About a year ago, Chris Milyard adopted a 3-year-old boxer mix she named Maddie from the Animal Services Center of the Mesilla Valley (ASCMV), the shelter for Las Cruces and Doña Ana County. Maddie is a sweet dog with a lot of energy, which drives her to pull when being walked, jump the fence, run away, and not come when called. Fortunately, rather than giving up on her energetic pet and returning her to the shelter, Chris thought training might help so she decided to seek help from a trainer.
A lot of people adopted pets during the COVID-19 pandemic and, unfortunately, a number of dogs have been brought back to shelters as owners returned to work. Some “pandemic puppies” became used to being alone with their family and didn’t know how to react to guests coming into the home or interact with other dogs on walks or at the dog park. Even when there isn’t a pandemic, people may adopt a pet and then either decide that the responsibility is too much, they don’t know how to correct undesirable behaviors, or the pet isn’t a good match. Every agency that offers pets for adoption works hard to ensure that prospective adopters understand the responsibility of owning a pet is for the animal’s lifetime, but the overcrowded shelters throughout New Mexico show that is often not the case.
However, when the pet is a dog, there are resources to help keep them and their adoptive families together. Both private trainers and nonprofit support are available to correct problems before they become so large the owner gives up on the dog.
I adopted a canine wild child who jumped (or ate her way through) wooden fences, burst out the front door and ran off, and wouldn’t come when called. She was both very energetic and very smart, which would get her into trouble. Fortunately, I found a training program that opened new worlds for both of us. We worked through several levels of obedience classes and even gave agility a try. When I started training for marathons, the long runs helped burn off her energy. We found jobs for her to do, like bringing me the empty dog food bowl.
She was a wonderful dog and I’m so glad we didn’t give up on her. Training made all the difference. Ruff To Ready with DACHS The Doña Ana County Humane Society (DACHS) has long been aware of the problem of dogs being returned to the shelter. Their Ruff to Ready program is designed to keep people and pets together by providing two training sessions for owners of dogs that have been recently adopted or are being fostered from ASCMV or from ACTion Program for Animals. Sarah Kurtz, executive director of DACHS, explained that the program is entirely funded by donations.
Sarah said that DACHS pays dog trainer Hope Movsesian to conduct two sessions at the qualified client’s home, at a local park, or even on Zoom. Those who need more help can follow through with the resources she provides or continue the training with Hope on their own.
Hope is certified through the Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers and has certificates of completion with Dr. Susan Friedman’s LLA, Mike Shicashio’s Aggression in Dogs Master Course, International Dog Parkour Association Instructor’s course, and the IAABC Shelter Dog Mentorship. She works with the client to pinpoint problem behaviors and offer solutions. She explained that enrichment activities, including scent work, can make a huge difference.
Meant to stimulate the physical and/or mental energy of your dog, these games can include treat-dispensing toys or puzzles. Other species-specific enrichments are given in the Ruff to Ready packet. Hope has important advice for new dog guardians. She says, “Be very aware of the decompression phase, which is dog dependent. It can be a couple of weeks to three months depending on the history of the dog. Their need for structure will help them feel safe and secure in their new surroundings.
Let them learn the rhythm and sounds of your house and the individuals in the house. Going out into the world should be done with care and not always the first thing. Know that they’re opening up too and you will see their true personality.” To teach the dog to respond to its name, Hope offers some simple steps: Say to your dog, “Get it” and then toss a treat two to three feet from your body. Then say the dog’s name and hold a treat in your open hand at the dog’s level. Continue this game throughout the areas of your home in short sessions for several days. You will have a happy dog who is coming reliably when you say its name at home, ready for the next step.
She also suggests setting aside 50 pieces of dog kibble from the dog’s daily portion. Observe and reinforce your dog throughout the day whenever he does something you appreciate by rewarding him with a piece or two of kibble. “This is a Kathy Sdao’s training procedure. You’ll have him onboard immediately,” Hope says. “Paychecks go a long way!”
One dog that needed help through the Ruff to Ready program was Sweetie, a shiba inu mix. Sweetie’s owner adopted her through ASCMV very early in the pandemic and for quite some time had no problem with her as she rarely came across other people and their dogs on her walks. However, as restrictions eased and more people and dogs were out walking, Sweetie’s owner discovered that while she truly was a sweetheart with people, she was not with other dogs. Sweetie’s vet opined that the dog had likely been used as a bait dog for training fighting dogs, causing
her to exhibit fear-aggression towards other dogs as a defense mechanism. Cue training with Hope, who taught a helpful distraction skill. When another dog is near, her owner will use the “over there” command and toss a cheese cube in a direction away from the approaching dog.
She says, “Hope has shown me how to get Sweetie so fascinated with the cheese she doesn’t notice the other dogs, although it’s a work in progress. When I’m feeling better about this aspect, I want to get together with Hope and do more training. I want to help Sweetie be a happier, healthier dog.” Tracy Loe, a member of our editorial team, also benefited from training with Hope when she adopted her dog Fitzroy. A successful graduate, he even went on to work in search and rescue! If you would like more information or want to donate to support the Ruff to Ready program, call the Doña Ana County Humane Society at 575-647-4808 or e-mail [email protected] You can also find additional information and learn about their other programs at dachslc.org.
Email Hope at [email protected]
More Dog Training Options
Claren Mulhall of Cloud K-9 Dog Training Services in Las Cruces has been training people and their dogs for almost 11 years and says she has trained hundreds, if not thousands, of dogs. She has two rescue dogs herself. She graduated from New Mexico State University (NMSU) with a bachelor’s degree in animal science and has earned Certified Dog Trainer – Knowledge Assessed, Certified Behavior Consultant Canine – Knowledge Assessed, Fear Free Trainer, and other certifications.
She volunteers at the ASCMV to train fellow volunteers how to safely walk dogs so they can enjoy time out of their kennels and get some exercise and socialization. With the ASCMV’s major expansion nearly completed, she is working with staff to develop additional volunteer opportunities to teach dogs basic manners, address behavior problems like food-resource guarding, and even some enrichment like scent work and playgroups. The top problems she sees with clients dogs are jumping up on people, pulling on the leash, not coming when called, and fear aggression.
I visited the first night of one of Claren’s small group training sessions. When I entered, her dog Artemis was on a “down-stay” as was her high school intern Sarah Loman’s dog, Cash. Both stayed glued to the ground, even though I was a stranger and therefore interesting. When individually released from their stay, each came up politely to meet me. Then they returned to their down-stay through the entire class. Impressive! When the class began, there were three dogs (two students had to miss the first class, which is limited in size to six): a young golden
retriever, a young Rhodesian ridgeback, and Maddie, the energetic dog mentioned above. Claren’s class was filled with clear instructions, demonstrations, and humor.
The group spent the hour-long session working on some building blocks that rewarded the dogs for paying attention, sitting, and lying down. She explained the difference between “down” and “off”: she uses “down” to tell the dog to lie down and “off” to “get their paws off whatever they’re on,” whether that is a person or furniture. This avoids confusion caused when people use the same command for two different desired outcomes. Claren trains at the large Las Cruces Dock Diving facility, where she also teaches indoor agility classes. In addition to returning intern Sarah, Claren has some help this semester from new intern Madison Honeycutt, who is a senior at New Mexico State University majoring in animal science. Cloud K-9 group sessions last for six weeks and private lessons are available in four-, six-, and eight-session packages. Learn more at cloudk9nm.com.
While these examples are in Doña Ana County, there are certified dog trainers throughout New Mexico and some that will work with you through video chats. If you’ve adopted a dog and are having difficulties, don’t hesitate to reach out for help! There are numerous fun activities you can enjoy with your dog, too, like agility, dock diving, scent work, herding, obedience, rally obedience, and even a title for knowing lots of tricks. Like mine, your dog could be a diamond in the rough, just waiting for the polishing that training can provide.
Teach Your Dog the 1-2-3 Pattern
Pattern games can be as simple as tossing treats for a dog to find when told “find it!” There are numerous pattern games to try; just Google it. There’s a list on the Building Bonds website and one from Claren below. Learning a few of these engaging activities can help your dog focus when distracted, transitioning to a new place, or meeting somebody without getting too excited
and jumping up.
Claren explains, “Patterns are great for dogs for many reasons including 1) they’re repetitive, which helps with learning, 2) they’re safe and predictable, and 3) they build confidence. Predictability is so important because the world is not predictable, but we can create predictability by inserting a pattern.”
“The 1-2-3 pattern is useful for loose leash walking, walking past a distraction, when meeting a person (this helps the dog turn back to their owner during the interaction), coming when called, and not barking,” she said.
The dog looks at the owner when 1 is said and keeps looking at the person while they say 2 and 3. A treat is delivered after 3.
How to do it
1. Say “3” then give a treat
2. Repeat many times
3. Say “2, 3” then treat
4. Repeat many times
5. Say “1, 2, 3” then treat
6. Repeat many times
1. Take a single step in any direction while saying “3” then treat
2. Repeat many times
3. Take a single step in any direction while saying “2, 3” then treat
4. Repeat many times
5. Take a single step in any direction while saying “1, 2, 3” then treat
6. Repeat many times
1. Practicing a full “1, 2, 3” count rather than the breakdowns as listed above
2. Start to add a slight pause between numbers
3. Start to add more than a single step during the count
Note: Do the count fairly quickly as this helps the dog understand the whole concept with the patterns.
Story and photography by Cheryl Fallstead
Originally published in Neighbors magazine
Posted by LasCruces.com