3 Tips to Changing your Dogs Habit

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

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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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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, 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, 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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You are NOT invited

Posted on May 17, 2015 in Aggression, Dog Training, Leash Training, Puppy, Reaction, Safety, Training |

Many dogs get a reputation for being dog aggressive, when they are IMG_1590simply responding to adolescent dogs with rude behavior.  My foster beagle was one of those very rude adolescent greeters who invades other dogs space without an invitation.  I knew he would eventually receive some feedback, I just wanted it to be an air snap or nip and not a level 3 grab and shake.

Well, it finally happened, as I approached a neighbor with a calm female labrador,  my foster boy wanted to walk right up to the labradors face who was standing tall, motionless, mouth closed tight, tail a bit high and not looking at my pup at all.  

I could easily see my boy was not being invited into the labs space, but hey, he has to learn to read his own species body language as a part of growing up, right?  So, while I slowed his approach, and his body was wiggling, the labrador showed her teeth and snapped at my dogs face, again, my foster pup wagged harder and tried to approach a bit lower and more submissive, he was once again met with lots of teeth along with an air snap.  Understood!  The beagle finally understood the labradors signals that he was not invited into her personal space!

My pup calmly walked farther away, sat down and never again IMG_1591looked at the labrador as we continued to speak to one another.  My neighbor apologized profusely and would not stop going on and on about how rude his dog was!

I let him know that it was my foster dog who was NOT invited into his dogs space! In fact, his dog was very clear when we were 20 feet away that she was not interested in visiting.  Many puppy’s and adolescent dogs need a few reminders to respect the space of others.  

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The Boston Terrier is getting necessary feedback from Pablo on the left. I am NOT your friend and I do not want to be social with you.

 

If your dog invades another dogs space who is looking away, standing stiff, immediately sniffs the grass or scratches himself, then he is not inviting your dog near him. This dog may send more obvious distance cues in the form of a growl or snap.  This is not aggression, it is simply normal distance cues from one dog to another, a request for one dog to move away.

 

In my experience, humans have unrealistic expectations of how our dogs should behave. How can we label dogs when most of us have very little knowledge of how dogs communicate.  If you are a dog owner, please take time to learn more about dog behavior and body language cues before saying your dog is aggressive.  It is very possible your dog is simply reacting to the other dogs rude behavior!

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Does Your Dog Come When You Call?

Posted on Apr 11, 2015 in Canine Good Citizen, Dog Training, Dominance, Leash Training, Pets, Positive Association, Positive Reinforcement, Puppy, Rescue Dog, Safety, Socialization, Training, Unleashed Control | 0 comments

 

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Bonding with my new foster dog

 Many people contact me to help them with recall or getting their dog to come when they call them.

A good recall begins with a strong relationship between the human and the dog. The dog who happily comes when called shares a bond with them and trust them completely. They go to them repeatedly because they associate their owner with good things.

If you call your dog and they look at you as if to say why? “Why should I?”   It would be nice if relationships were that easy, but we know any relationship has a balance of trust and respect.  Anyone parenting children can see similarities as we are able to say “because I said so!” Many of us have learned to give a specific reason, expressing our intentions clearly we will have better success and maintain a healthy relationship with our children in the process.

When we put up a barrier or close the conversation with an intense emotion, we create a sense of frustration, anger or distrust which leads to avoidance.  Avoidance is safer than engaging for a child or dog so they go in the back door or simply put their head down and ignore you.

My foster dogs may think their name is come when they first arrive as they often earn their breakfast when they respond to “come” and then I release them to more freedom.  Hence, conditioning them that Come is a good thing.

My point is if you want your dog to come repeatedly, then reward generously as he is choosing you over that amazing smell in the leaves or snow, that he really would love to investigate.  If he does not come, then I suggest you begin to walk towards him, the second he looks at you, you smile, get down low or bend forward and open your arms with clear intentions and a happy “yes” or click with your clicker and your dog will run to you with excitement much more consistently.

If your dog begins to run to you, but stops 10 or 20 feet away, you can still reward this by tossing him a treat and walking away.  Many dogs have been grabbed when they came close so may avoid being grabbed again as it was scary to them.  Repeat, by calling your dog and tossing the treat again, then walk away, call your dog and get low offer the treat out to the side, quietly drop one on the ground and turn or move away.  You are building a relationship build on trust.  If you or anyone else has tricked this dog, he is smarter now and will not be fooled, never trick a dog or you lose trust and your recall will certainly suffer as a result.

All my foster dogs are usually off leash within 1 week as I condition them that coming to me is 100% positive and feels safe. Enjoy your dog and remember coming when called is much more likely if you are not dominating, but building a trusting relationship.

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Dog Training vs Management

Posted on Jan 3, 2015 in Aggression, Barking, Certified Dog Trainer, Child, Clicker, Crate Training, Dog Training, Leash Training, Pets, Positive Association, Positive Reinforcement, Puppy, Rescue Dog, Safety, Socialization, Training | 0 comments

Management, as it relates to dog training  keeps everyone safe.  Management,  does not teach your dog a behavior, in fact it often creates frustration and increases arousal.  Using forms of management are useful when you need to prevent conflict, such as putting your dog in the bedroom when guests come over.  Using effective management tools, often buy’s you some time, as you teach and reward an alternative  behavior.  

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I will fade the food lure quickly and simply reward when he offers a sit.

For example:  A leash is a management tool used to prevent a dog from jumping on someone.  In this photo, Gambits leash is a form of management, however I am luring this handsome 5 month old pup into a sit and rewarding him.  With some repetition, a person approaching becomes the cue for Gambit to sit if he wants affection or food wether he has a leash on or not.

Another example:  Grabbing your dogs collar when people enter the doorway is a form of management to prevent him from jumping or running out the door.  However, if you teach him an alternative behavior like a sit/stay then you will no longer have to manage.

One more:  Using a crate to potty train your puppy  is a form of management that keeps the puppy safe and prevents him from practicing the unwanted behavior of peeing on the floor.  Immediately rewarding your puppy with a piece of dried liver after each of the 6 or so times he pees in the grass will certainly be reinforcing, so he will repeat the correct behavior to get the same yummy reward!

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3 of these pups are under 1 yr and learning to stay.

 In Summary:  If your dog seems overly aroused, barks often, chases anything that moves, is displaying frustration or poor impulse control behavior, is it possible you are simply frustrating your dog through the over use of managment?  

Consider teaching him what to do in each situation and reward him with anything he loves to reinforce positive behavior.  This will make you a proud parent and keep him from getting frustrated, all while building a better relationship!  

 

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