M.A. Kropp is a writer for That Mutt. She is an animal lover and enjoys working with her pitull mix named Lambeau. Welcome her by leaving a comment.
We adopted our American pitbull mix puppy, Lambeau, in December 2013. He was eight weeks old. We enrolled him in a puppy class at our local dog training facility. He did fine, given that he was a puppy. He graduated and got his certificate.
We wanted to continue his training, so we enrolled him in the next level class.
It was a disaster!
He whined and barked and pulled on his leash the entire first class.
It was impossible to keep his attention on me for more than a split second. All he wanted to do was play with the other dogs.
The final straw was when we started working on coming when called. I took him to the end of the training room where one of the instructors put him on a long line. I let him sniff the handful of treats I had, and then went to the other end of the room and called him. He started fine, flying toward me down the room.
And then about halfway down, one of the waiting dogs shifted on her blanket at the side.
Bam! Lambeau changed course and pounced on her.
I’m sure he thought she wanted to play. She was startled and nipped him on the lip. Everyone converged on the two of them, I got his leash on him, and dragged him away, apologizing profusely to the owners of the poor dog he’d pounced on.
The lead trainer came over after making sure the other dog was okay and asked if he’d been hurt. He hadn’t. Then she looked down at us, me with my arms around my whining, struggling puppy, and him only wanting to run back and play with the other dogs.
“You know, perhaps you might think about a few private lessons with him for a bit. And come back to a class after.”
Which, of course, was her polite way of saying he was far too unruly for a class situation and he was too distracting for the other dogs and owners.
I was mortified. I nodded and we left. I was embarrassed and upset. What did all the other owners in that class think?
“What an awful dog! And that woman can’t handle him.”
And the trainers? I was sure they were all shaking their heads and thinking: “She shouldn’t have that dog. So irresponsible. If she can’t control him as a puppy, how is she going to do it when he’s grown? Maybe she should get a Chihuahua or something.”
I knew we couldn’t go back to the class, but private training? Isn’t that for really bad dogs? The ones that are aggressive and dangerous? Not for a cute, super-friendly pup like mine.
Still, something had to be done. I didn’t want to end up with an unruly dog that no one wanted to come near. So, I took a deep breath and arranged for a session of private lessons.
You know what?
It was one of the best things I’ve done with Lambeau.
Our instructor was really nice, and she told us that some dogs just can’t be in a group situation right away. They need to be taught some self-control and how to focus better first.
We worked on simple exercises to get him to pay attention to me, leash control and ignoring distractions. Slowly, we started bringing him closer to the other classes and dogs in the main areas of the training building. He got better. Not perfect, but better.
I think I learned as much or more than he did.
to pay better attention to him before he got too excited.
his trigger distance – the amount of space to leave between him and another dog so that he can still focus on me.
better ways of distracting him and keeping him calmer.
He’s not perfect, but we were able to take that second level obedience course and get his graduation certificate.
I’m not a trainer. I’m just a dog owner who wants her dog to be well-behaved enough that people don’t mind him being around. Just like a lot of other dog owners.
I’ve talked to other owners who feel like I did – embarrassed and a little upset by their dog’s behavior, but still hesitant about private lessons that are often considered the last resort for an almost hopeless dog.
But in many cases, a few private sessions without the extra distraction of other dogs is exactly what is needed. I had to put aside my feelings and do what was best for my dog.
And every time I hear someone say: “Your dog is so good!” I know it was a good decision.
Have you ever felt embarrassed or upset by your dog’s behavior?
Let us know in the comments!
This can be very helpful for others who are struggling with their dogs. It helps to hear from others.
M. A. Kropp is a contributor to That Mutt. She is an animal lover and enjoys working with her current dog, a pitull mix named Lambeau.
We moved to a new home a few months ago. It’s been a good thing, mainly because it has cut my husband’s commute time in half.
We are settled in and things are good, but there were days before the moving trucks showed up when I was sure the stress was going to be the end of me.
Moving is not only stressful on the human members of a family. Your dog will feel the stress, also. Boxes are everywhere, routines can be upended, and the general feeling of “something going on” takes its toll on a dog also.
There are things you can do that will make the transition easier on your pup. I’m going to give you a few tips to help your dog adjust during a move.
6 tips to help your dog adjust during a move
1. Try not to change your dog’s routine.
Of course, there will be times that can’t be helped. That’s part of normal life even if you are not moving. But constant changes in routine will add to your dog’s stress and confusion. Try to keep meals, walks, exercise, and other daily habits as close to normal as possible, both before and after you move.
[quote_center]Constant changes in routine will add to your dog’s stress and confusion.[/quote_center]
You may be tempted to buy all new toys, beds, collars, and leashes to go with a new home. Don’t change it all. Having familiar things with him will help comfort your dog. Keep his favorite toys, blanket or bed, and crate. You can gradually change them out for new later.
2. If you can, take him to the new area before you move.
Just a walk around a new neighborhood a few times will get him used to the new sights and smells. If he’s used to going places with you and doing new things, this will be easier on him but a dog who stays home most of the time will benefit from a walk or two in a new neighborhood.
3. Keep your dog safely secured on moving day.
When moving day arrives, make sure your dog is securely contained, either in a room with a closed door or his crate. The room should be one that the movers won’t be in and out of constantly. If you need to, have them empty this room first, and then put your dog in there with his bed, water, and a toy or two.
Put a sign on the door to remind everyone not to let the dog out. Or move his crate to a spot that is out of the way of the main activity and put him in there. A blanket put over the crate, at least partly covering it can help him feel more secure, especially if he gets nervous easily.
Sometimes, it’s better for everyone if you either board your dog for a day or two, or take him to doggie daycare while the actual moving is taking place. You can concentrate on the movers and other last minute details, and your dog will be out of the stress and commotion.
4. Once moved, put your dog’s things in familiar places.
Once you are moved into the new place, try to put his food, water, crate, and other items in familiar places. If he always had water in the kitchen, put his water bowl in the new kitchen. If his crate or bed was always in the living room where you sit and relax, put them there in the new house.
You can begin to move him to a new location later if that is your plan, but at first, you want the new house to feel at least somewhat familiar.
5. Update ID tags.
Make sure he wears a collar with an ID tag with your new information on it all the time, at least for a while. Even if he doesn’t usually wear his collar in the house, it’s a good precaution just in case he gets scared and runs off. If he has a microchip, make sure to update that information also.
6. Be patient with him.
Anxiety can cause some dogs to regress on training. He may forget his housetraining temporarily, or seem to not remember behaviors he knew solidly before the move. Don’t punish him for mistakes.
[quote_center]Anxiety can cause some dogs to regress on training.[/quote_center]
Note: This post is written by M.A. Kropp who enjoys working with her pitbull mix named Lambeau.
Oh, the weather outside is frightful!
Well, maybe not this year! But here in the northeast where I live, winter can be a tough time to give a dog all the exercise he needs to keep him calm and a joy to live with.
This is especially true if you have a high-energy pup like my 2-year-old pit mix.
I try to walk him at least a mile every day, if not more. And we usually get time in the afternoon for a good play session out in the yard. There’s a really nice park not far from here with lots of walking trails, both paved and through wooded areas. They also have a dog park that is very popular.
Lambeau gets all the exercise he needs when we can take advantage of all of that. But, there are times when we can’t. Heavy rain, snowstorms, bitter cold, early sunsets – all those can make it difficult to give him the opportunity to burn off energy.
What to do when the weather just won’t cooperate with your dog’s need to expend some energy?
The following are a few things I have used when we are stuck indoors. Maybe some of these will help you and your dog deal with those days.
6 Ways to Exercise Your Dog When You’re Stuck Indoors
1. Food puzzles.
These can be valuable any time of the year, but they are especially helpful when you need to give your dog an activity that will keep him busy and engaged.
There are many types of food puzzles available. Just make sure you tailor the toy’s difficulty to your dog. A complex puzzle with doors and compartments might be too much for a puppy, while an older dog – with a little help at first – will figure it out more quickly.
Any dog can have fun with a treat ball that dispenses pieces of kibble as it rolls and bounces across the floor. Using these for one or more meals can not only work off some energy but also teach him that food and treats are earned.
I think we all have those things we want to teach our dogs but can’t seem to fit the time in. Days when the weather keeps you stuck inside are perfect for working on those lessons.
Does he need some work on his sit or down/stay? Get some great treats – small pieces of cheese, hot dogs, or cooked chicken work great for most dogs – and your clicker, and take a few minutes to work on those behaviors.
The bonus is that once your dog has the behavior learned, it’s easier to work a few repetitions into a regular walk or playtime, since he knows already what to do and you are just reinforcing. You can also use this idea to teach your dog, young or old, new tricks.
We have a three-step stool in the kitchen. I set that up on a rubber mat so it doesn’t slide easily. So far, Lambeau has learned to go “through” the legs, “around” the whole thing and to put his paws up on the steps to get treats. We are now working on a “belly crawl” through the legs.
This is fun for most dogs, and scent hounds will excel at this one.
Get a few small, light boxes (cardboard egg cartons cut in half work well). Scatter them around the room, and get a friend to hide a yummy treat in one. You can hide it yourself if you are alone, but try to move the empty boxes around and block your dog’s view so he doesn’t see which one you put the treat in. Then, let him loose to find the treat.
As he gets better at sniffing out his prize, you can find more difficult places to hide it. Under a pillow, behind a chair, on the arm or back of the sofa, as long as he can get to it without wrecking the room.
A variation of this is a take on the old carnival cup game. I take three red plastic drink cups, cut or punch a few small holes along the rims, and put them on the floor in front of Lambeau (he’s in a sit/stay). I put a treat under one, and shuffle them around a few times. Then I ask him “Which one?” He should be able to smell the treat through the hole and either paw at or push the cup. I lift the one he chose, and if it’s right, he gets a treat. Usually, a few repetitions of this is all it takes to get the idea.
4. Chew toys.
Rubber bones, stuffed Kongs, dental chews and other toys meant for gnawing on can provide an outlet, also.
I stuff Kongs with a mixture of peanut butter, yogurt and kibble and freeze them. It takes a while to clean out all that frozen goodness and Lambeau is usually ready for a nice snooze when he’s done.
Again, tailor the difficulty to your dog. A fully stuffed and frozen Kong might be too difficult for a puppy, but unfrozen peanut butter lightly coating it should work better. And you can work up to fully stuffed and frozen as the dog gets more able to deal with it.
This is one of Lambeau’s favorite games, inside or out. We have a fairly long hall, so I toss or roll a ball down the hall for him to chase and bring back.
If your dog is not a big chewer, you can use a soft, indoor ball. If he is prone to chewing, you can use the soft ball but you have to watch him carefully.
I use hard rubber because Lambeau destroys anything soft in no time! I just toss carefully so the ball rolls more than bounces off breakable items! This is also a good activity for teaching and reinforcing the “drop it” command.
This is a great game for working off physical energy, and you don’t really need a lot of room for this one. But you do need to teach your dog to play politely. With Lambeau, I put him in a sit/stay, and pick up the tug rope. I tell him “leave it” while I adjust my grip, maybe swing it a little, or hold it toward him just a bit. If he tries to get it, I tell him again “leave it!”
When he is nicely settled, I offer him one end and say “take it” and we are off for a good round of tug-o’-war. After a bit of play, I tell him “drop it” and tempt him with a favorite treat if he doesn’t respond right away. Then we start over from the sit/stay, and “leave it” part.
There are a few things to keep in mind with this game.
First, never let him mouth your hands or clothes or any part of you. He is only to tug on the toy. If he tries, drop the toy and stop playing immediately. Lambeau will toss the rope himself a few times, but tug isn’t much fun when someone else isn’t tugging, so he will bring the toy and drop it at my feet. If he’s quiet at that point, I pick it up and we start from the beginning.
Second, while this game will burn off energy, some dogs do get overexcited by too much tug. I try to only play for a couple minutes at a time, and intersperse quieter activities between rounds of tug.
We can’t control the weather, but we can still make sure our furry companions get the mental and physical exercise they need, no matter what the weatherman says.
What indoor exercise tricks would you add to the list?
Blogger Lindsay Stordahl Lindsay Stordahl (with her mutt Ace) is the blogger behind That Mutt.
Blogger Julia Thomson Julia Thomson (with her mutt Baxter) writes regularly for That Mutt.
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