Veronica Mountain, CPDT-KA
A common situation dog owners find themselves in is where they have a senior dog and puppy living under the same roof. There is a big energy difference between 11 years old and 11 weeks old. Your older dog may already be experiencing age related aches and pains or maybe has rusty social skills. Your new bouncing, social, and active puppy has probably already attempted to make the senior dog play. So, how can you have such different dogs live peacefully?
The first step is a good management plan. The puppy should be restricted to a smaller area of the house and be working on their crate training. The senior dog should have a comfortable “safe zone” which is off-limits to the new pup. If your senior dog enjoys his crate or sleeping in your bedroom, those are great options. This means that your new puppy is not allowed to enter the senior’s crate or bedroom when occupied (the bedroom rule has some leniency later on). If your senior dog is used to being close to you or would be stressed by being gated in the bedroom, no problem! You can easily just manage where the puppy is by gates and crates. For example, if your senior dog has a favorite spot in the living room where he naps all day then your puppy would be in a crate, playpen or tethered in the living room. Your goal is for the puppy to not be able to approach the senior dog all the time. The senior needs a break.
The next step is to start making positive associations between the two. Whenever this new pup is around some good things are going to happen! The easiest way to make positive associations is with high value foods (think real meat and cheeses). Be generous with the food rewards! Whenever the new pup is in the same room as the senior dog, give him his favorite snack. A filled kong or "lickimat" can give you a bit of duration.
Now, your new pup needs to learn some manners! Just a couple behaviors will help. A solid down/stay and leave-it can help the two live together. Consider teaching the pup to hold a down/stay on a special mat. These behaviors will enable you to lift some of your management (baby gates, pup trailing leash, etc.) over time.
If your senior dog knows any behaviors, these will come in handy as well! If not, then it is never too late for your dog to learn something. Start with the basics: sit, down, leave-it, stay, etc. This is because another great way to make positive associations between the dogs is training together! At first, each dog will be on leash and have its own handler. They will be in the same room, but far apart. The distance will help the puppy focus on his handler instead of the other dog. With more training sessions, you can decrease the distance between the dogs while still getting focus! Soon they will be doing their training side by side and enjoying it the entire time.
If you have been seeing progress, but have also seen some growls from the senior along the way, then tighten up on management in situations where the growls occur. Common situations where you might see growling is if the puppy gets too close or tries to take the senior dog’s toy/food. Remember, never punish a dog for growling. Growling is great communication and a way to decrease conflict, not cause it.
You will also want to make sure your new puppy is getting a heaping helping of socialization. Socialization is exposing a young dog (age 3-18wks) to new things and pairing it with something exciting (tasty food). It is important that your puppy is getting access to a lot of other puppies. His play energy needs an outlet and he needs to learn how to play. He also needs to learn that not all dogs are growly.
Finally, if you are seeing more than indifference or growling from your senior dog the please contact a positive reinforcement trainer immediately!
Just because your dog is reactive towards humans or other dogs doesn’t mean that you can’t enjoy a hike or a walk in a public park. There is definitely more to it with a reactive dog but if we plan accordingly it can still be quite relaxing for you and fun for your dog.
Firstly, you’re not alone. Reactivity is super common. (For simplicity sake we’re going to be referring to aggression as reactivity too. Aggression means wanting to increase distance.) Sometimes you can feel alone when you have a dog that is barking and the other dog is quiet, but you’re not alone. A lot of people with reactive dogs do not attempt to take them out in public for lots of reasons. (And that is okay.)
With a reactive dog there are some things that you can do to help. Here they are:
1.Keep your eyes open
If you see an off leash dog, go the other way. Most dogs aren’t going to enjoy being approached by off leash dogs while they’re on leash. If you see a person or a person with an on leash dog, step off of the trail. When doing this, it’s actually best to step off of the trail after your dog notices them. Also, carry Spray Shield or something equivalent to prevent an off leash dog from approaching your dog. (Assuming there is a leash law in place.)
2. Bring food
We recommend always having high value treats to help motivate your dog to do more appropriate behaviors and to also help change any negative association into a positive one. When using food, it’s actually best to wait for your dog to notice the distraction and then ask for a behavior to reward or to just feed to help change the association.
3. Use helpful gear
To help decrease lunging and pulling we recommend something that attaches to the front of your dog. Front attaching harnesses and head halters work by removing some of your dog’s leverage and they also allow you to more easily change directions when you need to.
If your dog has a bite history, especially one that has resulted in damage to a person or another dog, we highly recommend a muzzle. The type of muzzle is extremely important. A basket style muzzle allows your dog to open his mouth to pant and drink water.
4. Avoid busy times
Weekends typically are more high traffic than mornings or evenings. We would recommend avoiding high traffic times as they could be overwhelming for you and your dog. When possible, scope out different places ahead of time to get a feel for when and where is the best time to go.
Following these suggestions will make it doable for most dogs. You’ll have to stay on your toes and adjust on the fly sometimes but that is life!
One of our favorite things to see is a dog continue to do a behavior because the behavior has been reinforced in the past. Dogs do what works. If jumping up on the counter results in getting food or grabbing something that then turns into a game of keep away, he is going to keep doing it. If lying down on a bed results in getting intermittent food rewards, you’ll start to see more of that.
If you want your dog to start making decisions on his own that you prefer, focus on rewarding whatever behavior you want to see more of. Do yourself a favor too and have your dog go to the same spot to do this behavior. Here is an example of how to get your dog to automatically lie down on his bed while you’re both in the kitchen:
Teach your dog where you’d like him to go and have him lie down there. We suggest using a mat or a bed for this. To do this, take a treat and guide your dog over to that spot and then give it to him. Next, ask him to lie down and treat again.
Now it’s time to introduce distractions. With your dog lying down, take a treat and start it as his nose and then pull it away so it is being dangled near his face for one second. If he stays down and patiently waits, deliver the treat right into his mouth. Repeat this so that he is successful five times in a row. If at any point he goes for it, tell him, ”too bad” and snatch the treat away. Place him back into the down and try again. From there, you’ll want to increase the difficultly by doing three second dangles followed by placing the food on the floor. Follow the same rules and he will succeed quickly.
Once he is able to stay with food as a distraction, practice walking around him. We recommend doing one step at a time and making sure he gets five in a row before adding in another step. Remember to reward each rep!
Now that he can stay while things are distracting him and while you walk around him, it’s time to walk away from him. Ask him to “stay” and walk six feet away. Return and reward. Repeat five times. Once successful five times in a row, walk all the way across the room and return and reward.
The last piece of the puzzle is having him lie down and stay while you reward him at random intervals. Start off by rewarding him on average of every twenty seconds. If he is successful, increase to on average every thirty second. Continue to build off of that so that the rewards end up coming every five minutes or so.
Now that we’ve taught all of this, all we have to do is be consistent. Whenever you’re in the kitchen and he enters, ask him to go to his bed and reward him for going there. Reward him at random intervals as stated in Step 4. With repetition and consistency, he will eventually start entering and head right to his bed. This kitchen example is great for preventing counter surfing.
It’s easy to get frustrated when your dog doesn’t do what you ask. This is especially true if you’ve seen your dog respond to your request in the past. What do you do in these situations? What is the best thing to do?
A common phrase that we hear is “My dog will only respond if I have food.” This happens very often because people get out a piece of food, show it to their dog and then ask for a behavior. When this is what usually happens, it only makes sense to listen when he sees food first.
Naturally, a dog wouldn’t do a behavior unless there is a reason to do it. Sometimes the reason is that they see something and want to go investigate, other times it’s because they smell something. This all means that something is there right out of the gate to motivate them to do behavior. This is why they’re so good at responding when we hold the treat in sight.
Lets look at how we can change this and get our dogs to listen without seeing food first.
Use what is motivating in their environment
Most “bad” behaviors that our dogs do are the result of something exciting them in the environment. They pull on leash to greet the dog or they jump to get as close to the guest’s face as possible. If we manage correctly, we can get our dogs to do the behaviors we want for the environmental reward that they want. The behaviors we want are typically behaviors that are the exact opposite of what makes sense to our dogs naturally. This means we have to be very patient and consistent.
Get your dog use to responding without food in sight
We need to convince our dogs that there is a high percentage that something good will still come if they do a behavior without anything in sight. The easiest way to do this is to start off with a lure-reward method and then as quickly as possible, move to a hand signal-reward method. What this means is that for the first handful of reps, food is in sight. After you get about 5 really solid behaviors in a row, do a hand signal that looks similar to the food lure (but with no food in your hand) and then reward when the behavior occurs. This is our way of teaching a dog that if they respond without anything in sight, something good still happens. This is where it all begins.
The next step is asking your dog to do a behavior when he is just hanging out and not distracted by anything. Walk up, ask for eye contact and then pull a treat out of your pocket and reward. By doing this, your dog is now going to see you and think about doing behaviors without seeing a piece of food first.
Continue to reward
Finally, the behaviors we want to continue to see need to be rewarded the vast majority of the time. Without any rewards, our dogs will start to ignore us and then we're back at square one. By continuing to reward our dogs for doing behaviors, our dogs will stay motivated and will do the behaviors very quickly.
By Kevin Duggan
Write something about yourself. No need to be fancy, just an overview.
The majority of pet dogs pull on leash. This is frustrating for people and takes the fun out of the walk. It’s no longer relaxing when you’re being yanked around and having to hold on with two hands.
To instantly stop your dog from pulling you need to plant your feet and not move forward if the leash is tight. This is rule #1 and it’s the most important rule. Doing this teaches him that pulling is no longer the fastest way to get somewhere. Unfortunately just stopping when the leash is tight isn’t going to completely solve the issue as you’ll probably end up doing a lot of standing and not a lot of walking. This means that we also need to teach him how to walk without pulling.
Step 1. Walking while the leash is loose earns him food rewards. Bring high value food rewards with you on the walk. When you first start your walk, reward every couple of steps.
Step 2. Start adding steps in between food rewards. If your dog is walking at your side and most of his attention is on you, start taking multiple steps between rewards.
Step 3. If he sees something that he wants to investigate (when possible), let him. If he walks towards it without pulling allow him to keep heading in that direction. If he starts to pull, tell him “too bad,” turn around and bring him back to the starting point and start over. Keep repeating until he makes it without pulling. The first few times you attempt this may take 5 minutes before he finally makes it to his reward. Common environmental rewards include greeting people, greeting dogs and smelling different things along the way.
Step 4. Put him in some anti-pull equipment. Use a front attaching harness or a head halter to help remove his leverage if he tries to pull. Less leverage for him means more leverage for you, which will help you stop him if he tries to pull.
Step 5. Teach your dog to look at you for food rewards when he sees something that you don’t want him to go towards. Click here to find out how to teach this.
In closing, this is a general guide to help. For some dogs, more steps are needed and you may need to hire a professional to help. Remember, the dog training industry is unregulated. This means anyone can claim to help and can use methods that are harsh and not needed.
When I first got V I was 19 years old and he was a pup. A year or two later he was full size and for lack of a better way to say it, out of control. At the time I didn't want to do training because I liked him for who he was and didn't want to change his personality.
Fast-forward to today and a lot of people feel the same way I did about 10 years ago.
You can probably imagine that we (adgtk) are in favor of doing training. This is because we are able to help people with their dog's unwanted behaviors without having to change their dog's personality.
One of the reasons for this is because we use a lot of rewards when training. These rewards provide motivation and also make training fun. The other reason is because we are not using anything that hurts or scares dogs. The side effect of pain and fear in training is that you can change your dog's personality and that is where this thought process comes from.
How does using pain or fear change a dog's personality?
For starters, your dog will figure out that trying any behavior (besides the desired behavior) can result in something painful or scary. (e.g. a shock, jerk, being yelled at.) This often results in a dog that is not willing to do any behavior for fear of the consequence. This can take a happy-go-lucky dog and turn him into a dog that is reserved and even nervous.
It can also change a dog's personality because the dog can start to develop negative associations with what he thinks is causing the "correction." For example, if a guest enters your home and your dog jumps, and then is immediately "corrected," your dog can associate the guest with the correction. Over time, and even for some dogs more immediately, a negative association is developed and that association leads to fear, which can then lead to aggression.
To summarize all of this, training can be fun for all and will not change your dog's personality if it is done correctly.
Kevin Duggan, CPDT-KA
The biggest reason why most dogs don’t go for walks is due to excessive pulling. Dogs are strong and use all four of their limbs to pull. This can make for a very unpleasant walk.
Why do dogs pull?
The simple answer is because it gets them what they want. They’ve learned that the quickest way to get to something is to pull you. They quickly learn that pulling their hardest is what they need to do and the behavior is reinforced.
How do we prevent your arm from being pulled off?
Obviously training is how we can teach a dog to walk without pulling. Training means teaching your dog to walk with a loose leash and by doing so, good stuff will happen. But to instantly reduce pulling, use a device that works by removing your dog’s leverage to pull. This is where a front attaching harness or a head halter comes in handy. These tools don’t technically stop pulling, but the amount of strength behind the pulling is reduced immensely.
Where can you get one of these devices?
Great question! We actually carry the Freedom No Pull Harness and the Gentle Leader at our training centers. A lot of pet stores carry options too.
Side note: There are lots of devices on the market that can help to reduce pulling. Many devices work by causing some pain or discomfort. Those devices can actually result in your dog developing negative associations with the things in the environment and can lead to fear and aggression. Our advice is not to use them.
All Dogs Go To Kevin Comes to Knoxville
Ohio-based dog training facility opens a location in Fountain City
Knoxville, TN: All Dogs Go To Kevin is pleased to announce the opening of a new store in Knoxville located in Fountain City. To celebrate, the company is having a Grand Opening Event Saturday, September 8th. Media and pet parents are encouraged to attend and to bring their four-legged friends to join in the fun!
The first 25 attendees will receive a mystery gift card (values range from $5 up to $20), and there will be free giveaways such training gear, dog treat samples, and dog toys. All attendees will also receive 20% off group classes when they sign up at the event. Food and drinks will also be provided.
The new store features a spacious training area for group classes - from Puppy Socials to Basic Obedience, Reactive Rover, Jumpers Anonymous and more. It also includes space for private consultations, retail and even a kid’s play area. The owner, Kevin Duggan, is a certified professional dog trainer and behavior consultant who has been training dogs for 10 years. His Ohio location has been voted Best Training on the Akron Hot List for 3 years.
What: All Dogs Go To Kevin Grand Opening Celebration
When: Saturday, September 8, 2018 from 6-8pm
Where: All Dogs Go To Kevin
5034 N Broadway St, Suite 230
Knoxville, TN 37918
About All Dogs Go To Kevin: All Dogs Go To Kevin sets dog guardians up for a lifetime of fun, love and joy with their dogs. It’s training for the real world, based on in-depth knowledge of how dogs learn and an understanding of client goals and needs. All Dogs Go To Kevin is always positive. We know how to motivate and how to reinforce the behavior dog owners want: that’s how we get results.
What’s better than taking a photo of your dog? Nothing! The tricky part can be actually getting him to pose for the photo. The new good news is that we have a step by step guide to show you how to teach your dog to sit still while you snap that awesome photo!
Step 1: Teach your dog to sit
- Sit for a food lure: The simplest way to teach your dog to sit is with a food lure. Take out a piece of food and bring it down to your dog’s mouth. Hold on tight as he’ll want to eat it! Slowly raise the treat over your dog’s head towards his rear end. This should cause him to lift his head up and bring his rear end down to the ground. Once he get’s into that position, feed him the treat. Do this until he is successful 4/5 times.
- Sit for a hand signal: Now that your dog has the hang of the food lure, it’s time to fade it and turn it into a hand signal. With him positioned in front of you, take your empty hand with your palm facing the sky and lift it over his head. This should cause him to sit. Once he sits, give him a treat from your other hand or pocket. Once he successfully does this 4/5 times you’re ready to move on.
- Sit for a verbal cue: Since your dog is doing so well with the hand signal, you’re ready to add in the verbal cue. With him positioned in front of you, ask him to “sit.” Give him 1-2 seconds to respond and if he doesn’t, give him the hand signal. Reward him if he sits for the verbal cue or if he needs the hand signal. Follow this pattern and he will eventually start to sit when he hears the verbal cue.
Step 2: Teach your dog to stay
Now that you have your dog in a sit, it’s time to teach him to stay. There are a lot of steps of stay to help ensure he can stay in an environment chalked full of distractions. Let’s dive in!
- Stay with a food distraction: While in the seated position, take a piece of food out and dangle it in front of him. If he can hold position while the food is dangling for 1 second, give him the piece of food. If he goes for it, which he probably will a few times, tell him, “too bad” and remove the food. If that happens, return him to position and start over. Once you get 4/5 in a row you’re ready to make it harder by dangling the food for 3 seconds. Follow that same pattern with the goal of getting 4/5 correct responses. Once that happens, it’s time to put the piece of food on the ground for 1 second. Once he does 4/5 correct, increase to 3 seconds. Your last step for the food distraction is to place the piece of food onto the ground for 3 seconds while you stand up straight. If he goes for the food, use your foot to cover it up and get him back into position. When teaching any of these behaviors, if he is getting 3/5 responses correct, do another set of 5 with that behavior until he does better. If he is getting 2/5 or less, go back to the previous step.
- Walk around stay: While your dog is in his sit, take a step to your right, return and then reward him for staying. We want to follow the same pattern as before. If he can successfully stay for 4/5 reps you’re ready to add on a second step. The second step should mean that you end up next to his side. (Depending on the size of the dog.) Once you get 4/5 you’re ready to add on a third step which means you should end up near his back end. After 4/5 successful reps you’re ready to walk around your dog. Reward him once you get back to his front. Follow the same pattern on his other side.
- Walk away stay: With your dog in his sit, ask him to “stay” and then take 6 steps backwards. Return and reward. If he can do 4/5 reps successfully you’re ready to take 12 steps backwards.
Step 3: Teach your dog to make eye contact
Now that your dog can sit and stay while you walk 12 steps backwards, you’re ready to teach him to look up at you on cue. Let’s take a look!
- Watch for a food lure: With a piece of food in between your fingers, start the food at his nose and then bring it up next to your eye. When his eyes meet yours, tell him “good” and give him the food. Once you get 4/5 successful reps, you’re ready to move the hang signal.
- Watch for a hand signal: With no food in your hand, bring your pointer finger to your dog’s nose and then up to your eye. Once he makes eye contact, reward him. (If he doesn’t make eye contact right away, make a noise with your mouth to get him to look up and then reward.) Once he does 4/5 successfully, you’re ready to add in the verbal cue.
- Watch for “Say Cheese!” cue: Look at your dog and say, “Say Cheese!” 1 to 2 seconds later, give him the hang signal from the previous step and then reward. Repeat this over and over and eventually he will make eye contact before you give the hand signal.
Step 4: Put it all together
Now you’re ready to take your photo! When you find your perfect photo place, bring your dog over and ask him to sit and stay. Take your 6-12 steps back and get your camera out. At that point, ask him to “say cheese!” This will result in him looking up at you so you can take your photo.
This plan was written by the entire ADGTK team in our staff FB group.
For a lot of dogs, going to the vet can be stressful. The stress can result in lots of panting, pacing, drooling, shaking, lip licking, yawning, hyper vigilance, growling, snapping or even biting.
Have you ever thought about why this happens? Vets and vet techs are nice people. They got into this line of work because they love animals, so that’s not the reason. This all happens because one of the ways that a dog learns is by association. This means that he learns when something predicts awesome stuff or when something predicts painful or scary stuff. Depending on the association, you may see the behaviors mentioned above, or you may see happy behaviors like jumping, kissing/licking, play biting and so on.
If your dog is struggling at the vet, it’s not too late to help. The first thing you need to do is contact your vet and schedule some “happy visits.” Most vet offices out there offer these, so they should know what you’re talking about.
Figure out where to start
The first step in the plan is going to differ depending on your dog’s level of fear. If your dog is absolutely petrified, you may need to do your first couple of visits in the parking lot without even entering the building. (If this is the case, you’ll want to contact a certified trainer to help develop a plan.) If your dog is nervous but is still holding it together, you’ll probably be fine having him in the building as far away from everyone as possible.
Work at your dog’s pace
It’s beyond important to do this at your dog’s pace. If you dog is nervous when you pull into the parking lot, you’re going to want to stick to the step of pulling into the parking lot and giving him lots of tasty treats. You’re going to stick to that step until you pull into the parking lot and he starts getting excited. If you were to try to jump ahead and go in while he is extremely stressed, it’s unlikely that things are going to get any better.
Get your food prepared ahead of time and keep it out of sight
The order of events is extremely important. This means that food must come second if we want to change the way your dog feels about something scary. Scary stuff MUST predict awesome stuff and not the other way around.
If your dog sees or smells the food ahead of time and then the scary thing appears, the order of events is wrong and your dog’s association with the scary thing won’t change. Believe it or not, your dog’s association with the awesome thing may actually change. If he smells and or tastes cheese just before something painful or scary happens, he may no longer want cheese in the future.
Whatever step you’re at, make sure the thing your dog dislikes happens first, (pulling into the parking lot, walking into the building, seeing the staff etc.) and then the flow of food starts. As long as you’re going at your dog’s pace, you’ll see a change in his behavior in future visits.
The food deliverer
It makes sense for your dog to receive treats from a person if he is afraid of that person. The idea is to change his association. This can work, but often times it’s not the best way to go about it. In the video posted I have the staff give Villere some treats. This is because his fear if very minimal. Once you get to that point, it’s okay. But if your dog is too nervous, having a person approach to give a treat can actually cause more fear. Your safest bet, especially in the early stages is for you to deliver the food AFTER he notices the person.
Go at the right time
If your dog is reactive towards other dogs, communicate this to the staff. Trying to accomplish this with other dogs around is going to make this near impossible, especially in the beginning. If there is no other choice, ask if there is access to the building through another door and try to go right into an exam room instead of the waiting room.
Here is a video of Villere's happy visit to give you a visual:
Once your dog is feeling good about the parking lot, the building and the people in the building, you're ready for the next step. Stay tuned for step 2.
Thanks to Hardin Valley Animal Hospital for being so awesome! If you're in the Knoxville, TN area, we recommend them. They're a Fear Free Certified hospital.
By: Kevin Duggan, CPDT-KA
Most dogs like being outside. There are lots of things to smell, look at and on occasion, chase. It’s like a child going to an amusement park. This is why it can be tough to get some dogs to come back into the house when we need them to.
Dogs are very good at figuring out when one thing leads to another. When he is outside enjoying the day and then you appear to call him in, he remembers that. So when you appear he’s already going to start to avoid you. This isn’t because he is being bad or stubborn. This is because he is motivated to stay outside.
We can actually improve the chances of getting him to come in by practicing these two things:
Teaching the Cue
The best way to get a dog to come to you is to teach him that your cue predicts a lot of awesome stuff. Start off by choosing a new cue. This is very important. From there, twice per day, say the word and pay your dog heavily. Pay him with a six figure salary instead of minimum wage. After practicing this for a week, you’re ready to start to use it out in the yard.
Double Reward System
Now it’s time to show your dog that when he is out in the yard and you call, awesome stuff happens. (Not once, but twice!) Call him to you, reward him and then let him go back to what he was doing. The first part of the reward is food. The second part of the reward is going back to what he was doing. Practice this for 5-10 minutes each day. When practicing this, wander around your yard and make your way up to the door. Be unpredictable with where you are going next.
The last part of the process is calling your dog into the house, rewarding him and then sending him back outside. This shows him that even when you call him in, it doesn’t mean that the fun is over. This will increase the chances of him coming in when you need him to heavily. Practice this last step a couple times per week for the rest of your dog’s life. This will set it up for him to continue to come inside when you need him to.
Here is a video to show you how to do it:
Dogs bark. Big surprise, right? We all know this about dogs but it can still be a little frustrating when the barking continues on for too long or happens at a time we wish it wouldn’t. So what is an easy way to decrease the barking? Let’s take a look.
Getting the barking under control in some situations can be very easy. This is where “management” comes into play. If your dog has a tendency to bark at things out of the window then you can place things on the window to cut off the visual. The obvious most common devices are blinds or shades. They work by blocking the visual stimuli. The downfall though is they block out the natural light from coming in.
At my house we installed a “frosted glass” window sticker. Our front door, which you can see in the photos is made up of a lot of windows and we recently moved into a home that has a decent amount of foot traffic in front. This sticker works perfectly to prevent our three dogs from seeing people and other dogs passing by. It also works great because it prevents people from being able to see in. And as I already mentioned, we still get the natural light through the stickers.
You can purchase these stickers online or at your nearest big box hardware store. They’re relatively inexpensive and they’re reusable!
I didn't know what a reactive dog was until several years ago. I did know that I rarely enjoyed a walk with my dog because every encounter with another dog, even from a distance, resulted in extreme barking, lunging, and jumping at the end of the leash. I finished most walks feeling embarrassed, exhausted, and angry. Hiking was the worst because with limited space on a trail, the lunging and jumping was even worse due to the close proximity of a passing dog. So, for many years I simply didn't walk my dog, Stella. I had a toddler and a baby, and Stella's reactivity more than once almost pulled me over along with the jogging stroller, so unfortunately, I gave up on walking her. Afterall, I had two small children, and Stella had a fenced in yard so she would be okay. As Stella got older, I realized that I wanted her to have a better quality of life. As a senior dog I felt like I was depriving her of important exercise and also time for the two of us to bond since she has always been my buddy and very important to me. I began reading dog training books and watching videos in a desperate search to understand Stella and learn how to make our walks more enjoyable. Nothing I was doing seemed to work, but I did start walking her while being sure to avoid certain routes that were known to have dogs out in yards.
Finally I decided I had to find a local dog trainer because what I was trying, wasn't working. My search found All Dogs Go to Kevin. I actually remember emailing Kevin and asking about private training. He suggested I sign Stella up for the Reactive Dog class. That class began my journey toward becoming a dog trainer for Kevin. And now, along with my co-trainer, Nancy Plavan CPDT-KA, I teach the Reactive Dog class for ADGTK.
The Reactive Dog class at ADGTK is one of my absolute favorite classes to teach. I love it because it's challenging, the owner's are entirely commited to learning and helping their dogs while using positive based training, and we get to see amazing progress from week one to week six.
I'd like to give you a short overview of what a reactive dog is, what causes a dog to become reactive, how reward based training works, and what you gain from the ADGTK Reactive Dog class.
What is a reactive dog?
A reactive dog is one who barks and lunges at the end of their leash when they see an object that generally causes fear, anxiety, and/or frustration. The "object" could be another dog, a person, squirrel, small children, etc. My dog, Stella, reacts to all dogs; my dog, Charley, reacts to dogs and small critters like squirrels and bunnies.
What causes a dog to become reactive?
There are many answers to this question. In some cases the dog has had a negative interaction with another dog and this has caused a generalized fear of all dogs. In other cases it is the cause of "barrier frustration". In other words, the dog may do very well playing off leash with other dogs, but when attached to a leash the frustration of not being able to greet another dog is just too much for them, so they start to react.
How does reward based training work with reactive dogs?
In our class we work very hard to build a positive association between your dog and another dog. We do this very slowly and in a controlled environment. What makes dogs feel good (and most people)? Food. So we use extremely high value food to our advantage in terms of building a positive association between your dog and that "scary thing" which could be another dog or a squirrel, for example. Instead of your dog seeing another dog and reacting, we want your dog to see another dog and expect something delicious. By using classical conditioning we are able to slowly change your dog's response to another dog. But, you might ask, what about punishment? I see other people using a shock collar or a prong collar and their dog doesn't react. To answer this question I appreciate this response by Emma Parsons in her book, Click to Calm:
First of all, punishment is bad because it's abusive. Second, it may be effective in that it halts the behavior as it is happening, yet over time the frequency and intensity of the punishment needs to be increased to maintain the original threshold of suppressed behavior. The dog becomes at risk from the implementation of the punishment itself, as well as the disastrous side effects that commonly occur, including hyper vigilance, irrational fear, heightened irritability, impulsive/explosive behavior, hyperactivity, aggression evoked with minimal provocation, withdrawal and social avoidance, loss of sensitivity to pleasure and pain, and depressed mood. (72)
In my opinion, I definitely prefer training my dog, who is already extremely hyper vigilant, as all reactive dogs are, to see another dog and then look to me for positive reinforcement rather than the alternative future resulting from the quick fix of using punishment based training. Additionally, I value and respect the relationship I have with my dogs and I want them to trust me and look to me for guidance rather than fearing what I might do to them.
What you gain from the ADGTK Reactive Dog class:
Living with a reactive dog and learning how to cope with their behaviors can be a daily challenge. At All Dogs Go to Kevin we truly enjoy working with reactive dogs and helping students manage their dog's behavior. There is hope for your reactive dog. It is a slow process, but if you commit to it, your hard work will pay off and during the process you're sure to develop a deeper bond with and have a greater understanding of your dog. Nancy and I look forward to seeing you in class!
By Veronica Mountain
Most cats have toys, a lot of toys...jingle balls, catnip mice, toys on wands...the list goes on! However, a toy that doesn’t move, or moves in a predictable way, will not keep a cat’s interest for long. That’s where you come in, the hero of our story that will turn a toy alive! All of a sudden your cat is now off its bed, stalking, waiting, and finally rushing in for a tackle.
So how exactly do you get a cat to play? What does play look like? How do you know which toy to choose? Why is play so important?
Let’s start with the why. Playing with your cat offers great exercise and stimulation. It also promotes a healthy weight, helps decrease destructive behaviors and strengthens your bond with your cat. Additionally, because hunting is so ingrained in cats (even domestic house cats), engaging in play allows your cat to practice their genetically predisposed hunting techniques. Doing so will deter your cat from finding his own outlets which could lead to problem behaviors.
Although cats can differ in preferences, you can get most play started with a wand-type toy. My favorite is “Go-Cat Da Bird” and can be found at most pet stores. It is a wand with a string and replaceable feathers on the end. The key is to move the feathers on the ground and through the air in an unpredictable way. Let the feathers stop still and then dart back into action! Most of cat play is stalking. So although they may not be running around your living room for 30 minutes straight, trust me, this process is important and will mentally and physically stimulate your cat! Let your cat watch the toy, rush in for a pounce, and then run back to watch again. Some cats like to watch from above, some from under cover. After some practice, you’ll learn how your cat likes to engage with this toy.
End play sessions with their meal or just by tossing down a few treats where their “prey” was. Feather toys should be safely put away when you are not playing. With your cat’s energy now drained and snack eaten, they will likely groom themselves and fall asleep. Job well done!
By Sierra Hampl
My last five clients have had house training concerns. Their dogs ranged in age from five months to seven years old and some were from breeders and some were from rescues. This example shows that house training is a common problem and frustration across the board for dog owners. House training doesn’t need to be complicated and it definitely shouldn’t be a long lasting battle. I’ll share some common mistakes and simple changes so you can turn those mistakes into successes. Whether you’ve just brought home a puppy or you’ve rescued an older dog from a shelter, this post will help take you step by step to house training success.
These common mistakes can be turned around and you can house train your dog within just a few weeks or less if you follow these rules:
Turning Mistakes into Successes
2. Keep your eyes on the prize! In this case, the prize is your dog. After I brought home my puppy I joked with people that I’d ignored my children for nine days in order to get him house trained. It wasn’t really a joke. My kids probably did feel ignored, but one thing I didn’t want to worry about in the long run was house training. I literally stared at my puppy for days just so I wouldn’t miss a single cue he gave for needing to go outside. This also meant that my puppy didn’t have any chances to wander around unsupervised.
Who wouldn’t be excited to show a dog around their new home! Of course we want our dog to enjoy everything our home has to offer, but some freedom needs to be earned, so while you’re working on reliable pottying outside, use baby gates to block off rooms, and even tether your dog to you with a leash that way they can’t wander off.
Troubleshoot! I need to take a shower, now what?! When you can’t have your eyes on your puppy or newly adopted dog, put them in a crate. This is also why crate training is so important, but that’s for another post. The crate is a safe place for your dog to hang out when you need to get stuff done.
3. Create a schedule and be consistent. A young puppy will need to go out quite often. Sometimes every 20-30 minutes. An older dog can last a little longer--maybe 60 minutes if you just adopted an older dog, but I still tell clients that if you see your dog spend any amount of time at the water bowl, be prepared to take them out within twenty minutes or less. A schedule allows you to frequently reward your dog for going potty exactly where you want--outside! It also decreases the likelihood that your dog will have an accident. Don’t worry, you won’t always have to stick to the schedule. Hang in there for a few weeks and it will really pay off.
4. Ditch the pee pads. Nothing sets off more alarms than when I walk in a home and see pee pads. Assuming you want your dog to do his business in the grass, begin your house training outside, not inside.
5. Instead of Punishment, redirect to the correct location. Maybe you felt it was okay to let your guard down and out of the corner of your eye you see you dog about to squat. Don’t panic, just ask your dog in a happy voice if they need to go potty and immediately take them outside and reward once they do their business.
House training doesn’t need to be complicated. It really comes down to restricting freedom in your home, frequent trips outside, and rewarding on location. If you devote a couple weeks to following these steps you should have a successfully house trained dog.
If your dog gets overly excited when a person arrives at your home and jumps, you’re not alone. The majority of social dogs do this behavior. There are a couple of different ways we can handle this. One way consists of training and the other way consists of management.
Let's start off with training
“Don’t jump” doesn’t work. Trust me, people try it all of the time. What we need to do instead is have our dog do a behavior that is physically impossible to do at the same time as a jump. This is referred to as an incompatible behavior. This is where, “sit” comes in handy. If he is sitting then he isn’t jumping. We also have to make sure that he collects his reward in that position. It sounds easy, doesn’t it? Well, it can be easier said than done.
Firstly, we must teach the behavior that we want instead. Walk up and sit is the behavior we’re looking for. Let’s call it, “Go say hi.” Here is a video on how to teach it.
Secondly, we must practice. Without practicing this, it’s unlikely we’ll ever stop the unwanted behavior with training. In order to practice we can start off by having other people in our household step out and knock on the door. Once he can successfully sit without any jumps when the person steps out and right back in we’re ready to increase the amount of time that the person is outside for. Start off by having the person step outside for 30 seconds. If he can successfully hold his sit without jumping 4 out of 5 times when the person reenters then we’re ready to increase it to 1 minute. If he can successfully hold his sit 4 out of 5 times then we’re ready to increase to 2 minutes. Follow that trend until you’ve successfully reached 20 minutes. If at any point he starts to struggle and is only successful 2 out of 5 times we need to go back to the previous step that he was successful with. For those longer durations it’s a good idea for the person to leave and run a quick errand so they’re not hanging out on the porch for 10 or 20 minutes.
Thirdly, we must start to practice with real guests. Since we’ve put all the work in at home, our dog should be close to getting this. We need to recruit some friends to come over once a week. He may fail the first couple tries but it will eventually click. It's important to reward our friends for coming over with coffee or an adult beverage.
Let's talk about management
Management simply means preventing the unwanted behavior from happening. Whether we’re strictly going with a management approach or we’re doing the training approach mentioned above, we must use a leash. Using the leash allows us to physically control our dog. It allows us to pull him away if he starts to jump.
Another management option that we can use is a gate. Gates aren’t just used to prevent young children from going into unwanted places. We can also use them to prevent our dog from accessing certain areas of the house. Managing with a gate could consist of keeping him behind it until he calms down. Once he calms down he can then be let out. (If he starts to jump we would need to put him right back behind the gate and then repeat a minute or two later.)
It’s also a great idea to give our dog something to work on right after the guest arrives. A frozen stuffed Kong goes a long way. It can take 10-15 minutes and once he is finished there is a great chance that the excitement will be gone.
It’s up to you
There is nothing wrong with taking any of the approaches mentioned. We can’t all find time in our busy schedules to train our dogs to politely sit to greet, and that’s okay. That’s why we have management options. We need to be consistent with whatever approach we take. The most important thing is not allowing our dog to rehearse the unwanted behavior.
Should you share your food with your dog? What will happen? Will it create a dog that begs? Will the begging turn into jumping on the table or some other behavior? Let’s take a look.
When a dog does a behavior and the consequence of that behavior is the addition of something he enjoys, he will do the behavior again. This is known as positive reinforcement. If you’re sitting at the table and your dog crawls up on your lap and you start to feed him, you should expect for him to crawl up on your lap the next time you sit there. If he whines or barks at you and you give him food for it, you’re going to get more whining and barking. The real problem that the majority of people deal with in regards to giving their dog “people food” is that they give it at the wrong time.
Here is how to use it
We need to make sure that our dog is doing an appropriate behavior prior to receiving the piece of food. I’m a big fan of teaching a dog to lie down and stay. If he does it properly, he will earn small pieces of food. If he messes up, he gets nothing. The more he is rewarded in a certain position and on a certain spot, the more he will go to that spot and get into that position. This is called the matching law.
For most dogs, “people food” is extremely high value. This means we can leverage it and get a lot of behavior for a small amount of it. It’s very easy to teach a dog to hold a down/stay for the duration of your meal all for one piece of your food. If you enjoy sharing your meal, then you can reward multiple times throughout your meal.
When you first start working on this you’ll have to reward quite frequently to beat him from getting up. As you practice more and more, you can add in longer durations in between rewards. During the “down time” he will patiently wait on his spot.
Reactivity or Aggression
When dealing with reactivity or aggression issues we are always using “people food.” One of my go-to foods is the cheese that comes in a can. We also use a lot of meats and other cheeses.
If we’re dealing with aggression then we are focusing on changing how the dog feels by showing him that the scary thing predicts a lot of awesome stuff. The more awesome the stuff is the easier it is to change the association.
A dog that is “reactive” needs something very high value to compete with whatever it is in the environment that is motivating the reactivity. If we try to bring “low value” treats into the picture we won’t get any of the behaviors we’re asking for.
Don’t overuse it
If you have a dog that is fearful or reactive then you want to save the “people food” for those moments. If he is always getting the highest value foods on a daily basis, the value decreases and it’s unlikely they will work for behavior modification.
Not every food is safe
And remember, not every food that we consume is safe for dogs. Make sure you do your research so you're not unintentionally giving your dog something that could be harmful.
Michael Baugh CDBC CPDT-KSA
I once knew a dog who could balance herself on her front paws. She not only stood like that, she could walk that way. Like an acrobat doing a handstand, she took tiny little steps on her front paws – while she peed.
Was it normal dog behavior? For her it was. The thing is - anything a dog does, by definition, is dog behavior. Some behavior is more typical than others: barking, biting, running, and jumping up, for example. The other stuff like the inverted pee prance, admittedly, may not be as common.
Let’s just say for now most of all the other stuff dogs do is, generally speaking, pretty normal for dogs. Normal for dogs, though, doesn’t often mean normal for us (consider the stuff they sniff… and eat). And there’s usually trouble when normal-for-dogs runs into conflict with what we are willing to tolerate in our homes or with our family and friends.
Let’s think about biting for a moment. It’s a normal behavior for dogs. But, normal doesn’t mean it’s okay any time anywhere. Bite a stuffed toy, shake it, and rip it up. That’s fine. Bite another dog (lightly) during play. That is also no problem. Bite my friend because he’s tall and wears a ball cap and that freaks you out and you want him to leave? Normal? Um, okay. But, not acceptable. Not at all.
We humans are really good at “either or.” Biting is either bad or good. Jumping up is good or bad. But I really like to teach people a more flexible way to think about normal dog behavior (and yeah, most of it is normal). Instead of “either or,” let’s consider “yes and.” Yes biting is normal and I’d prefer it be directed towards stuffed animals and Kongs and the tug rope – not my friend – not any human really. Yes running is normal and I’d prefer you run towards me and not away. Yes, peeing and pooping are normal and we should get in the habit of doing that outside please Ms. Doggie (strike whatever pose you like).
Here’s the cool thing. We can guide our dog’s normal behavior and have a happier life together as a result. And, the trick isn’t really a trick at all. Dogs choose what they’re going to do in any given moment day-in-and-day-out. Choices that make good things happen for them become more typical. Some dogs get petted when they jump up and it becomes a routine (jumping is normal and the petting makes it more typical for that individual dog). Other dogs sit to greet people and also get showered with attention and warm physical contact (sitting is also normal for dogs and very typical for many).
Biting is normal – and it hurts. Some dogs bite to get attention or start play. It’s normal and no good. Other dogs bite to make scary things stop or to ward off people or other animals who seem dangerous (but might not really be). That is also not okay in most cases. But here’s the deal. We can influence those behavior choices too. For the dog play biting to get us riled up, we can teach her that doesn’t work. At the same time we can teach her games with rules that do work to start and stop play (teaching a dog to play tug is one of my favorites).
We can also help angry and frightened dogs calm down. The key word there is help. Yeah, she’s giving my friend a hard time – but she’s also having a hard time with him and his hat. Let’s help. Let’s teach the dog self-control while we also safely show her that people in our home mean no harm. It’s doable. And, we never have to label our dog as abnormal in the process. She’s normal and we can still help her do better – feel better.
So far there is little evidence of dogs, as we know them, in the archeological record that doesn’t include evidence of humans. We are a beautiful, if not unlikely, example of co-evolution. We go together, came up together. We influence each other and have for centuries. Dogs seek things that make life-for-dogs better: food, comfort, shelter, and safety. Humans, for better or worse, control all of those things for dogs. In the best of setups we trade what we control lovingly and intelligently for all that is good and typical in dogs: companionship, affection, athletic prowess and play, – transcendent moments of wonder. We are giving and taking – taking and giving – dogs and humans. The lines tend to blur.
This cross-species communication, this guiding of choices – training – teaching – learning – it’s the makings of our life with dogs. It’s the stuff of fabled memories – a playful dog bounding towards us, so happy when we come home, grinning with a toy in her mouth – an evening together at the park - and, yes, the little one balancing on tiny front paws so careful and delicate. Aren’t these the storied moments? And, aren’t they so beautiful because they are so delightfully normal?
Michael Baugh teaches dog training in Houston, TX. He specializes in behavior related to fearfulness in dogs including aggressive behavior.
At some point in time the idea of sticking your hand out to be sniffed when greeting an unfamiliar dog was decided to be the right idea. This is the wrong idea and is a great way to receive a bite to the hand. Let’s take a look at why and what to do instead. Let’s start off by talking about the three typical dog personalities.
Three typical dog personalities :
A dog that is happy to greet anyone is usually pretty easy to spot. As they see people they start to get loose and wiggly. There may even be some jumps mixed in. These are the behaviors that you want to look for if you really want to greet a dog. This dog would enjoy the interaction with you.
A nervous dog could be standing there quietly and may look “calm and good.” A nervous dog may also do the opposite and bark, lunge or growl when a strange person appears. Sometimes the nervousness to the naked eye could be hard to spot. That is why you want to look for the signs of the “happy dog” mentioned above. This dog would not enjoy interacting with you. If an interaction is forced then a bite could occur.
A dog that is frustrated would be doing a lot of barking and lunging when they see a strange person. The frustration is probably coming from a place of happiness. From an overall training standpoint you wouldn’t want to greet this dog because it could reinforce all of the lunging and barking. (If it is indeed coming from a social standpoint.) The dog would then learn that if it does those behaviors, it gains access to the thing it wants. It’s then going to lead to more and more of those behaviors.
Now that the three typical personalities have been listed you probably have a pretty good idea of which dogs would enjoy meeting you and which wouldn't. The ones that wouldn’t enjoy meeting you aren’t bad dogs, they’re just dogs. It’s extremely common for dogs to be weary of strangers.
Here’s what to do when greeting a happy dog
Since you now know what to look for when attempting to greet a strange dog we can now move onto how to do it.
The first thing you want to do is double check with the owner that his dog would enjoy meeting you. Once that is determined you’ll want to have them approach you. When the dog finally gets to you he is probably going to be excited which could lead to a bit of jumping and maybe even some licking. Scratch him under the chin or right above the tail. (I like to pet dogs where they can’t scratch themselves. This seems to be a big hit.) Keep an eye on his body language to see if anything changes. If his body language changes after you do something, avoid doing that thing again. (e.g. touching his leg makes him pull it away, getting close to his face makes him turn away.)
Notice that at no point did I mention sticking your hand out to be sniffed? That’s because it isn’t needed. Going through the three personality types, you’re only going to be greeting the ones that are obviously happy. Those happy dogs aren’t really concerned with how you smell.
Every day a child gets bitten by a dog. Most of the bites aren't going to end up in the news because the damage isn't that severe, but they're still happening. Being bitten is no fun; I'll be the first to tell you. And no kid should have to learn the hard way. Let's take a deeper look into why kids are often the victims of dog bites.
Kids aren't as predictable as adults
The average kid is running, screaming, falling, throwing stuff, trying to approach the dog etc. These behaviors can make a dog uneasy. This is especially true if these behaviors are all happening at once. Trigger stacking is when multiple things that stress a dog happen at the same time. The result of too many triggers being stacked on is typically a bite.
Warning signs go unnoticed
When something stresses a dog the response from the dog is a change in body language. Most frequently you will see him start to pant, look away, lick his lips, yawn, stare, furrow his brow, freeze, growl, show his teeth and then bite. Not every dog is going to do all of those behaviors. This is just a list of behaviors that often occur when a dog is stressed. From the videos I see posted online it is easy to tell that a lot of people don’t recognize these behaviors as precursors to a bite.
Children are allowed to do inappropriate behaviors to their own dogs
Children are often allowed and even encouraged to climb on the family dog. The mentality behind this is that the dog should be fine with it. This is the main reason why children get bitten. This isn’t the child’s fault. We need to coach and teach our children how to interact appropriately with a dog.
Another similar way that children get bitten is by their friends’ dogs. Those dogs don’t know your child. And if you’ve taught your child that climbing on your dog is okay, they’re most likely going to try climbing on strange dogs too. Strange dogs are a lot less likely to tolerate the behavior from a strange child and often times a bite occurs.
Children approach dogs
This goes hand in hand with the previous section. Children should never be allowed to approach dogs. It should always be the other way around. If a dog is in a position to be approached, he probably doesn’t want to be messed with. He is either relaxing, eating, drinking, working on a bone or sleeping. If you don’t enjoy being touched or climbed on when you’re doing something, your dog probably doesn’t either. You can communicate this though with your voice. A dog can only communicate this with body language and some little vocalizations. As we discussed above, those often go unnoticed or are downplayed and then a bite occurs.
The overall theme here is that children are innocent. It’s our job to teach and coach them on how to interact with animals. We obviously don’t want our children to get hurt by an animal so we need to ensure that we’re not unintentionally putting them in a position for it to happen.