For Our New Dog Walking Puppy Parents
Base behaviors for the group dog walking program
Your dog will eventually be required to go off leash with us in order to stay in our program. The ability to be off leash is one of our greatest screeners. The well behaved and well balanced dogs you want around your own can be off leash, and ones that can't do it are asked to find alternative care. But don't worry, it's still quite rare that a client would start a puppy with us, work hard, and then not hit that mark. What's important is simply to understand that we have to hit it together. We cannot be tasked with all the training of the behaviors that are important for our program, like recall. In fact, we are not going to be successful if we're the ones that build the base of any behavior. In proper dog training, behaviors should be learned initially in a much less distracting and more controlled environment. Our environment is best for bulletproofing behaviors that are built elsewhere. If we get the steady foundation from you, we build upon it and will make it rock solid.
Recall is the #1 most important behavior. My advice is that you teach it in a low distraction environment and then slowly but surely level up the distraction present around your training sessions so that you continue to work just under their max level as that increases, but NEVER use it above their current level!
Utilize strategic setups or training tools to mitigate the necessity of relying on a recall command when confronted with circumstances that surpass the current proficiency level of your dog. Similar to how weightlifters refrain from lifting weights beyond their capabilities in the gym and avoid real-life scenarios that exceed their physical limits until adequately prepared, it is crucial to adopt a similar approach in dog training. Within the weight room, individuals determine their maximum lifting capacity and progressively work below that threshold, incrementally advancing towards their ultimate fitness objective. Abruptly progressing to higher difficulty levels in this context can lead to physical injury. Regrettably, clients often make comparable leaps in their dog's training progress, such as attempting to use the recall command at a dog park before their dog possesses the necessary readiness. If their dog fails to recall because the circumstances were not in their favor, the dog is then practicing not coming when called. Instead, in instances where the dog is ill-prepared to succeed, I advise clients to "move their feet, not their mouth."
All important behaviors and links to videos are listed on our Blog spot, which is a great reference for you in raising your dog. Sometimes I get frequently asked questions and I write a blog post to answer them as well. Feel free to send any in.
Here are some important article links:
Training Material: Links to training videos on various important primary topics
Coming When Called: A how to article on all the elements you need for perfect recall
Off Leash Training: Why it's important and safe to start young
The Karate Kid Method: How practice makes perfect
Neutering and spaying
With females, it is ideal for us to have them spayed before the first heat. Keep in mind that we're not allowed to bring out females in heat due to the park rules where we walk. Their heats can last weeks. The lingering smell can attract attention after the heat has ended. If your dog goes into heat we cannot provide walks for nearly a month! That could be a really big deal for you and there's no way around it for us besides private walks outside of 10-4, and very short potty breaks. This time away from their doggie day care can be a huge burden to dog owners.
Males should be neutered before 8 months or before problem behaviors that could be associated with being intact begin to occur. It's different for every dog. Many people want to keep their dogs intact because of purported health benefits. We can often work with that, but will not be willing if problems start to show. Those can include excessive marking, barking, mounting, aggression, reactivity, roaming, overexuberance, and dominance displays, amongst others. Many people think that certain behaviors might dissipate after the surgery. I've found that more often that is not the case, as behaviors quickly become habits, and habits aren't changed with the surgery. Be aware that when these behaviors start to show it's often hard to get into the vet in a timely manner! It is worth mentioning that based on personal observations, male dogs that undergo neutering at a younger age, as is often the case with many rescue puppies, tend to exhibit significantly less perturbing behavior, resulting in a smoother experience for all parties involved. Naturally, this aspect should be carefully evaluated in conjunction with other important factors; however, its inclusion serves as a reminder to not overlook its potential significance.
It is pertinent to address a significant concern, particularly with larger, male dogs, whereby they may encounter unwarranted negative attention due to their intact status at a certain stage of maturity. This, in turn, has the potential to induce anxiety and defensive aggression. Once this behavioral pattern emerges, rectifying the issue becomes exceptionally challenging. It is noteworthy that clients have expressed remorse on several occasions that they hadn't neutered earlier as a preventive measure against the subsequent aggression they experienced, which one might say proves more problematic and enduring than any potential physical ailments that may or may not arise later in the dog's lifespan. Should such signs of aggression manifest, it is strongly recommended to promptly schedule the surgical procedure and ensure that your dog is kept separate from others while on leash during the subsequent weeks. It is crucial to acknowledge that despite the surgical intervention, the lingering presence of excess testosterone can still be detected by other dogs for an extended period, when most guardians would have relaxed their vigilance.
We highly recommend everyone consider the PetSafe Easy Walk Harness. The Easy Walk features a front clip design that helps to correct a dogs momentum if they get out front or pull by turning them back toward you. Though your puppy will undoubtedly grow out of it, the Easy Walk is not very expensive at just over $20. Most clients tend to buy them too large! For this reason I DEFINITELY DO NOT RECOMMEND ORDERING THEM ONLINE! You should go into a pet store and try one on to ensure the best fit; one where your adjustments on the straps are not at the smallest or largest settings, but somewhere in the middle. We do not recommend anyone send their dogs out with a back clipping harness (one that has a D ring to attach a leash behind their shoulder blades) unless their dog is not a puller at all. These harnesses do absolutely nothing to teach or inhibit a dog not to pull, they're for comfort only.
Most puppies need some time before they can learn to walk well on leash. They're just too energetic and distracted. However, those that try early have an easier time later. My biggest recommendation is to practice indoors, or in an enclosed space. Do not teach this behavior solely on the walks themselves where there is too much going on. Target "oppositional reflex," a Googleable term, before starting to teach leash walking in its entirety.
There is no behavior that correlates more heavily with a well trained, well balanced dog than the ability to walk well on leash. It takes a lot of impulse control, awareness of the handler, and practice. If you can master that, we applaud and thank you profusely.
If your dog is just not getting the hang of it and a harness is not working, we may recommend considering a Gentle Leader head halti. Like a horse's bridle, a head halti is worn on the snout. It can be concerning for many owners to imagine their dog with this on, especially because to a layperson it looks like a muzzle, and because most dogs do not like the sensation at first. But with the right introduction and training, no other piece of equipment in all of dog training comes close to the Gentle Leader, a truly magical tool. Walks become breezy and relaxed, like they're supposed to be. Let me know if you'd like to hear more.
If your dog is struggling to adapt to a traditional harness and alternative measures are required, we may suggest considering a Gentle Leader head halti. Resembling a bridle commonly used for horses, this device is worn on the snout. It is understandable that many dog owners may initially feel apprehensive about envisioning their dog wearing such an apparatus, particularly due to it being worn over the snout where a muzzle would be worn, and the initial discomfort that most dogs experience. However, with appropriate introduction and training, the Gentle Leader surpasses all other equipment in its remarkable effectiveness. Walks become effortless and tranquil, like they are supposed to be. Let me know if you'd like to hear more about this when you sign up for our professional dog walking services.
Detrimental effects of long term crating
Establishing a definitive guideline, or rule of thumb, for determining the appropriate duration of crate training and the transition to granting a dog increased access to your home when left unattended is an inherently complex objective. Nonetheless, it is recommended to set an aggressive target date tailored to your specific circumstances to gradually phase out the reliance on a crate. Based on anecdotal evidence, I have observed a significant correlation between extended periods of crating and a notable restlessness in a dog's overall energy levels. In essence, it seems that dogs that spend excessive time in crates display an intense desire to be free from confinement, and once released from the crate, they exhibit an exaggerated sense of enthusiasm and urgency, attempting to release pent-up physical and mental energy and seize the opportunity outside the crate, like a bat out of hell, seemingly fully aware that they will be returning to it shortly thereafter. This heightened exuberance seems to indicate frustration.
Sometimes this develops quickly, most notably right around these spay and neuter surgeries. If you're working outside the home and your dog has one of these surgeries or a heat and we can't do group walks they'll be spending most of their days in that small space. We have seen dogs that come back from a few weeks of absence around their surgeries who seem to have a different, frustrated and over exuberant energy.
To know when it is time is hard. What's imperative is that you utilize the time with your dog in the home together when they're not crated to teach them how to behave. Whereas you should normally remove all temptations for practicing destructive behaviors (and all needs to potty so there's no chance of accidents), I would advise that on certain occasions when you have the bandwidth you should allow for the presence of learning lessons. Bring the wicker baskets back out, lay out a couple shoes, or magazines. Be ready to jump into action if they interact with prohibited items. This way you are making rules clear. If you're not able to jump in, then do not have those items around, as you're not in control of the associations that could be learned without you, like chewing up shoes becoming fun and stimulating.
Pay the most attention to things that absorb your smell or that are fun to chew up. Shoes and socks hit both those categories so they become a primary target. Put them all away when you can’t teach about them. If dogs aren’t able to interact with them, they grow up less likely to target them, as they’re just not a part of their habits. If you do have items out and your dog is not interacting with prohibited items please capture that behavior and make sure it's rewarded! Too often we fail to show them when they're doing right simply because doing right isn't always attention grabbing.
On the potty training front, the shortest advice is, do not let a situation arise where your dog needs to have an accident. You should take them outside constantly. They'd prefer it naturally anyway, so given enough access it should be easy to potty train. The problem of course is we're busy, and we often don't live right on top of grass like people might who have backyards; we live up flights of stairs. You should invest your time and energy up front to have the best success though. Short cuts like potty pads in the house make potty training harder.
Accidents in transport
Often our new dog walking pack member puppies might struggle to make it all the way to the park without having an accident in one of our personal vehicles. This problem can be confounding because sometimes dogs won’t go when we're on our way from your house to the car. They’re too excited to load up, and can’t pay attention to the opportunity to potty! As well, sometimes the need to potty is stimulated when they feel the excitement of getting in the car, so it wouldn’t be until afterward that the need arises, which is problematic. A past solution that’s worked has been for us to find a spot of grass down the street, a couple blocks away, or at the next client's stop to get that puppy back out of the vehicle after they’ve been stimulated. It’s our job to find the sweet spot in both location and timing so that it’s not happening before, and we're not stopping too early either. However, we ask that like any client, you're making sure your dog has had enough opportunity to go both pp and poo poo before our first pickups of the day. Puppies usually eliminate 15-30 minutes after eating breakfast (longer for older or larger puppies), so you may need to move breakfast up if you find that you're currently feeding on your way out the door. If there's still an issue after taking all the measures we can, we may try to negotiate an arrangement with you where we'll let you know before our arrival so that you can do one last try.
Access to a professional dog trainer included in packages
CPDT-KA means certified pet dog trainer, knowledge assessed. It's a credential from the largest organizational body for professional dog trainers. I earned it through years of private instruction, logging hundreds of hours of 1:1 work with training clients, and through attending many seminars annually. I've seen your issues before, and with puppy training specific issues, many many times. With all of your packages you get free access to call in training with me! You can ask questions around dog walking related behaviors, or any other. Simply email me your brief questions and I'll setup a time to talk. This is the easiest and one of the most enjoyable aspects of my job, so please give me the opportunity to be of assistance even as much as weekly. I've got a long commute to work where I'm not doing anything important where these make the most sense.