Fuck, have you ever look for an article online to send to someone else, but it doesn't exist (or maybe you didn't look hard enough) so then you go to turn on your computer to just write a post - but then the computer doesn't turn on cause it's dead so you say fuck it, plug it in, begin the 3,212 updates needed to make it functional again, and grab your Freewrite (aka overly expensive e-ink word processor that is really very cool but not used enough) because you have to write it down or you will get side tracked and do other things and you really want to write down what I think of as attachment training for service dogs so you don't fuck it up? Just me then, okay. sigh. sigh. but, hey, at least I'm writing. dammit. Attachment Training: First off, do not do it all at once - like, c'mere doggo - you now go everywhere i go and do everything i do for the next 12 hours. Jeebus, that's a lot for anyone to handle - stuck next to another soul for a long time just all of a sudden. However, when you do this training, you will be so surprised at how much and how different of a bond it eventually creates. So, day 1 of attachment training, use a cross-body leash. You can make your own out of rope, you can MacGyver something out of things you have, or use a different method of attachment. I am going to share with you my favorite version of this - but everyone has to find their own path. Personally, I find this leash from activedogs.com to be my favorite every day use leash. https://www.activedogs.com/product/1870/crossbody-hands-free-service-dog-leash/, I purchased the slightly more expensive version of this leash with the molded handle and it turned out, I didn't like it. It wasn't bad, just wasn't as convenient. To make it a little more weird, I add what is known as a horse trailer bungee tie out, which according to my horse-hearted friends is something that shouldn't be used by horses in trailers. However, it is basically a heavy duty 12 inch long bungee cord with dog leash clips on both ends, this allows for a bit of give on the end of the leash. Lastly, I personally enjoy using a harness on the dog rather than just a collar. It was always a great cue to the dog that it was work time and when the harness came off - it was doggo time. Anywhoodle, back to day 1 of attachment training - pick an hour, doesn't have to be any special time, but set an alarm for 60 minutes and harness and leash the dog. And then, this is super important, just do what you do. If that is watching tv, so be it. If it is cooking dinner or emptying the dishwasher, so be it. This is day 1, hour 1 and you will trip over each other and you will be in each others way. It will be awkward, but you need to embrace that shit. Whether you want to believe it or not, you AND the dog are learning a shit ton about each other. Then, and this is important - keep doing it. For the first week, try to do an hour a day.Time it and more importantly, LOG IT. (keeping a training log is super important if you ever have to "prove" you have a service dog) For week 2, you can drop it to every other day, but increase the time if at all possible. Set a timer if you want to, but try to get at least 2 hours in. Same for week 3. try to get at least 2 hours of whatever you are doing while attached to your woofer. Its weird, but it becomes so beautiful over time, you become in tune with each other and move together. There is a small downside (miniscule, really) to this training. When the dog is no longer in your life, for a time, you will still move around them. The true loss of Herbert (my service dog) didn't hit home for me until I was seated at my desk and I moved my legs to allow him comfort....and he wasn't there. Yup, even now many years later I just had a tear roll down my face. But the smile I have in my heart when I think of how well we moved together, how well we knew each other's movements - that grief is just part of having a service dog and I miss that partnership every damn day; but I sure wouldn't' give up what I learned and what we had. Anyway, that's attachment training in my mind. I hope this helps. -H.
So, I enjoy dog training. To me, it combines the fun of a hobby with the love and companionship of a dog, so it’s awesome. I don’t know that if I had to do it everyday and if I had to deal with the exhaustion of dealing with the people that came along with their dogs if I would love it as much, but that is why I don’t do it professionally. I wrote a while ago in this post about general dog training advice that my frustration with “The Dog Whisperer” is that a lot of his advice *is* good, but some of his other advice is *really* bad. I wouldn’t even have much of a problem with that if the man continued trying to learn, or at least learned new things and admitted once in a while that he has (as we all have) made mistakes.
While working with Miss Mia and attempting to introduce her into the household I made about 19 mistakes – but by golly, I learned from each and every one of them. She is now fully enmeshed in “the pack” and the current love interest of a SamSam. They spend approximately 19 hours of each day licking each other (ick!) and if they aren’t licking (ick!), they are sharing a stolen hanger with each of them chewing a side in a very “Lady & the Tramp” sort of way (awww!) or sleeping canoodled together (it really is disgustingly cute).
I said all of that to basically say – 99.5% of everything I do in regards to dog training has been learned by attending dog training classes or reading dog training books, blogs, websites, chat rooms, etc.; in other words – everything I know has been learned from others. The only thing that I do that I have never seen written before (although I am sure I didn’t invent it – just haven’t found anyone who wrote it down) is a wipe down. It’s one of the ways I bond with sick and/or injured rescues, comfort puppies, and reinforce that happylovepack feeling to all my dogs and it is just as simple as it sounds – wipe down the dog.
It doesn’t have to be overly special, I have wiped down dogs by using a post-shower damp towel, baby wipes, wet washclothes, dampened paper towels, t-shirts, pretty much anything handy. If you are dealing with a nervous dog don’t wipe their head or face, just gently wipe down their body. Over time (weeks), they will become more comfortable and you will be able to wipe them from nose to tail. A couple of reasons I think this wipe down technique helps form a bond and soothe a dog is because dogs naturally groom each other when they are comfortable together and a mama dog licks pups to keep them clean and soothe them. Am I 100% certain that those are the reasons it works? Nope. Does it work for me and for dogs in my house? Yep. Do I recommend this for everyone with a dog? Yep.
So, spend two minutes everyday gently wiping down a loved dog in your life. It will make you closer, happier, and will help pave the way for further training.
Alrighty, this post is a tough one for me to write. If you’ve ever spoken to me about dog training or dog nutrition in real life you will notice I rarely say much about my own choices unless specifically asked. Why? Because everyone has their own opinion about what is right and what is wrong in regards to dog training and dog nutrition. Does that mean everything I think, write, or yammer on about is the one and only right way? hell no. I learn more (and more) every year of my life and things I think/write/yammer on about in 2015 may be completely contrary to things I think/write/yammer on about in the future; to me the only right way is to continue questioning the things you are doing to see 1. if they are good for the dog and good for you, and 2. working. It is important (to me) to accept that there isn’t only one way to work with dogs.
That said, here are some of my dog training thoughts:
- Don’t Anthropomorphize your Dog
I can feel brains saying….but, but, but, FoodLady, you anthropomorphize CONSTANTLY!?! Ah, young pups, ’tis true. I completely and joyously write funny things attributing human characteristics to my pets – mainly because it cracks me up. That said, I never never never think of a dog as a smaller, fuzzier, funny-looking human. They are not people and despite many jokes to the contrary – they do not think like people. They are a carnivorous pack animal with their own (body)language and drives.
- Don’t Compare Dogs to Wolves
This irritates the living crapola out of me. Don’t get me wrong, a lot can be learned from studying wolf behavior because they are another type of carnivorous pack animal. Yes, certain behaviors can be extrapolated between the two types of fuzzy-butts but they are NOT the same. Dogs have had a few millenia to evolve alongside humans.
- The Myth of “Finished Dog Training”
There is a wise and wonderful woman I used to work with in dog rescue who once told me,”all dogs will be trained to the minimum their humans can live with.” In other words, if it is truly important to you that your dog should open the refrigerator to get you a beer – you will find a way to train your dog to get you the beer. If the only thing that really matters to you is that your dog doesn’t poop on the floor – that’s pretty much all you will have focused on. But guess what? Every time you are with your dog, whether it be while you are slacking on the couch watching TV or if you are working with them on an agility course – you are training your dog (and/or your dog is training you). If you have an older beloved pet and there is something you don’t like that they are doing – it is time to adjust your on-going training.
- They Need More Than Love
I *really* wish that the only thing you had to do to have a wonderfully behaved dog is to love them. Sadly, this doesn’t usually work. Don’t get me wrong, there are a few naturally calm happy dogs out there with incredibly lucky owners who don’t really need more than love; but for the other 99% of us there is so much more required. And it is right about here that I feel the need to give a shout out/head slap to the Dog Whisperer dude – there is a man who needs to spend some more time learning and to admit to himself that he. doesn’t. know. everything. and accept that learning new stuff is okay. See, those basic tenants of his – dogs need exercise/activity and structure before love? yeah – those are great and important for every dog. That whole forcing a dog to accept something during one training session (a/k/a flooding) and proclaiming it a success right before handing that bundle of exhausted stress back to his/her owner who will just make a larger mess of the whole situation? yeah – that is a nightmare.
…there is much more to write, alas I have real world stuffs to accomplish.
*smooches* – FoodLady