Sadie did an excellent job with her Come When Called training. We began by playing recall games, which both she and the kids loved, to get her excited and running to us. We then took her outside and practiced with distractions, which included Sadie at the fence barking at
people walking by and a dog across the street, but she came to us without hesitation every time she was called.
We continued Ripp's impulse control training by teaching him Wait and Stay. We usually teach Stay in the order of duration, distance, then distractions, but with 2 cats around we had distractions from the start, and he rocked it!
People don't want to carry around food all the time. I get it. But consider this: Would you rather wash dishes or watch your favorite movie while eating ice cream? Not much of a decision, is it? But what if I paid you $100 for every dish, glass, and utensil that you washed? How about $1,000? Washing the dishes suddenly doesn't seem so bad! Every day we are faced with a myriad of choices, and each one is influenced by the Matching Law.
Your dog is no different, and the options he chooses are the result of a number of variables, such as the rate of reinforcement (how many times has he been reinforced for the behavior), the quality of the reinforcement (how much did he appreciate that reinforcement), or the reinforcement delay (how quickly did he get the reinforcement). Consider this everyday scenario. Your dog has a decision to make: Will he jump up for attention, or sit to be greeted? When given the choice between two behaviors a dog will likely choose the one for which he has been rewarded more for in the past. That's the Matching Law: the chances of choosing one behavior over another are the direct equivalent of how much those behaviors have been reinforced.
On the flip side, every time your dog is reinforced for doing an unwanted behavior the strength of the behavior we do want is weakened. For example, if we want our dog to sit instead of jumping on us or guests when walking into our home, we should avoid giving him the attention he is seeking (e.g. looking at him, talking to him, touching him) when he jumps up. In other words, every time he is 'rewarded' for jumping it reduces the chance of sitting instead. Teach him an alternative behavior to the unwanted behavior and give that HUGE value.
And a common complaint I hear all the time: "Why does our dog listen to my husband but not to me?" Blame the Matching Law. If Spot is reinforced for sitting 90% of the time when John cues it and 40% of the time when Jane cues it, Spot will tend to sit for John 90% of the time but only 40% of the time for Jane.
Another important aspect of training your dog is managing your dog's environment so it is easy for him to make the best choice. Getting it right should require little effort on his part, and followed immediately by high value reinforcement.
In summary, the more often your dog gets a behavior right and is handsomely reinforced for it, the more likely he will be to choose that response in the future. This is the Matching Law.
TIP #1: IT TAKES A VILLAGE
There's a common misconception that dogs jump on people to establish dominance. Balderdash! Dogs jump on people because there’s something about jumping that is reinforcing for the dog - usually the human attention that results from the jumping. If you want your dog to stop jumping on people, you have to be sure he doesn't get reinforced for it. Here's what you can do to prevent your dog from jumping on people:
Educate. Tell friends, family and even temporary acquaintances what you want them to do if your dog starts to jump up. Insist they not reinforce jumping up behavior - even those friends who claim they don't mind! Educational options include telling them to:
TIP #2: INSTALL AN "OFF SWITCH"
A ball or other toy-crazed dog is sometimes exhausting to watch, and you may think she will drive you crazy if you don't teach her an "off switch" cue.
Using her favorite toy - a tennis ball in this example - to teach her "All done!" means there is absolutely no point in continuing to ask me to throw the ball. This can then translate easily to other situations where you need to tell her that we are done with whatever activity we are engaging in - whether it is play, training, or casual interactions.
Here's how you can install an off switch in your own dog:
You can, of course, use whatever cue you want. But stick with it! Trust me, you will find it well worth the time and effort it takes to teach your persistent dog that enough is enough when you say it is.
- Whole Dog Journal
Romeo did a fantastic job learning how to Down. In almost no time we transitioned from being on the floor and luring him down, to standing straight up and just using our voice and and hand signal. He is also doing very well with his house training, even alerting us in the middle of our session to go out.
Charlie learned how to Sit and Down, both with a verbal cue and a hand signal. Down was a bit of a challenge, as he just wasn't getting it. But with some patience he finally had his "aha!" moment and ended up doing it very well by the end of the session.
TIP #1: DON'T PUNISH YOUR DOG'S GROWL
It's very common for dog owners to punish their dogs for growling. Unfortunately, this often suppresses the growl - eliminating his ability to warn us that he's about to snap, literally and figuratively. On other occasions, punishing a growling, uncomfortable dog can induce him to escalate into full-on aggression.
So, if you're not supposed to punish your dog for growling, what are you supposed to do? The next time your dog growls at you, try this:
1.) Stop. Whatever you're doing, stop. If your dog's growl threshold is near his bite threshold - that is, if there's not much time between his growl and his bite, get safe. If his growl doesn't mean a bite is imminent, stop what you're doing but stay where you are. Wait until he relaxes, then move away, so you're rewarding the relaxed behavior rather than the growl.
2.) Analyze the situation. What elicited the growl? Were you touching or grooming him? Restraining him? Making direct eye contact? Taking something away from him? Making him do something?
3.) Figure out a different way to accomplish your goal without eliciting a growl. Lure him rather than physically pushing or pulling him. Have someone else feed him treats while you touch, groom, or restrain him. If you don't have to do whatever it was that elicited the growl, don't - until you can convince him that it's a good thing rather than a bad thing.
4.) Evaluate the stressors in your dog's world and reduce or eliminate as many of them as possible. For example, if your dog is unaccustomed to strangers, then having your sister and her husband and three kids as houseguests for the past week would undoubtedly stress your dog. Noise-phobic dogs might be under a strain if city crews have been digging up a nearby street with heavy equipment or there was a thunderstorm last night. The vacuum cleaner is a common stressor for dogs. A loud argument between you and your spouse could stress your dog as well as you, and your stress is stressful to your dog. Harsh verbal or physical punishment, an outburst of aroused barking at the mail carrier, fence fighting with another dog. The list could go on and on.
5.) Institute a behavior modification program to change his opinion about the thing that made him growl. One way to do this is to use counter-conditioning and desensitization to convince him the bad thing is a good thing.
- Whole Dog Journal
TIP #2: WHY IS MY DOG SO RUDE?
Right now your dog barks, lunges, or reacts problematically when she sees other dogs, but what if she had a different response? What if, when she saw another dog, she immediately turned her head and looked at you, wagging her tail in happy anticipation? We call this exercise "Watch" and for a seemingly simple exercise, it has a long list of advantages. First of all, your dog can't bark and lunge toward another dog when her attention is directed to your face. Teaching an incompatible behavior is a time-honored and elegant solution to a lot of behavioral problems, and it works wonderfully with fidos who are a bit too feisty on leash walks. Additionally, by teaching your dog to look at your face when she sees another dog, you're teaching her what you want her to do, rather than hoping she'll figure it out herself.
Start teaching Watch in a quiet place where you're the only show in town, and there's nothing else competing for your dog's attention. Don't underestimate how distracting one of your other dogs can be. Start training when you and your feisty fido are all by yourselves. Arm yourself with a generous pile of treats by your side or in a bait bag, and wait until your dog is looking away from you. Say "Watch" in a clear, animated voice and hope your dog turns his head and looks toward you. If he does, immediately "mark" that response by saying "good!" or clicking if you use clicker training. Instantly follow that up with a yummy treat OR a game of tug or fetch IF your dog adores playing with toys. Remember that every trainee gets to define what reinforcement is best, so we can't say which is more effective for your dog - toys or food. Toys have the advantage of overwhelming nervousness with positive emotions that are associated with relaxation and comfort, but chicken is the way to many a dog's heart.
- excerpted from Feisty Fido
Addison learned how to Leave It and Drop It tonight. We practiced with food, toys, leashes, and gloves and she did very well at such a young age. She will only get better with more practice.
Jeff Dentler, CPDT-KA, CTDI