Our almost ‘Wordless’ Wednedsay
You don’t need to defend
You don’t need to prove
You just need to BE.
We packed up our stuff and I walked Lola outside to the car, both of our feet crunching down the ice and snow in the parking lot. She hopped in the back and I got in the front seat. I turned on the engine and just sat there for a minute, thinking, pondering. I was disappointed. I was somewhat disappointed in myself and in Lola. Were my expectations of her too high? How come she did not listen as well as I thought she would? What went wrong? How could it have been different? I thought I had done a great job of exposing her to different situations and settings. Is it my fault for even bringing her to this event, was I being selfish?
Which brought me to the question I was asking myself, “Can a dog be too food motivated”?
Earlier that month, I had brought Lola to an audition. A dog modeling audition to be exact (more on how we got into that will be brought up in another post). I thought to myself, “How cool is this, it seems unreal”?! I was excited and I thought it was worth a shot, the experience can’t hurt and what the heck…it’s not like she’ll be picked anways.
The audition went great. Lola sat there like the little model she was for the (short) moment and wasn’t bothered one bit by the bright flash, equipment and people surrounding her. I only had to correct her once when she broke her stay, but overall she rocked it. I was so proud of her. All the ‘sit-stays’ and ‘down-stays’ we have been practicing were paying off.
Three weeks later I received the phone call – Lola was chosen.
They wanted LOLA for the photo shoot! My heart raced with joy and excitement.
I raced to pick up Lola, she jumped in the back of the car and drove up to the photo studio. The setup was very familiar to the one from the audition a few short weeks ago, only this time it was for real.
We arrived at the large, warehouse-type studio and waited for a short period of time before it was our turn. Lola was doing fine and was sitting calmly next to me. Since the shoot was for dog costumes, we tried a costume on her to make sure it was the right size. Everything was going fine. I had my training treats and she was staying focused. I expected her actions to follow our previous experience at the audition.
Once it was our turn, I was told to stand off to the side and the photographer was the one handling her (may have also contributed). They then brought out HAM and CHEESE! I’m sure Lola was thinking, “Wow! This is awesome.”. And then everything went down hill. She started losing focus, trying to sniff out that bowl of ham and became very anxious to receive the reward. She held her ‘sit-stay’ for about a minute and then began to lose focus yet again, becoming a little too interested in that strong aroma coming out of that bowl! At one point, she even ran off the set and over to a duffle bag. Well, this was a duffle bag chock-FULL of treats. This was not normal and I couldn’t help but continue to go back to my question.
So what exactly do I mean, “Can a dog be too food motivated?” Can a dog value food too much so that it begins to negatively effect your results when training. Can they begin to lose focus if they are too interested in the reward and not performing what you are asking of them?
My immediate response was yes. I believe that had the situation been handled different, the results would have followed. I kept going through what could have been done differently. I would have taken away the ham, cheese, and other meat that was left open in a bowl. I would’ve used lower value treats in either a plastic bag or treat bag like we typically do. However, I am not an expert so I consulted with Lori Nanan, one of the trainers behind Your Pit Bull and You and owner of La Dolce Doggie.
Here is what Lori had to say, along with tips if you have experienced a similar issue:
“If a dog appears to be overly-interested in getting to the food without having done the work to do so, it’s possible there are a few things going on. One is that the dog has learned that the preparation of food, the putting on of the bait pouch and the moving to a specific location predicts training is about to begin and so becomes very excited. To address this issue, you can teach the dog that all of those things predict nothing and vary your food prep time, wear your bait pouch all the time and vary the locations and times that you train.
Another is that the smell of the food is very salient and therefore overshadows everything else, so the dog is unable to focus on anything other than that smell. In that case, placing food in a baggie inside a bait pouch can be helpful, or use a food that is a little less stinky. Making sure that you don’t reach for the food until the dog has completed the behavior is important and this is where a clicker or marker word can be helpful, because they buy you time to get the primary reinforcer to the dog. You always want to be sure to mark (or click) and then reach for the food (or have a stash in your other hand behind your back.) The dog is generally in more of a rush to get to the reinforcer than we are, so by marking the behavior, we are letting the dog know that it’s coming.
If food is consistently an issue, one could “close the economy” to some extent, which means that the dog earns part of his daily rations via training. By doing this, the food becomes more valuable to the dog and this generally increases motivation. You can also audition other classes of reinforcers, such as toys, play and simple praise.” – Lori Nanan, CTC, CPDT-KA
I immediately associated what had happened with the smell overshadowing everything else going on. Lola was unable to focus on anything and quite frankly began to lose her mind over that smell.
Typically, I use this food reward continuum from Your Pit Bull and You below but I believe in this specific case, the treats used were actually too high of value.
Finally. A harness that rocks my socks off.
As you might have read in my collar debate post, we’ve had quite the experience with ‘tools’ for dealing with Lola’s pulling. This one pretty much solves all of our problems and this is what we used when teaching her how to walk on a loose leash. Until this harness (the Freedom No-Pull Harness from 2 Hounds Design), we had been making due with our other harness known as the Easy Walk. While it did help the pulling – if she became squirmy, she could squirm her way right out of it. Not to mention it was somewhat restricting when she was running, so it was really only good when we were walking. Then there was that time that she tried to jump into the back of the car…she almost landed on her head because of the loss of movement in the front shoulder/chest area.
But this harness literally solved all of our issues. It has an option for a front attaching leash (I typically walk Lola using the front attachment with a two or four-foot leather leash), or you can use the D-ring attached to the martingale style loop on the back of the harness (which tightens to a certain point when the dog pulls), OR attach a leash to both. Plus, it does not restrict her movement so she is even able to jump up in the back of the SUV and we even wear it to flyball class! The ‘handle’ on the back works perfect ;).
This is probably one of my favorite features – a velvety padded strap that goes under the belly and front legs. Your short haired dogs will thank you.
Another one of the features that you won’t find on other similar harnesses: the martingale loop which tightens to a certain point if the dog pulls.
I also love that you can get just about any color combination you want. I’m totally lovin’ the turquoise and silver one!
You can add this training leash to your order: it is a one-handle leash that has two straps: one attaching to the front of the harness and one to the back. I took Rio out on this and while it was nice to have it attaching to the front and back of the harness for additional control points, I found myself fiddling with the leashes, tightening up one while letting the other a little looser – so I ultimately ended up having to hold onto the actual leash part vs. the handle. (But that was just with Rio at a public event where he was very interested in everything going on around us.)
Just an added bonus, Alisha was awesome to work with and 2 Hounds Design is all about giving back by donating & raising money for adoption groups!
Check out the Freedom No-Pull Harness and while you’re at it…the amazing collar collection from 2 Hounds Design.
Okay, I think Lola is beginning to get a little bored of our mini photo shoot, hah.
*Make your own dog treats -> Small Batch Peanut Butter Banana Dog Biscuits!
I received this harness from 2 Hounds Design at no charge for my honest review of the product. All opinions are my own.
Bringing up the use of prong collars in a room full of dog lovers is pretty much like bringing up politics at Thanksgiving dinner…
I’m not even kidding. Have you ever seen the Facebook arguments that result from someone using a prong collar on their dog?
Here is what I’ve found with my experience using different types of dog collars with Lola and Rio.
Lola is a puller. A heavy puller. She acts like she is out to compete in a weight pull competition any time a leash is put on her. She is our feisty girl and is full of spunk!
I have found TWO options for Lola’s pulling (UPDATE: we have been working with a trainer and now only use the Freedom No-Pull Harness or the Easy Walk).
(If you use a prong and have had negativity directed towards you, try this prong collar cover to keep the haters at bay.)
Does Lola need more training, YES. Do I need more training, YES.
But we’ve had dog trainers walk Lola and they have suggested a prong. UPDATE: We’ve switched trainers and methods and now only use the Freedom Harness on our dogs.
I do believe is that every dog and handler is unique. If you’ve been told to use a prong, I understand – we’ve been there. Just please educate yourself and use it correctly. Never keep it on while playing, have a trainer or someone help you fit your dog with the collar, do not keep the prong collar tight unless you need to correct your dog and never slip the collar over their head. And please consider positive reinforcement methods – yes, it can be done, but it is NOT a quick fix. We’ve come so far with Lola and have made more progress using positive reinforcement than we would’ve ever made with the prong collar.
What type of collar do you use?
Do you have a solution for a heavy puller? Tell me about it in the comments below!
Have you read these posts?
How many times have we all heard this phrase, “It’s just a dog…”. I took this peom, originally believed to be written by Richard Biby and included it with a puppy photo of Lola.
From time to time, people tell me, “lighten up, it’s just a dog,”
or “that’s a lot of money for just a dog.”
They don’t understand the distance travelled, the time spent,
or the costs involved for “just a dog.”
Some of my proudest moments have come about with “just a dog.”
Many hours have passed and my only company was “just a dog,”
but I did not once feel slighted.
Some of my saddest moments have been brought aobut by
“just a dog,” and in those days of darkness, the gentle touch
of “just a dog” gave me comfort and reason to overcome the day.
If you, too, think it’s “just a dog,” then you probably understand
phrases like “just a friend,” “just a sunrise,” or “just a promise.”
“Just a dog” brings into my life the very essence of friendship,
trust, and pure unbridled joy.
“Just a dog” brings out the compassion and patience
that make me a better person.
Because of “just a dog” I will rise early, take long walks and look
longingly to the future.
So for me and folks like me, it’s not “just a dog”
but an embodiment of all the hopes and dreams of the future,
the fond memories of the past, and the pure joy of the moment.
“Just a dog” brings out what’s good in me and diverts my thoughts
away from myself and the worries of the day.
I hope that someday they can understand that its’ not “just a dog”
but the thing that gives me humanity and keeps me from being
“just a man” or “just a woman.”
So the next time you hear the phrase “just a dog,”
just smile, because they “just don’t understand.”
Our dogs, Lola and Rio are our lives and this poem couldn’t be any more fitting.
Have you read these posts?
Let’s face it, when it’s -15 degrees outside with a real feel of -38 F, ‘winter activities with your dog’ that require going outside are NOT happening.
Here are some INDOOR activities to do with your dog when it’s too cold to think about going outside!
This is a perfect time to work on training and teaching them tricks. It’s a little more difficult with two or more dogs, but what we do is take one dog into another room and then switch!
Here are a couple sites that I love going to for tips and training:
If you have a treadmill, you can also work with your dog on treadmill training for a great exercise program.
Try hiding their food somewhere in the house and make your dog search for it. Tip: you can leave a trail of food for them to make it easier! You can also use toys such as the Kong Wobbler. I’ll admit it, I’m guilty – frozen peanut butter Kongs.
These are great because they encourage your dog to figure out the puzzle, even if they get it within a few minutes. We have this one below and Lola and Rio LOVE it. The only problem is that Lola has began to eat the actual game. Lola’s motto: If you can’t easily get to it, just eat your way through whatever is in the way.
(we purchased this toy on Amazon here)
Our house gets a little crazy, but luckily we have a straight shot from the living room through the kitchen and into the dining room – this has now become Lola’s running path.
Lola absolutely loves this game and she totally rocks at it, to. She’s pretty much got us figured out. And it’s HILARIOUS when she finds us. She begins barking and jumping around, she gets so ticked that we hide from her! Rio on the other hand – he’s still a rookie and it takes him a few minutes to find us in fairly obvious places (i.e. behind a door). We’re slowly working up to more difficult hiding places, but Lola usually rats us out.
*If you’ve done all of that and still run out of ideas (or have a very high-strung dog, ex: Lola), many cities have indoor dog parks or doggy daycare providers (we go to Camp Bow Wow). Many of them even offer half-days for a minimal fee and they are guaranteed to be tuckered out after playing with all the other dogs!
*Oh and add sleeping to that list because let’s face it, we all like to cuddle up on these cold days.
(Check out my 5 Cold Weather Activities for Dogs on Victoria Stilwell’s site!)
Have you made my Small Batch Peanut Butter Banana + Flax Seed Dog Biscuits?!
And if you haven’t read my ’10 Signs You Shouldn’t Adopt a Pit Bull’, it comes highly recommended by moi.
1. You don’t like cuddling.
I grew up with shelties who didn’t even like sleeping on dog beds – they preferred the hard, cold floor. Umm, let’s just say these pibbles know what’s what when it comes to comfort.
2. You want to carry your dog around in your purse.
Not happening unless your purse = duffle bag and you = superman.
3. You think dog clothes are lame.
Let’s face it, unless you live in San Diego and never stray, your pit bull may need a coat. Maybe even boots and a hat, possibly a scarf if you live within 500 miles of me.
4. Your nose is stuck so high in the air (or somewhere else) and you think pit bulls are “mean” and “vicious”.
A certain meme comes to mind…
5. You don’t like proving people wrong.
I mean…you don’t? Really? Where are you from?
6. You only buy from a breeder (and they must be pure bred).
In which you would not be adopting and saving an innocent life. I’ve also had friends tell me that before they knew better, they always thought there was ‘something wrong’ with the dogs available for adoption through rescues and shelters. Hmmm….see #10.
7. You can resist faces like this…
8. You want a hunting dog.
I take that back. Lola would love to go squirrel hunting with you. And others have been trained to hunt.
9. You can resist butts like this…
That’s Lola’s boyfur-iend, yes, I said it. His name is Tater Tot, he is doing some awesome things in this world over here.
(That’s another Tator Tot, he’s really good at saving lives and stuff like that.)
1o. You judge based off of the negative things you’ve heard in the media and elsewhere vs. judging an animal as an individual. You aren’t willing to accept the most loving dogs I have ever met, which are all of the pit bulls you have seen in this post.
On a different note, you can also check out my recipe for Homemade Peanut Butter Banana Dog Treats.
You know you’re living in Minnesota when…it’s 40 degrees outside and it feels like a heat wave. We soaked up the much-needed sun today, especially after the holidays and all the craziness.
I was beginning to get slightly frustrated with both Lola and Rio lately.
It seems like Lola has been rebelling lately which has led us to taking away her roam-the-house-when-we’re-gone freedom. Last week she pulled a pack of gum off the counter and managed to eat half of it and the pieces of gum that she didn’t like, well…those were in the carpet. Then take that last sentence and repeat – she did the exact same thing a few days later. On Friday, while I was showering (which takes a whole 15 minutes) I thought to myself, “She’ll be fine, I’ll leave her out” and proceeded to bring Rio in the bathroom with me. Well, I come out only to find my notebook with a piece of paper shredded on the floor. That piece of paper was my blog post idea with all of my notes jotted down on it. Joy. And if that wasn’t enough, Lola helped me finish my cookies & cream smoothie from Caribou – dumb on my part for leaving it on the table, but sheesh. Just thankful there wasn’t enough chocolate consumed to make her sick. :/
Then on top of that, Rio peed in the house last week. Twice. I think Rio’s two accidents were just a freak occurrence because he has been potty trained since before his leg surgery, or at least we thought so.
But when it comes down to it, I think the real problem is simple. I am not the only one that is going stir crazy in the winter. The week before Christmas was insanely busy and bitter cold here. I was working 12 hour days and ‘A’ was the only one to really tend to the dogs. When it’s in the negative temps, the dogs can’t really stand to be outside for too long because their paws get too cold, too fast. Yes, we have booties for them but they are pretty worthless. So on those days we practice training inside and go outside for 5 minute spurts, lol. But what they really need is a good exercise!
But today, today was good. I took Rio out for his own walk and it was probably the best walk we have had. He stayed close to me, paid attention to me and we practiced “sit”, whenever a car would drive by or whenever I would stop walking. Then Lola and I went up to the park, played disc for a little bit and went on a short trek. She absolutely loved it. They are SO much better behaved once they are able to get out, run off that energy and just be dogs.
I will never underestimate the importance of physically exercising your pets. It’s good for their health and mind as well as yours! So not only for the new year…but for life – resolve to keep your dogs (and other pets) in good shape!
Here is a short video taken on my cell phone of Lola today:
psst – I’m on Bloglovin’ (a great way to keep track and follow your favorite blogs) and I’d love if you followed me!
Click here to enter your link and view this Linky Tools list…
I just couldn’t help myself after seeing all of the “I don’t always X, but when I do, Y” meme’s after the Dos Equis commercials…
I laugh out loud every time I see this one I put together for Lola. Partially because it sounds so conceited, but partially because it’s true. At least her mama thinks so, *wink, wink*.
Hope you get a laugh out of this and enjoy your weekend!
P.s. here’s another great one, for us crazy dog people.