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Teach your dog to come EVERY time you call

Posted on: June 22nd, 2011 by

A dog with pet insurance comes when called.
By: Judy Luther
Certified Professional Dog Trainer
For Pets Best Insurance

The most important behavior you can teach your dog is to come when called. Coming when called is a life saving behavior that should never be taken lightly, and should always be reinforced with praise and/or a food reinforcer. By habitually posting dog training lessons on this pet insurance company’s page, it is my hope you will use these tips and work with your dog to make her the best she can be!

In this article I am going to teach you how to train your dog to come to an emergency recall. This type of recall is used when the dog MUST come immediately when you call him. It is used in emergency situations, such as when your dog is about to run into the street with a car approaching, or other life and death situations.

Before I explain the emergency recall, let’s talk about why some dogs don’t come in the first place. Many of my clients tell me their dogs used to come when called, but now, for some reason, have stopped coming when called. Most often this is because we use the “come” to have the dog do something he doesn’t want to do. We call our dogs to “come” inside while they are playing in the yard, stopping the fun. We ask our dogs to “come” for a bath or nail trim. We ask them to “come” and put them into their crate so we can leave for work, etc. Soon the dog starts equating the word “come” with something undesirable. Of course, they don’t want to come when something bad may happen. Many dog insurance companies, behaviorists, and veterinarians alike will tell you that if a dog equates “coming” with something unenjoyable, she will likely ignore your request.

So let’s get started. First you will want to find a reinforcer that your dog loves. My dogs will work for just about any food treat, but I bring out the big guns for practicing the emergency recall. Yes, this means a trip to the grocery store for roast beef, grilled chicken pieces, or even steak. Cut your treats into small pieces, you will be using a lot of treats to do this type of training, so you do not want to be stingy.

Next, you will pick a word you will use to call your dog for the emergency recall. My cue word is “here,” one of my trainer friends uses “now” a student of mine uses the word “yippeee”. Pick any cue word you would like, just make sure it is a word you can say quickly and loud enough for the dog to hear from a distance. You will not use the word “come” for this exercise. The emergence recall is for emergencies only not the more casual come when called.

You are now ready to teach your dog to come to your emergency recall cue word.

Start inside your house. Wait until your dog is walking towards you, say your cue word in a happy voice, and when your dog comes to you, start treating him. Continue treating for 30 seconds. You are conditioning your dog that the cue word means good things are going to happen, in this case, yummy treats.

You will repeat this exercise 3 times a day, every day. Only call your dog using the “emergency recall” cue word when you are 100% positive she is going to come to you. Remember: this cue word should not be used for a casual come. Start building some distance between you and your dog when you call her.

Next, try calling her from another room. Continue to practice calling your dog from various locations in your home. Do not take this exercise outside until you have it perfected inside your house.

When you move this exercise outside you should reduce the distance between you and your dog. You want to set your dog up to succeed. As you increase the difficulty of the behavior such as practicing outside with lots of distractions, you will reduce other criteria of the exercise. As the dog is succeeding with the emergency recall outside, you will increase the distance between you and your dog.

Once your dog is reliably coming to your emergency recall cue word, you can reduce the number of times you practice. I still like to practice this exercise at least once a day.

If your dog has trouble with any of the steps of this exercise, go back to where your dog was successful and continue to practice.

Your goal is for your dog to immediately run to you anytime you use the emergency recall cue word.

To recap the emergency recall
1) Choose an easy to remember and say cue word. Avoid the word come.
2) Use a treat your dog LOVES. Not just some old stale dog biscuit.
3) Until learned, say the cue word only when you know your dog will come to you 100% of the time.
4) Practice 3 times a day
5) When rewarding the come, treat (or reinforce) your dog with the yummy treats for 30 seconds.

This technique really will save your dog’s life. One of my class room students recently shared a success story. While my student was in his front yard with his dog – off leash, the kids across the street came out to play. The dog (one of the doodle breeds) decided to say hello to the kids. “Doodle’s” owner could see a car coming down the street and his dog getting ready to cross. The doodle’s owner said he fumbled for his cue word for what seemed like an hour, then yelled in the happiest voice he could muster “BACK”! (as in come “back”). Of course Mr. Doodle turned and trotted happily back to his owner. Tail wagging the whole time. Oblivious to what could have happened.

Pet Health: Fun and Fit

Posted on: June 22nd, 2011 by

A dog with pet insurance and his owner fish together.

One of the best ways to keep pet health in top shape, is to plan pet activities based on things you and your pet can enjoy together. Most healthy pets need lots of exercise to stay in good shape.

For cats, engaging in active play with various toys and games can help keep them mentally and emotionally stable as well as providing an outlet for excess energy. Dogs often enjoy a friendly romp in the back yard or impromptu games of fetch and catch– especially during the summer months, however, planning more elaborate pet activities can be fun for both you and your pet.

Dog Vacations
While many hotels accept pets on vacation trips, a few companies offer vacations designed specifically for dogs and owners to enjoy together. One example is Canine Club Getaway in Lake George, New York. This dog-centric vacation spot features organized dog sports classes with Frisbee, flyball, and three levels of agility training. Swimming sessions are also available and owners can attend relevant seminars on dog insurance, health and nutrition, all in a resort atmosphere that caters to dogs as well as humans.

New activities are in the works according to the owner and founder of Canine Club Getaway Janice Costaco, who stated that “Next year, we plan to incorporate Doga (doggie yoga) and possibly doggie Zumba into our class offerings!”

Dog Parks
For stay-cations closer to home, many communities now offer public dog parks for off-leash fun. While most pet health care experts recommend that cats be kept inside for their own safety, dogs can benefit greatly from supervised off-leash time at a public dog park.

Interacting with other dogs and owners can provide valuable socialization experience for younger dogs, while older dogs with established temperaments can simply enjoy the chance to run and play in a natural environment. Not all dogs react appropriately to off-leash time, however, so you’ll want to keep a close eye on your pet to ensure the safety of all parties.

Cat Towers
These innovative indoor structures offer cats the chance to climb, hide and pounce all inside their own home. Even the simplest towers can provide hours of exercise for cats who can use it as home base for their playtime activities. Also, having pet insurance for your cat will help ensure that they will be protected if any play time accidents occur. By engaging in active play with cats and kittens and incorporating the tower into these activities, you and your cat will enjoy playtime even more. Kitty condos can be a new experience every day by:

• hiding treats in and around it
• sprinkling it with catnip
• pointing a laser at it and watching the cats climb
• moving the tower from window to window

Regardless of which activities you choose, pet health care professionals agree that staying healthy and spending quality time with your pet is the best way to ensure years of happiness and friendship for both of you.

Texas Pet Insurance

Posted on: June 21st, 2011 by

A dog with Texas pet insurance licks a child.

Pet owners across the U.S. have the same concerns: Keeping their beloved companions happy, safe and healthy. With that in mind, cat and dog owners are opting for pet insurance.

And pet owners who live in Texas are no different. They want Texas pet insurance policies that are affordable, flexible and user-friendly, offering inclusive coverage that will give them peace of mind when it comes to their precious family members.

Visit Any Vet in Texas
If you live in Texas, you want to know that your dog or cat can visit any properly licensed veterinarian in any part of the state. Be sure to choose a pet health insurance plan that allows for that. Remember, you may be traveling to another part of Texas with your pet. If he had an injury or illness, you wouldn’t want to waste precious time finding a vet in that city that was approved to see your pet.

Texas pet owners want to be sure that their pets can receive emergency and specialist veterinary care in addition to just routine services administered by a generalist veterinarian. When shopping for Texas pet insurance, pet owners will want to make sure the plan they are considering covers these “special circumstances.”

Rising Cost of Vet Care
With medical advances being discovered every day in veterinary science, the fees for quality care are increasing. Some statistics reflect that fees for veterinarian care are doubling every 13 years! But with comprehensive, lower-cost pet insurance coverage, you can expect to benefit from these advances when your furry family member needs care. Texas pet parents are choosing to offset the costs of pet care with their pet insurance plans.

Being Good Pet Parents
Texas, like other Southern states, has special concerns for pets. Hot climates, large insect populations and dangerous wildlife are just some of the Texas-specific threats to pets that Texans must be vigilant about.

Indemnity Insurance
Unlike most current health insurance plans for people, pet insurance plans are called “indemnity.” What this means is that you pay for the vet’s services up front and then submit claims to get reimbursed later.

Each state has different regulations regarding insurance. Pet insurance companies must comply by each state’s Department of Insurance guidelines. When choosing a plan to cover your pet, be sure to find out if there are particular aspects of pet insurance policies that are specific to Texas pets.

Can you dig it?

Posted on: June 20th, 2011 by

Dog insurance enthusiast and author Arden Moore's book.

Oh Behave!
Q&A with Pet Expert Arden Moore
For Pets Best Insurance

Q. My 5-year-old German shepherd-Lab mix has completely destroyed my garden with her digging. I ensure she’s healthy, happy and she even has pet insurance, but my yard looks like a minefield. I don’t know what to do to stop her. As soon as my husband fills up the holes, Greta digs them up again. Why is she is obsessed with digging, and how can we make her stop?

A. Many dogs love to dig in soft dirt or sand. I’m sure you’ve noticed how much Greta seems to be enjoying herself when she digs. In the wild, wolves and other canids dig to create dens for their pups or to hide food. The instinct to dig remains strong in many domestic dogs who bury their bones or toys and scratch out cool places to rest during the summertime heat. Some dogs dig to burn off energy and relieve boredom. Unfortunately, digging, while not harmful to the dog, is destructive behavior that leaves owners frustrated and dogs in big trouble.

Before you can fix Greta’s digging problem, you need to understand her motivation for digging. Does she spend a lot of time alone in your backyard? Do you take the time to play with her? Is she exercised regularly? Both German Shepherds and Labrador Retrievers are high-energy breeds who need fun and mentally stimulating activities to help wear them out. If you don’t provide something for a dog like Greta to do, she will make her own fun, most likely in a way you don’t appreciate. This is probably why she has taken up digging.

Digging can be a difficult habit to break, because dogs find it so enjoyable. The key to fixing this problem is to give Greta less destructive ways to burn off her energy while also discouraging her from tearing up the yard.

Start by protecting your garden. One method is to put large rocks on top of the areas where Greta likes to dig. Fill in the holes that Greta has dug, and place rocks on top of these spots. Dogs usually prefer soft dirt to carry out their excavations, so for the larger areas, try spreading chicken wire out and staking it down while she learns to redirect her energy. Sprinkling or spraying the area with red pepper flakes, citronella or pennyroyal oil, or a commercial dog repellent will make the area less attractive to Greta. Trimming her nails may not curb the digging tendency, but could lessen the damage, so give her regular pedicures.

If Greta isn’t already trained, enroll her in an obedience class. Most dogs need a job to do to occupy their minds, and both German Shepherds and Labs have a strong work ethic as well as abundant energy. Teaching Greta obedience will give you control over her and give her something to think about besides digging, as well as building a closer relationship with you. If you have time, consider getting involved in a fun competitive canine activity like agility or fly ball. Greta would no doubt love to get involved in one of these high-energy sports.

It is very important that you properly channel Greta’s excess energy. If you need to leave her outside in the yard while you are away for a few hours during the day, take her for a long walk or play a vigorous game of fetch with her in the morning to tire her out. Provide her with alternatives to digging, such as a hollow, hard rubber toy stuffed with treats, to occupy her time. Because she is a high-energy dog, she may need a diversion in the middle of the day to distract her from digging.

Hire a professional pet sitter or dog walker, or ask a dog-savvy neighbor to come and play ball with Greta or take her on a long walk during the day. Relieving her boredom and wearing her out physically will go a long way toward discouraging her digging instincts.

In addition to the above, you might compromise a bit and give Greta her own turf to tear up. Try taking a plastic kiddy pool (available at major discount chain stores for around $10), filling it with dirt, and hiding a few dog biscuits and toys for Greta to sniff out and discover through digging. If you catch her digging on your turf, clap our hands or do something to startle her so that she will stop digging and look at you. Then direct her to where she is allowed to dig. If you praise her for digging appropriately in her own patch of real estate filled with canine goodies, she will be more likely to ignore the rest of your yard.

Confounded by your canine? Frustrated by your feline? Relax. Pet expert Arden Moore is here to deliver the real truth about cats, dogs…and you with her column appropriately called, “Oh Behave!”

Pet insurance lover and pet author Arden Moore.

On a regular basis, Arden will unleash excerpts from her two award-winning books, The Dog Behavior Answer Book (named the top training and behavior book by the Dog Writers Association of America) and The Cat Behavior Answer Book (named the top training and behavior book by the Cat Writers Association). Learn more about Moore, who hosts the “Oh Behave!” show on Pet Life Radio www.petliferadio.com – the No. 1 pet podcast in the world — by visiting her Four Legged Life website (www.fourleggedlife.com).

Cat Scratch Fever

Posted on: June 17th, 2011 by

Pet insurance advocator Arden Moore's book cover.
Oh Behave!
Q&A with Pet Expert Arden Moore
For Pets Best Insurance

Q. I’ve always had fish and turtles, and finally decided that I was ready for a more complicated, interactive pet. After researching pet insurance, I recently adopted a big orange tabby from the local animal shelter. Gus is great, but he loves to claw and tear at his scratching post. Luckily for me, he leaves my couch alone. Why does he have this need to scratch?

A. Bravo! With no disrespect intended for the fish and turtles in your life, I am happy that you are ready and willing to enjoy the perks of feline companionship. And I am happy to hear that you adopted from a local shelter because you have given a homeless cat another chance.

Scratching, as you have discovered, is one of the signature actions of cats. Even declawed cats will perform scratching gestures. You are lucky that Gus adores his scratching post and not your expensive sofa. Cats scratch for a couple of reasons. One reason is to keep their claws in shape – what I call a “peti-cure.” Those scratching sessions remove the dead outer nail covering and hone the claw’s shape and sharpness, keeping Gus prepared to defend himself or to pounce on a passing toy mouse.

However, the paramount reason cats scratch has to do with turf talk. When Gus scratches, he is leaving a feline business card, if you will. He not only leaves physical marks, but also the scratching action releases a scent from the sebaceous glands in his paws that communicates to other cats – and to himself – that this is his domain.

You mention that you are grateful he only scratches the cat post, but I’ll bet if you pay close attention, you will discover that old Gus is pawing and rubbing his face to leave his scents on doorways and wall corners. It appears as a dirty, oily discoloration on the walls and doors. This is another form of feline scent marking.

Confounded by your canine? Frustrated by your feline? Relax. Pet expert Arden Moore is here to deliver the real truth about cats, dogs…and you with her column appropriately called, “Oh Behave!”

Author Arden Moore and her pets with pet insurance.

On a regular basis, Arden will unleash excerpts from her two award-winning books, The Dog Behavior Answer Book (named the top training and behavior book by the Dog Writers Association of America) and The Cat Behavior Answer Book (named the top training and behavior book by the Cat Writers Association). Learn more about Moore, who hosts the “Oh Behave!” show on Pet Life Radio www.petliferadio.com – the No. 1 pet podcast in the world — by visiting her Four Legged Life website (www.fourleggedlife.com).