TIP #1: HOME-ALONE DOGS NEED AN OCCUPATION
Preparing dogs for inevitable periods of solitary confinement - and specifically teaching them how to occupy their time when left at home alone - is the most pressing humane consideration for any new dog in any household. Every dog requires some form of enjoyable occupational therapy. Vocational chewtoy chewing is the easiest and most enjoyable solution.
Dogs are crepuscular (most active at dawn and dusk), and so it is pretty easy to teach them how to calmly pass the time of day. During your dog's first few days and weeks at home, regularly confine him to a crate with stuffed chewtoys. Prepare the pup for your absence when you are present. When at home, it is possible to monitor your dog's behavior when confined for numerous short periods throughout the day. Your dog's first impressions of an established daily routine create an acceptable and enjoyable status quo for years to come.
TIP #2: LAUGH IT OFF WHEN THINGS GO WRONG
You will make mistakes that scare your new dog. You will drop something that makes a loud noise, or perhaps even accidentally falls right on her. You will stumble over your dog. You will get caught in her leash. You will turn on the TV set without realizing that the volume is cranked all the way up. These loud noises and unexpected commotions frighten almost all dogs that are new to a home.
When you accidentally frighten your dog, it's best to laugh it off immediately and play a quick round of The Jollies. Basically, you want to act as if you're having fun, in effect saying, "That is so cool that I tripped over you and dropped the groceries and now there's a broken glass jar that we all get to stay away from. Wow!" This is not unlike responding to a child who's taken a tumble. Children and dogs look to us to see if they should be upset or not. Have fun while you move your dog to safety, and continue doing The Jollies while you clean up the mess and give her a treat or two. If she's hiding just keep doing The Jollies. Don't try to pet her or lure her out, though you may leave a few treats for her to take when she is ready. You're trying to teach her that the world is filled with unexpected and startling events, but we don't have to fear them.
- excerpted from Training The Best Dog Ever
Say hi to Stefan, a 14-week old Siberian Husky. He will be learning his basic manners as well as how to not potty in the house or bite too hard.
I just got back from meeting with a client. I had worked with Buster* and his people in the past, when he was a puppy, teaching him his basic manners. The training went well, but Buster's mom was hesitant to use treats from the very beginning, and couldn't wait to fade out their use. They recently called me because Buster is pulling on the leash, especially when he sees another dog.
We took Buster for a walk and sure enough, he pulled. I saw that Buster's mom held the leash very tightly and gave Buster only praise when he did offer polite behavior. It was apparent that Buster was very frustrated and overly stimulated by the environment and needed help to focus. I then took the leash and, with Buster next to me, immediately clicked and treated him with bits of turkey, and continued to do so with a high rate of reinforcement. What happened then was Buster began to happily trot next to me while giving me extended eye contact.
What happened? Did I say magic words? Sprinkle fairy dust? Nope. I just used science.
The science of behavior is very clear: Behavior that is reinforced strengthens. Behavior that is not reinforced weakens.(1)
Think of the things we ask our dogs to do - sit, down, stay, walk on a loose leash, not bark at the delivery man - as the dog's job, and they should be paid according to the difficulty of the job. For Buster, like many dogs, walking nicely in the big, distracting world is really hard. For him to do it well requires pay (reinforcement) that is valuable to him.
How would you feel if at the end of the work week you went to pick up your paycheck and all your boss did was pat you on the back and said "good job"? That's essentially what Buster's people were doing to him.
Don't be a cheap boss. Pay your dog well in order to strengthen behaviors.
It's not rocket science. But it is science, and it works.
* Name changed to protect the innocent.
Do you remember Mabel? She had to be re-homed because her owner had health issues and could not care for a 12-week old puppy. Well, now Mabel is known as Mugsy! She's 5-months old and is doing great in her new home. We are resuming her basic manners training in the hopes that she can become a therapy dog.
TIP #1: LET EATING DOGS BE
Possessiveness of food bowls, bones, toys, garbage, sleeping locations, etc. is natural dog behavior. To us humans it seems less than polite if our dog snarls when we reach for his food bowl, but it makes perfect sense to the dog.
To avoid problems, don’t approach your dog when he is eating or chewing on something particularly good. If you need to take something away from him, offer something better. Toss a couple of tasty treats on the floor away from the contested object and remove it while he eats the treats. If you are new to the dog he may not be willing to share until he knows you better.
TIP #2: WHAT'S IN A NAME?
In order to train a reliable recall cue, name recognition is essential.
Start by instilling a lightning-fast response from your dog when you say his name. Pair his name with tasty food to create a positive association. You want him to always feel awesome when he hears his name called. Nothing else is required from your dog except a whiplash turn towards you. Your dog's name should mean, "Look immediately at me and wait for further instruction!"
To begin building this positive association, stand close to your dog and say his name, then click with a clicker or say "Yes!" and give him a treat. Repeat this step dozens of times. Practice first in all rooms of the house, then outside in a quiet area, and eventually in locations with more distractions. When your dog immediately looks back at you upon hearing his name, add some distance between you before saying his name. Then take the game outdoors.
- Whole Dog Journal
Rocky learned Leave It very effortlessly today. We practiced with various food items and paper products and he did very well with every one. Rocky is a rock star.
Jeff Dentler, CPDT-KA, IAABC-ADT, FFCP, CTDI