Every Dog Trainer needs a Pablo

Posted on Jan 20, 2019 in Barking, Dog Training, Leash Frustration, Leash Training, Reactive | 0 comments

Reactivity Defined:

I will define another category of Reactive Dogs. In the past, I have written about dogs who are very social and react because they are “Persistent Players” and love to play with dogs.  Our canine friends have different reasons for reacting at the sight of another dog. Once you are able to identify “why” your dog is acting this way, then we can put a training plan in place. 

For this Blog, I am defining “Persistent Sniffers”  These dogs  primarily investigate their environments using their nose, as seen by their heads to the ground often. They are slow to come when called because what they are sniffing is very important to them.   They become activated at the sight of a dog seen by their chaotic foot movements and exaggerated joint flexion.  They are environmentally confident and have no hesitation navigating new places. They may be vocal when they are unable get to what they want. They are persistent in nature, seen by their continued attempts to get to what interests them. When off leash, these dogs may have a history of greeting unfamiliar dogs with a thorough head to tail scent intake, yet are quick to disconnect and move along.  Some will initiate play, but only after they have fulfilled their olfactory needs.

If I just described your dogs preferences, then it is likely your dog has already been labeled reactive.  Now you can see that he is indeed frustrated, and better understand that his temperament is partly responsible for driving his behavior. For dogs who are food or toy motivated you can often reward an alternative behavior. For dogs who are less food motivated management is often recommended as some dogs are so persistent nothing will override their preference.

This was the case recently with a handsome Golden Retriever mix who was lunging on the leash at the sight of any dog. As he entered my office, I noticed he immediately put his nose to the ground and sniffed the rug, toy box, dog bed, shelf and furniture. At one point, he briefly made eye contact with me as he entered my space, I reached out to him but his awareness went to sniffing my pants and shoes.  He was unable to be off leash as he would not come when called, he always had his own agenda when outside.  While he ate the treat I offered, he was more interested in using his nose once again along the dog bed.

When outside, he did as his owners predicted.  He began to jump around with chaotic foot patterns, barking rapidly, and pulling on his leash to get to my dog, Pablo who was sitting calmly ignoring the bouncing Golden.  I let the Golden walk past Pablo a few times so the Golden would clearly see that Pablo was not engaging him in any way. Pablo went so far as to give a few low growls, but there was no change in the Goldens behavior. I then let them take their boy far away for several minutes so he could recover from his highly aroused state. At this distance, he was rewarded for reorienting to his handler. We repeated this approach and retreat many times as described in Behavior Adjustment Technique (BAT). Each time we were about 30 feet apart, the Golden repeated his request to engage Pablo’s.  Pablo’s preference is food, so he completely ignored and even sat with his back to the Golden for 15 minutes or more.  

Eventually, Pablo turned towards the Golden and gave a hard eye stare accompanied with a stiff body and low growl. The persistent Golden paused briefly, but was unable to change his behavior.  We took a break and walked far apart to aid in the golden’s recovery. It is rare for a dog to not read Pablo’s cues, he is known for being very clear.

What happened next was a rare behavior for Pablo, having only witnessed a few times with persistent barking dogs. Pablo’s tolerance wained and he told the Golden in his own way that no amount of persistent barking and jumping was going to change his mind. Pablo was very clear that he did not want this Golden in his space.

Every dog trainer needs a Pablo! 

My recommendation: 

  • This golden was to avoid leash greetings as he was unable to respond to dogs appropriately. His preference to get at the dog near him was overriding all thinking.  It was a matter of time before his persistent nature got him a severe reprimand from a dog who had said “go away”.
  • After Pablo’s clear message, the golden was able to reorient to his handler and be rewarded. This is a version of Look at That (LAT) and can be successful with many dogs.
  • Because he was so frustrated and not showing any aggression, I suggested he gain further socialization with good dogs while off leash. This was our next session and he did as expected, he sniffed all the dogs and the entire park. While there was no play from him, there was also no aggression. 

Summary:

Many dogs are labeled “reactive”, however this is a big bucket term. If you observe your dogs preferences, how he engages with his environment and how he responds to both familiar and unfamiliar dogs, you may be able to identify why your dog is acting this way. If he is simply frustrated, determine his preference and find a way to allow him what he so desires.

If you have tried “reactive” dog classes with no luck, consider your dogs persistent nature and how it effects his every day behavior. It may be that your dog is unable to change because his preference is so extreme,  you may not be able to offer him anything more valuable. You may just need to meet a few Pablo’s to help your dog with his impulse control. 

 

 

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What is clicker training?

Posted on Sep 29, 2018 in Certified Dog Trainer, Clicker, Dog Training, Positive Association, Positive Reinforcement | 0 comments

Modern trainers use clickers to train their dogs because it aids in the animals understanding of what is rewardable. The animal quickly learns that when it offers the behavior again, it will be rewarded. This positive reinforcement approach will often cause an immediate “wow” moment for both handler and animal. 

The clicker is a small hand-held gadget that emits a sound when you press it.  The sound the clicker makes is a signal to your dog that the behavior it just offered is rewardable.  This “click” is always followed by a food reward. Think: Click and Treat!  Note, the clicker is NOT for getting attention.  

Since the click is always paired with a food reward, we call this training positive reinforcement. There is no need to punish the dog for offering the wrong behavior, be patient and quickly mark the right behavior when it is offered.

Teaching your dog to sit, using a clicker: 

  1. Begin with clicker and treats in one hand, and your dog near by.
  2. Start by clicking and tossing a treat to your dog, repeat a few times.
  3. Next, wait a few seconds to see if your dog will offer a sit. When his bum hits the floor, click and toss him a treat several feet away. Repeat by waiting for your dog to sit again, click and toss a treat. Repeat this several times.
  4. If your dog does not know how to sit, put a treat to his nose and raise it up over his head slowly. When his bum hits the ground, click and let him eat the treat. Repeat until your dog begins to offer a sit for the reward.
  5. Next, add the verbal cue “Sit” or a hand signal just before the behavior is performed, click for the correct behavior and reward.
  6. Repeat with cue added, click the correct behavior and reward.

Here is a video demonstration of me teaching my dog Pablo to target my hand and a novel object: Hand Target using a clicker

Why Does the Clicker Work?

  • The sound is the same every time; and is unique to other sounds the dog hears.
  • The clicker is the fastest way to accurately mark behavior. (I used it to teach my dog to sneeze, lick his lips and touch the Staples Easy Button).
  • The clicker is the fastest way to capture new behaviors your dog does.
  • It aids in keeping your dog in his thinking brain.

Will you always have to use the clicker?

No, you can replace the click with a happy, “yes” once your dog understands the behavior thoroughly. It is not a tool that triggers behavior, it just rewards good choices so they are repeated!  For more clicker examples visit:   https://www.karenpryoracademy.com

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Why does my dog respond that way?

Posted on Mar 18, 2018 in Dog Training, Leash Frustration, Leash Training, Reactive, Training | 0 comments

“Why” your dog may not be able to change her behavior like other dogs…

Have you attended a dog training class, maybe a Leash Lunger or Reactive Dog Class?  You see other dogs in class improving, but your dog continues to scan the environment instead of looking at you.

Some of these dogs still lunge at dogs, but they have met each other and no longer have a need to be persistent.

Where I Start…

When a client brings me a dog, I begin with identifying who the dog is prior to setting any expectations. Each dog is an individual, and will show you how they will respond if you know what to look for. I will share a recent consultation with you below.

Consultation : REACTIVE DOG (short version)

Dog: Stella, 2 year old spayed solid black German Shepherd in good health. Lives with her mom and a 4 year old child who she enjoys being with.

History:  Stella does well in daycare, and never shows aggression to any people or dogs. They describe her as tolerant of the young adolescent dogs and will play with any dog that engages her. Mom says she allowed Stella to greet other dogs on leash when she was a pup to socialize her, she has never acted aggressively with any dog she has met.

Owners Complaint:  Stella’s Mom complains that she cannot walk Stella on a leash, as she pulls extremely hard to get to any dog she sees in her environment. Even if she puts treats to her nose, Stella will not reorient to her, she physically has to pull Stella away. 

Observations…

When I observed Stella’s behavior it was immediately apparent that she was extremely visually aware of her environment, as she constantly turned her head to anything that moved. She is fairly high energy and trots, not walks, to whatever interests her. When she saw a bird over her head in the tree, she stood still staring at it for several minutes, not moving a muscle. When her mom called to her, she ignored the calling and remained focused on the birds as a second bird joined the first one. Finally, her mom said “Stella, want a treat?”, Stella twitched her ear and then looked at her mom, then returned to watching the birds for a several seconds before responding to her mom for the treat. Once she ate the treat, she trotted back to the tree and visually watched anything that moved.

Who is Stella?

Stella showed us that she is extremely visually aware of her environment and she is very persistent in this visual behavior when the stimuli is interesting to her. She also showed us that she is not willing to come to us, unless she knows the reward is worth it to her. She has her own interests and is persistent when something interests her. She also loves playing with all the neighborhood dogs.

Realization…

Would Stella likely be a leash lunger?  Yes! Now you see how the combination of her temperament plays a significant role in her (response) behavior. 

Implementation…

What key change could Stella’s mom incorporate in her leash training? Increase the value of the reward to something that Stella finds very rewarding. We determined she liked dried liver extremely well.

Effective behavior modification programs work on many dogs but will not work completely if your dog loves dogs, is visually persistent by nature and is not very food motivated. When this is the case, patience and understanding is key!

I am having trouble getting this pups attention as she is extremely aware of her environment, loves dogs and is somewhat food motivated. Patience is needed here as we allow her to be who she is.

Now you know…

If you are wanting to change your dogs behavior, first try looking at your dog to see who they are, what is their nature, their temperament. Some traits to consider: sociability with people and dogs, patient, vocal, high energy, lazy, becomes extremely aroused when near people or dogs, biddable with or without food, visually or olfactory aware and persistent. Understanding who your dog is will help you understand WHY she responds the way she does.

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Dog Bite Prevention

Posted on Nov 26, 2017 in Aggression, Positive Association, Rescue Dog, Training | 0 comments

As a dog trainer, I often work with dogs who have bitten people, yet I am able to hand feed and often begin body handling them without getting bitten myself.  Since dog bite prevention is a critical focus of my reward-based dog training, I will share some simple techniques to reduce your chances of being bit by a dog.

Learn to read dog body language:

Relaxed Body Language

If the dog is facing you, look for signs he is calm and relaxed. These would include a loose body (free of tension), open mouth, relaxed ears, soft blinking eyes, relaxed neutral tail and ears. These are communications signs from the dog that he is feeling okay about you near him. This handsome boy is offering me friendly relaxed body language as he stands at an angle showing he is feeling comfortable about my presence.

Stressed Body Language

If the dog is facing you with a closed mouth, or a non blinking eye, with body weight forward, or stiff, or eager to get to you in an aroused state. He may be saying stay where you are.

This cute fuzzy face is facing me directly with his head and neck raised up, closed mouth, still body, with round eyes that are not blinking. All signs the dog is unsure, and asking me to stay away.

 

 

Consider the history:  Dogs who have been physically grabbed, alpha rolled, held down, and dominated are 100% more likely to feel stress when approached by a stranger.  These dogs often panic, are unable to think clearly and overreact to a strangers approach by lunging, growling or snapping as their safety is paramount. Dogs who have not experienced positive associations with humans will be less trusting and may take a while to trust. The dog must set the pace in the relationship.

What do I do to avoid being bitten?  

  • I stop moving, turn my face away, raise my chin up and slowly turn sideways to the dog, relax my joints as I take a deep breadth.  
  • IMPORTANT! I never reach my hand out (BAD IDEA). 
  • I Begin by asking the dog to come into my space. If he looks at me then looks away, he is telling me he is worried and I should not approach.

If you ask a dog to come to you and they turn away, let them be. This dog is removing herself from what she perceives is a scary situation.

  • If the dog is displaying  low body compression, curved back, I will often get low and turn slightly away, offer a toy or treat to the dog, if he moves towards me, then I engage by tossing a toy or treat.
  • I wait and see if the dog stays in my space or immediately retreats.  A dog who immediately moves away or maintains a forward stance is not ready to be petted, this is a low level distance cue and should be respected.

How can you make Friends with a territorial Dog?  Treat and Retreat is a progressive training program I use to build a trusting relationship with stressed or conflicted dogs.  This is simply a game to reduce the dogs stress as I am in the dogs presence, this is not about petting the dog. Reducing a dogs fear will reduce territorial aggression, leash lunging, air snapping, and biting. Click the link to view a video of me playing Treat and Retreat with a shy dog.

Video:   Treat and Retreat with Contact

In Summary:

  1. A dog who approaches me and leans against me has invited contact. I can slowly pet his back one or two strokes and then stop, to observe the dogs body language and wait for the dog to invite more contact. 
  2. A dog who turns his face away should not be appraoched.
  3. Learn Dog Body Language:
    1. A dogs relaxed body language, often offered by a dog at feeding time.  Open mouth, soft eyes, relaxed loose jointed body, neutral tail and ears.
    2. Fearful/stressed body language, often offered at the vets. May include stiff or curved body, slow body movements, tucked tail, looking or turning away, tightly closed mouth, wrinkled brow, refusal to eat treats, lowered head, growling or lip curling, ears pinned to head, paw lifted, whites of eye showing.
  4. Have a plan when you see the dog. If you do not have treats on you, ignore the dog completely.  With high value treats on you, you can begin the Treat and Retreat game.
  5. The dog always sets the pace, if the dog attempts to look or turn away, just stop and ignore the dog.  Give the dog a break, sit down or start farther away from the dog. If the dog begins to bark or lunge at you then slow the progression down as you are just making him more fearful/stressed.

Dogs give plenty of warning before they bite, it is up to you to ignore any dog that is not seeking out your touching. With the above advice you will be able to slowly make friends with fearful/protective dogs without pushing the dog to the point of using his teeth to resolve conflict.

I have added a few photos below for you to practice your observational skills in reading dogs body language.

relaxed!

Relaxed, stressed, relaxed

Stressed as shown by her closed mouth, squinty eyes, stiffly held legs, tucked tail

Stressed as shown by her rounded, compressed rigid body, moving away, closed mouth, ears way back, tail dropped.

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Training the Territorial Dog

Posted on Mar 29, 2017 in Aggression, Dog Training, Positive Reinforcement, 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.

look away

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 https://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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