Walking multiple dogs

Do you have lot of dogs? Are you interested in being a dog walker but don’t know how to get everybody walking as a team? Here are a few techniques to help get you started.

Communicate Everything

It’s important to start small and and make sure that every move you are making is vocalized. This creates a calm in your group that allows them to be less impulsive about any quick decisions they might otherwise make. I use carting or mushing commands in order to warn my team about left or right turns. That way they can each individually feel comfortable about what they need to do to stay out of the way or at least anticipate the next part of the journey. I also use a hold command for stopping. This might be the single most important cue that I employ as it allows me the ability to get everyone to put on the brakes if one of them decides to stop because they need to poop or pee. Nobody wants to get yanked around when they’re trying to make! For more hints on how to teach the Mushing terms to your dog check out my blog on teaching a dog the beginner elements of dog carting.

Walk Backwards

This one is a little weird, I’ll admit it. This technique comes from a shutzhund training method of getting a dog engaged with the handler. It allows you as their leash holder to really become the leader of your group. Start with one dog and walk backwards with the leash in your left hand. Anytime your four legged friend runs out ahead of you, just turn away from the direction that they have headed. Let the leash bounce them into a reoriented state and then travel in a straight line. Now add a second dog and repeat the processs. If they split around you just stop, turn yourself a hundred and eighty degrees, swap leashes and start again. Take your time and don’t be surprised if adding dogs takes a while.

Encouragement

Not all dogs want to pull out in front some put on the “boat anchor ” behavior. They sit and that’s it. They are protesting this walk all together and “ain’t nothin’ you can do ’bout it.” In this scenario it is important to stay positive. Nobody wants to follow someone that is actively  angry with them. So keep your cool. Before you get going it’s a good idea to have a cue that you use in oder to warn the pack that you are about to move. I count down from three. When I do this again in subsequent scenarios I see that everybody is more compliant to the command I give just following the count and are ready to move. Once we are moving I make sure to keep the encouragement going. “Good girl!” or “good boy!” Should be regularly heard things from my mouth if I’m going to succeed. Don’t take any good behavior for granted, or you will see your group become complacent in their focus on you as someone to please.

Leashes In Knots!

Don’t wrap your leashes around your hands. This will quickly become a problem as you increase your pack. Instead use one hand to hold the leashes and conduct any momentary tension that might be necessary and use the other hand to organize the leashes as the need arises. The leashes shouldn’t be tight though . There shouldn’t be a need to wrap the leashes around your hand in an attempt keep a hold of your dog. If this is the case you should go back to walking this particular dog solo until they are able not so pull so hard. I will do another more focused article on addressing just this issue. Your second hand can also be an auxiliary leash hand for an individual dog that needs some extra space in order to sniff or mark but as soon as you can return that dog to the team and resume your walk.

Don’t Be Boring

Doing the same walk again and again will create a monotony in your routine and you will not be doing anything to encouraage your pack to increase their territory. Remember, the ancient wolven ancestors that all dogs descend from roamed over vast distances, marking out migration paths and hunting grounds that stretched for miles. People often see a dog walk as a way to keep dogs from peeing and pooping in their houses, but for a dog its an essential part of their emotional and intellectual inner world. So even if you are limited by how far you can go, make your walks novel. Try making a your route an obstacle course, as opposed to an ambling chore.

Here’s a little video showing that I practice what I preach;)

What is F.R.A.P!?!?

Frenetic Random Activity Period!

Sometimes your puppy will appear to lose their ever loving mind and run around like a little demon. There might be barking and bouncing about, a generally wild behavior. This is a normal developmental behavior and it has a name, FRAP!

FRAP can be fun but sometimes this playful behavior can be destructive and even dangerous. Here are a couple of rules to keep to when you see your pup going into a frenetic period.

1. Don’t worry, relax and enjoy

This is a normal developmental behavior and sometimes is seen in dogs that are past their puppyhood, sometimes as late as two or three years of age, but more typically in dogs between the age of two months to one year. If the behavior is reinforced, then it may become a regular part of their routine. In order to avoid that, it is important to not participate in the behavior. Just sit back and smile. If your dog is destructive and potentially going to be a large dog, try not to laugh, as this may encourage them to go even crazier and potentially carry this behavior into adulthood. Maybe you could film it and laugh about it later;)

2. An ounce of prevention…

If your pup has had all of their shots then you’re in luck! Find a puppy kindergarten class and sign up. Don’t worry if you’re not seeing your pup learning a lot of what you may think is important, like walking on a leash or even sitting. Wrestling, or if you have a shy dog, watching other dogs wrestle, can be an amazing drain on their energy and can limit or even eliminate the occurrence of these FRAP sessions. If your dog just goes to puppy kindergarten and hides the entire time under your seat, then comes home and loses their mind, don’t worry. This means the best thing you can do is return to the class again and again, until they engage. Once they do, and they will if you are consistent, they will have learned a very essential lesson about relating to other dogs and that will give you a way to get your dog tired when they get older.

Below is a video of Nora the Shitzu and my dog Rowdy playing in the back yard. Nora’s mom called me concerned that her puppy Nora was biting, barking and generally exhibiting some FRAPish tendencies. She attended some puppy kindergarten classes and came with me for some training sessions. Needless to say she did not show any of those FRAPish tendencies when she got home after this!

3. All things in their right place

Is your pup making a right mess of your home as they FRAP the heck out? The best thing for a young pup is to have the space they need in order be the pup they are. Limit the amount of space the puppy has in your house to the confines of one or maybe two small rooms. This allows them to not have to comprehend a potentially “too large” space. If you live in an apartment, this has the added benefit of keeping them from tearing up your stuff.

4. Knowing when the storm will hit

Common times for Frenetic Random Activity Periods are mornings upon waking and evenings before bedtime. This is because dogs have extra energy to burn and they are ready to rock! So these might be good times to engage with a little structured training in anticipation of this extra energy out burst. I also find though that dogs that have been doing vigorous training exercises for extended periods of time will occasionally go into a FRAP state. It’s important to know what your dog can handle and not try to combat them on this. Also, bath time will quite often result in a FRAP session. If this is the case for your pup know that this is because the body is attempting to raise the body temperature of the dog in order to compensate for the loss of heat due to being wet. Again this is totally normal and should not be scolded or cheered as either might reinforce the behavior. Simply dry your dog as much as you can and wrap them in as many towels or blankets as you can and place them in a crate. This can reduce the bodies autonomic response of injecting the adrenaline that brings about the FRAP state. Make sure to change the towels and blankets every thirty minutes or so in order to prevent the skin from becoming closed in with dampness for too long as this can result in hotspots. Hairdryers can also help but often dogs need to be taught to trust such a noisy and obtrusive tool, so take your time introducing it and it will pay off in the long run.

5. When the storm has passed

The worst thing you can do during a FRAP session is repeat the dogs name. They are in another dimension of reality and repeating their name will only result in them ignoring your voice in the future, so refrain from using their name at all. However, once the crazies have been exorcized from the little beastie, feel free to re-engage them. If you see them shake off the wildness, you can say “good (insert name here)”. If they lie down and lounge out, go over and join them and say “Good Girl” or “Good Boy” softly so as to reinforce this state of relaxedness. If, however, your pup jumps up and resumes their wild ways, return to the more aloof state of watching but not participating in this behavior. This eventually will teach your dog to return to a relaxed state more quickly, until the behavior is extinguished.

 

In Conclusion

Plenty of exercise is not always enough for every dog when it comes to extinguishing this phenomenon, but it can’t hurt. Doing a structured walk or puzzle, visiting the dog park, doing agility routines, drafting a cart,  engaging in zoomies in the yard or all of these things in one day might still result in a dog with extra energy that results in FRAP. These instances are very rare and if your full grown dog is having trouble with finding a peaceful nights rest, or seems to be driven to a more destructive place, you should get in touch with a vet-recommended trainer or a behaviorist, as this is a problem that has solutions.

Should Dogs Wear Clothes? An Ethical Quandary

Well it’s Halloween again and the age old argument is out there. Is it cruel to dress your dog in a Halloween costume? My dog Rowdy recently participated in the Annual Narrows Botanical Garden Harvest Festival Doggy Costume Contest and The Dodo was there to film the event. The next morning they streamed the event as a FaceBook Live event and I watched as the comments flowed in. Most of the commenters were positive and encouraging in there responses but others, maybe because they were coming from a place of concern for the animals, were opposed to the event. I want to take a moment to respond to some of these concerns.

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Oh Toze, what can I say to you? Though I do appreciate that you are concerned for the animals welfare, I think your definition of torture may be a bit out of focus. There are plenty of places online to find examples of animal torture, this most assuredly, is not one. If you or anyone who shares your opinion would like to help animals who have been tortured, I encourage you to volunteer at your local pound, no-kill shelter or rescue and you will get to see what the result of torture looks like.

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I always give my dog a choice as to what he wears and whether or not he puts it on. I hold out the open neck hole and Rowdy puts his head through. Then he lifts his legs to put them through the leg holes. If at any time he puts up a fuss and he has, I will pull back and reassess the situation maybe the fit is wrong, in which case, I don’t attempt to make him wear whatever that article of clothing is. However, I have been walking with him on a cold day while carrying his hoodie in my hand. When, unprompted, he started nudging my hand and the hoodie in it, indicating that he wanted the hoodie on. So I always consider Rowdy’s input on this.

BTW: I don’t think Greg watched the video if you look at the timestamp on his comment. If he had, I think he would have seen a lot of dogs having a great time.

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Well it’s not illegal or demeaning to put clothes on a dog. If it were you would see K-9 dogs without bullet-proof vests or search and rescue dogs without their high visibility or flotation vests. The notion that dogs are not smart enough to understand wearing clothes I think is more demeaning to dogs than the notion that what they are wearing might not fit into your opinion of good taste.

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I absolutely agree with Barbel, Divya and sad snoopy, they are not dolls. I like to do lots of things with my dog and this is just one of them. We go hiking, we do nosework, we go to the dog park and we do recreational carting. These are all fun dog things to do. Running around in the ring to the cheers of an adoring crowd, is just one of the ways Rowdy likes to enjoy his life. If you watch the video I think you’ll see what I mean.

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Wha?!?! Some people need to learn how to form a reasonable argument, before they learn how to operate a keyboard.

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This might be the only argument against doggy costumes except for the fact that this contest was held with the express purpose of raising awareness and yes funding for a local no-kill shelter. People donated to Sean Casey in order to participate. Those who were attending, that didn’t have pets, were exposed to the magic of the rescue dog world, breaking down the assumptions of many, that a dog is something to be purchased from a store. There was a lot of good done by this event.

Here are some other working dogs, wearing clothes.

There are 1.1 thousand comments and over 122 thousand views of this video as of the time I post this article. The overwhelming majority of comments are in support of the event. I want people out there that enjoy dressing up their dog to be aware that they should make sure that they keep it fun for their dog. If your dog is willing and ready to dress up than go for it! Make sure it’s not all you do with them, but sure why not have fun with this harmless and silly little hobby. Please be sure to support your local no kill shelter and if you want to donate to Sean Casey here is their link.

Dog Carting – Part 2: Things To Know Before Getting Started- Mushing Commands

 
Dog carting should be fun. If at any point you are not feeling that your dog can handle this type of exercise physically, intellectually or emotionally, you should stop and reassess the situation. Sometimes moving backward in the process and allowing our dog to master the step before the one we are currently engaged in, will allow the dog to move forward later. It is important to pay close attention to what your dog is saying to you during this process. Remember this is not a one way conversation. Take your time, be patient and again, have fun.
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Step 1- Mushing Commands

Before the cart, before the harness, before all the other trappings of carting there has to be a way to communicate direction.

“Ho,ho,ho” and “Hold!” – Slow down and Stop

Start by walking your dog at heal and just before coming to a stop say the command “Ho, Ho, Ho” as you stop say “Hold.” Repeat this until your dog is able to anticipate stopping. This is the command for stopping forward motion. It is separate from the “Stay” command. “Stay” implies “you stay here, I’m going there, but you stay here.” However, “Hold” is something we are all doing now. By the way The “Ho, Ho, Ho” may sound familiar as something from The Night Before Christmas. In it, the sound is attributed to Santa’s laugh, but if you remember he had a team of reindeer in front of him and was probably telling them to slow down. Indeed all of the commands I use are also used with a variety of other drafting animals, even magic reindeer;)

“Gee” and “Haw” – Right and Left

Ever heard a cowboy crying out “Yee-Haaw!” That sound comes from the rodeo tradition. Riders atop wild horses would be tossed right and left, hence they were “Gee” and “Haw”ing all over the place. To teach your dog how to listen and respond to this command start by saying “Gee” every time you turn right and “Haw” when going left. The sound of the command should have a tonality to it, so as to communicate that this is different from your normal speaking voice and needs to be listened to now. Practice short turns around garbage cans or outdoor furniture. Make it a gauntlet of fun to turn quickly right and left through the obstacles. Occasionally try the “Hold” command. If you have a hard time remembering which is which, write the word Gee on your right hand and Haw on your left. (see the picture above) As you go through your day, when turning one way or another say the corresponding command under your breath. You’ll  have it by the end of the day.

“Up” and “Hike” – Go and Run

I mentioned stop before go for a very good reason. It’s safer to have a stop command than it is essential to have a go command. From here on out though every time you want the dog to move any where in a forward motion, use the command “Up” even if the dog is being told to get down out of a car or down a flight of stairs. We use “Up” in these scenarios because it inspires them to move forward regardless of their elevation relative to their desired destination. Once you are going forward and you want to pour on the speed use the word “Hike!” and begin to run. This can sometimes get a little wild and dogs may try to bite the leash or nip at you. That’s ok just firmly but calmly reassert your control of the leash and start over. “Hike” is a lot of fun for high drive dogs so this behavior should be expected and corrected but not to the degree that you are chastising the dog. After all this should be fun right? Short spurts are a good way to go at first with this command as dogs younger than the age of two should not be made to run long distances.

“Back, Back, Back” – Back up

This is probably the hardest command of the bunch and should be regularly polished in order to maintain the dogs ability to back up on command. This is also an absolutely essential command for a carting dog to get, as it is very difficult to get a dog in carting traces and bars, without having them walk backwards for at least a little bit. Furthermore, while carting, it’s not unusual for a dog to get in to a difficult spot that requires the dog to back up in order to maneuver out. So getting the dog to takes a few steps backwards needs to be learned.

First it will be important to find a wall or fence that is long and has no obstructions on the ground. Walk the dog parallel to the wall, use the “hold” command, stopping the dog at some point along the wall. The dog should be between you and the wall or fence at this point. now with a treat, bait the dogs nose back over their shoulder in order for them to step backwards. If they step back, immediately repeat the words “back, back, back” and give the treat. If this is working repeat the exercise until you can give the command and then see the behavior. If you need to use the leash in order to guide the dog backwards you can do this at first but try to get to the point where no leash pressure is required. Something that may confuse the dog and be an obstacle to achieving this move is in the mechanics of the trick. Often when dogs are taught to sit, raising the treat hand over the shoulders will be part of creating a physical posture of the sit. This however can be an obstacle in this scenario as sitting is not the desired response. If this becomes an issue try wrapping an additional leash under your dogs belly and when they attempt to sit, hold it steady. Don’t lift, just hold steady and bait the dogs nose back while repeating the “Back” command.

Things to look out for and other useful commands

If your dog completely hates one or all of these exercises, you may not have a dog that can do this kind of work, and that’s okay. Remember this is supposed to be fun and if at anytime you are not having fun, guess what, your dog probably isn’t either, so don’t continue doing this kind of work. There could be any number of reasons why your pooch is resistant to this stuff. They could be too young, they may have other talents, or you’re not the right teacher for this type of exercise, and all of that is okay.

Some other things that need to be taught in order to keep you and your dog safe are:

  1. Redirecting their attention back to the task at hand or “leave it!”
  2. Get ready to listen or “3, 2, 1”
  3. Not resist the harness or playing with the leash
  4. Peeing or pooping on command… yup that’s possible.

In the next dog carting post I will be discussing some of the first steps to equipping you dog with the proper gear, how and when to start doing so, and what the best options are for your dogs physique.

If you have any questions or suggestions please leave them for me in the comments section. I look forward to hearing from you.

Celebri-dog!

This is my dog Rowdy next to the foodie-glitterati, Rachael Ray.

Rachael Ray Celebrates Launch of her Nutrish DISH with a Puppy Party

NEW YORK, NY – SEPTEMBER 28: Television personality Rachael Ray attends the launch and celebration of Rachael Ray’s Nutrish DISH with a puppy party on September 28, 2016 in New York City. (Photo by Nicholas Hunt/Getty Images for Rachael Ray)

Not a whole lot to say except thanks for the invite Rachael!

Rachael Ray Celebrates Launch of her Nutrish DISH with a Puppy Party

NEW YORK, NY – SEPTEMBER 28: Television personality Rachael Ray attends the launch and celebration of Rachael Ray’s Nutrish DISH with a puppy party on September 28, 2016 in New York City. (Photo by Nicholas Hunt/Getty Images for Rachael Ray)

Why Positive Works: Bumper Cars and Shopping Carts, An Analogy

beagle-puppy-mini-shopping-cart-10051360There are a lot of trainers talking about the benefits of positive training. From Ian Dunbar to Karen Pryor, most modern dog trainers are espousing the benefits of this new way of engaging your canid friends. Why does it work?

When I was in High school I had a job at a grocery store. One of my duties was to retrieve the shopping carts from the parking lot. I’d walk around shoving the carts back into a corral. Sometimes I’d push one across the lot from an especially long distance. The cart would go part of the way towards the corral. Then the caster would sputter, catch and the cart would turn off in another direction. It wasn’t very effective.

Let’s imagine I had a bumper car to help me with this job. Would it have helped?  I would drive around bumping the carts here and there. Eventually I might get one in the corral but it wouldn’t be very efficient and it might even get frustrating. I might even slap into one of these carts at the wrong angle and it might turn and knock back into me injuring me in some way. Also, the more carts I would have to corral, the exponentially more difficult the solution would be to achieve.

So what could I do? It seemed like I had tried everything! I’d even yelled at the carts and they just kept on being naughty! Well, I guess I might try engaging the shopping cart to my bumper car in some way, by pulling it along beside or behind me, until I could drive it right into the corral. Not only would this work, but the more carts I’d have, the easier and the more quickly the job would be done. I’d hook them all up and drive them right across the lot and right into the corral, without any trouble at all!

This is how positive response training works. If we engage our dog and bring them to the behavior we want them to display, they learn the value of behaving in that way. If, however, we try to bump them into the corral of the desired behavior by saying “No” to every behavior they display, they have no focus for where they should go with their enthusiasm. As a result they sputter off in some other undesired direction.

Positive Reinforcement has been written about in much more technical detail than this, and I will include some links to pages you might find interesting, but I’m warning you now it can get pretty wonky. All you need to know is that if you are tired of constantly saying the word “No” all the time, if you are done with being ignored by your dog, then maybe it’s time to consider trying something new.

Six Myths About Positive Reinforcement

Kids, Cookies, Tied Shoes

Ian Dunbar on TedTalks Youtube 

Dog Carting-Part One: A Brief History

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(c) Williamson Art Gallery & Museum; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

Does your dog get excited when you put a harness on them? Do they yank you out of the door and down the street? Do you ever wonder why horses, goats, bulls and almost all the other four-legged domesticated animals are expected to draft heavy loads behind them, but you hardly ever see dogs doing this work? Well, here are some answers to your questions.

Dogs have been by our side for a very long time. Since prehistory, they have been a loyal hardworking companion, as well as a compassionate, steadfast bone-handeled-knife-dog-wearing-harnessfriend. At a site termed Ust-Polui, near the Arctic Circle in Siberia, Dr. Robert Losey, Associate Professor in the Department of Anthropology, University of Alberta, has found archeological evidence of dogs being ceremonially buried in the same way as humans from the same period. Also found on the site was this carved bone handled knife. The decoration on the handle seems to depict a dog in full pulling harness. On the same site were two dog sleds. This site in particular dates back 2,000 years and indicates that the practice of dog sledding had been around for much longer.

So what are the advantages that these dogs have over horses, or some other drafting animal? Well first of all, horses get cold in these arctic environments. This is a very harsh climate, and since dogs are much smaller, they’re able to conserve their body heat. Secondly, horses mainly subsist on grasses, which much of the year are not available this far north. Dogs eat what we do for the most part, and so their diet can adapt to whatever we’re able to forage and scavenge for ourselves. Thirdly, dogs can double as protector, pulling guard duty. I’ve never heard of a guard horse; maybe they exist somewhere, but I’d bet that a dog is better suited to the job. Lastly, the ice gets very thin, and a heavy horse can pull you and your load down into the chilly brine. Dogs can pull themselves out of this situation though. So even if the ice does break and your whole load goes into the drink, the dogs can make use of their dew-claws to pull themselves out of the water. Check out a video to see labradors doing just that here.

So, for thousands of years dogs were getting good work as the load bearing, tug toting engines for small farmers and hunters alike. There is evidence of dogs pulling loads behind them from all around the world. In pre-Colombian North America there were no horses, and the predominate work engine was the Native American dog.

dutch-belgian-dogcartAnother advantage to having a dog pull your cart is that they take up less space and are more maneuverable in many situations. So in metropolitan areas, teeming with crowds and tight alley-ways, the dog became a relatively low-cost; more reliable option for small farmers bringing their wares to town.

 

So when and why did this all change? In England at the beginning of the Victorian period there was an ordinance passed called the Metropolitan Police Act of 1839. It forbade the use of dog carts within fifteen miles of Charing Cross.

“XXXIV. [Prohibition of Dog Carts.] And be it further enacted, That after the First Day of January next every Person who within the City of London and the Liberties thereof shall use any Dog for the Purpose of drawing or helping to draw any Cart, Carriage, Truck, or Barrow, shall be liable to a Penalty not more than Forty Shillings for the First Offense, and not more than Five Pounds for the Second or any following Offense.”

Rabies, or as it was commonly termed Hydrophobia, was becoming a real problem on the island and in an effort to stamp it out many theories were put forth as to a cause for the disease. A very popular theory was that over worked dogs were more susceptible to the condition, and so fines were imposed on anyone seen employing their dog in this regard.

That was the beginning of the end of dog carting. As we approached the industrial age, dogs were given less and less work and became more a show of wealth and stature. As we needed them less for their pulling talents and more for their companionship they retained the compulsion to pull. So now when you harness up your little canid powerhouse are you seeing just your own frustration that they won’t walk at heel? Or instead are you seeing all their potential? I have taught a great deal of dogs how to walk at heel and many owners how to maintain the leash language of the guided walk at a steady pace. But what if your dog is a massive engine that is meant to pull more than his own weight? In the next part of this series on Dog carting I will go into how to prepare your dog for the exciting, enriching and entertaining world of dog carting.

If you want to read more about the history of dog carting here are some links.

Dog carting in history 1

Dog carting in history 2

Dog carting in history 3

Ancient Dog Sledding

Dog Friendly: Oktoberfest 2016

This is the first of a series of regularly reoccurring blog posts, meant to help people find events and locations that are dog approved.

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Nestled in the Bear Mountain State Park, just off the Palisades Parkway at exit 17 is the new site of an annual Oktoberfest that Rowdy loves to attend. My dog is, like me, a German mutt. At one point we did a DNA test and the results were Dachshund, Doberman, Min Pin, Weimaraner and Schnauzer. So obviously oompah music is in his personal playlist.

There are some great trails nearby, and your dog will love burning off some energy first by going on a nice walk in the woods. After that, the entire festival is not just dog tolerant but seriously dog friendly. People approach, ask very nicely if they can greet your dog, and have a hand out for a sniff before you have to instruct them to do so. The dog culture is on point!

There’s an assortment of booths set up selling crafts as well as food, but Rowdy honed in on one that seemed a little more important than the others. Good Reasons is a not-for-profit dog treat company on a mission. They create scrumptious, human-grade all natural dog treats, while providing employment opportunities to people with autism and other developmental disabilities.

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We saw all kinds of other shapes and sizes of dogs there, from tiny Tibetan Terriers to great big Great Danes and everything in-between. All were friendly and approachable. The food was yummy above the table and below. The music was appropriately silly and the beer… well Rowdy was the designated driver so he didn’t have any of that.

The party continues until October 30th and we might return, so maybe we’ll see you there! Here’s a link to the Bear Mountain Inn Oktoberfest site.

http://visitbearmountain.com/plan_your_trip/events/

What Is A Dog Puzzle?

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Cognition is the process of interpreting the world through the use of thought, experience and the senses. It’s something that we do every day all day and so does our dog. Creating a scenario that allows our dog to solve problems in a controlled environment gives us a way to help them create good habits for how they process the wider world. Sure, we give them toys and maybe a bone to chew on occasionally, and that is a great way to help them burn off some mental energy, but what if we want to challenge them more? Here are some examples of how dog puzzles can help you do just that.

Defining a Puzzle

A Dog Puzzle is different in one significant way from a dog toy, in that it involves your input. A kong toy is fun and difficult, demanding the dogs attention for a good period of time, but it can be solved without your presence. In this way, I would argue that the kong toy and toys like it are in a category by themselves. Puzzles should involve the handler setting up the item while the dog sits and watches at a distance, and then is invited in to try and solve it. Once the dog has achieved the goal of solving the puzzle, the handler should immediatly praise the pup. This way, our dog learns that there is value in both waiting for something good and in persisting through something difficult.

DIY Puzzles

Muffin Tins are great!

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Getting your dog to find things in difficult-to-reach places is a big part of how this works, and an easy and cheap way to start is with stuff you may already have. Have your dog sit and stay. Take a few steps back, and kneel as you set the muffin tin upside down on the floor. While the dog sits patiently, place some treats between the inverted cups. Wait for your dog to look you in the eye. As soon as they do, push the puzzle halfway to them, stand up and say “Find it!” When your dog does this, reward them with praise.

Scale the difficulty

So maybe your dog has moved past that and you want something more difficult? Try this…

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Turn over the muffin tin and put stuff in the cups. Here, you can see some tennis balls and an old sock have been placed in the tin, and underneath are some yummies. Now repeat the routine that I set out in the first level.

Once they have gotten that down, try cutting the tennis balls in half and/or inverting another identical muffin tin on top for more difficulty.

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Got an old plastic bowl or piece of tupperware that doesn’t have a top any longer? Give it a shot!

Dog Puzzles You Can Buy, Sure There’s That Too.

This is the Dog Tornado made by Nina Ottosson. It’s a great puzzle and very versatile.

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They make a lot of puzzles out of quality materials and my dog Rowdy really likes all of them, except for the Pyramid. That one should probably get a reboot.

If you are able to find something that you like and it works for your dog, please let me know what it is and where to get it.

The Ultimate Dog Toy!

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You are your dog’s best challenger and rewarder. Your attention and diligence are what are going to foster your dogs intelligence and talents. Make your dog’s brain work and you will gain trust and confidence from your pooch.

Let me know how it goes!