Best dog training treat bag

I’ve been looking for a handy, non-dorky* treat bag to wear while training Pyrrha and the fosters. (*This may be oxymoronic. Wearing ANY kind of treat-dispensing pouch is probably the pinnacle of dorkiness. But whatever.)

If you’re a lazy trainer like me, you come up with lots of excuses as to why you aren’t training your dog regularly. One of my main excuses is that I hate having greasy, meat-scented pockets and fumbling with a plastic bag of treats doesn’t make for a very fast reward schedule.

Enter the Rapid Rewards Training Pouch, created by Doggone Good.

Rapid Rewards Training Pouch, by Doggone Good.

This thing is like the multi-functional Cadillac of training pouches. Yes. You didn’t even know that was a thing. Well, now it is. Look at all of these features!

Rapid Rewards Training Pouch, by Doggone Good.
Rapid Rewards Training Pouch, by Doggone Good.

Plus, it’s discreet (I bought one in black) and not huge, so you don’t feel like you’re wearing a fanny pack. I bought mine through our trainer, at Canine Campus, and I tend to clip it onto the back of my pants (mine didn’t come with a belt). I LOVE it. I particularly like the feature of the magnet at the top, which holds the top together, so you don’t feel like all of your treats are going to spill when you move.

You can buy the most recent model on the Doggone Good site for $18.99, and there’s also a version on Amazon for $21.50.

Highly recommended. I love this thing.

Do you use a treat pouch or other apparatus for training your dog?

Disclaimer: I was NOT given this product to review; I bought it myself, but I loved it so much that I had to share!

Rainer: Car training update

No photo of this, but I just had to share our exciting progress after my “car training” session with Rainer last night!

This was our first time working with our small hatchback (not the car he had the big, traumatic freakout with). I started treating him for looking at the car, moving toward it on his own volition, and he seemed pretty unconcerned. So I opened the side door.

Um. Guess who just got into the car ON HIS OWN?? Yeah. This dude:

Rainer, post bath

I was astonished. I started throwing treats in his direction, gave him the whole “jackpot” of treats, then I stood back and just let him sniff everything. I didn’t shriek or make any big fuss (even though I wanted to); I quietly praised him and held back. I let him sniff around for as long as he wanted, and then he climbed out after perhaps a minute.

We ended that day’s car session there, because I didn’t want to push him, but I was floored.

All this calm, voluntary behavior from a dog who was in such a state of panic over getting into a car that he was ready to bite anyone who came near him.

Obviously, the difference in the car was probably huge for him. For one, this is a car that he could essentially walk into, instead of climbing up into. And this wasn’t the car that made him get muzzled and picked up and deposited in. He has fought me before on getting into this same car (he did a home visit with me two weekends ago), but there was none of the same fear.

So, we’ll still be doing daily car training, but wow. I was shocked. This little guy has a lot of potential. Like all shy dogs, he’ll still always have more reservations than “normal” dogs, but he shows tremendous potential for progress and confidence-building. Go, Rainer!

Good dog, bad dog

Over the past few days, Rainer has been the GOOD dog, and Pyrrha has been DRIVING ME CRAZY.

Still getting used to each other
Good dog, bad dog.

I don’t know what’s gotten into her lately. I’m guessing that she’s still kind of stressed out that Rainer is still around. She harasses him in the yard (to which he is marvelously and beautifully patient, and never lashes out at her, even though she deserves it); she barks at him when he gets out of his crate; she whines all the time. It’s very frustrating. Poor Rainer takes it all like a champ, too.

I’m not really sure how to manage her behavior, honestly. I let them out in the yard now at separate times, particularly in the morning, when she seems most antsy. I try to remove her from situations that make her nervous, still utilizing the baby gate and preventing her from getting accidentally cornered. (She doesn’t know how to extricate herself from situations with him. He’s not threatening at all, but his mere presence will make her get irritated. See the nose licking calming signal in the photo above.)

Pyrrha didn’t ever act this way with Brando or Laszlo (our former fosters), so I’m not sure why she’s exhibiting this behavior now. Every dog is different. Rainer, for some inexplicable reason, makes her uneasy. (Even though he strikes us as the most chill, laidback guy.) We’ve been doing our best to mitigate her anxiety, but I’m just pointedly frustrated by it. Saying she’s the “bad dog” isn’t exactly fair; she is just KILLING ME with how annoying she’s been!

Meanwhile, we have been doing “car training” with Rainer every day. I’ve been following our trainer’s method of treating him for just looking at the car, coming close to the car, any interaction whatsoever. Then I’ll toss a treat away, in the opposite direction, to keep him from feeling trapped. Tonight I hope to work up to getting him to actually sniff and put his head in the car on his own. Thanks for all of your advice and tips! You’re right about needing to make car trips FUN; all the places we’ve taken him (and will need to keep taking him!) are stressful (e.g., the vet). We need to go get him some drive-thru fried chicken…

But the really exciting news, though, is that Rainer has a family interested in him! Hoping to learn more over the coming days. Will be sure to keep you posted on this sweet dude (and Pyrrha’s never-ending neuroses).

Fearful dogs class, plus training goals for Rainer

Last night, Rainer and I went to a one-time, one-hour class at Canine Campus, called “Rescue Remedies: Fearful Dogs.”

Rainer in training class
Trying to take photos in class never works out so well. This is the best one I got! Those are his ears.

Canine Campus is where Pyrrha went for her obedience class, and I’m a big fan of the trainer, Deven. Deven has had numerous shy dogs herself, and she seems to really understand them.

While Rainer was mostly unable to calm down for the majority of the class (lots of pacing and circling), I was really thankful that we went. Deven reinforced so many concepts that are easy to forget with shy dogs. The class was also really motivating to me to stop being such a passive trainer. Now that Rainer has acclimated to our lifestyle, it’s time to start actively teaching him things. I can’t just wait around and hope that he’ll learn something.

Rainer lounging at home
Safe at home.

This lesson was really reinforced coming and going to the class. The worst part of last night was getting to and leaving class. This is the issue: Rainer has a severe fear of getting in cars. Severe to the point of nearing the biting threshold.

My husband was gone last night, and I was stuck with the Jeep, so getting Rainer into it was quite the ordeal. It took me about 15 minutes. I was plying him with tons of treats, but as soon as he’d get within a foot of the car, he would freak out: jerk back, trying to pull out of the collar, biting the leash, etc. I was finally able to get him in when I put some treats on the car seat, and he got brave enough to put his paws on the seat, and I lifted his back end into the car. Once in the car, he rides OK; he’s so scared of it that he doesn’t move much at all.

The traumatic part of last night was leaving Canine Campus. After class concluded, I asked Deven and her co-trainer Mary to come out to the car with me and help me strategize. Mary started by treating him for nearing the car, and then throwing treats away from the car, giving him the freedom to back up when he wanted. This went on for 10 minutes, however, with Rainer showing little inclination to get any closer to the vehicle.

Instead of diminishing, his fear was only growing, and when we approached him, his entire body tensed up, and I could tell this was a dog who was ready to bite if we tried anything else. Deven clearly recognized this too and came back out with a sheet and a muzzle. I felt so dejected. I hated to traumatize him further, but we were never going to get him in that car.

We put a meatball in the muzzle, and I could snap it on him; this freaked him out. While he was trying to get the muzzle off, we put a sheet beneath his abdomen, and Deven lifted his back end, while I picked up his front end and put him in the car. He was fighting the whole way. The poor guy. My adrenaline was racing, and I felt so upset. And embarrassed. He was so upset.

Upon leaving, Deven reminded me that this is something we would need to work on every day. Rainer’s fear of getting into cars will not go away on its own. Seeing him in such a state of panic last night really brought that home. This is a dog who really doesn’t know anything about the world; everything is frightening and new to him. It’s our job right now to help him take those baby steps toward confidence.

Rainer lounging at home

So, that said, here are some really basic things I want to teach Rainer in the time that we have him:

  1. Car desensitization. Every day, practice working near and in the car. Treat him for approaching; treat him for just looking a it in the early stages. Move up to getting him to enter the car on his own.
  2. Name recognition. Treat him and praise him for giving us any attention when we call his name.
  3. Sitting for food. I know that this dog can sit, but we cannot get him to do it! I keep waiting for him to offer the behavior at meal time (luring him back with the bowl), but he won’t do it. I also wonder if this has something to do with his bad hips. Sitting could be painful for him, so we may need to find an alternate behavior.
  4. Grooming desensitization. Treat and praise for whenever he submits to brushing, touching paws, opening his mouth. Move up to this gradually; brushing is the easiest place to start.
  5. Leash manners. Learning how to walk politely on a leash; getting him not to freak out when we see other dogs (freaking out, for him, means frantic circling; no barking or anything like that, thankfully). Practice safe zone training (LOTS of distance between the stimulant) early on; only take short walks where I can control the environment without pushing him past threshold.

As you can see, we have a lot of work to do. But I believe in him and in his potential to overcome a lot of these fears, with our patient help.

Resources on resource guarding in dogs

After Sunday’s scuffle* between Rainer and Pyrrha over a toy, I’ve been refreshing my memory on resource guarding and associated training tips.

BEHAVIOR UPDATE: As of today, Rainer/Pyrrha relations are going quite smoothly. An interesting observation is that they continue to get along perfectly outside in the yard; they play like they’re best friends (chase, lots of play bows, happy and goofy faces). Indoors, they are still a little nervous with each other, but I think this has to do with the tight quarters.

Gimme dat toy
Georgia and Pyrrha with some of Georgia’s toys.

For those who may find themselves in a similar position with their dog(s), here are some great web resources on this common canine behavior:

There are, of course, many other blog posts and articles written about this behavioral issue, as it is a pretty normal, natural canine quality. But it obviously gets dogs into trouble when they start lashing out at people, children, and their fellow dogs.

I think both Rainer and Pyrrha are at fault here. Rainer takes possession of too many things, but Pyrrha also doesn’t know how or when to back down. Instead of taking a hard stare from Rainer as a cue to get lost, Pyrrha sees it as a challenge. From Pat Miller’s article, this is exactly what’s been happening in our house:

Now We’re in Trouble, Part II: Dog B [Pyrrha] is socially inept – Dog A [Rainer] is chewing on (insert valuable resource). Dog B approaches. Dog A gives “the look.” Dog B is oblivious, and keeps blundering forward, until Dog A feels compelled to escalate the intensity of his message, to aggression if necessary, to get his point across.

This clearly makes for a messy domestic atmosphere! We are taking all of these tips to heart and working on this behavior every day in our house.

Have you had to deal with resource guarding among your dogs? What tips or techniques helped you?

(*Thanks to Carolyn for properly identifying the altercation as a “scuffle” instead of what I initially termed it, a dog fight.)

Rainer: Resource guarding and tension at home

Early Saturday morning with dogs

Life with Rainer continued fairly smoothly over the weekend — he got more comfortable with the crate, he’s learning that paying attention to people brings rewards, and he seems to be reliably house-trained at this point.

Early Saturday morning with dogs

They got me up early on Saturday morning (6 a.m.), which I wasn’t thrilled about, but they got to spend most of the day outside, chilling in the yard, while Guion worked in the garden and on his hop plants.

Early Saturday morning with dogs

They’ll play brief games of chase, but more often than not, they’ll just choose a separate corner of the yard and doze there.

Early Saturday morning with dogs

On Saturday evening, my friend Maddy and I took them on a walk around the neighborhood, too, and they were both great. No leash reactivity issues from either of them!

Early Saturday morning with dogs

Sunday, however, we had an incident. I was practicing calligraphy in the office and the dogs were sleeping in the living room (just the next room over). A Kong had fallen out of Pyrrha’s crate, so I, unthinkingly, just threw it out into the living room. A few seconds later, I heard those horrible sounds of a dog fight. Totally my fault.

I wasn’t in there, so I didn’t see who started it, but Rainer had Pyrrha by the neck and teeth were flashing from both dogs. Pyrrha was screaming; it was terrible. I was able to pull her away from him by her back legs (which, in hindsight, could have been dangerous for me) and get her into the study and close the door. After a few minutes of cooling down, I moved Rainer into his crate and Pyrrha came and laid down at my feet.

She was very shaken by the incident and continues to be very nervous around him now. Since then, he’s challenged her over her bed (which he has apparently claimed as his own) and any stick, bone, or toy that he finds.

We’ve removed anything that he could lay claim to from the house and the yard (although it is a little hard to clear it of sticks). We now do not leave them for any extended period of time in the yard together. They are still fed in separate rooms at separate times, as we have done from the beginning.

Early Saturday morning with dogs

I need to brush up on my reading about resource guarding and how to manage it among dogs. This behavior from Rainer surprised me, because he showed no signs of it the first three days he was here. I guess he’s just getting more comfortable here and feeling like this is HIS place?

Meanwhile, Pyrrha remains quite frightened of him. She’s always followed me around the house, but now she can’t let me out of her sight. She squeezed herself into our tiny, tiny bathroom this morning while I was getting ready for work, something she’s never done before. It makes me sad.

Early Saturday morning with dogs

Have you ever had to deal with resource guarding issues between your dogs or fosters? What techniques worked for you?

Playing with Georgia

We spent another lovely, peaceful weekend with my in-laws and with the fast-growing baby Georgia!

Look how long her legs are now!

Playing with Georgia

These two continue to get on brilliantly. They romped and played all weekend long.

Playing with Georgia

Playing with Georgia

While there were a few moments in which Pyrrha would get annoyed with Georgia’s constant puppy antics, for the most part, she was very patient and gentle with her. It’s interesting to me how great she is with Georgia and how she wasn’t all that enthused with Laszlo. (I also wonder if this has something to do with the fact that Laszlo was all up in her space.)

Playing with Georgia

Update on Pyrrha’s leash reactivity:

We took the girls on several walks over the weekend. We passed a handful of dogs, and Pyrrha had two negative reactions. The first was at a golden retriever who barked and lunged at her, so she responded in kind. The second was at a pair of smaller dogs (looked like an American Eskimo and a JRT) and her reaction somewhat surprised me there, since the dogs didn’t seem very interested in her.

When walking her solo, however (apart from Georgia), she had no reactions to other dogs who passed her. Again, this leads me to believe that her aggressive reaction has something to do with either protectiveness (over Georgia) or boosted confidence (because of Georgia’s presence), leading her to put on a big show.

While I am thankful that she doesn’t display this behavior when being walked solo (she very happily and gently met a black lab puppy last night on our stroll), it is still something to be worked on, particularly as we may be getting our third foster soon. I hope to enlist Guion’s help with this and to apply some of the principles of LAT or BAT.

Playing with Georgia

Otherwise, we are expecting to have Georgia (and her humans) come visit us in mid-May, for Guion’s graduation from his graduate program. We are looking forward to it already!

2013 goals for Pyrrha

I am really big on goal-setting all year long, but I get particularly jazzed about it at the end of the year. Accordingly, here are some of my Pyrrha-centric goals for 2013.

Lounging

Goals for Pyrrha and Me in 2013:

  1. Help her get more comfortable around infants and small children. Get advice from our trainer. This is the big one.
  2. Teach her 5–10 new tricks/behaviors.
  3. Work on teaching her how to play more gently outdoors (e.g., teach her not to maul people’s back legs when they’re not looking).
  4. Take her hiking! This is a shame I haven’t done this, because we live in a perfect place for great, mountainous hikes.
  5. Brush her teeth twice a week. Whew. We’ll see.
  6. Accordingly, help her get more comfortable with all aspects of grooming.
  7. Have even more doggy play-dates!

Do you have any goals or resolutions for your dog(s) in the coming year?

Teaching kids and dogs how to behave with one another

Click for source.

NOTE: This is a piece I wrote a while ago, and since I don’t have any good photos of Pyrrha or any good updates lately, I thought I’d post it to start a conversation. Pyrrha is pretty scared of children, especially infants and toddlers, and this is an area I really want to work on with her. I welcome your thoughts, comments, and advice! — Abby

Despite what this adorable picture suggests, in general, kids are pretty terrible with dogs.

Kids like to tease dogs. Even if they’re just babies and unaware of what they’re doing, kids like to mess with dogs. They like to stick their hands in the dog’s eyes, ears, mouth, and nose. They like pulling the dog’s tail. They like riding on the dog’s back. They like squeezing dogs around the neck to express affection, even though the dog interprets this as invasive and frightening. This doesn’t mean that kids themselves are terrible. They’re often unaware of what they’re doing and how to read a dog’s body language.

Kids have a tendency to freak dogs out, for all the reasons listed above. Kids are really noisy. Their body language can be erratic and unpredictable to a dog. They like to get right up in dog’s faces, in their food, in their beds, on their backs. It’s no wonder that many dogs are afraid of children and that many, unfortunately, lash out in fear-based aggression.

But dogs, undoubtedly, bring (most) children an immense amount of glee. Even babies will light up at the sight of a dog. It always warms my heart when I see this. And there are many dogs who seem to love nothing more than children. (Bo is one of them: He drags me after strollers and runs up to every kid we see, beside himself with excitement, or with the prospect of food crumbs on grubby faces.)

There is a lot of circumstantial evidence that dogs and kids were “made for each other,” but that’s not always the case, and the majority of dogs AND kids need to be taught how to behave around one another. So how do we train them to behave well with each other? It’s not something that exactly comes naturally to either species.

TRAINING KIDS

As someone who doesn’t have kids, I often worry about those parents who don’t train their kids well with regard to dogs. I have responsibility for training my future dog how to act around kids; I expect that parents have the responsibility to train their children how to act around dogs. When we’re out walking, I can’t tell you how many times parents have let their little children run up to Bo to pet, squeeze, or hug him, without so much as a glance at me or a question if my dog is even friendly toward children. Thankfully, Bo is wonderful with kids, as I mentioned before. But what if he wasn’t?

I always walk Pyrrha very carefully around playgrounds and around people with young children. Thankfully, we haven’t had any parents let their tots run up to us (and I think this has a lot to do with breed; Pyrrha looks “scarier” than Bo, the golden retriever, does) and if a kid wants to pet her, they usually ask first. But this certainly wasn’t always the case with Bo. Parents would let their little children run right up to him without asking me.

But: Have you ever had to intervene in a situation between children and your dog? What would you tell the parents, perhaps by way of educating their kids?

Karen London posted a great short list of things she tells children about dogs, covered by the funny but true heading: “Don’t lick the dog,” from Wendy Wahman’s picture book for kids. That book sounds like a great resource for any parent of young children. I feel like I should buy a bunch of copies to hand out to parents on the downtown pedestrian mall here…

The Lab babysitter. Click for source.

TRAINING DOGS

One of Pyrrha’s last remaining big fear thresholds is little children. We seem to have ameliorated her previous big fear, which was greeting other dogs, and she hasn’t snarled or raised her hackles at a dog in two months. I consider this a huge victory! But the kid thing is another issue entirely.

Pyrrha is OK with kids who are calm and move slowly. This, unfortunately, is not many children. She’s submitted to attention from older children, perhaps 5-7 years of age, and she doesn’t seem bothered by pre-teens or teenagers.

It’s the babies and toddlers who really make her anxious. This is, obviously, a really difficult thing to work on. I wouldn’t let my infant around a German shepherd who was scared of babies, and I always keep Pyrrha removed and completely controlled when she’s in the presence of small children. So what do we do? How do I work on exposing her and acclimating her to this fear? It’s not like you can ask an infant to work with you, to make all of its movements calm and controlled, to stop squealing erratically.

She once growled at a toddler who tried to come near her. I removed Pyrrha from the situation and put her inside. It was a scary and disheartening moment. I want a dog who’s OK with little children. But how do we get there?

For those of you who adopted an adult dog, how did you expose your dog to kids? How can we help Pyrrha overcome her fear of small children, without endangering babies or eclipsing Pyrrha’s fear threshold?

As always, I’m very open to your suggestions!

Our little obedience school graduate

This past week, we had our last class at Canine Campus. Those six weeks really flew by! We all learned so much—us humans most of all. Pyrrha herself made great strides in confidence and I daresay she might even miss the madness of that room and all of those beautiful dogs.

Pyrrha graduates from Canine Campus

(*Pardon the photo quality; I took my old point-and-shoot and the lighting was off the whole time. You can get the jist of what was going on, even with the blurry shapes, I think…)

For our last class, we practiced “leave it” amid distractions, which Guion and Pyrrha are attempting to demonstrate below. (Clearly, this is still a behavior in progress.)

Pyrrha graduates from Canine Campus

And then I got to practice recall with her, also with distractions (an open jar of peanut butter, a person, and lots of dogs around the room).

Practicing "come" with distractions

This class gave us a great training foundation for us to build upon in the months and years to come. I think Pyrrha has made immense strides in confidence since we started this class, and I couldn’t be more pleased. With that added confidence, she also just seems like a happier dog. She seems to understand more of what’s expected of her around the house; she’s more eager and gregarious on walks; she even actively seeks out other dogs to meet. This is such a HUGE transformation since she came to us in May.

I’m looking forward to continuing to build upon our training relationship. Proud of my little graduate!

Pyrrha graduates from Canine Campus