Staying Put in 3Ds

When we are learning a new skill, it can be helpful to break the pieces down into parts. The same is true when we are teaching a new skill. That's what I will try to do here, for teaching your dog to "stay." Every dog knows how to stay. Don't believe me? Even the most off-the-wall crazy puppies and young dogs sleep sometimes, and, when they do, they stay in one place, at least for a little while. What gets them up? People moving around, having slept enough, food, or a noise outside are all possibilities. Basically, anything that makes staying in one place seem like less of a good idea than moving around. These tempting alternatives are the same that we face when teaching a stay. They fall into categories often broadly described as the "Three Ds": Distance, Duration, and Distraction. Distance refers to the distance between the person asking for the stay and the dog. Really, this is not so surprising. We...
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Day 1: Relaxed Down While You Move

Relaxed down is one of my favorite activities, but it's true utility comes from incorporating it into everyday life. One way to do so is to help your dog remain calm and relaxed while you are moving around. Many times our dogs feel compelled to follow us—and we often encourage this—but it's not always convenient. Sometimes, we want our dogs to be able to stay still, and even relax, while we move around. Take the opportunity while you are doing something active but not all-absorbing to work with your dog on maintaining a relaxed down position. The photo at right was taken while I was playing Wii bowling. I had treats in my pockets and was rewarding Sirius Black occasionally for maintaining his position. This could be taken to the next level by looking for a more relaxed position from Sirius....
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Take a Break

We all have daily routines that we can go through practically in our sleep. I don't need to be really awake to leash the dog up for his early morning bathroom break, or even to brush the cat’s teeth and feed her breakfast. These are all part of my routine. I frequently see clients whose dogs could basically walk their normal walk route without any guidance, because there is never any variation. And sometimes this is a good thing. Following the same routines can be soothing and can save our energy for other moments or decisions. But life is not predictable, and following the same routine too closely can leave us unprepared for the unexpected. If we always take the same walk, what do we do when construction on that street makes it unpleasant or unpassable? If we always do the exact same tasks in the exact same order, what happens when a new baby, or dog, or job requires a change...
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Relax Already!

Never underestimate the power of relaxation. It's a skill that too few people - and very few canines - have truly mastered. I always emphasize the importance of teaching self-control, especially to owners of young and energetic dogs. Having shared my home with a border collie mix for the past four years, it is a skill I can truly appreciate the importance of first-hand. There are numerous ways to teach this important skill, although my go-to method is Dr. Karen Overall's Protocol for Relaxation (from Clinical Behavioral Medicine for Small Animals, First Edition), which provides an excellent systematic method for mastering the three "D"s of a stay - distance, duration and distraction. Additionally, Dr. Overall's basic set-up can be altered to focus on areas of particular concern for a given dog. In this video, Sirius Black demonstrates Day 5 of Dr. Overall's protocol. He has not quite mastered the "relaxed" part of it, as I point out in a few places....
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