Monday, December 21, 2009

Leaving Your Dog at the Kennel

When your dog has to spend the night at the kennel, "low-key" departures help minimize stress.

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Thursday, December 17, 2009

On the Outside Looking In?

Dogs are social creatures and do best when they are allowed to live indoors with their family. Not used to an indoor dog? Here's some tips on slowly and safely bringing him indoors.

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My Puppy is Eating my House!

Puppies put EVERYTHING in their mouths! Tips of surviving the land-shark phase of puppyhood!

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Multiple Dog Households

Two dogs, or not two dogs? Things to consider when adding a second dog to the family.

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Wednesday, December 2, 2009

What's in a Name?

Teach your young puppy to associate his name with only good stuff. It's a great way to get his attention, and having his attention makes training so much easier!

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Monday, November 30, 2009

Puppies Grow!

You may not mind when your little baby puppy jumps up on you, but what about that puppy as a full-grown dog? It's important to plan ahead and establish long-term house rules from the very beginning.

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Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Holiday Begging

As we sit down to give thanks, be sure your dog isn't giving thanks for stolen turkey legs or other table items that might make him sick or even lead to an emergency vet trip!

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Thanksgiving Manners

Having guests over for the holidays can be exciting and stressful all at the same time - even for your dog! Keep in mind not everyone who comes to you house may be a "dog person," but a little pre-planning can help keep everyone happy and safe.

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Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Off-leash Etiquette

If you choose to take your dog off-leash, it's important to make sure your dog doesn't become a nuisance to others. You may think he just wants to say, "Hi!" to everyone around him, but not every person or dog will appreciate the greeting. Be respectful of others and don't let your dog force himself upon every dog and human he meets -- especially if he's loose and the other dogs are restricted by a leash.

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Handling Loose Dog Encounters

You're enjoying a leisurely walk with your dog when suddenly, you find yourself being rushed by an unknown, loose dog and no owner in sight? What do you do?

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The Benefits of Playing Dead!

Tricks are fun, but as we learned with the "shake" trick, many also have a practical application. Teaching your dog to "play dead" can not only impress friends and family members, it's also a nice way to teach your dog to be relaxed on his side, which is also helpful at the vet's office.

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Monday, November 9, 2009

Pleased to Meet Ya! Teaching your Dog to Shake.

Whether or not you want to train the next Pet Star, teaching your dog a few fun tricks has a lot of hidden value. Not only are they cute, many tricks serve a practical purpose as well. Teaching a simple paw lift not only becomes a cute "shake" trick, but also helps your dog become more relaxed about practical things such as nail trimming, paw wiping or burr removal.

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Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Start 'um Young: Benefits of Puppy Classes!

Early training and socialization helps your puppy start off on the right paw! Learn how the benefits of a well-run puppy class can outweigh the possible risks.

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Monday, November 2, 2009

Jr. Handlers in Agility

Meet Team Taxi. At just seven-years-old, Janelle wanted a puppy. Her parents? Not so much. So they presented her with a challenge: Care for the family's then senior dog (food, fresh water, yard duty) without complaining for one year. Two years later, mission long accomplished plus time to responsibly research dog breeds and breeders, Australian Shepherd puppy, Taxi, joined the family! Janelle and Taxi compete successfully in agility and as of this posting, are just three qualifying scores away from earning their ASCA Agility Championship!

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Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Trick or Treat and Train Your Dog!

Answering the door for Halloween trick or treaters can be a doorbell-ringing/dog-barking headache or an excellent training opportunity! Check out this great training tip for handling your dog at the front door:

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Monday, October 26, 2009

Prepping Your Pooch for Howl-a-ween!

It's costume time again! Mummies and witches and goblins, oh my! If you want to include your dog in your costume caper, be sure and take the time to teach him to enjoy wearing a costume. With a few simple steps, your dog will learn to love his Hairy Pawter costume!

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Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Dogs and Kids

Growing up with a dog in the family can make for lots of special memories. Both dogs AND kids need to be taught how to properly interact with each other, and a caring, responsible adult should always be on-hand to oversee interactions and keep everyone happy and safe.

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For more on the subject of dogs and kids and the need to provide supervision, etc., check out this blog post by Patricia McConnell, Ph.D. McConnell is a Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist and has made a lifelong commitment to improving the relationship between people and animals. I really enjoy her writing. Tales of Two Species and The Other End of the Leash are two of my favorite McConnell books. For a comprehensive list of her written work, click here.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Teaching Sit Stay

Asking for a few seconds of self control with a sit stay before meals is a simple way to begin the concept of "stay." Dogs learn quickly that butt-on-floor = presentation of the food. When teaching stay, remember to use a "release word" that officially gives your dog the freedom to get up and move around. Over time, he learns that stay means "don't budge" while waiting for the "release."

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Monday, October 12, 2009

Teaching Leave It

"Leave it" is a handy behavior for dogs and owners, and once learned, it can help keep a wide variety of inappropriate things out of your dog's mouth! Best of all, it's pretty easy to teach using positive reinforcement.

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One additional tip: Leave It and Drop It should be different. One (usually leave it) should mean, "Don't put that in your mouth," and the other (usually drop it) means, "Now that it's already in your mouth, please give it back." It's important to remember the difference so as not to confuse the dog.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Splash Doggin' with a Furry Friend

It's exciting and sometimes a bit scary to try something new, but the challenge is as good for our dogs as it is for us. Having your two- and four-legged friends in tow can make all the difference. Enjoying fun adventures together is one of the biggest benefits of owning a well-trained dog.

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Monday, October 5, 2009

Playing Hide and Seek with Your Dog!

Hide and Seek is a great way to practice coming when called! Your dog is "it" and runs to find you around the house or on a trail, as you call him from your hiding place. Keep excitedly calling your dog until he finds you and when he does, have a huge party full of praise, petting and tiny little treats. It's a training game the whole family can enjoy, and your dog will have so much fun, he won't even know he's being trained!

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Saturday, October 3, 2009

New Pics of the Kids!

Sweet Zoie! Looking good at nine-years-young!
Quiz, nearly six, brings in the bird at a recent Splash Dogs event.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Camp Waggin' Tails

When choosing a dog training school, finding one that branches out into different activities is especially nice. Caninestein's Camp Waggin' Tails partners with J9's K9s Dog Training in Canoga Park, CA to offer fun, weekend-long training field trips to Big Bear Lake in the summer. It's three days of friends, fun and fur as both two- and four-legged campers have a camptastic good time!

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Monday, September 28, 2009

Picking a Dog Training School

There's lots to consider when choosing a trainer and it's important to do your homework ahead of time. Training, most of all, is about building a relationship with your dog. Fortunately, dog training has come a long way since the days of alpha rolls and scruff shakes, and the best dog training schools will help make training fun for you AND your dog.

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Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Agility Fun

Agility is a fun dog sport and a great way to spend time with your dog. It's easy to get started; you can even use common items found around the house!

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Monday, September 21, 2009

Teaching "Off"

Dogs enjoy creature comforts just like we do, and many dogs can be found happily lounging on the sofa. There's nothing inherently wrong with allowing your dog on the furniture, so long as he's willing to remove himself when you ask. Teaching "off" is a great way to accomplish this. Also, it's important that if your dog is allowed on furniture, should an occasion arise where you'd rather he *not* be up there, it's up to the humans to manage his behavior. No fair getting mad at the dog one time for doing something he's been *allowed* to do 50 other times!

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Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Teaching Drop It

Teaching your dog to let go of what's in his mouth is an important and potentially life-saving skill. Executing a trade - a treat for what he has - is an easy and non-confrontational way to teach a strong "drop it." Over time, the dog learns to reliably perform the behavior without the treat, so long as owners are consistent with praise and petting and remember to toss in a treat every now and then.

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Monday, September 14, 2009

Using Tug Games in Training

Playing tug is a great cooperative activity between dog and owner and the game can also be used to help teach focus around distractions and self-control on the part of the dog. Left unchecked, it can sometimes lead to over-excitement, so it's important to play by a few simple rules.

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Canine Self Employment

Teaching your dog to "sit quiet and color" can go a long way toward preventing attention-seeking, destruction and other unwanted behaviors around the house. Today's dog owners have a variety of food puzzle toys to choose from, and they are a great tool to keep in your training tool box.

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Thursday, September 3, 2009

More on Coming When Called - Leaving Distractions!

Perhaps the biggest hurdle in recall training is teaching a dog to leave a distraction when called. A dog’s willingness to do so is what makes or breaks an effective recall. When a dog is loose or otherwise off-leash, he’s going to be distracted. Therefore, it’s important to convince him that it’s always best to leave distractions and come when we call -- no matter how enticing the distraction! A tall order? Sure. Impossible? Not at all. Find out how in part two of an article on teaching your dog to come when called.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Training Your Dog to Come When Called

The recall is the most important behavior you will *ever* teach your dog! It’s a skill that might save his life. Imagine that your dog is loose and headed for trouble. You want to know that when you call him, he’ll turn on a dime and start racing back to you so fast, it looks like his butt is on fire and you have the only hose in the entire town! Learn how in part one of a two-part article on

On Your Spot Training

Teaching your dog to run to his dog bed, lie down and stay there until you release him is a very useful behavior. It's great for control around the front door, as well as for keeping your dog out from underfoot during specific times of the day.

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Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Six behaviors every dog should know, part two.

Dog training is simple, but it's not easy! Time, patience and consistency are the keys to a well trained dog. In deciding what to train, the possibilities are endless, but some behaviors may be more useful than others. In this three part series, we examine six key behaviors that, when mastered, help make for a harmonious relationship between dog and owner. Today we look at the important skill of being alone as well as why it's beneficial to develop play skills in your dog. Check out part two of the series on

Monday, August 24, 2009

Canine Body Language: Can You Read Me?

What's in a wag? Is a wagging tail a sure sign of a happy, friendly dog? Not always. Understanding the basics of dog body language can help keep dog-to-dog encounters safe and happy.

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Six behaviors every dog should know, part one.

I recently saw a wonderful t-shirt graphic that could easily become my new mantra:

Time + Patience + Attention = A Well Trained Dog.

If you won't invest in the equation, don't expect the result.

Wow. Truer words have never been spoken! In the spirit of creating a well trained dog, I've come up with a list of six behaviors that I consider to be must-knows (along with tips on how to teach them) for today's canine companions. Check out part one of this three-part series on

Friday, August 21, 2009

Top Ten Positive Puppy Products

Everyone loves a cuddly puppy, but not everyone realizes the amount of work that goes into raising one! Raising a puppy takes dedication, patience and consistency as you teach your new canine companion how to handle himself in our human world. It may feel like an uphill battle at times, but fortunately, today's puppy owners have a host of helpful products at their disposal. Check out my Top Ten Positive Puppy Products as featured on!

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Housetraining 101

Pee happens... but one of the first lessons we need to teach a young puppy or new rescue dog is that we prefer it to happen outside! Management, supervision and patience will go a long way toward teaching your dog where to... um, "go."

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Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Alarm Barking

Does your dog turn into a Barkasarus when people or other dogs stroll past your house? On the surface, you may like the idea of a Canine Alarm System, but be warned: Left unchecked, ongoing barking behind barriers such as windows and fences can, in some dogs, lead to other unwanted behaviors, including arousal and potentially even aggression toward other dogs when away from home - even in the friendliest of dogs.

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Thursday, August 13, 2009

Working Walks: Train as you go!

Walks aren't just for walking! Training your dog is like working out; you get the best results by sticking with your fitness program every day! The good news is that something as simple as a neighborhood walk can be a wonderful training opportunity.

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Monday, August 10, 2009

Preventing Door Darting

Tips on teaching your dog to respect an open doorway, plus management tricks to keep him safe throughout the learning process.

Thanks to Aussie pup, Cash (and his mom, Moira), for playing the part of demo dog! Look for Cash again in an upcoming segment on housetraining.

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Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Loose Leash Walking

Tips on teaching your dog to walk without skiing you down the street. Struggling with your own dog's loose leash walking? Take heart. It's one of the most challenging behaviors to train! All about practice and consistency.

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Monday, August 3, 2009

Importance of Urban Socialization

Hope, the six-month-old Border Collie, joins us on an urban socialization adventure along busy Ventura Blvd. Regularly exposing your dog to different sights, sounds, smells and surfaces (in addition to manners training) is a great way to help create a canine companion who is confident and calm while out in public.

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Friday, July 31, 2009

Free Pupcake Friday! August 7, 2009

Join Caninestein Dog Training for our first-ever Rex in the City Training Walk, a night on the town complete with a free Pupcake at the famous Three Dog Bakery in Sherman Oaks!

Friday, August 7, 2009 from 6:30-7:30pm with optional dog-friendly dinner to follow.

Sherman Oaks, CA. Exact meeting spot will be emailed to you upon registering.

Friendly dogs and the people who love them! BRING YOUR FRIENDS! Open to all dogs 4-months and older who are both people- and dog-friendly. Aggressive dogs may not participate, and dogs who exhibit aggressive behavior will be asked to leave the group.

Spend an evening with fellow dog-loving peeps! Socialize with old friends and make some new ones! Evenings out are a great way to provide your dog with important urban socialization and it's a wonderful opportunity to train around distractions. Let us show you how to bring out the GENIUS in your pet! New to training? We can help! Don't be shy... come on out and join the fun!

This Rex in the City Training Walk is being offered at the discounted rate of $10 per dog. Pre-registration is required. Participants must register no later than Wednesday, August 5th.

Register Online Via PayPal, below. By registering you agree to the following Release of Liability:

In consideration of being allowed to participate in this Caninestein Dog Training activity, I hereby release Stephanie Colman/Caninestein Dog Training, and any person acting on their behalf or at their request, from all liability for loss, damage or injury to me or my dog, and agree to hold harmless from all liability, damage, cost or expense (including all attorney fees), arising out of any claim, demand or action based upon any occurrence concerning myself, my guests or my dog. I understand that I alone am responsible for my dog’s behavior, and that I assume full liability for my dog’s actions. Further, I understand that based on my dog’s behavior at any given time, I may be asked to remove my dog from the group activity and in such case, no portion of my pre-paid tuition fee will be refunded to me.

Handler's Name:
Dog's Name & Breed:

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Making the Crate Great

Tips on how to crate train a puppy or new dog.

*Note: While panting is often a sign of stress in dogs, in this case with Quiz, he's panting out of excitement because he caught sight of the backyard swimming pool at the home where we were filming! Quiz LOVES to swim. He definitely had pool-on-the-brain!

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Monday, July 27, 2009

Food in Training - Part Two!

Using food in training - Reward or bribe? How to make sure the dog isn't actually training YOU to produce food! Ask your dog to work (by sitting, for example) for things in his life that he wants: walks, throwing his toy, providing his bowl of food, or inviting him to snuggle on the couch! This creates teamwork and teaches your dog that keeping you happy is the key to opening the door to everything great in his world. Continue to use food randomly - dogs love to gamble! Keep him guessing about when the reward is coming and what it will be, and you may just discover that your dog works even harder than before!

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Thoughts on Dominance...

It's such a big, big can of worms, but I thought this might get the conversation off to a good start. Dr. Sophia Yin has done a WONDERFUL job explaining the dogs' behavior in the different clips. Check it out for yourself:

The Dominance Controversy

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Using Food in Training

Part one of a two-part series on the proper use of food as a reward in dog training.

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Monday, July 20, 2009

When Good Tonsils Go Bad!

(A true story from a few years ago. I decided to pull it out b/c I just suggested tonsillitis to someone saying her dog appeared to have sudden "jaw pain.")

“It’ll hurt if I swallow!” This past April, if my dogs could talk, that’s exactly what they would have been saying.

Most of us have experienced tonsillitis at some point in our lives, likely as children. We’re familiar with that stabbing, “Get me some ice cream, QUICK!” pain that, when reoccurring, usually results in the removal of the offending glandular tissue.

Turns out, although rare, dogs can develop tonsillitis too. Like in humans, dog tonsils are an important part of the immune system. They can be found on either side of the throat – one section protruding into the throat and the other part sitting under a mucous membrane, in a pouch called the tonsillar crypt.

Because tonsillitis in dogs is considered rare, and because my dogs – both of them – experienced such extreme symptoms, I wanted to share the experience with fellow Club members so that, should you find yourselves in similar circumstances, you might not be sent on the same Wild Goose Chase that I was while in search of an accurate diagnosis.

It started innocently enough. Following a hike, I bathed both my dogs and began dispensing a post-grooming treat. When Quiz (my Golden) turned his head to eat the treat (a long, dehydrated chicken strip), he cried out. He held his head funny for a second and then proceeded to gingerly eat the treat. My immediate thought was that he had somehow tweaked his neck, which he is prone to doing, thanks to his super high-drive, Kamikaze ways. I kept a close eye on him. He’d reach out to pick up a Nylabone and cry as he tried to put it in his mouth. The same thing happened with a toy. When he would yawn, it was a definite truncated yawn. I phoned our chiropractor and scheduled an appointment for the following day. I tried to dispense Arnica, and he cried when I manually opened his mouth to pop in the pills. I assumed he had something pinched in his neck.

A trip to the chiropractor revealed little. The next morning, out of the corner of my eye, I caught Zoie (my Whippet) doing the same little, truncated yawn. Assuming I was imagining things, I called her over to me so I could manually open her mouth, certain all would be fine. Instead, she screamed!

Now I was really worried. This also served as clarification that the issue with Quiz was not likely to be his neck. I called my regular vet’s office and, because it was a Saturday, was referred to Animal Surgery & Emergency Center (ASEC) in Los Angeles to see a specialist. I phoned, expecting to simply make an appointment for Monday, but when I explained the symptoms, they advised me to bring the dogs in, saying it sounded as though they had tetanus!

I arrived, signed in, and gave my name, to which their response was, “The possible tetanus dogs are here!” (Insert personal panic attack here!) My dogs were immediately whisked away to the back. I should add that, by this time, Quiz had stopped eating, was throwing up, and was running a fever. Zoie seemed fine, except for the obvious pain upon opening her mouth.

We met with a Board Certified Emergency Medicine vet, who explained that they had ruled out tetanus. With tetanus, they expect to see a tightening of facial features, the ears will prick up, the lips will draw up into a “grin”, etc. However, they were stumped as to what was causing the now extreme symptom of pain upon opening of the mouth. Zoie would cry if you opened her mouth more than an inch. Quiz wasn’t much better. She had consulted with her fellow Board Certified vets as well as conducted a VetMed search, all to no avail. Her recommendation was to try broad-spectrum antibiotics for a few days and go from there.

To make this now long story a bit shorter, we spent the weekend on antibiotics. Zoie continued to show no symptoms other than this strange “jaw pain”. She’d eat as long as I watered down her food to the consistency of runny oatmeal. She was happy to run around, go outside, etc. Quiz, on the other hand, is my delicate child who became extremely lethargic, didn’t eat for more than 48 hours, was throwing up and had bouts of bloody diarrhea. He and I made another trip to ASEC on Saturday night to address the vomiting and diarrhea.

By Monday, the dogs were about the same. We returned to ASEC. By now, I was almost certain that Quiz would need to be admitted, as he hadn’t eaten more than a bite or two of food since Friday. We signed in and waited to see Dr. Bonnie Werner, a Board Certified Internist. The drawback of going to an emergency center like ASEC is that cases are triaged, so we had to wait several hours before being seen. While waiting, I finally got Quiz to eat some Koo Koo Roo turkey. As far as I was concerned, it was magic turkey and I’m almost certain that passersby thought I was insane as I cheered him on while he ate the turkey!

After waiting almost six hours, we were finally seen by Dr. Werner. By now, they had both been on antibiotics for just over 48 hours and Dr. Werner was able to open their mouths enough to see that both dogs had visibly swollen tonsils. We had our answer: tonsillitis! We ran blood work just to be on the safe side and increased the number of days they’d be on antibiotics. They were both fine within the week.

I can laugh now – about all the different things we came up with as possible diagnosis or things to test for. Thoughts ran the gamut from various autoimmune disorders to possible jaw fractures. It’s almost embarrassing to think that from the beginning, throat pain from tonsillitis was mis-diagnosed as jaw pain. However, for as silly as it sounds, I can add that all the vets I’ve spoken with – and it’s been many – have all said that they’ve NEVER seen tonsillitis dogs present with pain upon opening their mouths. It’s common for dogs to not want to swallow and thus, not want to eat, but the pain upon opening the mouth (due to the severe inflammation of the tonsils) really threw them.

I’ll never know for sure what caused the tonsillitis. My suspicion is that both dogs came in contact with some type of bacteria in standing water that they encountered while on the hike. Hopefully you’ll never encounter such symptoms with your own dogs, but if you do, remember our experience and make sure that tonsillitis isn’t behind what’s being diagnosed as “jaw pain”.
© Stephanie Colman

Canine Pool Safety

Some refresher tips for teaching your dog to safely enjoy a refreshing swim!

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Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Dogs and Babies

Training tips for a harmonious relationship between the two- and four-legged kids in your home!

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It's never too early to start! For more information on preparing your dog for the arrival of a human baby, call (818) 989-7996 and/or check out the following resources:


And Baby Makes Four
by Penny Scott-Fox

Raising Puppies & Kids Together
by Pia Silvani and Lynn Eckhardt

Living with Kids and Dogs Without Losing Your Mind
by Colleen Pelar

Child-Proofing Your Dog
by Brian Kilcommons and Sarah Wilson

Training Programs:

Dogs and Storks (Check out this Wall Street Journal article about the program.)

Emotion in Training

Mutual enjoyment of each other. Life is good!

Photo by Jeanette Oliver.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Reliable Recall Segment on KNBC Los Angeles

Key points on teaching a potentially life-saving recall! Thanks again to reporter, Jen Bjorklund, and the KNBC team for their support of humane, scientifically-sound training techniques! (Thanks to demo dog, Quiz, too!)

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Need help with your dog's recall? Call (818) 989-7996!

Monday, July 6, 2009

Sit for Petting Segment on KNBC Los Angeles

Training tips to tackle "Excesive Greeting Disorder!" Aired on KNBC Los Angeles at 4am and 6am on July 6, 2009. Thanks to reporter, Jen Bjorklund, and the demo team of Apryl and Wrigley!

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Downloadable Pet Emergency Form

Click to download your own customizable 
Pet Emergency Information form!

The only way I could make it any easier is if I came to your house and filled it out for you!

Take five minutes out of your day... right now... and compile this valuable information. Toss one in your glove box and keep one with your important documents at home. Now you can rest easy, knowing that your fur-kids are protected in the event of an emergency.

Please share this post with all your animal-loving friends!

And while you're at it, check us out on Facebook at Caninestein Dog Training and Caninestein's Dog News Network!

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Emergency Pet Info

Thought I'd add a sample Emergency Pet Info sheet, since I referenced it in my Riding in Cars with Dogs column from from last week. Here's what mine looks like:

(Click to see super-size version.)

It's all simple information, but it can easily be forgotten in an emergency. Well worth it to take a few minutes to create a form of your own and stick it in your glove box.

You know what they say about an ounce of prevention...

© Contents from this blog may not be displayed or reproduced without express written permission.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Keep Your Dogs Safe & Secure on July 4th!

While fireworks offer a dazzling display for people, they can be quite unsettling to dogs. Many dogs are afraid of fireworks, and some even exhibit an extreme, phobic response. The following tips can help:

If you have not lived with your dog for a previous July 4th holiday (therefore, you don't know how he'll react to the sound of fireworks), it's recommended that you DO NOT leave your dog home alone. Dogs with phobic reactions to fireworks can easily panic and injure themselves in the process. Many panicked dogs find ways to escape from their yards and can be further injured or killed while running loose. Statistically, July 5th is one of the busiest days of the year for local shelters, as people go looking for lost pets. Remember that many neighborhoods celebrate early and continue firework festivities a few days after the 4th, so be prepared. Be sure your dog is wearing a properly-fitting collar with up-to-date contact information, just in case the unthinkable happens and he becomes lost.

If you are unable to stay home with your dog on the 4th of July, keep him confined in an escape-proof area such as his crate or baby-gated in a laundry room or other small, dog-proofed area. Close up the windows (kick-up the AC if needed) and turn up the TV or radio to help insulate your home from firework noise. Leave your dog something WONDERFUL to do -- like extract his dinner from a tightly-stuffed KONG toy.

If you're staying home with your dog - or if he will be accompanying you to a family BBQ or outing - make sure he's nice and hungry when the sun goes down. Arm yourself with a pocket full of mind-blowingly tasty treats (like tri tip off the grill!) and keep him busy working and playing for treats as the fireworks blast in the distance. Play all his favorite games and teach him that the big BOOMS predict that great, fun things will happen! Remember not to spend too much time coddling him if he seems worried. If he’ll eat a treat, it’s better to spend your energy reinforcing his desire to eat rather than focusing on how pitiful he looks.

It is recommended that you NOT take your dog with you to a fireworks display. Hearing them in the distance is dramatically different from being directly AT a display. Over-exposure to the sights, sounds and smells of fireworks can, in some dogs, *create* a phobic response.

For multiple dog families, if one dog already exhibits a fearful or phobic response to the sound of fireworks, be sure to separate the dogs so that non-fearful dog does not "catch" the fear. In dogs, fear and aggression can be very contagious. This is especially important for young dogs who frequently look to the older dogs in the household for information.

If you discover that your dog does exhibit a fearful response to fireworks, find a qualified trainer who can help you. Systematic desensitization and counter-conditioning throughout the year can often improve a fearful dog's response to the sound of fireworks. Keep in mind that dogs who are afraid of fireworks also struggle during thunderstorms and on New Year’s Eve, when fireworks and unfortunately, even gun shots are common forms of revelry. If you already know your dog already exhibits a fear response to the sounds of fireworks, consider trying one of the over-the-counter calming remedies such as Rescue Remedy or melatonin. In extreme cases, you may need to treat the phobia pharmaceutically. Be sure to work with your vet long before July 4th. It often takes a bit of trial and error to determine the best dosage for your pet and you’ll want to be certain what to expect by the 4th.

Have a happy, SAFE 4th of July!

Editor's Note: The patriotic Border Collie pictured above is Trace, loved and owned by my friend, Ann. At 1.5 years old, Trace is hard at work in herding, obedience and agility. He's the total package: smart and handsome! Thanks to Ann for sharing his picture!

© Contents from this blog may not be displayed or reproduced without express written permission.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Riding in Cars with Dogs - Tips for Safe Roadtrippin' with Rover!

Who doesn’t know at least one dog who instantly rockets himself into a fit of excitement upon hearing his owners mention going for a R. I. D. E.? For many dogs, the car is the magic portal to everything fun: the park, the pet store or the hole in the wall where the French fries come from. (Oh c’mon… like you’ve never been to a drive thru with your dog in the car?)

As a trainer, one of my greatest pleasures is seeing dog owners venture out to experience life with their dogs in tow. Including your dog in outings, whether something routine like a trip to the bank or a weekend mini vacation, is a great bonding experience and an excellent opportunity to sneak in valuable urban socialization and training. However, when taking Rover along for the ride, it’s important to follow a few safety tips:

Buckle Up that Pup!
Most people would never dream of letting a toddler travel unsecured in a vehicle, but sadly, it happens to dogs all the time. Experts estimate that nearly 98 percent of pets travel unrestrained. This shocking statistic presents a variety of dangers for both pets and people. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that 25 percent of all accidents are the result of driver distraction. Dogs riding loose in cars can quickly become a dangerous distraction as they roam about the vehicle. In the event of an accident, unrestrained animals pose several potentially life-threatening problems. The non-profit group Bark Buckle Up estimates that during a collision at 40 mph, a 25lb dog can cause an impact equal to 1,000 lbs of force. A 60 lb dog at just 35 mph represents 2,700 lbs of force. If the unrestrained dog were to hit a person, it could easily break the person’s neck. Likewise, hitting or crashing through the car windshield with that much force would more than likely kill the dog.

In less extreme examples, unrestrained dogs can sustain injuries from flying off seats and hitting other parts of the vehicle or being struck by the air bag, which deploys at approximately 200 mph. Assuming your pet survives the initial accident, you now must deal with a panicked animal prone to unpredictable, even aggressive behavior. As a result, injured human passengers must wait longer to receive potentially life-saving care. Many years ago, I heard a story about an elderly gentleman, travelling with his unsecured dogs, who had a heart attack and crashed his vehicle. His panicked dogs barked and lunged aggressively at the doors and windows, keeping paramedics at bay for so long, that the gentleman died before paramedics could get to him.
Even if your dogs aren’t aggressively challenging rescue personnel, they’re at risk for bolting out of the vehicle as soon as the doors are opened. Now your dogs are at risk of running loose, getting lost and potentially causing another accident as drivers swerve to avoid hitting them in the street.

Collisions aren’t the only kind of accidents to worry about. Dogs riding unrestrained face other potential dangers such as:

Jumping out of or falling from an open window. It only takes a second for a determined Casanova Cocker Spaniel to decide he must get to the precious Poodle across the street! Dogs can easily jump out or fall from an open car window. I once worked with a woman whose Boxer was nearly killed when he jumped from the back of her moving vehicle onto busy Wilshire Blvd. Her two dogs were riding unrestrained with the back windows rolled up, that is, until one dog stepped up onto the arm rest, hitting the window button and lowering the window.

Eye injuries from debris. Yes, dogs may seem to enjoy riding with their heads hanging out of the window, but it’s not safe. Riding this way puts them at risk of injury from flying debris and also increases the likelihood of arousal toward passing people and other dogs.

Dogs in trucks. Under no conditions should dogs ride loose in the back of trucks. Period. In many states, including California, it’s illegal unless the dog is in a secured cage or cross-tied, or unless the truck has side rails that are at least 46” high. Even cross-tied or with legal railing, it’s a very unsafe way for your pet to travel. Please don’t do it, even on short trips.

So how does one keep canine companions safe during car travel? Confinement is the answer and you have two choices, a properly-fitting canine seat belt or a pet carrier.

Seat Belts – There are several types of canine seat belts on the market. Most work on the principle of a body harness with a strap that attaches to the car’s seat belt system. The strap is designed to be just long enough for the dog to comfortable shift from a sit to a down, rather than move around excessively on the seat. Some straps have a loop in the handle that is threaded through the shoulder harness of the car’s seat belt, some snap directly into the buckle, and others are designed to attach to the tether points of an SUV. While *any* seat belt may be better than riding loose, not all seat belts are created equal. Some seat belts are independently tested and manufactured to meet (or in some cases, even exceed) standards for human seatbelts, so be sure to do your homework prior to securing your furry friend. Here are a few references to get you started:

If your dog has been used to riding loose, it may take a little training to acclimate him to the new arrangement. If possible, recruit a friend or family member to accompany you for a short drive. Sit with your dog (backseat only, away from the front airbag, please!) and reward him (praise, petting and treats) for remaining calm while sitting or lying down. After a few tries with someone else behind the wheel, try a solo adventure. Remember to praise your dog while driving, and plan to toss him a treat or two whenever you can safely do so. If you have two dogs who will need to ride together, do this process with each dog individually before attempting it with both.

Pet Carrier – There are three choices in the pet carrier category: plastic, wire or soft-sided, duffel-style (for toy breeds). If airline requirements are any indication of which is the safest, plastic comes out on top. Whichever type you choose, be sure to somehow secure the crate within the vehicle. Small crates and soft-sided carriers can be strapped in using the car’s seatbelt, and larger crates in the rear section of SUVs can be tethered to factory-installed anchor points.

Now that your pet is safely secured during transport, consider the following tips for travel near and far:

May I See Your ID?
Be sure to keep an ID tag with current information on your dog at all times, especially when travelling. If travelling out of town, add an ID tag with your cell phone number and a local contact number where you’ll be staying. Have your pet micro-chipped as an added source of permanent identification. (As an added tip, pet ID tags with the word “REWARD” and a phone number are great for adding to your key ring in case you ever lose your keys!)

Local Veterinary Care
Prior to embarking on an out-of-town adventure with your pet, do your research and find the local veterinarian as well as the local 24-hour emergency facility. Map out directions in advance and keep them on file with the name, address and phone number of the facility.

Local Medical Considerations
Before leaving, speak with your vet about medical concerns specific to your destination. For example, heartworm may not be a problem in your hometown, but may be rampant at your destination.

Motion Sickness
Some dogs, like some people, are prone to motion sickness. Young puppies are the most common victims, and the good news is that they usually grow out of it. Over-stimulation of the inner ear (as is the cause of motion sickness in people), stress and fatigue can cause motion sickness in pets. Dogs with motion sickness exhibit excessive salivation (think drooling buckets!) and in some cases, vomiting. Travelling on an empty stomach can help minimize or prevent motion sickness, as can riding in a crate, as it reduces potentially over-stimulating visual input. Be sure to expose your dog to lots of short car rides to fun places. If he only ever saddles up for a trip to the vet, the car will quickly become unpleasant and stressful. In extreme cases, medication may help, so talk to your vet if you’ve been unable to remedy the problem on your own. Frequently, dogs who experience motion sickness learn to dislike the car in general, often showing signs of stress such as yawning, panting and pacing, and even become reluctant to enter the car in the first place. If your dog falls into the category, find a qualified trainer who can help implement a structured desensitization program.

Know the Facts
It’s easy to forget important information in an emergency, so keep a detailed fact sheet for each pet in your glove box. Include details such as the name, phone number and address of your primary veterinarian, date of most recent vaccinations, whether or not your pet has medical insurance (and with what company), medical conditions/related medication, and notable personality traits. Include a recent front and side-view photo that can be used to make “Lost Dog” posters in case your dog is separated from you while away from home. You should also include the name and phone number of a friend or family member who is authorized to care for your pets should you fall ill or become injured while travelling.

Practice On-the-Road Potty Habits
If your dog isn’t regularly asked to relieve himself while leashed, he may balk (bark?) at the idea while on the road. It’s a wise idea to prevent “shy bladder syndrome” in your dog by getting him used to the idea at home. Prior to your road trip, make a point to leash walk your dog in your own backyard when you think he might have to relieve himself. If he’s really reluctant, start with a longer leash and work your way down to a standard 4’ or 6’ leash.

Mind Your Manners at Home and on the Town
Basic obedience can play a major role in keeping your dog safe and secure while on the road. The following behaviors are a must-have when hitting the open road:

Wait and Stay – Prevents your dog from forcing his way out of the car door alongside the busy road or blasting past you out of the hotel room in an unfamiliar area.

Coming when Called – Get your dog back to you in virtually any situation. Just might save his life!

Quiet – Helps barking in the car, in hotels or at campsites.

Sit – A quick, easy position to pre-empt other unwanted behaviors.

On Your Spot – Helps your dog learn to settle and relax in a specified area. Portable dog beds work great for this, as they travel easily and allow your dog to travel with a familiar piece of real estate.

Loose Leash Walking – A dog who refrains from skiing his owner around town is much less likely to find himself in trouble while away from home.

Lastly, remember that dogs appreciate predictability and travel is a change in routine. This can be stressful for some dogs, so be sure to bring along some comforts from home (dog bed, toys, favorite chew bone) and make an attempt to stick with pieces of your dog’s regular routine. Something as simple as practicing a sit stay for his food bowl in the hotel – if it’s what he’s used to at home – can go a long way toward providing a sense of security while on the road.

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