Tag Archives: dog training

Be like dogs – live the best life

Dogs don’t worry about the future. They don’t lose sleep over what may happen. And they accept what’s happening now as the best day ever. Dogs are models on how to live the best life. Be like dogs!

Why worry?

Some challenges in the last few months make us admire dogs’ resilience and adaptability. 

Booker has developed an issue with incontinence. Neither we nor the veterinarian has been able to figure out what’s going on with him (so far). We know it’s not a training issue, he seems to have no idea that he’s dripping his way around. Since we don’t know what’s causing it, we’re reluctant to use medication to control it. Instead, Booker now wears “pants” (a belly band) in the house. And he doesn’t mind. At all.

Be like dogs enjoy every day like this Boston Terrier play-bowing

Actually, he seems more comfortable wearing his pants. When he comes inside the house he waits by the door until we replace his pants. It could be because of the treat he gets. Or it could be because dogs love routine. When we first discussed using the belly band, we were worried that he’d be uncomfortable, or unhappy, wearing them. He doesn’t care.

Simon doesn’t care, either

A few weeks ago we talked about getting a muzzle for Simon to stop his persistent determination to eat every morsel of rabbit poop in the yard. We have to admit that the first couple of days weren’t happy. Now? Simon sits and waits for his “mask” to go on, knowing he gets to go outside. He no longer paws at it, and doesn’t try to avoid putting it on. Again, it could be because of the treats he gets. Or the routine. But he doesn’t mind. 

Booker and Simon demonstrate how to let go of the things you can’t change. They’re probably not crazy about their new garments. But they don’t resent them, either. These boys are living their best life.

What is the “best life” for a dog?

Dogs don’t have a lot of requirements for happiness. “Best life” depends on the individual dog and owner. Our dogs were accustomed to “going places” and “doing things” at least a couple days a week. With all dog sport classes cancelled over the past year, that changed. We miss going to class, socializing with our friends, and spending time focusing only on playing with our dogs. The dogs seem just as happy with our little basement training sessions

There’s a dog we follow on social media, a pied French Bulldog named Bubba. The person writing Bubba’s posts completely understands. He talks about Bubba’s adventures of the day, from Bubba’s point of view. And almost every single day is “the best day ever!” Which for dogs, it is. It’s always the best day.

The dogs don’t know what could be happening. They only know what is, and enjoy what’s going on now. They adapt to the situation. Dogs aren’t concerned about what could or should be. They enjoy now. Be like dogs.

Using a dog muzzle for one of our own

Have we gone to the dark side? Are we really using a dog muzzle for Simon?

No, we haven’t succumbed to evil. And yes, we have started putting a muzzle on Simon, Fran’s 2-year-old Boston Terrier, whenever we take the dogs out in our yard.

Why on earth would you do that?

The explanation starts with the two-plus feet of snow that’s melted in the last week or so. And continues with the question we saw one of our neighbors post on “Next Door” – “What are all those round brown things on the lawn?”

Lots and lots of neighbors quickly enlightened him. That’s rabbit poop. Which emerges from the depths of winter like a luxuriant crop when the snow melts. And which Simon considers a delicacy of the first order. And he’s not alone.

Ewww. Why do dogs do that?

Just a quick internet search will turn up a wealth of articles on “why dogs like eating rabbit poop.” We don’t really care. We’re glad it’s not considered harmful, just disgusting. We just want it to stop. 

Simon, using a dog muzzle

That’s why we got the muzzle. As you can see, Simon can breathe and see perfectly fine. He can also sniff to his heart’s content, and we can give him lots and lots of treats for being a good boy. About the only thing this muzzle doesn’t let him do is eat stuff from the ground. Which he delighted in doing – mud, grass, weeds, and of course, that caviar of the lawn – rabbit poop.

Isn’t using a dog muzzle cheating?

It would be possible to teach a dog not to eat stuff in the yard. We chose this route instead for a few reasons. The most important one is we want Simon to have the opportunity to be “good” all the time. Other means of achieving this would be to have him on a collar or harness and leash all the time. It would require micro-managing his outings, rather than letting him run around, play with the other dogs, and enjoy the outside. If we went that route, we’d also have to take him out by himself, since he would require our complete attention.

And we’re way too lazy to take “sets” of dogs out. When it’s time to go outside – everybody out!

Been here. Done that.

We’re actually not new to using a dog muzzle. Tango, Fran’s 11-year-old Brussels Griffon, was an aggressive, reactive, obnoxious creature when she got him. It was fear-aggression, but it was aggression. It took months of dedicated, positive-reinforcement training to turn him into the model canine citizen he’s become. You can read the story of how she changed him in Fran’s book: The Reactive Dog Recipe. We tell him he’d better live to be at least 50 – he owes us lots of time with “good Tango.”

The muzzle is a tool. It allowed Fran to take Tango out and about and be confident that no one, including Tango, would get hurt. It let every single interaction have a positive outcome. She was able to reward him for being calm. And he learned that other dogs, people, and places could be fun.

Just the beginning

We’re hoping that, in time, Simon’s habit of grubbing for goodies in the dirt will be broken. We’re also hoping that rabbits will stop living in our yard. We don’t really understand why they do. There are lots of yards in the area that dogs don’t inhabit. 

Maybe the rabbits enjoy doing a mad dash for the gate with a dog hot on their heels. Stupid rabbits. Tricks are for dogs.

3 Biggest Mistakes Dog Owners Make

When you read the headline “Mistakes Dog Owners Make” you probably thought it’s about particular products, or kinds of foods, or ways of caring for your dog.

It’s not. It’s about attitude and letting your dog be the best dog he/she possibly can’t. We think the biggest mistakes are the ones fail to appreciate how wonderful dogs are just by being dogs.

Mistakes dog owners make #1

Rushing. Chances are, in the course of a day, you have a schedule. It may be a weird one, since this is still 2020, but you still have stuff to do, places to go, errands to run. You want to get things done!

Your dog doesn’t have a timetable. Dogs live in the moment. They are where they are. And when we interact with our dogs, we need to be there, too. What’s wrong with playing fetch an extra few minutes? Or letting your dog sniff that fire hydrant and get all the latest “pee mail?” 

If you’re a listmaker, make “spend time with the dog” a list item. And give it more time than you think you should. No one really cares if the housework gets put off. You’ll remember how good it felt to cuddle your dog, how much fun you had together, not how immaculate your house is. 

And for the people who got a “pandemic puppy,” no dog is potty trained at three months old. And they shouldn’t be. We remember when our peers bragged about how young their children were when they were toilet trained. Nobody cares. It doesn’t matter. None of those kids was wearing diapers in college. It takes how long it takes.

Relax. Enjoy where you are. 

Mistakes dog owners make #2

Catering. More dogs are turned into finicky eaters by their people than for any other reason. Dogs don’t care if they eat the same thing every meal, every day. People like variety. Dogs don’t care. 

No healthy dog will purposely starve to death. If your dog doesn’t eat because he’s “holding out for something better,” be strong. There is nothing better. Hopefully you’ve researched dog foods, selected the optimum for your dog and your circumstances. That’s what your dog gets.

We do modify as we learn our dogs personalities. Hope’s French Bulldog Torque loves sweet things and doesn’t much care for fish. She figured this out because he eagerly dove into his bowl when beets or carrots were part of a meal, and took his time when there was fish. She didn’t dump out all the fish meals, but no longer includes it when making food. And there may be a few more beets and carrots in the mix.

People also cater to their dogs outside of meal time. It’s not okay that your dog barks at people wearing hats, or tall men, or children, or women carrying bags. He/she doesn’t have to love them. He just has to learn to ignore them. Dogs don’t make the rules, we do. And every member of the family, including the dogs, have to live by them. 

Mistakes dog owners make #3

Helping. This is more for people who continue to have fun training their dogs, but applies to all dogs. Caring people tend to want to “help” when someone, or some dog, has a problem. Given the chance to figure stuff out on their own, most dogs are geniuses! 

A dog training mentor of ours has a favorite saying “the more you help, the more helpless they become.” And it’s true. Hope’s Teddy may not have been the brightest bulb in the chandelier, and he was so darn cute that Hope pretty much “fixed” things for him all the time. One day he trapped himself into a tight area of the yard. And yelled for help when he thought he was stuck. Hope consciously decided not to help him – he’d gotten in there and there was a way back. She encouraged him, and he kept trying until he figured it out. He was incredibly proud of himself, and learned how to navigate that problem forever.

It’s the Taoist saying come to life: “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach him how to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.”

Just for fun – sniffing out new dog games

With few places to go, we’re getting creative with new dog games to play inside. Our morning play session with our dogs is one of the highlights of every day. It ensures that every single day starts with something to smile about.

Getting creative

The challenge, for us, is to keep it fresh and fun. Teaching our dogs a new dog game is Hope’s favorite part. Figuring out each “step” in the process, and how to communicate it to the dog. Then, once we try it with the dog, we learn how to change things up, based on that individual dog’s response.

This week Fran was introducing Booker to the bowling game. Torque’s been playing this one for a while. Hope sets up the toy bowling pins and sends her French Bulldog Torque off – “Go Strike!” to knock them down. Torque bashes into each one with his big head and dashes back to Hope for his reward. We think it’s adorable.

Booker is a Boston Terrier. He doesn’t have a “big giant head” and certainly doesn’t use the one he does have to bash into things. Instead, like a Boston, he uses his paws. 

We’d never seen that before in the bowling game. Thinking about it, Fran decided that, since Booker was more comfortable using his paw, slapping the pin would be Booker’s version of the game. His rules can be different from Torque’s. The game depends on the dog.

Sniffing for fun

Torque’s newest game is sniffing scents. His love for Hope’s essential oils actually gave her the idea. That, and reading about many friends competing in “Nose Work” dog sports. In Nose Work, dogs are brought into an area where certain scents are hidden, and the dog has to signal where they are.

In our basement game of sniffing, Hope puts a couple drops of essential oil (we’re using clove at the moment) on a cotton pad and Fran hides it while Torque and Hope are turned away. When it’s in place, Hope tells Torque to “find it” and he dashes around, sniffing everywhere. It’s a pretty new game for them, but Torque just loves it and seems to be catching on quickly. Except when he grabs the cotton pad and tries to eat it. Mostly he signals by pawing at it.

But we’re not sure this game would be a good idea for Booker. When Booker is feeling unsure, he “checks out” and goes sniffing. He disengages from Fran and loses focus and fun. For Booker, sniffing is a stress behavior. We’re not sure if making it part of a game would stress him even more, or normalize sniffing. 

New dog games adapt

When we’re developing a new game for our dogs, we try the set-up and see what our dogs do with it. All games change based on how that individual dog reacts and “plays” the game. Dogs who are used to learning new things, and know they’re allowed to try stuff, can be very creative in their reactions. 

We may have a picture in our minds of how a new dog game will go. It’s a rare occasion when it goes as planned. That’s part of the fun.

New dog games develop over time. And it’s so much fun to have a selection to choose from. Every day we can choose a beloved “oldie” to dust off and play, or a new favorite, or play a “work in progress” game. 

Just a few minutes a day can grow your dog’s brain, your bond with your dog, and start the day with a huge smile. It doesn’t take much room, much time, or much effort. What a huge payoff!

What games do you play with your dog?