Making the most of life with your dog here in Palo Alto

Posts tagged “training tip

Thoughts for the new year: follow your dog

Posted on December 29, 2012

As we look to the new year, and reflect on how we would like to approach it, let us consider our dogs as our guide this year.  Dogs are all about love, loyalty, service, perseverance, and courage, namely your dog has the nobility that we seem to lack in ourselves. Your dog doesn’t care about money, status, or appearances, and your dog lives in the moment and doesn’t bear a grudge. His only frustration is when he can’t be with you and serve you. This sentiment is expressed so well in Ralph Waldo Emerson‘s poem below, as our dogs know how to give all to love, and nothing refuse:

Give all to love;

Obey thy heart;

Friends, kindred, days,

Estate, good-frame,

Plans, credit and the Muse,—

Nothing refuse.

’T is a brave master;

Let it have scope:

Follow it utterly,

Hope beyond hope:

High and more high

It dives into noon,

With wing unspent,

Untold intent:

But it is a god,

Knows its own path

And the outlets of the sky.

It was never for the mean;

It requireth courage stout.

Souls above doubt,

Valor unbending,

It will reward,—

They shall return

More than they were,

And ever ascending.

Leave all for love;

Yet, hear me, yet,

One word more thy heart behoved,

One pulse more of firm endeavor,—

Keep thee to-day,

To-morrow, forever,

Free as an Arab

Of thy beloved.

Cling with life to the maid;

But when the surprise,

First vague shadow of surmise

Flits across her bosom young,

Of a joy apart from thee,

Free be she, fancy-free;

Nor thou detain her vesture’s hem,

Nor the palest rose she flung

From her summer diadem.

Though thou loved her as thyself,

As a self of purer clay,

Though her parting dims the day,

Stealing grace from all alive;

Heartily know,

When half-gods go,

The gods arrive.


Training tip: don’t ask your dog to be less than he is

Posted on December 4, 2012

Now that it’s the holiday season we are reminded of a wonderful line from The Sound of Music in which Julie Andrews, Maria, says about Christopher Plummer, Captain von Trapp: “I can’t ask him to be less than he is.”  First, if you haven’t seen the movie, or not in a while, it’s fabulous and full of beautiful sentiment that will fill you with the holiday spirit, even though it’s not a Christmas movie per se.  Second, it’s worth thinking about this quotation with respect to our dogs.

If we reflect a moment on what noble and loyal creatures they are, and how they were bred for hunting, herding, ratting (yes that’s what terriers do) or whatever, we should credit them for their willingness to adapt to the town lifestyle we lead here in Palo Alto in order to serve as our companions and please us.  Yes our dogs may have foibles, like jumping up on people, getting in the garbage, and other issues we may need to address.  But we need to approach these challenges in the spirit of appreciating how much our dogs are already giving us by adapting rather well actually to the extreme environments that we put them in — such as living in an apartment, or having us gone most of the day at work or at school, etc.  Our point is that when you are dealing with a behavior issue with your dog, don’t lose sight of the forest for the trees.

Approach dog training with a spirit of respect and compassion for your dog, in terms of appreciating how much they are already giving you that is positive.  And realize that usually the behavior issue that frustrates you is a symptom of larger issues, in which we are asking our dog to be less than who he really is, by not fully utilizing his capabilities and not giving him the opportunity to actualize his genetic makeup in the world.  So next time your dog does something naughty, have some perspective.  Your dog is not the problem — it’s a sign that you need to work on enabling his proper place in the world, and these issues will tend to resolve themselves with a little work once there’s a larger vision and leadership tone coming from you.  That’s why we ask, what is your wish list for you and your dog?  Form a positive vision and work towards it together, patiently.


Training tip: is your dog leading a cat lifestyle?

Posted on October 4, 2012

One of the challenges of dog ownership is that dogs require a lot of time and attention. But this fact is also the source of the vast psychic benefits that come from having dogs, namely that they are devoted and loyal companions who live to serve us and brighten our day. The problem can be that in today’s world, our busy schedules sometimes cause our dogs to be left alone longer than they can reasonably tolerate given their nature as dogs. So often I am asked to address behavior problems that we find are merely the symptoms of the larger problem, i.e., that the dog is being asked to lead a cat lifestyle, and the dog is not doing so well with that.

What is a cat lifestyle? If you know cats, I don’t have to tell you, and fyi I have cats and am a cat lover. if you haven’t had a cat, basically you should know that a cat is kind of a like a roommate, someone whom you share space with, have some good times together, but otherwise you both are quite happy being independent. The cat relationship with mankind is this: you have food and shelter, so I will kill whatever rodents might be on your property in exchange for being allowed to hang around. Now today, we may not use cats for this purpose, but that’s the time-honored deal with cats.

Here’s a fun article about dog versus cat IQs in the Huffington Post by Joan Liebmann-Smith. The salient point for this discussion is that dogs are much more social than cats and need the social interaction of their pack relationships with you and others to thrive.

So if you get a dog, and try to leave it alone for long periods of time, your dog will likely show behaviors that are in protest of this arrangement. A cat, on the other hand, can be left alone with food and water and a litter box while you go away for the weekend. So it’s useful to ask ourselves, are we honoring the canine in our life by enabling them to live a dog lifestyle, or are we trying to put bandages over the problems that arise because we are asking them to live like cats.

So here are two very basic, common-sense tips for enhancing your and your dog’s lifestyle, and thereby avoiding many behavior problems:

1. If you are gone for the day at work, hire a business like Smilin’ Dogs (no affiliation) or a dog walker or some other service to get your dog out and about so they have a social life, get exercise, and of course get to relieve themselves. If you ask for my help, I will suggest you spend your money first on enabling this routine (on a daily basis!) rather than getting my help for a problem that comes from not having your doggie day-care issues addressed. I do half-day obedience and socialization trainings, so some people use me for one of their “day-care” slots, but I must emphasize that finding a daily affordable routine is paramount rather than hiring someone to fix a problem inherent to your living arrangements.

2. When you are not at work, try to take your dog wherever you go. You love your dog, and your dog loves you, so you will both be happier. Of course you need to walk your dog and do all the usual things, but my point is try to rethink and radicalize your own lifestyle to include your dog more. It might be possible to take your dog to work, or commute with your dog and drop him at day-care near your job. When you are off work, run your errands with your dog and include him in your social life. Your dog would rather sit in your car while you go to the store or party then be left at home, period. Ideally you start frequenting businesses that allow you to bring your dog in, or using an outside patio if it’s an eating establishment. But the bottom line is, think of your dog as your shadow, and include him in your life whenever you can. It will transform the both of you, guaranteed.

Penny on the road!

Training tip: what you allow you encourage

Posted on April 9, 2012

It’s good to have some basic Zen-type principles in mind when working on your dog. It can be overwhelming at times training a dog and working on different behaviors and commands. I like this tip “what you allow you encourage” as a general precept. It reminds you that whether or not you are intentionally working with your dog at any given moment, they are there learning from you. So if you allow them for example to jump in your lap without permission while you are watching TV, then that is a behavior they learn is okay, i.e., to run over your space without being invited. It might be cute as a puppy, but it teaches a lack of respect, and dogs are all about…

Time with aka time on your dog

Posted on March 20, 2012

In training there’s a phrase “putting time on your dog,” which means working your dog around a particular discipline for a period of time.  It’s not rocket science that consistency and time-on-task are key elements of any training routine.  Of course, many short sessions are better than one long one, unless your training exercise is an advanced one geared to address a training challenge over an extended period of time. Anyway, this concept of “putting time on your dog” is a way to think about what you actually do in “spending time with your dog.”  Being with your dog is the foundation of your relationship, from which everything else flows.  And when you spend this time together, you are in fact putting time on…