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Training Tips

Puzzle Me, Please - Part 2

Puzzle Me, Please - Part 2

Last December we blogged about food puzzles: why they are so great and our list of favorites!  But because this sector of the toy store is SO important and so useful to our dogs, it's worth a second mention.  We've recently created a more exhaustive list of food puzzles, as well as some tips on how to utilize them in the best way for your dog!  All in a convenient downloadable handout for you to save for future reference.  Puzzle away!

food-puzzles-for-dogs-dog-training-colorado

You can download this handout (with links) here!

This lovely handout assembled by Charissa!

Homeopathic Remedies for Anxiety in Dogs

Homeopathic Remedies for Anxiety in Dogs

Homeopathic remedies can be a great help to your dog in situations where they are anxious or upset. While not a substitute for training or more advanced behavioral help (when warranted), the right remedy can help your dog get through otherwise overwhelming situations.

But which remedy should you choose?  That really depends on your dog, the type and severity of the anxiety they are experiencing, and what works best for your routine and budget.  The list of homeopathic products on the market is never-ending, and can be understandably overwhelming. To help get you started, here is a list of our go-to recommendations:

 

How to Use Homeopathic Remedies

  • Test out your chosen remedy with your dog when he is NOT especially anxious to see how they respond to it.  If your remedy makes your dog more nervous or uncomfortable, it's not the best remedy to use!
  • Different remedies work best for different dogs. And sometimes using a "cocktail" of remedies could be the best option for your dog.   So if you try one without success, a different or additional remedy would still be worth a try.
  • Once you have found what works best for your dog, try to administer your remedy 30-60 minutes before the anxiety-causing event (vet visit, car ride, guests arriving, etc.).  
  • For chronically anxious dogs, a visit with a board-certified veterinary behaviorist might be warranted for more complete anxiety relief. 

You can download this blog in a handout form here.

April is Canine Fitness Month!

April is Canine Fitness Month!

Guest post by Jennifer Holmes, a Certified Veterinary Technician (CVT), a Certified Canine Rehabilitation Practitioner (CCRP), and a Fit Paws - Master Trainer (FP-MT).  Her company, K9FitnessWorks, offers group classes & private lessons specializing in canine fitness.

April is National Canine Fitness Month!  What is Canine fitness?

You may have seen articles, Facebook posts, or seminars on canine fitness.  What is it?  Why would my dog want to take a fitness class or even go to a Certified Canine Fitness Trainer?

Fitness by definition is the quality of being conditioned physically to perform a role or task in life.  When we think of our fitness it brings up images of the gym, outdoor activities, or working with a trainer for a specific sport purpose.  Fitness can also be a way to improve muscle, tendon, and nerve health so you and your dog can function at the highest health capacity in your favorite activities. 

 Ryder loves Canine Fitness!

Ryder loves Canine Fitness!

It fills my heart with passion to talk about the benefits of a creative, fun exercise plan for your pup and you to bond.  In the 70s and 80s I taught my dogs to sit, down, and shake because it was fun time with my dog.  I did not realize I was also teaching them body awareness.   Body awareness is the dog knowing where it’s body is in a certain space. Why is this important?  When your dog runs for a ball or catch a Frisbee in the air their body spins and twist in different directions.  If their muscles are trained to handle the speed and spins they will safely grab the ball or catch the Frisbee.  When their muscles are not conditioned because they have been in the house and yard all week then you play on the weekend, your dog can have muscle, tendon, or disk injuries during spins to catch their favorite toy.  As a Certified Canine Rehabilitation Practitioner since 2012, I have seen the various injuries that can occur during innocent ball throwing. The biggest impact owners can do for their dogs is a creative exercise plan to strengthen up their muscles, tendons, and nerves.

3 tips you can do RIGHT. NOW. to improve your dog body awareness:

1.     A quick couple minute warmup before ball or Frisbee play by a quick brisk walk to wake the body up, stimulate the nerves, and improve muscle reaction time.

2.     A few repeated sit-to-stand exercises to warm up key muscles they will use to play ball or catch the Frisbee.  (Cue your dog to sit, then cue them to stand, then back to sit, etc.)

3.     Throwing the ball or Frisbee straight to limit the amount of twisting they have to do while in action to catch the toy.

 Echo & Ryder balance like pros - working on those core muscles that will help them avoid injury in agility!

Echo & Ryder balance like pros - working on those core muscles that will help them avoid injury in agility!

At Summit Dog Training, we offer fitness classes to help you help your dog have the fittest life they can!  Our Intro to Fitness class covers warmups, cool downs, and more creative ways to strengthen your dog for play.  I also offer 1-on-1 fitness sessions to create a specific plan for you and your pup to live a long happy life.

The next Intro to Fitness classes will be starting Saturday, May 13th at 9:00am & Saturday, June 17th at 10:00am.  Check out the Summit Dog Training website for more info!  In honor of Canine Fitness Month, we are offering 10% off fitness class tuition through April 30th.  Use promo code APRILFIT.

A couple of students from our last Intro to Fitness class had this to say:

“Thanks Jennifer! It was a super fun class.” - Shelley

“Echo and I just finished a series of 6 weeks in Jennifer's Canine Sport Dog Fitness Class. By the end of the classes I gained so much knowledge on how to strengthen and assess Echo's body condition. It was so much fun working with Jennifer and I would highly recommend her talents to all dog owners whether in a canine sporting event or just with a family pet.” - Barb

February is the Month of LOVE

February is the Month of LOVE

Our dogs are a huge part of our lives, and they shower us with love all year long.  Here are three ideas for how to show your special four-legged someone how much they mean to you this month!  
 

  1. Go on a "Micro-Adventure" together.  These mini adventures are one of our favorite things to build a positive relationship with our dogs.  They don't have to be long or elaborate, just simple things that you can do together, like running errands, taking an extra walk to the park, or just riding around in the car.  I just did this with my dog today - he got to ride with me to the grocery store, stop by Kriser's Natural Pet, drop by the training facility, and then end it with lots of attention at the bank.  He loved it, and he's sound asleep now!  We wrote more about micro-adventures in this blog; check it out for more ideas!
     
  2. Get them a new toy!  But not just any toy - one that will challenge them mentally as well as physically!  One of our favorite categories of toys are food puzzles.  We wrote all about them in this blog post; check it out to see which option your pup might light best!
     
  3. Teach them a new trick!  Our dogs get so excited to learn new things with us!  And their "trick" skills are often the most exciting and reinforcing to our dogs, because we get so excited about them too!  Teaching your dog something new can be as simple or elaborate as you want, but either way it's sure to be a fun time for both of you!  I just taught my dog Roo some new tricks and he loved it!

These are just a few ideas for making this month a great month for you and your dog!  If you come up with other great ideas, we want to hear about them!  Tag us in your adventures on Facebook or Instagram and use #SDTmonthoflove so we can share in your excitement!

Puzzle Me, Please

Puzzle Me, Please

In the world of dog toys, there are literally thousands to choose from.  Plush, rubber, rope, firehose, rawhide, hooves, (and other less classy animal body parts!) . . . and the list goes on.  It can be a little overwhelming to think about narrowing it down to the type of toy that will provide the most benefit for your dog.

The toy with the most benefit is not always the same thing as the toy with the most fun.  My dog has TONS of fun with plush toys . . . and by TONS, I mean about 30 seconds no matter what the starting size of the toy.  But this brief and frenzied shredding of toy guts is not providing my crazy pup with any longer lasting benefits, such as the relaxation that comes after the stimulation of a mental challenge.  Like my pup Roo, many dogs thrive most with play that gives them an outlet for both their mental and physical energy.  

For that end goal, my favorite category of toys is food puzzles!  These toys provide an outlet for both parts of your dog that need attention - for the physical side, chasing a food puzzle around the floor is a great indoor outlet; for the mental component, figuring out how to get the food reward hidden or stuck inside the puzzle is much more challenging than ripping up a flimsy plush toy!

 A few of my pup's favorite types of food puzzles! Kong Classics, Kong Wobbler, Orbee Snoop, and Trixie Puzzle Boxes.

A few of my pup's favorite types of food puzzles! Kong Classics, Kong Wobbler, Orbee Snoop, and Trixie Puzzle Boxes.

Our go-to favorite is (and might always be) the Kong Classics. Coming in multiple sizes, rubber strengths, and shape variations, these toys are great for stuffing and very portable.  Our favorite way to use them is mixing peanut butter and yogurt and placing the freezer for a few hours.  This creates a cool treat that takes a while to work out!  The Kong Wobbler is another favorite - Roo gets at least one of his meals each day in this toy, and has to push it around (I put it in his crate to keep the crumbs contained) to get the kibble to fall out.  I highly recommend this version for dogs that are hyperactive around meal times!

One of the recent additions to our favorites list is the Orbee Snoop made by Planet Dog.  This soft rubber toy is also great for feeding kibble or small treats.  Roo knocks his around the house and enjoys this variation on his Kong Wobbler meal.  

For supervised play (I recommend supervising your dog whenever you introduce a new toy, but the following toys should involve a little extra oversight), puzzle boxes are a great way to mix it up for your dog!  These challenges involve pulling, pushing, knocking, and otherwise navigating a toy to get individual pieces (or jackpots here and there) out of the toy.  There are a lot of different types of these games.   A client recently gave me two Trixie Activity Boxes, so Roo got to give something new a try!  Here is his first introduction on video.  He loved the challenge!

Roo got to try out a Trixie Poker Box Food Puzzle for the first time this past week! Here are the highlights!

Whatever type of food puzzle you choose, introduce it to your dog in a way that makes their first attempt at the toy very reinforcing so they are excited to keep playing with it!  And if your dog doesn't like a particular type of puzzle, there are lots of different ones to try.  The most important thing to consider is what gives your dog the most benefit on top of some fun!

Happy puzzling! 

It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year . . . With a Well-Behaved Dog

It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year . . . With a Well-Behaved Dog

The holidays are here!  Lots of fun and family and good food will be taking place over the next month, and everything is all hustle and bustle and cheer . . .

Until the dog counter-surfs and runs helter-skelter through the house with the pristine turkey and in-laws and cousins and aunts and uncles all join into a high-speed chase that jostles the perfectly-set table already brimming with food (sparkling cider splashes everywhere!), wakes up the baby (and the next-door neighbor's visiting grandmother), tips over the newly-decorated Christmas tree, sprains little Johnny's ankle (holiday ER trips are part of the family traditions, right?), and otherwise completely decimates the perfect Hallmark moment you had going.

That picture might be a little extreme, but you get the idea: your pup has the potential to either be a Christmas-card worthy gem or a complete moment-wrecker.  But with a little preparation, we can help our dogs keep towards the positive side of that scale!  Here are a few tips for a well-behaved dog this holiday season:

  1. Prepare to give your dog plenty of exercise BEFORE the festivities begin.  Thanksgiving morning is a great time to get outside with your dog, even for just 20 minutes, before the relatives arrive!  If you can't do this, delegate: maybe one of your visiting nieces or nephews would be willing to spend 10 minutes playing ball with the dog in the backyard while dinner is cooking!  The more you keep your pup's mind and energy engaged in constructive outlets, the better behaved they will be!  We have holiday drop-in classes specifically for this reason!
     
  2. Invest in some constructive activities for your dog, like food puzzles!  Some of our favorites are Kong (classic Kongs can be stuffed with peanut butter and yogurt and frozen ahead of time so they take longer to enjoy; Kong wobblers are a great way to give your dog their meals AND give them some extra brain activity too!), Orbee Snoop (another fun and interactive way to give your dog their meal!), and food mazes like these from Outward Hound.  Giving your pup something to do before they find a less constructive way to get their energy out is key!
     
  3. Give your dog their own space and some structured quiet time throughout the festivities.  Lots of people, food smells, and other chaos can be overwhelming to your dog!  Giving them some chill time on their favorite mat or in their crate might be just what they need.
     
  4. If you can foresee a situation where your dog is not going to be successful at doing the right thing, manage that situation to set your dog up for success.  If your dog is an excited greeter at the door, put them safely away in another room or crate before your relatives arrive.  The holiday rush isn't the time to start teaching a better greeting method!  If your dog is a habitual counter-surfer, make sure to manage their access to areas where food is being prepared or stored.  Dogs are opportunistic, and even if you have been making training progress, the holiday feast isn't where you want to put those skills to the ultimate test.  Use baby gates or other management tools to set your dog up for success!  If you have time to train a little bit here and there, reward your dog for settling on their bed just outside of the hub of activity.  Toss a treat (or a sample of turkey if you are feeling really generous!) every few minutes to reward your dog for having self-control in the face of all of that temptation! 
     
  5. Remember that your dog is a dog!  It won't be perfect, just like your kid or your various relatives might get on your nerves on occasion!  But setting your pup up for success is the best way to get through the chaos in a positive, constructive way.

 

Another holiday tip: brush up on your knowledge of foods and plants that can be toxic to your pup!  The ASPCA Poison Control Center is a great resource!

 

Essential Canine Skills for Hiking Success

Essential Canine Skills for Hiking Success

Do you want to have fantastic hiking adventures with your dog, but you don’t know where to start?  Getting out in the wild can be challenging enough without an over-enthusiastic dog contributing to the stress.  In case you missed our “Hiking With Your Dog 101” seminar last night at Kriser’s Natural Pet, let’s review the list of foundation skills that are essential for enjoyment and safety out on the trail:

Essential Skills for Hiking Success:

       Recall

       Sit

       Stay

       Hand Target

       Give Attention to You

       Leave It

       Follow Your Directional Cues

 Here is Roo responding to my directional cue to advance down the rocks ahead of me.

Here is Roo responding to my directional cue to advance down the rocks ahead of me.

Now, before you grab your dog and your leash and head to the mountains to start running through this list with your dog, let’s start a little more simply.  Practice each of these individually (5 minutes at a time, with breaks) at home, in your own backyard, first.  Just like you learned to ride a bike in your driveway and not out on the highway where there are higher stakes, your dog should learn new skills (or brush up on rusty skills) at home first and then take it out to the more challenging environment.  Start small and reward your dog when they respond correctly to your cues.  Be positive – when you are out on the trail, you want your dog to LOVE coming back to you instead of chasing the wildlife.  So be happy, positive, and encouraging at home too.

When you think your dog is ready for a bigger challenge, you can head to the trail.  But keep in mind that when you are adding more challenges to the environment (like the presence of animal scat and other hikers with or without dogs) you should plan to reduce your criteria a little bit and work back up to the goal behavior.  For example, even if your dog can do a 3-minute sit stay inside the house, perhaps start with a 15-30 second sit stay while other hikers are passing by, with enough distance to help your dog be successful and make good decisions. And be ready to reward BIG for great responses!

These training foundations are just one aspect of preparing for happy, safe hikes with your dog.  Don’t forget about conditioning & stretching, pet first aid, proper equipment, and trail etiquette; these are all components that make the trail a pleasant place for everyone involved.  Look for future blog posts on each of these topics, or contact us to get one-on-one help with preparing you and your dog to hit the trail together!

  

Adventuring with Your Dog: Expectations

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Adventuring with Your Dog: Expectations

Each adventure you embark on with your dog has the potential to be fantastic.  Idyllic.  Instagram-worthy.  Like strolling through the Shire on a warm, sunny day. 

 Well, as close to the Shire as you can get in real life, anyways.  Lory State Park, Colorado.

Well, as close to the Shire as you can get in real life, anyways.  Lory State Park, Colorado.

But in order to promote this harmonious, peaceful picture, here are a few things to keep in mind before you begin:

1. Adventures with dogs are often messy. And wet.  And muddy.  

 Roo's favorite part of any adventure is the "getting as filthy as possible" part. 

Roo's favorite part of any adventure is the "getting as filthy as possible" part. 

Going in with this understanding and expectation will greatly reduce your dirt-induced stress and increase your dog's enjoyment of the experience.  To mitigate this aspect of dogs on adventures, I recommend proper, mud-durable apparel for you, and appropriate drying equipment (like towels) or containment tools (like crates) for back at the car.  Unless, of course, you have a super-cool and awesome dog-mobile and don't care if your dog finger-paints with mud on the back seat, in which case I think we'd be good friends ;).  

2. Dogs often have a different idea of "fun" than we do.  To many dogs, finding every unique smell on the trail or running helter-skelter through the brush is intoxicating; to us, stopping to allow our dog to sniff at every little stick or leaf or running hither and thither after who knows what isn't exactly what we had in mind when we left the safety of the backyard.  The important thing with these competing motivations is to find a middle ground where both ends of the leash can be satisfied.  Ideally, this is an understanding between you and your dog that permits them to run around unleashed to their heart's content (leash-laws permitting), but when you say "Rover, come!" they are back at your side in a split second.  Leading up to this point is a lot of dedicated recall work - stay tuned for a future blog post on that!  If your dog isn't able to run unleashed, teaching a consistent "check-in" behavior on-leash is a good next step.      

3. Work up to it.  The first time you take your dog out on an adventure, whether as a puppy or as an adult dog, don't be surprised if all of the cues your dog knows so well at home suddenly seem to be forgotten.  Dogs are not great generalizers anyways, but the added distractions and allurements of the new environment complicate things even further. As you increase the level of distraction in the environment around you and your dog, you should be ready to reduce your criteria somewhat (i.e. don't expect a perfect 3 minute down-stay beside a busy trailhead when you have only been practicing in your backyard) to set your dog up for success.  Increasing your quality of reinforcement is also a good idea as you start working in new places.  Just because your dog works for kibble at home doesn't mean that will be reinforcing to him when there are squirrels all around!  Eventually, the goal in training is to be able to reduce the frequency and the value of the reinforcers, but at first, we make sure that the reward is appropriate to the behavior we ask for.

4. Remember, adventures are about having fun for you and your dog.  If either of you are struggling, take a break, take a breath, and try to find the good things your dog is doing (even if they seem very, very small) and start from there.  

Stay tuned for future posts about specific skills that are useful for every canine adventurer to know to promote a safe, fun experience for everyone on the trail!

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