The puppy and the cold weather

Well 2020 started out really nice, I was on the beach barefoot for a few days there. These days we are back to typical January weather, wet and cold. I hate the cold weather, one day when I have made all the money, I’ll be a snowbird and winter in sunny Florida. (We can dream, right!) Until then I need to work dogs in every season.

So how do I get through to March when the sun comes back, and I am not complaining about my bones being cold? First, I make a training plan for the psycho puppy, then I fill in the gaps with Brain Games!

Puppy shredded toy

Brain Games for the win

Seriously a cardboard box has saved my sanity more often than I want to admit! Those really cold rainy days create more of a mess in my house than I truly want to clean up but its totally worth it.

So what are these brain games and why do they work. Otherwise known as Enrichment, these activities tap into the dogs genetic makeup, and satisfy many of those areas that dogs still crave. This is very popular in zoo communities because zookeepers want the animals to use as much of their natural behavior as possible. Our dogs are no different. Our world is quite different from theirs and they do a fabulous job of figuring stuff out. Why not give them some freedom to be a dog for a bit!

For example, dogs are scavengers, and like to dig and shred their food. If they were digging their dinner bowl, we would get pretty mad. What about a box full of toilet paper tubes with kibbles in it?

Sniffing. Check.

Digging. Check.

Shredding. Check.

Three doggy behaviors checked off in one activity. February is a cold one so we are hosting a month long enrichment party on the Facebook Page. Check us out each day to see how we are playing with our dogs. Want to follow along with us? Grab our enrichment e-book here with a calendar of ideas to keep your dog satisfied all month long.

I am not against exercise

I want to clarify something from a previous post. If you would like to read that post first, you can find the link here: I don’t walk my dogs.

The most frequent time that I tell my clients to stop walking their dogs is when they are reacting to stuff outside. This means jumping and barking at things that seem benign to us, like dogs, people, or inflatable halloween decorations.

I promise that if your dog was enjoying his walk, he would not be throwing a fit every time they saw stuff when on a walk. For these clients, while we are working through our behavior modification program, their instructions are not to walk your dog in areas where they can react to things. Find a giant field where you can see things coming and get your dog out of the situation before they explode. Around the Hampton Roads area, that might mean taking a trip to Smithfield or another space, where you might have to drive to get there. If you are not willing to take the drive, then don’t walk your dog.

Another situation that I have recommended this is for dogs who get themselves so worked up while on walks, they start to jump at their owners and bite them. We need to teach your dog how to cope with the environment before we start walking into the unexpected.

For both of these types of dogs, practice makes perfect. Everytime you unexpectedly expose your dog to a trigger that causes the behavior we are trying to stop, it’s one more episode that we have to reteach. Dogs who are continuously walked in the space that holds the triggers, take so much longer to work through their behavior modification programs than dogs who can take the break from walking in the neighborhood

However, healthy dogs still need 30 minutes of cardiovascular activity each day. This can be done without walking! Let’s take a look at some of my favorite exercise that does not require a leash.

  • Chasing food. Literally throw kibbles across the house.
  • Chasing a ball. If your dog is into toys, fetch is a great game to get that heartrate up. I don’t love my dog sliding after the ball so I teach them to go out and then I throw the ball.
  • Flirt pole. Wear your dog out in record time. There is no way your dog can do 30 mins of flirt pole at one time!
  • Play tag. Poke their rump and run. After a few rounds your dog will be totally into it. You get your cardio exercise in too!
  • Strength training. All the dogs have a workout plan. It takes me about 15 minutes to work 3 dogs, and Cargo is still learning that sometimes it’s not her turn.

In the last week, Opie and Cargo both went to the farm for a barn hunt lesson where, they were on leashes walking around the farm. Cargo went to agility class, the brewery, and to the park for a walk with a doggy friend on a leash. Pixie went nowhere on a leash because she hates it. I want you to consider, if your walks are stressing you out, you might be stressing out your dog too! Not walking down the street is okay and doesn’t make you a terrible dog owner!

Give some of these options a try the next time you want to go for a neighborhood walk. You might notice your dog is actually better behaved after a break. Change is good for everyone.

Holiday Shopping Guide

Tis the season for Christmas shopping! For those of you that may not know me, I’m Keri and my dogs are Nala and Conway, plus, whatever foster we have at the time. 

Follow us on Instagram (@myperfectpitties) We also model for a few shops. Here are a few of our favorites for this holiday season:

1. 4 Mutts and Co- We’ve been modeling for this shop for about 2 years. They’re handmade collars, based in Canada. You can use code AZUL20 to save 20% on your order. Plus, you get free shipping with purchase of two or more items!

2. Naked Beasts Snacks– We stumbled across this awesome shop this year. They’re smaller now, but are in the process of expanding. They have air dried treats, a process that leaves majority of the nutrients! Nala’s favorite are the shrimp! You can use code Thankyou10 to save on your order!

3. G Stop Y Bowtie– This awesome shop donates 50% of their proceeds towards saving the dogs in the Yulin Meat Festival. Their quality is amazing! We prefer the “party for two” style bows as pictured below. Use code SHOPSMALL for 20% off your order!

4. Luvabullz and Co– This amazing shop makes edits of your pet that can be put on stickers, hoodies, bags, and more! They help educate people on the benefits of adopting senior dogs and leashing your dog while in public. They also use positive reinforcement training for their own dogs! So far, we’ve had an edit made of two of our dogs. Then, we had stickers and a hoodie made with the image on them! Use the code FREESHIP for free shipping on your order!

*You must to purchase an edit first, before ordering anything with the edit on it

5. Furr-bulous – I recently found this shop. They do harnesses, bandana collars, matching pajamas for you and your dog and more! They are donating a portion of their sales to our favorite bully rescue, BARC for the month of December. Use the code PITTIES15 to save and donate!

I threaten to sell my dogs to the gypsies.

In the last week I have threatened to give Cargo back to her breeder twice, drop Pixie off at the BARC shed for adoption, and send Opie to live with his Nan in Northern Virginia.

Some days are just frustrating. Days with dogs are no different. Yes, even as a dog trainer I get frustrated with them. I am also a business owner, a manager, a maid, a wife, and a daughter. I am allowed to be frustrated when they just won’t stop barking at the neighbor getting in his car 500 yards away. We all feel this way at some point.

If you don’t, you are lying!

What do we do about it when we feel like this. I will walk you through what I do to get to the other side with all my dogs at home and alive.

Is this something I am getting frustrated with often?

Be grateful for any behaviors your dog came pre programmed with. I have had to train Cargo to do everything. I got nothing wired in except to bite things (a Malinois trait), and work (also Malinois).

Getting in the crate? Never seen one before in my life. Putting on a harness or leash? Going to eat her while she walks. Wearing her pants when shes in season? Definitely not going to happen, although the temper tantrums are ridiculous. (Don’t get a malinois)

If I am finding myself frustrated with these things often, then I develop a training plan to relieve some of that frustration for myself. Learning to wear a leash is not as fun or sexy to train as a down stays or agility skills, but still needs to be done. If I find myself fighting with my dogs over something they have to do, I will make sure I come up with a plan to train an alternative behavior that works for both of us, or help work through the pain point.

“Why does my dog need my attention right now?”

I go through the mental checklist, starting with the most obvious.

  • Is there water in the bowl?
  • Have they had food?
  • Do they need to go out?
  • Do they have something to chew?
  • Have we trained today?
  • Is it Cargo’s nap time?
Can I sit down and enjoy this or should I walk the dog first?

I try to make sure all these things are complete before I sit down to get some work done. They get breakfast, then I fill the water dishes while the coffee is steeping. I get my coffee and sit with puppy for a bit. (She likes pets in the morning. That was also trained.) After about 30 mins, she’s ready to go back in her kennel for a nap and I get about an hour of work done. When she goes out, I play with her and Opie for awhile, then sit back at my computer to get some more things done.

Help the dogs meet their needs without me

Some days the dogs need more. Those puzzle toys are not for one time play or just when you feel like it. We do puzzles every day! Opie got to play with the snoop the other night and he was passed out 5 minutes after. That freezer full of Kongs and bones is worth it for those moments that I just need peace!

Planning for peace seems like it would require and brain power that you don’t have. Believe me, the relief you feel when you can grab something premade, and entertain your dogs is so worth the prior planning.

Need some peace and quiet ideas? Keep an eye on The Freckled Paw facebook page. We have something fun coming up!

Another year, how did that happen?

Baby dog is 18 months old! Maybe not a baby dog anymore.

 When did January start?

How did we make it to 2019?

Can you believe I have been training your dogs for 5 years?

I have come a long way from those first few clients. (Y’all I am sorry! I am much better at this whole dog training, and listening thing these days!) Now I have two interns, Jon and Keri, who will help me move into the next phase of world domination.. uhh I mean this business I am building.

Moving on…

As I continue to teach them everything I know, and get them ready to take on their own clients, I am reminded that some things we just can’t rush. I have learned so much in the last 5 years about dogs, behavior, training techniques that it gets overwhelming. Then there is so much more to teach about the most important part of the equation, the people who love the dogs we teach, that I just cannot cover in the 300ish hours they are with me.

Some things you just have to learn little bits at a time. After awhile, it becomes clear and easy but to try to do it all at once just overwhelms everyone. Same with clients, sometimes I have to say the same thing a few times before people are ready to hear what I have to say. That’s okay, it’s how we all learn!

Why do we think that our dogs learn any differently?

Think about the last time you learned a new skill, or the worst, had to get a new cell phone! You didn’t have to think about where the apps were on the old phone, and the autocorrect knew what you really meant when you spelled something wrong. It takes some work to remember how to handle the new information thrown at you.

Why do we think that because our dog did one 6 week group class that they know everything they need to know about living with a different species, in a world that makes absolutely no sense to them?

Learning is a lifelong process, and we need to remember that the species we share our life with might need a little more practice or a little patience to make sure they are learning the right thing. Behavior doesn’t change overnight. It takes some time and consistency to reach the goals we have for ourselves and our pups.

So don’t get discouraged when Spot can’t sit in the vet’s office, just use it as information on how to help your pup a little bit more.

Is 2019 the year for you and your pup to live your best life?

Opal is old as dirt and living her best life. Retired

If you want to help your pup a bit more in 2019, sign up for our newsletter now. It’s a bit dormant at the moment, but as 2019 gets rolling, there will be plenty of new and improved training options for you and your pup. There is a free e-book that will help you and your pup live their best life. Tell me what you think of it!

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Until next time!