Animal Behavior & Training FAQs
Alana Stevenson answers your questions on her animal behavior and dog and cat training services.
For group classes, generally after their second DHPP vaccination and a wellness check with veterinary approval.
Choke collars and severe yanking on leash can cause dogs to have tracheal damage and spinal injuries. The UK Association of Professional Dog Trainers’ pamphlet Why the UK APDT is against the Use of Choke Chains is good to read. Pinch, pronged, and spiked collars are painful and can cause bruising. Because dogs have fur, bruising goes unnoticed.
Shock collars, ‘e collars,’ or ‘electronic collars’, as with pinch and choke collars, can cause a lot of negative behavioral side effects. Pain and stress decrease the ability to learn. If I used an electric current to shock someone into learning math or to teach them how to cook, it wouldn’t be very pleasant or productive — especially for the individual who has to learn. Shocking a dog to sit, to come to you, or to stay is unnecessary.
“No” is a monotonous sound. Dogs tune into sounds that have inflection or intonation. “Ah ah,” “Eh,” or “Hey” all work to get your dog’s attention and are more effective. Read Harmful and Ineffective Training.
Group classes focus on teaching your dog during distractions and socializing your dog to people and other dogs.
For cat behavior problems, one or two online-hour video consults may be needed for follow up.
There is a learning curve for people when they use a clicker. Often people tend to focus too much time on the clicker and have difficulty juggling treats, the clicker, and a leash simultaneously. People can use clickers incorrectly which cause a lot of anxiety and confusion for dogs.
The clicker positively marks a behavior, as can your voice, body-language, and good timing in delivering treats or other rewards to your dog. I teach clients how to enhance their training skills so they can positively mark and reward behaviors without using it.
The crate is a cage. It should be used only temporarily to manage behavior, with the end goal, that it is no longer needed or is a voluntary choice for the dog (the crate door is always open). Often dogs are crated for too long and crates are too small. Many dogs are crated when people are at work all day and then again in the evening when people sleep. This means there are many dogs who spend 14-18 hours a day confined in a cage. Over-crating can cause a lot of anxiety and behavioral problems. Gates and ex-pen panels allow more flexibility while training and can provide the dog with more freedom. The crate should be a voluntary choice for the dog and a positive, safe place.
Puppies should be fed three full meals a day. Do not keep puppies hungry. Cats and kittens should be free-fed. Increased wet food and water consumption help to prevent urinary infections in cats.
I recommend foods that do not contain by-products, rendered animal protein, artificial colors, flavors, or digest. I avoid feeding dogs and cats food with lots of cheap fillers such as gelatin, glycerin, palm oil, corn gluten, and corn syrup. I avoid dog treats made in China. Oatmeal-based treats tend to be a healthy, good choice. Treats with molasses or that are fruit-juice sweetened are good too.
A simple rule ~ “Higher valued goodies for more challenging tasks.”