Tag Archives: dog training

Poop Happens

Everybody poops, and some dogs eat it. To the absolute dismay of their doting and loving owners, some dogs just eat sh#$. Today I was sitting at my desk working away and one of my clients called on the verge of tears.

“Brittany, I’m so upset, Rosie ate… poop… human poop. What do I do?”

I’m not very used to this complaint, but at first I breathed a sigh of relief because Rosie didn’t take a chunk out of a human hand. Luckily, she just ate a chunk of poop. At this point, I’ve heard it all, “My dog at my thong, my dog drinks out of the toilet bowl, my dog rolled in a dead seal” and the list goes on.

My own dogs have eaten poop. Taj found a steaming pile of something and Matt was mortified  that his ‘perfect’ dog would do such a thing. Daisy has rolled in a dead rattlesnake carcass, which was the most nasty, musky smelling rank odor I’ve ever experienced. Daisy enjoys dining on cat logs and Taj spends hours licking his balls. And not his tennis balls.

Why do I speak of such evil, vile things? Simply to make a point- that dogs will be dogs. We forget that they are animals and sometimes we need them to swallow a mouthful of poop to remind us that they are not babies dressed in furry dog costumes. Even though we dress them up in silly little outfits and put them in dog strollers, they are still dogs no matter how much they get spoiled with snuggles and spa visits. Dogs need to be treated like dogs. They need to run and play and sniff and smell. And even roll in a dead seagull sometimes.

Dogs will be dogs and men will be men. Matt did confess to me that one time he tried to eat goat poop when he was a baby (good thing he doesn’t really read this nonsense blog) and that he also got his head stuck in a vase another time. Luckily, he’s grown out of such antics. However, this weekend I was really upset with myself because I got so upset over him leaving me, yet again.

He’s been traveling a lot for work and he’s been gone for a good two or three months. He’s been home for the weekends or I’ve met him wherever he is, but still, I’ve been longing for him to be home and to settle into our daily habits again. However, with the snow being so good in Colorado, Matt really wanted to go snowboarding again this weekend. At first, when he told me that he was leaving again I just got really sad. “Why would he want to leave me again? Why doesn’t he want to be home? Am I boring?” etc. As a girl, I just started taking it way too personally. In his mind, he’s thinking, “The snow is good. I have to chase powder. I’m young and want to create these fun memories.” Unfortunately, he’s not thinking, “I love Brittany so much that the powder can wait.” If I’m expecting him to think from my point of view, then I’m always going to be extremely disappointed.

The truth is, I put up such a hissy fit and I acted so childish about him leaving for only two days that I should be embarrassed. I know he loves me and I should want him to be happy. He has been taking me on some amazing trips and I’m the one who couldn’t make this trip even though I was invited.

Boys will be boys and they need to chase the powder, the waves and the good times. I’m with Matt because I love his sense of adventure and his never ending pursuit of fun and happiness. If I’m always a brat or bitchy about him going on fun trips then it’s just going to make him want to stay longer. As long as I’m invited on the trips, I’m happy!

Sometimes, things are poopy, but we just have to get over it and accept it for what it is. Just like death and taxes, poop is one thing we can all count on. On a walk with your dog, you’re not going to have a hysterical breakdown just because your dog pooped right in the middle of the sidewalk. No, you’re going to do the awkward bend-and-snap hoping that someone isn’t looking and you’re going to pick up that poop and act like it’s no big deal! You’ll toss it and forget it and walk on. In life, sh@$ happens and you just have to move on with a big smile on your face and your dog by your side!

I title this photo... Pooping In Purple Flowers.

Pooping In Purple Flowers

 

 

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Begging for Attention

Dogs and humans love attention. Dogs love to be loved, looked at, played with and praised. Some dogs require more attention than others and some have been conditioned and trained to beg for attention. When I was a kid, I had a golden retriever named Sarah who would push her snout under my hand and insist that I pet her. She would stop at nothing to have me touching her, petting her, loving her and adoring her. I would always give in and pet her all the time, so the snout nudging continued and naturally the behavior increased. Oftentimes, a lot of ‘bad behavior’ is a result of a dog seeking attention. Instead of a casual, cute nudge of the nose, attention-seeking behavior might be displayed in ways that are often incorrectly interpreted as ‘dominant’ behavior. Pawing, jumping up, mouthing, barking etc., have been coined as being aggressive displays of dogs trying to be ‘alpha dogs’. However, this is simply not the case.

 
Dogs are constantly being affected by their environment and also operating on it. The first time that a puppy jumps up onto someone’s lap they are usually met with a cute, loving gaze and a happy smile from someone that thinks the behavior is adorable. The puppy learns that jumping up gets him attention and adoration. Something that is good and pleasurable, so the behavior is being rewarded meaning that it will increase. Eventually the puppy grows up into a 70 lb. exuberant 10 month old youngster and the jumping up in someone’s lap is considered bad, dominant behavior that should be harshly corrected with a jerk on a leash. The punishment doesn’t often work however, because one person may harshly punish the puppy, but then the next person might still think it’s cute, so the puppy becomes confused and anxiety may set in. It’s the owner’s responsibility to realize that the puppy was taught one thing and now there are new expectations. The owner must start training himself to only pet the puppy when he is sitting. Something I like to call Sit-for-Pets. If the puppy jumps it’s important to turn your back to your puppy and not look at him until he is calm enough for you to ask him to sit. As soon as he’s sitting, then you can turn around and pet him while telling him, “Good sit!”. If your dog is capable of bowling over people and scratching their legs up, it’s important to manage the first part of the training by stepping on a leash and asking people to not give your giant, lovable, jumping pup any attention until he calms down and sits. As soon as he sits, they can give him all the love and attention in the world. Then the puppy will be rewarded with good positive attention instead of the puppy turning into giant jumping bean who is begging for attention regardless if it’s positive or negative attention.
 
Pawing, mouthing, barking, whining and other behaviors along these lines, are all inventive ways that dogs have used to elicit attention from their owners. People who push their dog away and say their dog’s name followed by a no all the time, are all giving in to what their dog wants- attention! Even if it’s negative attention they are happy. Just looking at them makes them happy. Just saying their name is attention. As a result, the behavior will continue and sometimes even get worse.
 

 
So, how do you extinguish unwanted attention seeking behaviors? Simply by ignoring it altogether. I know, I know this can be very, very difficult. It’s no fun to have a giant great dane pawing you with his big ol’ paw or a whiny poodle sit there crying at you. But you have to stick to your guns and be consistent. The other very important part of the equation is to identify and understand what your dog needs. Does your dog need to go outside to go potty, is he hungry, is he not well-exercised, is he not feeling well, etc.? Before the attention seeking behaviors start happening, make sure that all of your dog’s basic needs have been met. Then it’s very important to ask yourself, “How can I show my dog what I want him to do instead?”. For example, if your dog chews on anything in sight or jumps in your lap when you’re trying to watch TV, make sure that your dog has been well-exercised and mentally stimulated that day, and then teach your dog to go to his spot, ‘settle’, and reward him with praise, treats or a bully stick for staying on his bed. You can also click and treat your dog anytime that your dog is just laying there. Imagine that! Treating your dog for just relaxing! Too often we forget to reward calm behavior and instead we give too much attention to bad behavior. Humans have a ‘bad’ habit of having a negative bias, meaning we tend to give too much attention to negative things and we often overlook positive, good or comfortable things.
 
The other day, I realized that I was being an ‘attention-seeking dog’. The waves had been really good all weekend and as a result, I didn’t see much of my boyfriend. He was either surfing or working all weekend, so poor little needy me got a little grouchy. I put on a pouty face and decided to not be very pleasant when my boyfriend needed me to do him a favor. He had no idea why I was upset and responded with negative attention, “What’s the matter with you?”. I realized that I was almost happy because of the negative attention! “No wonder so many couples get into arguments”, I thought to myself. It’s simply another way of getting attention. Realizing that I was being an attention-seeking dog (aka a bitch), I decided to communicate my frustration and turn it into a positive experience instead. “I’m sorry, I just realized that I’ve missed you this weekend, and I would love to go on a date with you tonight when you have some time, ” I told him. All of a sudden, the whole mood changed and my loving boyfriend said, “Of course!”, and we ended up going out that night and had a wonderful conversation over a yummy dinner. I got the positive attention that I was begging for and my boyfriend got a pleasant girlfriend rather than a bitchy one. Problem solved due to positive, effective communication! You can train yourself, your boyfriend and your dog with positive reinforcement training!
 
Happy training!

How to Train Yourself to Be Happy!

In the last few years I’ve been obsessing over the concept of happiness. From East to West I’ve studied all kinds of different practices that bring people happiness. I’ve read books about Zen buddhism, Taoism, Existentialism and lots of other -isms. And I’ve asked everyone I know what they think happiness means, but the whole time I’ve had the happiest creatures teaching me about happiness right under my very nose. Dogs! Dogs are born happy. They’re just happy to be a dog and do what dogs do best- play, eat, cuddle, sleep, run, smell, repeat. They are masters of keeping it simple, living in the moment and having fun. It’s as easy as that!

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You’re probably thinking, “Brittany, I hate to break it to you, but you’re not a dog.” Alas, sadly I’m not a dog. I am a dog girl who loves to study dog and human behavior. Over the last 7+ years of training dogs, I’ve come to realize that I’m not just a dog trainer, I’m mostly a human trainer. Being a human trainer is a tricky business. Humans don’t really like to be trained or controlled, as result there’s an art to shaping human behavior so that they think it’s their idea. Communicating effectively, giving simple directions and using positive reinforcement is the absolute best way to change human behavior because no one wants to be told that they’re bad at something and they definitely don’t want to be belittled or put down. Humans also have big egos compared to dogs, so it’s really important to encourage rather than chastise a person otherwise they’ll want to give up. When I work with dogs, I’d rather be patient and let a dog slowly figure something out on their own, instead of shocking them with an electric collar or screaming at them when they’re trying to choose the right thing. Yes, there have been a few humans that I’ve wanted to zap with a shock collar because they were so abusive to their dogs, but I managed to kill them with kindness instead and teach them a different way of working with their dogs by treating them with the same patience, love and respect that I would with their dogs.

When people call me to come to their house for a dog training session, they’re in a state of stress and extreme frustration. Humans often become shut off from their dogs at this point or they’re so frustrated that they’ve become very Neanderthal aggressive with their dogs because nothing else seems to be working. I always start with discussing the behavior problems and then turning the issues on their head. Meaning, if John is upset with his dog for barking at other dogs when they’re on a walk, instead of saying, “I hate it when Lucky barks at other dogs” we change it to “I want Lucky to sit and stay calmly and give me attention when other dogs walk by.” Then we discuss how much play time, dog time and exercise that Lucky normally gets. Usually, Lucky is hardly ever walked because of the embarrassment that Lucky causes his human so the problem is compounded and only becomes worse because of all of his pent up energy and frustration. On top of it, Lucky is never let off-leash to run and play naturally because his owner John is probably afraid of what Lucky will do if they see another dog. In order to change Lucky’s behavior we also have to change John’s behavior and attitude towards his dog’s problems. It’s important to face dog problems with compassion because they’re stuck in our human world of small apartments, little yards and restrictive leashes. They’re also not born with comprehension of the human language.

So John and I start from the ground up. From the the root of all of the problems, by teaching John how to effectively communicate with his dog and by showing Lucky how we expect him to behave in our human world. Just like you can’t teach a five year old calculus, we can’t expect dogs to learn complex behaviors without teaching them basic arithmetic. And we certainly can’t force people to get over arachnophobia by throwing them into a room full of spiders, just like we can’t instantly teach dogs to suddenly love all dogs if they’re fearful of them. Dog training takes a lot of love, patience, clear communication, consistency and balance. Human training takes a lot of love, patience, clear communication, consistency and balance. Creating happiness takes a lot of love, patience, clear communication, consistency and balance. That’s when I had my “Aha!” moment. I don’t need to search for the meaning of happiness in books or in other people. Dogs have been teaching it to me all along.

That’s why I’ve decided to start teaching myself to be the happiest that I can be by using dog training techniques. Happiness is a very personal definition, but for me, happiness is cuddling with my furballs, having deep conversations with my man, balancing work and fun, playing with my loved ones, loving the great outdoors, eating healthy foods, cooking for my family and friends, sharing love through written word and art, training dogs, loving humanity, learning to whole-heartedly love myself so that I can love others even more, working hard to better the lives of dogs and their humans, and living life literally like there’s no tomorrow. In order to do all of this and to be the happiest person that I can be, I’ve decided to challenge myself and train myself to work on my behavior problems. Fortunately I don’t bark at the mailman, but I do bite my nails and I have a laundry list of other highly unfavorable bad habits.

Inspired by Gretchen Rubin’s amazing book and blogThe Happiness Project, I’ve decided to tackle my bad habits by training myself to become a better human. Every month I’m going to create certain goals and then use my handy-dandy dog training techniques to change my bad behavior. Instead of being a bad dog girl, I’m on a mission to become a good dog girl. Keep your ears perked and paws ready because I’m going to be sharing with you all of my “issues” and hopefully my trials and tribulations. March 1st is the New Year for this dog girl!

Peace, Paws & Love,

Brittany : )