Day 12: Life Rewards

Yesterday, I mentioned storing food treats around the house. This is a great tool, especially for food motivated dogs. There are other types of rewards as well. These include non-food items (toys, chews) and activities (walks, bell rubs). Often called "life rewards," it is important that these rewards actually be rewarding for your dog. Is a bath rewarding? Probably not for most dogs, but possibly for some. Is a walk rewarding? Probably for most dogs, but possibly not for some. Your knowledge of your dog will be the best way for you to judge what is a good life reward. However, it is important to think about what is rewarding for your dogs rather than what you think "should" be rewarding. This may differ from one dog to another and from one circumstance to another. For example, for one dog, a belly rub may be rewarding in the living room, but not on a walk. For another dog, it may not be rewarding...
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Day 11: Be Prepared

If you have been following these posts about incorporating dog training into your daily routine and thinking, "But how will I reward these behaviors?" the time has come to address that question. What rewards do you use now? Do you have levels of food rewards? Do they need to be refrigerated or can some of them be kept at room temperature? Does your dog have any dietary sensitivities? Personally, I use different food rewards for different contexts. When going to class or out to a high distraction environment, I pack my high-powered treats, including cheese and hot dogs. For very basic activities when my dog is hungry, I use kibble. For the in between times, I have some relatively high value treats that do not need registration. I keep one in the pocket of my jeans or in a container on my bedside table to have them available as needed....
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Day 9: Sit at the Door

Does your dog charge out the door every time it opens? Perhaps it's time to work on sitting before going out the door. If your dog enjoys going outside, additional rewards, such as food, may not be required for this exercise. Do keep in mind that, if you have never worked on this before, your dog may not be able to sit until the door is all the way open. ...
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Day 8: Brushing

People often assume that their dog will enjoy being brushed as much as they enjoy brushing them. That is not necessarily the case. Some dogs find grooming uncomfortable. They may be sensitive to certain brush types or to being brushed in certain areas. Any change in your dog's reaction to brushing a certain area may be a clue of a health problem or injury. If your dog just doesn't much enjoy grooming, you can help him or her get more comfortable through gradual desensitization. Get treats and your brush. As you start to brush your dog, give a few treats or enlist someone else to help you by giving the treats. Don't try to do a full grooming session. Instead, try just a few brushes. If he seems ok, you can give more treats and continue. If he seems very uncomfortable, allow him to move away....
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Day 7: Burning Energy

I don't know what weather you're having today, but it's snowing here Even worse, it's actually pretty cold. Cold enough that neither Sirius Black nor I want to spend a lot of time outside. However, that doesn't mean that Sirius doesn't have a normal amount of energy, so how are we going to help him burn that off? One of the strategies we are using is food toys. I have written before about using food toys for both dogs and cats. In addition to buying toys, you can also make them out of household objects. What makes a good toy for your pet will depend on their chewing habits and likelihood to ingest items like paper. Today, I gave Sirius his breakfast in a half an egg carton, which he pushed around the floor until he had emptied all the kibble out....
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Day 6: Practicing Recalls

It's important to practice recalls frequently, and make them rewarding. Too often, we call our dogs for not-fun things (baths, nail trims, to end playtime). These can discourage responding to recalls in the future. For practicing distance recalls in open areas, use a long line or a confederate, as in this video. Be sure not to go too far and scare your dog, especially if using a long line. Since Sirius Black is blind, constant verbal reinforcement keeps him moving in the correct direction....
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Day 4: Sit for Leash

Is putting on your dog's leash or harness a full contact sport? It doesn't have to be. Think about training to take the drama out of walk prep. When Sirius could see, he knew how to walk straight into his harness or collar. He cannot do that any longer, but he still knows how to sit and wait for his leash to be put on. As with any behavior, start with slight improvements from where you are. Don't expect to improve everything immediately. ...
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Day 3: Wait for Food Bowl

Have you ever spilled the pet food all over the kitchen because your dog (or cat!) stuck his head in the bowl before it got onto the floor? If so, this exercise is for you. Work with your dog to sit or lie down until given a release cue. Eventually, you can start this behavior before you even get the food out and maintain a sit or down until the food is on the ground (and you have even taken a step or two away), but start slow. Ask for a sit or down as you hold the food bowl. Begin to gradually lower the bowl. If your dog stays in position longer than you expected, especially once he or she knows the food is coming, give the release cue....
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