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Attention Chicago Dog Owners!Helpful Training Articles Below....Successful training for your dog/canine: the Positive Reinforcement Method
It’s widely accepted among the vast majority of dog
training experts that the most effective and humane way to train your
dog is through a process called positive reinforcement training. This
is a fancy phrase for what’s essentially a very simple theory: using
positive reinforcement entails rewarding the behavior that you wish to
see repeated, and ignoring the behavior that you don’t. This method is
in direct contrast to some of the now-outdated but once-popular
techniques for dog training, some of which were frankly abhorrent:
physical pain and intimidation (such as hanging an aggressive dog up by
her collar), or inhumane methods of aversion therapy (such as shock
collars for barking). Positive reinforcement works with your dog. Her
natural instinct is to please you – the theory of positive
reinforcement recognizes that lessons are more meaningful for dogs, and
tend to "stick" more, when a dog is able to figure out what you're
asking under her own steam (as opposed to, say, learning "down" by
being forced repeatedly into a prone position, while the word "down" is
repeated at intervals). When you use positive reinforcement training,
you're allowing her the time and the opportunity to use her own brain.
Some ways for you to facilitate the training process: - Use meaningful
rewards. Dogs get bored pretty quickly with a routine pat on the head
and a “good girl” (and, in fact, most dogs don’t even like being patted
on the head – watch their expressions and notice how most will balk or
shy away when a hand descends towards their head). To keep the quality
of your dog’s learning at a high standard, use tempting incentives for
good behavior. Food treats and physical affection are what dog trainers
refer to as “primary incentives” – in other words, they’re both
significant rewards that most dogs respond powerfully and reliably to.
- Use the right timing. When your dog obeys a command, you must mark
the behavior that you're going to reward so that, when she gets that
treat in her mouth, she understands exactly what behavior it was that
earned her the reward. Some people use a clicker for this: a small
metal sound-making device, which emits a distinct “click” when pressed.
The clicker is clicked at the exact moment that a dog performs the
desired behavior (so, if asking a dog to sit, you’d click the clicker
just as the dog’s bottom hits the ground). You can also use your voice
to mark desired behavior: just saying “Yes!” in a happy, excited tone
of voice will work perfectly. Make sure that you give her the treat
after the marker – and remember to use the marker consistently. If you
only say “Yes!” or use the clicker sometimes, it won’t have any
significance to your dog when you do do it; she needs the opportunity
to learn what that marker means (i.e., that she’s done something right
whenever she hears the marker, and a treat will be forthcoming very
shortly). So be consistent with your marker. - Be consistent with your
training commands, too. When you’re teaching a dog a command, you must
decide ahead of time on the verbal cue you’re going to be giving her,
and then stick to it. So, when training your dog to not jump up on you,
you wouldn’t ask her to “get off”, “get down”, and “stop jumping”,
because that would just confuse her; you’d pick one phrase, such as “No
jump”, and stick with it. Even the smartest dogs don’t understand
English – they need to learn, through consistent repetition, the
actions associated with a particular phrase. Her rate of obedience will
be much better if you choose one particular phrase and use it every
time you wish her to enact a certain behavior for you. How to reward
your dog meaningfully All dogs have their favorite treats and preferred
demonstrations of physical affection. Some dogs will do backflips for a
dried liver snippet; other dogs just aren’t ‘chow hounds’ (big eaters)
and prefer to be rewarded through a game with a cherished toy, or
through some physical affection from you. You’ll probably already have
a fair idea of how much she enjoys being touched and played with – each
dog has a distinct level of energy and demonstrativeness, just like
humans do. The best ways to stroke your dog: most dogs really like
having the base of the tail (the lowest part of their back, just before
the tail starts) scratched gently; having their chests rubbed or
scratched (right between the forelegs) is usually a winner, too. You
can also target the ears: gently rub the ear flap between your thumb
and finger, or scratch gently at the base. As far as food is concerned,
it’s not hard to figure out what your dog likes: just experiment with
different food treats until you find one that she really goes nuts for.
When it comes to food, trainers have noted an interesting thing: dogs
actually respond most reliably to training commands when they receive
treats sporadically, instead of predictably. Intermittent treating
seems to keep dogs on their toes, and more interested in what might be
on offer - it prevents them from growing tired of the food rewards, and
from making a conscious decision to forego a treat. How to correct your
dog meaningfully The great thing about positive reinforcement training
is that it doesn't require you to do anything that might go against the
grain. You won't be called upon to put any complex, weighty
correctional theories into practice, or be required to undertake any
harsh punitive measures. When it comes to positive reinforcement
training, all you have to do is ignore the behavior that you don't wish
to see repeated. Not getting any attention (because you're deliberately
ignoring her) is enough to make just about any dog pretty miserable,
and thus is a powerful correctional tool. Contemporary belief in dog
training states that we should simply ignore incorrect responses to a
training command - that, with no reinforcement from us (yes, even
negative attention - like verbal corrections - counts as reinforcement:
to some dogs, negative attention is better than no attention at all),
the dog will stop the behavior of her own accord. The bigger the fuss
you make over her when she does get it right, the clearer the
connection will be between a particular behavior(s) eliciting no
response at all, but other behaviors (the right response) eliciting
massive amounts of positive attention from you. Recommended Reading
Hopefully this newsletter's given you a good basic insight into the
more helpful attitudes and techniques to use when training your dog.
However, the subject remains pretty complex, and it's a good idea to
learn as much about effective training techniques as possible. One
excellent resource for dog training is Secrets to Dog Training: the
ultimate training and knowledge database for dog owners. With a focus
on preventing and dealing with problem behaviors, as well as obedience
work and 'tricks', Secrets to Dog Training covers a vast variety of
topics in minute detail - all round, an invaluable manual for dog
owners everywhere. Chicago dog owners You can check out Secrets to Dog Training by
clicking on the banner below:<a href=" [please contact me for website address]
<img src=" [please contact me for website address] width="250" height="250"></a> Recognizing, preventing, and handling dog/canine aggression
A dog is an instinctively aggressive creature. In the wild,
aggression came in very handy: dogs needed aggression to hunt, to
defend themselves from other creatures, and to defend resources such as
food, a place to sleep, and a mate. Selective breeding over the
centuries has minimized and refined this trait significantly, but
there’s just no getting around it: dogs are physically capable of
inflicting serious harm (just look at those teeth!) because that’s how
they’ve survived and evolved. And Mother Nature is pretty wily – it’s
hard to counteract the power of instinct!
But that doesn’t mean that we, as dog lovers and owners, are entirely
helpless when it comes to handling our dogs. There’s a lot that we can
do to prevent aggression from rearing its ugly head in the first place
– and even if prevention hasn’t been possible (for whatever reason),
there are still steps that we can take to recognize and deal with it
- Different aggression types -
There are several different types of canine aggression. The two most
common ones are:
- Aggression towards strangers
- Aggression towards family members
You may be wondering why we’re bothering categorizing this stuff: after
all, aggression is aggression, and we want to turf it out NOW, not
waste time with the details – right?
Well … not quite. These two different types of aggression stem from
very different causes, and require different types of treatment.
- Aggression towards strangers -
What is it?
It’s pretty easy to tell when a dog’s nervy around strange people. He’s
jumpy and on the alert: either he can’t sit still and is constantly
fidgeting, leaping at the smallest sound, and pacing around barking and
whining; or he’s veerrrry still indeed, sitting rock-steady in one
place, staring hard at the object of his suspicions (a visitor, the
mailman, someone approaching him on the street while he’s tied up
outside a store.)
Why does it happen?
There’s one major reason why a dog doesn’t like strange people: he’s
never had the chance to get used to them. Remember, your dog relies
100% on you to broaden his horizons for him: without being taken on
lots of outings to see the world and realize for himself, through
consistent and positive experiences, that the unknown doesn’t
necessarily equal bad news for him, how can he realistically be
expected to relax in an unfamiliar situation?
What can I do about it?
The process of accustoming your dog to the world and all the strange
people (and animals) that it contains is called socialization. This is
an incredibly important aspect of your dog’s upbringing: in fact, it’s
pretty hard to overemphasize just how important it is. Socializing your
dog means exposing him from a young age (generally speaking, as soon as
he’s had his vaccinations) to a wide variety of new experiences, new
people, and new animals.
How does socialization prevent stranger aggression?
When you socialize your dog, you’re getting him to learn through
experience that new sights and sounds are fun, not scary.
It’s not enough to expose an adult dog to a crowd of unfamiliar people
and tell him to “Settle down, Roxy, it’s OK” – he has to learn that
it’s OK for himself. And he needs to do it from puppyhood for the
lesson to sink in.
The more types of people and animals he meets (babies, toddlers,
teenagers, old people, men, women, people wearing uniforms, people
wearing motorcycle helmets, people carrying umbrellas, etc) in a fun
and relaxed context, the more at ease and happy – and safe around
strangers - he’ll be in general.
How can I socialize my dog so that he doesn’t develop a fear of
Socializing your dog is pretty easy to do – it’s more of a general
effort than a specific training regimen.
First of all, you should take him to puppy preschool. This is a generic
term for a series of easy group-training classes for puppies (often
performed at the vet clinic, which has the additional benefit of
teaching your dog positive associations with the vet!).
In a puppy preschool class, about ten or so puppy owners get together
with a qualified
trainer (often there’ll be at least two trainers present – the more
there are, the better, since it means you get more one-on-one time with
a professional) and start teaching their puppies the basic obedience
commands: sit, stay, and so on.
Even though the obedience work is very helpful and is a great way to
start your puppy on the road to being a trustworthy adult dog, really
the best part of puppy preschool is the play sessions: several times
throughout the class, the puppies are encouraged to run around
off-leash and play amongst themselves.
This is an ideal environment for them to learn good social skills:
there’s a whole bunch of unfamiliar dogs present (which teaches them
how to interact with strange dogs), there’s a whole bunch of unfamiliar
people present (which teaches them that new faces are nothing to be
afraid of), and the environment is safe and controlled (there’s at
least one certified trainer present to make sure that things don’t get
out of hand).
Socialization doesn’t just stop with puppy preschool, though. It’s an
ongoing effort throughout the life of your puppy and dog: he needs to
be taken to a whole bunch of new places and environments.
Remember not to overwhelm him: start off slow, and build up his
- Aggression towards family members -
There are two common reasons why a dog is aggressive towards members of
his own human family:
- He’s trying to defend something he thinks of as his from a perceived
This is known as resource guarding, and though it may sound innocuous,
there’s actually a lot more going on here than your dog simply trying
to keep his kibble to himself.
- He’s not comfortable with the treatment/handling he’s getting from
you or other members of the family.
What’s resource guarding?
Resource guarding is pretty common among dogs. The term refers to
overly-possessive behavior on behalf of your dog: for instance,
snarling at you if you approach him when he’s eating, or giving you
“the eye” (a flinty-eyed, direct stare) if you reach your hand out to
take a toy away from him.
All dogs can be possessive from time to time – it’s in their natures.
Sometimes they’re possessive over things with no conceivable value:
inedible trash, balled up pieces of paper or tissue, old socks. More
frequently, however, resource-guarding becomes an issue over items with
a very real and understandable value: food and toys.
Why does it happen?
It all boils down to the issue of dominance. Let me take a moment to
explain this concept: dogs are pack animals. This means that they’re
used to a very structured environment: in a dog-pack, each individual
animal is ranked in a hierarchy of position and power (or “dominance”)
in relation to every other animal. Each animal is aware of the rank of
every other animal, which means he knows specifically how to act in any
given situation (whether to back down, whether to push the issue,
whether to muscle in or not on somebody else’s turf, etc etc).
To your dog, the family environment is no different to the dog-pack
environment. Your dog has ranked each member of the family, and has his
own perception of where he ranks in that environment as well.
This is where it gets interesting: if your dog perceives himself as
higher up on the social totem-pole than other family members, he’s
going to get cheeky. If he’s really got an overinflated sense of his
own importance, he’ll start to act aggressively.
Why? Because dominance and aggression are the exclusive rights of a
superior-ranked animal. No underdog would ever show aggression or act
dominantly to a higher-ranked animal (the consequences would be dire,
and he knows it!)
Resource guarding is a classic example of dominant behavior: only a
higher-ranked dog (a “dominant” dog) would act aggressively in defence
To put it plainly: if it was clear to your dog that he is not, in fact,
the leader of the family, he’d never even dream of trying to prevent
you from taking his food or toys – because a lower-ranking dog (him)
will always go along with what the higher-ranking
dogs (you and your family) say.
So what can I do about it? The best treatment for dominant, aggressive
behavior is consistent, frequent obedience work, which will underline
your authority over your dog. Just two fifteen-minute sessions a day
will make it perfectly clear to your dog that you’re the boss, and that
it pays to do what you say.
You can make this fact clear to him by rewarding him (with treats and
lavish praise) for obeying a command, and isolating him (putting him in
“time-out”, either outside the house or in a room by himself) for
- If you’re not entirely confident doing this yourself, you may wish to
consider enlisting the assistance of a qualified dog-trainer.
- Brush up on your understanding of canine psychology and
communication, so that you understand what he’s trying to say – this
will help you to nip any dominant behaviors in the bud, and to
communicate your own authority more effectively
- Train regularly: keep obedience sessions short and productive (no
more than fifteen minutes – maybe two or three of these per day).
Why doesn’t my dog like to be handled?
All dogs have different handling thresholds. Some dogs like lots of
cuddles, and are perfectly content to be hugged, kissed, and have arms
slung over their shoulders (this is the ultimate “I’m the boss” gesture
to a dog, which is why a lot of them won’t tolerate it.) Others –
usually the ones not accustomed to a great deal of physical contact
from a very young age – aren’t comfortable with too much full-body
contact and will get nervy and agitated if someone persists in trying
to hug them.
Another common cause of handling-induced aggression is a bad grooming
experience: nail-clipping and bathing are the two common culprits.
When you clip a dog’s nails, it’s very easy to “quick” him – that is,
cut the blood vessel that runs inside the nail. This is extremely
painful to a dog, and is a sure-fire way to cause a long-lasting
aversion to those clippers.
Being washed is something that a great many dogs have difficulty
dealing with – a lot of owners, when confronted with a wild-eyed,
half-washed, upset dog, feel that in order to complete the wash they
have to forcibly restrain him. This only adds to the dog’s sense of
panic, and reinforces his impression of a wash as something to be
avoided at all costs – if necessary, to defend himself from it with a
display of teeth and hackles.
Can I “retrain” him to enjoy being handled and groomed?
In a word: yes. It’s a lot easier if you start from a young age –
handle your puppy a lot, get him used to being touched and rubbed all
over. Young dogs generally enjoy being handled – it’s only older ones
who haven’t had a lot of physical contact throughout their lives that
sometimes find physical affection difficult to accept.
Practice picking up his paws and touching them with the clipper;
practice taking him into the bath (or outside, under the faucet –
whatever works for you, but warm water is much more pleasant for a dog
than a freezing spray of ice-water!), and augment the process
throughout with lots of praise and the occasional small treat.
For an older dog that may already have had several unpleasant
handling/grooming experiences, things are a little more difficult. You
need to undo the damage already caused by those bad experiences, which
you can do by taking things very slowly – with an emphasis on keeping
your dog calm.
The instant he starts to show signs of stress, stop immediately and let
him relax. Try to make the whole thing into a game: give him lots of
praise, pats, and treats.
Take things slowly. Don’t push it too far: if you get nervous, stop.
Dogs show aggression for a reason: they’re warning you to back off, or
else! If your dog just can’t seem to accept being groomed, no matter
how much practice you put in, it’s best to hand the job over to the
Your vet will clip his nails for you (make sure you tell him first that
he gets aggressive when the clippers come out, so your vet can take the
necessary precautions!). As far as washing and brushing goes, the
dog-grooming business is a flourishing industry: for a small fee, you
can get your dog washed, clipped, brushed, and whatever else you
require by experienced professionals (again, make sure you tell them
about your dog’s reaction to the experience first!)
For more information on handling aggressive and dominant behaviors, as
well as a great deal of detailed information on a host of other common
dog behavior problems, check out SitStayFetch.
It’s a complete owner’s guide to owning, rearing, and training your
dog, and it deals with all aspects of dog ownership.
To get the inside word on preventing and dealing with problem behaviors
like aggression and dominance in your dog, SitStayFetch is well worth a
look.Chicago dog owners
You can visit the SitStayFetch site by clicking on the banner below: <a href=" [please contact me for website address]
<img src=" [please contact me for website address] width="250" height="250"></a> How to deal with a whining dog
Whining in puppies As puppies, it comes naturally: a very
young puppy will whine without even realizing it when she’s hungry,
tired, or cold. The mother dog will respond to this whining with milk,
warmth, and a safe place to sleep – and as time goes on, the puppy
begins to realize the association between the two. This is when she
begins to whine deliberately, to notify her mom that something’s amiss
or that she needs something. When you adopt your pup, she should be
between eight and ten weeks old. This is the time that a puppy will
either learn that whining doesn’t work with her new, human family; or,
she’ll learn to use whining as a manipulative tool (of sorts) to
motivate her new “mommy” (that’s you!) to give her what she wants. This
is why it’s generally advocated for you to leave your new puppy alone
on her first night – if you respond to whining with positive attention
(cooing, patting, sympathy, taking her out of the crate and cuddling
her) how can she help but learn to whine until she gets what she wants?
You’ll need to use your common sense and good judgment, of course. For
a really panic-stricken pup, she probably does actually need some
attention and affection, if only to distract her from the scariness of
her unfamiliar new surroundings. The trick is to respond in a timely
manner so that she doesn’t feel like it’s her whining that’s got the
result (or else you’re conditioning her to whine whenever she wants
something, which is paving the road to hell). For a puppy that’s
working herself up into a real frenzy of crying and whining, don’t feel
like you have to cold-bloodedly ignore her. By all means, pay her a bit
of attention and calm her down – just initiate the contact when she’s
no longer whining. It’s not always realistic to wait until she’s
stopped whining altogether – contrary to popular (albeit misguided)
opinion, some puppies simply do not stop whining and really will
continue for hours on end. If you suspect that this may be the case,
you don’t have to prolong your pup’s misery: just wait til she’s
stopped for even a few seconds, then seize your moment and open the
crate door. It’s not ideal, but under the circumstances, it’s likely
the best you’ll be able to manage. Whining in adult dogs Whining is not
a natural form of communication between humans and dogs. Most dogs grow
out of whining around the six-month age; if your dog is whining after
this period, it means she’s either doing it unconsciously, or she’s
learned that it’s a useful motivatory tool to get her something that
she wants or needs. As an adult dog, there are a variety of reasons as
to why she might be whining: * In pain * Bored/lonely * Needs to go
outside * Afraid/anxious Your response to her whining really depends on
the cause of it. Sometimes whining is justified, and does require a
response – and sometimes, it’s just plain manipulative. Other times it
may be justified, but the response that comes most naturally won’t
necessarily help your dog. To clarify things, the more common reasons
for whining – and suggested ways for you to react – are listed below.
When she’s whining out of pain A dog that starts whining all of a
sudden, and then keeps it up steadily afterwards, may be whining out of
pain. This isn’t just limited to older dogs: puppies and young dogs can
be subjected to some pretty severe growing pains, so don’t rule out
this possibility on the basis of age. If you think your dog may be in
pain, check her over to see whether there’s any merit to this belief.
First, check for the obvious signs: is she holding any paws off the
ground, or favoring a limb/side of her body? Check her face and body
for scratches and splinters. Next, you can palpate her limbs and joints
for inflammation (like arthritis) and possible injuries. Remember to be
very gentle: if she’s in pain, you don’t want to make it worse. Simply
rub your hands along each leg, pausing at the joints to give each one a
gentle squeeze. Run your hand down her tail to check for lumps and
bumps, too. Even if you can’t find anything seriously amiss, if you
think she’s whining out of pain, a trip to the vet is in short order.
When she’s whining out of boredom and/or loneliness You’ll be able to
tell if this is the cause because she’ll be wandering around the house
(probably following you around, or pacing about the room you’re in),
whining aimlessly and without direction (i.e. she’s whining to
herself). The best cure for a dog that’s whining out of boredom is a
quick shot of exercise: take her out for a brisk walk as soon as you
can, and on a more general level, try to ramp up her daily exercise
quotient. A tired dog is almost never a bored dog. For a dog that’s
whining from loneliness, you’ll have to try your best to spend more
quality, interactive time with her. If you don’t have a lot of spare
time to spend with your dog, then make the time that you do spend
together really count: play, groom, train, cuddle. When she’s whining
out of fear/anxiety Normally, it’ll be fairly easy to tell whether
she’s whining out of fear or anxiety. When she’s afraid, it means
there’s a direct cause to her fear – like a thunderstorm or a windy
afternoon that’s rattling the windowpanes and spooking her a bit. If
she’s anxious, it means there’s no direct, tangible cause for her
edginess – she might be a bit on edge because you’re a bit stressed and
she’s feeding off your energy, or perhaps there’s been a change to her
daily routine (she didn’t get her normal morning walk, for instance).
Without spending any more time quibbling pedantically over semantics,
your response to this sort of whining should always be one of
discouragement. Don’t attempt to punish or correct her for whining out
of fear or anxiety – that will simply increase her stress, making her
feel worse and making the whining worse, too. Instead, simply ignore
her. It’s a bit hard to do at first – in fact, it can feel like the
least natural reaction in the world! But it really is the best thing
for you to do. If you lend unwonted credence to your dog’s mood with an
excessive reaction – patting, sympathy, cooing – she won’t be
comforted; she’ll actually be more worried, because you’ve just
validated her fear. If it seems to her like you think she’s got a good
reason to be worried/afraid – and if you react with comforting words
and soothing pats, that’s how it’ll come across – then she’ll be more
afraid. Not less. So in this case, you need to ignore the whining
outright. Don’t molly-coddle her; instead, distract her with play, or
run through a quick obedience routine. Get her thinking about something
else. If she needs to go outside If your dog’s whining because she
needs to go outside, first of all you should give yourself – and her –
a big pat on the back: it’s the sign of a genuinely well-trained dog.
She needs to go badly enough to be whining about it, but she knows not
to do it inside – and she’s smart enough to try and let you know that
she needs to go out, too. This one’s easy: if she’s standing near the
door, or just has That Expression (if you’ve had her for a while,
you’ll grow to know That Expression – it’s different for every dog, but
most owners are able to easily and correctly interpret it as meaning,
“Let me out – now!”), you should let her out. It’s as easy as that.
Further Reading For more information on dog ownership, including a huge
variety of detailed information on canine problem behaviors, dog
psychology, and the most effective ways to train your dog, take a look
at Secrets to Dog Training. It’s the ultimate resource for the
intelligent dog owner, and it covers just about every subject
pertaining to the care of your beloved dog that you’ll ever need to
know about.Chicago dog owners You can visit the Secrets to Dog Training site by clicking
on the banner below: <a href=" [please contact me for website address]
<img src=" [please contact me for website address] width="250" height="250"></a>