Don’t touch me!

Posted on Jul 9, 2017 in Aggression, Positive Association, Positive Reinforcement, Posts, Reactive, Training | 0 comments

My scottie, Sophie is not happy about this stranger petting her.

Most humans are comfortable greeting others by stretching out their hands, and making direct eye contact. As a result, humans often interact with dogs in human ways, including but not limited to, quick hand movements, forward social pressure, leaning over, staring directly at the dog and sadly, reaching out. Haptic communication is a branch of nonverbal communication that refers to the ways in which people and animals communicate, and interact via the sense of touch. Again, it is normal for humans, but rude and scary for many dogs.

Most dog owners want a dog that will willingly accept being petted, even by complete strangers. When children are involved this is even more extreme, with dogs enduring fingers in their mouths, ears and eyes.  It is true most dogs are social and do love a good scratch, let’s just not assume they like it from a stranger.  Touching a dog should only be done if the dog chooses to make contact with the person, avoid approaching dogs and DO NOT reach your hand out to let them smell you.  Seriously, I can think of  several dogs that have bitten, specifically when a stranger reached out.

Based on this dogs body language, she is enjoying be scratched.

I suggest you ask your dog and see how he or she feels about being touched by you or a friend. Call your dog into your space and begin to pet her with two hands for just a few seconds, then stop and lean a bit away. If your dog moves away just a bit or shakes off, then your dog is telling you that at this moment, in this environment, that touching was not very rewarding. If however, your dog leans into you and asks for more touching, then your dog finds this interaction rewarding.  Watch your dogs body language in different environments, and he will tell you how he feels about the hand that is coming closer to him.  

Old School training would have told you to hold your dog down for growling or snapping at a friend. This use of force will only increase the dogs fear and will break his trust in you completely.  Fearful dogs that are handled with force often get worse over time, and their behavior can escalate to a point that people think euthanasia is the only solution.

Fortunately, there are steps for changing how your dog feels about being touched. Please note, if your dog is showing severe aggressive signs, or has bitten already, contact a behavioral specialist for professional help. To teach our dogs to be comfortable with body handling, I recommend you use a traditional counter-conditioning/desensitization program (CC/DS). While each program is unique to each dog, here are some general and important things to know about CC/DS. 

  1. My Experience: Not all dogs feel relaxed with a human hand coming at them. My own dog growled at my children for about three years before he learned to trust them when they were petting him with one hand. In addition, my scottie nipped many hands as strangers would reach out to touch her. Both rescue dogs took over a year to learn to tolerate being touched by a strangers and much longer to enjoy it.

  2. Take it Slow: It is critical that you never push the dog to the point of being scared or stressed.  Because of this we can only ever move as fast as the dog will let us. Yes, the dog sets the pace. Depending on the severity of the dog’s anxiety around being touched, this process may take as little as a week or as long as several months. For dogs that have a history of getting defensive or aggressive when touched, you will want to go even slower to prevent your dog from getting overwhelmed and snapping.
  3. Have a Plan: It is a good idea to write out the steps you plan to take for the CC/DS program. This will help you be sure to move very slowly, and not try to skip steps that your dog may not be ready to skip. You can change the plan as you go, either taking more or less time depending on your dog’s response. 
  4. Make it fun: For this systematic desensitization program to work, you must always stay below a dogs “threshold” — this is the point where your dogs fear is so high, he is shutting off the thinking part of his brain. In order for this not to happen, you must stop if your dog begins to show signs of anxiety or fear.  Just because your dog is not trembling or fighting to get away does not mean he is completely relaxed about the process.  If your dog panics, shows signs of significant stress or anxiety, does not recover quickly or refuses to eat, you have moved too fast and need to go back to the previous step and increase more slowly. 
  5. Lets Talk: Your dog relies on you to be able to read his body language to tell when he is feeling relaxed, and when he is feeling stressed.

This dog is stressed , noted by his lowered body and head, ears back, paw raised, mouth closed, eyes on hand.

a) Signs of relaxation: a relaxed body posture, relaxed open mouth, slow relaxed panting, slow, loose wagging tail, readily responds to petting and talking from owners, readily accepts treats and remains loose jointed.

b) Signs of stress: rapid panting (when not hot), drooling, shaking, yawning, “shaking off” as if wet, lifting a front paw while leaning away, licking lips often, sniffing at the ground, whining or growling, hesitant to take the treat or takes it very roughly.  

Other elements of this training:

  1. Timing is critical, the timing of your treat delivery can mean the difference between success and failure with your CC/DS program.  Your dog should be happily snacking the entire time your friend or groomer is touching him,  as soon as they stop petting, the treats should disappear. This will allow for your dog to easily make the association that handling means yummy treats, no handling means the yummy treats go away.  Make sure to pause several seconds in between each treat delivery/body handling episode before starting again, this will allow the message of “hands = good food” to really sink in. This sounds easier than it is, you will need to practice to set your dog up for success. 
  2. Pay for petting is a method I like to use to change a dogs association to being touched. This is great for dogs that have nipped a hand that came at them. Start with someone the dogs knows well, they pet the dog under the chin, then feed a treat. Pet the dog on the side of his face and over his eyes, then feed a treat, look in each ear then feed a treat. Repeat this process while increasing the time you are petting or the body part you are touching. Repeat over and over using the dogs meals so that a hand coming at his face is not scary anymore. 
  3. To help you see the process here is a video: Body Handling Conditioning Diego
  4. Make sure to use high-value treats (ideally that your dog doesn’t get for any other reason) such as boiled chicken breast, liverwurst or cheese. The higher value the food items, the faster the positive association will be made.  You can also use a longer lasting treat such as a Kong, hollow sterile bone or Dixie cup filled with peanut butter or squeeze cheese. If using something like this, hold the container right up to your dog’s face the entire time you are handling his body and remove it as soon as the handling stops. 
  5. Frequent training sessions of about ten minutes, rather than trying to do a long body handling session is best. Remember, you are trying to take it slow and make it fun for your dog.

The Time Line at which you get through this conditioning depends on how stressed or anxious your dog is as well as how quickly he or she rebounds. Some dogs change very quickly and begin to seek out touch. While others do not seem to be able to change and need this conditioning with every new person they meet for many years.  The end goal is not for your dog to seek out every hand, but to feel relaxed when a hand comes at him.  When this program is done correctly, your dog will begin to associate a hand coming at him as a source of good things. Because you use high value treats, your dog might even begin to drool rather than growl.

Tip: During this desensitization training period it is important to avoid putting your dog in a situation where he might bite or snap.  Exposing your dog to the scary situation while trying to counter-condition him, is going to slow your progress. 

 

 

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Training the Territorial Dog

Posted on Mar 29, 2017 in Aggression, Dog Training, Positive Reinforcement, Posts, Rescue Dog, Training | 0 comments

Judy’s recipe to help you change the behavior of your territorial  dog. These are dogs who rush and bark at people through windows, fences, and at the door. 

  1. Management
  2. Understanding your dogs warning signals
  3. Training/Desensitization
  4. Proofing

 

1. Management means changing the environment so your dog is not put in situations that trigger his fear or pushes him over threshold.  As any new negative experiences can make his fear worse. It also means preventing him from practicing unwanted behaviors so that they do not become a habit. Good management should be practiced while you train and desensitize your dog. 

 

 

2. How to read your dog is an important step in changing his behavior. What are your dogs stress or warning signs? What signs does your dog use to tell strangers they would like to have more space?  Have you observed your dog looking, or leaning away, growling, whale eye (whites of eye shows), head up with a frozen forward stance, air snapping, or barking at a person?  If your dog is lunging at people, then you or a previous owner have missed his lower level warnings and allowed people to close, now he has to protect himself.

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Low level Distance Cue: Leaning and looking away. This child received a bite to the forehead because her humans did not know this dog was using a low level distance cue.

Learn your dogs stress signals, so you can support your dog. Low level distances cues should never be punished, as this can result in a dog that is not allowed to express his fear, hence he may bite with no warning. 

Looking away from a person, turning muzzle away, turning neck farther away, closing the mouth, ears go back, brow may furrow, dog becomes still and possibly stiff, and the white of the eyes often appear. This is when YOU need to support your dog by calling them to safety or stepping in to reduce their stress. Remember, not all dogs have the same tolerance, your dog may wait three seconds before they bite when stressed while another dog may be more tolerant, waiting 10 seconds. Knowing your dog’s stress signals is essential to his or her success. 

This is a very good warning to respect.  Correcting a dog for being afraid of people never works.

This is a very good warning to respect, correcting a dog for being afraid of people never works.

 

More serious distance cues are more obvious and may include growling, freezing, lip curling, show of teeth, air snapping, lunging and rapid barking, standing tall and motionless with direct eye contact. If a warning did not work, the dog may feel the need to bite to keep himself safe. If your dog skips this warning, it is possibly because he did not have time to give another warning or possibly your dog is not tolerant at all and will react much quicker as his nature.

 

3. Training or desensitizing and counter-conditioning (CC&D) is a wide spread behavior modification technique, whose ultimate goal is to change the emotional response (which leads to an overall change in the dog’s approach to the subject) towards a given “trigger” that caused the dog to react in the first place.

Counter conditioning is a classical conditioning approach where we pair something that created an unpleasant or scary response with something highly rewarding to the dog.

  • If you use treats in various different exercises where your dog has no fear, then your dog most likely has a positive emotional response to the presence of treats which creates the opposite of a fear response.
  • If at any time during your training, you dog stops eating, then slow the progression down, take a step back in your training. This is your dogs way of saying I am not comfortable with the current situation to eat.

By pairing food with a trigger at a sub-threshold distance (a distance where a dog has little or mild to no response) we are getting the “looking forward to” instead of the fearful aggressive response. Our goal is to change the emotional response towards something that was considered unpleasant to the dog before. Specifically, I use a process called Treat and Retreat http://caninebehaviorcounseling.com/regarding-that-dog-bite/

Using positive reinforcement training to teach your dog some emotional control can be very effective with territorial dogs. Teach your dog to sit and stay in different environments to help your dog see you as their leader.  Any dog who has a good leader built on mutual trust will progress faster through this recipe. So be a good pack leader to your dog and ask many behaviors throughout each day and reward with food, toys or affection. These dogs are more likely to look to their leader for guidance when a guest arrives.

Emotion control practice in neutral environments is hugely helpful for territorial dogs.

  •  Train a sit/stay while people pass on the street or local park,  practicing so your dog can be successful is essential to your dogs success. Always begin each training session in an environment where your dog is calm and below threshold.  Progress to environments closer to home, your street, driveway and in the home.
  •  Train a strong “come” or “here” to be able to call your dog away from a stranger when you see stress signals from your dog. Simply take some bits of cheese in your hand and say the cue word “here” when you dog looks at you, say “yes” and toss him a treat. Walk away and repeat “here” say “yes” as he begins to come to you and reward with five or six pieces! Practice in multiple situations and always be generous with the reward.

4. Proofing the behavior gives you the knowledge of how he will respond to a particular stimuli in different locations or situations. When I have proofed my dogs behavior in many different situations, I have verification or confirmation that I know how he is going to respond.  If you are thinking your dog “reacts differently in different situations” than you need to slow your process down and get to know your dogs stress signals better. You are most likely missing some warning cues.

Keep in mind, every dog will progress at a different pace, this pace is set by the dog. Factors that effect how your dog responds can include many variables, such as how a person smells, moves, height, gender, if they make direct eye contact, are nervous, if they lean forward, or stomp their feet, how long they are near, just to name a few.  

Remember, this is a recipe, if you leave out one ingredient, your final product will not be what you expected. All the ingredients must be included over a period of time. My wire haired terrier took over a

Passed!!

year to finally trust tall men and my scottie nearly double that time to trust any human, as she was five when I adopted her. She also came to me with an 8 bite history and two police reports in her file. Unfortunately, her previous trainer shocked her when she growled at people — yes, this did make her much worse.  With Counter Conditioning how she felt about people, she began to see them as a predictor of good things and safety. You can imagine how gratifying it was when she passed her Canine Good Citizen Certification by a trainer she had never met before. Parenting a territorial dog is a process, stay positive and celebrate the small successes with your dog.

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Aggression or a Normal Response?

Posted on Nov 13, 2016 in Aggression, Dog Training, Leash Training, Positive Reinforcement, Posts, Reaction, Reactive, Socialization | 0 comments

 Based on their maturity and tolerance, dogs respond to other dogs behaviors in different ways. Let’s be honest, many of you reading this have disagreed with another person, lost your temper, and became angry in response to someones actions. 

Consider:  Una, a beautiful long haired German Shepherd, loves to play with dogs and has shown friendly behaviors to all the  dogs she has ever met. Until last week. As she was running on the beach with a Sheltie she just met, and all was well until she saw a tennis ball go flying over head.  Already on the run, Una bolted after the ball, but was immediately body slammed by a Retriever mix who was in hot pursuit of his beloved tennis ball. Upon crashing into each other, Una snarled at the Retriever mix as a reprimand for causing her a bit of pain, Una is six years old. He did not respond to her reprimand, yet remained running at her hip, Una beat him to the ball and snatched it up.

The Retriever Mix again body slammed Una, aroused from the chase, and feeling another shot of pain in her back, she dropped the ball and reprimanded the Retriever Mix by putting her mouth on his neck and giving him a good hard shake, then let him go.  The Retriever  snatching up the ball, and returned to his owner as if nothing had happened.  

Red, the Chow is being pushy.  Kandi, the Chow on the right will tolerate this for a bit, and then will growl and snap. Red takes the reprimand every time as is their relationship.

Red, the Chow on the left is engaging. Kandi, the Chow on the right will tolerate this for a bit, and then will growl and snap. Red takes the reprimand every time as is their relationship.

Una’s response to this Retriever’s use of body contact when playing was very appropriate in her mind, and she tried to return to playing chase with the Sheltie as she was enjoying this type of play. 

Response: Unfortunately, her owner saw her as being aggressive, and called Una in a harsh tone.  Una went to her owner who is usually trusting and gentle, but not this time, she was stiff and grabbed Una’s collar — nearly lifting her front feet off the ground.  Her owner is usually very excited when she comes when called, so Una was quite confused by this aggression.  The ride home was scary as her owner verbally scolded Una in a harsh tone.  Once home, Una was grabbed firmly by the collar and put into her crate while her owner continued to stomp around the house and gave Una hard-eyed stares. Una has now learned when her owner calls her it makes her feel very unsure and afraid.

The Malamute is moving forward as the Tuverian Shepherd is moving away.  These two dogs have very differnt playstyles as they are beginning to discover.

This Malamute, Loki is moving forward as the Tuverian Shepherd, Nell is moving away. These two dogs have very differnt play styles as they are beginning to discover, having just met.

Humans also respond with different levels of feedback depending on age and life experiences.  If the Retriever had lightly rubbed Una’s shoulder as he was heading to the ball or lightly bumped her body when she won the ball, she may have only turned away or growled. 

Did I mention Una initiates play with a play bow followed by a game of chase. She does not enjoy wrestling. Did Una have time to tell the Retriever Mix how she liked to play? Did he even ask? Is it possibly the Retriever has learned that a hard body slam is therefore more likely to win the ball?  Will Una’s feedback prevent him from body slamming another dog?  Doubtful, however it depends on his temperament and his sensitivity to a reprimand.

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This Alaskan Malamute, Loki has not seen me in about a year. His use of space is very clear, he likes to be close!

My point: If your dog scuffles with another, consider the entire incident.  How well do they really know each other?  Was their contact made before an invitation was offered?  Was one dog trying to steal a resource from another?  Do the dogs have different styles of play?  If one dog is a wrestler and another only enjoys chase, then you can expect some conflict to occur. If the reprimand or feedback given ends in a puncture or broken skin, take a breath and ask your self how many times has your dog played with other dogs and not broken skin?  If the answer is many, then you can assume these two dogs were very different and conflict was somewhat expected. If your dog is beginning to reprimand dogs more often, then slow greetings down and be sure  the dogs have similar personalities, play styles and time to signal intentions. This will not only reduce conflict, it will reduce the level of reprimand, and make for a far more enjoyable ride home!

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Drop the Leash, Dog Training Video

Posted on Sep 30, 2016 in Certified Dog Trainer, Clicker, Dog Training, Leash Training, Positive Reinforcement, Posts, Puppy | 0 comments

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Sept. 2007 Chester, my 8 wk old foster.

Do you wish your dog looked at you more? I could show you thousands of photos of me with dogs and the dog is always looking at me. Why? How is this possible?  Can you feel the connection in this photo? This was the day before I  let Chester go to his forever family, I wanted him to know he could trust people and they would keep him safe.

My secret?  I am good at mirroring a dogs awareness, at reinforcing  small behaviors I like. Tip: I never look at a dog and say “no!” as this makes the dog want to leave me. I have good timing, I reward quickly, and am generous with rewards.  I avoid letting the dog get frustrated because I reward small attempts from the dog toward the ultimate goal. This keeps the dog engaged and wanting to work with me. Tip: When a dog is aware of me, I let him know I am aware of him also, the connection begins here.

Pablo looks at me with dogs in the distance

Pablo reorients to me with dogs in the distance.

I created a video of me training clients dogs, so you can have all my secrets! I am sharing these because I want you and your dog to have a better connection like I do with my own dog, Pablo.

Benefits of my Drop the Leash Video:

  • achieve specific goals in the comfort of your home.
  • improve your dogs recall, quickly 
  • see real-life demos with results
  • build a mirror image of  your dogs attention
  • my techniques put to practical use
  • learn to use a compilation of real life skills, without food
  • how your behavior effects your dog
  • free scripts/booklet of each game I teach 

Order Your Digital Copy of Drop the Leash Here!

Video Reviews:

“Unbelievable! I learned so much and my dog is coming when I call him!” Peter C.

“Excellent doesn’t even begin to describe Judy as a trainer! She’s helped tremendously with my reactive and nervous border collie mix Annie. She’s gone from a nervous wreck of a puppy to a cool and collective adult who can now interact with other dogs politely” – Olivia R.

“Unique and easy to follow along, I highly recommend this online class for families, reactive dog owners and anyone who wants to teach their dog to relax in more situations. – Sue B.

 

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Non Food Rewards to Offer Your Dog

Posted on Aug 14, 2016 in Dog Training, Positive Association, Positive Reinforcement, Posts, Puppy, Unleashed Control | 0 comments

 If you reward someone’s behavior when it is occurring, they are more likely to do that behavior again in the future.  I wanted to give you some tips to get your dog to do the behaviors you want without always reaching for the treat bag.

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Heidi is running to me as my body is inviting, she is rewarded wtih a long scratch under her harness.


Using your voice to reward your dog.  I often ask dog handlers to use their voice in a happy tone so their dog knows they have done something right.  Dogs perceive high pitched voices as invitations to come closer and engage, conversely, low tones are perceived as a warning or distance cues to our dogs. Avoid saying your dog’s name or even talking to your dog in a firm or scolding tone as this will make your dog ignore you in the future.

Using your body to reward your dog.  Dogs primarily read body language so it is important that your body language and voice are saying the same thing. In the photo of me to the right, the dog sees  an invitation to engage with me as  I am crouched low, soft relaxed joints, clapping, open mouth, soft eyes and balanced weight distribution. Leaning forward would be more threatening.

Using your hands to reward your dog.  Dogs who enjoy tactile touching  love a great scratch in the right spot. I rewarded Heidi with a long scratch under her harness, she always dances with joy when I scratch her.  I should mention that she has learned to receive this from me.

Moore_Judy044

As I continued to pet this pup during puppy class, he remained in my space because the scratching was so very rewarding to him.

Using toys to reward for your dog. Dogs who enjoy playing fetch or tug are often willing to do a few behaviors for a fun game of tug. Be sure the reward is long enough for your dog, example. If you call your dog to you and engage in tug, be sure the reward of tugging last long enough to be considered rewarding for your dog. If you only tug for 10 seconds and then put the toy away, this may actually be a negative to your dog.

Practice these tips for just five minutes today and watch your dog engage with you longer and come to you faster!  Using non food rewards will strengthen the bond with your dog and provide additional life enrichment fun for you both!

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How Does this Dog Feel?

Posted on Apr 10, 2016 in Leash Training, Pets, Positive Reinforcement, Posts, Puppy, Rescue Dog, Training | 0 comments

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Looking at this dogs body language, the boxer is leaning away from his best friend, his ears are pinned back in fear, the whites of his eyes show the level of stress. This dog is not thinking about what he did but how he feels right now.  Why does it matter how a dog feels? Because his feelings will effect his behavior.  Dogs will often avoid humans who make them feel stressed or worried.

 

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 In contrast, look at the body language of these two young girls, and how they are making each other feel?  This is a baby sitter and a child she is responsible for.  The baby sitter is building trust, mutual communication and a connection. We can see a positive relationship building based on body language.

 

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 The body language of this Scottie is pretty clear how is she feels about the hand petting her.  She was just groomed by the hand now petting her, do we have a trusting relationship, mutual communication and a connection?  

 When I introduce a new rule structure to my dogs or my clients dog, I make sure good things happen when the dog performs the wanted or desired behavior. We can all agree that consequence drives behavior in all of us, but I want you to think of a consequence as a rewarding one.  It is not just that I believe it works, it is scientifically proven that if a dog does a behavior and what follows is rewarding, the behavior will be repeated.  This repeated behavior performed several times per day and continued over a few weeks becomes a desired habit.  Is that not what we all are trying to do?  Shape our dogs behavior into good habits? 

Below is an Example of how I make a dog feel during a training session.

With a foster dog, I grab a handful of treats and lure the dog to his mat, if he sniffs it, looks at it or step on it, I say “yes” or 2015_0207 Family Dog Two-29click my clicker and drop a treat or two between his paws.  Then I ask the dog to get off his mat, pick it up and walk a few steps with it in my hand.  I repeat the process of laying the mat down and rewarding the dog for moving onto the mat.   When he steps onto it, say “yes” and reward generously.  Initially, put the mat away between sessions and play this game a few times per day.  When your see your dog get excited that you are about to lay the mat down, add a cue like “go to your place” just before you lay the mat down.  Once your dog is walking on the mat quickly, wait on the “yes” and see if your dog offers you a sit, then say “yes” and reward.  Eventually your dog will offer you a down and then you can jackpot this behavior.

To maintain the desired behavior of “go to your mat” I will randomly reward my dog when I see him go to his mat without being asked.  Rewards can be a slow massage, stuffed yummy kong time, favorite chew bone, yummy treat, a good scratch, whatever your dog finds rewarding.  I use this each morning as we enter the kitchen, each of my dogs will move towards their mat and I will eventually feed them while they are on their mat waiting patiently.  I no longer ask them to go to their mat, they know going to their mat predicts they will get fed, which is rewarding to them and nice for me  to have then out of the kitchen.

IMG_0109If you are reading this Blog, then I assume you have a dog or are thinking about getting a dog.  My hope is that you are a positive influence in training your dog, and not one who feels they need to “dominate” a dog.  Consider how your behavior makes your dog “feel” when you are training.  I hope your dog feels good when you are near, when he looks at you and when you reach to touch him.  If not, read more of my blog to learn how to train your dog while also having a happy, healthy and trusting relationship.

 

Remember, how you make a dog or friend feel, will effect the relationship.  In my experiences,  your dog will not remember what you say, but he will remember how you make him feel.

 

 

 

 
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