DEAR OLD TRAINER: Your advice on training my Maltese pair, Dot and Max, worked out well. They have their basic training down and rarely forget. You mentioned in a column last year how you and your dogs practice every day. Are you teaching them new things every day? Do you recommend training every day?
Katherine, Flagstaff, Arizona
A: I use the term “practice” to mean taking a little time every day to reinforce what my pack already knows, and “training” to mean teach new commands.
Dogs resemble humans in the way they get lazy and spend their time thinking up shortcuts (I have the same failings). The way I combat that is to make practice a part of every activity I do with my pack, including the daily walk.
Dogs, like star athletes, need constant practice. LaBron James, one of the greatest basketball players of all time, says if he misses one day of practice he loses two days of skill.
All my dogs know different tricks and I work those into the walk so each one gets a chance to show off at some point. We have fun the entire time, but I throw in commands throughout the walk. I have them turn left and right, stop, start, hold, whatever comes to mind.
If I see a lapse of attention I make that dog—or maybe all the dogs—sit while I bore them with a lecture.
The point of practice is to increase their skills and decrease their reaction times. It may be a total of only five or ten minutes, but we practice every day. As long as you make it fun they always look forward to doing it again the next day. The sure way to make it fun is to brag on them and love on them when they do it right.
I only hold training sessions when teaching a new command or when one or more dogs have slipped so far we have to go back to basics.
DEAR OLD TRAINER: I have Lexie, 8, and Champ, 9, both Huskies, and Leo, a 4-year old mix. The two Huskies have been scratching a lot lately and when I checked their coats I found what looked like dandruff on both of them. Is it possible for dogs to have dandruff?
Lawrence, Evanston, Wyoming
A: Yes. It’s not the same as human dandruff, but it looks the same. And your Huskies fit the profile of dogs most likely to have it—older dogs with thick undercoats.
The little white flakes you see are usually dead skin cells. There is an epidemic of skin problems among canines these days, most caused by toxic flea liquids, excess vaccinations, or toxic lawn chemicals. Sometimes it’s impossible to determine the cause, but whatever the reason, they cause intense itching.
I solved it with my oldest dog by clipping the hair short in the affected areas and treating the skin with a mixture of half apple cider vinegar-half water, adding fish oil to his diet, and rubbing lotion on his skin.
Other remedies include rubbing the skin with olive oil or vegetable oil once a week, increased grooming with a soft brush, and shampooing with oatmeal shampoo.
Have your vet check both dogs just to be sure. Many of these skin problems require professional help.
A trainer for more than 30 years, Jack Haskins has rescued, trained and placed more than 2,500 dogs. Send questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.