Pickle the Chihuahua cross learns to go into her dog crate on cue

Dog training method

No force – no fear

The term “cue” rather than “command” is used in this blog post.  This is because if the dog is given a “cue” then she makes a choice; she is not forced to follow a “command”.

Have a goal in mind.  Work towards that goal.  Be adaptable. 

The dog should be enthusiastic which shows you she is having fun.

You will make mistakes in the training session.  Learn from them and move on.

Give the dog time to work it out before you intervene but don’t let her get stuck.

No verbal cue is given at the beginning of the training.  She does not speak English so it would be confusing if she were given an untrained verbal cue.

“Good girl” is used as positive feedback.

Keep training sessions short.  Five minutes is a good ballpark figure.  If the dog starts to get bored or frustrated then end the session sooner.

Video method

These videos are raw and unedited so you see the real training in real time.

Training sessions of a dog learning to go into a crate

Session one

Pickle – Learning to go into a crate – Session one
  • Have a comfy bed in the crate.
  • The crate should be a positive place to be so don’t force her into it.
  • Throw a treat into the crate.  Let her get it and come out again if she wants to.
  • Don’t stand in front of the door or you may be blocking her.
  • Don’t stand too far away from the crate since this may make it more difficult for her.
  • It may help to place the treat near the back of the crate to encourage her in.
  • Note at 3:32 she gets fully into the crate for the first time so she receives feedback of “good girl” for this success.
  • When the dog stays in the crate keep dropping treats in to maintain this behaviour.
  • You may need to call her out of the crate so she can then practice going back in again.
  • Notice how her enthusiasm builds as the session progresses.
  • The session is ended with “OK”.

Session two

Pickle – Learning to go into a crate – Session two
  • Give the dog a break between sessions.
  • You may need to go back a step or two when starting a new session but you should now get quicker progress.
  • Note at 0:39 she gets fully into the crate.  In the first session she did not do this until 3:32.
  • Note at 0:54 I pretend to throw the treat into the crate.  She is then given the treat after going into the crate.  This is the transition from the treat being used as a lure to the treat being a consequence of the behaviour.
  • The visual cue (hand signal) to go into the crate is me pointing at the crate.
  • The verbal cue of “house” is then added as she enters the crate.
  • Distance is now added with me being further away when the visual cue is given.
  • The visual cue for “down” is now added.
  • Variation is now added with the me being in different parts of the room when the visual or verbal cue is given.
  • The session is ended with “OK”

Pickle – the YouTube star

Watch and subscribe to videos of Pickle the Chihuahua cross: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=43nErWpEq2s&list=PLHZQoMcPhzNiqhhYOSi50JZbzhaoPhTfU

Dog training summary

Train your dog with rewards.

Keep training sessions short.

Keep training enthusiastic and fun.

Mike Garner is a dog trainer and behaviourist at Rainbow Dogs in Brighton & Hove, Sussex.

Follow Rainbow Dogs on Facebook.

Dog feeding for enrichment

How do you currently feed your dog?

Many people just put their dog’s food in their bowl.  This is a wasted opportunity for enrichment!

Why should you feed your dog using the enrichment method?

  • Your dog’s food provides a simple but effective opportunity to provide some mental stimulation.  This is particularly important for active dogs.
  • Using enrichment methods of feeding has the added bonus of slowing down your dog whilst they are eating.  This is useful for dogs that ‘wolf’ down their food.

What feeding methods can I use for enrichment?

Don’t skimp on dog food quality just because you are feeding for enrichment.  Check out my blog post on food choices.

Feeding dry dog food for enrichment

Dry dog food can be scattered, hidden, or placed in toys for enrichment. 

Scatter feeding your dog for enrichment

  • This is the simplest method of feeding if you are short of time.  This takes no more time than putting food in your dog’s bowl.
  • Get a handful of kibble and throw it out on the kitchen floor.
  • Once your dog gets the hang of this you could throw it out on to the garden patio.  For a greater challenge throw it out on to the lawn.
  • You may wish to consider using a smaller size kibble so there is more to find.

Hiding your dog’s food for enrichment

  • This uses your dog’s sense of smell to find the food.  This is an excellent choice since searching for food is a very natural behaviour for your dog.  Your dog has a large area of his brain that is dedicated to scent detection for this purpose.
  • Put your dog away and then place individual bits of kibble around the kitchen.  Let your dog in to find the kibble.
  • Once your dog gets the hang of this you could hide the food under or behind things.  Just be careful that your dog is not going to knock something valuable over to get to the food!  You can progress this by hiding your dog’s kibble in the garden.
  • You may want to consider using a smaller size kibble so there is more to find.
Pickle the Chihuahua searches for her food

Using dog food toys for enrichment

There are many enrichment toys on the market that you can put your dog’s dry food inside.  These are some of our favourites.

Kong Wobbler
Kong Wobbler Dog Toy
  • Kong Wobblers are a great toy for active dogs who enjoy working for their food.
  • You simply unscrew the base and put the kibble inside.
  • The toy has a hole in the top so that when the dog knocks the toy then food drops out.
Snuffle Mat
Snuffle Mat Dog Toy
  • Snuffle Mats are fleece feeding mats that are excellent for dogs that enjoy using their nose to search out or ‘snuffle’ for the food.
  • Just hide bits of kibble within the strands of the mat.
  • You dog doesn’t need a lot of space to use this enrichment feeding method.

Feeding wet dog food for enrichment

Using dog food toys for enrichment

There are many enrichment toys on the market that you can use with your dog’s wet food.  These are some popular choices.

Kong Classic
Kong Classic Dog Toy
  • The classic Kong toy has been around since the 70s and is still one of the best products on the market.
  • They are available in sizes suiting very small to very large dogs.
  • The basic idea is you put food inside the Kong and then the dog licks the contents out.
  • You could just stuff the Kong with your dog’s wet dog food or alternatively add in a few bits of dry kibble for some extra crunch.
  • Dogs that find it too easy to empty a Kong may find one that has been frozen more challenging.
  • You could also smear a small quantity of some appetising food around the inside of the Kong.  Popular choices are peanut butter, Marmite, cream cheese, or pate.
  • The healthy option is to blend some fruit or vegetables then freeze the Kong so your dog get a fun ice lolly!
Pickle the Chihuahua eating from a Kong Classic
Kong Quest Star Pod
Kong Quest Star Pod Dog Toy
  • Kong Quest Star Pod toys have lots of sections so you can add different food to each.
  • This disc toy stays flat on the floor so is less prone to crash around or roll under a table.
Pickle the Chihuahua eating from a Kong Quest Star Pod
Trixie Snack Snake
Snake Dog Toy
  • Snake dog treat toys are the new big thing in dog enrichment.
  • You can use small treats, kibble, or wet dog food with this toy.
  • The snake is made of rubber with a slit along its belly for stuffing the enrichment food in.
LickiMat
LickiMat Dog Toy
  • LickiMats are great because most dogs love to lick. The act of licking can be calming for many dogs.
  • You can use lots of different types of food on a LickiMat, basically anything that is safe to eat and can go in a blender is good on a LickiMat.
  • Put you LickiMat in the freezer before giving it to your dog for a longer licking session.

Take Home Message

Every time you feed your dog is an opportunity to enrich their life.  Every time you just feed in a bowl you waste that opportunity.

Check out what’s available on Amazon and go enrich your dog’s life now!

Mike Garner is a dog trainer and behaviourist at Rainbow Dogs in Brighton & Hove, Sussex.

Follow Rainbow Dogs on Facebook.

Recall with scent work

Recall problems

Owners can find recall difficult due to their dog being distracted by the environment. The distractions could be people, other dogs, birds, or just following a natural scent. This is despite the fact that the dog may have a good relationship with their owner and be happy to take treats.

Scent work

Scent work / nose work involves your dog searching for a scent which they are rewarded for finding. The scent may be food with the reward being the food found. The scent could alternatively be something novel (e.g. catnip or specific essential oils) which is rewarded with food once the scent is found.

Scent work is a great activity since the dog uses its nose which is linked to the olfactory bulb in their brain. Using their brain will tire a dog out much more than just using their legs.

Recall using scent work

It would seem intuitive that coming back for a treat is rewarding, however for a highly motivated dog having to work for that treat can be even more rewarding.

Case study: Mabel the Cockapoo

Mable can get very distracted by everything in her environment including other dogs and birds. She can also get distracted following a natural scent.

This groundwork training session aimed to get Mabel more focused around her handler by utilising her interest in following a scent.

Getting her to use her nose (and therefore her brain) makes recall more interesting and makes being around her handler more rewarding.

This is the first time Mabel has done scent work so was learning the process as she went along.

Exercise one: Recall and follow the treat

In this exercise the treat is thrown out when the dog comes back so that she has to use her nose to find it.. Working for the treat in this way is more rewarding than just being given it.

Exercise two: Recall and find the treat

In this exercise when the dog comes back, she is sent out to search for the treat. The treat is hidden when the dog is not looking. The dog is asked to sit when she comes back to give the exercise some structure, so she is ready to look for the treat when the cue ‘find it’ is given.

Note how easily Mabel gets distracted even once she has come back. She becomes more focused as the session progresses.

Exercise three: Recall and follow the treat toy to release the treat

In this exercise when the dog comes back, the Clam toy, which contains a treat, is thrown out. The dog must therefore follow the toy and then work at getting the treat from the toy.

Note how Mabel becomes distracted by a dog in the distance but then goes back to trying to get the treat from the Clam toy.

Summary

  • Coming back for a treat is rewarding.  Mabel using her nose to find the treat can be even more rewarding.
  • Scent work exercises are focused around the handler.  This helps strengthen the dog-handler bond. 
  • Mabel using her nose will tire her out much more than just using her legs.

Products used

Groundwork

Groundwork training is where I help train your dog for you. This can be the perfect solution if you are stuck on a specific behavioural problem and don’t know how to move on.

Mike Garner is a dog trainer and behaviourist at Rainbow Dogs in Brighton & Hove, Sussex.

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Craig Ogilvie – Interactive Play Workshop

CPD – Continuing Professional Development

As part of my CPD (continuing professional development) I like to keep up with what others are doing in the dog training world. I recently attended Craig Ogilvie’s Workshop on Interactive Play.

Workshop

I was hoping this would be useful since I regularly deal with training clients who have issues with their dogs and play. Some run around with a toy and won’t bring it back, some bark madly when a toy is produced, and some, to their owner’s amazement don’t want to take hold of the toy at all!

I went into the workshop with my pre-conceived understanding of what toy play is; a part of the predatory sequence. So, was I right? Yes… but the focus also needs to be on the human side of the interaction. Craig summed this up as “The toy is the bridge between owner and dog”.

Even with the best knowledge of dogs it is not always easy to teach others. Craig however was not only knowledgeable but also personable and incredibly enthusiastic.He appreciated that dogs learn best when they are having fun and applied this to his human students too.

Some people can feel a bit silly being seen playing with their dog so it was a big ask to get participants to do this in front of an audience. Craig’s super-motivating style however seemed to get even the shyer participants running around as if no one else was in the room.

Most of the dogs at the workshop were larger breeds such as Labradors, Boxers, and Rottweilers but there were also mid-sized dogs like Border Collies, Bearded Collies, and Cocker Spaniels. At the smaller end of the range there was also a Jack Russell Terrier. Craig adapted each session to the specific needs of dog and owner and used appropriate equipment with each. The sessions with each dog where kept short since it was physically and mentally demanding for dogs and owners. Just like any training, little and often is best.

There is an old wives tale in the dog training world that the human should always “win” the toy during play. This seems to be a throwback to old-fashioned and discredited “dominance” theory. How much fun is it to play a game and never win? Craig emphasised that we need to let our dogs have some fun and so win the toy!

I left Craig’s workshop feeling really enthusiastic and ready to try to replicate some of that enthusiasm with my clients and their dogs.

One of my favourite dog toys is the tug-e-nuff rabbit skin bungee tug. Check out my review.

I would highly recommend Craig’s workshop for dog enthusiasts as well as other professions in the dog world.

Craig also has a book out… though obviously it’s not as much fun as attending one of his workshops!

Mike Garner is a dog trainer and behaviourist at Rainbow Dogs in Brighton & Hove, Sussex.

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How safe is your dog in your car?

Would you drive without a seat belt or allow your passengers or child to do so?

There have been various changes in the law in the UK over the years with attitudes to safer car travel following. So, the answer is probably NO!

You may be breaking the highway code and invalidating your car insurance if you don’t properly secure your dog.

So why do you allow your dog to travel unrestrained or just being held in someone’s arms?

The answer in part is not knowing the best way to keep your dog safe.

Seat belts and child seats undergo rigorous mandatory safety checks. There is no official requirement for safer dog travel.

Where should my dog be in my car?

In the boot space

The advantage of this solution is your dog is not going to interfere with your driving and you can still use your seats for people.

The disadvantage is you have limited space for luggage.

Safety-wise if you break suddenly your dog may travel over the top of the backseat through the car hitting the back of your head or the windscreen. You should therefore consider the option of a crate, car guard or net, or to tether your dog in the boot space. Most cars have a tether point in the boot space to use.

Your boot is designed to be a crumple zone to keep you safe in an accident. This may therefore be the least safe place for your dog.

On the back seat

The advantage of this solution is your dog is not going to interfere with your driving and you can still use your boot for luggage. The disadvantage is you have reduced space for passengers.

Safety-wise if you break suddenly your dog could travel through the car hitting the back of your head or the windscreen. Tethering your dog will prevent this.

On the front seat

The disadvantage of this solution is your dog may be a distraction to you potentially causing an accident.

The advantage is your dog may be calmer being close to you.

This solution is similar to having your dog on the back seat except for the fact that you may have a front passenger airbag. Airbags are not designed for dogs and so could do more harm than good in an accident. You may be able to deactivate your car’s passenger airbag.

What equipment should I use?

A tether

This is the most simple and cheap solution!

It can be used in the boot, back or front seat.

Keeping the tether short will minimise travel in the event of an accident and reduce whiplash.

When the dog is just tethered by its collar in an accident the collar could fail and the force may cause seriously damage the dog’s neck.

A harness

The better option is therefore to use a harness. In the event of a crash the force would be distributed over the dog’s body. A loose-fitting harness may allow the dog to get free in an accident.  The harness should therefore fit snug to the dog’s body.  The harness should also be of good construction so no part would not fail in an accident.

A dog car seat with a harness and tether

A car seat helps to keep your dog more contained, it may also be more comfortable, and helps keep your car cleaner.

It can be used in the boot, back or front seat.

This in itself is not safely equipment so a harness and tether should also be used!

A dog crate

This has the advantage of keeping your dog contained during travel. The disadvantage is some dogs may find crate travel stressful.

In the event of an accident if your dog’s create is not securely tethered then not only will the dog be travelling through the car but the create will too. You also need to consider that your dog will hit the front of the crate in the event of an accident and the crate may not withstand the force.

Depending on the car, crate, and dog size the crate may be placed in the boot, back seat or front seat.

What’s the safest option?

In the absence of official comparative crash test data, we don’t know!

You can buy a seat belt clip for just a couple of pounds.

However, this crash test video demonstrates the inadequacy of many harnesses in an accident.

Look for a harness of good construction with sturdy clips.

Sleepypod have crash tested their dog car harnesses at 30mph.

Mike Garner is a dog trainer and behaviourist at Rainbow Dogs in Brighton & Hove, Sussex.

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Review: tug-e-nuff rabbit skin bungee tug for dogs

There are many excellent dog toy products on the market but unfortunately many more that are not fit for purpose.

One product I always take with me to a dog training session in a tug-e-nuff rabbit skin bungee tug.

Why do I like tug-e-nuff?

The tug-e-nuff rabbit skin bungee tug has these features that make it perfect for working with a dog outside:

  • It’s real rabbit skin!  This will trigger your dog’s prey drive.
  • The bungee part means when the dog grabs the toy the tug is super rewarding and acts as a shock absorber for your arm!
  •  It has a loop handle so I can keep hold of it securely.
  • It is very high quality.  I have been using the same one since 2015 and it’s still going strong.

So how do I use a tug-e-nuff bungee? 

It can be used as an indoor toy but I use it exclusively as an interactive toy out on walks. Dogs that are distracted on walks need something to break through to grab their attention.

When I first present it to a dog they don’t grab it. They just stand and sniff it intently for a few seconds. This is why I use the rabbit skin version!

They then grab hold of it and tug. I get them into a super exciting tug game to reinforce it strongly.

Once it is primed for the dog I then put it back in my pocket ready for action.

Dogs that have a desire to chase bikes, skateboards, joggers etc can then be given the tug game as a super motivating alternative.

It can also be used as a reward for a dog with poor recall, especially for dogs that are not very food motivated.

To maintain the toy’s high value, I only use it when outside on walks. I would never leave it down as a chew toy since being rabbit skin your dog will likely want to “kill” it as quickly as possible.

Available in 3 different colours

Orange
Purple
tug-e-nuff rabbit skin bungee tug for dogs blue
Blue

Please let me have your feedback below if you have tried this product.

Do you need help with your dog chasing things he shouldn’t or with his recall? Please contact Rainbow Dogs for help training your dog around Brighton & Hove.

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Tellington TTouch Workshop

We have a guest blogger today, Maddy with Jake Dog A.I.D. assistance dog in training telling us about the Tellington TTouch workshop we attended.

Navigating the maze 

Myself, Jake my German Shepherd and our trainer Mike were kindly invited to attend a Tellington TTouch workshop held by Caroline of Stylish Fido in Steyning.  It’s a fascinating subject with lots of novel concepts to think about and use such as non-habitual movement, where a variety of obstacles and surfaces are used to encourage dogs to become more aware of where their bodies are in space.  The dogs were taken around a type of obstacle course known as The Playground of Higher Learning at the beginning and end of the day; Jake started out clumsily knocking over every single pole balanced on cones with his back feet, but by the end was walking perfectly through the rungs of a rope ladder laid on the floor.  The challenge as always with Jake was trying to keep all movements slow and deliberate, when he wants to do everything at top speed!

We were shown how various types of body wrap helped aid calm and relaxed behaviour, one of which was demonstrated on a nervous dog who attended and seemed to make a real difference. The TTouch harness that utilises a front as well as a back attachment point was also demonstrated, and the manner in which it works to prevent pulling explained; I was already a convert to this style of harness as the very similar Perfect Fit harness has revolutionised the way Jake walks on the lead. Of course we also learned the touches themselves and came home with lots of ideas on how to use them, for example touching around the mouth and gums to help release stress that would otherwise be expressed via barking. Overall it was a really interesting and informative workshop that I would recommend to anyone willing to think outside the box about canine behaviour.

Stepping over poles 

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My dog pulls! What should I do?

Train your dog to walk to heel and not pull on lead.

Where to start

If you go to your local pet shop or search online you will find a hundred different types of special collars, harnesses and head collars which can make choosing the right one really difficult.

The first question I ask someone is:

Why is your dog wearing that equipment?

Common answers are:

  • Because he pulls
  • Because I thought they were supposed to wear it
  • Because my trainer sold me it

I will let you into a trade secret… the best piece of equipment to walk a dog can often just be a regular collar and lead! Okay I appreciate that does not help me sell you equipment but there is a qualification to my statement, which is your dog needs to be trained to walk nicely on lead first.

The time spent training your new puppy to walk nicely on lead is a good investment unless you want 15 years of being pulled down the street. Dogs that are already established pullers may need greater time and dedication on your part to learn to not pull. You may be helped in this process by using specific training equipment.

Let’s look at the equipment options for walking you dog:

  • Simple flat collar and lead – made of fabric or leather. This is the perfect solution for a trained dog who does not pull.
  • Choke chains. These do what they say, they choke your dog! This will be uncomfortable for your dog however he will eventually learn to ignore the pain. Unfortunately long term this can cause damage to his throat, neck, and spine.
  • Check chains. A marketing company realised that choke chains sound horrible so re-branded them as check chains.
  • Half-choke / half-check chains. These only half choke your dog. They are limited to stop choking him to the point of turning blue!
  • Prong collars and spike collars. These are more common in the USA that the UK but still used by some. They look like chock chains but have prongs or spikes that cut into the dog’s neck. These are nothing short of barbaric!
  • Harnesses with a back clip. These on the surface seem like the perfect humane solution to a pulling dog. The dog will no longer choke but will often pull more due to the reflex (opposition reflex) to pull against things.
  • Harnesses with a front clip / chest clip (e.g. Perfect Fit Harness harnesses). These are humane and remove the incentive to pull against something.
  • Head collars. These are also humane yet discourage your dog from pulling since they turn his head towards you. These may be the only option if your dog is very strong and other options do not give you enough control. These can be fiddly to put on and some designs can ride up the dog’s face into his eyes. I have found the Gencon to be not only easy to put on but also much less likely to ride up into the dog’s eyes. They can also clip back onto his regular collar for added security. Head collars can take time to get used to for some dogs.

Summary

There is no one piece of equipment that is suitable for every dog. The best solution for a dog that does not pull is just use a regular collar and lead and to train your dog to walk nicely. I recommend Perfect Fit Harness for dogs that pull since they offer control for you and comfort for your dog.

Perfect Fit Harness

Rainbow Dogs are based in Brighton, Sussex. Contact us for specific advice on training your dog to walk nicely on lead.

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