3 Tips to Changing your Dogs Habit

Posted on Mar 27, 2016 in Clicker, Dog Training, Leash Training, Positive Reinforcement, Posts, Puppy |

Tip #1 To change your dogs unwanted habit, you need to know what your dog loves! Once you know the reward your dog is willing to work for, you are ready to change his habit. The same reward may not work for all dogs. 

Popular rewards:

  • Food. I mean high value, like chicken, hotdogs and cheese.
  • Play, such as fetch or tug.
  • Hunting. Allowing some dogs to hunt in the
    Moore_Judy045

    In Judy’s puppy class, all  pups sit and wait calmly before they get to “go play”.

    grass can be highly motivating.
  • Playing with other dogs.
  • Sniffing. If your dog is an olfactory machine, use it to motivate.
  • Verbal praise is rarely enough motivation to change a dogs habit.  

Tip #2 To change your dogs unwanted habit, you need to add a marker, like a clicker or a “yes”, so your dog knows which behavior is rewardable. 

  • Catch your dog doing the right behavior or something close to the desired behavior, click or say “yes” the second your dog does the desired behavior. Reward with something your dog loves.

Tip #3 To change your dogs unwanted habit, you need to offer the reward in a timely manner.  If your dog sits, rather than jumps on you, you mark the behavior and offer the reward quickly. Well timed rewards helps the dog learn that his behavior predicts his favorite reward, hence he will perform the desired behavior more often.

Pablo approaches me

Pablo approaches me.

Bonus Tip Initially, you reward your dog every time he offers the correct behavior. I know this is hard for many dog owners, but it will make a huge difference in how fast your dog changes his habit. Next, start randomly rewarding with the high value, but always let your dog know you are pleased with his new habit.  Over time, you randomly reward

Moore_Judy033

Pablo sits, I click and reward.

with what your dog loves, but always reward with something pleasant to your dog.  Positive reinforcement works for dogs of all ages, and is a great way to help your dog change his habits.

 

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Bite Prevention with Guests

Posted on Dec 31, 2015 in Aggression, Barking, Certified Dog Trainer, Dog Training, Positive Reinforcement, Posts, Reactive, Rescue Dog, Safety | 0 comments

This is the fifth of a five part segment, to help dog owners with insecure dogs that act aggressively to strangers.  A practical guide to helping owners with dogs who rush and bark at people through windows, fences, at the front door and on leash.  

The steps we discussed in weeks prior are:
Step 1. Management; prevent your dog from practicing the unwanted behavior.
Step 2. Desensitization and counter condition; change how your dog feels.
Step 3.  Bite Prevention; understanding your shy dogs Distance Cues.
Step 4. Emotional Control Exercises; helping your dog have better impulse control.
Step 5.  Adding Criteria; discussed below.
Moore_Judy030

The dog has a choice to follow the person as they treat and retreat backwards.

Adding Criteria in general: Now that your dog has better emotional control in quiet settings, I recommend you begin to add some criteria to your training in very small steps.  When training fails it is often because we humans want the behavior to be corrected or stopped without changing how the dog feels. Small criteria additions would be training your dog in your driveway or yard, staying a safe distance from the street.  If you are in a city environment, then begin this step inside the house near a window, inside the front door or in the back yard.  Another option is to drive your dog to a safe location at the end of your street where you have a friend waiting with instructions on how to toss a treat at your dogs feet, and then toss one further away as you walk a bit. Have a successful short training session then return home to relax.

 Adding Criteria with guests:   If your dog is highly aroused inside the front door, begin your training with a guest outside your home or down the street, as your dog needs to be in a thinking brain for desensitization to work.  If your dog is on a leash, be sure the leash is slack and the handler follows the dog, rather than directing the dog’s movements. This gives your insecure dog a choice in how close he wants to be to the stranger, which allows desensitization to be effective, and it allows you to constantly see how your dog is feeling. Pay attention to your dog and note the difference in his body language with guests in your home compared to on the street.  BEGIN training where your dog is calmer. If your dog gets stiff, begins breathing fast, growling, or barking, simply take a short break and move farther from his territory.  When you begin again, increase the number of times you toss the treat far away so the dog does not feel like you are trying to “trick” him, as this will halt any desensitization you expect to accomplish.  This process may take three or four session with the same person down the street before your dog can relax, that is fine, just go at your dogs pace.

IMG_2005

happy, soft eyre, open mouth, relaxed ears on this scottie

Adding Criteria in your home:  As long as you are seeing your dog with a relaxed face and body outside your home, you can continue with your guest entering your home first, ahead of you and your dog, then continue the treat and retreat game, with your dog on a slack leash remembering the dog has a choice.

Regardless of how the people are positioned (standing, sitting, moving etc.) the dog is free to approach or avoid at any time. The dog may choose to come into a person’s space or not, may choose to enter and stay in that space, or may choose to enter and then leave. This process helps the dog feel safe because he is in control, preventing him from sliding into fight mode. When your dog feels safe, he will be able to think and learn and associate your guest with a positive association.

Time frame: Each dog will progress at a different pace and they can only go at their pace.  Factors that change this time frame are how the person smells, how many guests you have, how tall they are, male or female, how fast they move, if they make direct eye contact, if they are nervous, if they lean over the dog too far or stomp their feet.  If your dog goes over his comfort level, he may lunge and or snap, I do not recommend you punish your dog, simply slow the progression down until you reduce your dogs fear. 

Reducing your dogs fear of humans will be a process if you own a shy or insecure dog.  Your guests or friends participating in the desensitization process should be coached to not approach the dog, but rather wait for the dog to approach them to begin the treat and retreat game.  Giving the dog a choice in the relationship will keep him feeling safe and in control so he is able to change how he feels about humans.

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soft eyes, ears, open relaxed mouth are signs of a relaxed dog

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Teaching a Dog to Sit, Stay will Improve His Emotional Control

Posted on Dec 26, 2015 in Aggression, Barking, Dog Training, Leash Frustration, Leash Training, Pets, Positive Reinforcement, Posts, Rescue Dog, Training, Unleashed Control |

Briggs is practicing a down stay in the field.

Briggs is practicing a down stay in the field.

This is Blog #4 in helping the dog who is barking and lunging at people.

Step 1. Management; prevent him from practicing the unwanted behavior.

Step 2. Desensitization and counter condition; change how your dog feels.

Step 3.  Understanding your dogs Distance Cues.

Step 4.  Emotional Control Exercises, teaching your dog to sit and down stay will help your dog have better emotional control. 

Begin training sessions of  5-10 minutes several times a day in a low distraction environment.(Some where in your home is a good place to start). The secret to a good stay is to not move through the stages too fast. Build up gradually by adding duration and distractions.

Nice sit stay in the heel position by Layla.

Nice sit stay in the heel position by Layla.

Using the Collar: Say dogs name and ask dog to sit, touch the collar and say “stay” while holding a flat hand in front of the dogs face. Reward quickly with a few treats, repeat.  Now try it without holding the collar, “come, sit, stay” reward, reward, then release. Repeat while standing.

Using the Leash:  Say dogs name and ask dog to “sit, stay” while a raising a flat hand. Reward quickly with a few treats, then release your dog and repeat. 

Duration: You may have to reward with treats every few seconds, then release your dog.  The goal is your dog will want to “stay” as this is rewarding, when you release him the food stops.  If your dog moves before you release him, walk or look away and try the pattern again but reward generously until they understand what it is you are asking.

Add Criteria: Using your dogs daily meal, repeat this pattern “come, sit, stay” or “heel, sit, stay” reward and release, repeat while adding duration in every room of your house.  Add higher criteria by having a familiar person walk past and reward generously if your dog holds his sit, stay.  If he breaks, no worries, show him the food and repeat the pattern until he is successful.  Progress to sit, stay outside in the driveway, yard and street with no distractions then add criteria by having a  familiar person walk past and reward generously for good emotional control.  

Down stay in a public place.

Down stay in a public place.

Success: By now your dog understands that when a person walks by “good things can happen.”  If your dog training is failing, I will bet it is because the criteria is too high for the dog.  Set your dog up for success and reward many repetitions of sit, stay or down,stay in many locations with only familiar friends passing by.  As your dog matures, he will develop better emotional control in a variety of situations AND see people passing by as a predictor that good things can happen.  If your dog does not have strong emotional control at home, then please do not ask him to sit and stay in a public location as this criteria is too high.

Time Frame: Each dog will progress at a different pace and they can only go at their pace.  Factors that change how your dog feels and reacts can include how a person smells, how tall they are, male or female, how fast they move, if they make direct eye contact, if they are nervous,  lean over the dog, cough, laugh or even stomp their feet.  If there is one person or several makes a huge difference how each dog feels.  If your dog goes over his comfort level, he may lunge and snap.  Do not punish, simply slow the progression down until you reduce your dogs fear. 

Personal Experience: I have progressed countless clients through this process, and two of my own dogs! I am not worried

Breakfast was earned holding a down stay in different locations.

Breakfast was earned holding a down stay in different locations.

about either of my dogs lunging or biting a guest.  I rescued my Scottish Terrier at 5 years of age with a history of multiple bites, after 18 months of training she passed her Canine Good Citizen Certification and can now greet people in my house. For months, I had to introduce her to guests on the street, then in the yard and eventually inside my home,  this is a detailed desensitization process.  The good news is you will get there with your furry friend, just take your time, manage when you can not train, train below your dogs threshold and practice daily using his meal.

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How to Stop Aggressive Dog Barking at People

Posted on Dec 3, 2015 in Aggression, Barking, Dog Training, Leash Frustration, Leash Training, Positive Reinforcement, Posts, Reactive | 0 comments

This is the first of a five part segment, to help dog owners with dogs that act aggressively  to strangers.  A practical guide to helping owners with dogs who rush and bark at people through windows, fences, at the front door and on leash.  If your dog displays these behaviors, at guests when they enter, your dog may be shy or fearful of strangers. Reducing his fear is essential to changing his behavior. Keep in mind this behavior can simply be frustration as well, determining the difference is another topic!

Now, Steps in helping the dog who is barking and lunging at people.

Step 1. Management; prevent him from practicing the unwanted behavior.

Step 2. Desensitization and counter condition; change how your dog feels.

Step 3.  Understanding your dogs Distance Cues.

Step 4. Emotional Control Exercises; help your dog have better impulse control.

Step 5. Adding Criteria and Generalization

 

Let’s start by understanding how to effectively manage the adolescent dog so he is not becoming worse during your training.  The key is to prevent your dog from practicing this barking behavior when in the home, car, yard, or anywhere.

Management: means changing the environment so your dog is not being put in a situation that triggers his fear or pushes him over threshold to this barking behavior.   These negative experiences will slow your training process and are often practiced as they are rewarding to your dog.  Behaviors that are practiced will not fade or change, so management is essential during your training.

I wish all my dogs were this relaxed while riding in a car.

For example, if your dog barks at people when in the car, you can put your dog in a comfortable crate with chew toys and a light sheet over it so your dog cannot see people. Before putting your dog in any crate, you want to condition this crate as a safe and comfortable place to be.  Feeding your dog in the crate for several days can help your dog feel safe in this crate.  Another option is to tape some wax paper up to the inside of the car windows, while not a fashion statement, it can be effective.

For the dog that runs the fence line barking daily, this behavior should not be allowed to occur.  Fences can often cause frustration, so spending time with you dog outside is essential to prevent unwanted chasing and barking. You might consider moving the fence to the back yard only so your dog can not see people passing. 

Windows in the home can easily be covered with wax paper to block the view as this can be a trigger for barking.  Moving the furniture so your dog cannot sit high enough to see out, or using baby gates to block access to these environments is also recommended as effective management.

IMG_1742While out for a walk on a leash, I suggest you have a plan to avoid people within the distance that makes your dog become aroused or stressed until you have a chance to desensitize and counter condition this behavior.  If your dog can pass a person 40 feet away without showing signs of stress or arousal, then this is where you should keep your dog so he is having a successful walk with little stress. 

My next blog in this series will complement the management techniques discussed here. It will detail exactly how to change this type of behavior using the scientific approach IMG_3126.JPGof desensitization and counter conditioning.  This is how I helped many clients dogs and changed my Scotty’s behavior after adopting her at 5 years of age.  The complete timeframe for this process can be from 6-months to 2-years, depending on the dog. For my Scotty this process took 18 months, and it was well worth the effort as she is now living a much calmer and happier life!  See you soon for more practical training for dogs who bark at humans.

 

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3 Tips for Changing Your Dogs Behavior

Posted on Oct 20, 2015 in Barking, Dog Training, Positive Reinforcement, Posts, Puppy, Rescue Dog, Socialization, Training |

There are many ways to get behavior from an animal, for example you can hold your dog down when he jumps up on you, this may work for you, but the negative is that your dog may start barking more when guest arrive.   Some dogs will become really wiggly and jumpy with strangers as a way of showing appeasement to the guest to ward off that scary punishment of being held down.  This can also make your recall much more difficult as science shows that harsh reprimands can make your dog afraid and avoid you.

Science also shows us that using rewards will get the desired behavior with no negative possible outcome.  While it may take a few extra days of training, it is so worth it!

Tip 1: Reward an alternative Behavior

If you do not want your dog to jump on your guest, then teach him a sit stay at your side.  Simply walk him forward on a leash while holding a Moore_Judy081treat to his nose.  When you stop walking move the treat up over his head until he sits, then reward.  Repeat this exercise until he automatically sits when you stop walking, then reward for sitting, continue to reward with food then release him.  Repeat each morning with his breakfast until he learns to sit/stay next to you while there is no one around.  Once he will sit at your side until you release him, then add some guests at a distance.  Then practice this behavior outside in the yard, park or vets office.  Training a new behavior is best done in a quiet environment, then practiced with low distractions.  Remember your dog is most likely an adolescent, so be patient, you were an adolescent once too!

ask for a sit

Ask for a sit before she jumps up.   In one cup of food, I bet you can call your dog and reward her for sitting 25 times!

Tip 2: Ignore the unwanted behavior

Here is the secret and it is easy!  When your puppy jumps up on you, you look away, immediately walk a few steps away from your dog,  remember eye contact is rewarding.  Call your dog to you and ask for a sit, when he gets it right, reward.  If he does an unwanted behavior like jump on you, then walk away with no attention at all.  Always give your dog a second chance to earn the reward, otherwise he will not know the wanted behavior.

Tip 3: Put the unwanted behavior on Stimulus Control (for the dog enthusiast)

This can be a little tricky if you do not use a marker in your training, but the idea is that your dog only performs the unwanted behavior when you ask for it.  Lets Try it!

If you know your dog is going to jump up on you when you open the door, then you can cue him by B0000914raising both your arms up in the air mark his jump with a “yes” or clicker then reward him.  Repeat this around the house until the dog jumps up when you cue him with both your arms in the air.  Then add a verbal cue like “up” which you say just before you throw your arms up in the air, always click or use a verbal “yes” when he  jumps and reward.   This process will take several days, but be patient.  Now practice leaving, and re-enter your doorway, cue your dog “up” click and reward for your dog jumping.

Over time, cue your dog when you enter the door to “up” then no more cue, as you enter farther in the home, then go out and enter and do not ask for an “up”.   If your dog jumps when you do not ask for it, simply walk away with no attention at all. Your dog will learn to only perform the behavior when you ask for it,  known as stimulus control training. This is great fun and I recommend you do it for the dog that barks often as well.  

Another example: ring your doorbell and say “speak” while looking at your dog, click the second your dog barks and reward.  Repeat several times until your dog will offer a bark when you say “speak” without ringing the door bell.  Now ring the door bell and after your dog barks, you can say “enough” click and reward when your dog looks at you.  I recommend you use a yummy food reward when teaching a new behavior, as the behavior becomes more reliable, you can switch to randomly offering food or affection over time.  I have used this same technique on both of my dogs and it works very well!

Send me a video of your success!

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Are you sending the wrong message?

Posted on Jul 26, 2015 in Canine Good Citizen, Dog Training, Pets, Positive Association, Positive Reinforcement, Posts, Puppy, Rescue Dog, Socialization, Training |

 

what are they saying?

what are they saying?

We have 3 different conversations going on in this photo.  Note the open or closed mouths.  Where are their eyes looking? How are the tails held? Are there any paw lifts? Do you note soft or stiff joints? How about forward or back or lowered ears?

Dogs communicate to other dogs using vocalizations and body language.  

Many humans accidentally ask their dogs a behavior without even realizing it.  If your dog is repeatedly offering the wrong behavior, could it be what YOU are asking?  

I once had a client whose sweet 5 yr old female Scottish Terrier was a problem barker, predictably when dad was on the phone.  I asked him what he had tried to stop her from barking, and here is what he said:  “I have tried yelling at her, walking in the other room, ignoring her and now I get some relief when I toss her a large dog biscuit as it takes her a while to eat it, but sometimes she starts right back up again.”  

Did you know? If a dog does a behavior (like sit or bark) and if what follows is rewarding to the dog (attention or freedom) then the behavior will be repeated.  This is also true of humans!

IMG_2720This Scottie learned that when she barked at her owner he spoke to her which was rewarding as she was able to get his attention.  Even negative attention is better than no attention for a bored dog. Then one day she just happened to bark while dad was on the phone and because he needed her quiet he tossed her a large biscuit.  The smart girl has now learned that when dad puts that box to his ear and she barks, she gets a Big Biscut.  This behavior will surely be repeated, by this smart dog!

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So, if your dog is repeating the same unwanted behavior, think about what message you are sending to your dog, as it is most likely some kind of a reward for your pup.  Changing your behavior will certainly change your dogs, like giving her a biscuit when she is calmly lying on her bed.  I am pretty sure this is a behavior we all want repeated! Remember: if your dog is seeking attention, be sure to reward wanted behavior, while ignoring unwanted behavior. 

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