Ask Inger: How Do You Re-Train A Dog Who’s Developed Selective Hearing?

Hi Inger,

I rescued my dog, Milo, 4 1/2 years ago when he was about 8 months old.  We immediately signed up for puppy obedience school.  He passed with flying colors.  He is a mix of border collie/lab and I think pit, but our first vet said no.  Anyway, as he entered his “teen” years (1 year 6 mos to 2 1/2) he became a terror on leash.  VERY protective.  I hired a private trainer and we did a lot of one on one to help him stay relaxed. 

Fast forward and he’s now 5 1/2.  He knows all his commands–knows them even better when I have treats.  He knows the click and treat perfectly.  He’ll come on command in our yard. Click, treat.  He’ll sit, stay and come, click treat.  When I throw the ball with our Chuck It, he gets the ball and runs to the top of the deck and completely ignores any command I give him.  I can’t get him to just come back to me with the ball let alone drop it.

He’ll only drop a toy in his mouth if you have a treat.  He loves to play, but he likes to play keep away and then tug of war.
What do we do?!  I tried going back to simple commands again and he knows them, but the second that ball comes into play or another toy inside…all commands go out the window!
Rachel from Massachusetts
Hi Rachel,
Great question, I have to say that Milo is a beautiful boy! Wonderful that you rescued him and good job on training him plus working through his kinks for the first 5 years! After reading your question I think for now, chuck the “chuck it.” A new pattern needs to be established.  I’ll give you a few tips to regain Milo’s selective hearing.Okay, first, I’ll explain the some issue’s that stuck out for me and then give you a few exercises to try.
Clicker training is great for certain breeds and for sure creates “the special effect” of a learned trick. What I mean by effect is that it’s reward based, reward meaning treat for the trick. Lifestyle type issues like stay at the front door with guests requires a different on leash approach in creating the trust and bond between a dog and owner. Once learned “off leash commands hold with distractions a bit better then with clicker training. But that’s another topic.
Eye contact and a personal bond gets formed by leash training and verbal rewards, than with treat exclusive methods. Remember, you can show love and “positive” reinforcement  in many different ways.. voice, touch, eye contact, and oh, yes food. I’m babbling on about this because one thing is missing in clicker training and that’s eye contact and voice inflection. The focus goes on the reward of the treat not the eye contact, gestures or the owners praise. The dog is looking at the treat not the person or any hand signal. I’m not saying clicker training is bad, only that sometimes it’s limited and in your case not working.
Change the focus
The leash and the game follow the leader around the house helps to create eye contact and enables your voice to become task and the praise, not just a treat.
The leash helps create eye contact between the two of you. Isolating this process in your house helps you both succeed. Try the simple exercise of walking around the house while on a leash and occasionally stop and gently lift up on the leash and say sit. You’ll see he will glance up at you. Dogs are pack animals and LOVE follow the leader. I know it may sound stupid and boring but try it for 5 minutes a few times a week.  Use a flat nylon 6 ft nylon or leather leash not the retractable kind.
No more tricks
Tug of war and chase are never good games. Even if you’re just trying to get the ball, toy or shoe from your dog, luring or begging just creates more of a keep-a-way game going.
Prey drive is what makes a dog fetch. That translates to chase and catch and you want that instinct to be ball exclusive. So create a drive to bring the ball back! Use only one ball. That ball is a special fetch ball. It ONLY comes out during fetch! When the game is over it goes into a special drawer.
Use a treat more effectively
Start over, re-teach the game of fetch. Use that “fetch only” ball and begin the re-teach with following a few new steps. Get a treat but put it into your back pocket. Create a structure with a beginning, middle and end theme. Begin slowly, the first day of re-doing this game do so indoors. Begin with bouncing the ball to get him interested and say sit. No treat or clicker, use the ball as the focus. Say the word o.k and toss the ball, as soon as you do, crouch down and clap your hands and praise! As Milo begins to come towards you reach into your back pocket get the treat in your right hand, suddenly stand up and gesture the letter “J” with your hand (holding the treat under your thunb) and say sit. Gesturing the letter “J” is the hand signal to sit. Then say “watch me” holding the treat near your eye for a second,  he’ll spit out the ball as you give him the treat. Remember hand him the treat with your right hand and pick up the ball with your left. This pattern will get a new flow going with the game of fetch.
Dogs are smart and stimulated by motion. So be a little smarter. Use the movement of suddenly standing up combined with  the motion of the hand signal for the command sit. This will capture his attention. Eventually the hand signal (alone) will take the place of the treat and you wont have to crouch down.
Now the key to success is to toss the ball once, the first day. Only once then put the ball away. The next day, toss it twice, third day and so on. This process will build drive and interest, once he’s in the groove of fetching you can take the game outdoors. Before long you’ll have a ball-o-holic that LOVES to bring back the ball.

Paws For A Minute® Mutt-rimony

Sure, you can try to teach me the first year, but I got you trained for the the next 16…

Does Your Dog Really Know What He’s Done Wrong?

Paws For A Minute® … and think about this…

Some people give lengthy verbal dissertations trying to explain to their dog their extreme displeasure they feel after they’ve discovered their best shoes chewed. Other’s righteously feel their dog totally gets what he’s done wrong. Absolutely, 100 %.. slinking out of the room with their ears back and tail tucked. For sure they know! Right?

 Some people try to punish their dog by using spray bottles, crating or putting your dog outside in the yard to “think about” what he’s done. This may give the person time to cool off after being mad, but really? Does it get the right point across?

Well, the truth is that dogs do respond to voice inflection and body language. So yeah, they get that your mad, but not at what? Dogs associate to things with sense of smell, patterns and triggers. It’s best to explain to them what they’ve done wrong with a sensible process that has a beginning, middle and end to it. Whether your pup has chewed something or gone to the bathroom in the house, get the leash, put it on and guide them over to what they’ve done wrong. Isolating the item or area by guiding your dog to it helps them associate the scent and your voice inflection to the word NO.

Reprimanding your dog this way you’re actually associating the smell of their saliva on the chewed item or urine on the carpet and that identifies to your dog what you’re saying NO for and to what?  After saying no, take your dog “outside” ( in the case of a bathroom mistake) or (in the case of chewing the wrong thing) give them the right chew bone. Then say “okay” in a happy voice indicating that the reprimand is over! Over time he’ll learn the pattern of where to go to the bathroom and what to chew. The days of needing to catch your dog in the act of doing something wrong are over.

Shopping For The Perfect Puppy Can Be Love At First Sight. Or Are You Being Scammed?

Looking for LOVE and how we find our best friend has been revolutionized over the last decade. The method of how we find “our dog” has morphed with technology. Finding a specific breed or that perfect “disney-like pup” has orbited into cyber space along with dating. Even in the unconditional love world of wet noses and wags, the internet has served as a double edge sword for many prospective dog owners. Unsuspecting and uneducated would-be dog parents can stumble upon puppy brokers guised within large internet companies that marked their territory by catering to fast demands of love-at-first site, no pun intended.

If you want a Jack Russell with one cute black eye, you can find it, buy it and have it shipped to you. The fast food-style of finding love in our new pup culture has it’s heartbreak. Sometimes years into the relationship of mutt-rimony issue’s can be revealed with health, temperament or impulse buys that become a mismatch of lifestyle. How do I know? As a long time dog trainer and pet expert, I have seen first-hand the issues and help resolve them empathetically.

The good new is that with people like Betsy Saul the co-founder of the web can also change the face of animal welfare. Over 5 million people visit that site each month. The website is designed to find your designer dog (in a way) just like the other sites. The only difference is that you can really taylor it to you needs and rescue a puppy or older dog of your choice. Choose any color, size, age and even in your own state and viola you can find your match. They facilitate over 2 million adoptions a year. Since the website (and others) have been created, the number of adoptable pets being euthanized has dropped form over 16 million to an estimated 4 million. Congratulations and thank you!

Now that’s love!

Apartment Dogs: Guidelines To Choosing A Good Dog Walker.

Raising a dog and working to make a living, can have it’s challenges. How do you master raising a puppy and being gone all day? Dog walking services can come in handy to help you on those busy weeks or challenging developmental stages. Getting a dog walker can help you manage developing a schedule with your dog. Here are a few simple things to consider before you hire one. Hiring a big dog walking service can have its pros and cons. For example, there are many individuals that provide a reliable unique experience that can meet your needs too! How do you know what you need? Here are a few thoughts to help you assess what’s best for your lifestyle.

Bigger dog walking companies hire many dog walkers or sometimes have vans servicing many people. Sounds great at first, but your dog may be sitting in a van half of the day, as the service drives around town picking up other clients. Once at the park, puppies usually will play hard with each other, while older dogs often just stand next to the walker waiting for the walk. It’s really up to you to assess your dogs needs and what’s best for your lifestyle, budget and work schedule. Is it to get exercise, go potty, or to be socialized? The main thing you need to note is your dogs age, housebreaking needs, energy level and your hours gone, which will tell you what type of service you really need. Many middle age dogs or senior dogs benefit most by individual one-on-one walks, as opposed to the larger companies that offer park pick-ups. Sometimes, a nice long walk, 10 minute game of fetch and a potty break will do the trick! The best place to find a great dog walker is at your local vet’s office, pet store, or a friends referral. Once you’ve found a great dog walker it is a good idea to interview them properly.

 1. Make sure they are insured or bonded. This seems obvious, but you’d be surprised how many people forget to ask. If the person works independently and is not bonded, then always ask for referrals. Use your best judgement. Referrals can come from trainers, vets and other clients they walk. If the dog walking service is a big company, then ask to see their current certificate of insurance, as they often hire many dog walkers to service larger areas. Also, you may not get the same person walking your dog. Discuss your needs, concerns and safety rules with the company and make sure the people they have as walkers, fit your needs and have experience.

2. Give them your cell phone number in case of emergency. If they work for a bigger dog walking service, make sure that you are getting the same person and they have your cell phone number available. 

3. Go on a walk with the walker, once. Observe how they handle your dog, making sure they use the same commands you use, keeping training consistent.

4. Give your dog walker a window of time to arrive. Remember, you aren’t their only client. Two hours is more than fair, they will appreciate the flexibility, and you will get consistent service.

5. If you provide the leashes, training collars etc., it is imperative that YOU regularly inspect them and keep them in working order. Keep them in the same place, and back-ups are always a good idea, especially for specialized gear. Make sure your dog has current tags and information on it’s collar.

6. Provide your walker with your vet’s info in case of emergency. Keep a credit card on file at the vet, along with a signed declaration stating that your walker is allowed to bring the dog in for treatment.

7. Don’t forget your budget. Hiring a dog walking service can add up! However, remember it does not have to be a forever thing. You can cut costs, too. Those of you who own pup’s can use a service for a few months, to get you over the hump of housebreaking issues. Other’s can begin a service with the end goal to-be, to use the service as needed! In other words, eventually, only use the service for your dog during those busy weeks at work. You have options.

Also, remember that your needs may change from needing one type of service to another, over the course of raising your dog!



Ask Inger: Dogs And Getting into the Trash

Hi Inger,

What’s the best way to combat stubbornness? Roxy, our seven year old pitt bull mix is a great girl, but very stubborn. She does what she wants when she wants. She has even been known to be spiteful, i.e. If we leave the house and she doesn’t like it, she will go through the trash and leave it all over the house.

She’s done this many many times. We now have a gate keeping that area closed off, but we would like to find out how to prevent these kind of actions as well as other stubborn moments.

An additional question I have is about socialization. I regret to say that Roxy wasn’t socialized very much as a puppy (with other dogs that is, with humans she was constantly socialized).

We want to make it possible for her to play with other dogs, how do we go about it? Roxy in general has been good playing with male dogs and puppies, but not really with other female dogs. What should we do if we’d like to socialize her more?

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Paws For A Minute® Lifestyle: Dog Tip Of The Day

Getting your dog presentable for that holiday party may mean giving a bath. What professional groomers know that you may not, is that putting shampoo directly onto your dogs coat could create an opposite effect. Applying shampoo directly onto your dogs coat can make rinsing impossible.  Often shampoo residue never gets fully rinsed which leaves your dog’s coat flaky, itchy and even smelly. Therefore, giving you the impression that your dog is dirty and needs baths more often, when actually your dog is reacting to shampoo residue which is creating the flakes. A vicious circle.

A key strategy to getting a really clean dog and a sweet smelling pup is to rinse your dog really well! A helpful tip is to diluting the shampoo with 2 parts water, this  is key. Soapy water baths get your dog cleaner and is easier to rinse.







Confessions Of A Dog Trainer. Which Is Easier To Train, The Dog Or The Owner?

Paws For A Minute® confessions 

Sometimes my day requires walking through a minefield of personalities with both the dogs and their owners. One specific client became an inspiration to me. I got a call one afternoon from a woman with a beautiful French accent named Sophie. I have a two-year-old little dog, named Maximus, she said.  He’s the world’s worst dog but I love him. He was a VERY mucho Dachshund and she proclaimed to need my help. He will not come to me when I call him! EVER. She explained that he was great as a puppy but now he simply tuned her out. I met with her the next day. As I rang her doorbell, I could hear Sophie shouting “No!” and “Come!”  The shouts were accompanied by the sound of footsteps and it was clear she was chasing the dog in order to catch him.  Maximus was barking which sounded like a rapid-fire machine gun. Sophie said hello and broke down. “I can’t do it.” I said, “you can’t do what?”  “I can’t be an Alpha dog over Maximus, I do not have the time to figure all that out,” she said.

I smiled at the irony. She was a very high paid executive with beautiful Minolo Blanik shoes and whose dog should have been named Barney.  I explained that teaching Maximus to come when called had nothing to do with being alpha dog. I showed her a quick technique that I called hide-and-seek. I said grab a treat and go into the other room and call Maiximus’s name 6 times. I will hold on to him and let go of his collar on the fourth call of his name. When he finds you ask him to sit and then give him the treat. She looked warily at me and went to hide. I know she was thinking, “just train the DOG.” I know, I know I was chanting to myself silently. The big treat for me is when the connection happens between the owner and the dog.  As she repeatedly called his name, I let go of him and he took off like a rocket towards her. Wow, it worked he came! I said, “all you need to do is practice this technique a couple times a week, perhaps on the weekend.” Sophie was elated and agreed to practice this technique with her boyfriend holding Maximus’s collar while she called his name a couple of times every weekend. Maximus’ personality did give Robert Deniro’s character in Raging Bull a run for his money; however, it was Sophie, the dog owner, I taught. I think you get what I mean, there are many ways to teach your dog to come and many different phases to advancing the actually command. Applying it in areas of you daily life is where you need this to happen. This technique is just one of them to try, apply and remember. It’s not always about your dog being smart, it’s about application!