2. Don’t take your dog’s food bowl away while their eating

Many people think they need to take the dog’s food away in the middle of each meal, or take the toy the dog is playing with. If your dog is properly raised and socialized he will share food and toys with you if needed, and you don’t have to keep taking it away to prove the point. Your dog won’t understand why you keep taking it, and there’s a big risk he will end up stressed, anxious, and even aggressive from knowing the food will disappear.

3. Crates are not meant for punishment

A crate can be a great training tool and your dog’s sanctuary. It needs to be a safe place where your dog can rest and feel secure. Many owners use the crate for time-outs when the dog has done something wrong, but dogs don’t understand that. Using the crate for punishment won’t solve the problem with whatever the dog did wrong, and it can ruin the dog’s safe place.

4. Teach your dog what’s right instead of yelling

It’s human to raise one’s voice when someone doesn’t listen, but it doesn’t work on dogs. If your dog doesn’t have basic training, he won’t understand to come to you because you shout louder. Watch yourself during a day – if you yell a lot at your dog, you might need to take him to doggie school, or at least look over your methods of training. Make a point of rewarding the right behavior instead of scolding the wrong.

5. Is your dog alone too much?

Dogs are social, and many dog owners work more than eight hours a day or travel a lot. If you have a dog it’s important to fit in time for exercise and play. If you can’t do it yourself, consider finding a dog walker or daycare. If your dog is alone to much they’ll be sad, stressed, and unhealthy.

Chewing problems?

Most – if not all – dog owners encounter a chewing problem sooner or later. Even the most well behaved pooch can fall for the temptation of chewing a shoe, a remote control, or why not a sofa cushion! Why is that, and what can we do about it?

To start with, why do dogs chew?

Puppies explore their world by putting things in their mouth. They do a good job exploring the world through their eyes and sense of smell, but one of their favorite ways to learn about things is chewing on them.

Puppies also teethe for about six months, and chewing makes the sore gums feel better.

Adolescent dogs – for some breeds this period can last up until they’re two to three years old – are a lot like human teenagers. There’s a lot going on in the body, they have energy to spare, they get bored, and sometimes they want to bend the rules a little. All this often adds up to unwanted behavior such as chewing, and the dog no longer has the extreme puppy cuteness to protect it. Unfortunately many dogs are given up during their adolescence, because their owners can’t cope with a teenager on four paws.

Adult dogs sometimes also chew. They don’t do it to spite their humans. Some common reasons why dogs chew on your belongings include:

  • As a puppy, the dog was never taught what to chew and what not to chew
  • Dogs often chew because they’re bored
  • The dog might suffer from separation anxiety
  • The behavior can be fear related
  • It’s a call for attention

If your problems stems from separation anxiety or fear, you might need to seek help from a behavior professional.

How can the problem be solved?

First of all, take responsibility for your belongings. If it doesn’t belong in your dog’s mouth, keep it out of reach. Make sure shoes, clothes, books, trash, remote controls, eyeglasses, and similar are kept out of reach.

Invest in good chewing toys that doesn’t look anything like the forbidden objects. Many let their dog chew on an old shoe, or make a toy out of an old sock. The difference between allowed shoes and socks and forbidden shoes and socks is clear to humans, but not at all as clear to dogs.

Spend extra time with your dog. Spending time with you will increase your bond, and help your dog learn acceptable behavior. If need be, keep doggie with you on a leash in the house, and confine him or her when you’re unable to keep your eyes on him.  Provide plenty of “safe” toys.

If you have a teething puppy, try freezing a wet washcloth and offer it for chewing – this can help soothe the sore gums. Supervise so your puppy doesn’t chew it up and swallow it.

Make sure your dog gets ample physical and mental exercise. Many chewing problems stem from the dog being bored. You might want to invest in puzzle toys, enroll in a training program, learn tricks, or take him jogging. You can also use meal-time as doggy entertainment. Instead of just pouring kibble into a bowl, mix it with a little peanut butter or soft dog food, stuff it into a Kong, and freeze it. Getting the food out will take a while, and give your dog something to work with.

If you catch doggie chewing on something forbidden, interrupt through making a loud noise. Then, offer an acceptable chew toy, and give lots of praise when he or she takes the right toy.

 

Tip to teach a dog to play fetch

Dog with tennis ballMany dogs love to play fetch and seem to get the idea naturally. Others might need some encouragement. If you want to play fetch and your dog looks at you like you’re a peculiar organism when you toss a tennis ball, this trick might help.

Cut a slit in a tennis ball and put some treats in. Make sure your dog sees the treats and give them one, so they know it’s something worth working for.

Throw the ball, and follow the dog to go get it. Once you and the dog have the ball, give a treat. Odds are your dog will figure it out quickly and go get the ball. Give a treat when he or she brings the ball back.

Soon you’ll be able to give a treat every second time the dog brings the ball, and then every third time. You get the idea =)

Why do dogs love being stinky?

Dogs love to roll around in smelly stuff and often look very happy with themselves as they’re doing it – at least until they end up in the inevitable bath. What’s so great with being dirty? 

In order to understand this strange behavior we need to go back in time.

The ancestors of our modern dogs needed to hunt to live, and the dogs’ prey was cautious. Dogs need to eat, but that doesn’t mean the food wants to be eaten. In order to make hunting easier, the dogs would attempt to disguise their scent, luring the pray into thinking they weren’t a threat. Disguising their scent could also protect them from being found and eaten themselves.

This behavior is so deeply rooted it’s difficult to break. Most dogs only roll themselves in icky stuff from time to time, but if it becomes a problem many dog trainers recommend making the pleasurable (rolling in something smelly) less pleasurable. For instance through squirting the dog with a little water when it does the rolling. Keeping the dog on a short leash can also help, so it doesn’t have a chance to roll in the stink.

Funny dog

Are your dogs stealing your stuff?

Some dogs steal blingThere are many stories about magpies being attracted to shiny things and taking off with silverware or jewelry, but other species than birds are also attracted to bling. Some dogs, for example, like to steal to shiny objects. 

Many dogs snatch up things such as necklaces or small sparkling purses, carry them off, and hide them. Owners who find their cell phone with sparkling cover in the laundry pile or a bracelet under the sofa cushions might be tempted to blame the children, but the culprit might have four legs.

There are several theories to why some dogs like to hide things. Some believe the habit is genetic and stems back to a time when meals weren’t guaranteed and all excesses had to be preserved. Burying leftovers helped preserve the food, and protect it from others. The dogs would come back later and eat the buried food when they wanted or needed it.

Other theories state that the dog might be bored, and hiding things gives something to do, or that lonely dogs feel better because they have something stashed away that smells like their human.

The behavior can also stem from wanting attention. Some dogs and young children will take whatever attention they can get, even if it involves being scolded. In this case, the dog hides your things because it likes the interaction it gets when you find the things – even if you’re yelling at it. These dogs need more interaction, and maybe a puzzle toy to help keep them occupied.

Don’t give up on your dog when it’s a teenager

A dog is most likely to be surrendered to a shelter when it is between nine and eighteen months old. At this age dogs have grown out of the super-cute puppy stage and look like adults, but they don’t act adult, and families unprepared for this phase of life often give up. Adolescence can be as difficult for a dog as it is for a human.

Adolescent dogs are super-curious and want to discover the world with all their senses. They dig, they chew, run away to explore, jump, and challenge authority. For many, everything is a game, and their attention span is… squirrel!

On top of all this, they have so much energy it takes super-human stamina to keep up. This is when many give up, and instead of helping their dog to become a well balanced adult, they send their pet off to a shelter and probable death.

It is always important to choose a dog breed that works well for the family, but it is extra important when picking  a puppy. Some breeds get through this period in life easier than others.

Working breeds are often particularly difficult; they have a lot of energy, high intelligence, and need a job. If they don’t get something appropriate to do, they will make something up. Some working breeds – like Border Collies – are often considered adolescents up until they’re three years old, so in addition to the difficult period being more intense, it also lasts longer.

So, how do you survive, stay sane, and keep your dog?

Provide plenty of exercise. Consider crating your dog when he or she is unsupervised. Keep training the dog, and make training sessions fun. Thinking games often wear dogs out better than physical exercise. Above all, remember that this is a phase that will eventually go away.

Can you teach a dog to swim?

Labrador RetrieverAssuming the dog breed is physically able to swim – not all dogs can swim – how do they learn to do so?

Dogs will instinctively paddle when they enter water. Some dogs love water at first sight, plunge in, and might not want to come out again. Others are reluctant and even scared.

If your dog doesn’t take to swimming immediately, here are some tips that might help them along:

  • Encourage the dog by going out in the water yourself and calling for them. If they follow you, reward with praise.
  • If your dog likes to play fetch, they might follow a floating toy or tennis ball into the water. Start at a shallow depth and go gradually deeper.
  • Many dogs want to join in if they see people or other dogs having fun in the water.

As with all training it is important to stay calm. Some dogs will never like water. We might feel that they’re missing out, but should still respect it.

If your dog turns out to love swimming, it is still up to you to think of safety. Older dogs and puppies tire quickly, and they often don’t realize how tired they are until it’s too late to turn back. Watch out for strong currents and underwater debris that can ensnare the dog.

Many dogs who don’t like water still enjoy an outing to the beach. Non-swimmers should wear a life vest. This is particularly important for breeds such as Bulldogs who are physically unable to swim. If the sand is hot, protect the sensitive paws. Make sure there’s access to shade and cool drinking water, and be attentive for signs of heat stroke.

Canine Good Citizen Degree

Since 1989, the AKC offers a Canine Good Citizen test, and over 600,000 dogs have passed it. The idea is to offer a fun and satisfying way for dogs and owners to work together towards the goal of a well-trained and well-socialized dog.

The CGC is now an official title. Dogs who successfully completed the 10-step test can have the title “CGC” affixed to their name.

 

To make things even better, there’s now an advanced degree as well: AKC Community Canine, or CGCA. In order to earn this title, the dog must have a CGC award or title, and have an AKC number. (All dogs can get an AKC number, it doesn’t matter if it’s a purebred or mixed.)

 

Both tests focus on a dog’s social skills. Evaluators stage a series of ten common situations a dog and owner might encounter, and to pass, the dog must react in a calm and well-mannered way. For the CGC, the tests are simulations of real world skills, but the CGCA performs the test in a natural setting.

 

To pass the test, the dog must be able to:
  1. Stand, sit, or lie down and wait while the owner is busy doing something else.
  2. Walk on a loose leash in a real-life situation.
  3. Walk on a loose leash, without pulling, through a crowd.
  4. Walk, without pulling, past distraction dogs.
  5. Sit and stay in a group of three other dogs and owners.
  6. Allow an approach and petting from a person carrying a backpack or other object.
  7. “Leave it” – be able to ignore food on command.
  8. Down or sit-stay from a distance.
  9. Recall in an environment with distractions.
  10. Sit or stand-stay while owner enters/exists a doorway or a narrow passage.
To read more about these degrees, visit akc.org!

 

How do I train my pet to use a pet door?

Most pets are eager to explore the outside, and once they realize they have the option to go in and out as they please, they will jump on the opportunity. Teaching the pet generally takes somewhere between five seconds and five days.

Using the PlexiDor comes naturally to most dogs and cats, even if they are reluctant to use a traditional rubber flap door. They can see the outside through the clear panel, and the panel swings open easily.

If the pet doesn’t take to the door, try propping one of the panels open and coaxing the pet through with a treat. When it comes to cats, it generally works well to put something they want on the other side of the door.

For the electronic door, it usually works well to put a treat on the bottom lip of the pet door. The dog or cat approaches to get the treat, and the collar key triggers the door to open. It doesn’t take long for the pets to figure out that the door will open when they come close.

Some pets need longer than others. It is important to stay patient and calm, and give praise once they do come through. When the get the hang of it, they’ll be happy to run in and out without having to wait for a human to get the door.