Category Archives: Laurie’s Training Tips

Getting Your Excited Dog Out The Door. Calmly

So I’ve had an almost perfect German Shepherd for 7 year now. Well, she started off crazy, but she’s been almost perfect for a few years, lol. My only complaint about her is how excited she gets running out the door, which then leads to barking in my yard. Hello? I’m THE Quiet Dog Daycare Lady! This has been a source of embarrassment for me, my dirty little secret… But enter my new mentor/advisor/friend, Nelson Hodges of the Canine Human Relationship Institute & he has given me a road map for success. Of course if someone came to me with this problem, I probably would have given the same advice! Yet, like most things, it’s easier to give advice than to live it.

At the door day 1

So what was his advice? Here it goes step by painfully slow step…

Step 1: Plan at least a half hour for this first day. Start to get ready to take the dog out.

Step 2: Notice dog gets excited. Sit down.

Step 3: Dog thinks you have changed your mind. Stand up & proceed with your routine.

Step 4: Dog bounces up again, you sit down.

Step 5: Dog thinks you have changed your mind. Stand up & proceed with your routine.

See where I’m going with this? Notice I didn’t once say “give your dog a command”. This is a huge part of the process- DO NOT SAY A WORD TO YOUR DOG. Don’t even look at him. All you are doing is putting on your jacket, sitting down, picking up your sneaker, sitting down, taking a step towards the door, sitting down, grabbing the leash, sitting down, opening the crate door, sitting down. OK, you get my point.

At the door day 10

The first day will be the hardest, so again, plan on taking 30 minutes to do this. Each day will get easier, I guarantee it. Here are my dogs after 10 days of this routine. Note: I did not tell them to lay down. They are just getting so bored with me stopping, they decided to take a nap as I got my act together!

 

 

 

This is how you start the walk off calmly, so they don’t charge out the door & THEN try to settle them down. Do this daily & you will notice a huge improvement on your dog’s reactivity on the walks. I promise.

If you are not in the New England area & are in need of a professional trainer, please visit the IACP International Association of Canine Professionals. Remember not all dog trainers are the same, so if you have not gotten the results you want, please do not give up on your dog. Find a competent, qualified trainer near you. And be sure to tell them Laurie Wagner sent you! 🙂

Fence Fighting

Does Your Dog Fence Fight?

If your dog fence fights, it can be very frustrating. The best way to deal with it is to practice a solid recall, i.e. the come command. Once you can recall your dog off a small distraction, let’s say tossing a kibble or toy & having him come to you instead of the item you tossed, you are well on your way.  (I don’t recommend balls to start as they bounce for too long, proving a more intense distraction)

For the best results I would use a remote collar, an “e-collar” to achieve this goal. An e-collar is like tapping someone on the shoulder to get their attention when they are tuning you out. Their levels can go up to 100, but we usually train on around 5, which most people can’t even feel. Although you can buy these online, I recommend you get professional training if you go with this tool. They can either help or hurt your dog. The way we pair them with food on a low setting, the dog feels a tiny tingle, is conditioned to look at you when he feels it, then gets the food reward.  Within minutes he’s looking at you with every little tap he feels excited to get food.

Once we teach the dog the tap of the e-collar means “look at me, come to me”, we can start adding distractions. Again, I’d start off with tossing a kibble, like I did in this session with Apollo today. This is his first e-collar lesson on his second day of training:

If you can add a layer of click/reward when the dog comes back to you, great. I get that you only have so many hands. I actually worked for months on the e-collar with my dog before I picked up the clicker. I don’t know if I would have gotten the attention from him without it. But I’ll never know. He was/is a very challenging dog.

Anyway, once your dog is paying attention to you, coming to his name instead of chasing a kibble or toy, change it to a ball you toss. Either tap the ecollar to get his attention and/or click/feed when he comes back. You really need to understand our Work4Food Program before you start. He needs to be hungry, motivated to work. If his belly is full, he will be less inclined to pay attention to you. We want him to have that “broke & hungry. will work for food” mindset. If you can’t get him food motivated, the only other option for obedience is force, yanking him on that leash. We’re trying to avoid that.

Fence fighting is extremely frustrating for both dogs and their owners.

Fence fighting is extremely frustrating for both dogs and their owners.

So, if you can now switch over to the clicker & do the NAME/click/feed in a quiet setting. Call him to you “Buddy, Come” backing up with the leash- click for compliance & give him a kibble. Do this in a quiet setting. Then a more challenging setting. Once your dog is bombproof everywhere else, now work near a fence, where no dog is on the other side. NAME/click/feed near the fence with no dog….closer to the fence with no dog…..now do it with a calm dog on the other side of the fence (if you can find that needle in a haystack), at a distance your dog can handle. When your dog can pay attention to you at the fence of a calm dog, “Buddy, come” click/kibble….now increase the proximity, stopping when you lose control. Back up the progress when he gets too worked up. When you can call him away from the fence of a calm dog, now go back & do it with an excitable/aggressive dog. Start at a safe distance & work your dog’s threashhold. Get his attention “buddy, come” backing up, tugging the leash, click/kibble. When he can handle this distance, increase proximity.

This is a tough goal. The more you practice this, the better. I spent a solid week + feeding my dog only in the car for not flipping out when he saw a person/dog/cat. If you make the time & be patient & consistent, you can achieve great things!

If you are not in the New England area & are in need of a professional trainer, please visit the IACP International Association of Canine Professionals. Remember not all dog trainers are the same, so if you have not gotten the results you want, please do not give up on your dog. Find a competent, qualified trainer near you. And be sure to tell them Laurie Wagner sent you! 🙂

Annyong chill in the car

Clicker Training for Dog Reactivity

How I got Annyong past charging at dogs in the car.

It used to be people too. I got past the people & then it was just dogs he would react to. Now it’s just cats & we are making huge strides. I mean mind-blowing speed huge strides, not just the “we’re working on it” lip service I often hear. I’ve been using a clicker. Yes, you heard it right, a clicker. I know people say verbal markers work as good & you always have your voice (I used to say this too). But I feel the clarity & consistency of the clicker sound to be so unique, that that is why it is so much more effective.

First you need to give the sound meaning. “Load the clicker” they say. So for a complete meal, say dog’s NAME, get eye contact, “click” the moment you get it as you calmly say good & give a kibble. Do this for at least one meal.
Next I was click/feeding him just in the car for no reason. Just to keep building on the association. He needed to be chill, not freaking on anyone. I would just randomly click & feed. This alone kind of settled him a bit too. He was less pacy in the car & more at ease.
Then when I saw a person I would use the food as a distraction. I would NAME/click/feed ahead of the trigger, waving my hand at first if I had to to control his attention. I did this a lot & then started the process the moment he saw a person. NAME/click/feed. Then as we made progress with that, I would give him the chance to see a person, count a second in my head & then NAME/click/feed. Now I’m just clicking/feeding after he ignores a trigger.
I drive him to & from work each day so it is the only time he is getting fed right now. He’s got to be in the car, ignoring a trigger. I actively seek triggers to challenge him. When I was trying to get past people, I would stop at Cumby’s on my way to work & click/feed him with all the people going past us. It was more challenging there, but it helped speed this along.
Then today I found some people walking their dogs together in my quiet neighborhood & I sort of stalked them. At a distance where my dog would start to light up, I would put in park & click/feed until he could handle seeing them without freaking. Then I would drive around & get a little closer & do the same. Each time trying to get a little closer. He started to just watch & not obsess/freak.
I did that with neighborhood outdoor cats this week too. I saw him start to freak when he saw one. Did the NAME/click/feed & it was awesome because the cats were less apt to run, so his reaction wasn’t as intense. They didn’t feel much danger since he was in a car. So again, I put it in park & tried to get him to focus on me for click/feed & then got it so he could look at a cat without freaking out.
I will continue to feed him only in the car until this is a thing of the past. I already feel close to that goal. And I’m just floored at how easy it was once I started the clicker. I may be a new convert. Before you try this, please read through my last article, Who Feeds You? for some better background & understanding of our Work4Food program.

If you are not in the New England area & are in need of a professional trainer, please visit the IACP International Association of Canine Professionals. Remember not all dog trainers are the same, so if you have not gotten the results you want, please do not give up on your dog. Find a competent, qualified trainer near you. And be sure to tell them Laurie Wagner sent you! 🙂

Will Work For Food

Annyong! looking relaxed in the car for once.

Assuming you are not independently wealthy, I imagine you have a job that puts food on the table. If you don’t go to work, you don’t get paid. And if you are broke & hungry, you are more motivated to get a job, right? But what about your dog? I bet he could in essence flip you off when you call him from barking at that dog (i.e. ignore you) & you would still feed him. But what if you didn’t? What if you started using his food- his meals, not steak, to get his attention & obedience? Sound crazy? Keep reading.

So my 7 year old German Shepherd, Ziva, was never “food motivated”. I had problems, especially when she was younger, overriding her desire to lunge & bark at people walking past our fenced in yard. No food would be more important to her than that. I scoffed at food training as a joke. I would put her kibble down & she would fast until I added some wet to entice her to eat. I’m sure a lot of you can relate to this. But then I took this weekend workshop with Duke Ferguson a year or so back. It changed my life. I’m not as hardcore & intense as Duke. Precision is not my priority. I just want a dog that will listen when I say his name or give a command (which I give very few) & not make a fool of me…

Ziva at IACP Conference 2014 in D.C.

So now, instead of feeding her in a bowl, I put her meal in my pocket & give her kibbles all day long. Now I can call her from a mile away & she’ll come running for a kibble. Yes, a kibble. Why? I assume for one thing, it’s more fun & engaging for her. It’s like a game “how do I get that kibble?”. I think she also likes the stronger bond we now have. I’m paying more attention to her doing this program. She was an awesome dog before this, but now is damn near perfect.

Fast forward a year…So I recently acquired a new German Shepherd, 2 year old Annyong, from a client. He came with a litany of issues: lunging at my cat with bad intent, scaling a fence to attack another dog (that was before he was mine), barking & lunging at people while driving, ten thousand times worse if they have a dog. He looked & sounded like the Tasmanian Devil when dropping off my daughter at school. He was such an embarrassment, especially as a trainer. I kept having to tell people “I just got him. Please don’t jude me on this dog!”.

By using this Work4Food program, I’ve been able to overcome all of these issues at about 90% currently- which is huge! Considering he was one of the craziest dogs I’ve ever met (and I’ve been working dogs going on 17 years). He has been with me about 5 months now & I think another month from now he’ll be at 99% recovery. Just yesterday I was able to drop my daughter off at school & he was quiet in the drop off. That right there is a minor miracle. And just this morning he ran after the cat, but instead of sounding like the hounds of hell, he was quiet & excited, almost like he wanted to play. The cat didn’t run either, which was a good sign he didn’t feel danger either. I’ve never been able to record any “before” video because it took all of my energy to contain him & prevent him from doing any harm. So just trust me on this ok? Think of your dog’s worst day, make your dog a crazy Shepherd with bad blood lines & that’s my dog. 😉

So here is what I want you to try: put your dog’s next meal (just dry) in your pocket, or on the counter in a bowl. He’s not to get the food unless he looks you in the eye when you say his name. Try it for a week both meals. Say his name, he looks you in the eye, give him a kibble. Now if you can do this all day, all the better. The more you do this & dragging it out, the better your results. Now if you have a large dog (i.e. a LOT of kibble) you can give in handfuls rather than one at a time. But remember the more you do this the better the results. Do this for a week, starting off in a quiet setting, then maybe your backyard, and as time goes on, start doing this in more challenging settings. If you dog ignores you, don’t feed him. He’ll listen when he’s hungry enough. I asked my vet & she said most dogs could refuse to eat for a couple of days without her being concerned, as many dogs are overweight like their owners! (me too, so I’m not picking on you!).

Bonus advice: Never say your dog’s name in conversation. ONLY say it when you expect him to drop everything & look at you (you will then give a kibble). This is my protocol & you can see the results here in this video. I have conditioned my dog to respond to his name with such precision by doing this method that he heard his name in conversation & came running to me!

If you are not in the New England area & are in need of a professional trainer, please visit the IACP International Association of Canine Professionals. Remember not all dog trainers are the same, so if you have not gotten the results you want, please do not give up on your dog. Find a competent, qualified trainer near you. And be sure to tell them Laurie Wagner sent you! 🙂

May I Pet Your Dog? Let’s Ask The Dog!

I get this all the time, as I’m sure you do too. “Can I pet your dog? Is your dog friendly?”

Today as my daughter played on the playground with her friends one of them ran up to me, not even going to ask me if she could touch my dog. I stopped her & told her he wasn’t friendly. This stopped her dead in her tracks- mission accomplished. She turned and went back to the slide. I said to her a few minutes later she could say hi to him, that I was only trying to make her think before running up to a dog that he may not be friendly. I gave her a bit of advice I give to all my new employees “think of every dog here as going to bite you”. I told her I didn’t want her to be afraid of dogs, just more cautious.

Then I told her to stand still, take a deep breath & hold her hand out for my dog to sniff her. He didn’t. He was too interested in looking at everything else. So I told her to wait a minute to see if he’d sniff her hand. He finally noticed her & sniffed her hand. I then instructed her to touch him with one hand only. I said to never use two hands, as it can be too confining to a dog. He was fine with her touching him & she ran off on her merry way, hopefully a bit wiser, but I doubt it. She is, after all, only 7.

This brings to mind a question I ask in my weekend classes. What are the 2 main reasons a dog bites? Answer: offense & defense. Which dogs bite more? Answer: defense. Why? Because most people are smart enough not to reach their hand out to a snarling dog!

Meanwhile, if a dog looks scared or shy like this, we feel bad & think they need to be comforted. Not the case!

Apprehensive Look

Timid Wide Eyes

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We want the dog to WANT to be touched too! If you went up to a person to say hi & they backed up- they are saying they want to be left alone, right? Well these looks are saying the same message in dog language! The dog is saying “I’m unsure of you & want to be left alone”. The best way to make friends with a dog like this? LISTEN TO HIM! Respect him! Give him space & by all means don’t reach your hands out to invade his personal space. If you love dogs, you must think of their needs & wishes & you should want to keep their record clean! Don’t give a dog a bite history that didn’t have one. Did you know that 85% of dog bites are from human error? -I’m making this number up, but it’s probably in that ball park 😛

Here is my flow chart for whether or not a dog wants to be touched:

Flow Chart

Dog moves in for more

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If you are not in the New England area & are in need of a professional trainer, please visit the IACP International Association of Canine Professionals. Remember not all dog trainers are the same, so if you have not gotten the results you want, please do not give up on your dog. Find a competent, qualified trainer near you. And be sure to tell them Laurie Wagner sent you! 🙂

Does Your Dog Bark At People In Your Car? Mine Does!

So Annyong has been with us 4 months this weekend. He’s doing SO GOOD! Except…he still FREAKS out when we’re in the car & he sees someone too close to the car, especially if he sees a dog. He’s a lot better I’ve noticed, even in the last week. He’s not as reactive & he doesn’t react to “every” person.

It wasn’t long ago Ziva (who was another owner surrender 7 years ago this week!) was the same. She would bark like crazy at anything in the car. She used to have to be cross-tied to drive anywhere, as she would run around the car barking. God, I don’t miss those days.

Anyway, today I had Annyong on the day care floor for about 5 hours, where he played & got out a lot of energy. I then took him to a walk at Nelson Park in Plymouth, one of my favorite places to take dogs. There is always a good amount of distraction there between adults, kids at the playground & always dogs- LEASHED dogs. It’s imperative that you avoid what you can’t control (off leash dogs charging you) & train for what you can control. I walked him around the park & saw plenty of dogs & people. He handled it better than expected. He looked really good from the start, so when he did see a trigger (another dog), he was easily distracted & controlled.  He looked like this at the START of the walk (important not to go anywhere until your dog is under control):

Annyong at Nelson Park, looking good!

So when we actually saw a dog this his how easy it was to control him:

Soooooo…. now that he was good & tired & in a good frame of mind, I thought I would try to work him at a gas station. Well, I needed gas, so instead of putting it off, I went for it. With my trusty sidekick, Isabella, we did it! She kept him focused on her with food while we got gas. He did light up a little as you can see, however this is NOTHING compared to how uncontrollable he was. It was beyond embarrassing! So if we do this often, a few times a week, sit in a busy parking lot & feed him his meals, we can desensitize him toward the people passing by. Stay tuned!

If you are not in the New England area & are in need of a professional trainer, please visit the IACP International Association of Canine Professionals. Remember not all dog trainers are the same, so if you have not gotten the results you want, please do not give up on your dog. Find a competent, qualified trainer near you. And be sure to tell them Laurie Wagner sent you! 🙂

 

Want Your Dog To Behave Better For Your Children?

Try this….Have your kid practice commands with him. First obviously he needs to listen & obey you. But then pass the torch to your kid! My daughter is enjoying the training as she likes to be involved. She is noticing the dog is listening to her better than ever, which helps keep her interested in it. Now she asks to do this every meal.

She is feeding him a kibble at a time, by hand, just like our program says. She gives a command, he obeys, she gives him a kibble. She has the leash on him in case he doesn’t listen. He’s now listening to her almost as well as he listens to me. Even I’m amazed. <3

Annyong happy on couch

Proof Our Program Works!

 

Practicing down/stay with meat on the floor.

So here is my 90 day update on my new dog, Annyong. Proof our program works. He has been on “probation” for 90 days in my house. He gets walked, socialized & trained every day. A little affection of course, but no excitement or freedom. He’s been out of the crate more & more as time goes on, always on a drop leash. Now we are starting to trust him off leash. We still have to work him through his cat issue, but he is SO much better than even a month ago. The other day he ran into the house & went chasing the cat & I called him (no leash, no e-collar) & he came! I was very proud! He will still be on probation for many months I imagine as he learns how to behave in the house. And learning he has to listen to me when I say his name. The more he listens/obeys/behaves, the longer he is out of the crate.

a well-behaved dog has EARNED the PRIVILEGE of couch time!

I think most dog owners fail their dog by first not having high enough standards for their dogs. They start off giving the dog too much freedom & then try to (partially) reign him in when trouble ensues (which it always does). They think of the crate as a punishment tool & therefore use it reluctantly. They think of leashes & collars are only for when outside. The more we use these tools (crate, leash, e-collar) IN the home, the more conditioned our dogs are to listening/obeying us. The better behaved they are inside the  more likely are to behave outside.

snuggles on the couch

I’d like the APO (average pet owner) to start with the end in mind. What do you want from your dog? And WHY do you want it? I want my dog to listen to me 99% of the time I say his name or give him a command. I want my dog to not pester my older dog. I want my dog not to chase my cat. I want my dog not to pick up items & guard them. All these things are unacceptable to me. And because they are unacceptable I will not allow them. The big picture of having a well behaved dog is what you allow & what you disallow. I use these tools to teach him manners so he will be safe & not embarrass me. (he still embarrasses me often in public! but better than before & we are working on that!).

Practicing down/stay while I’m doing dishes

A new question I ask dog owners in my class is “how confident are you your dog would listen to you if he was running into traffic & you called him?” I’m 99% confident Ziva will listen to me even charging after a cat/skunk/motorcycle- it’s happened & I have a lot of faith she will obey. I practice often with her. Annyong is NO WHERE NEAR THIS YET. But it is my goal. And he will get there someday soon. 🙂

Managing your crazy dog around company

Start by waiting to feed your dog just before company comes. He will be more interested in food if he is hungry. Before company arrives, start dropping kibble into the crate & then have company come in. (He should start off in crate or on leash). I prefer a crate.

As my dog started to light up I dropped his kibble into his crate as a distraction. “Here think about this instead.” After a few minutes he was pretty calm. I continued to stand there dropping kibble, his whole meal.

After he was very chill I opened the crate to let him go out & greet my mother. (He had not met her yet). Normally I would recommend leashing a dog for this but I was being lazy!  You can imagine if you wait until your dog is totally chill to let him greet company how much better mannered they will be. Any bad manners (jumping, barking) will be milder & more subdued. Of course if your dog is aggressive at all you shouldn’t go this alone. To find a trainer in your area visit the International Association of Canine Professionals to find a competent trainer in your area.

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Annyong in crate during superbowl

Dealing with Company and your dog during the Super Bowl 2

Annyong in crate during superbowl

Annyong in crate during superbowl

People ask me all the time what to do when company comes over. That seems to be a big challenge for most dog owners. Either their dog wants to charge to jump, lick & pester or, to see what they taste like!

My new dog Annyong is more toward the latter. He probably would have been fine, but since I didn’t have the time or attention to focus on him 100%, I kept him in the crate for safety reasons. This is what I would recommend unless you are able to focus on his behavior. Why risk it?

So what I did was (video below):

I started with a dog comfortable in his crate, in a relaxed mood.

Next, as company comes in to watch The Superbowl, I drop his supper-kibble by kibble- into his crate to give him something else to think about. By using his meal I can give him hundreds of “rewards” or distractions without worrying about him overeating. I also don’t have to worry about him not being hungry & more interested in focusing on “intruders!”.

My sister, also a dog trainer assists me by giving some kibble to get him thinking about that rather than all the commotion. As time goes by, his outburst get fewer & fewer. Each time I give him some more of his meal, sprinkled in with some treats for good measure. If I was able to do this on a weekly basis he would be much more settled with company. My girl, Ziva barked a little when the family arrived but quieted down almost immediately.