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Clicker Training for Your Chihuahua

Recently, an entirely new training method has emerged and gained rapid popularity for training certain types of dogs like Chihuahuas. Using a clicker, and the old principles of conditioning and positive reinforcement, a pet can be trained to perform a task for a reward in a fairly brief period of time.

Each clicker training session makes use of positive reinforcement, wherein the dog is given some kind of treat as a reward for accomplishing the task. The clicker is a small handheld device made of metal, which is encased by a plastic coating. Each time the dog trainer depresses a strip of metal on the device, it generates a ptopping sound which sounds exactly the same every time it’s done.

The point of using the clicker in this training technique is to convey to the animal the precise moment when a task is to be performed, and if the dog reacts appropriately to the sound, positive reinforcement is provided in the way of a reward.

The thing that makes this technique so effective is that the clicker designates a precise moment in time, and it is exactly the same every time, so there is no possibility of misinterpretation or confusion on the animal’s part.

During ordinary training which involves human voice commands, this kind of misunderstanding is possible, because there can be minor little differences in tone and voice fluctuation which the dog could easily misunderstand. From the standpoint of the dog, it’s a very simple situation – the same clicker sound is made, a task must be performed, and a treat gets provided.

Controversy About the Training

Some detractors point out that this training method has some drawbacks, in that it won’t work if the trainer does not have a reward ready to give to the dog. If the clicker is not visible, or for some reason is inaudible, the dog will miss the signal entirely, and not realize that a task should be performed.

Other points of contention are that it may cause the dog to gain excessive weight, when sessions are extended to include multiple rewards for multiple tasks, which is, of course, common at the beginning of the training routine. It has also been pointed out that if the dog becomes too old to adequately hear the clicker, or of any other environmental distractions interfere, the signal could be missed, and the training would be voided.

 

A Chihuahua responds to a audible cue and looks up at its owner during a clicker training.

Chihuahuas are very good at picking up on audible and visual cues in their trainers making clicker training so effective.

Converting Clicker Training

One way to avoid some of the potential pitfalls of clicker training is to gradually phase out the clicker routine after it has been sufficiently learned by your pet so that a similar routine could be implemented with the same results. For instance, the clicker itself could be replaced by a simple hand gesture or a verbal cue, and the concept can even be extended to phase out the reward part of the training as well.

Granted, this will take a bit longer with most dogs, but it has been shown to be effective in situations where the dog first understood the concept of the clicker routine very well. Transitioning to cues other than the clicker are readily adopted by many dogs once they have an understanding of the process, although the absence of a reward may take a little longer to impress upon your trainee.

How the Training Works

Before you begin your first training session with the dog, you have to convey the notion that each time he hears the clicker sound, a reward will be forthcoming. This is the critical component of the training, and it is very important that the association is made in the dog’s mind.

It won’t take long before a dog quickly learns to perk up or react to the sound of a clicker, because it sounds like nothing else in nature, and it means something special is coming. In the first phase of training, the most important thing is to establish this association, where clicker sound equals treats.

In phase two of the training, the desired task needs to be introduced to your Chihuahua, and the first tasks that you choose should be things that your dog is likely to do anyway, such as laying down or sitting. When your dog successfully completes the task, immediately follow up with another click sound, and then a reward.

The reward aspect is also very important, because it will provide motivation for your Chihuahua to complete the task, and it’s also critical that the reward is immediately forthcoming, so it is directly associated with the sound of the clicker, and the completion of the task.

Something you should not do during training is to make extra body gestures or any other sounds which might cue the dog to perform an action without the clicker sound. You don’t want the dog performing the action simply because he expects to hear the clicker.

The whole point is to trigger the proper behavior from the dog only when it hears the sound of the clicker. Keep in mind that Chihuahuas and dogs, in general, are extremely good at picking up on body language and voice fluctuations, so all these need to be filtered out during your training sessions.

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Purchasing the Right Dog Bed

If there’s one accessory that you go out an purchase for your dog, it should be a nice, soft dog bed that your pet can claim as her own, and which she can withdraw to whenever she’s ready for a nice snooze, or just for a little relaxation time.

It’s well-known that dogs are territorial creatures, and that this characteristic usually expresses itself in those things that your dog considers as her own. One of the most important such objects is the place where she sleeps at night or just retreats to when she’s tired. Some dogs, of course, prefer to spend the majority of their relaxation time on the sofa, or on someone’s bed, but it’s still worth your while to have a designated dog bed set up for those times when she really prefers to snuggle up into her own little cushion.

This is to your advantage as well, since it can keep your pet off the cold floor, and it can go a long way toward keeping fur and pet dander off the furniture, and isolated on the dog bed. If anyone in your family has allergies, this is especially important, because the dog bed can be situated somewhere that allergy sufferers will be less affected by it.

Your dog will love you for providing her with something warm and insulated in cold weather, and for providing the sense of security which all dogs need to have. Here are a few tips on how you can go about finding exactly the right dog bed to please your pooch.

The Way Your Dog Sleeps

Before you begin your purchasing quest, you should understand that all dog beds are not the same and that they can be different in a wide variety of ways. You will be able to find dog beds which are heated, made of memory foam, mattress style, sofa style, various geometric shapes, orthopedic, and even constructed in cot style.

It may be a bit overwhelming at first, but if you have some kind of idea what you’re looking for, that can make things a whole lot easier. The first quality you need to consider when looking for a good new dog bed is your dog’s sleeping style. In the same way that humans have various sleeping styles, so do dogs, with some preferring to curl up into a ball, while others sprawl out to their full length.

Some dogs like to burrow into their bed like a mole and feel that security around them, while others prefer to simply lean up alongside something while they rest. Take a few days to scout your dog’s actual sleeping behavior before you go shopping so that you’ll know the style of bed you really need to purchase in order to please your pet.

Level of Activity and Physical Size

Another major factor in choosing a specific kind of bed for your dog will be its physical size, and this should be large enough to accommodate your dog as it sleeps. You will have learned all about this from your observations already, so you can look for a bed size which is somewhat larger than your dog’s overall length during sleep. An active dog will require a sturdier bed, with a cover that’s thicker, and more durable than would be necessary for a relatively passive dog.

A large golden retriever rests in its large durable bed selected based on the activity level and size of the dog.

The physical size and activity level of your dog are two factors that will affect which bed you should buy.

Washing Instructions for the Dog Bed

This might sound a little curious, but another criterion for determining the kind of bed you buy will be its washing instructions. You will undoubtedly run into the need to wash your dog’s bed multiple times over the course of its life because assuming your dog makes regular use of the bed, it will quickly become dirty and probably cluttered with fur and hair.

If your dog tends to be somewhat smelly, that fragrance will be imparted to the fabric of the cover, and if your dog has any problems with urine leakage, that will also be imparted to the cover.

When you don’t purchase a dog bed which can be easily washed, you may end up throwing it out after some period of time, and simply buying another one to replace it. There are dog beds which come with removable covers that are easily unzipped and washed, and these are ideal for many situations.

Budget Issues

You probably won’t have to worry much about being stuck with a dog bed that looks grossly out of place with your existing decor, because these days you can find dog beds which can fit in with almost any style of interior decoration.

Of course, that may cause the pricing to be escalated somewhat, so you may want to consider what kind of price range you can afford for your dog bed before you even begin shopping. Chances are though, that if you’re willing to look around and shop at more than one store to find just what you need, you’ll be likely to find two, three, or even more good candidates at least.

Then the only problem you might have is trying to decide which of several good possibilities you want to purchase for your beloved pet.

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How Can Therapy Dogs Change People’s Lives?

Pet therapy centers are springing up all over the country these days, as more and more people are beginning to realize the highly therapeutic effect that pets can have on humans. Building on knowledge learned about how dogs can help humans recover from feelings of stress, anxiety, loneliness, depression, and low self-esteem, these centers are being established for the purpose of providing that kind of assistance to humans who have been diagnosed with those particular issues. Often working with medical specialists, these therapy dogs are matched with human counterparts in need of companionship, to help them cope with their particular mental or emotional issues.

The Physical Aspect of Therapy Dogs

The benefits received by the human partner don’t end with mere companionship, however. In addition to the emotional and mental support provided by therapy dogs, there can be a physical component which is just as important to the relationship.

In the same way that studies have borne out the emotional benefits of pet companionship, similar studies have demonstrated that having a regular pet companion can contribute a great deal to the physical aspect of a person’s life. Numerous studies have shown that the majority of people who have pet companions are more active, because they take them for walks at least once a day and usually more, and they engage in other activities like play time with them.

The increased activity, in turn, is a great exercise that triggers the release of endorphins, which are the feel-good hormones in the body, responsible for improving mood and making people feel better. In the same way, petting and stroking a dog’ fur is also therapeutic, in that it soothes and relaxes, and at the same time tends to shift a person’s focus away from themselves onto their pet companion. This is ideal for patients with mental issues because at least temporarily, it allows them to forget about their own problems, and project outwardly with another creature.

Therapy dogs are being pet by hospital patients which helps relieve their stress and anxiety from their treatment.

Therapy dogs can have a positive, calming effect by simply being physically present in patients lives.

Dog Therapy Certification

Of course, all these benefits provided by therapy dogs are not quite left to chance, in the hope that any given dog will prove to be a suitable companion for a person troubled by mental issues. There are centers around the country which have been implemented for the purpose of selecting dogs with the right characteristics to become therapy dogs, and these dogs are then put through a program to learn skills which will enhance their already suitable nature for this kind of work.

Many dogs which have been rescued from less than ideal home situations, or which have been abandoned, are considered for inclusion in the program, provided they demonstrate the qualities deemed desirable as therapy dogs. The organizations which seek out these candidates, look for qualities in a dog such as being fun-loving, devoted to a master, active and playful, and with no trace of meanness or aggression.

Once a dog has been identified as being suitable for the program, they are put through a series of courses designed to improve on these qualities and to help them respond better to human instruction and commands. Dogs which successfully complete the course are then certified as therapy dogs and are made available to medical professionals who are aware of the program, and understand what can be accomplished with human patients in need of this kind of companionship.

Other Uses for Therapy Dogs

The scenario described above is not the only way that therapy dogs can provide tremendous value to persons in need of their friendship. Some owners of therapy dogs contribute their time and their pet’s time in situations where they can provide benefits over a short period of time, in settings like nursing homes, hospitals, and schools.

This, of course, is not usually an ongoing benefit to the people in those institutions, but even a relatively brief exposure to therapy dogs can literally light up a person’s day and improve their attitude noticeably.

It should be noted that therapy dogs are not the same thing as service dogs, because service dogs actually are given special training that helps them perform pre-defined tasks for persons who are in some way disabled. A good example of a service dog is one who has been trained to lead a blind person safely through social situations without harm.

This type of dog would be one which stays indefinitely with its master so as to provide ongoing service in that same specialty. While therapy dogs do undergo training, it is not specialized training to benefit someone who is disabled, but the training is instead more focused on providing companionship and affection on a more limited basis.

Those dogs which been certified for this kind of service receive a title of AKC Therapy Dog, but they do not have the same status as service dogs, which are allowed on planes, in grocery stores, and other settings where ordinary pets would not be allowed. This is because service dogs are necessary at all times for a disabled person, regardless of wherever they happen to be. The same cannot be said of therapy dogs, even though their companionship is very often considered essential by a partner.

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Dog Dental Care: Tips on Brushing Your Dog’s Teeth

The most common of all diseases affecting canines is dental disease, and fortunately, it is also one of the most treatable and preventable of diseases. You maintain healthy dog dental care by providing a crunchy diet, regular chewing treats and making sure that your dog’s teeth are brushed daily to keep them in good shape.

You may have some difficulty when you first start brushing your dog’s teeth, but soon it will become a matter of a daily routine, and then your dog may even look forward to it, because of the attention you give during those sessions. Here is a guideline you can use for dog dental care.

Start Young With Dog Dental Care

It’s very important to start good dog dental care habits as soon as your pet comes into the home, ideally while it is still a puppy. At that time, most things are new to your pet, so tooth-brushing is just one more new thing your canine will have to get used to. It’s always best to get your pet started off with a healthy, clean mouth early in life, so that a pattern of good dental health can be established and maintained.

Materials Needed

You won’t need much to get the job done, but you should make sure you have the right materials when brushing your dog’s teeth. This calls for a soft bristled toothbrush and a special toothpaste which you can get from your veterinarian. It’s not advisable to use baking soda or toothpaste meant for humans, as these can cause problems for your pet.

The toothpaste that you get from your veterinarian will be specially formulated for pets, and it will usually have appealing flavors that your dog will like. Make sure to use a soft-bristled toothbrush, because it’s critical to brush below the gum line, and only these kinds of toothbrushes are effective for that purpose.

A vet brushing a dog's teeth for optimal dog dental care.

For optimal dog dental care, it’s a good idea to get your pet a professional teeth cleaning at the vet’s office. Your vet will use a special toothbrush to remove plaque and tartar buildup in your dog’s mouth.

The Importance of Daily Brushing

Daily brushing of your dog’s teeth is essential, especially with using a brush that will remove plaque from below the gum line. Plaque is constantly collecting the surfaces of teeth and near the gumline. In less than two days, this plaque can become mineralized into a substance called tartar. Tartar can’t be removed by simple brushing, but can contribute to periodontal disease in your pet. Give special attention to the upper back teeth in your dog’s mouth, because historically it’s this area which is affected first and most severely by periodontal disease.

Designate a Time of Day for Brushing

Try to make the time of your teeth brushing sessions convenient for your pet, and something which minimally disrupts the daily routine. If you plan your brushing sessions right before a daily walk, or directly before you give out a special treat, your dog will associate teeth brushing with a pleasant experience and look forward to the brushing.

Getting Started

At the very beginning, it’s best to just familiarize your dog with the taste of the veterinary toothpaste, by dabbing a little on your finger and running it along the gum lines of your dog’s mouth. Then you can run your finger around the upper teeth and lower teeth to get your dog used to the sensation of pressure there.

Follow that up with the toothbrush itself, so that your dog can become familiar with the feeling of the bristles against its gums and teeth. If you encounter serious resistance from your pet, you may have to limit yourself to these familiarizing exercises for a few days, without actual brushing.

Once your pet has become sufficiently acclimated to the feeling of the brush against its teeth and gums, you should immediately begin actual brushing sessions. Your technique should be to angle the bristles of the brush slightly upward on the upper teeth (and downward on lower teeth) part of the mouth so that the brush is sure to get under the gum line.

It’s best to work from the back toward the front, moving the toothbrush in slow circles that will dislodge any plaque which has already built up. It should take under a minute to address all tooth and gum surfaces in your dog’s mouth in this manner, unless you encounter difficulty with your pet’s behavior. If this should happen, make sure that you always start with the upper back area because it’s the most important one, and it’s the one you don’t want to miss each day.

Professional Dog Dental Cleaning

Unless you know for sure that you’re doing a great job every single day brushing your dog’s teeth, it’s a good idea to seek a professional clearing periodically just to be sure. Just like with people, daily brushing should catch most problems before they can degenerate into a dental disease, but in practically all cases, a professional cleaning catches material that was missed in the daily routine. An extra level of attention is always appropriate for maintaining good dental health in your pet, and you can be confident of avoiding any dental disease.

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Puppy Grooming: When Is the Right Time to Start?

The right time to start grooming your puppy is a more important question than you might think because grooming too soon can be just as bad as starting the process too late. The ideal time to begin puppy grooming has to wait until after it has been weaned from its mother, which in most cases is in the neighborhood of eight weeks or so.

It should also be after your new puppy has become acclimated with its new surroundings in your home, and with all family members as well. A good ballpark figure for when to start is at around 12 weeks, which accounts for weaning, adjusting to its new home, and readiness for new experiences.

It’s important to remember that you shouldn’t overwhelm your puppy at that first grooming session because it will be very difficult to have your puppy stand still for an extended period of time. This will run counter to its natural instincts, which for many types of dogs includes being full of energy and enthusiasm, and not standing still for grooming.

The First Grooming Session

If nothing else, your first puppy grooming session should include a bath, and possibly blow drying, and even this is quite an accomplishment, because it calls for getting your puppy used to standing in a tub, relatively quietly. This should not take a great deal of time, so it will not put undue strain on your puppy to remain in place for too long.

If your puppy tolerates the bath and blow drying fairly well, you can add nail clipping to your grooming session. When it becomes fairly obvious that your puppy has grown used to grooming sessions, you can also attempt to do some hair trimming wherever it’s needed. Trimming fur from around the eyes is one of the places where it’s most needed, but that’s also one of the more difficult areas to get your puppy used to.

This of course, calls for considerable caution with your scissors, but once you have your puppy used to the sight, sound, and feel of scissors, you’ll be able to do whatever hair trimming is necessary. Not all puppies will take to the notion of standing quietly on a table or in a tub, so this along me take some getting used to, but it’s an essential part of the grooming process, so you have to stick with it.

A full haircut for your puppy will probably not be necessary for the first few sessions, so only fur trim should be attempted. By the time your puppy has become used to trimming, a full haircut will not be much of an extension.

A pet store professional puppy grooming.

Starting puppy grooming when your dog is just a few weeks allows them to establish good habits before they become harder to train.

Why Start Puppy Grooming Early?

It may seem that starting your puppy grooming at between 8 and 12 weeks is too early and that it might be better to do it later when it’s a little more mature and perhaps less energetic. In truth, however, it’s much more challenging to begin grooming with a puppy more than a few months old. In those first six months of its life, your puppy will have already developed particular fears and which can inhibit the process of grooming, and make it more difficult.

In many cases, puppies who have reached the age of six months or over are also much more aggressive and are much less tolerant to the kind of patience and restraint necessary throughout the grooming process. If puppies reach the age of six months without already having been exposed to bathing, brushing, blow drying, nail clipping, and haircutting, it will undoubtedly be a much more difficult process to get them used to. You can expect to spend a lot more time trying to get your puppy used to all the activities associated with proper grooming if you don’t initiate the process before the age of 12 weeks.

Puppies Grow Up Fast

Your dog begins maturing at around six months, which is another good reason why your puppy grooming should start well before that. Part of that transition involves having your puppy’s fur change over to an adult coat. It’s especially crucial during this period that you do thorough brushing and combing of your puppy’s coat, because if left unattended, it can become matted and tangled in with the emerging adult fur.

When that happens, grooming becomes much more difficult, and can be more uncomfortable for your pet. Some breeds of dogs do not naturally shed their juvenile fur, and that means it has to be vigorously brushed out during grooming sessions. If properly attended to, this will allow your pet’s adult coat to grow in naturally and smoothly, and result in a very healthy and attractive-looking coat.

By starting your puppy out with good grooming sessions at an early age, you can ensure that your pet will enjoy the experience much more, and will always look its best.

Dog Toys: Getting Your Pup the Right One

Golden retriever puppy on the grass with the ball in his teeth, which is one of his dog toys.

Dog toys make a wonderful gift for your pet.

Dogs can be messy, they can be mischievous, and they sure are hairy. However, overall, they are just bundles of joy. These pets know just when to give you proper love and affection and it’s time you returned the favor. There is nothing that makes a dog wag their tail harder than a new toy to play with. Dog toys are a great gift to give your pet, and they provide the perfect opportunity for a bonding experience. Find out which toys are the best for your dog.

Dog Ball

Dogs and their love for balls. It’s a tale as old as time, and it’s still true today. A dog ball is one of the best toys you can give your pet. The look on their face as their eyes widen in the presence of a ball is almost too precious to bear. They know a game of catch is about to occur.

One of the reasons that a dog ball is an excellent toy to give to your pet is because it’s healthy for them. Your canine friend spends most of their time loafing around the house whenever you are away. Playing a game of fetch with a ball gets them running and jumping, giving your dog the exercise they need.

Bones

A dog with a bone. They’ll sit on it, hold it close, and nibble on it all day long. Dogs love the taste of a good bone and it’s almost a challenge for them to try and break it down. There are plenty you can buy for your dog, some of which come in all different types of flavors. Supplies have everything from bacon to peanut butter flavored bones.

The best bones are the ones that are healthy for your dog. A dog’s mouth is often difficult to clean, as they don’t like to have them brushed. We suggest buying dental sticks or bones. They are a great way to clean your pet’s teeth and keep them healthy. The best part is that your dog won’t know the difference between this and a regular bone.

Chew Toys and Ropes

Bones aren’t the only thing that your dog likes to chew on. You can also buy them chew toys, ropes, and other chewable items. Some dogs are even known to grow attached to a cute plush chew toy in the shape of a dinosaur or animated character. It’s downright adorable. There are even plastic chew toys in the shape a bone. Dog toys like these are just as good for their oral hygiene as regular dental bones.

Ropes are a great toy for both you and your dog, as they are a great way for the two of you to play together. Your pet will grab one end while you grab the other, and an intense game of tug and war ensues. It’s a fun bonding experience that gets the blood pumping and their tail wagging.

Buying Dog Toys

The Pet Shop caters to all kinds of animals. Come down to our shop in Allston, Massachusetts and browse for yourself. You are sure to fine the right toy for your best friend.

Picky Canine: Getting Your Dog to Eat

A dog with leather leash in his mouth is waiting to go for a walk.

There are a few methods for taking care of your dog when they won’t eat.

Our canine companions are truly man’s best friend. But sometimes they can be prima donnas when it comes to eating their food. It’s important for your dog to eat right and eat often. For their own good, here’s how to take care of your picky eater.

Mixing Their Dog Food

Sometimes, your dog is just tired of the plain old dry food. Without having to break to bank to find them something new, make some changes to the dish. The first method is to mix some wet food or peanut butter with the dry food. Canines love both of these. Their nose will instantly be attracted the smell and they will eat all of their meal.

The second method is to mix some warm water with your dog’s dry food. This is perfect if your dog is used to wet food. When the dry food absorbs the water, it gives it a softer texture, making it similar to their old food.

Keep a Schedule

A little training can go a long way. It is pretty easy to train your pet dog to eat their food. You just have to get them used to a certain schedule. Your furry, four-legged friend should be eating twice of a day.

Set a time in the morning and night when for when you are going to present them with food. If you do it every day, they will know when to expect food. Make the feeding times 12 hours apart to build up their appetite.

If you are still having trouble, then become a little stricter. If they don’t eat the food within 30 minutes, take it away until the next feeding time. They will learn to eat their food fast, otherwise, it will go away.

Give Your Pet a Walk

You should walk your dog for various reasons. It gives them exercise and some peace of mind. If you walk your pet before feeding time, it should build up their appetite. When you get home, they should be more than ready to eat.