Why A Trick Dog?
What is the point of my dog becoming like Lassie?
Organize the Dogs
Now, where did that dog brush go this time!?
Why Dogs Need Manners
Does your dog bolt out the door every chance they get? Or jump on people?
3 Commands That Could Save Your Dog's Life
Stop the accident before it happens, and show what a cool team you and your dog are!
How To Help A Grieving Pet
Do pets feel loss and grief like humans do? How can you tell them it's going to be okay?
Building Your Dog's Self-Esteem
Pride, dignity, self-worth... does my dog really have that?
How Much Do You Know About Service Dogs?
Did you know that there more than just Police and Seeing Eye dogs?
What do you know about Service Dogs? How educated are you about them?
If you are like most people, when someone says "Service Dog", the image of a blind person with a dog probably pops into your head. However, Service Dogs are not just for the blind or those in wheelchairs. There are a wide variety of Service Dogs and they serve a wide variety of people in a number of different ways.
Service dogs vs. Emotional Support dogs vs. Therapy dogs:
Service Animals help with performing a function for a person that is limited by a disability. They are protected by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which means that they can, by Federal Law, go anywhere and do anything in America with their handler, and no one can stop them. Literally. But it also means they have to be well trained and exceptionally well behaved.
Emotional Support Animals (ESA) help individuals with emotional problems by providing comfort and support.
They are protected by the Fair Housing Amendments Act and the Air Carrier Access Act, which means they can go onto air planes for free and are allowed in all housing, regardless of pet policies. They don't need any sort of special training, but they do have to be prescribed by a doctor or therapist of some sort.
Therapy Animals provide affection and comfort to individuals in hospitals, nursing homes, and other facilities. These guys are protected by no law. They are usually well trained though and are very friendly and they are only allowed to go to hospitals, nursing homes, and some schools.
The different types of Service Dogs:
Not all disabilities are visible.
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is a little broad on the topic, but here are a few disabilities that qualify for the use of a service dog:
Where do you get a service dog?:
Anywhere dogs are sold. Seriously!
Depending on your disability and needs, you can take the 10 year old dog that's already in your back yard and turn it into a fantastic Service Dog.
If you need a dog with some advanced training, such as a seeing eye dog, then there are organizations that specifically breed, raise, or rescue dogs and train them for that purpose. The same goes for every other kind of Service Dog.
There are so many places you can get Service Dogs, I can't even list them all. You can find one - or several - in just about every state (except in Oklahoma, apparently *glares at Oklahoma*)
But, you can train your own Service Dog. I am currently training Pilot, my dog, to be a Hearing Alert dog! (Don't ask how that is going - don't even ask.)
You can find great books and DVDs all across the internet on how to train your own Service Dog. Here is a list of the Top 10 Best Service Dog Training Resources (my favorites, personally, are the Teamwork and Teamwork II books/DVDs).
What makes a service dog legitimate?:
Basically, if your dog can do the basic heel, sit, down, and stay, be controlled in public, and it can assist you in at least one major way, then it is a Service Dog. Plain and simple. You don't have to register it anywhere, it doesn't have to wear a vest, and it doesn't even need to be professionally trained. If you say it's a Service Dog, and can demonstrate a decent measure of control in public, then by law you have a legit Service Dog.
You can make it even more legit by getting a Service Dog vest, a collar and leash that say SERVICE DOG, and a fancy holographic Service Dog Tag. You can even pay a little money and have your Service Dog registered. All of that stuff makes traveling with a Service Dog easier, but it isn't required.
So, that is the very basic in-a-nutshell version of "All About Service Dogs". If you have any questions, or would like some more information, don't be afraid to ask in the comments below. I'll be happy to help you out!
Do dogs really have self-esteem?
I might not have been able to answer this question a few years ago. Since I've had Pilot, though, I can confidently say YES. Dogs do have self-esteem.
Most of the dogs I have owned in my life have had no lack of self-esteem. They were confident in themselves and their abilities, and they were assured that their owner felt the same way. They were not afraid to try new things, and if they failed at something, they got right back up and tried it again and again until they succeeded.
Because of this, I never questioned whether dogs had self-esteem.
And then I met Pilot.
Pilot was easy to worry. He was clingy. He was hard to teach and train. If someone spoke one loud word he would drop to the ground like he was being punished. If he did something wrong and I said "no", he would do the same thing. Sometimes he would shut down completely and not do anything at all.
He wasn't as troubled as some dogs I've met. He was still a happy, playful pooch, ready to please me, but he just wasn't... well... I couldn't put my finger on it at the time, but he was missing something.
Then, the day came when he learned to "Roll Over" on command. The first time he did it, I threw a party and he acted surprised. The second time he did it, I threw another party and I saw a light come on in his head.
After that, Pilot became a whole new dog. He became more receptive and started learning more tricks. He would try new things, instead of shutting down. He started wandering short distances away from me on hikes, rather than sticking to me like glue. He grew more calm and confident in public. His self-esteem tripled just from learning that one trick, then it continued to grow with each new trick he learned, with every public place we visited, and with every new thing we tried.
Pilot showed me that dogs DO have self-esteem, and it can be weak or strong, just like ours.
How do you build a dog's self-esteem? Have patience, try new things with them, and set them up for success. Every time they succeed, they become a little more confident in their abilities. It can be a very long process, especially for those dogs who need their self-esteem built from the ground up. But it is very rewarding to see them gain that confidence bit by bit, and having a proud, confident dog is the goal of every dog owner, isn't it?
Here are 10 of the best ways to build up your dog's confidence:
The Pets & I Critter Hop Link Up
Just before Thanksgiving, my grandmother passed away due to cancer. We were able to get some of her things in order before she passed. This included taking care of her dogs and making sure they went to good homes. I was worried about them at the start, about how they would handle the loss, the changes, and the grief. Fortunately, they all went back to their previous owners, people they know and who know them, and they are doing quite well last I checked.
Do animals grieve? You bet your pretty floral bonnet they do.
Growing up on the farm, observing wildlife in their natural environment, and studying my own pets, I have seen plenty of animals grieve over the loss of a pack member or friend - animal or human.
Every animal has a different response to loss. Some show hardly any signs of grief. Others grieve worse than the rest. It is heartbreaking to see them cry and mope around, waiting for their friend to come home. They always recover and their grieving times are almost always shorter than that of humans, but how do you comfort a pet while they are grieving?
Here are seven easy tips that I have learned over the years with my own pets:
Have you ever witnessed a dog get hit by a vehicle? Or trampled by a horse? Have you ever been in a situation where you found yourself thinking "If my dog just understood what I was saying, I could save him."?
I know I have been in all three situations, plus some. None of them ended well. That is why I have made a big deal about drilling my dog, Pilot, on three simple commands: Come, Whoa (stop), & Down.
Suppose Pilot is hiking with me off leash (as he often does) and he unknowingly strays toward the den of a wild animal. I can say "COME" and he will obey me right away, leaving the territorial wild animal with big teeth and innumerable horrific deceases alone. This works the same way if he is out of the yard and the UPS truck pulls into our drive unexpectedly.
The "Whoa" command works in a similar way.
There have been times when we are walking down an old dirt road and Pilot and I are on opposite sides. If a vehicle comes down the road toward us, I can tell Pilot "Whoa" and he'll stop, sit down and not move until I give him the okay to do so. This allows the vehicle to pass us both safely.
Down is another important one, where I live. Sometimes, the places we hike have horses or cattle. Most cattle, especially those with babies, do not like dogs. If the cows grow concerned with Pilot's presence, I can simply tell him "Down". As soon as his head disappears beneath the grasses, the cows settle down and eventually move away to greener pastures. This works for horses and stray dogs as well, and keeps fights at bay.
One other command I am trying to teach Pilot is "RUN AWAY". Sometimes, that's about all one can do when faced with an angry cow, horse, or certain kinds of wildlife. The thing is, though, I want him to run AWAY FROM ME. He tends to run to me and hide between my legs when things get heated. That causes.... *cough*.... problems. Especially when we are both running for our lives.
How do you teach these commands?
There are tons - TONS - of videos on YouTube on how to teach your dog the "down" and "come" commands. So I won't even try to explain those to you.
Whoa, or stop, is a little more complicated.
The first time I needed such a command was when I'd just brought Pilot home. He was playing in the farm yard one day, saw me, and started running toward me like a crazy happy dog. Sitting right between him and I was an angry hen with a bunch of tiny baby chicks. In an effort to stop a catastrophe from happening, I ran forward, put my hand out like Iron Man, and screamed "WHOA DOG!"
He stopped instantly and looked at me like "Oh no! What did I do?", and the flustered hen was able to shuffle her chicks to a safer part of the farm yard.
From then on, I started actively teaching the "Whoa" command to Pilot. I started out by calling him toward me. When he was just a few feet away, I jumped toward him with my hand out and said a loud, firm "Whoa!". When he stopped, I'd wait a second before calling him to me. Then I would throw a super big party for him with lots of treats and praise until he came to realize that "whoa" was not a harsh, mean word. As he got better, I started stopping him further and further away from me, and making him wait longer and longer for the release. Now, he's pretty much a pro.
Now, I will say that I haven't tried to actively teach this to any other dogs yet. I guess this technique would work with just about any dog, though, since it is a natural reaction to freeze if someone jumps and yells at you.
If the dog was a small or very gentle mannered dog, though, I'd take a softer approach to teaching the "whoa" command. Otherwise, it might scare them away, not make them freeze.
Watch Pilot Demonstrate
Here is a very short YouTube video of Pilot demonstrating his "Life Saving" commands. Enjoy!
The Pets & I Critter Hop!
The Pets & I Critter Hop (PICH) is open until Friday at 11 PM central time.
If you have a blog post about a pet, wildlife, farm animals, pet item review, or even a review of a book about animals, please link it up to "The PICH" below! If you know a blogger who has a few blog posts about animals, tell them to link up a post or two. If you know a blogger who knows a blogger who makes animal related blog posts... well, yeah, you get the point.
“Why does my dog need to learn obedience? He’s just fine.”
“Manners? Dogs don’t have them and don't need them.”
I’ve heard it over and over again. Several dog owners I’ve met in the past have put down the idea of teaching their dog basic obedience and manners, claiming that their dog “doesn’t need it” or that they would “never use it”. However, they fail to see that they are always yelling at their dog for bad behavior, apologizing for their dog when visitors are present, are constantly chasing the dog that bolted out the gate, and can’t take their dog in public for one problem or several.
Most of the time, teaching their dog basic manners would solve most of their problems.
As in most “ill-behaved” dog cases, the problem is the owner, not the dog.
What’s so hard about teaching manners?
Most of the time, I find that pet owners have one of three reasons for scoffing at teaching their dogs obedience and manners:
Dogs conform to what their owners do, want, and expect. Owners who cannot or will not set boundaries and rules for themselves won’t do it for their dog either. Thus they get an unruly dog who barks tirelessly, guards furniture, pees on everything, and bolts out the door or gate the first opportunity they get.
Owners who set rules, but do not consistently reinforce them, will have a dog who does not take them seriously. The dog will be stubborn and will constantly push the envelope, trying to get their own way, because they know that their owner is a push over and will give up.
Why do dogs need manners?
As if it were not already obvious, the primary reason for teaching dogs manners is for the continued good health of owner and dog. For example, anytime a door opens, the dog (or dogs) run lickety-split toward it and zip right past me and out the open portal of freedom. Caution and deception must be used if I want to get out the gate without having to kick my dog back and fight him to get out the gate first.
I’ve even seen dog owners who get seriously hurt because their dog knocks them down or pops their knees in the attempt to be first out the door or gate. This is not good for you, and this is certainly not good for your dog.
If you get angry at your dog for hurting you, your first instinct is to hurt it back. Don’t deny it. We all feel that way at times. Also, there is always that concern of the dog bolting out of the yard, running away, and getting lost or hit by a car.
So, to fix the problem, you teach your dog to wait patiently for you to open the door or gate AND wait until you give them the “OK” to come out.
It’s not impossible. Even the most unruly dogs can be taught. The key is for YOU to set the rules, keep the rules, and reinforce the rules. Dogs don’t break rules. Humans do. Show your dog what the rules are by example, and he will follow them to the letter.
“Well, my dog is kinda a rebel. He breaks rules all the time.”
No. No dog is a rebel. Humans are. Your dog is a living mirror of how you act. If you can’t keep to the rules, the dog won’t either.
What are "dog manners"?
Sit, stay, come, look, and especially NO are the very basic manners that all dogs should and can learn.
"Sit" is really self explanatory, and when combined with "stay", it becomes a very powerful tool for keeping your furbaby under control. It can be used at mealtime, before going out the gate, when strangers come to the door, and many other things.
"Come" is also pretty self explanatory, I'd think, and can be used in the house, yard, or park.
"Look" is very good to teach your dog to pay attention to you.
Of course, a good dose of vitamin "NO" is good for everyone. I have taught Pilot that when I say "no", I mean that I want him to stop what he's doing immediately and come directly to me.
These "manners" are easy to teach to any dog as long as you have patience and consistency. If you need help, there are a vast number of videos on YouTube that go into teaching dogs these basic commands using positive reinforcement. Here are some to get you started:
Bonus: HOW TO SETTLE AN EXCITED DOG
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Some people who know me also know that I am hard of hearing. After an accident in the Spring of 2010, I began to lose my hearing, and by December of the same year I'd lost 80% of it.
Most people have NO CLUE. I have coped very well with the loss, my sister and mom work with me to help keep my speech normal, and I do a great job at pretending to be normal when I am in public. Yes, I should quit pretending, but people get weird when they realize I have a "disability". Some people like to use it to their advantage, or challenge it, or make fun of it.... and that is how individuals get hurt when around me.
I have been considering the possibility of training Pilot to be my hearing ear dog. Two years before Pilot and I found each other, I had a German Shepherd that I intended to train to be my hearing dog. After a most unfortunate set of circumstances, that fell through, and since then I have not had the confidence or the desire to try again. Recently, however, I've been working up the nerve to try again. As a result, my mom bought me a book from Amazon titled "My Ears Have A Wet Nose" by Anne Wicklund.
I sat down and was able to read it in an hour and walk away with some new things to think about. It was not at all boring, like I thought it would be, and it did a fine job of answering some of my questions, bringing forward ideas and issues I'd not thought of before, and it was full of outside resources and "help lines".
It covered topics such as:
What tasks does a hearing ear dog preform?
Choosing a dog - agencies, shelters, breeders
Training your own
And so much more...
You may find as you lose more of your hearing that when the dog is with you, it gives you confidence to be outside of your home. You will not feel so tentative because you cannot hear the sounds that normal people hear.... this is true whether you are taking a walk or going to the grocery store. This was an unexpected twist for my husband. The more hearing he lost, he found that if we were in a store together and I turned down an aisle out of his sight, he would start to panic. Until you have a dog that works for you, you will probably not even be aware of this added bonus. Up until now, you thought the dog would just let you know about the telephone and doorbell - but there is so much more.
I was actually in a state of shock after reading this part. My first thought was tearfully thinking "Somebody understands how I feel..." (Which is stupid. I mean, DUH, of course someone understands!), and my second thought was that, after spending so much of my own time researching and learning about hearing ear dogs and how to train them, the thought had honestly never occurred to me that having a trained dog with me, in public and at home, would make me feel safer and more confident. Because, that panic the author mentioned above is real and it is something that I do face every day, not just when I'm out in public. The thought that I could live without having to face that feeling daily, simply by having a dog who plays the roll of my ears, makes me eager. I wasn't eager to work towards getting a hearing dog before, but now I am.
On the training, the author goes into the importance of a strong bond between the dog and human, and the stable temperament that the dog must have. It had several good tips for training your own service dog and traveling with it, really simplifying everything and giving you extra resources to study in the case you'd like more information. There are also featured testimonials from other people with different dogs and in a variety of situations, one of which Pilot and I could greatly relate to and which gave me hope for his training (it is currently slow, because he does not generally react to sound).
My mom purchased the spiral bound edition of the book, but you can also purchase it in Kindle. I was impressed by how well made the spiral bound is, and I think it will last me a long time (which is good, because I will likely use it a lot).
Overall, I would highly recommend this book to anyone who was looking at the possibility of needing or training a hearing ear service dog. It is not overwhelming for the newbie to read and it gives them a great start along with excellent advice. At the same time, it also offers something for those people who are well acquainted with the hearing dog world.
The Pets & I Critter Hop
I am really sorry that this post is SO late. I was going to post this before the first of the month, but my internet has been horrible. Like, "horrible" is a serious understatement. I've been unable to do anything online. No Facebook. Very little Twitter. Even less Pinterest. Google hardly works *sheds a tear of sadness*. Right now, I am at a friend's house, mooching off her high speed internet. I have not seen ONE loading sign while I've been at her house. It's so great.
Anyway, the third week of tricks went really, really well for Pilot. As a result, I will be getting his Novice Trick Dog Title very soon! *does happy dance*
In this set of tricks, Pilot had already learned "Roll-Over", but he didn't know any of the others. I had fun finding new ways to drive him and encourage him. As you will probably be able to tell from the video, some of these were a little bit challenging, even after he had learned them. But they have been great exercise for his brain. Learning them has also made him more confident and they have set him up to learn some other great tricks (which we are already in the process of figuring out and memorizing).
Now I am planning on making a series of videos that show how to teach YOUR dog each of the tricks that Pilot has learned. I'm not sure how long it's going to take (considering it can take 3 days to upload a YouTube video on my internet), but if you want to be sure to get in on those when I finish them, subscribe to my YouTube account!
Enjoy the video (FYI, my voice tends to annoy me, so it might annoy you. Therefore, you may want to turn the volume down. Just say'in...):
I have had a few people ask me some questions about Pilot's trick dog training. Although I have answered them individually, I would like to address them publicly, as I'm sure other people have similar questions running through their minds.
What is the point of the Trick Dog Title?
There are a couple of reasons for getting Pilot his TDT:
Do you have to pay for it?
That depends on what you want. You can teach the tricks to your dog for free. You can even print out the list of tricks he needs to learn for free. If you want to attend a Sparks Team on Facebook to get tips and training advice, then that is also free.
If you want to get your dog titled, you have to pay for it. If you want to attend live classes with an instructor who will work one-on-one with you and your dog, you also have to pay for it. If you don't have the books yet, then you will have to pay to get those.
All of those things are legitimate things to pay for. The title comes on nice paper for you to frame. The instructor is spending valuable time with you and your pooch. The books by Kyra Sundance are ALL WORTH BUYING. Next to Caesar Milan, I recommend all of her stuff.
What's the ideal age for a dog to really get into trick training?
This totally depends on the dog. Some get it early, and some get it later.
As a general rule of thumb, most dogs reach full maturity at 2 years of age. This means that, mentally, they are able to understand and retain more. So, I would say that 2 years old is the golden age.
However, the younger that you start a dog to training, the better, because they get used to exercising their brain with you. The younger they are, though, the smaller steps you must take. You can't expect a young dog to learn 15 tricks in a month. Probably not even in two months.
A puppy that is 8 months old or younger doesn't have the attention span or the desire to learn a lot of things. They just want to play games. So you must work with them gradually, repeating the tricks that they have learned over and over again and treating any new tricks like games. If they aren't getting a new trick, just stop and drop it for a few weeks, then try again. Young dogs can't retain quite as much information and they need longer spans of time to memorize what they have learned.
Eventually, one day, a light bulb will turn on in their head and you'll find that training suddenly gets a lot smoother. You'll also find that you are doing more "training" with them, and less "game play". This usually happens around the age of 2 years, in my experience. However, I have seen dogs as young as 11 weeks to 5 months old earn their Novice Trick Dog Titles!
If you would like a book to help you out with training your puppy, "51 Puppy Tricks" by Kyra Sundance is a great one. It shows you how to teach tricks from the puppy's perspective, gives great tips for those having difficulty, and it sorts the tricks according to Easy, Intermediate, and Advanced. You can also find all the same tricks, and more, in "101 Dog Tricks".
Another book that I personally found helpful in starting out Pilot was the "10 Minute Dog Training Games" by Kyra Sundance.
Pilot was about a year old when he was given to me and he still just wanted to play, not learn anything, and he was rather stubborn about sticking to that mentality. Reading this book, I learned to just "play" with him, and when I started playing with him, he started having fun learning. It helped a LOT.
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I'm sure you've heard that you "can't teach an old dog a new trick", right? Well, that saying is wrong. Senior dogs can earn trick titles too! Again, as with a very young dog, it is a slower process. They learn slower and are more stubborn, because they are set in their ways. Also because of their physical limitations, they can't do everything a young dog can, so you must keep this in mind. But, it is possible to teach an old dog new tricks!
A can of soft dog food being spoon fed to them will probably get their attention. You will have to use a lot of patience, because, by the age of 8, most dogs are used to training humans. Not humans training them.
How much time does it take?
This is completely dependent on the dog and yourself. On average, a dog could learn 15 tricks a month, which means that you could have an expert trick dog in roughly 4 months. On the other hand, for some, like Pilot, it may take a year before he is really ready to start learning.
Some dogs will eat trick training up, because they love the mental challenge and the bonding time with you. Other dogs will enjoy it, but it will take longer for them to mentally ingrain it. Some dogs will think it is a cute past time, but will not feel that they should really devote much of their valuable time and energy to it, except to please you on occasion. Do not feel offended if your dog is like that; it is nothing personal. It is simply the way he/she feels about the activity, and probably any activity that requires the use of their brain and energy. It does not mean that they are dumb, either. It simply means they are smarter than the rest of us and are content with their life at present.
Some breeds of dogs will do better than others, but over all, it depends on your determination and the dog's willingness.
What are some good beginner-level tricks?
All of the trick books by Kyra Sundance have difficulty levels and are listed by Novice, Intermediate, and Advanced, so as to make it easy to choose the difficulty level. They also sort them according to sport and tell you which ones you can build on and which ones have prerequisites. However, I have found that the difficulty level is very little help with Pilot. So, I choose tricks according to what he would like to learn or what he already naturally does or what I am determined for him to learn. For instance, "Roll-Over" is listed as Intermediate, but it has been the easiest trick Pilot has ever learned, and he loves to do it all the time. Thankfully, the book leaves room for you to pick-and-choose.
Aside from teaching your dog basic manners - sit, down, wait, stay, lay down, leave it - some easy tricks to learn are "Take A Bow", "Spin In Circles", "Peek-A-Boo", and "Hoop Jump". (Video Links)
This second week of tricks has been fun! The only one that I had previously taught Pilot was "Paws-Up". I'd also done a little bit of work on "Peek-A-Boo" with him. Otherwise, the other tricks were completely new, and he has really enjoyed learning them, especially the "Leg Weave". I think it is going to be one of his new favorites. It's a workout for me! My short little legs have to really stretch to accommodate him (and he's not even a big dog). Two of my favorite dog breeds are German Shepherds and Irish Wolfhounds.... hahahahaha! Wow. I'm kinda glad he's not either of those sizes.
"Take a Bow" has been incredibly easy to teach. What you see in the video is how you teach it: just lure them down to their elbows and click/reward them as soon as their elbows touch the ground. He still hasn't started doing it on queue alone yet, but he is almost there. It is going to be so stinking cute once he gets it! (Yes, I geek out about my dog...)
By the way, if you have ANY questions regarding the trick dog stuff, feel free to ask! I am putting together a Q&A blog post about it and I would love to see your questions in it!
Anyway, without further ado, here is this week's tricks! Enjoy the video:
Author of the fantasy series, Tales of the Wovlen, Kathryn spends a great deal of time in the world of her imagination, having tea with fire breathing dragons, writing books on flying space ships, and practicing her mad scientist laugh with gusto. However, on occasion,she returns to this world just to play with her dog and blog about her fun.
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