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Building Bond With Your Dog

There are many thing in dog training and work that people disagree with but one of the biggest disagreements revolves around purely positive vs balanced vs yank and crank.

Purely positive is a reward based training with no punishment or negative sensations.

Yank and crank is purely negative sensations until they comply with little to no rewards.

Balanced is a combination where good behavior is rewarded and negative behaviors are met with a negative sensation of some kind.

Now few people anymore still think that yank and crank is good way to train, but unfortunately because of this method a large portion of the community swung to the opposite extreme where no negative sensations are used for negative behaviors. While this can be done with SOME dogs this method does not work with all dogs.

We use the balanced method with all of our dogs, rewards which can be anything that the dog finds enjoyable when they do good and negative sensations when they exhibit an undesired or unsafe or negative behavior. Now in our philosophy this is manly used in the initial stages of training until we build enough bond with the dogs that they work out of the simple desire to please or work with us. This requires a lot of work but is necessary so that you don’t have a dog that only listens to you if you have treats in your hands or worse listens to who ever has the treats in their hands.

This is why we firmly believe the owner of the dog should be the one training them. If they don’t know how they can work with a trainer, but they should be the one with the contact with the dog.

Building a bond with your dog is also the foundation that any other training especially the more dangerous and stressful kinds, are going to build off of. It will be the source of trust the dog will need in order to take that leap of faith in certain forms of advanced training. This is going to be easier with some dogs than others but how you go about it is pretty much the same.

The key is simple, Its not what you do for your dog but what you do with your dog. So spend time with them. At first you will want to do this at home in a safe area, especially if they are not trained well.

Once they have more training and you start adventuring beyond your house take them with you when ever you can even if its just down the drive way to get the mail.

The more time that you spend with them and the more things that you do with them the more that bond will strengthen as well as the more environments and situations that they are exposed to will improve how they handle stress and new situations in the future. This bond is going to to be key in more stressful training and in more stressful situation should any arise because when that stress starts ramping up for them they will then look to you for guidance and reassurance.

This is where you keeping calm and composed is important. Just like it would be in an emergency with your family if your freaking out they are gonna freak out. So stay as calm and collected as possible. Especially when you are training.

This reassures your dog that what you are asking them to do is not dangerous, and even if it is, that you are there to get them through it.

Now that being said Avoid any where that other people bring their dogs normally, like the damn plague. This means petco, dog parks, dog beaches, anything of that sort as anyone with a dog whether they are trained or not will take them there and it is asking for nothing but trouble.

Now once you have that bond, you will be able to work with your dog on a whole new level, and most importantly your need for treats to get your dog to work will become almost nonexistent. You do not want to be dependent on treats or a toy in order to get your dog to work, especially in an emergency situation. Not to say they should not still be rewarded, or be able to play with their toy but at this level the work it self becomes in a way its own reward as well as the time with you the handler and the praise you bestow upon them.

Check out our store HERE for Handmade in America custom dog and EDC gear.

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Training Day Eye Contact

We tend to start our dogs out with marker training as puppies. This allows us to begin the communication process with the puppies as well as get them started training with a more positive association type of training.
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Then once they grow up a little bit and have been training routinely we work to ween them off it for a more bond based (I guess is a good way to put it) way of reward and training. We will cover this in more detail in the future.
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We try to limit our corrections out side of emergency situations or situations that are absolutely un acceptable. That being said we still use the least amount of correction required at this stage.
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Now we start all our dogs with making eye contact. This is a fairly simple task and it starts building that bond as well as getting the dog used to the clicker/marker and gets the dog paying attention to you as the handler.
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This can also be the most frustrating stage as its the puppies first training sessions and it can take a lot of waiting for them to look at you to get that first click or mark for them to start getting the hints.
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Now we also keep training session very short(5 Min max) at this stage because they are puppies and they have very short attention spans.
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Now I say a lot of waiting because I have found that the more you can have the dog figure it out for them self the stronger the training will be because it is like a light bulb going on in their brain. It equates to that feeling you get when you are trying to learn something new and you finally figure it out for the first time on your own. So if you wait for the puppy to look up at you, unassisted or forced he will pick up on what you want much faster once they do it for the first time.
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Now if you go multiple sessions and the pup just doesn’t seem to get it their are some ways that you can usually trick them into doing what you want and they still somewhat think they did it themself.
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One of these tricks is called luring. If they like food as their reward or even their toy for reward you can get them paying attention to it and then draw it close to your face.
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Then once they look at you/the toy or treat by your face mark it and give them the reward. You will repeat this a few times and then start stoping the toy/treat farther and farther from your face until you are holding it like you normally wood and the puppy is looking at your face for the reward.
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The next step in the training process is to lengthen the time that they needs to look into your eyes before he is rewarded. As with everything increase the difficulty slowly!
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Now while you are doing this your dog will likely start throwing other desired behaviors such as sitting, lying down, and so on and you should mark and reward those as well when they happen in these early stages to help reenforce the marker as well getting them to know that those behaviors are also good.

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Consistency is Key

Consistency is key when it comes to dog training. Dogs do not communicate and learn like we do and they do not speak english no matter how much we may talk to them. Dogs learn by pattern recognition and association. A+B=C it’s that simple.

They hear you say “A” or see you make gesture “A” They do B and they get reward C. It is your job as the handler to figure out how to communicate what A means or what you want them to do as B when you say or make gesture A.

This is where the consistency comes in. When you are teaching them a behavior or you’re trying to get them to stop doing a behavior you need to reward/correct it every time. You cant correct them one out of every 4 times they pee in the house and expect them to learn that it is not ok.

With that you cant have only one person in your house correcting/rewarding a behavior because they will think it only matters to that person. Depending on the situation you may not necessarily want your dog listening to just anyone but we will cover that in its own post.

This is best handled by when your pup is young or if you rescue an older dog and they are early in their training. Only one person should be doing the training of the dog until the training foundation is firmly set. This should be the primary person that dog belongs to because doing this will bond the dog more to that person than anyone else. For safety sake until the dog has his training foundation solid you want to limit handling by other people so avoid any dangerous situations such as them getting out and not coming when told and so on. We our selves have multiple dogs that can be off lead with one of us and other needs them to be on a long line because they don’t listen near as well to them.

Once the foundation is set then you can introduce other family members and after making sure they are on the same page as what is expected of the dogs behavior they can start to be involved in handling and giving the dog commands and you as the primary handler can make it known to the dog that they are to obey when those people give them commands as well.

To be on the same page, everyone needs to know what the specific command words are for the dog, and know what is expected when the dog is given that command. For instance when you say “Sit” they need to stop and drop their butt completely to the floor not hover it over it.” They will also need to understand that they need to make sure the dog does the expected behavior when they are instructed to or the command will loose its association in the dogs mind and they will not as reliably complete the desired behavior. They cant just say sit and let the dog continue to run around because the dog will learn to think that they don’t have to listen to them.

Another thing to consider is that most dogs when you introduce new people are going to test everyone involved to some degree to see what they can get away with, this will especially be true when you are initially introducing because they are looking to see where they fit in the pack. If they let the dog push them around, then the dog will push them around from there on out and getting them to listen can be a struggle if not impossible after that especially if you have a more alpha male/female type dog.

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Training Day Intro

We have some posts coming up on some training topics and want to make sure that we covered the basics first as well as some of our philosophy so we are all on the same page.

Most people unless you’re breeding your own dogs will not be able to start until 8wks and thats a great place to start.

We have a process we take the puppies through starting early on in their lives ranging from sound exposure, physical contact among other desensitization and exposures.

Then we start our puppies doing very basic behaviors and activities at about 6 wks. This is perfectly acceptable as long as you go into with the proper expectations.
They will have very short attention spans of mere minutes at best and you cannot expect perfection for a long time but you can start shaping proper behaviors. We mainly work prey drive development, desensitization, and some very basic obedience at this stage.

You shape behaviors through rewards and corrections. Rewards are Toys, praise, food, and really anything that the dog finds pleasurable and used when the behavior is desired. For protection dogs the bite work it self is the reward. For sled dogs getting to run is its own reward as well. You need to figure out what your specific dogs responds best too and use that. Most dogs food is a great reward, others toys work much better but keep in mind you will not get near as many reps per session usually when using toys.

Corrections are similar there are different tools for correcting behavior that is unsafe or undesirable. This is applied when the desire is undesirable or dangerous. You should try to hold off on corrections until they are old enough to handle them and you should be able to tell this as they grow as well as have an idea of how drastic of a correction is needed to over come the behavior. We try to hold off on corrections until at the earliest around 6 months. Obviously safety issues need to be corrected as they appear to establish that that behavior is not acceptable in order to keep your self or others or the dog safe.

Tools for corrections range from your body language eye contact body presence and your voice, on up to correction collars such as pinch collars and ecollars which we will cover in their own post.

You will want to start in most cases at the minimal side of the spectrum which is verbal (a sharp “fooey” or what ever their no command will be) and work you way up until you find the level required to correct the issue if you have no idea how hard your dog is or what they can handle with out shutting down the dog or causing a fear association with the event or your self as the handler.

If you know how hard your dog or have a good idea then you can jump straight to that or if the situation is a important or dangerous behavior that you cannot have slightly over react to shut it down early. other wise they might think they can get away it with it in some circumstance and not others if you don’t shut it down early.

As with everything in life you need to have balance in your approach find whats best for your dog, and the situation.

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Seperation Anxiety

If you don’t move through the crate training process incrementally and slowly especially with adult dogs, your dog might develop a fear of being left alone or Separation Anxiety.

Now some believe that separation anxiety entirely behavioral and others believe that it is entirely genetic and develops from bad breading. As with everything in life we believe that nothing is that simple and even the most solid dog genetically has the chance to develop separation anxiety.

In either case there is a depressingly high amount of people that think they should just drug their dog to deal with it and call it a day when all it takes in most cases is a little effort and time with your dog. If thats too much to ask you really should be considering whether or not you should actually be owning a dog.

Now there are instances where you may need medications for your dogs or at least initially and these are the types of dogs that have been known to injure themselves trying to chew through metal bars or getting stuck in the grates of kennels and represent a small amount of the population.

It’s important that you gradually introduce your puppy/dog to the crate and isolation, teaching her you’ll come back every time in order to lessen the chance of them developing this issue.

As well If you only crate your dog when you leave the house, They may learn to associate the crate with being left behind and alone.

This can cause them to begin refusing to enter the crate. To counter this you should continue to crate your dog for short periods of time while you’re at home off and on through out their life time.

This is also true of any skill or behavior that you are trying to train into or out of a dog as a dogs training like a human is never finished and must continue to be maintained.

Another technique to counter the development of this anxiety is to vary the moment when you put your dog in her crate when you are preparing to leave your house. This will make it harder for your dog to pick up on your departure routine. If they doesn’t know they are going to be left home and that you are about to leave, they will likely be more willing to enter their crate. Keep your behavior calm cool and collected both when you are leaving and when you are returning home.

You should praise your dog for being good in their crate when you are leaving, but avoid exciting them as you want them to be calm in their crates.

When you return, be careful not to reward your dog for being excited to exit their crate. Being too enthusiastic can make your dog look forward to your return and even cause anxiety about it.

You will also want to ensure that your dog stays in the crate until you open the door and tell them to come out just like you should be doing with any door they go through. This is a safety precaution and we will cover this more in depth in a coming post.

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How to Crate Train Adult Dogs

Whether you have adopted an adult dog or a puppy, crate training is paramount for incase of emergency, travel, or jsut the need to protect your home from a chewer. Adult dog crate training will present its own set of challenges and may in some ways be more difficult but it is worth while to pursue.

Start by introducing the Crate

Place the crate in your training area and keep as many other distractions out of the room as possible. Ideally it should be you, your dog and the crate. At this stage you want to reward your dog when he shows any interest in the crate. This could be as little as him looking at it if your dog is particularly suspicious of the crate. This will help your dog form positive connections with the crate.

You can reward your dog in any way (toys, praise, or food).

How ever using food rewards generally allows for more repetitions because you will not have to wait for the dog to stop looking for the toy in order to get his attention back on the crate.

Next you will keep reinforcing interest in the crate while slowly making harder for the dog to be rewarded. This means instead of looking at they need to take a step towards it. Then two, three, then they need to get near it, and so on. Until they are stepping inside the crate and don’t appear concerned about being in side it.

It can also help at this stage to place the crate in the dogs normal everyday environment and simply ignore it and let the dog get used to it being in the area. You can also reward your dog at this stage as he shows more interest in the crate. This is a great way to get more repetitions and squeeze more training time in through out your day.

Once your dog will go into the crate easily you can start associating a command with the behavior such as “kennel” “crate” or what ever your desired command but don’t expect them to go in on command just yet. It is best to tie the command with the praise and reward such as “good Crate” and then give them the reward. You can also begin to feed them in the crate. This will add another layer of positive associations to the crate.

After they are comfortable eating in the crate you can start closing the crate door while they eat. Do so initially only for a few seconds if they show any kind of distress.

Then when they no longer show distress you can keep the door closed until they are finished with their meal. Then you can slowly lengthen the time afterward.

Now you will start crating them for Longer Periods of Time

Start off with your dog in their crate for about 10 minutes.

Stay in the room with and keep your energy calm and quiet. After 10 minutes have passed, you can briefly leave the room and then return shortly after.

If your dog barks or whines, don’t return until they stop. You coming back is a reward to them and doing so inadvertently rewards them for the undesired behavior.

You will then gradually increase the amount of time you can leave your dog in the crate as well as the amount of time you’re out of sight for. You will also want to randomize the time you are away. So that your dog doesn’t start to associate you being gone for long periods of time with being in the crate.

This step is often one of the most difficult parts of crate training, for you and the dog. This is because it is the first time your dog will be left alone while in the crate, It’s good to practice a few times a day to help your dog get used to spending increased time alone in their crate.

If your dog appears to be going backwards with their progress feel free to go back a few steps and repeat until they are comfortable again. This is the a long game, and better to take things slow than rush it.

The final step is to leave the house. Once you have practiced leaving your dog alone and they are comfortable on their own for at least 30 minutes, you can leave the house. As with all the other steps, you want to start slow. Simply go outside for a few minutes and come back in. You should be able to hear from outside if your dog is barking or not (again, don’t reward barking with your presence).

If your dog doesn’t bark or whine when you leave the house, you can go on short trips — no longer than 20 to 30 minutes at first.

Now these steps are under ideal conditions but we all know life is not ideal and that sometimes your dog will need to be in a crate for longer than you anticipated or longer than you have practiced up until that point. You will need to do what you have to do but stick to the above format as much as you can. When one of these days happens make sure they are quiet before you come back inside and let them out. Praise them before you let them out and try not to get them too excited as you let them out because this can cause other behavioral problems down the road.

If you know one of these days is coming you can reduce the chances of your dog becoming stressed by exercising them before you leave. If your dog is tired, they are more likely to lay down quietly in their crate for a nap.

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Create training cont.

Now that we have the basics of crate training down. Here’s some options for those stubborn pups who whine, whimper, bark, yelp, cry, and pretty much any other disturbing noise a pup can make in his crate

If you get to meet your puppy’s litter mates then bring a blanket or other piece of fabric to rub all over his litter mates.

When the pup goes into their crate for the first time, you can drape the blanket over their kennel to help your pup sleep better at night. Make sure that the pup cannot pull the blanket into the keenel and chew on it and that you leave portions of any vents and or the door open so that air can circulate Properly.

If your pup wakes up crying in the middle of the night take them straight outside to relieve himself. Then take him straight back to his crate without any play time or other distractions. You don’t want them to soil their crate but you also don’t want them to start thinking that if they wine in the middle of the night it starts a play time.

It will be hard at first because of those puppy eyes but remain strong. You will be glad you did later on.

Make sure you feed him at least an hour and a half before bedtime. Also, it’s optional but you remove their access to water an hour before bedtime to limit their need to get up in the middle of the night until they are slightly older. We have done this with great success just make sure you are allowing them adequate time to get water through out the rest of the day.

It is also helpful to play with your puppy for an extended period of time to tire him out just before it’s time to go in the crate but it’s also worth noting that you shouldn’t pull your puppy away from a fun activity in order to put them in their crate. You don’t want the puppy associating their crate with the end of a good time. Make sure to wait for their attention to naturally wonder from the activity if at all possible.

You can put your crate near the bed so that your puppy can see you and if he starts crying hang your arm down so he can smell your scent.

When he’s in the crate and being quiet make sure to give him lots of praise. If you are doing this as a training session you can also occasionally give them a training treat through the door with out opening it to reinforce the good behavior.

Do you have a ticking clock or some other device that has a rhythmic sound to it lying around? YOu may try putting it near the kennel to help soothe your puppy to sleep.

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Crate training part 1

When properly used, the crate becomes not only a way to contain your dog when necessary and protect your house but a security blanket of sorts. A safe haven where the puppy can go to escape the household confusion and feel secure. Never use the crate as a form of punishment!

A crate is a wire or molded plastic kennel that simulates a den environment. Time in the crate should be positive, secure, and calming so that the dog associates pleasant and safe times with being in the crate. Crate training can be done with adult dogs but is much easier the earlier you can start them off with it.

Many people prefer the wire cage crates because of increased airflow and ability to see. This however is the opposite environment of a den. We do not recommend wire crates because of this and more importantly the wire crates allow for smaller dogs to stick their heads or jaws through the bars and often become stuck. This can lead to injury and some times strangulation and death of the puppy/dog.

Molded or solid walled crates are safer for the dogs security as well as much better for transporting the animals securely. They also offer more protection from the elements when transporting them in the out doors or when camping.

The crate is primarily used in house training but also used in other training as well as transport of your canine friend. Within a crate, an unattended puppy cannot destroy or soil anything.

A properly crate trained dog is very important in the off chance that your dog needs to spend any time at the vet as it will be in a kennel. If they are calm in a kennel it will help them through the stressful time being at the vet and limit any tranquilizers the vet will need to administer to keep them calm.

When it comes to the size of the crate most people incorrectly think the bigger the better. However the crate should not be too big, when a crate is too big it creates a sense of anxiety, of being trapped and the sense of confinement. You want the crate to be sized so that the dog is comfortable “denning” in it. This means sitting up, laying down, curling up and so on. Not standing up, stepping around and so on.

For cost savings, some owners may decide to buy a crate that will suit their puppy’s size when they are full-grown. We completely under stand this how ever If you do so, you’ll need to use a crate divider of some kind. to make sure that you do not encounter any of the above mentioned issues. Plus if you’re using the crate to house train your puppy, if they have to much space they may soil their crate as they have the room to do so and not get covered in it. This will hinder your house training progress until they’re is not room for hem to do so.

When starting with a puppy you want to start on his first night home. You can start with the crate in your bedroom so that the puppy can still see and hear you which aides in the comfort/security and transition. During the day you should situate your dog’s crate in an area that your family spends a lot of time such as the living room or kitchen so that your dog doesn’t feel isolated.

When the puppy enters the crate, use the word kennel or your preferred command for them to enter their kennel. This starts building the association with that word and you wanting them to go into their kennel. Do not hesitate to use the crate, even while you are home. A good rule of thumb is if you cannot pay 100% attention to and work with the puppy they should be in their crate. We also recommend removing their collars when putting them in their kennel. This limits anything that can get caught or hung up and cause any injuries.

This not only protects your house and possessions it keeps the puppy from self rewarding. The puppy should only be rewarded from you. This makes you the most interesting thing in the room and enhances the willingness to work and builds engagement with your dog.

If puppy falls asleep somewhere else, pick him up and quietly place them inside and shut the door. You should not crate the puppy during the day for more than 3 hours at a time if it can be avoided. You can lengthen this time as the puppy grows up.

You may feed the puppy in his crate to keep the experience positive but we don’t recommend leaving them unattended with toys in the crate for safety reasons.

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Welcome to Midnight Sun K-9

Welcome to Midnight Sun K-9

This post is our first and is mainly here to introduce our selves and give an idea of what you will find here.

We are recreational Mushers & Dog Trainers in Interior Alaska. We primarily work with Belgian Malinois, Dutch Shepherds and Alaskan Huskies with the goal of getting our dogs to a level of fitness and ability in multiple disciplines to not only be companions but partners, and resources on the last frontier. We jokingly refer to this as our Alaskan Working Dog Program.

Our program starts from the time puppies are born and continues on until they’re adults. A dogs training like many other things in life if perishable. If you are not at the least maintaining their training eventually it will start to diminish. Just many human skills and so many things in life. Not only should you be maintaining their training, you really should be constantly aiming to be better.

Our program consists of a program for the puppies that foster health and confidence early on setting them up for success in their future training.

Once they are old enough they then start training in….

Scent work (mainly animal scents and shed antlers)
Mushing (great form of exercise and allows for exploration in the winter time)
Obstacle Training (great for confidence and ability when hiking and exploring)
Advanced Obedience (great for confidence and ability when hiking and exploring)
And More…

Our blog will consist of posts on…

Dog training involving the above topics
Stories of our adventures
Occasionally post on wilderness skills especially those involving animals and dogs.
and More….

It’s great to have you here and hope you enjoy the site.