My two favorite things: Dogs and Tacos!
My friends at Coveted Canines Rescue asked me to come up with some weekly training tips for their social media pages: https://www.facebook.com/covetedcanines/ A new training tip will be posted here and on our Facebook pages every week on Taco Tuesday. I have challenged myself to come up with at least ten Taco Tuesday related dog training tips in ten weeks, with none written in advance. Stay tuned to see if I can pull it off. Enjoy your dogs, your tacos, and your free tips!
Taco Tuesday training tip#1: It's Taco Tuesday and you're just getting ready to make some delicious home made tacos. If your dog is pestering you while you're making tacos, ask yourself what you want them to do while you're making tacos, and teach them how to do that instead. For example: lying or sitting quietly on their favorite mat, enjoying a stuffed Kong or chew stick, playing with a puzzle game, etc. Reprimands and punishments don't tell your dog what they should be doing, they just make your dog even more sad that they can't have your tacos. Taco Tuesday can be a happy time for everyone!
Taco Tuesday training tip#2: Dealing with taco induced sicknesss.
It’s Taco Tuesday and you just ate so many tacos you feel bloated and sick to your stomach. That’s not wrong. Tacos are worth it, but you may not have as much energy as usual and now your dog is bored and frustrated. You can’t give your dog tacos because there’s usually seasonings that could make your dog ill. But you can give your dog a Kong(s) stuffed with some food, treats, peanut butter (without xylitol) and frozen, or a licky mat, or a snuffle mat to keep them occupied for a long time.
You can also get a flirt pole. I think every dog owner should have a flirt pole! They’re a lot of fun for you and your dog. A flirt pole is like a giant cat toy, but for dogs. It’s a pole with a rope at one end, and a favorite toy hanging from the other end of the rope. You can order one online or make one yourself at home. The following web site has DIY instructions and a lot of games you can play, and behaviors you can teach: https://notesfromadogwalker.com/2012/04/24/flirt-pole/
The great thing about a flirt pole is you can wave it around the family room as your dog enthusiastically chases it while sitting on the couch on the edge of a taco induced food coma. Stay tuned for more tips on how to enjoy my two favorite things: dogs and tacos!
Training tip for Taco Tuesday#3: Pandemic induced separation anxiety
Restaurants are now open for patios and limited indoor seating. It’s Tuesday, so naturally you have either dinner reservations for a local Mexican restaurant, or your heading out for lunch, possibly to a taco truck to celebrate taco Tuesday. Now you need to leave your dog home alone for a couple hours, and you haven’t had to do that since the lockdowns started months ago. If your dog was already comfortable with you leaving before the pandemic, and you occasionally leave them alone while you get some groceries, your dog might be fine. Make sure you leave the something fun and long lasting just in case, like a Kong stuffed with treats, peanut butter, and frozen, or some puzzle games, a snuffle mat, and bully sticks. If your dog has started to develop some separation anxiety and is scared now when you leave, don’t go get tacos tonight. Taco Tuesday is a big deal, but it can wait a week or two until you’ve done some work teaching your dog to be comfortable with your absence. Get started on something called “The yo yo game” from the Karen Pryor Academy: https://www.clickertraining.com/node/1556
Stay tuned for more tips to help strengthen your relationship with your dogs and tacos!
Taco Tuesday Training Tip #4! Fire alarm!
It’s Taco Tuesday and you’re making tacos at home because self-care is important and you’re worth it! Sometimes when making tacos, you might accidentally set off your fire alarm. Do not panic, this will not affect the quality of your tacos! (unless you burned them of course, in which case I am so sad for you. If you were here I would buy or make you a taco) You may be tempted to take the batteries out so this doesn’t happen again, but this would be dangerous, because now you have no warning if a fire starts. This is the same reason we don’t recommend punishing your dog for barking or growling: you are removing a warning that your dog is distressed in some way. If a dog suppresses their bark to avoid a reprimand, they will still be distressed and may try expressing it some other way, like with a bite. Removing the batteries from a fire alarm is dangerous because you are losing an advance warning of a fire. Preventing your dog from barking or growling removes an advance warning of potentially more problematic behavior, like a bite.
Stay tuned for more ideas on how to enjoy my two favorite things: dogs and tacos! Next week, we’ll talk about what to do if your dog is scared of the fire alarm!
Taco Tuesday Training Tip #5 Fire Alarm part 2!
It’s Taco Tuesday and your dog is barking because you accidentally set off the fire alarm for the second Tuesday in a row. You remembered not to yell at your dog because you read the last taco Tuesday training tip and you know that might make their emotional state even worse, but you don’t know what you should do. You don’t want them barking all through lunch, that would be annoying and upset your neighbors. You’ve tried reacting calmly to the fire alarm and used your happy voice, but the dog is still barking, you are getting frustrated, and tragically, your tacos are getting cold. What do you DO?!? Give your dog some enthusiastic praise and some treats. It may seem counterintuitive to give your dog rewarding things while they’re engaging in undesirable behavior, but you need to change the dog’s emotional state, and a piece of cheese can often do the job. You’ve already got cheese handy because you just made tacos! Make the fire alarm or telephone or doorbell a cause for celebration, and not fear. If the dog has figured out that barking makes good things happen, they may give it a try in hopes of earning a reward, but this will sound different from fear or guard barking and can be addressed differently. A demand bark will not be accompanied by the same tense body language you see in fear-based barks and will usually be just one or two short woofs followed by an eager look to you in expectation of a treat. Do not reward that kind of a bark. Ask your dog to do something else, like sit or down, or something incompatible with barking, like picking up a toy or stick and reward that instead. If you ever get frustrated and lose your temper, and yell at your dog, don’t be too hard on yourself; it’s an easy mistake to make and I have made it myself as recently as this past week. We’re living in very stressful times. Try to remember that this is also stressful for your dog and be gentle with yourself and your dog. Make a point of keeping treats in Tupperware containers in multiple locations so you can access them quickly so that you will be prepared to get your dog thinking happy thoughts the next time the fire alarm goes off. If your dog’s reaction to the fire alarm is too intense for treats, then you will need to spend some time with a trainer working on systematic Counter Conditioning/Desensitization. I know of at least 1 dog trainer in downtown Toronto that is happy to accept tacos as payment. (in case you don’t already know, it’s ME!)
Taco Tuesday training tip #6!
It’s Taco Tuesday and you’re planning on making dinner for someone you are in Love with. You want to impress them, so you are making them tacos. Why would you make tacos for someone you Love? It’s not because YOU Love tacos, although I am sure you do. If you are making a dinner for someone you Love and you want to impress them, you will want to make sure you are making something THEY Love. Like tacos. Most people Love tacos, and if you are in a relationship and are in Love, I hope that person looks at you the way I look at tacos: with deep affection and joyful anticipation!
Your dog probably looks at tacos with the same Love, but tacos may have too much garlic and onion in the seasoning for your dog to have any. So, what do you give your dog instead? You need to find things that your dog Loves the way we Love tacos: with deep affection and joyful anticipation! For some dogs, the thing they Love as tacos will be a dog treat, but not for most. Most dogs will be a lot more impressed by a little peanut butter, or a bit of meatball, than any dog treat. Some people will tell me their dog isn’t food motivated, until I pull out a few tiny pieces of hot dog. Then the dog starts jumping around delirious with joy, just like me at an all you can eat Mexican buffet. Some dogs will actually Love a game of tug more than any food reward if they are in a playful mood. Most dogs Love going for a walk because with their vastly superior sense of smell, they can get a lot of information while checking their “pee-mail.” My dog Buffy practically swoons when she finds an interesting scent. Dragging her away from a pee stained fire hydrant is harder than dragging me away from a half-eaten taco: it can be done, but only with great effort, and you will make me very sad.
You will want to find out what things your dog Loves the way many of us Love tacos. In order for positive reinforcement training to work, you need to find something that is as rewarding to your dog as tacos are to people. When you know what your dog finds most rewarding, you can teach them almost anything they are physically capable of doing. I am willing to work for tacos, because I LOVE them. What is your dog willing to work for? What=tacos for your dog?