Oct 4, 2011 Issue #20 Published by Sue Skiff
A NOTE FROM SUE
I got off to a late start, today. What can I say? I have a cold, and all I want to do is sleep.
I did participate in the speech contest, last week. I had a lot of fun telling my crow story. I definitely got more laughs than my two competitors, and many people told me that mine was the best speech. However, I came in second by one point. Not too bad, all in all.
Tonight's issue talks about calming hyperactive dogs. I have also included another story about Ahwahnee. If this keeps up, I may just have to write a book about her. Hmmmm....
Please let me know what
YOU would like me to write about.
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See you next week!.
FOUR TIPS FOR CALMING THE HYPER DOG
Many people think that they need to tire their dogs out in order to get their dogs to be calm. This seems to make sense when you think about it. It’s hard to be hyper if you’re worn out. The problem with this idea is that as a dog gets used to a certain activity level, that activity level no longer wears it out. You then have to exercise the dog more to wear it out. Then, it becomes used to that amount of exercise, and you have to exercise it even more. As you can see, this can become never ending.
So, what is the answer to calming a hyperactive dog? The answer, of course, is teaching calmness. Here are some tips.
TIP 1: REINFORCE YOUR DOG WHEN IT IS CALM
When are you least likely to give your dog attention? I’m going to guess that it’s when your dog is lying down being calm. Well, if you have a dog with any hyperactive tendencies, then you need to give your dog attention when it is lying down. Yes, that’s right. When your dog is lying down, praise it, pet it, toss it treats; whatever you can do to let it know that you like the fact that it is lying down. Just be careful to do it in a way that doesn’t cause your dog to get excited, or to get up.
TIP 2: IGNORE YOUR DOG WHEN IT IS HYPER
Dogs often get attention for being hyper. Never mind that this attention is often human attempts to stop the dog from being hyper, it’s still attention. This leads the dog to become hyper when it wants attention. So, walk away from your dog when it’s hyper. If your dog gets destructive when it is hyper, then you can have it drag its leash around, so that you can calmly take it to its crate without giving it much attention, when it gets too active. Just do your best to ignore the hyperactivity, so that you are not inadvertently reinforcing it.
TIP 3: PRACTICE “STAY” A LOT
It is easiest to learn something by practicing it. Your dog can learn to be calm by being given chances to practice being calm. Teach your dog to stay, and practice it often. Reinforce your dog for staying for longer and longer periods of time. This will give your dog a chance to practice being calm.
TIP 4: GIVE YOUR DOG POSITIVE OUTLETS FOR ITS ENERGY
Of course, you can’t expect your dog to lie down all of the time, although many dogs sleep at least 20 hours a day. You need to give your dog things to do that are appropriate ways to use its energy. The best outlet for your dog’s energy is obedience training. So, throughout the day, give your dog training sessions that are fun. Do training while you take your dog for its walks. Your dog will have to use its brain, as well as its body. This will help to tire dog out faster than simple exercise would do.
Another positive outlet for your dog is play. Teach your dog to play fetch (and bring the toy back to you). Play hide and seek with your dog. Play gentle games of tug-of-war with your dog. Hide its food at feeding time, and tell your dog to find it. Invent any kind of game to help your dog have appropriate fun. And, of course, give your dog things to chew on, which is the simplest form of dog play.
There you have it; four things to do to calm your dog down. My dog Emma was extremely hyper when I adopted her at age two. These are the techniques I used for her. She has even learned to calm herself down, if something causes her to start getting too excited. It takes time, but stick with it, and you can teach your dog how to calm itself down, as well.
AHWAHNEE DEMANDS TO BE FED
As I told you last week, my oldest cat Ahwahnee moved in with me one day after I found her under my bathroom sink. She had crawled in with the pipes. When I first got adopted by Ahwahnee, I used to feed her on top of my refrigerator so that her food would be out of reach of the dogs.
I am not like most cat guardians. I don’t believe in leaving food out for my cats all of the time; esp since I often feed raw food, which would spoil if left out too long. Instead, I feed them the amount of food that they need each evening. If they ask for food when I am not ready to feed them, I generally ignore them. There are exceptions. If they seem incredibly hungry, for some reason, at a time of day that is not near their feeding time, I will give them some food. But, that is somewhat unusual.
Why am telling you this? Well, at first Ahwahnee had the attitude that many cats seem to have. That is, since I had allowed her into my house, she seemed to think that I should be at her beck and call. I should feed her any time that she saw fit to be fed.
I am going to digress a little, here. I told you last week that I lived in a small, run-down trailer at the time that Ahwahnee adopted me. Being a trailer, the floor plan was not exactly like that of a house. The living room was directly to the right of the front door as I walked in; the kitchen directly to the left. The rest of the rooms were on the other side of the kitchen. The refrigerator was next to the front door, and I walked directly passed it to get to the bedrooms and bathroom. Get the picture?
Okay, back to the story…… I used to feed Ahwahnee on top of the refrigerator as I said. And, Ahwahnee had the opinion that she should be fed on demand. So, she developed an interesting habit. If she jumped up onto the refrigerator, and found no food, she would want tell me about it. So, she would sit on top of the refrigerator, and wait for me to walk by. This, I did somewhat often, since I spent a good deal of my time in the living room, but had to go to the rooms beyond the kitchen for various reasons.
Now, I told you, in one of my first issues, how when Ahwahnee decided that she needed to be allowed outside after having happily spent the winter indoors, she would circle around my bedroom, and jump on my chest. Then, I told you last week that she liked to release live mice into my bed. So, you can probably guess that Ahwahnee did not demand food in any kind of subtle way. No, she would wait until I was passing through the kitchen, and swat me on the head as I walked past the refrigerator. She seemed to think that this would cause me to immediately apologize for the lack of food, and produce food for her. She was wrong.
Ahwahnee hadn’t accounted for the fact that I am a dog trainer. She did not realize that I wasn’t going to allow her to take charge. Of course, at first I thought that simply ignoring her would get her to realize that her swats were not going to produce the wanted results. After all, isn’t that what the positive reinforcement gurus all say? “Reinforce the good, and ignore the bad.” The animal learns that doing “good” gets it what it wants, and doing “bad” gets it nothing, and it stops doing the “bad.” Okay, okay, so maybe positive reinforcement gurus have a lot to learn about cats. Anyone who knows cats knows that ignoring her was not the answer. Ahwahnee began hitting me harder as I walked past the refrigerator when she had no food. It actually started to hurt, a little.
What to do? Well, being a dog trainer, I knew that there needed to be a consequence for the swats. It had to be something that would be unpleasant enough to get Ahwahnee to not want to swat me again, but that wouldn’t harm her. It also had to be something that would happen at the instant that the swat happened, so that she would connect it to the swatting, and it had to be easily repeatable. After careful thought, I came up with the solution.
The next time that Ahwahnee swatted me on the head, I calmly, firmly, and gently knocked her off of the refrigerator. She didn’t like that. However, she didn’t give up that easily. It took several times of me knocking her off of the refrigerator before she decided that swatting me in the head wasn’t the best idea after all.
It has been almost 13 years since Ahwahnee moved in with me. She has taught me a lot, and I am grateful for all that I have learned. Next week, I will share more of my adventures with her.
It’s part of life in the 21st century. You get the kids off to school, work all day, pick the kids up at daycare, make dinner, and collapse. But, what about the dog? How do you find the time to train it to be a good citizen? Maybe, you managed to get your dog into a puppy kindergarten class, and then a basic obedience class. But, you really didn’t have time to practice the way the instructor wanted you to, and now, well now, it’s all kind of fallen by the wayside.
You know that your dog can do better. Perhaps, your dog has some behavior issues. Whether or not they’re serious issues, they make your life harder, don’t they?
So, what do you do when you’re already stretched, and you know your dog needs more? The answer is “day training.” Day training starts with a meeting with me where you describe your dog training needs, and your dog’s behavior issues. I then come to your house for an hour or so, on agreed upon days, to train your dog. You get to get on with your life, while your dog gets training and attention from a professional. And, that training and attention is customized to your and your dog’s exact needs.
Maintaining what your dog learned is also built into the day training program. At the end of each week of training, I meet with you to go over what your dog has learned, as well as what you need to do to maintain the learning. After the agreed upon number of weeks has elapsed, I return for a follow-up or two, to make sure that you and your dog are on the same page, and everyone’s happy. For more information on day training, visit
my dog training website
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