Happy 10th Birthday to YBD

Well, ten years in, I’m still having fun playing with (and training) all of your dogs. If you’d asked me ten years ago if I would still be doing daily dog walking, I’d have said “no way!” Turns out, it’s still one of my favorite things, and I look forward to all of my “regulars” that I get to see every week. To celebrate this anniversary, we have a shiny new logo.2017Logo

Thanks for supporting this adventure…if I can do it, just think what y’all can do! Now, go play with your dogs ❤

-Lulu

7 Ways to Improve your Dog’s Walk

1. Let your Dog Sniff

We all know that our dogs have incredible noses. These noses are, shall we say, infinitely more powerful than our own. I’ve heard anywhere from 10,000 up to 1,000,000 times as strong… think about that for a moment. Why not let them use it to explore their environment? The walk is for your dog, is it not? If you get frustrated about stopping at every vertical surface, I hear you and I see you (all the time, dragging your dog away from mailboxes). Try taking a jog or walk by yourself at your own pace before you go out with your pup, and then treat your dog’s sniffapalooza as your cool down. Additionally, just think: if your dog is busy sniffing, he’s not barking, lunging, jumping on anyone, chasing cars, etc. Win, I’d like you to meet win. All that said, I use a well-trained, positively-reinforced “leave it” for things such as trash, poison ivy, and well-manicured flower beds. 

2. Go Off-Grid

Put your cell phone in airplane mode.  The walk is for your dog, no? Focus your attention in his direction.

3. Change the Scenery

A neighborhood walk is fine. Especially if that walk involves plenty of sniffing and time to read all the neighborhood dogs’ pee-mail. Buuuuuut, getting your dog out to new places is a darn good idea. As you may have heard me mention before, dogs learn contextually, so when you go somewhere new, they may seem to forget their skills. The more places your practice, the better your dog will learn to generalize their cues and behaviors. Not only that, but your dog gets new sights and smells, stuff to climb on, and things to jump over. Be creative! You don’t have to drive an hour outside of town to find a new walking spot. Try out a different neighborhood, a park you’ve never explored, or even meander around shopping centers or business parks (be mindful of signage, please). 

4. Keep your Distance

The walk is for your dog. Not someone else’s. If you encounter people or other dogs on your walk, keep your distance. Socialization is a big deal, and honestly, it goes sideways a lot of the time. This blog isn’t about that, so I won’t go too in depth on it. We should be exposing our dogs to dogs and people we know and trust, and I’m afraid random people and dogs just don’t meet that criteria. If you see any hints of reactivity or aggression, this is especially true. You have your dog out for your own reasons–don’t feel pressure to make your dog “say hi” to anyone. Obviously, if your dog loves new people, and is already responding appropriately and politely to them when out on walks, go for it. Just be mindful about it. A lot of dogs that LOVE to say hi to new people can quickly turn into dogs that bark and lunge at new people out of frustration during those instances when they don’t get to say hi. It’s all about balance. I want my dogs to know that just because there’s a person/dog/goat/chicken there, that doesn’t mean it’s there for you.

5. Loosen Up

When it’s safe, I walk my dogs on long lines that are 20-30 feet long. By safe I mean:

  • Not near a road (this is not generally a good idea for neighborhood walks)
  • Wide, open trails, with good line of sight
  • Open fields
  • Quiet times at places that don’t meet the above criteria (aka that usually busy park, but it’s snowing/raining/5am)

Walking multiple dogs on long lines is a bit of an exercise in patience (and detangling), so if you do have more than one dog, I recommend either walking them separately while you build up your line-handling skills. Alternatively, you can put just one dog on a long line while the other dog is on a 5-6ft leash. Then, you can switch who is on the long line during the walk, so that everyone gets a turn having more room to roam. Many people find their dogs don’t pull as much, and generally seem happier and more relaxed, on a long line. All dogs are different, and long line walks take a bit of adjustment for everyone, but it’s worth exploring if you haven’t.

Side note: I only ever use long lines with well fitting, non-restrictive, back-attach harnesses. One of my favorites is the BrilliantK9 (full disclosure, I am an affiliate, but it’s a darn good company! E-mail me for more info or help with sizing!). Pretty please, don’t use a long line with a regular collar, head collar, slip collar, or really any sort of “training collar.” When I say “long line” I mean just that, it’s a long leash or a rope, not a retractable Flexi-leash.

6. Use Food

I always take good, high value (tasty!) food on walks with my dogs. Now, I don’t always use it, but I’m always glad I have it. You can use food to reward behavior, of course, but it’s also a good emergency tool. Loose dog coming your way, throw a handful of cookies at him, and then feed your own dogs as you get some distance. Big Scary Thing happen? Fire engine, dumpster day, car alarm? Boom, drop a scatter of cookies for your pup to eat. Eating is a calming behavior, and pairing scary things with the act of eating is a gooooood thing.

Sometimes, if we’re in our neighborhood, and I know we’re doing an out & back route, I’ll drop cookies here and there *behind* us as we’re walking. The dogs get to find them on the way back. They don’t always find them (sniffing pee-mail and potential squirrel trails>food) but it’s the thought that counts.  

Another fun way to use food? Our neighborhood is pretty busy, and there are no cross walks, so while waiting to cross the street, I will scatter cookies in the grass for the dogs to find. Much more fun than just sitting!

7. Who is the Tour Guide?

The walk is for your dog. Lose the pack leader mentality. Really, it’s going to be okay, I promise! And if it’s not going okay, e-mail me, and let’s chat about it. Let your dog be your tour guide. Look at things from their perspective! Try to imagine where they would want to go, with no pesky human restrictions. One of my favorite things is coming up to a fork in the trail and letting my dogs decide which way we go. I often wonder why the heck they choose a given path, but unfortunately, my nose hasn’t caught up to theirs.

Wednesday Walkies!

IMG_8595Since a good part of my job is walking and exercising dogs, I’ve trained a LOT of dogs to walk politely on leash. Here are a few of my favorite walking tips:

  1. Walking multiple dogs? Use different colored leashes for each dog, that way, if things get tangled, you can quickly and easily tell who is who, and make sure you hang on to everyone. Personally, I don’t walk more than three dogs at a time, fewer if they are large and/or untrained. I can’t control the outside world and if an unexpected deer or horse (it’s happened!) shows up, I don’t want to fall on my face.

    IMG_0128

    Color coordinated leashes! These dogs are also all wearing Easy Walk harnesses.

  2. For dogs that aren’t trained to walking on a loose leash, yet, please use some sort of harness or, if necessary, a head halter. This is simple management. If your dog keeps practicing pulling, he will learn that it works! While you are working on your leash skills, using something to prevent most (if not all) pulling is hugely helpful. My favorites are EasyWalk harnesses (these connect in the front), Freedom harnesses, Gentle Leader headcollars, and Halti headcollars. These tools are not something I, personally, would be okay with using forever, but they are great ways of preventing pulling during initial training. And you can give it to someone else who needs it when you’re done with it, or donate it to a shelter. Once your dog is reliable on leash, I suggest switching to a simple, non-restrictive back-attach harness, such as the one Galley is wearing in the top photo. There are many great brands out there, but my favorites are the EzDog Quick Fit, Petsafe Surefit, and the Freedom harness (which has both a front & back attachment).

    IMG_8660

    The Easy Walk harness is a front attachment harness that works by turning your dog toward you if he/she meets the end of the leash.

  3. Use HIGH value rewards when you are first working with your dog on loose leash walking. For most dogs, particularly high energy, easily excitable, busy dogs kibble or dry cookies are not going to cut it. Even treats they would normally eat happily at home may get spit out! When your environment gets more interesting, we have be more interesting. Baked chicken, cut up turkey dogs, string cheese, even cheese in a can or cream cheese in a tube are all super high value treats. When your dog gets a little more experienced, you can start to phase in lower value goodies like commercial treats, cookies, and kibble.  stringcheese

If you are struggling with your dog on walks, it doesn’t have to be that way! Reach out for help, and we’ll get your dog on the road to recovery from pulling, even if he/she’s been practicing for years. There is always room for improvement, and your shoulders will appreciate it!

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Foster Friday: 5 Tips for helping your foster dog feel more comfortable.

I have a new foster pup, Devon, and she is adorable:

dev

While she is adorable(!), she also came with some baggage, just like all dogs, rescued or not. She’s only my third foster, if we’re not including foster fail Pinot…and I hope to do a lot more fostering in the future.

Here are some tips for helping your new foster dog feel comfortable in their new (temporary) home:

  1. Give them a cozy spot: Some dogs aren’t used to being in a house, so crating may be necessary to save your house. Make that spot fun and safe by feeding your foster in their crate, and playing crate games so that they WANT to be in their crate. Covering the crate, always offering a treat for getting in the crate, and not leaving the dog for long periods of time are all good ways to make the crate a happy place.

  2. Feed out of puzzle toys: Maybe not every meal right away, but learning to work on a food puzzle is great mental stimulation for all dogs. Kongs and Busy Buddy toys are just some of the great ones available.kong
  3. Handfeeding: This is a great way of building a bond SUPER fast. Simply prepare your foster dog’s meal, and then take the dog to a nice, low distraction room. Offer them handfuls of food until it’s all gone. You can combine this with training, or you can simply feed them! This reinforces to the dog that you are a wonderful person who makes good things happen. With dogs of unknown origin, this is very important.

  4. Teach them their name: Play the name game! Say the dog’s name one time in an upbeat voice, and feed! Wait for eye contact/ attention before feeding, and try using distractions–for example, handful of food held out to the side. Even if your foster dog is destined for a name change (most are), having a dog that responds to *something* is better than a dog who doesn’t know their name. When your foster gets adopted, tell the new owners about the name game and they can teach their new dog a new name.

  5. Exercise: Walks, playing with toys, and running in the yard are good for the soul, and are some of the reasons fostering is great. Instead of sitting in a kennel all day, your foster dog gets to be…a dog! See below:IMG_2274

If you’ve never fostered before, I definitely recommend it. You get the fun and excitement of a new (short term) dog, but also the benefit of helping out a rescue in need–and seeing the adopters with their new family member is pretty darn amazing!

Dog Walking Tips & More from Professional Dog Trainer Lulu Clarke

Looks like we have a storm coming! Stay tuned for tips on keeping your dogs busy when the weather is miserable (and potentially dangerous!) outside. In the meantime, I recently had the fun opportunity to do an interview with one of my favorite dog supply vendors, Best Bully Sticks. They’re a local Richmond, Va company, just like me, and they are the best! All natural treats & chews, and they do good work for rescue? Can’t beat that. Pinot would like to add that the Bully Bites are his favorite thing ever.

Click here to read the interview!

[I was not compensated for this blog in any way…I am just a huge Best Bully Sticks fan!]

Thoughts on nails…

Aren’t nail trims just the worst?

If you’re a dog, chances are, that’s how you feel. If you’re a dog owner, you may feel the same way, too! Anyone who has accidentally cut down too far knows how much a cut quick (the nail’s blood supply) bleeds. Hint, it’s a LOT. Add in a dog who’s running in circles, and you have a traumatic scene for everyone involved.

Now, imagine sitting down with your dog, and playing a game. It’s a potentially challenging game, but you’re both interested and having fun and getting something out of it. Doesn’t that sound good? You can make nail trims into a game, and it’s not that hard! It does take time, and patience–lots of patience. The reason most dogs hate nail trims is because they were rushed into it. Being held down and having your arms and legs forcibly extended while your nails get cut sounds pretty awful to me.

We can’t explain to our dogs why we’re cutting their nails, but the benefits are real:

— Long nails more readily split and break. Ouch.

— Long nails damage flooring. Even if your dogs don’t run around like crazy in the house, every time they stand up from laying on the cool, smooth floor, they dig in with their nails.

— Long nails affect your dog’s gait. The longer your dog’s nails, the more his paw structure is affected, rocking his weight further back on his hocks.

–Long nails impact a dog’s traction. It might seem counterintuitive, but shorter nails actually help a dog grip! If your dog has long toenails, and he jumps off of the sofa (or out of the car or over a jump), the first thing contacting the ground is his toenails. Ouch. His feet, just like ours, are an important part of our shock absorption.

Your dog’s nails should really be trimmed at least once a week. I’d bet most dogs don’t get that weekly trim, though. It happens to all of us, we get behind on the “routine maintenance” of our dogs. It has happened to me! Pinot came to me with horribly overgrown nails, and it was a long road getting them back to normal. Alas, with the excitement of summer and the stress of moving, his toes have gotten a little overgrown again. Soon, I’ll share my routine for getting them back under control and how to maintain them easily.

freenailtrims

If you’re behind on your pup’s nails, give me a call. All during the month of September, I’m offering free nail trims with the purchase of a MTAW session (limited to two trims). Your dog can get a fun adventure AND a manicure! Visit my website to learn more and to contact me for scheduling.

Foundation Friday: Attention

Attention is at the core of most things you’ll do with your dog.

–Want to walk your dog in heel position?

–How about ask him to perform a skill in a distracting environment?

–Come when called?

–Walk off leash?

–Tricks?

–Walk near other dogs/people/bikes/cars?

You’ll need a solid foundation of attention before you can be successful with any of the above.

Making eye contact isn’t always a natural, easy thing for dogs to do. Some dogs are VERY sensitive to it, so go slow and make sure you aren’t unintentionally intimidating your dog! If your dog actively avoids eye contact, or you can’t remember your dog ever offering it, you may need to start much slower (and of course seek the help of a trainer).

In a low distraction environment (your kitchen, living room, bathroom, etc.), gather the following:

–One dog (this is not the time to work two or more dogs, unless they are experienced with the exercise!)

–10 tasty treats (whatever your dog will work for in the environment, could be kibble, might have to be higher value, though)

–Clicker (If you or your dog is clicker-averse, look forward to my next blog about verbal markers)

Sit or stand and say nothing.

Do nothing.

Find your zen place.

Any time your dog glances at you, click and treat. I don’t care if it’s a quick, barely there glance, just click and treat. Do this 10 times, then take a break. Go about your day, play with your dog, do the dishes, whatever you need to do. Whenever you’re ready to train again, grab another 10 treats, and start again. When you’re successful in your low distraction environment, move to a different room, and then eventually start practicing in a higher distraction environment.

Voila, you have now started building your foundation. Attention/eye contact is something that I feel a lot of people neglect in their early training. It’s not the ONLY thing to practice early on, but I think it’s pretty darn important.

People always ask me why I don’t use “watch me” or “look at me” as a cue…and these are the same people who are always impressed by the focus I have from my dogs. My dogs assume that if we are in training mode, they should be watching me (and I am very generous with them!). If I tell them “okay, all done”, they are free to do whatever. They, of course, know their names and in high distraction times, their name does mean “look at me,” but it’s important for me to avoid nagging my dogs. I’d rather wait for them to choose to look at me then beg them to! The more they learn that they can make me click by offering attention, the faster and stronger their eye contact is.

Focused dogs.

Focused dogs.