Monday, April 29, 2013

Simple Solutions to Dog Problems?

I know my accountant will cringe, but there are many times when I just can’t justify going to someone’s house and taking their money without offering some solutions over the phone. Here are a few of my favorites.

(Murphy in a sit, stay on a raft. He'd rather be swimming)

Dog training question from Savannah, Georgia :
I have a dog that won’t use the dog door. It’s there, he just won’t use it.

A: Ma’am, I can come to your house and charge you, but honestly, you don’t need me.

If I came out I would ask you not to feed your dog that day, so he’s a little hungry. I would hold open the dog door, so he is not worried about the flap, and toss a piece of chicken through the door. A nice big piece, so he can see it, and smell it; and I would hold the door open until he passed through the door to get it.

Still holding the door, I would show him a piece of chicken and lure him inside, back through the door. I would do this maybe 20 or 30 times, closing the dog door a teenie, tiny bit each time. The pieces of chicken would shrink to about the size of a pea during this process. I would even put use of the dog door on command, saying DOOR just before I tossed chicken, until the dog learned that going through the door was a really good thing, and when I say DOOR it means something nice is going to happen on the other side of the door.

Now, I am happy to come to your house, and throw chicken through your dog door; but if you want to give it a go yourself and call me if it does not work, I’ll understand.

Question about Puppy training from Bluffton, South Carolina : My puppy sneaks upstairs and pees and poops in the bedrooms.

A: Puppies don’t belong upstairs alone. Close or gate all rooms your dog does not need to be in unless closely supervised (living room, guest room, dining room, etc) and gate the bottom of your stairs.

If you need help in setting up your house for puppy success and house training, basic commands, and socialization, I’ll be glad to be your dog trainer, but if eliminating upstairs is your only issue, buy a gate and use it until your dog is 100% reliable in the rest of the house, then supervise him upstairs until you are sure he is reliable there.

Question from a Dog & Cat problems in Hilton Head, South Carolina :
Client: I have a 10 month Old English Sheepdog and a 13 year old cat. Since we got the dog, my cat has stopped using the cat box and is pooping in my bedroom closet.

(This is my dog, Murphy, and my cat, Twiz.)

Me: How are things set up? Where is the dog, where is the cat, and where is the catbox?

Client: The Dog is on the first floor, the cat spends his time on the second floor. The cat box is in the laundry room, it is also on the first floor.

Me: How far from the second floor stairs to the laundry room is it? And what does the dog do when he sees your 13 year old cat?

Client: The cat needs to go through the living room and dining room into the kitchen and then jump the gate into the laundry room. Our dog loves the cat, he wants to play, so he chases him because he likes him so much.

Me: My sympathy is all with the kitty here. From his perspective your elderly 9 pound cat is expected to risk his life running from an animal 8 times his size who could kill him with one clumsy, overexcited bounce so he can leap a gate and use the litter box. Then he has to risk his life again, or spend the rest of the day with a dirty litter box in a laundry room while your dog stares at him through a gate. There is absolutely no payoff for your cat, he is being terrorized. We should teach the dog to respect the cat, but to make things better right now, how about you move the litter box upstairs?

Client: I don’t think it’s very nice to have a litter box upstairs.

Me: Is it nicer to have a cat poop on your shoes?

Client: Point taken, I’ll move the litter box. When can you come out to help me with my cat chasing dog?

More as they occur

Claudia Black-Kalinsky, CPDT-Ka
Phone: 912-677-2861
Savannah, Georgia Dog Trainer
Bluffton and Hilton Head, South Carolina Dog Trainer

Friday, April 26, 2013

What happens when you hire a professional dog trainer. - Hilton Head Island

Today we answer the question, what does a dog trainer do when they come to your house?

“The facts ma’am.” drones Sargent Friday, seated at his desk. Pen in hand, form unfilled, Dragnet’s hero cop listened week after week to his current complainant delivering anecdotes about her neighbors, her husband, and the garbage trucks that come too early in the morning.

As a dog trainer I also hear a lot of stories which appear to go nowhere. These stories are actually filled with critical clues. A private dog training consultation begins with many questions, and a lot of careful listening. Owners always provide bits of information necessary to solve the mystery of their dog’s behavior.

Today’s case began with a call from a woman who needs a dog trainer on Hilton Head Island. She has a two year old neutered male havanese named Beau who urinates in her home. He also growls at her husband and adolescent sons, but has never bitten. We set up an appointment and I appear, like Sargent Friday, with blank form and pen, ready to discover the facts. By the way, the names have been changed to protect the innocent.

The Facts:

We begin with simple information. Age, sex, has the dog seen a veterinarian recently and been found in good health? How did the owner, let’s call her Karen obtain the dog? Who lives in the home? Who is the primary caregiver(s)? What exercise does he get?

In the Past:

Beau was originally owned by Karen’s widowed mother, Helen. He was bought from a pet shop at about three months old. The shop had trained Beau, to eliminate on newspapers with moderate success. Helen has some mobility issues and Beau, although he spent a lot of time playing in her small Savannah garden, rarely left the property.

Helen had a housekeeper who came four hours a day, five days a week. Frequent visitors to the home were her daughter Karen and several older, female friends.

When Beau arrived the household did not seek a professional dog trainer in Savannah, however the housekeeper wisely blocked Beau’s access to rooms out of her sight while his house training was supervised. She encouraged Helen to keep Beau in a kitchen pen when he was not being watched and to send him outside before she let him run free in the house. This program was followed haphazardly and it took Beau several months before house training could be considered ‘reliable’. Beau was kept in his kitchen pen every night. Eventually newspapers for elimination were provided only during these overnight hours. When Beau needed to go out during the day he would stand at the back door and whine.

Beau barked and growled when strangers came to the door. Once the person was let in Beau would stop barking. He ‘seems to like women more’. Reportedly Beau would remain in the room with female visitors but would not approach them unless they offered him treats. If a male came to visit, Beau would stay in a doorway and run off if the man moved in his direction.
Beau was a somewhat “spoiled” small dog. He had nearly constant company during the day and did not appear to mind nights in the kitchen. His house training was reliable enough to be considered successful. Karen’s mother and the housekeeper doted on Beau, acquiescing to his barked demands for table scraps, play and petting. Beau was allowed on all furniture. He seemed to be well exercised enough in the garden to avoid destructive behavior inside. If Helen had sought professional dog training in Savannah some of Beau’s behaviors would have been better managed, and his socialization would have been conducted in a more organized manner.

A few additional questions revealed that Beau would bark and growl when the mail was delivered to the front porch. He would also bark and growl at either the windows or from behind the garden fence if there was “too much commotion” in the form of noisy people or dogs in the street. He continued vocalizing until the commotion stopped. Beau was described as “a good little watchdog”.

Beau exhibited anxiety during thunder storms, shaking, whining, and hiding under furniture. He howled if there was a thunderstorm late at night and he was alone in the kitchen.

Several months ago Karen’s mom moved from her home due to issues with stairs. Her new one-level living situation does not provide her with a place to potty and exercise Beau and Karen has agreed to take her mother’s pet.


Beau has been living with Karen, her husband, and her 13 and 16 year old boys for a little over three months. During this time Karen reports his house training has taken giant strides backwards and he is displaying ‘dominance’ behaviors by growling at her husband and sons. Karen works part time, mostly from home, and Beau is rarely left alone for more than two to three hours at a time.

Karen’s husband, Patrick, had been brought up with ‘outside’ dogs and has strong feelings about dogs on furniture and begging at the table. Beau has been banished to the laundry room during meals. Patrick also became impatient with newspapers on the kitchen floor. At his request, the potty-newspapers were also moved into the laundry room which is just off of the kitchen. Beau is gated in the kitchen at night with access to the laundry room. He has stopped using the papers, his night time accidents are becoming more frequent.

Beau is not allowed on furniture in his new home. Karen says Patrick yells at him when he catches him on the furniture, and Beau has taken to running out of rooms when Patrick enters. Twice when Patrick entered the den to find Beau on the sofa, Beau has “looked Patrick in the eye and urinated on the cushions.” Karen said she and Patrick both feel that this is Beau’s way of expressing his anger at not being allowed on furniture. Karen feels sympathetic towards Beau’s distress over his life-style change; Patrick feels the dog is attempting to take an ‘alpha’ position in the family. Beau avoids Patrick as much as possible and growls if Patrick reaches towards his collar. Once his collar is held he allows himself to be picked up or leashed without growling, but he does tremble.

While we were talking, Beau hopped up on a chair several times to look out of the window. Karen did not acknowledge this behavior.

Finally, Karen’s two sons are in charge of walking Beau on leash when they come home from school. Beau hides under the dining room table when they pick up the leash and come to get him. He has growled when they grab his collar, dragging him out from under the table. Once he is leashed he is happy to go with them, though he is ‘nervous’ outside when he sees, moving vehicles, dogs, bicycles, or hears loud noises.

A little additional questioning reveals that the only way Patrick can catch Beau by his collar is to corner him in a room or under a piece of furniture.

My Theory:

Beau is not in any way ‘dominant’ or ‘alpha’. In fact the poor fellow appears to be frightened and confused by his new, relatively boisterous, partly male, house hold. An inconsistent application of rules has Beau in a state of uncertainty about which behaviors will result in being grabbed or yelled at by a human.

Beau’s reaction to thunder, yelling, and in his former home ‘commotion’, indicates there may be some noise sensitivity. To test this I ask Karen to leash Beau.

Beau shrinks backward as Karen’s hand reaches over his head. I ask her to hold a treat in the left hand and take hold of Beau’s collar from underneath. Beau seems more comfortable with the hand coming from below his head and readily eats the treat while her other hand gently takes his collar.

With Karen’s permission I turn on the dryer in the laundry room and ask her to lead Beau by the leash into that area. Beau stops about six feet from the laundry room door. I ask Karen to drop a treat on the floor about a foot closer to the laundry room while she cheerfully says, “Find it!” Repeating this action several times brings Beau somewhat closer to the running dryer. Three feet from the laundry room entry he stops, unwilling to take the treat just beyond his reach.

I turn off the dryer and we try to lure Beau closer. He takes several treats but will not cross the thresh hold into the laundry room.

At this point I can see Beau has a fairly strong aversion to the laundry. The aversion is stronger when the dryer is running, but present even when it is not. We have three choices. We can use counter conditioning to teach Beau that the laundry room is a wonderful place, we can move the newspapers to another, less aversive location, or we can do away with the newspapers all together by putting Beau in an appropriately sized crate at night.

I explain the basics of crate training to Karen. She promises never to let Beau out when he whines or barks, and to always give him a special treat for entering the crate voluntarily. We also decide the crate should be kept in the kitchen in sight of, but away from the table. Beau will be given his supper in his crate when the family has supper. The food will be packed into a KONG so Beau has to work at getting his food.

I coach Karen on how to teach Beau to GO TO BED, targeting Beau’s dog bed. When the crate comes Karen will use the same technique, only teach Beau to GO TO CRATE. Beau should be left in his crate when everyone goes to bed. He will be taken out first thing in the morning, on leash, to be sure he has eliminated before he is let loose in the house. The laundry room, with its strong negative association, should not be used to confine Beau.

GO TO BED and GO TO CRATE will also give Beau something more appropriate to do when he is on the furniture, begging for treats or otherwise behaving in a way that is not appreciated. After all, you can’t just tell a dog what not to do; you have to give him an alternate, acceptable behavior.

The next thing we tackle is reaching for Beau’s collar. From what I have learned, every time Beau has growled someone has him cornered and is reaching over his head for his collar. Once they have his collar they can drag him by his neck out of his secure corner. We need to stop the dragging and make Beau welcome people reaching for his collar.

Karen and I sit on the floor with bits of chicken taking turns calling Beau and, when he arrives, gently holding his collar from underneath while praising and treating. Karen promises that everyone in the family will do this exercise, very gradually moving the hand from under Beau’s chin, to the side of his head, finally getting Beau used to having a hand come over his head for a collar grab.

Karen comes to understand that collar grabbing is not the best way to deal with maneuvering Beau. We decide Beau should drag a leather leash from a chest harness when he is indoors. This should only be done when Beau can be supervised. If Beau jumps on the furniture, begs at the table or transgresses in any other way he can be given a brief time out by stepping on the leash for approximately one minute. The leash, used gently, will also give a better way to remove Beau from corners and under furniture. We discuss Beau’s sheltered first year, and plan strategies to help Karen and her sons ease Beau into a world filled with vehicles, animals and people.

Finally we come to the ‘dominance’ issue. Karen listens while I explain that fear is a more common cause of aggression in dogs than any desire to dominate. Poor Beau, caught on the sofa and being yelled at is not expressing defiance, he is demonstrating total submission in a way that would be completely understandable to a fellow canine but has been grossly misinterpreted by Beau’s human family. Beau, growling and cowering under the table, is also not aggressive; he is afraid and begging to be left alone.

As diplomatically as possible I ask Karen to request her boys and husband be more gentle with Beau; refraining from yelling, grabbing, and dragging. If Beau must be moved simply pick up the leash he is already wearing. A happy voice combined with gentle use of the leash will be less threatening than a collar grab.

I ask Karen to take over discipline for Beau until he trusts the male members of the household entirely. We also discuss the need for consistency. It is not fair to let Beau on the furniture when Karen is home alone and then correct him when Patrick is present. Karen needs to provide firm, fair, consistent guidance for Beau so he understands the rules.

I promise Karen a written report and make sure she has my contact information for follow-up questions.

It has been a long morning. Karen and I both did a lot of talking, a lot of listening, we did some training, and made changes in Beau’s environment.

Hopefully things will improve rapidly for Beau and his human family. I will call in a few days to check up on Karen's dog training success.

Case Closed!

Claudia Black-Kalinsky, CPDT-Ka
Phone: 912-677-2861
Savannah, Georgia Dog Trainer
Bluffton and Hilton Head, South Carolina Dog Trainer

Thursday, April 18, 2013

New Dog in the House - Tips and Rules for Welcoming an Adopted Adult Dog into Your Home

New Dog in the House – Adopting an Adult Dog

New dogs come to us in many ways. Sometimes we have the luxury of preparation, sometimes they literally show up on our doorstep. One of the best dogs I ever owned was nearly named Pumpkin. One bright fall day my husband and I went out to get a jack-o’-lantern and came home with a terrified shepherd mix. We never did get the pumpkin.

Your new dog may be adopted from one of many excellent Georgia or South Carolina shelters or foster groups such as Coastal Pet Rescue. They may be the dog of a friend or relative who can no longer care for their pet; they may have simply been found, hungry and alone. It does not matter; they are now your dog.

Our first mission is to acquire appropriate things for our canine companion.

Necessary things for a New Dog

1. Food. Preferably good quality, grain free kibble. Grain, especially corn, is not digested by dogs. It increases stool volume without adding nutrition. Good food is not as expensive as it seems, because you feed less per meal. If your dog is malnourished multiple small meals will sit more easily on the stomach than one or two huge meals a day. It may take a dog’s stomach several weeks to adjust to a new food. Once you have things working well, don’t be in a hurry to change.

2. Water and food bowls, and a designated, quiet place for meals. Get bowls your dog can’t chew up or move around and something that’s easy to clean. I like big water bowls that I only need to fill once or twice a day.

3. Chew toys, especially for adolescent dogs and bully breeds. These dogs need to chew and they will chew something. If you don’t give them appropriate chew objects they will find something inappropriate. Give them their new toy and let them enjoy it in a quiet place. Don’t play any ‘will the dog let me take his food and toys’ games with a brand new dog. It is potentially dangerous and breaks down trust between dog and human. That nylabone may be the first thing your older dog has ever owned, and he may be terrified at the prospect of having it taken. Let the dog settle into your home for several weeks before you consider removing valuable objects or food. Children never, ever, take anything from a dog and always allow them to eat and sleep in peace. Children need to call an adult if the dog has taken something inappropriate. Be sure your young ones and their visitors are very clear on this rule.

4. No-Chew spray. There are many brands, Phooey, Bitter Apple, etc. They are all a little different, if one does not work, try another. You can spray your furniture, kitchen cabinets and your clothing. I spray flip flops and sneakers, and leave them around the house. “Oh, ick! Sneakers taste awful!”

5. Gates and Crates to keep your dog in limited areas in your home - Too much freedom too fast will undermine every civilized behavior you want your dog to learn.

6. A good leash and properly fitted collar or harness. Be SURE your dog cannot back out of their equipment, which may be how your new dog came to be a stray in the first place.

7. A clean bill of health. Your dog must be current on rabies and distemper. If your dog comes from a shelter or rescue get their shot and vet records. If your dog simply ‘came to you’ then take them to the vet to be checked for heartworm and inoculated for rabies and distemper. Speak to the vet about spay or neutering your new dog. A good heartworm prevention program is essential, especially in the South.

I’ve got the stuff, I’ve got a dog…. Now What?

Now the interesting part begins. Every dog is an individual. Some are sensitive, some are shy, and some dogs are the life of the party. Many dogs in a new environment are naturally reserved. Their true personality can take months to surface. Your job is to show your dog what is expected in your home. Be consistent, be fair, and stay calm. Do not allow your new dog to be overwhelmed the first few days. Keep things quiet and let your dog ask for attention, don’t force it on them.

1. Reinforcing Good Behavior - More important than correcting bad behavior, is reinforcing good behavior. I keep a handful of Cheerios in my pockets when I have a new dog. If I catch them doing something good I praise them, using their name, and toss them a Cheerio. “Sparky, good boy!” Rewardable behavior may be as simple as laying quietly on the floor or as earthshakingly awesome as going to the door when they need to potty. The key to training a dog to do anything is, You Get What you Reward. Be careful of unintentional rewards. A dog who craves attention is rewarded for jumping when people push them away and speak to them, even if the words are “Stop jumping on me!” To an energetic dog this can seem like a delightful game. If your dog craves attention, simply walk away from them when they jump. If they sit politely be sure to stop and acknowledge the good behavior, you will get more of it. Use positive reinforcement to teach behaviors such as ‘come, sit, and down’.

2. Rules – Your dog needs consistent, fair rules. Have a family meeting. Is your dog allowed on the furniture? Are they allowed upstairs? Where does your dog sleep? Everyone needs to agree on the rules. Start by allowing a new dog less freedom. It is easier to let Duchess on the sofa after you’ve had her a year than to teach her that sleeping on the sofa, which was okay yesterday, is not allowed now. Remember, if you let Duchess on the sofa when you watch TV, she will get on the sofa when she is wet, or when you have parties. If you let Duchess jump on you and your friends, she will jump on your grandmother. The rules are yours, choose them wisely.

3. Exercise is key. The majority of homeless dogs are adolescents or young adults, past the point of being puppy-cute and not yet arrived at steady adulthood. This is when most dogs are brought to shelters or abandon. We spend a lot of effort keeping our adolescent children busy, sports, camp, school, church groups; it keeps them out of trouble. The same is true for young dogs. Dogs do not self-exercise. A dog alone in the back yard is likely to either sleep, saving energy for when you return, or practice things you don’t want them to learn, barking, digging, and eating things they find laying around. Exercise your dog. A walk is not exercise. Play ball, swimming, hike, jog with your dog, get them running. Schedule a minimum of two or three 20 minute sessions a day of vigorous exercise for an adolescent dog. A tired dog is a good dog. A dog without an energy outlet is like a bored teenager, they are going to get into trouble.

4. Barriers – Your dog needs to be kept in a safe, comfortable, and restricted environment when you are not supervising them. Crates or gated kitchens are perfect overnight or when you leave home. They are also a great help with house training. Bring your dog to their designated potty spot, on leash, as soon as you let them out of their area. Praise and treat them for eliminating in the appropriate place. Have an outdoor play session, then bring them inside and keep them where you can watch them. Allowing them to drag a leash inside your home when you are supervising is ideal. If they should put their head in the trash or get on a sofa you can calmly take the leash and move them away from the place they do not belong. You can also step on the leash using 30 second mini-time outs if your dog misbehaves. Simply step on the leash close enough to your dog’s collar that they cannot move about and totally ignore them for 30 seconds or until they are calm. Wearing their leash inside means you do not have to drag the dog by the collar if you need to move them. You don’t want your new dog to associate hands coming over their head and holding the collar with unpleasant things.

5. 12 Rules for New Dogs and Child Safety

Most dogs rapidly learn to love the children in their family. But until the bond is formed and you, as a parent are satisfied with your dog’s reliability, follow these rules and if you think something is wrong, trust your instincts and end the scenario that is making you unsure.

1. Children and dogs are supervised by an adult when together.

2. Children do not bother any dog, new or old, when they are eating or sleeping ever.

3. If a dog brings a toy or other object to the child and drops it the child can, with adult permission, play with the dog. Fetch is a great game for dogs, use two balls to keep it interesting.

4. The child does not touch objects while the dog has them in their mouth.

5. Some dogs are overly excited by fast motion; small children should not play running games with unfamiliar dogs.

6. Children do not lie on the floor with new dogs.

7. They do not put their faces next to the face of new dogs.

8. Do not let your child grab the dog’s collar to move them.

9. Children never follow a dog into a crate or under a table, chair, or other cave-like area. They never put any part of their body in a dog’s crate or bed. Every dog needs a place to rest undisturbed.

10. Have your children call the dog to them. If the dog does not move to the children it is asking for space. Respect that. Don’t let children mob a dog that needs is unsure or needs a break.

11. Hugging is a human display of affection, to a dog it is restraint and often perceived as a threat. No hugging.

12. Every new child who visits your home is an entirely new animal to your dog. Always supervise your dog when you have young visitors.


This seems like a lot to think about, but following these suggestions will help your dog become a loved, well adjusted family member.

DO join a well-run training class, or seek a qualified private trainer to help you teach your dog that listening to you is fun and rewarding.

DON’T use aggressive training techniques such dominance rolls, pokes, and other physical threats or punishment. Studies at the University of Pennsylvania and other universities have shown these techniques can backfire badly, frightening a dog to the point where they bite because they feel endangered.

If your new dog should do something which makes you nervous; perhaps you hear a low growl when you come near their bowl, or they stiffen and stare at you when you touch their collar, or seem furious when they see other dogs; end what is happening, back away, and contact a qualified professional dog trainer. Stopping a behavior early is easier than waiting until it is entrenched. You can find an excellent dog trainer in the Savannah, Georgia and Bluffton, South Carolina Areas. A good trainer should have experience and be happy to provide you with references, their qualifications and tell you what they will do to motivate your dog. Be careful where you get your advice.

If you want your dog to be a family member; you must treat them with the same love, fairness and respect you’d give to any other member of your family.

Claudia Black-Kalinsky, CPDT-Ka
Phone: 912-677-2861
Savannah, Georgia Dog Trainer
Bluffton and Hilton Head, South Carolina Dog Trainer