Teaching a Dog how to Swim

Kids love to swim and so do dogs. Teaching your dog how to swim can be fun and rewarding. When your dog learns to swim they can cool themselves off on a hot summer day. It is one of the best forms of exercise. In fact it’s the perfect way to rehabilitate your dog after an injury. It is also great fun swimming with your dog, but be warned they can scratch you.

Labrador and Golden Retrievers have an inbred instinct to love water. In fact I caution new puppy owners that they have to watch how much water the puppy drinks. If a Labrador can’t swim in it, they will try to drink up the whole bowl and if there is nothing in the bowl then they will carry it around. Understand that just because they love water doesn’t mean that they know how to swim.

Swimming is Fun

Swimming is Fun

Over the years I have taught many dogs to swim. Some dogs just jump in and start swimming like a pro. Others may jump in, but swim almost vertical. They don’t go very fast and do a lot of splashing. A vast majority of dogs can’t get beyond the fear of not having a bottom under their feet and some can’t even entertain the idea of getting their feet wet. You might get them to wade, but swim no way. I had one Irish Wolfhound that would swim. All the rest would only wade up to their chests. On the other hand they all loved to lie down in a little kiddy pool.

Teaching a Dog to Swim in a Lake
The best way to teach a dog to swim is to take them to a lake were they can walk in and the water gradually gets deeper. The old fashion idea of throwing them in and the dog either sinks or swims can make a dog petrified of water. Also make sure that the water is not to cold. If you live in states where lakes and ponds freeze in the winter than you need to wait until the lakes and ponds have warmed up. March is not a good time to start.

If the dog retrieves than start tossing a ball or a favorite floatable toy in the water. Make sure whatever you use is floatable. At first you toss the ball near the edge of the water so that the dog is just wading in to get the ball. Keep tossing the ball or toy a little further each time until the dog actually has to start swimming to get it. Some don’t even realize that they are swimming. Others stop going towards the ball as soon as their feet leave the bottom. For these dogs, get the ball back and keep throwing it in shallower water for a little longer. You might want to wear some high rubber boots in case you need to go in and get the toy. If possible you can attach a piece of string to the object that the dog retrieves. This will insure that you can get the object back. Don’t progress too quickly or else the dog might get discouraged and stop trying to retrieve the object. Also make sure you praise when the dog retrieves the object from the water.

The buddy system is another possibility. If you or a friend has a dog that already knows how to swim. Great! The dog that never swam before might very well follow the other dog in the water. There is only one word of caution for your more timid dogs. If the dog that swims, likes to make a big leap into the water. They could splash the other dog and scare them. Also make sure that both dogs know each other before hand.

For many of our Non-retrievers you may actually have to go in the water with them. Begin by walking in with the dog and then gently lifting them in the water. Make sure you support their chest. If you see that the dog is making the swimming motion then slowly move your hand away. If the dog starts to struggle than place your hand gently under them. Keep repeating this until the dog is actually swimming. It is best to stand on your dog’s side. Otherwise you might get scratched. You can also place a lifejacket on the dog to help them gain confidence. A lifejacket is a must when teaching many of your barreled chested dogs. Breeds like Pugs are one example. A lifejacket helps keep them buoyant, and allows them to learn that they have to kick off with their back legs. Otherwise they end up swimming vertically and will sink. I almost had to go in the water and rescue one Labrador the first time she went swimming. She jumped in and then kept going under water. She was literally going up and down in a vertical direction. Thank goodness just when I was about to get my feet wet. She started kicking out with her rear legs and started to swim.

If you don’t have a lake around you then by all means you can have them learn in a swimming pool, but my best suggestion is to go in the water with them. DON’T JUST PUSH THEM IN THE POOL. This may traumatize your dog to the point that they will never even go near water. A built in pool obviously works the best, because most of them have steps that gradually get deeper. Remember take your time. Teaching a dog to swim in an above ground pool is even harder. If they are small you can of course gently left them in the water. I have taught larger dogs to use an above ground pool, but it is much harder. I first had to teach the dog how to go up a ladder and then with a friend’s help we gently lifted the dog into a pool. In fact my Irish Wolfhound that would swim first learned in an above ground pool. He was 5 months old when we started teach him how to swim.

Some Caution Needs to be Taken
• Don’t have your dog wear a collar while swimming.
If your dog is swimming in a lake that has sticks or branches along the shores edge. Be warned! If your
dog is wearing a collar. The collar can get caught on a branch and the dog will be stuck out there.
• Your dog can injure themselves on sticks if they are big jumpers.
Once again if this is a stick pond and the dog makes this big entry leap. That stick can go right into them.
• Know what is in the water.
Unfortunately some ponds and lakes are full of hazards. Fish hooks, Broken Bottles, Rusted pipes etc.
• In states where there are alligators and poisonous snakes it might be better to stay out of the water.
• Wash your dog after it comes out of a swimming pool. The chlorine from the pool can cause skin irritations.
• If you are using a long line on your dog while they are swimming. Make sure that it won’t get caught on anything.

Once again getting a dog used to water and the pleasures of swimming has many benefits. That is why to me it is definitely worth taking the time to teach your dog how to swim. In fact I have had many clients want me to teach their dogs, such as, Carlos Guillen from the Detroit Tigers who wanted his Labrador to learn. This way when he went back to Venezuela the dog could swim in the ocean. Another client who wanted his dog to swim entered his dog in a Dock Dog competitions and won 2nd place.

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June 15, 2011 at 5:28 pm Leave a comment

Housebreaking a little Tea Cup Yorkshire Terrier

I am so Handsome

I am so Handsome!

Meet Pixel a very small 9 month old Tea Cup Yorkie. He is so sweet and would be perfectly content sitting in a person’s lap all day. I could just imagine taking him in a purse while I went shopping in downtown Rochester or Birmingham. It is hard to resist carrying him and I am pretty sure that he spends a lot of his time being held. This is one of the reason for some of Pixel’s problems. As I stated earlier when you leave him alone in the kitchen and he isn’t with you. He gets upset and pees. By peeing on the floor he figures his scent will bring you back to him. Sometimes dogs will pee when you aren’t in the room, because when they accidentally peed in front of you, they were corrected. So they either pee in a different room or when you are not in the room. Since you said he could have peed outside, you bring him in, leave the room and he pees. I would say it has to do more with the fear of abandonment.

So the plan for little Pixel’s rehabilitation is a threefold process.

1.     Build up his confidence by giving him structure and teach him some obedience exercises. This way he will fell secure when left alone.

I am sittin

2.     Teach him to ring a bell to inform you of his having to go potty.

3.     Socialize him using the obedience exercises, so that he is more assured of himself.

Pixels Training Program:

Pixel is very timid. Everything new for him is going to be fearful, so the training has to be slow and introduced in a positive way. This includes teaching him to ring the bell. If we just start ringing the bell the sound would probably scare him. For 2 days I had to lay the bell on the floor and let him get comfortable playing with the bell. After 2 days, I then hung the bell on the door and taught him to ring the bell.  It took 2 more days of constantly putting peanut butter on the bell for him to ring it. The good news is that with encouragement. He would ring the bell every time he was taken outside.

Day 1

I have to be real careful with a dog as small as Pixel. They can injure themselves very easily and if stressed, tend to get diarrhea right away.  We had our first session on introducing the bells and a worked on sit and sit stay. You must have taught him sit, but he didn’t seem to know stay.

Day 2 & 3

After one day of Pixel being at my house it was time to start training. We worked on him walking on a loose leash, sit stay and down. For loose leash walking he wouldn’t lunge ahead. In fact as is common with a lot of little dogs he would just lay down. I used the harness that you gave me and within a short period of time he was walking very well. We struggled a little with down. He would go down or least it looked like he was down. His front legs would be down and his rump would be on the ground, but his belly would be up in the air. He wasn’t really lying down. The bells also went from the floor to the door and we kept working with him touching the bell.

Day 4 & 5

He walked on a loose leash, would sit and hold a sit-stay at my house, so it was time to start socializing him. I took him to several pet stores and he did great.

Hanging out at the Pet Store

Hanging out at the Pet Store

At first he was a little over whelmed and would shake. Within 15 minutes and many people giving him treats. He actually started to go up to people. He was so cute walking through the store strutting his stuff. I don’t think there was one person in the store who didn’t try to pet him.

Pixel still has had no accidents in the house. He goes potty and poop outside almost immediately.  He still needs to be told to ring the bell in order to go outside. Nine out of ten times when told he would ring the bell. He was starting to get it.

Day 6 & 7

Still working with all obedience exercises and socializing him. The good news is this morning while he was playing. He rang the bell and when I took him outside he instantly went potty. I know it still is going to take some time for him to really figure out the bell. In fact the average is 2 to 3 weeks. Sometimes when he tries to ring the bell he barely touches it and the bell doesn’t make any sound. I also want to continue working on socializing him. The biggest challenge will be when he comes home and everyone wants to constantly carry him everywhere.

Can we go shopping

Can we go shopping!

Even I have this huge urge to take him in a purse and go shopping at Somerset Mall in Troy. Of course this won’t help him learn to walk on his own four paws.

April 19, 2011 at 7:17 pm Leave a comment

Boxer Mix Exhibits Fear Aggression & Dog Aggression

I'm so cute!

I'm so cute!

Lucy, Lucy, Lucy what a shame that you didn’t have a better start in life. Lucy is a 1 year old Boxer Mix that must have missed out on being socialized when she was a puppy. She is very fearful of new situations, noises, people and dogs. Unfortunately, lately she has been acting out on this fear by growling and snapping at people and other dogs.

Let's Play!

Let's Play!

Once she knows you and feels safe, Lucy is a love bug. She will even play very nicely with other dogs that she knows.She is a rescue dog that is currently being saved by Michigan Animal Adoption Network.

Lucy didn’t do very well at the last two pet adoptions. She was growling and lunging at other dogs and even snapped at one of the rescue volunteers. The big question is what to do with her? I had met Lucy several months ago at the kennel that has so graciously donated a place for her to stay. At that time she was about 11 months and just a wild puppy with no manners. I noticed that she was a little fearful, stubborn and just a wild untrained puppy. As stated earlier she is now acting aggressive in certain situations, so I decided to take put her into Bonny’s Bootcamp.

Day 1

Initially I didn’t introduce her to my dogs and simply reworked her obedience skills. Such as walking on a loose leash, Sit- stay etc.. She was a little rusty. That evening I took her to a group class that we hold at Pet Food and More in Clawson.

What a Good Girl!

What a Good Girl!

She did great. I even had my niece work with her. You would have never thought that she was aggressive. I will admit that she did appear to be nervous. Unfortunately, because of her fear and anxiety she developed diarrhea for the next two days. I didn’t take her anywhere, but kept doing little obedience exercises. Even though I really needed to keep taking her to new places, but I didn’t want to create any stress.

Day 2 & 3

Worked on her obedience, took her for a walk around the neighborhood and let her play with my dogs. She had a blast playing with my dogs and both of us enjoyed the long walk.

Day 4

No more diarrhea, so time to go places. I first took her to downtown Rochester and she did well.

Hanging Out in the City.

Hanging Out in the City.

The next stop was at a pet store and this is where Lucy fell apart. There were many people in the store and one of people who gave her treats really got into her face. It was a man and I have discovered that she is more nervous around men. When this person gave her treats, he put his face 2 inches from her and roughly started petting her. This person also had a beard. She got very nervous, stiffened and emitted a low growl. No lung, just a growl. The problem after that her anxiety level was at its max and the next person that tried to give her a treat. Well she growled and then air snapped. There was no point in trying to socialize her anymore today. We went home.

Day 5

In the morning I took her over Karen Biddinger’s house for a little work on doggy socialization with the dogs at Karen’s house. Lucy was first introduced to Kodi, a Caucasian Shepherd. She growled and tried to lung. After two corrections, she calmed down and would take cookies with him there. Next was to introduce her to Karen’s two Pit Bulls. We placed a muzzle on Lucy and introduced her one at a time. Initially she growled and once corrected was okay with them. While muzzled she was also introduced to a wonderful little poodle. Her first response was again to be nervous and to growl. After corrected she kept trying to get the poodle to play with her.

Good Job.

Good Job.

In the evening I took her to a group training class. Lucy did great. Her first response was again fear and when placed near the other dogs she emitted a very low growl. Again she was corrected and by the end of class wanted to play. She was also introduced to many people at Pet Food and More. Again at first she was fearful, but by the end of a half hour she was laying in peoples laps to get petted.

I have 2 more days to work with her and then I will take her on Saturday to the next pet adoption event at the pet store. It is a shame to see a dog so afraid of anything new. The sad part is that Lucy has so much potential. To see her interact with dogs or people that she gets to know is beautiful. Being a foster dog her life is literally on a thread. My concern is what will happen to her after the training, since she doesn’t have a foster home to go to. After the training Lucy will be going back to the kennel and even though it is a great facility. She will not have the opportunity to be continually exposed to new people, places and other dogs. Check out my blog in a couple of days to see how Lucy does at the pet adoption.

January 20, 2011 at 6:58 pm 3 comments

Miami and Angel the perfect Golden Retrievers

Angel is a 4 year old Golden Retriever and her sister is an 8 month old Golden Retriever. They are both wonderful sweet dogs. Angel is simply wonderful and is a great pleasure to work with. She learned what was expected of her very quickly. The problem is once she learned it. She then doesn’t want to do it anymore. I also need to work her around distraction and other dogs. Apparently she had issues with other dogs, but so far she has been great with every dog I have put her with.

Lets Play Catch!

Lets Play Catch!

This makes me think that the real problem was freedom frustration. Sometimes when a dog is on a leash they develop freedom frustration. This is a situation where, because the dog doesn’t know how to walk on a loose leash. They see a dog, try to pull towards the dog, can’t get to the dog and get frustrated. The owner pulls the dog back which tells the dog that other dogs are bad. Another situation is where a dog when on a leash, feels that they can’t run away, so they growl hoping that the other dog will leave them alone. Once Angel came to my house she learned very quickly how to walk on a loose leash. Because of this there hasn’t been any incidences of her getting agitated by another dog. She went to the pet store today and even though there were other dogs she did great.

 

Miami is another story. She is a sweet loving exuberant powerful Golden Retriever who wants everything her way. The good thing is that she is not very dominant. In fact she is very sensitive, but because she is so strong; Miami has learned to get whatever she wants. Some of her hyper behavior obviously has to do with the lack of exercise, but I also think some of it stems from her sensitivity. Being sensitive makes her get anxious when she doesn’t know what is expected of her or when she gets yelled at for doing something wrong.

 

See I can walk on a loose Leash

See I can walk on a loose Leash

The first 2 days we addressed teaching them to walk on a loose leash. Believe it or not even Miami was walking perfectly by my side within 2 minutes. The biggest challenge is finding distractions and having them still walk on a loose leash. From the notes about Angel it states that she lunges and barks at other dogs. So far even when I take her places and there are other dogs she has not exhibited this behavior.

 

The rest of the week was filled with working on sit, sit-stay, down and down stay. By the fourth day we started working on off-leash control. Initially I have been working them separately. They both are learning at different paces and it is important that they understand what is expected of them before we throw them together. Angel learns very quickly, but then thinks that she doesn’t have to do it anymore. Miami on the other hand is different. When we first started the training she thought that she just didn’t have to listen. She is very strong and would just refuse to do what was expected of her. Miami would throw a doggy temper tantrum, but in a passive way.

Can't I go Christmas Shopping!

Can't I go Christmas Shopping!

If she couldn’t drag you down the street she simply would lay down like a dead weight and refuses to move. Now because she is sensitive it is important to show her what is expected of her the first several times using cookies and after that if she refuses then reinforce. She is now doing awesome. Yesterday she went to downtown Royal Oak and she did very well. She has had several trips to the pet store and once again is doing great. Now this isn’t to say that when she sees people her tail isn’t wagging back and forth. No. After all you don’t want a robot, but she stays in the heal position. She no longer jumps on me or my husband. I’ve had 2 guests to my house and she didn’t jump on them either. Okay she tried, but once corrected didn’t jump any more throughout their visit. Teaching her place (go to your dog bed lay down and stay.) will help with this.

 

In Miami’s case the last phase is addressing her chewing issue. I believe her chewing stems from lack of exercise along with nervous behavior. It is like someone who is nervous starts biting their nails. This nervousness is from her looking for a leader to tell her minute by minute what to do.

Miami & Angel walking together

Miami & Angel walking together

Because she chews in your presence; we can rule out separation anxiety. The final phase of bootcamp is to work with teaching “Place” and working with them together on and off-leash.

December 11, 2010 at 2:08 pm Leave a comment

Training a Goldendoodle to stop stealing food

Cody has such a sweet expression when you look at him. Well that is if you can get him to stop jumping on you long enough to look. I showed up at Cody’s home on a nice Sunday morning. I was met by a blur of beautiful white fur that kept leaping at me. Than when he finally stopped jumping and I went to pet him, he submissive urinated on the floor. We than sat down and I got to hear Cody’s story. On a walk he either pulls the owner down the street or would lay down and refuses to move.

Someone say, "Lunch!"

Someone say, "LUNCH"

He had stolen the breakfast bagels off the counter that morning and they showed me a picture of him actually lying on the kitchen counter. When we went to put him in the crate it was like trying to catch a slippery fish. He wouldn’t come and when we finally caught him and tried to place him in the crate. Well, no sooner did we put him in the crate and before you could close the door. He twisted himself around and plowed out the door. Man was he quick. So it was decided to send him to bootcamp.

Cody has a wonderful family and deep down he is an absolutely sweet and very sensitive dog.  The problem is he knows he is stronger and bigger than most of his owners and uses this to get his way.  He knows he can’t mess with Dad, because Dad is strong enough to make Cody mind. Dad also knows that he is not going to hurt Cody’s feelings by making him listen.  This is not the case with the rest of the family. Even though Cody is still a puppy and is only grown to half of the size he will be. He is big and strong enough to throw his weight around. There is no way that Mom or the kids can physically make him do anything. My goal is to teach Cody that throwing his weight around is useless whether it is choosing not to follow on a leash, pulling on the leash or refusing to go into the crate. This needs to be so ingrained, so that he will listen to even the smallest member of the family. Of course addressing the stealing or counter surfing is a must.

As always the very first day of bootcamp is letting him get to know his surroundings followed by a couple of sessions working on getting him to walk on a loose leash.

Let's Play!

Let's Play!

He did great. As stated earlier, Cody is very smart and soon figured out he had no choice but to walk on a loose leash. He enjoyed getting to meet my dogs and thought Fireball was kinda cute.

On Day two and three we worked on more loose leash walking. Not just working outside, but also up and down stairs. He occasionally forgets himself and needs to be corrected.

Cody & Fire in School

Cody & Fire in School

The biggest thing that he does is just refuse to move. As stated in other blogs that this is just a passive aggressive way of not wanting to listen to us. We also addressed his charging out of the crate and worked all day long on making him stay in the crate with the door open or when he was told “IN”. He would go in the crate. He is now doing this.

Tomorrow I will address the counter surfing or stealing. I’ll keep you posted and let you know the progress.

November 17, 2010 at 9:40 pm 2 comments

Casey Is On Her Way To Become A Seizure Response Dog


Casey is destined to serve a special duty to her owner and that is to inform him of an impeding seizure.  In reality Service dogs are born with a certain temperament and personality. But her owners love her and are willing to do whatever it takes to make it work. Casey is 10 months old and is all puppy.

Can we Play?

Can we Play?

She is quite active, but has more of a nervous hyper temperament and gets startled easily. She is very manipulative and knows how to get what she wants. One of the games that Casey likes to play is to race around the yard and do a full nelson on the owner’s poor Mom. She jumps on guests and sometimes when you try to make her do something she will roll on her belly as she kicks out her feet in all different directions. Oh and I almost forgot about getting car sick. Which can be a problem if she is supposed to travel with her owner all the time.

 

The actual training to be a seizure response dog will be done by a certified Service Dog Trainer provided she passes the initial evaluation. A seizure response dog requires special training and has to have the right personality. There have been many cases where a dog has actually bitten the person having a seizure.

 

The major reasons that Casey went to bootcamp is to address the jumping, nervous hyper behavior and to socialize her so that she isn’t so fearful about her surroundings.  Even when she sits still it seems like her head and eyes are swinging back and forth and her eyes show how nervous she is.

 

The first few training sessions were just for brushing up on her obedience. I worked on walking on a loose leash, sit, sit-stay, down & come. By the afternoon of the second day she was working at a level that would allow me to start taking her places.

See How Good I Can Be.

See How Good I Can Be.

Now working on the jumping is 24/7. Every time she got out of the crate, running around outside and even a little in the house, she was ready to jump and I was ready to correct. The good news is that her jumping is getting less and less frequent. Once again her jumping is a way to control the situation. If she doesn’t like what you are doing she jumps, if she doesn’t want to do an exercise she jumps and if she is overly excited she jumps.

 

After the first two days it was time to start socializing her. Shyness can be expressed several different ways. The most common is that a dog will tuck their tail under their legs with ears down and not make any eye contact. They may try to move away when someone approaches. Another way is a dog that really wants to say HI, but is afraid or not sure of how to act. Their tail may wag, but as soon as someone goes to pet them. The dog will turn into a mop. They will suddenly flop down, wiggle all over the place and perhaps submissive urinate. The head will toss back and forth and try to avoid eye contact. This was Casey’s style. So it was essential that she be socialized in a controlled setting.

 

Our first trips were to different pet stores. The environment at a pet store will have lots of distractions, but will also be quieter and not as many people. The good news is that by the end of the visit to the second store, she was calming down and not so nervous. The next phase was to take her to the city. I took her to  Royal Oak and Birmingham.

Casey in Royal Oak

Casey in Royal Oak

These would be short jaunts in the car which will let her get used to driving in a car. There was only one time that she got sick and that was actually the second time I took her anywhere. I am glad to say that I am seeing an improvement each time we go.  Today my plan is to take her to Rochester. The drive will be the longest she went on and it is my hope that she doesn’t get sick. She is improving each day and I have high hopes that she will be fine.

 

 

 

November 9, 2010 at 2:15 pm Leave a comment

Jade makes a homerun in downtown Royal Oak

Jade is a beautiful 5 month old yellow Labrador Retriever who is owned by Carlos Guillen of the Detroit Tigers. Jade is your typical Labrador puppy full of energy, gets distracted easily and just wants to play. She is very mouthy, will jump and counter surf, but on the good side she is very sensitive. Another problem is that she is a little cautious of new things. Jade is a prime example of why it is so important to socialize your young puppies.

Just Hanging Out

Just Hanging Out

She has been in boot camp for four days now and besides training. I am working on socializing and desensitizing her to people, places, things and noises. She is also very cautious of new dogs and it will be very important to expose her to many nice dogs.

The training has been going well. She does an excellent sit-stay,

Jade in Royal Oak

Jade in Royal Oak

walks well on a leash with mild distractions, and does down, but struggles with down-stay. Don’t worry, by the time she goes home she will have a much better handle on the down-stay. Today was her first big trip to the city. We went to downtown Royal Oak to work around the people. She did great.  I thought she might be nervous, because the first time I took her to the pet store “Pet Food & More.” She was a little nervous, but after about 10 minutes she acted like she owned the store. This is normal for cautious dogs, so I figured that she would do the same thing in Royal Oak. Not at all, as soon as she jumped out of the vehicle her tail was wagging and she showed no signs of apprehension. In fact initially she was very distracted and wanted to investigate everything and say hello to everybody she saw. Within a few minutes I was able to get her focusing and start working on her obedience. She walked perfectly past people.

Can We Walk to Tiger Stadium

Can We Walk to Tiger Stadium

Okay her tail was wagging so hard that her body was twisting back and forth, but she stayed by my side. If I placed her in a sit-stay she would hold that position even if people walked past. I am also glad to say that she had the opportunity to be a therapy dog. There was a lady in a wheelchair and she greeted the lady making her smile. Tomorrow we will go to downtown Birmingham and work her amongst these busy city streets. I’ll keep you posted.

September 22, 2010 at 3:26 pm Leave a comment

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