Hi, I’m Treena ID# A062649! A 5-year-old female Cane Corso!  You might know me as that legs for days beauty who struts it on leash like I’m burning the runways at Paris fashion week!  A head turner for my exquisite physique and my seductive bedroom eyes, it’s both my finesse when beckoning for attention, and the enchanting way I invite people to play that captures even the most apprehensive at heart.  Still, in maintaining my Diva status, while long walks, sitting on cue, and running were among my gifts in my hay day, these days I take a hard pass.  My hips don’t lie, and in their dysplasia, they squeak “full replacement needed!” Behold my magnetism, to know me is to adore me!  For those that can handle all 140 lbs. of me, and don’t mind managing these old hips (or trading them in, but I’m not picky), there is plenty of tender love and majestic times to be had with me basking in the sun, taking slow strolls, and enjoying gentle play. Slobbery kisses not excluded!  Located in Santa Monica at 1640 9th Street, adoptions at Santa Monica Animal Shelter are by appointment only by calling 310.458.8595, Tuesday through Saturday, between 8 AM and 5 PM.  

PET TIP OF THE WEEK:  TEACHING DOGS THE ABC’s AND 123’s  

For dogs, skills in basic obedience cues are their ABC’s and 123’s.  It enables them to reliably respond to cues, most commonly verbal, to perform specific actions like sit, stay, come, and leave-it.  While these skills alone do not make for a well-adjusted dog, they play a vital role in behavior training as they are the fundamentals necessary to actualize manners and coping mechanisms.  

Preparation is key in training obedience cues!  Your dog must be healthy, and should be tired enough to manage their adrenaline, but not too tired to participate.  To keep your dog motivated, determine, and use their preferred high value rewards like training treats or toys. If they are treats, your dog should be hungry, but not ravenous.   

Training sessions should always be conducive to keeping your dog under their learning threshold.  The level of difficulty should be easy enough for them to participate and challenging enough for them to learn.  But not too difficult that they are unable to respond reliably (if at all), which may cause their proficiency to decline, and negatively impact their enthusiasm for training sessions because they are overwhelmed. Choose an environment with little, to no distractions.  Practice no more than 10 to 15 minutes a day, up to 3 times a day. Make any adjustments as needed according to their learning threshold.  Teach each type of cue separately.  

To begin, your dog must first understand the action of the cue, and how to perform it.  Without saying a word, guide your dog into the position by luring them with their high value reward. Once they perform the action, immediately capture it by giving them verbal praise like “yes,” or “good,” and give them the reward you lured them with.  This will demonstrate to your dog that they earned the reward because they performed the action.   

When your dog can perform the action 90% of the time during all training sessions, add your verbal cue. Always use the same word for each specific action.  When your dog becomes fluent with the verbal cue 90% of the time during all training sessions, cognizant of their learning threshold, begin to generalize your sessions by having your dog perform the cue with different levels of distractions, in different environments, with different people, and real-life events outside of their training sessions.

Wean off high value rewards and their frequency to avoid your dog demanding a bribe.  Use high value rewards frequently when your dog has little, to no proficiency.  Downgrade the rewards and use them intermittently as their proficiency increases considerably and consistently.  Then infrequently when they can perform the cues automatically.  But always praise lavishly! 

Some cues may be harder for your dog to learn and for you to teach because the progression of training cues from low to high distractions creates variables that may feel complicated.  Or the demands of the cue may be comprehensive and may require a high-level impulse control from your dog that they do not yet have.  Typically, these cues include your dog being able to leave something very exciting alone (leave-it), recalling your dog from a long distance when they are having fun (come), or letting go of something in their mouth that they love (drop-it).  In these situations, the guidance of a qualified dog behavior professional can custom fit a training plan that will meet your dog’s learning needs, create a curriculum that you can follow confidently, and implement regularly.   

Be patient! There is no standard for when or how long it will take for your dog to acquire their ABC’s and 123’s.  This is determined by how they learn, your ability to recognize and address it, and keeping training positive, motivating, rewarding, and consistent.  To maintain your dog’s proficiency over time, always use their obedience cues in their everyday lives, and offer intermittent training sessions throughout their lives. 

Pet of the Week is provided by Carmen Molinari, a long-time volunteer at the Santa Monica Animal Shelter and founder and CEO of Love At First Sit®, a pet care and dog behavior & training company in Santa Monica. Learn about her, pet tips, and Love At First Sit® services at loveatfirstsit.net, and on Instagram at @loveatifirstsit