Delightful Doggies is the website for professional dog trainer and behavior consultant, Laura McGaughey. Based in Englewood, CO 80112, Laura also travels to neighboring cities, Centennial, Aurora, Parker and Denver to provide in-home positive dog-training expertise for puppies, adult dogs, adolescent dogs, dogs in need of obedience and manners training, fearful dogs, reactive dogs, aggressive dogs, service dog training and therapy dog training.
Rainey and her big brother, Riley, have been clients of ours for some time now, utilizing a variety of services. We have been focusing on Day Training with Rainey to help her work through some dog reactivity issues, and improving her overall ability to focus on her handler while out on walks.
Rainey has been learning that dogs mean meatballs, which is a very good thing. By having her maintain distance from other dogs and allowing her the opportunity to make this association, she is starting to get calmer and happier about noticing them, rather than panicking, lunging and barking. She is now able to offer more reliably the behavior of looking back at her handler, for the meatball. She’s even more relaxed to walk down the block where her “nemesis” lives! We have been steadily getting a looser leash and more connection overall on walks as well.
We are really proud of Rainey and love working with her, her big brother Riley, and her very dedicated and loving mom. It’s very rewarding to see her improvements, and we love spending time with her to cuddle after each session. She is a very sweet and lucky girl!
Thank you for entrusting Delightful Doggies for your dog training and behavior needs!
Owner, Delightful Doggies
In this fifth installment of our blog series, Dogs will be Dogs, we will discuss digging problems.
Dogs may dig for many reasons, and like a lot of problem behaviors, it is a natural dog behavior. Some of the reasons why your dog may be digging up your yard or other areas include boredom, lack of attention or other constructive outlets, the desire to escape, trying to get at prey, or just a need to cool off and be more comfortable!
My dog Jasper LOVES to dig to find cooler ground in which to lie. He has done this from puppyhood, and we have allowed him to do it–in one spot. He has one spot that he chooses in our yard and that is his approved–and only–dig spot.
For a lot of cases, I do recommend giving a dog one dig spot (or some of my clients make a dig box out of materials they buy or out of a kiddie pool or something similar). This “compromise” of having an approved dig area can really be the most effective, and you can encourage him to dig in this one spot to help ensure it’s only one spot. I will praise, give treats or toys, whatever the dog likes, if he is digging in that spot to reinforce that is the place to do it. I will also even hide goodies in the dig spot for them to dig up–so much fun for the dog!
Another strategy for dogs who are seeking cool or comfort of some kind is to provide alternatives to address this: bring him in more often; have access to a water bowl, a wading pool, a softer surface or cooling pad on which to lie; provide a dog house or install items that can provide shade, etc., can all make your dog feel more comfortable and cool while outside.
If your dog is bored, or not getting enough attention or outlets, make sure you have alternate activities and enrichment for him, as this will be critical to success. Make sure your dog gets time to interact with you (walks, playtime, training sessions, having fun with puzzle toys or scent games), as well as provide other forms of enrichment (such as eating meals out of Kongs). Doing this daily can help tire him out in a more constructive way and lessen the likelihood of digging. Make sure to supervise your dog more closely while he is outside to ensure he doesn’t get the opportunity to dig, and engage him in other fun while you’re out there.
If your dog loves to dig to escape the yard, you definitely don’t want to leave him unsupervised until you come up with a long-term solution to fortify your fencing. You can make your fencing go deeper into the ground, or use rocks, chain-link fencing or chicken wire to prevent and discourage digging at the fence. Doing other activities and providing other outlets while he’s in the yard can also help him make a more positive association with staying in the yard. A tether can also be helpful, but we do not recommend EVER leaving a tethered dog alone unsupervised because they can possibly get tangled and hurt. If a dog is motivated and strong enough, he could possibly break it and still escape.
In some cases the dog may also be trying to get at prey–besides reinforcing your fencing and supervising per above, you may want to find ways to relocate the animals that are attracting him in a humane way. Seek help from a relocation professional if necessary. You can also work on a better come when called with your dog so when you are supervising, you can more easily call him to come to you in case a rabbit or other possible prey is tempting him.
If you are facing problems with digging or anything else, we highly recommend the help of a qualified professional who uses positive reinforcement techniques for the best success, and we would love to help. Contact us now!
Poppy was a Finishing School student of ours when she was newly adopted in 2014, and we did some more private training with her in 2016. Since then, her parents adopted another delightful character, Waffle, and we had the pleasure of working with both dogs through our exclusive clients-only service, Stay N Train.
Each day Poppy and Waffle enjoyed meals through enrichment toys like the Buster Cube, Atomic Treat Ball, Smart IQ Ball, Kong Wobbler and more. They also worked on their impulse control, having more relaxed walks, and convincing us for more tug fun and belly rubs! We also worked on dog leash reactivity with Waffle in controlled setups, and began working on conditioning Poppy to a harness. Waffle became a master at the Look At That game, and with time and meatballs, Poppy should become more comfortable wearing equipment.
In addition, getting to hang out with their cat brother and sister, Severs and Isa, was also a lot of fun. While we may work more with dogs overall, we always enjoy some cat energy in our lives! We also got to work on some exercises to help Waffle learn that it is a lot more rewarding to NOT chase the kitty folk. 🙂
We really appreciate the loyalty their parents have shown us through the years, and their dedication to the best for all their pets. It is a real pleasure to work with such caring people with amazing pets.
Thank you, and have a wonderful Thanksgiving!
Owner, Delightful Doggies
In this fourth installment of our blog series, Dogs will be Dogs, we will discuss chewing issues.
From puppyhood to adulthood, dogs LOVE chewing. It is a need, it is a way to help themselves relax, and it is a very enjoyable activity. As with many problems, chewing is a normal dog behavior, and understanding the motivation of the chewing is very important if you’re looking to address any destructive chewing your pup may engage in.
Puppies are very similar to human babies–EVERYTHING goes into their mouths! It’s how they explore the world, and they have an actual physical need to chew in order to help alleviate the pains of teething. By the time hit six to seven months of age, they should have all their adult teeth so things will get easier at that point. In the meantime, it’s important to be patient and have LOTS of desirable alternatives.
All-natural animal parts of all kinds are absolutely great for puppies. Bully sticks, pig snouts, tracheas, chicken feet, cow cheeks and hooves, and much more disgusting (wink) delights are some of the best options you can invest in. We’re not a huge fan of rawhides, but we do love the Earth Animal No-Hide bones, and raw bones you can get from your butcher. Be careful with elk antlers–they can be a little hard for those tiny puppy teeth–so you want to make sure they do not chew too heavily for too long on those so be mindful of this.
Nylabones can be great and if their flavor wears away, you can soak them in a hot broth to “refresh” them to make them more appealing.
Dental chews of all kinds are available on the market, from CET chews to Greenies and more.
Kongs and other enrichment toys that you can stuff with a variety of food, including their regular ration, are some of our favorites. Kongs can easily be frozen as well, which can soothe puppy teeth. We’re also big fans of the West Paw Design line of toys for enrichment as well as their tug and retrieve toy options.
Even taking old clothing strips and wetting them, twisting them together to leave them in the freezer and then take out as needed for your puppy’s relief can be a good alternative.
In ALL these cases you will want to supervise your puppy to ensure he won’t get hurt. The Nylabones should be taken away if they’re destroying them into little bits, and rope toys as well as the clothing strip option we mentioned can be very dangerous when left alone. Kongs and other similar products, as well as all-natural chews can be generally safer for unsupervised time but be very careful and supervise whenever you give something new to ensure they don’t hurt themselves.
Remember your puppy will require patience and understanding. I call them puppy piranhas for a reason!
Chewing can be a very fun activity. If a dog doesn’t have enough outlets, they may engage in fun you’d rather they not! All dogs should get mental and physical activity daily to be happy and have a great quality of life. Taking sniff walks, enjoying tricks training, doing nose work and scent games, practicing manners and going for outings in the park–there are so many wonderful activities you can do with your dog to engage them. If you’re running short on time, you can hire us for Day Training, consider hiring a dog walker or jogger, or finding a quality daycare option to help fill in gaps. We are happy to help provide referrals for professionals so just ask!
Anxiety or Stress
Some destructive chewing results as a symptom of underlying anxiety or stress. The dog may have separation anxiety or isolation distress, or they may be afraid of something that is happening that causes them to stress, and therefore chew as a way to try and alleviate the stress they’re experiencing. In these cases it is VERY important to never punish the dog. We do not use unpleasant consequences to punish a dog as a way to train. This can actually increase fear and anxiety, and make fixing the problem more difficult.
Setting up video cameras or other monitoring devices can help you see what is happening if it is while you are away, so you can better determine what is happening to cause the anxiety, or also rule out boredom. It can be hard to know for sure without doing such homework. If your dog is experiencing stress while you are away, or if you know it is caused by stressful events or triggers, we urge hiring a professional to help you. If you are struggling with destructive chewing, nothing can replace the value of hiring an experienced professional.
Chopper is a boxer puppy who is getting closer to adolescence by the moment! His parents needed some help fine-tuning his loose leash walking and come-when-called skills, as well as getting him house trained, so they reached out to get our help.
It’s been awesome seeing how much Chopper and his parents have learned together. Seeing his more enthusiastic COME responses have been so much fun–don’t we all just love watching a boxer run excitedly? We have all had a lot of fun together, and training should be fun!
Chopper has also enjoyed learning that the doorbell isn’t a signal to bark uncontrollably, and playing with enrichment toys for fun breaks in between practicing his manners. He’s come a long way!
We love working with young dogs and their people. Chopper has some really awesome people, and we are very honored to be able to get to know and work with all of them.
Thank you for your trust in us, and happy autumn!
Owner, Delightful Doggies
In this continuation of our blog series, Dogs will be Dogs, we’ll go over barking and what it may mean, and how to address it.
Dogs bark for many reasons. It could be to alert us to something (and they have been bred for many years to alert bark for us!), because they’re excited, frustrated or bored, because they’re seeking attention and it works, or because they’re afraid of something, and it can be an effective strategy to make space. In any of these cases, it’s important to understand the motivation for your dog’s barking, or you won’t be able to adequately address it.
The overly excited, bored or attention-seeking dog
Some dogs love to express themselves vocally. My old cattle dog would sometimes just bark because she was feeling well, instead of ill, so I considered it a great thing when she would head out of the house on her walks, announcing herself. It still meant she had spunk! But for some it may be going overboard and causing neighbors to report your dog.
In any case, if you know your dog may be too excited, frustrated or bored at times, how can you change this? While we can’t address all the triggers for dogs in this one blog post, knowing those triggers and why they occur is half the battle. If you know your dog is going to bark at you when you get home because he’s very excited to see you, for instance, you can have some treats ready to toss away from you to redirect him to playing a FIND IT game, rather than bark at you. You could also have a toy ready if your dog loves toys, to give a more appropriate outlet. Leaving him at home with enrichment toys and activities can also be helpful to “wear him out” a little more prior to your arrival home.
If your dog learns that by barking at you, he gets your attention, ignoring him COMPLETELY is key. Even “negative” attention is attention, and if it works, there is no reason not to bark! By ignoring, you should not even look at or talk to your dog. I’ve even left the room when a dog starts barking to make that behavior elicit a response they do not want. Quiet means I stay and interact with you. Some dogs, if they have been very successful for a long while at barking for attention, may get “worse” before they get better. Since it had worked a lot they will work harder before giving up. This is called an extinction burst. Don’t give up or give in–keep ignoring and know it’s darkest before the dawn.
Teaching calm behavior as rewarding can also help. There are many protocols but this wonderful video from Emily Larlham shows some great tips in capturing and reinforcing calm behavior. We often ignore our dogs when they are calm and quiet so it’s important to be proactive in making these behaviors rewarding.
When a dog is alerting us to something, it’s an important job for them. Many times I have clients who like having a dog that will alert them to something–because you never know what could be happening, and it’s a great deterrent to have a barking dog in some cases–but it can reach a point of too much.
For most clients they want to be able to just successfully interrupt and redirect the dog. Conditioning the dog’s name and/or a positive interrupter will help you do this. If you say your dog’s name and he looks to you, click and treat. Do this many times, in many situations. You can also do this with something like a kissy noise or other word or sound you want to make, just like in this video from Emily Larlham (she makes so many great videos!). If you do this successfully over time you will be able to increase distractions, including the moments when the dog is alerting you to someone in the yard, going down the alley, coming to your door, etc., but remember you have to practice without these triggers first.
Over time you will be able to call your dog’s name or make another positive interrupter noise, and pair it with coming to you for a treat, or redirecting him to another activity or toy. Great job for letting us know someone is here–now you can have your ball and play!
Barking out of fear
When dogs bark to make space, they learn quickly it is very effective. Making yourself look bigger and making a threatening noise is very reinforcing for dogs who are terrified of what is in their environment. We’ve had dogs who react in many ways to many triggers: at the front windows/doors at passerby, in the yard at strange people, dogs, trucks, bicycles and more, or in parks or other public areas at any or more of these kinds of stimuli; the list goes on and on.
Determining what your dog is afraid of and barks at is the first step. Then it’s your job to limit their ability to get practice at this, so if you have a dog door, it may be necessary to cut that all-access way of going out to bark out of the picture while in training. It could also mean taking shorter walks to minimize exposure to triggers, or blocking access in some way to windows, doors, etc.
Following a well-thought-out desensitization and counterconditioning protocol is key to addressing the underlying emotional state of fear these dogs have. Before worrying about any behavior, we need to make those items very positive. Then they will be able to calm down, and offer calmer alternate behaviors we can reinforce.
For clients with dogs who are fearful I recommend choosing one or two very high-value food items (i.e., bits of hot dogs, chicken, roast beef, cheese–whatever your dog loves most!) and use it in conjunction with these triggers. If strangers walking down the alley mean meatballs, over and over, they will be less scary and more wonderful! It’s important to not overdo it–if the dog is allowed to still rush the fence and react (we call this going “over threshold”), that’s not the best scenario. I will recommend putting the dog on a well-fitted harness and leash and stay as far away from that fence as possible to cut off the rushing at the fence, and therefore limit the barking/reactivity. It is also important to remember that the trigger should make the food happen; if the food shows up first, you risk not only having an ineffective method, but you could very well make the food a negative association for the dog as the food means a scary stranger shows up.
In all these cases, particularly with fear, we do recommend hiring a professional who can help you plan out training to be more successful. There is no substitute for such! And it can save you a lot longer of a training path if you are clearer from the very beginning. It takes far longer to undo a bad protocol so we encourage anyone facing these problems to reach out.
Need help right away? Contact us now to solve your problems!
Owner, Delightful Doggies
We originally started working with Samson and his mom on behavior modification coaching for him specifically, as Samson has a hard time accepting other people in his home, and being calm on leash when he sees other people or dogs. It took him a little time–and a good amount of liverwurst and other delights–to realize we were pretty cool. Now we’re a part of the Inner Circle of Trust! Samson is such a sweet guy once he realizes there is no need to go on the offense.
As time went by we were happy to also provide some Day Training for him, and regularly care for him and his sister, Cocoa, when mom and dad go out of town as part of our Stay N Train service (not offered to the general public, but to clients who have used our services in some capacity). Cocoa is a sweetheart who has some challenges being connected with her handler while out on walks–she finds the environment and all its delicious smells very distracting!
Working with both of these awesome dogs over the last several months we have seen some amazing improvements. Samson in particular is doing a lot better on walks, checking in with his handler instead of fixating on whatever may be worrisome in his environment. He also really loves playing with puzzle toys and getting belly rubs! Cocoa is getting better at responding to her name on walks and doing short amounts of loose leash walking. She really loves all the attention we can give her, as well as wonderfully stuffed enrichment toys. Step by step, these two sensitive souls are growing each day in their confidence and focus.
We really appreciate the dedication Samson and Cocoa’s people have had in working with them, and us. Thank you for allowing us the pleasure of working with all of you!