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.
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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.

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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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Dog Bite Prevention

Posted on Dec 19, 2015 in Aggression, Certified Dog Trainer, Dog Training, Posts, Reactive, Rescue Dog, Safety, Training | 0 comments

This is Blog #3 of a 5 part series on how to prevent your dogs from biting a stranger using a positive approach.

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This Boston terrier is terrified as demonstrated by his wide eyes, ears drawn back, face turned away, lips pulled tight and closed mouth all show his fear.This is the third blog on how to help the dog who is barking and lunging at people using a positive approach.

Blog #1 How to Stop Aggressive Dog Barking at People

Read Blog #1  I discuss the importance of good management; preventing your dog from practicing the unwanted behavior of lunging at people.

Blog #2 Dog Aggression Towards Humans. 

Read Blog #2  I explain how to desensitize and counter condition; or change how your dog feels about people.

In this Blog I will teach you how to prevent your dog from biting a person by helping you understand when your dog is feeling stressed and needs more space from an unfamiliar person.  Dogs will offer requests for distance, called distance cues until they learn that their requests go ignored by the human. If they are still afraid, they will simply bite as their fear overrides their ability to think.

Distance Cues are body postures or signs your dog uses to tell strangers (and other dogs) they would like to have more space.  These behaviors begin with the puppy and are called “shy dogs” and can include skittish behaviors such as looking away, leaning away, cowering, hiding under furniture, paw lifted, quick lip licking, and enlarged eyes with the whites of the eyes showing.  

Go away is apparent by this dog leaning away from the hand, his paw is raised in a submissive gesture.

The need for distance is apparent by this dogs lowered head, entire body leaning away from the hand, and his paw is raised in a submissive gesture.

If you see your dog offer a distance cue then you need to help your dog by asking people to ignore your dog, back away or removing your dog from the encounter. Low level distances cues should never be punished, as this can result in a dog that is not allowed to express his fear, hence the dog may bite with no apparent warning.

 Forward stance with a show of aggression works also.

Forward stance with a show of aggression works.

Some dogs learn that these distance cues are ignored by humans, so they simply avoid humans to avoid conflict.  However, many dogs learn to use more aggressive cues and postures  such as head up with a forward stance, growling, lip curling, air snapping, lunging and barking just to mention a few.  

Sadly, I have had hundreds of clients tell me their dog used to be “shy with humans but is now lunging and snapping at them.” If a fearful/shy dog is not properly conditioned to see people as a source of good things, he may learn to use more forward body postures with a show of teeth, growling or air snapping.  When a dog learns that this posture works, of course they will use it as it makes them feel safe.  

Unfortunately, if a fast moving person or child moves into a shy or fearful dogs space, your dog may not have time to show a low level distance cue and may bite as they simply did not have time to think, and they just reacted out of fear.  Imagine when a bee flies at your face, many of you will swat it with your hand, right?  Are you being aggressive or defensive?  My experience is that most dogs bite in a defensive manner.

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This golden retriever mix has enlarged pupils, closed tight mouth, and stress signs around his eyes.

What can you do if your puppy is shy? Find a Puppy Socialization Class with a focus on bite inhibition, also known as a “soft mouth” behaviors.  Judy’s Puppy Socialization Class for the Family Pet  In addition, you can learn the Treat and Retreat Program designed by Suzanne Clothier which can be found in many Shy Dog Classes, Fear Aggression /Shy Dog Class.  In this class I discuss key topics:

  • Invasion of space and how social pressure effects your dog
  • How Reinforcers are used to increase confidence 
  • Safety while adding criteria in a slow progression 
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Note the closed mouth, still body and the tucked tail. This dog is NOT asking you to pet his belly.

Finally, if you are feeling overwhelmed with your dogs growly behavior towards your friend, or even a family member, think about this criteria.

  1. Be sure you teach your dog a soft mouth.Teach a soft mouth
  2. Change how your dog feels about strangers using classical conditioning and desensitization
  3. Learn canine body language so you know when your dog is feeling stressed.

 

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Dog Aggression Towards Humans

Posted on Dec 11, 2015 in Aggression, Barking, Dog Training, Pets, Positive Association, Posts, Rescue Dog, Training | 0 comments

Working at the fence only when you dog is calm.

Working at the fence only when you dog is calm.

In my last blog, I mentioned that changing your dogs behavior begins with good management which prevents him from practicing the unwanted behavior.

I will now explain how to change your dog’s response when meeting a stranger, using the processes of counter-conditioning and desensitization.  Counter-conditioning means changing the negative association the dog has formed about people, and replacing it with a positive, happy association using something the dog loves. Desensitization means exposing the dog to the “stimulus” (in this case, a person) at a distance, far enough away that it does not provoke a fear response from your dog, and gradually reducing the distance to the person until the dog is relaxed with the person nearby. Subsequent training can continue as your dog remains calm, and is able to accept treats or play with toys.

Repeat this process for several weeks in neutral environments, like your street, rewarding your dog when a stranger appears as long as your dog is in a thinking frame of mind and not barking and lunging.   

Pablo looks at me with dogs in the distance

Pablo looks at me with dogs in the distance

Over time, your dog sees a stranger and begins to feel less stressed and can offer a behavior like looking at you for something rewarding, like food or a game of tug.  Changing your dogs emotional state will change his behavior.

Friends who want to help you can participate in this desensitization process but should be coached to not approach your dog, but rather wait for the dog to approach them.  Then they can toss a treat at his feet, then toss one farther away behind the dog to help the dog feel safer.  The friend can continue to walk down the street while leaving a trail of treats behind them for the dog to enjoy. Hence, people = yummy food! 

I suggest you introduce new friends outside your home or down the street, as your dog needs to be calm 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 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: if they become stiff, intense, begin breathing fast, or barking, slow down as desensitization needs to happen to change your dogs behavior.

I rescued my scottie with a 5 bite history, she can now greet strangers in neutral environments with a relaxed happy state of mind.

Avoid trying to “make your dog like guest right inside your front door” as this is often where your dog is barking and growling, therefore he is not calm enough to learn.  Sure, he may gobble up the treats, but if he is still highly aroused such that you need to hold him tight, then he may be over threshold which slows your progress. 

In Summary, to desensitize your dog to strangers effectively, you MUST start in a location where your dog is calm.  If your dog acts aggressively towards strangers at your front door, then start outside in the yard or on your street.  If your dog acts aggressively at the gate or fence, then you need to take your dog to a neutral environment down the street so he can be calm enough to think and learn. If a dog is acting aggressively when you approach his kennel, then start with him outside where he is calm and can think. Many dog owners fail to change how their dogs feel about strangers because they start in locations that are over their dogs threshold so no learning can happen.

This process of counter-conditioning and desensitization may take 6 week, or 6 years! It simply depends on your dog’s current associations.  So be a good dog owner, and if you see your dog acting anxious or skittish around people, begin the process of counter-conditioning and desensitization so you can reduce your dogs stress when around strangers and therefore reduce a potential bite.

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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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My Dog Barks and Jumps on Me!

Posted on Aug 28, 2015 in Barking, Dog Training, Pets, Positive Association, Posts, Puppy, Rescue Dog, Training |

Moore_Judy035Dog training is a process of shaping behaviors that are wanted by the human.  With that in mind, why do so many of us reward unwanted behaviors?  I have met many dogs who are still offering bad behaviors even at 2 or 3 years of age.   I believe it is because many humans do not understand what is rewarding to their dog.

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Clear Message to all these dogs!

For example:  Is your dog a problem jumper?   Consider if your dog ever jumps and you say “off” or push his feet off of you, then he sits and you reward with a “good boy” or affection or a treat. Well, then, your dog will always jump and sit.  

Here is another example:  Is your dog a problem barker?

I once had a client who’s sweet doodle was a problem barker, especially when dad picked up the phone.  I asked him what he had tried to stop her from barking, 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.”  So this smart dog 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 some day she just happened to bark while dad was on the phone and because he needed her quiet he tossed her a large biscuit.  Smart girl has now learned that when dad puts that box to his ear and she barks, she gets a Big Reward.  This behavior will surely be repeated, by this smart dog!

This pup has a strong leave it, so no chasing happens.

This pup enjoys tug with his owner so he bring her toys to play with.

Another example: Does your dog grab tissues or clothing and run around the house?  If you said “yes” then I am going to guess that you or your  children have taught your dog that this is a great game enjoyed by all!  Pups learn quickly how to get attention, they know exactly how to get their humans to chase them. Play is very rewarding to a young pup! Instead, when your dog picks up his toys, give him excited attention and get him to bring you the toy for a fun game of tug!  He will learn that bringing you his toys is highly rewarding.  When he picks up a tissue, or sock you can turn away from him, grab an appropriate dog toy and begin to play with it, he will surely want to join you!

In summary, think about what behavior your dog just did and if that behavior is something you want him to repeat.  If so, then reward with food, affection or play.  If not, then do not offer your dog any reward in the form of attention, food or play.  

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