Category Archives: training

How to Teach Your Cat to Come on Command

By Linda Cole

Because cats are perceived as independent or aloof, many people don’t try to teach their cat to come when called. I’m sure from the cat’s point of view, she justifies her refusal to come on command with “Does the Queen come to your beckoned call? I don’t think so! Now, where’s my supper?” However, teaching your cat to come on command is easier than you think, and doesn’t require an electric can opener. Think about it this way: if the can opener can train your cat to come, then you should be able to as well!

Like most cat owners, I’ve experienced the frustration of searching for a wayward cat hiding somewhere in the house. As far as the cat is concerned, if she isn’t hungry, there’s absolutely no reason to leave a perfectly good hiding place just because someone is calling her name. However, it’s just as important to teach a cat to come as it is for dogs. Emergencies can happen in the blink of an eye. Knowing your cat will come when you call her makes life easier and safer when you don’t have to hunt for her in or around the home. Not only can it save your cat’s life, it’s nice knowing she’ll come running just because you called her.

Cats are quite capable of learning commands, but teaching a feline can be frustrating and it can take some time. So stay calm, committed, patient and consistent. The first thing you need to do is decide what word you’ll use when you call your cat. The next thing is to stock up on your cat’s absolute favorite treat – the one she just can’t resist. For my cats, that’s FELIDAE TidNips™ treats. Whatever you use as a reward, it has to be something she enjoys eating more than anything else – the one treat that gets her attention no matter what she’s doing. That’s your cat’s motivation to learn.

Call your cat’s name followed by the word you picked as your “come” command. Make sure everyone in the home uses the same command each time and rewards your cat with the preferred treat. Begin training in the room you usually feed your cat. If it’s in the kitchen and she comes running when you use the electric can opener, run it to get her attention or shake her treat bag, if that’s a sound she responds to.

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Is My Dog Dumb?

By Langley Cornwell

Of course I’m not asking that question about my dogs; they are perfect. (Ha!). There is a certain dog I’m acquainted with, however, that doesn’t seem to be progressing as quickly as other dogs in a training class we, um, somebody I know is in. This person tells me that her dog is not motivated by treats or affection and is all but impossible to train.

So I went to my most reliable sources – my animal-crazed friends – for feedback about how their dogs stacked up on the intelligence meter.

Heather said her family tried and tried to get their dog, Toby, to roll over on command, but he would just roll over onto his back. She says it was frustrating trying to get him to roll completely over. Finally, thinking he just wasn’t going to “get it,” they started rubbing his belly every time he “rolled over” onto his back.

According to Unleash Magazine, Heather’s dog isn’t dumb; her anecdote is an example of “profitable misbehavior.” Dogs do what works for them. For instance, if jumping on you makes you speak to, touch, or even look at your dog, he’s getting a payoff. Jumping on you is getting him the attention he wants. In cases like this, even if you are scolding your dog or pushing him off of you, he’s still getting what he wants: attention. This response can make dogs seem unwilling or unable to learn, but the issue is with the human who is unwittingly reinforcing undesired behavior.

Another reason people may think their dog is dumb is because he does not respond to them, perhaps due to lack of early human interaction. If I was to take a guess, I would say this is the core issue with our dog er, my friend’s dog because the dog spent his first year and a half in the shelter system and likely did not get enough time with humans. If a dog doesn’t experience enough human interaction during his formative years, he hasn’t learned that humans are relevant and that our words and actions should matter to him.

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How to get your Dog to Calmly Walk Past another Dog

By Langley Cornwell

Our dog is not easy to train. Truth be told, it’s most certainly my fault but when we went to obedience school even the teacher commented (on multiple occasions) that she has a mind of her own. Still, we keep at it and we’re making tremendous progress. Her ‘sit’ is flawless and she’s excellent at ‘down’. She knows what ‘leave it’ is and obeys that one most of the time. She also knows ‘come’ but we’re at about 60% compliance with that one. She walks beautifully on a loose lead; no pulling or lunging after squirrels or rolling acorns.

I tell you all this to say that, while quirky and somewhat stubborn, she’s fairly well behaved. In addition to basic obedience commands, we’ve worked tirelessly on her socialization. This is the area that needs the most work, and we still take steps forwards and backwards with our shy girl.

Rehabilitating this sad rescue dog has been a rewarding journey. I’ve learned a lot and grown right along with her. There is one area, however, that can only be described as an epic failure: walking calmly past another dog. Seriously, we’ve worked on this for three years straight. We’ve tried multiple techniques and still haven’t mastered it. I see other dogs that can do this without giving the passing dog a sideways glance.

Not our girl, she becomes a bundle of energy, bubbling over with enthusiasm. She lunges towards the other dog, all big smiles and wagging tails. I issue a ‘sit’ command, which she usually gets every time, but when another dog is in the mix, no way. It’s as if she can’t even hear me. She likes to greet the other dog nose to nose and do the dance that two dogs do when they first meet. I’ve always managed to eventually get her to look at me and I can usually gain control of the situation, but the next time a new dog passes us, the mayhem begins again.      

In a recent poke around the internet, I ran across a suggestion that I have not tried yet. Adam Katz from dogproblems.com states that when a strong motivation for distraction presents itself, your correction must escalate. I don’t think my correction escalates when a dog passes and my girl goes crazy. If it does escalate, it isn’t very elegant, more like a scramble for order. What Katz suggests sounds a bit unconventional but it can’t be any crazier than the scene my dog and I create under the current circumstances.

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Behavioral Problems: Is it the Dog or the Owner?

By Langley Cornwell

When we adopted our dog, she was shy and insecure. She wouldn’t even stand up straight. Her tail was tucked, her head hung low and she cowered any time a person or dog approached her. We knew we had our work cut out for us, but were ready and entirely willing. We immediately enrolled in puppy kindergarten, and it helped her tremendously. One thing that’s abundantly clear, however, is that the class was more about training the humans than training the puppies.

So here we are, 3 years later, and I’ve fallen short. I have not held up my end of the bargain. To be specific, our dog now walks tall, is well socialized and she’s gaining confidence every day. Where I got off track was with the basic dog training skills. Additionally, we’re inconsistent with correcting behavioral problems, and we’ve allowed a few bad manners to continue. Regarding the basics, she’s pretty good at ‘come’ but I’d like her to be better. In an emergency, I’m not sure she would drop everything and come running under all circumstances. She will ‘sit’ but only for high-value treats like CANIDAE TidNips™.

Thankfully, she seems to have outgrown her destructive chewing habit. Her ‘leave it’ is okay, she doesn’t bark excessively and she’s never been one to jump up on people. But forget about ‘down,’ ‘wait,’ ‘stay,’ ‘heel,’ or ‘look.’ Even though we learned these commands in puppy kindergarten, nothing stuck (and yeah, I know that’s my fault). Additionally, she’s an excessive digger and a leash puller. She begs from my husband but not from me. I think we all know why, although he denies it… but that’s a different topic altogether. The point is – we need to get back to work.

Professional dog trainer Adam Katz at dogproblems.com has an online newsletter I subscribe to. His recent message caught my attention. He asserts that 98% of a dog’s bad behavior is a direct result of what dog owners do, and that when it comes to behavior problems, dogs only respond to the conditions and stimulus they receive from the outside world. Many of us already know this, but knowing it and doing something about it are two different things.

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How to Get Your Dog to Stop Barking

By Linda Cole

My beagle/terrier mix loves to bark, especially when she’s outside. If it moves, Alex barks and once she starts, there’s apparently no “off” button. Some breeds bark more than others, and beagles are among them. You can yell at a barking dog until you’re blue in the face and they may stop briefly – but usually start in again. This problem behavior isn’t entirely their fault, however. We have to accept our role in their unacceptable barking if we don’t teach them what we want them to learn. It’s not that difficult to do, but you have to commit to teaching them, and it can take some time to get your dog to stop barking.

One thing dogs do well is vocalize. They alert us to intruders or danger by using their voice. Happy yaps say your dog is having fun playing. Some dogs bark to let us know when they see something interesting, and barking lets other animals know they have been seen. Dogs bark when they’re lonely, bored, feel threatened or stressed, for attention, or when they don’t get enough mental or physical exercise.

A barking dog is annoying, especially to neighbors. Most people understand if a dog has a reason to bark, but yapping constantly is likely to get you a visit from the local police if your neighbors complain. In some cases, you may be asked to leave an apartment or rental home if you can’t contain your dog’s barking.

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Tips for Introducing a New Dog to a Household with Cats

By Langley Cornwell

We have a cat and a dog, and they are best friends. The introduction was easy for us; we rescued the animals together, so they were getting accustomed to us, our home and each other at the same time. It worked beautifully. But what do you do if you already have cats and want to adopt a dog?

Cats and dogs can live together in harmony, even if you bring them into the household at different times. Much of their long-term relationship depends on the manner in which they are introduced to one another. As long as you are patient and mindful of each animal’s natural tendencies, the transition should be fairly peaceful.

The initial meeting of an adult cat and a puppy

If you have an adult cat that has no experience with dogs, introducing her to a rambunctious puppy requires extra care. Keep these tips in mind:

•  Put the pup on a leash during their first encounter. Keep the leash loose enough for the dog to behave naturally, but make sure you are in control of the meeting.
•  Allow the dog and cat to sniff each other – it’s an important aspect of their initial meeting.
•  Try not to overreact to hissing, growling or barking, which are typical ways for new animals to communicate. Be ready to separate the animals if the hostility escalates.
•  Puppies are naturally energetic; their overzealous behavior can trigger a quick and serious attack from a wary cat. Stay alert.

If none of these tips work, separate the animals with a crate, baby gate or in rooms with an adjoining door where they can sniff each other under the door. Keep them separate for a few days, allowing them time to become acquainted without coming into full contact with one another.

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