Shadow is a very easy going, 6-month old Labrador Retriever. Over the next few weeks we will be teaching him his
basic manners. Life is ruff.
TIP #1: KEEP 'EM GUESSING
Once your dog knows a behavior well, and can perform it in many locations and with many distractions, you can fade the use of your marker signal and rewards. In other words, you don't need to click and treat every time your dog sits for you. However, it's also important to pay off every now and then to keep your dog in the game and gambling. "This time might be the time the reward happens, so I'm going to keep doing what I'm doing, just in case."
Once your dog demonstrates that he can stay focused on the task at hand, you can switch to a lower value food as long as you maintain the successes you achieved with the high-value food in that same location or with the same distractions.
- excerpted from Chill Out Fido!
TIP #2: ...ON THE OTHER HAND, DON'T BE STINGY
If your dog’s behavior starts to break down and become less reliable, that’s a clear sign you are getting too stingy. Be sure to reinforce more often and with better rewards.
There is nothing wrong with using food to reward your dog, just use it to your advantage - to help him get better with his skills. Sometimes it is fun to give your dog a treat, just like it is fun for us to get unexpected rewards. Also, if your dog does something really amazing that you would like repeated, then food is the best paycheck you can give him to keep him in your employment.
Just remember to check that the rewards you use are actually interesting to your dog. It’s not reinforcement if the rewards used are not increasing the desired behavior.
- excerpted from Chill Out Fido!
As part of her impulse control training Piper learned Stay tonight, and she was as solid as a rock. She picked it up so quickly that we had time to work on more advanced distractions like the doorbell ringing, and she still did well!
TIP #1: PRACTICE THE 3 Ds
Does your dog react to other dogs, strangers, cars, or other stimuli? If so, practice the 3 Ds until you can get her under threshold. They are:
Distance: Put more distance between your dog and whatever is scaring her.
Duration: Keep interactions between your dog and whatever is scaring her short. A few seconds is a good place to start.
Distraction: Distract your dog with a cheerful voice and treats.
TIP #2: DON'T IGNORE HIM
You can recognize what your dog is saying to you - even what he's thinking - just by learning his body language. Have you ever noticed how a puppy yawns when picked up? He's trying to calm himself down.
Have you noticed that your dog barks at seemingly random times - even if he's not a "barker"? This is a reaction to something you've not noticed. Stay alert, and you'll begin to pick up what your dog is telling you - things like…
- What stresses him out when he goes outside
- "I'm really bored!"
- The best time to eat
- "Leave me alone!"
Your dog is trying to talk to you. Are you listening?
- excerpted from Decoding Your Dog
Tonight we taught Piper how to Down and Leave It on cue, and she picked both of them up
very quickly. While leave it will need more practice in different situations, her down is
already very solid. She's a fast learner!
Bandit was reported to be reactive to other dogs, so we took him for a walk around the neighborhood. He did see a couple of other dogs and reacted with curiosity, but did not overreact, so we took the opportunity to associate the dogs with something really good (food). Overall it was a very good walk.
"If you are having to punish something very often, then there is likely something else that you need to be reinforcing more."
- Bob Bailey
If summer winding down means back to school time for your family, it likely also means a change in your dog's routine. No more kids to chase. No balls to fetch. The pool is closed. Your dog becomes lonely and bored.
Dogs are creatures of habit, and a disruption can be upsetting. The resultant anxiety can cause changes in behavior. Barking, whining, destructive chewing, eliminating in the house can all be anxiety driven. Dogs are also thought to be able to suffer from depression, which can manifest into lack of energy or appetite.
What to do?
As many of us know personally, exercise is a great way to relieve stress and anxiety, and it's no different for dogs. So add a morning walk or Frisbee toss, or maybe hire a dog walker to break up the day.
And don't forget the mental stimulation. Clicker training your dog some new tricks or brushing up on her manners will keep her mind busy. Still feeding your dog out of a bowl? Ditch it and replace it with fun, challenging food puzzle toys.
Background noise helps mask outside sounds that may further increase a dog's anxiety. Leave the radio or TV on so your dog hears a human voice throughout the day. Through A Dog's Ear is music specifically designed for a dog's hearing, and has been clinically shown to calm dogs.
Last but not least, when you and the kids are home make sure you spend quality time with your dog and include him in family activities.
It's not too late, but don't wait.
Start now to work on creating that new back to school routine. Pack up the kids to run errands or for short trips so your dog gets used to alone time again. Make departures low key but pleasurable with a stuffed Kong or bully stick. Put that new exercise and training regimen in place.
What you invest today will show dividends in the future. Set your dog up for success and reduce everyone's stress.
Note: While a change in behavior can be the result of an altered routine, it can also mean an underlying medical issue. Please consult your veterinarian if symptoms persist.
TIP #1: SHAPE. RATTLE & ROLL
A fun and effective way to teach your dog new skills using a process called "shaping". Shaping involves slicing the behavior you want your dog to do into tiny pieces (approximations), successively clicking and treating each "slice," until you have built up the finished behavior you want to train. Here is an example of how shaping works. Imagine you are looking at a frame-by-frame motion picture of your dog picking up a tennis ball.
1. The first step is the dog turning his eyes towards the ball. After you have clicked and treated that glance toward the ball couple of times, your dog will start offering it. By "offering it", I mean he will deliberately glance towards the ball in an attempt to make the clicker go off.
2. Once your dog is firmly and deliberately offering the glance towards the ball, you can hold out and not click it. Your dog will keep trying the glance, and then, when he sees that it is not paying off, he will offer "improvements" on that behavior, like a bit of a head turn in that direction. Voila! You have frame number two, the head turn, which you can start click and treating.
3. Again, once your dog is firmly and deliberately offering the head turn, hold out for any tiny lowering of his head. Click and treat that a few times, and then, when you are sure he is offering a bit of a head bob, hold out for a bigger head bob. Again, when reinforcements are not forthcoming, your dog will offer different "improvements" on the head bob, which will eventually included lowering his head toward the ball more than he had before. You continue this way, reinforcing and then holding out for more through the rest of the "frames" of the "movie" of your dog picking up the ball.
- excerpted from When Pigs Fly! Training Success with Impossible Dogs.
TIP #2: DON'T REINFORCE THE BEHAVIOR YOU DON'T WANT
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.
• Greet your dog before he jumps, perhaps even kneeling to greet a small dog.
• Turn and step away from your dog until he sits, or at least has four feet on the floor, then turn back to greet the dog.
• Ask your dog to sit and reinforce by petting him when he does.
• Back away from your dog (if you have your dog on leash) and wait for him to sit before greeting or petting him. If he jumps up while you are petting him, simply stop the petting and take a step backward. Resume petting only if he sits.
• Toss a toy conveniently provided by you to redirect the dog's behavior before the jump happens.
• Walk away from your dog through a gate or door and close it behind them to keep the dog on the other side.
- The Whole Dog Journal
Jeff Dentler, CPDT-KA, FFCP, CTDI