More than Downward Facing Dog

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DOGA.  Well, Doga for sure goes beyond the well known yoga position of “downward facing dog.” Doga is a form of partnership yoga that includes a human and a dog. The practice of Doga uses breathing, massage, stretches, and physical postures. During Doga, the pet guardian focuses his/her mind on the present moment and their dog.

BENEFITS OF DOGA

The benefits of Doga are the same as yoga for the human; relaxation through breathing techniques, postures, and meditation. Let’s not forget it provides stress relief and improved posture and flexibility.

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Dogs benefit from Doga by the extra special time spent with owner, this time and experience creates a stronger BOND and in a training program this is foundational. The dogs’ bodies benefit from the stroking massage, and manipulation. In addition, with the many ways the pet guardian is handling their pet, the dogs learn trust.

Most importantly, dogs feed off of their pet guardians’  emotions, so during the practice of Doga the focus is on a calm relaxed response. When the owners are calm it helps the dogs relax.

Boy and I have enjoyed our Doga journey and all of it’s benefits. I am pretty sure that this is just the beginning. Have you tried Doga? What experiences did you have? Please share in comments below!

Oh! And Dallas peeps! Boy and I teach classes in your area. Click here to find details. 

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BLOG WRITTEN BY MICHELLE HUNTTING

BUILDING THE BRIDGE OF COMMUNICATION BETWEEN DOG AND PET GUARDIAN.

COME CHECK OUT MY YOUTUBE CHANNEL

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New to Flirt Pole

I have a confession to make.

I have been training dogs for over ten years and I had never tried a flirt pole until this summer. Now that I have, I am hooked.

First, what is a flirt pole?

The first time I heard the word “flirt pole” I said, “What?” too. Essentially, a flirt pole is a pole with a string and a toy attached at the end of the string. Simple enough? I ordered a Squishy Face flirt pole. I don’t know about you, but I think Squishy Face is a perfect name for a dog product. :) 

What does it do?

Exercise: Especially during summers in Texas, we just aren’t able to walk our dogs like we would like because of the heat. A lot of my students are looking for alternatives and this is a great one. Not to mention, you don’t have to wear yourself out trying to exercise your dog. Ten to fifteen minutes of chasing a flirt pole toy will tire most dogs. 

Focus:  Doing any activity for a length of time will help promote focus.

Reinforcement of the cue “off”: When I play with the flirt pole I cue my dog to “off” (remove his mouth from toy) and “take it” (race after the toy to grab it). 

How do I use it?

In the video below, this was my first time to play with Duke and the flirt pole.

Get him engaged in chasing the toy. When you first start the game, make it easy and quick. Allow him to win easily. As you progress with the game, make it more difficult by keeping the toy away longer. 

Teach a release. When the dog gets the toy in his mouth, cue “off” or “release.” If he is new to “off” what you will do is pull the toy tight and hold it against your leg and wait for him to remove his mouth off of toy. As soon as he lets go say “good, okay, take it” and begin the game of chase the toy all over again.

Add Tug

The picture below shows Duke enjoying a game of light tug after he caught the toy.

Take Breaks

Because Duke gets really excited with several repetitions of running after the toy, I started to take breaks like asking him to sit and calmly talking to him for a few seconds before I re-cued him to run after the toy. Taking breaks allows dogs to calm back down, preventing them to get over stimulated. 

I have found a great new game to play both with large and small dogs! (I even have two Yorkie students playing this game.) Have you tried a flirt pole? Tell us about it! 

Picture Credit: Thank you for the help of Duke and Joe for the pictures and video. 

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BLOG WRITTEN BY MICHELLE HUNTTING

BUILDING THE BRIDGE OF COMMUNICATION BETWEEN DOG AND PET GUARDIAN.

COME CHECK OUT MY YOUTUBE CHANNEL

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The Big Bad Storm

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Boy, my “man” has a few anxieties and a storm is one of them. We could chalk it up to his amazing sense of hearing that is overly-sensitive to the sounds of the storm (don’t be a hater on a sensitive man either) or from a time when he was in the care of a neighbor that left him outside during a storm (we are no longer talking). Either way, Boy hates storms.

What happens when a storm comes through?

Boy follows me around the house. Less than a month ago I was enjoying a shower which I truly treasure as my alone time and he rudely hopped in. I am sure if another adult had been in the house they would have been laughing hysterically at my one-sided conversation with Boy. “What are you doing, Boy?” He plops down into a sit position, getting more and more drenched. “Seriously, Boy?! You just got groomed! Jeez, what a waste of money!” He looks up at me and then back down. “Really, Boy?” He continues looking straight forward, in the opposite direction of me. “Boy, you need to get out.” I open up the curtain and motion with my hand. He goes into a down position. He’s not skinny either. He’s so big and takes up the entire tub requiring me to reposition myself to the side of the tub, barely getting any hot water. “Oh well! I guess after 11 years there’s not a lot you haven’t seen.”

I realized after we got out of the shower and a few sailorish words later (yes, I screened those out in the above storytelling), that there was a storm moving in. Woopse.

He digs. He has to do it. Even if I pat him on the shoulder he will continue like, please just let me push pretend dirt a few more times, mom, before I can stop.

He hides. His safe place is a weird one, the garden sized bath tub. I think that the large tub helps muffle some of the sound.

 

Every dog with storm enduced anxiety will react differently to storms, but these are some of the examples.

What are some things you can do to make your dog more comfortable?

A place for him to go. I have found that a place that helps drown out the sound helps my own dog, like the tub. For those of you that have a basement this may be the best place. You can add things, to a kennel for example, to make it comfortable like a pallet of blankets.

Thundershirt. This is a great product that acts like a security blanket and promotes a calm reaction. Thundershirts are fabulous! Both my clients and I have had great success with them.


Through a Dog’s Ear. This special clinically proven CD promotes relaxation and can be used as background music to promote a calm response.


Observe your dog to see what makes him more comfortable. Just like humans, dogs differ in their comforts.

For the next big bad storm, use my suggestions and observe. Work toward making him as comfortable as possible. Seriously though, Boy wanted me to reiterate the fact that, although sensitive he is still manly.

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BLOG WRITTEN BY MICHELLE HUNTTING

BUILDING THE BRIDGE OF COMMUNICATION BETWEEN DOG AND PET GUARDIAN.

COME CHECK OUT MY YOUTUBE CHANNEL

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Gettin’ Tricky with Boy: Balancing and Catching a Treat

 

Boy and I thought we had to try out the new POWER POPS! by Dr. Harvey’s with a new trick. What better party trick than balancing and catching a treat?!

The first step is to place a treat on your dog’s nose.

Hold the treat on your dog’s snout and say “waiiiiiiiiit.”

Now, let go of his snout and tell him a “get it” cue. 

Do not expect a long duration of holding the treat when you first start this trick. You want to start with quickly releasing him and work toward a longer hold each repetition.

Remember, practice makes perfect! Some dogs might throw a treat further than others before s/he masters snatching the airborne treat!

Have fun! Let me and Boy know how it goes…

Here is a fun blooper from our training session. Boy accidentally snapped my thumb instead of the treat! I think he felt bad because for the rest of that session he didn’t try as hard😉

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BLOG WRITTEN BY MICHELLE HUNTTING

BUILDING THE BRIDGE OF COMMUNICATION BETWEEN DOG AND PET GUARDIAN.

COME CHECK OUT MY YOUTUBE CHANNEL

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Fireworks Are Loud

 

The 4th of July is my favorite holiday! I grew up in Iowa and that day was filled with fun. In the morning we’d enjoy the parade. In the afternoon we would head to a little tiny town called Minburn where we’d eat our hearts out, chit chat with people we hadn’t seen in a long while, and then enjoy my favorite thing- the races. We would do the egg toss, relay races, and my mom would even get in on the nailing contest (how many nails she could hammer in in a certain amount of time). If I won a race I was awarded a quarter. After a day of fun, we’d end with a bang; watching fire words. Fireworks are so beautiful, but very loud.

Did you know that the 4th of July is the number one day of the year when pets run away? It’s true. Pets get scared and think they need to “run away” from the sound. As you are enjoying festivities with your family this coming weekend, please keep a few things in mind.

  • MAKE SURE YOUR DOG’S ID TAGS ARE ON
    Your house may or may not be filled with guest going in and out the doors. Please just do something very simple by putting on the ID tags. If your dog happens to get loose, someone can easily return him/her.
  • KEEP YOUR DOG INDOORS
    The fireworks are extremely loud to the sensitive canine ears. Please do not take your dog out for the show. This is not the time, nor the place.
  • CREATE A SPACE THAT IS COMFORTABLE AND QUIET; A QUIET ROOM 
    Have background sounds, like a fan running or air filter can help with some of the
    outside noises.  I like playing music “Through A Dog’s Ear” as my background music. You can provide a kennel may provide additional comfort with bedding and blankets.

The fourth of July is such a fun holiday! Please keep your canine comfortable and safe so you can both enjoy! 

Happy Independence Day! 

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BLOG WRITTEN BY MICHELLE HUNTTING

BUILDING THE BRIDGE OF COMMUNICATION BETWEEN DOG AND PET GUARDIAN.

COME CHECK OUT MY YOUTUBE CHANNEL

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Focus Focus Focus

FOCUS FOCUS FOCUS! What dog couldn’t improve their focus outdoors?

Here’s an easy dog training tip for you!

1. Take a handful of treats and your clicker (or you can use a verbal marker of “yes!”).

2. As soon as you get eye contact from your dog (even if it’s a very quick look) mark with a click (or the word yes) and throw the treat away from you.

3. Watch for another look and repeat.

Do this exercise outdoors once a day for two weeks and you will be well on your way to a more focused dog. Happy Training!

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BLOG WRITTEN BY MICHELLE HUNTTING

BUILDING THE BRIDGE OF COMMUNICATION BETWEEN DOG AND PET GUARDIAN.

COME CHECK OUT MY YOUTUBE CHANNEL

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Why do dogs pull on the leash?

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Why do dogs pull anyway? Not only is it annoying and exhausting, it can become dangerous. Here are nine reasons why dogs pull.

1. Reflex

If I pushed you, you would push back. This is a natural human reflex. Dog’s have the same reflex. If they feel pressure, they will immediately apply pressure. We put their collar on, attach the leash, and now we’ve assembled the best combination to create bad habits.

2. If It Feels Right, We Do It

I have been going to the batting cages the last few weekends just to have fun and relax with my friends. I haven’t had a bat in my hands since I was 10, which was 10 years ago, or maybe 20.  Okay it’s been around 20 years since I’ve had a bat in my hands, but immediately I knew what to do. I played fast pitch softball in the “little leagues.” It was during that time that my coach, my sisters, and my dad were always instructing me about my position and swing.

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(Now you can criticize my batting stance, haha)

During my batting cage fun, my friend made a recommendation that I change the way I hold the bat. I tried, but it just didn’t feel right and I was incredibly uncomfortable. I realized that I had been so conditioned 20 years ago that I had to do “what felt right.” Dogs do the same with pressure on the leash. For weeks, months, or even years the dog has become accustomed to the pressure when on a walk and then the pressure just starts to “feel right.” He will continue to walk with pressure until you condition a different response. Just like it will take time to change my batting stance, it will take time to recondition a different “feel” for your dog when he’s leashed.

3. Nothing Natural About the Leash

As a trainer, I can easily teach dogs to “sit” or “lie down” on cue fairly quickly, but leash walking is another story. I truly believe that a large part of this is because there is nothing natural about the leash in a dog’s world. In my group classes, I will often hold the leash and “be the dog” so the students can practice the training methods. I don’t really enjoy “being the dog.” I think a big reason is because I don’t know where I am going and when I decide to move one direction, my student decide to move in another. I can see how this could be frustrating for a dog.

4. Handling Skills

In addition to getting pulled in places I don’t want to go when we do the leash exercise, I usually get a yank or come to a quick halt at the end of the leash because the handler doesn’t check in with me or communicate directly with me.  I am sure that dogs feel the same frustration that I experienced.

A lack of handling skills is another reason why dogs pull. The skills of the handler (human) are crucial with the leash. The way the handler applies and releases pressure to the leash communicates to the dog. This is certainly a learned skill. Some people naturally know how to use this tool and others must put some elbow grease into learning it.

The way the handler applies and releases
pressure to the leash communicates to the dog.

5. Lateral Movement is Unnatural 

Adult human’s natural desire is to walk in a straight line (lateral). Children and dogs, however, don’t. They are all over the place! A mom of two 3 year olds writing here!!

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In the dog world, walking laterally towards another “being” (dog, human, etc) is seen as a threatening move. It’s interesting to me when observing dogs in group class, I typically see a slight curve when the dogs recall across the room or lawn to their owner as they are demonstrating “dog etiquette” to their owner.

6. Stress From the Owner

One of the jokes among dog trainers is “keep your butt cheeks loose.”  I know my mom is probably blushing that I even wrote this on a public blog, but there’s truth (and humor) in it. When we are tense, our muscles are also tense. Staying in tune or checking in with your body is always a good thing for you to do while leash walking. I have been training almost a decade and still have to do this. It happens to the best of us. We hold our breath as well, so make sure your breath touches the bottom of your lungs before you let it out.

Most dogs don’t have a regular job, so they have taken it upon themselves to making you their full time job. They study you and they are very good students. The slightest movement from you can communicate a million things. This is why it’s important for you to breathe because tense muscles or holding your breath will concern your dog and in return raise his stress level.

I think you know what it’s like when you are relaxed and a friend either talks you into a level of stress or because of their body language and tone of voice you begin to become stressed yourself.

Stay aware of your body as it will gauge your stress level.

7. Lack of Reinforcement of What You Want

When students first start training with me, I have them bring a lot of food. I share with them that they need to view their food as money. Every time the dog does exactly what we want, we put a “coin” in the bank account of that behavior. The more money we put in that account of behavior, the stronger the behavior will be. Once your bank account is strong and built you don’t have to continue adding as much money, it’s established and now bringing in interest for you.

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Once you’ve established a strong behavior with your dog you will then randomly reinforce with food or other things. There must be a significant amount of time where the behavior is reinforced for you to see the behavior that you want. To learn more about reinforcement check out my blog “Food, Money, and Motivation.

8. Inability to Focus

Many times I hear people talk about their lack of leadership because their dog doesn’t focus when on walks. They are frustrated because their dog doesn’t listen at all when outside, but he does inside. A simple reason for this is because the environment is so rich, stimulating, or stressful that he honestly cannot focus on you. He needs more training to teach him the ability to use his own body to calm himself and think through his excitability.

So for a moment let’s imagine that I go bungee jumping (this would only happen in our imaginations, by the way). While the professionals are suiting me and a friend up for this crazy event, my friend is sharing with me all about the date she had the previous night.  I can almost guarantee that although I would have loved to hear about her experience I wouldn’t remember anything from that conversation. My adrenal glands would be in overdrive and my mind would be stuck on the fact that I was about to jump off a bridge. It wasn’t that I didn’t want to listen to my dear friend; I really wanted to hear about her life, but wasn’t able to in that moment.

In my book Control On Leash I wrote a Protocol for Focus and Relaxation that will help. For a limited time this protocol will be available for free. Click here for protocol.

9. Because You Reinforced What You Didn’t Want

“But once she gets to the person she stops pulling.” Oh, if I could earn a $1 every time I heard this comment!!  My immediate thought is, “Um, yes, it worked.” This behavior served your dog and now you have just reinforced the dog pulling to something she wanted which means it is more likely to occur.

Dog wants to get to person –> pulls on leash to person –> owner follows –> Dog greets person (reinforced for pulling)

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BLOG WRITTEN BY MICHELLE HUNTTING

BUILDING THE BRIDGE OF COMMUNICATION BETWEEN DOG AND PET GUARDIAN.

COME CHECK OUT MY YOUTUBE CHANNEL

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