Lori Nanan CTC, CPDT-KA, works as the Canine Behavior Education Coordinator at Women's Humane Society in Bensalem, PA. She also runs projects for The Academy and is the founder of Your Pit Bull and You, an educational resource for dog owners of all breeds.

The Importance of Enrichment

The Importance of Enrichment

As dog trainers, clients call us in to solve problems both big and small. Often, we need to triage, managing some behavior problems until we work through others of greater importance. We often suggest adding enrichment to a dog’s routine right off the bat, for good reason.

While enrichment can definitely help manage behavior problems, that’s not always the primary reason I suggest it. Enrichment is my favorite go-to because it allows dogs to be dogs and can help people see their dogs engaging in species-appropriate behaviors in a more positive light. (“Oh! She really does love to chew! She carries her new Nylabone everywhere with her! I thought she just really loved my shoes!”).

Let’s visualize dog trainers’ three main strategies as buckets:

Training—skilled trainers do everything from building basic behaviors to modifying behavior problems to changing emotional responses in fear and aggression cases.

Management—sometimes management allows us to prioritize (see triage, above), sometimes it's a behavior modification adjunct to protect progress, and sometimes it’s the whole solution.

Enrichment—providing legal and fun outlets for normal dog behaviors is crucial to the dog’s welfare.

For me, enrichment not only has its own bucket but it also helps fill the other two with good stuff.

Enrichment is an item in the training bucket because it provides mental and physical stimulation to dogs. Force-free training, in which behaviors are taught according to what the dog can do now, in incremental steps, can be especially enriching for dogs because the lack of coercion makes the dog a happy, willing participant.

Enrichment goes into the management bucket because through the use of puzzle toys, flirt poles, fetch games, etc., we can offset the boredom that leads to behavior problems. Which dog is more likely to bark at people and dogs walking past the window, the one who looks outside all day while lying on the couch or the one who is too busy kicking around a Snoop to care?

And enrichment has its own bucket because all dogs need something to do. When I worked at Women’s Humane Society, one of my favorite things was hanging out with an adoptable dog in my office. Because we couldn’t have dogs jumping on staff members, barking out windows or stealing papers from desks, I provided a wide variety of enrichment items. These included Nylabone-type chews, plush toys and work-to-eat toys.

                                    

It was always interesting to see what dogs chose, because dogs do have preferences. Knowing those preferences made it easier to keep dogs engaged and out of trouble. Some dogs seemed to enjoy dissecting stuffies more than they enjoyed bones or food toys. Some dogs got bored easily, so variety proved to be the spice of life. Enrichment also saved a great number of dogs from being banned from the office area, which allowed for some true rest.  Once a dog spends all of his energy playing, they're  not a nuisance in the office.  Rest is as important to shelter dogs as anything else.

I am often struck by how amazed people are at the effects of enrichment on a dog’s behavior. A demand-barking Aussie once spent an entire consult kicking around a Buster Cube instead of barking at us, which her owner was certain she would do. I showed up with a few work-to-eat toys, we auditioned them, and the Buster Cube was the big winner. We gave a pushy, fight-instigator French Bulldog a puzzle toy for meals (in a separate room), to pre-empt scuffles during mealtime. This gave her housemates a chance to eat in peace, and gave her the chance to get some mental stimulation and be less worried about what everyone else was doing and how much of their meals she could steal. A scent-obsessed Beagle (shocking, I know) with a tendency to wander was taught an out-of-sight sit-stay while her owner hid kibble throughout the house, so meals now give her the opportunity to use her high-powered nose. A seemingly spring-loaded hound mix was taught to enjoy a flirt pole, with rules for taking and dropping the toy on cue, to build impulse control, and now he can jump legally. A bright and busy pit bull went through all levels of manners training, earned his CGC, and delights his owner and her friends with what he learned in tricks class. The list goes on and on.

Enrichment changes lives for the better and that applies to humans as well as dogs. Many dog owners don’t realize that many of the things they see as behavior problems are actually normal behaviors which can be given permissible outlets. Part of our jobs as dog trainers is to normalize behavior. Enrichment gives us the perfect opportunity to do this and improve a dog’s quality of life. As far as I am concerned, that is no small accomplishment.

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Harness The Love Wrap-Up

Harness The Love Wrap-Up

From September 19th to 25th, 2016, The Academy for Dog Trainers hosted "Harness The Love" week. This all-out social media blitz was a way for us to highlight and promote the use of no-pull harnesses. Participation was through the roof and we are so very grateful to everyone who contributed. 

We were delighted to see so much participation in the form of blogs, posts and videos. Though Facebook is our primary platform, we saw over 160 posts on Instagram that week using the hashtags #HarnessTheLove #HTL and #academyfordogtrainers. We were thrilled to see posts and photos using our logo generator by so many trainers—both in and outside of The Academy—but perhaps even more thrilled to see posts by dog-loving, harness-using members of the public, not to mention rescues and shelters like Weimaraner Rescue of The South, Pitty Love Rescue, Inc.West Coast Cocker Rescue, and Women's Humane Society.

                         

For us, the most exciting part of all of this was seeing actual behavior change. People were asking questions, conversation was happening and dogs were being walked on harnesses. We saw conversations like these all over the interwebz:

"Do you sell the harness there ?"
A Place for Paws "Yes, we do. Would it be for your new guy? Not really a surprise that a husky would pull!"
 
"I just got back from the best walk with Sophie and Murphy I've had in 3 years. Why? I bought the no pull harness last night for Soph and it was AMAZING! Pure pleasure, thank you Tracy Krulik!"
"Cathy can you get me one for Betsy!! Thanks in advance!"
Wonder Paws Puppy School & Family Dog Training "Yes no probs! Which color?"
"Blue please to match the wonder paws lead."
 
"... I will be shopping for one for Oliver who thinks he is a sled dog and it is his job to pull his people when we are quite capable."
West Coast Cocker Rescue "They have them at Tisol. 'Easy Walk' is the best one we found ...around $35/$40 but they really do help. Sarah used to use them on the real PULLERS back in the early days!!"
"Thanks we have a Tisol in Langley. I will go get one this weekend."
 
And our favorite kind of comment:
 
"We got ours today!"
 
We were also thrilled to see super sticky and simple posters, like the one below created by Academy staffer, Sarah Pennington of Yaletown Dog Training. 
 
                       
 
Blogs are such a great way to reach people and we had no shortage to share! Below is a list of blogs written for HTL week. Bookmark these and keep them handy so that you can share them again. So much great information on the benefits of no-pull harnesses and the brands available. Thank you to everyone who took the time to write a blog for this specific purpose! You helped open people's minds and change dogs lives!
 

Tips on Loose-Leash Walking -I Love Your Dog

Harnesses are a Great Choice to Walk Your Dog -Companion Animal Psychology

The Little Beagle Who Pulled -Dogz and their Peoplez

Do no-pull harnesses work? Ask a sled dog or two. -Kristi Benson 

Get Your Dog Into A Front-Clip Harness (The Easy Way) -Tails in the Valley

Quick & Dirty No-Pull Walkies -BravoDog

Harness the Love, for Dogs Everywhere -The Inquisitive Canine

Stop the Pop. Harness the Love. -Crosspaws

Harness The Love and Walk The Dog -Your Pit Bull and You

Pulling on Leash (8 Common Dog Training Mistakes) -Michael's Dogs

Happy first day of fall! -Vairily

#HarnessTheLove -Two Blockheads

Harness The Love -Playface

Thank you again to everyone who participated in Harness The Love week! Stay tuned for more campaigns designed to help make life more enjoyable for dogs!

                            

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An Interview with Joan Mayer

An Interview with Joan Mayer

Academy Grad Joan Mayer of The Inquisitive Canine has been hard at work for over a year designing and refining a new no-pull harness which is scheduled to hit the market soon. Seeing the development of a production through to fruition is a huge process, one with many hitches to be expected along the way, and Joan has made it through the development process with a harness that looks as comfortable as it does functional. We're very proud of Joan and really excited for the launch of the Transpaw Gear Harness

LN: You’ve got a new harness coming out soon called the Transpaw Gear Harness. Tell us a little bit about this.

JM: Lori, thanks for asking! I’m thrilled to tell everyone about it - it’s been a long time coming. The TransPaw Gear™ dog harness is a multi-functional, dog-friendly and user-friendly product for dogs-on-the-go! (TransPaw is a play on “Transpawtation”). The emphasis is on functional and comfortable.

LN: What makes this harness different?

JM: There are so many harnesses being offered nowadays! And, there are some great companies. My goal was to combine the better attributes of harnesses I liked, while minimizing those I found to be challenging. There are leash attachments in both the top back area, along with front of the chest. There are both shoulder and girth straps that are easily adjustable, with easy-release buckles. The fabric used for the body is soft, with a thin breathable padding. The outer material has enough structure to keep the girth straps back behind the front legs, to minimize irritation to sensitive areas. I also added a nifty lightweight utility handle between the shoulders to aid in sports -- you can also use it to help dogs get in and out of cars. (It’s not designed to withstand intense pulling like you’d need for lifting the dog in his or her entirety.)

LN: What inspired you to design your own harness?

JM: Funny you should ask that. I’m pretty sure most dog trainers have come up with harness ideas, and I’m no different. When we adopted our dog Poncho back in 2003, I never felt comfortable attaching the leash to his collar - so I wanted to look for an alternative. I found some great harnesses out there, but it seemed I needed to have three for the same outing: one for walking, one for driving, and one for sports. I’m all for having choices, but it got to be tiresome. I kept asking, “Why isn’t there one that has ___, ____, and ____?” The more dogs and pet parents I worked with over the years, and reading various discussion threads among trainers about still looking for good products, the more I came to realize there was still a need. So I said to myself, “Why don’t I design one!”

                                 

LN: How has the process been for you?

JM: Having developed other pet-related products, I’ve gained a lot of valuable experience over the years. So this time around, I’ve been using that knowledge, creating a process that has so far been smooth. As Jim Collins talks about in his book Good to Great, I’ve made sure the right people are on my bus (Collins, 2001) http://www.jimcollins.com/article_topics/articles/good-to-great.html.

It is taking longer than I had hoped, but I believe the “slow and steady” approach creates for a better chance of success - not just for me or the company, but for all stakeholders, especially the dogs.

LN: What went into the development process?

JM: Wow, so much! Where do I begin? The road from concept to creation has been quite an adventure. A methodical one though, planning all along the way. Having been a trainer for years, and dog mom, I’ve been able to gather a lot of data. So, going into the process I had a more definitive product goal. The beginning designs included using my own dog Poncho, a local seamstress, and materials gathered from a local used sporting goods store.

After a couple of sample prototypes, I decided to take it further, consulting first with a local soft goods designer, followed by a larger development company, clear across the country. I made this choice because I wanted to consult with experts who were more familiar with the engineering aspect of design, as the movements of a dog are unique in their own way. A pretty harness is one thing, but I wanted to ensure that the design met the goals of fit and functionality. Additionally, this particular company was dog-friendly, which meant easy access to fit models throughout the three phases of designing and testing.

Once the final prototype was established, it was time to move forward with production. I reached out to a friend of mine who works with a wonderful local company that has the capability to create a small run of the harness in a few sizes. We worked together, refining the design, while having me test it on multiple dogs. This was a great opportunity, as I was able to really hone in on the details, creating a product I am really proud of. While waiting for quotes from the manufacturers, I’m working on sizing, as it will be offered in a range of sizes to cover the wide variety of dog breeds, both pure and mixed.

 LN: How much refining did you have to do along the way?

JM: There were revisions with each group I worked with. From the beginning, working with the local seamstress, to the final product development company. I could continue to make changes, but I’ve learned you also need to stop at some point, otherwise you’ll never get anything to your customer. I’ll hold onto these other ideas for different products. In all honesty, I would say I have done my due diligence.

 LN: What types of dogs did you test it on?

JMBecause I had the one prototype, I was limited to the size of dog. However, it did fit a range, from 40 - 80 pounds! The fabulous test-dogs I worked with ranged from smaller long-haired Aussie mixes to mid-sized pittie mixes, and larger Labs. I also had poodles, retrievers, and a few other mixes between.

                                             

LN: What are the key components of this harness?

JM: The real benefits of the TransPaw Gear™ dog harness is that it’s made of sturdy fabric that is soft, flexible with movement, and comfortable for dogs. This is evidenced by the way the dogs responded while wearing it. It’s easy for handlers to fit to their dog, put on and take off, and provides options for training, sports, and play. As I like to say, at TransPaw Gear™, we put the FUN in FUNctional!

LN: What are the next steps for you?

JM: While waiting to hear quotes for the initial run from various manufactures, I’m working with the local team creating prototypes in a wider range of sizes. Additionally, a provisional patent has been filed. Depending on what we hear from the PTO, we will file the permanent one within the allotted time frame. I’m also working on PR and marketing campaigns, including having a booth at a local annual fundraising pet adoption event this October.

                               

LN: When should we expect to see it available on the market?

JM: The final prototype is in the hands of two different manufacturers, awaiting bids for production. Once an agreement is reached, I hope to get it to market within a couple of months. So, my goal is Fall of 2016.

LN: Where will we be able to purchase it?

JM: Initial sales will be offered  through my website, and locally in Santa Barbara and surrounding areas. I’ll offer both business to business wholesale and retail direct to consumer. I will have a booth at the upcoming fundraising pet adoption event Wags ‘n’ Whiskers here in Santa Barbara, October 1, 2016.

For more information on the Transpaw Gear Harness, email Joan at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or visit the Transpaw Gear page on Facebook.

 

 

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