Tag Archives: dog training

How much should dogs sleep?

Is your dog a sleepy head? Are you worried about it? The truth is that dogs sleep more than people do. 

The average dog needs between 10 and 15 hours of sleep every day. Puppies need even more.

Not lazy at all

One of the concerns we hear from our dog training students is their dogs are “bored,” and sleep out of boredom. The truth is a bit different. After a training game, or any kind of exertion, dogs need a nap. That’s the way most predatory animals are built. They have periods of intense activity, then dogs nap. 

When you think about it, it makes sense. Intense activity uses lots of calories. For predators, this would be hunting. Then eating. Then napping. As if every day were Thanksgiving!

For dogs, that could be playing fetch, going for a walk, or even playing dog-training games. Asking our dogs to think is just as tiring as physical activity. Remember when you were in school and were really tired after tests? Same thing, but training games are lots more fun.

Let it sink in

Boston Terrier Dog sleeping
Booker (Boston Terrier) napping

Dogs sleep for both physical and mental rest. They need the down time to process things they’ve learned. That’s one of the reasons puppies need so much sleep – up to 20 hours a day. Growing takes a lot out of a pup. So does thinking.

Research has shown that dogs learn more, retain that learning better, and are more confident when short training sessions are followed by longer breaks. 

Let sleeping dogs lie

There’s no reason to be concerned if your dog sleeps most of the day away. They don’t need constant entertainment or stimulation. 

That’s why we’re not huge fans of the doggy day care concept. Dogs don’t need to play all day. The constant activity and excitement floods their systems. That makes it even harder for them to relax. 

If you do need to use a day care, try to set limits on the amount of time your dog is expected to be active, especially with other dogs. Some “down time” during the day will help him learn to settle when at home with you.

Old dogs sleep a lot

Older dogs, like puppies, may need more sleep. And they sometimes give us a fright when we try to wake them. Either they don’t hear as well, or they sleep deeper, but it can take some doing to wake an old dog from his nap. 

When your old dog does awaken, give him a moment to get oriented and figure out what’s going on. Whatever dreams they were having, it may take a bit to get focused. That’s where we are with 13-year-old Tango now.

That contrasts with young, healthy adult dogs who can startle from sleep into instant attention and barking. We’ve got that, too. Simon (3) and Booker (9) our Boston Terriers can go from snoring to watchdog-at-attention in nothing flat. It can be startling if you were napping, too!


Changing your dog’s mind

Changing your dog’s mind about something can be challenging. Lots of people are convinced that their dogs are “stubborn,” or uncooperative, or obstinate.

“My dog hates the sound of Velcro.”

“She won’t tolerate anything going over her head.”

“He wiggles too much to step into a harness.”

We get it. Dogs have definite likes and dislikes. But you can change their mind. All it takes is a little patience and a lot of treats. 

Why not let your dog choose?

Just last week we talked about how much fun it was to let our dogs be “in charge” of an outing. And it is, on occasion, a great idea. But just as you wouldn’t let a human toddler choose all aspects of life, the dog doesn’t get to decide, either. 

If you want, or need, your dog to wear a certain type of harness, you may need to train them to accept it. If you’d really like your dog to wear the no-escape Wrap-N-Go, but your dog is afraid of hook-and-loop tape, what do you do?

Get accustomed

Dogs love routine. They love schedules. They don’t tend to like what’s new and different. So the first step in changing your dog’s mind about anything is to make it a normal part of life. 

Say your dog is an eager eater and loves nothing better than meals. While your dog is eating, play with some hook-and-loop tape. The sound will be associated with something your dog loves, rather than something scary. If your dog is so scared of the sound that he/she stops eating, move farther away. As your dog gets used to the sound and is able to ignore it, move gradually closer. In time your dog will realize there’s no threat.

Changing your dog's mind about hook-and-loop tape

If your dog isn’t crazy about meals, you do have other options for training your dog to get used to the sound. Think of something that your dog values highly – whether it’s a toy, or a chewie, or a particular treat. If you open the hook-and-loop tape while your dog is playing with a favorite toy, you’ll change your dog’s opinion. Just as if every time you rip the hook-and-loop tape open a little, you give your dog a special treat. Premium treats (Chicken Heart Treats, pieces of cheese or hot dog) will make it a sound your dog loves, rather than a source of fear.

Over the head

The same thing goes if your dog is afraid of something going over his/her head. Taking it slowly, rewarding heavily, and changing the experience into a good time makes all the difference. Just show the dog the harness and reward for looking at it, sniffing it, any interaction. Then put the harness over your arm and use that hand to give a treat. When the dog is okay with that, bring the harness closer, eventually over your hand. When your dog is okay with touching the harness to get the treat, you can gradually move it closer so it’s touching your dog. In time, it will become normal and routine.

No surprises

Dogs are adaptable and their love for you will get them to try anything you want. As long as you introduce new or scary things gradually, and never try to fool them, your dog will keep trying. 


Scratching & sniffing – let your dog walk you

Have you ever let your dog walk you? Recently there have been lots of articles about dog enrichment suggesting that letting your dog lead the way is a wonderful way to let your dog relax and be a dog. 

Most of this Spring has been cold, rainy, and/or snowy and generally miserable weather-wise. But we had a sunny, if brisk, day last week and Hope decided to let her 7-year-old French Bulldog Torque lead the way on a walk.

This was a first. It’s not that they never go for walks. It’s just that they’re usually walks for either training or exercise. Just walking for the sake of it is not part of our makeup. We know there are lots of people who enjoy it, we’re just not among them. That’s why there are 32 flavors of ice cream.

Confusing lack of direction

Torque walks nicely on leash, so he was accommodating, if a little confused. He’s used to Hope always deciding direction and pace of the outing. Torque isn’t used to being in charge. 

Once he caught on, he had a wonderful time. There’s a “greenway” at the end of our street, just for people, bicyclists, and dog walking. It’s not all that wide, but it goes for a few miles and the path is paved. It’s landscaped with native plants and trees. Needless to say, it’s fairly heavily used. Especially with locals walking their dogs. The pee-mail was fascinating for Torque.

Sniff as you please

Small dog walking and sniffing

He may have thought he’d gone to heaven. At the first couple of trees, he glanced sideways at Hope to see if she was planning to call him off. When no “come on!” urging came, he dipped his head for a few more whiffs before moving on.

At some point Torque realized that he could do what he wanted. He sniffed, marked, and kicked back after each deposit droplet. And then he stopped marking and just started kicking. Apparently just for the sheer joy of doing it.

Ground scratching

Because we always want to know why, we checked to see what’s going on when our dogs kick back like Torque was doing. The name of the behavior is “ground scratching” and apparently it’s a normal, if uncommon behavior. Only 10 percent of domestic dogs do it, although it’s very common among wolves, coyotes, and other wild canids.

Of course nobody knows exactly why dogs ground scratch. Because it’s most often seen immediately after elimination, researchers speculate that it’s either to spread their scent far and wide, or to mask the scent so unfriendlies can’t find them. Which are directly contradictory reasons, so no conclusions drawn. We do know that dogs have sweat glands in their paws, and may emit scent and pheromones when they scratch. Again, nobody really knows.

Careful of the landscape

We learned a lot from our dog-directed walk. It was fun seeing Torque have such a good time. And we learned he’s only allowed to be in the driver’s seat on native-growing, public property. The neighbors probably wouldn’t appreciate a thorough ground-scratching session, no matter how much Torque enjoyed it.


How to trim dog nails without fuss

Do your regularly trim your dog’s nails? We just found out that a dear friend’s dog can only get nail trims under anesthesia. Consequently, this gorgeous five-year old Great Dane has only had this vital grooming procedure a couple of times in his life.

Fortunately, while long, his nails haven’t yet started to curl back into his paws. Probably because he’s a city dog, and goes for miles of walks on concrete, which helps keep his nails from becoming worse than they are.

Gotta help if you can

We’re working with our friend to turn things around for his boy Frankie. At this point, we don’t know if it’s going to work, but we have to try. It’s a great opportunity to put our convictions to the test. Frankie has to cooperate and consent. There’s no way we can force a 135-pound Great Dane to do anything. We have to teach him that it’s okay. He weighs more than we do. 

Fortunately, Frankie adores his person and is an eager and fast learner. We’re hopeful.

Step #1: Get used to the noise

We’ve told our friend to get a corded, handheld multi-tool with a sanding drum. While many people use nail clippers without an issue, we’ve never been fans. Probably because we’re terrified of hurting our dogs – especially the dogs with black nails that we can’t see through. Once you’ve “quicked” a dog, you’re a bit hesitant.

Boston Terrier shows consent to dog care by calmly allowing nails to be trimmed

Add to that the tremendous success we’ve had with the grinding tool. We even trim our Bearded Dragon’s nails with it! 

Boston Terrier Simon usually naps during nail grinding. We had to wake him up to take the picture.

The first step, after you get the tool, is to just plug it in and let your dog get used to the sound. Run it for a minute or less, feeding your dog yummy treats the whole time. If your dog is terrified, distance is your friend. Have the tool as far away as possible, and only gradually get closer as your dog adjusts. 

This may be a great time to use a “lick mat.” Just spread a soft food (peanut butter, yogurt, cream cheese, whipped cream) on the mat and freeze it. Save this special treat to use for nails only. If your dog adores something about the process, the rest of it will be easier.

Step 2: Play patty-paws

Get your dog used to you handling his/her paws. At first, without the grinder. In time, you can add the grinder turned on – but only if you also use the lick mat, or some other really high value reward. If your dog has a favorite chewy treat, use that if you like. 

Getting your dog to accept nail grinding is a process, especially if it’s been an issue in the past. We’re being completely honest with the dog. We need to do this. We want you to be comfortable with it. We’re going to give you every opportunity to adjust and accept.

Step 3: Moving on

When your dog is comfortable with the grinder in close proximity, and with you playing with his/her paws, you can try grinding one nail. If you have two people, have one person stay with the dog’s head and lick mat. The other person will be in charge of the grinder. Start with a back paw. Hold it gently. Tell your dog what you’re doing – you never want to try to fool your dog. 

If your dog pulls his/her paw away, don’t hold on. Just gently take hold of it again and try again. The harder you hold on, the more your dog will resist. This is the part that takes the most patience. Try a few times, or as long as your dog is working on the lick mat. If your dog freaks out, stop trying to grind the nail. Just let the grinder run while the dog finishes their treat.

Don’t give up

Getting your dog comfortable with normal grooming procedures is important for optimal health throughout your dog’s life. And it saves both time and money if you’re able to do it yourself. Think of it as an investment in your dog’s long, healthy, happy life with you.