By: Sierra Hampl
As you celebrate this holiday season don’t forget about that special something for Fido!
And Fido, there’s a special list for you. Don’t forget to shop for that special human in your life!
By Kevin Duggan
The first step to getting your dog to do the things you'd like is to figure out how to motivate him. Food is an easy way to motivate. Other things that can be used are access to people that he likes, access to dogs that he likes, getting to go outside and getting to sniff things on a walk. Really, if you think about every behavior that your dog does that you dislike, the thing that is causing the unwanted behavior can be used as leverage for a behavior you'd like instead.
If your dog is jumping on guests when they enter your home then your dog is motivated to greet the person. All we need to do is teach the behavior that we'd like instead and manage the situation carefully to ensure that he doesn't get any reinforcement for doing the unwanted behavior. If you're very consistent with this he will learn that sitting gets him the thing he wants instead of jumping.
If your dog is pulling on leash when out on a walk then he is motivated to go in that direction to smell what's over there, or to pee on the tree that is over there, or to greet the dog that he sees etc. This is one that gets reinforced all the time which leads to more pulling on leash. This one takes some patience but can be pretty easy to solve. We need to take what he wants and teach him that he can have it as long as the leash remains loose. The use of a front attaching harness or a head halter can make this even easier.
Everything that has been mentioned so far hasn't included the use of pain or fear. This is because you don't need to use pain or fear to get the behaviors you're looking for. Pain and fear are motivators. Our recommendation is to avoid using these types of motivators because they can hurt the dog, they're not needed and they can lead to building negative associations which can cause aggression.
By Sierra Hampl
I know everyone in Northeast Ohio is saying this, but I truly “can’t believe it’s November”! With the holiday season upon us, whether you’re traveling or not, let’s take a moment and consider how our dogs fit into the Thanksgiving plans.
Managing an excited dog and having guests over is a common conundrum for pet owners; however, it is possible to spend quality time with your guests while managing your dog’s behavior. In this post you’ll find tips to help you prepare your dog for guests, and also ways to manage your dog’s behavior after the company arrives. This is sure to help you and your dog get the most out of the holidays.
Preparing for guests:
By Kevin Duggan
As a reward based trainer, a question that often comes up is “when can the treats be faded?” I’m not positive where the motivation behind this question comes from. I feel that some people may think their dog should just listen to them because of an alleged intrinsic desire to please. I feel that others may just want their hard work to pay off and for them that means that once they’ve taught their dog the desired behaviors they shouldn’t have to continue to reward them. Who knows for sure though? Everyone could have a different reason.
Let’s cut to the chase. Lack of motivation is a huge reason why our dogs aren’t doing what we’d like them to do. No living-breathing animal does something for no reason. Why do we watch football? Because it brings us joy. Why do we go to work? Because it provides us with a paycheck. If your paycheck were to be removed would you keep going to work? What if we take away the reason why our dog is doing the behavior? Should he continue to do the behavior? The answer is no. Without that motivation there is no behavior.
I like to compare pet dogs to animals in zoos. I like to do this because I feel that since we share our homes with dogs, we place them on a pedestal. For some reason this has made us feel like the rules of learning are different for them than other animals. No one refers to a bear or a giraffe as “stubborn.” Did you know that they have taught bears in zoos to voluntarily stick their leg through a hole in a fence to do husbandry procedures? This was accomplished because the bear learned that the behavior of sticking his foot through the hole in the fence provided tasty food rewards. If they asked the bear to continue to stick his foot through the hole but stopped providing the food rewards the bear would see that the behavior no longer predicts food and would stop doing the behavior. Does this now make the bear stubborn? My friend Kathy Sdao was the first zoo trainer to teach a Walrus to allow blood to be taken voluntarily. An adult walrus weighs roughly 2,200 pounds. This was taught with incremental steps using food as motivator/reward. Once again, if that food were to be removed, that walrus would stop doing the behaviors that allowed the blood to be drawn.
If you want your dog to continue to do the behaviors you’ve taught him to do then you must continue to reward those behaviors. As soon as you stop you’ll see a decrease in those behaviors and then the behavior will stop all together. You can obviously use food as the reward for behaviors, and depending on the situation you can also use affection, praise, access to smells, access to other dogs, access to people and the list goes on. Your dog decides what is motivating and reinforcing and if the behavior sticks around, you’re reinforcing it. Your best bet is to have a treat bag on when you’re out and about and to have treat jars placed strategically throughout your home for the rest of your dog’s life.
Now that we’ve got Sit, Down and Stay under our belts, we’re ready for the second set of foundation behaviors. We are going to be covering, “Leave it,” “Touch,” and “Go to your bed.” These are a lot of fun to teach and you’d be surprised at how quickly your dog will pick up on them.
Step for Hand Targeting
Steps for Go To Mat
Steps for Leave It
“I can barely walk in the door my dog is jumping so much!”
These are all complaints we’ve heard from clients and I’d like to help you lay the foundation to decrease your dog’s jumping. Most often, a dog jumps because it is excited and is seeking attention. Of course you want to give your dog attention, and the people who visit your home most likely want to pet your dog, but a dog scratching arms and legs and acting like a bouncy ball isn’t a pleasant greeting, nor does it incite compassion from a human. More often, owners are compelled to yell at the dog, “no! Get down! Stop doing that!” or even push the dog down. Without realizing it, these are all forms of reinforcement for the jumping. If you’ve taken any of our classes, you will notice that we ignore all jumping or ask for alternative behaviors (like a ‘sit’ for example) and that is that what this post will help you learn to do at home.
In dog training we have two basic tools: management and training.
For our jumpers, we do have management options:
However, most people want their dog to participate in all activities. After all, they are part of the family, too! This is where training and management can work together. For most of these activities, you can have your dog on leash. If you incorporate mat work with polite greetings, we do recommend that your dog is on leash when visitors arrive. Let’s dig in to our training tools.
Mat Work – Jumpers need a space to settle. To signify to our dog that it’s time to hold a down-stay for duration, we use a mat. This can be a very inexpensive bath or kitchen mat or even the yoga mat that’s buried in your basement (not that mine is buried in my basement or anything like that). Here are the steps you will follow.
To see Kevin demonstrate this, check out this video:
Go Say Hi - We teach this in most of our classes and with consistency and repetition, your dog will begin to generalize that four paws on the floor equals a pet and a food reward. Try practicing this with as many people as possible. If you have several family members, rotate the handler and the greeter this way the dog has practice greeting several different people. When you’re out and about with your dog, get in the habit of every time someone asks to pet your dog, you cue your dog, “Spot, Go say hi!”. Most people are willing participants when told a dog or puppy is in training. Kids especially love to help out and give treats, so don’t be shy about telling the people you encounter that your dog is in training and they could really help you out by asking for a sit and rewarding, or at the very least, waiting until you have your dog in a sit. It may be that your dog is extremely social, and in this case it will help to have a very high value food item in your treat pouch this way the dog is motivated by the food you have in hand, more than the chance to jump on the stranger. Recruit a helper to practice the following:·
Check out a demonstration of Go Say Hi:
Sit-Stay No Matter What - This a great way to proof your dog’s sit-stay. You never know how someone will approach your dog. Someone may walk up with a cane, a child may bounce or run toward your dog, so this activity helps train your dog to hold their sit no matter what!
Airplane Game - If you’ve ever fed a six month old, you may have pretended the spoon was an airplane landing in the mouth with something yummy on the end. This is a similar idea, except we are training impulse control. The dog must stay in a sit to earn the treat. Here’s what you should do:
Touch or Hand Targeting - this is a wonderful tool for moving your dog through space. If you see your dog is about to jump on someone, you can cue a touch and move the dog’s body and attention back toward you. Touch is incredibly easy to teach your dog and you guys can have a lot of fun with this little trick.
Check out this video by Kelly Duggan:
We understand how frustrating it is to have a dog who is prone to jumping. With these training tools and a little bit of management, you will be well on your way to training alternative behaviors to jumping. Dogs are social beings and want to be with us, and near us. In fact, they jump to get closer to faces, but it’s important to respect the fact that not everyone enjoys having a dog jump on them and maybe you’re just fed up with your dog jumping on you. So grab some treats and start practicing these tools to implement the next time you have a guest or meet someone on a walk. Let us know how it goes and if you have any questions!
To live harmoniously with dogs and babies under one roof, it is imperative that the dog has a solid foundation of basic obedience behaviors such as sit, down, stay. Even if your dog has practiced these behaviors before, I recommend that you work through the steps as a refresher. Later in this series, we’ll incorporate all the basics into more challenging contexts (like holding a down-stay while your baby plays with his toys on the ground, for example). But for now, let’s start from the beginning.
Here are the steps:
Here’s how to teach it:
distractions are in play. From there, I’ll show you how to walk around your dog while he stays. I will then add distance and finally duration. All of these steps will come together to inform real life scenarios.
Here’s how to teach it:
And here's Episode 1:
We are excited to announce a video series that is designed to help new parents who are bringing a baby into their house with one or more dogs! This series will also be very helpful if you have a newborn or a toddler!
As a new parent, saying my world has completely changed is definitely an understatement. For dogs, this change is equally as confusing and challenging. This is why we have decided to develop a video series to help!
We will be covering topics such as:
Check out the intro video below!
It's time to go and your dog will not budge. You're out by the car and your dog has its emergency brake on. Is this you? What do you end up doing? Do you pick your dog up? Do you try to entice him with treats and he just looks at you like your crazy?
If you have a dog that is either too big to pick up, doesn't like being picked up and will bite or you just want to make your dog more comfortable with getting in the car then this is for you. It all starts off with hand targeting. (Pardon the old video.) Once your dog can successfully and reliably target your hand then you're ready to start the process of getting him comfortable with jumping in the car.
Step 1: Get him comfortable with being around the car
Practice hand targets around the car. Be very unpredictable with these targets so he doesn't catch on to a pattern. Flirt with the line that he will not cross. Always let him vote with his feet and don't try to get him to cross that line until he is ready. Make sure that leash is loose!
Step 2: Get that line closer to the car
As he continues to get more comfortable he will target your hand closer and closer to the car. Do this and as always allow him to vote with his feet. Keep your hand still once you've presented it and happy talk him if he's contemplating whether or not to do it.
Step 3: Place your hand above the bumper
Once he is comfortable and not showing any stress signs when you're asking him to approach the car you're ready to place your hand above the bumper so he has to target it partially within the car. Keep the same pattern going. Some in this position, some away from the car. You should see him get more and more comfortable with this.
Step 4: Place your hand in the car so he has to step up
Get splitty here if needed. Keep your target hand steady and reward him if he touches it. If he is struggling a bit with this, look for any small version of the behavior you can reward. Do that and then invite him away. Repeat until he is stepping up onto the car for the target/reward. Repeat, repeat, repeat!
Step 5: Ask him to get all the way in
There is no rule for how long each step will take. And there may be splits in between these steps that you'll need to add in. But the final step is getting your dog to jump all the way in to target and then giving a jackpot of food rewards. It helps to get a little momentum like I show towards the end of the video.
Remember to be patient, have fun and let your dog vote with his feet. Sometimes this takes 10 minutes to accomplish while other times it takes multiple hour long sessions. Also, make sure your car rides aren't always a predictor of something your dog dislikes. Getting in the car and going to the drive through once per week for a snack will help keep your dog happy about getting in the car. Below is the video!
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.
Do you have to reach all the way to the ground in order for your dog to lie down? While this isn't the end of the world, it's actually quite easy to teach a dog to lie down with you standing up straight. Your back will definitely thank you!
This method being used here is taught by Jean Donaldson, found of The Academy for Dog Trainers. The overall idea is to break it down into 3 steps. If your dog is doing the first step 4 out of 5 or 5 out of 5 times, you're ready to increase the difficulty and move to the next step. This is explained more in the video. The end goal is for your dog to lie down for a hand signal while you're standing up straight.
Want to get this on a verbal cue? Teach this sequence and once your dog can do it for the small hand signal, add the verbal cue in just before. You can read more about that here.
Last week one of my students brought a friend to class and as they were leaving, the friend pulled me aside and asked if her three year old dog was too old to take a class. I can’t even tell you how happy I was to answer this question because the fact is, your dog is never too old to learn new tricks or refresh the basics. This woman sat through class interested and engaged in our teaching methods and left excited with the idea of bringing her own dog to a class.
After my husband and I rescued our dog, Stella, we took her to a basic obedience class and she was always a fine dog with some frustrating quirks but nothing too terrible. She is definitely an opportunist—meaning that anything left on the counter will be snatched when we aren’t looking, but any snatching is ultimately our fault due to lack of management. After we had children Stella’s walks became almost nonexistent because she would lunge and growl at other dogs and I couldn’t manage a toddler, a baby, and my crazy looking dog! Eventually I realized I was doing a disservice to Stella, so I starting reading books on dog training and attempted to implement what I learned. I did many things wrong, but I was also convinced there had to be a way to take an enjoyable walk with my dog. It wasn’t until I took Stella to Kevin’s Reactive Dog class that I began to truly understand my dog. That was just a few years ago when Stella was nine years old.
We spend a lot of time talking about puppies because it is imperative they experience proper socialization and also for the owners to have support in managing puppy behaviors, but our older dogs are just as important. If, for example, you engage in a hobby but set it aside for several months or even years, when you become interested in it again you will probably need to relearn bits and pieces. The same is true with dogs. Just because you taught them to hold a sit-stay as a puppy, doesn’t mean a few years later they’ll be able to hold a reliable sit-stay (unless of course you practice it regularly).
A refresher of the basics is a wonderful way to understand and communicate with your dog. If you have kids and they think your older dog is boring it’s a great opportunity to get them involved in training, and a renewed sense of ownership of the family dog.
Unless you have a dog that is reactive to other dogs or people, our Basics 1 class is the perfect option for any dog six months and older. In Basics 1 we cover loose leash walking, sit, down, stay, leave it, watch, and more. Many people seem indignant that they should re-teach their dog to ‘sit’ or ‘down,’ however, we have a very specific method for training reliable behaviors and we ask that all students do their best to follow along and enjoy the process because after all, we’re working toward the same goal of having fun while training, and training behaviors that we can not only achieve in the home, but also when out and about. We encourage our students to trust the process as they will surely enjoy the results at the end of the five week class.
If you do have a reactive dog, our Reactive 1 class is the perfect class for dogs of any age. Not only will you have a refresher of the basics, but you’ll learn how to navigate tricky situations. Whether you sign up for Basics 1 or Reactive 1, not only can your "old" dog learn a few new tricks, but you can, too!
Spot! Spot! Come here, Spot! Treats! Come get a treat! Spot, get in here already!
If you’ve attended any of the classes at All Dogs Go to Kevin, you are aware that we spend a great deal of time focusing on Come When Called. A reliable recall is important for two main reasons:
The above example of the dog named Spot, may be what you experience every day with your dog. We have a specific way of training a consistent and reliable recall. First, an important tip to remember in the early stages, is that whatever word you choose as your recall word--here or come—should only be used during training sessions. This provides complete accuracy in building a reinforcement history with the verbal cue. Secondly, we also suggest that if you have already been using a word like 'come' with little success, it would be best to start over and choose a new word for your dog’s recall. In this case we would tell you to use ‘here’ as your new recall cue.
We want whatever word we use for coming when called to always be relevant to the dog. If he has had a history of ignoring the word you've chosen, it's already beginning to lose its relevance.
Let’s use Spot as our training example. Spot never listens when he’s having a great time in the yard. And why should he? It’s reinforcing to bark at squirrels and he does not have a reinforcement history of coming to his owner and being rewarded, so why bother? At this point, coming to his owner simply means the fun will end and he’ll be stuck inside, away from those fun squirrels.
Teach Spot the new verbal cue (in our example we will use the word ‘here’) for his recall. As we are doing this, we are also simultaneously teaching Spot that really good things happen when he responds to that cue. You will load up your hand with tasty treats - something that Spot doesn't get on a regular basis, like real meat or cheese. Spot will likely be very excited and stare at your hand. Wait (and wait, and wait!) for Spot to lose interest. This may take forever, but be patient.
Waiting for Spot to disengage from the food in your hand is a very important part of the process. If you skip this step, you will have a dog with a perfect recall when he knows that you have a hand full of food, but not in any other situation.
When at last he finally disengages, say, “Spot! Here!” and then throw the pile of treats on the floor. Practice this inside in a low-distraction environment, when Spot is only a few feet away from you to start. Please note, the recall word, in this case, here, is only said one time. After many repetitions, Spot is ready for the next step.
Enlist a friend or family member to hold Spot’s leash and stand about eight feet away from you. Just as you did in the previous step you will say, “Spot! Here!” and reward Spot as soon as he reaches your feet.
What if Spot doesn’t listen and just stares at my friend? It’s tempting to continue chanting the verbal cue to Spot however, if we do this, 'here' will become just as meaningless as the verbal cue you used before you started training Spot for a reliable recall. For this reason, we coach our students to pat their legs, whistle, stomp the floor, clap, anything they need to do to get Spot’s attention and come to your feet without repeating, “here”. As soon as Spot reaches your feet you will give him that big handful of treats you have ready for him.
What if Spot comes to me, but then runs right back to my friend? We coach all of our students to employ a “collar grab” as soon as their dog reaches them. This accomplishes a couple of tasks:
Spot is ready for an added distraction. Have your friend load up their fist with treats. They will not be feeding Spot, rather their yummy smelling hand will act as a distraction (i.e. squirrel or good smell outside) while you call Spot. As Spot is happily sniffing your friend’s closed hand you will say, “Spot, here!”. 90% of the time on the first few trials, Spot will continue sniffing and ignore you. Your job is to ignore the fact that you want to keep shouting, “HERE! SPOT, HERE!”
Instead, you will engage Spot in other ways: clapping, stomping, whistling, etc. As soon as Spot responds and run to you, grab his collar, and your friend will throw that fist full of treats at your feet for Spot to enjoy. Repeat this step until your dog runs over the instant you call him with no delay. Soon you will be able to apply this out in the yard and successfully train your dog to have a reliable recall.
How can I practice this if I don’t have another person to help?
We encourage our students not to rush through any of these steps and to contact us with any questions. Soon enough, just like Spot, your dog will be ready to practice this behavior in more distracting environments.
By Kevin Duggan, CPDT-KA
From time to time you'll come across a dog that just seems to listen to its owner without receiving any rewards. Those dogs are often labeled as "good dogs." But what if I told you that those dogs are actually a bit afraid and that's why they're doing what is asked of them? The owner may not be very harsh but the dog is just "soft."
More often than not dog owners would prefer for their dogs to just listen to them without doling out any consequences. Unforunately it doesn't work this way. A dog's life is all about consequences. Behaviors that lead to consequences that a dog likes will happen more frequently. When a dog figures out that jumping on the counter equals getting food, this doesn't make him a bad dog, it simply makes him a dog.
A dog doesn't have any desire to be good or bad. All a dog wants is to obtain things it enjoys and to avoid things that it finds aversive. We as humans throw out these labels as if a dog has a moral compass. We also are under the belief that good dogs are eager to please us and bad dogs are not. Humans really just overcomplicate things.
If we want to have a well-behaved dog ("a good dog") then there are things we need to do to make that happen.
1. Reward behaviors you want to see more of.
We have treat jars placed strategically throughout our home. This allows us to never miss a moment to reward a behavior that we like. You can wait for the behavior to happen and then reward it or you can ask your dog to do a behavior you like and then reward it. A down-stay on a mat or a bed is a fantastic behavior to reward. If your dog is holding a down-stay then they're not doing any bad behaviors. Our dogs are around eight years old and they still get rewarded with food. Because they've had a lot of training we can deliver our rewards a lot less frequently. With a young impulsive dog you'll have to reward much more frequently. But as mentioned, with strategic training you can spread the rewards out.
2. Manage so that your dog is unable to rehearse behaviors you don't like.
It's important to reward the "good" behaviors but it's equally as important to prevent the "bad" behaviors from happening. Gates, keeping counters clear, leashes and securing your garbage are all examples of managing the evironment so that your dog can't rehearse the unwanted behavior. Two of our dogs don't really care much about the things on the counters or the garbage but V is an opportunist. His mission of finding every ounce of food in the house beings the moment we leave. We can't train him not to do it when we aren't there, but we manage by putting up gates and babylocking the garbage in the cupboard.
It's no secret that a tired dog is a "good dog." Exercise is a way for the dog to get rid of excess energy. You can do walks or hire a dog walker, find a dog daycare or do 10-15 minutes of training. Another great way is a "work to eat" toy. Instead of giving your dog its entire meal from the dog bowl put it into a toy that makes your dog have to work to get the kibble out. There are a lot of different options out there. The right difficulty level will take your dog 10-20 minutes to consume its meal. During this time your dog is working its brain and its body (mental and physical exercise).
In closing, there is no such thing as a dog that is just "good." They're either a bit on the soft side, or they receive training and have their environments managed to assure they're staying out of trouble. Soft dogs are responding because they're a bit afraid and dogs that aren't soft aren't responding because they need training and their environments managed.
A cue is a signal that is used to get a behavior to happen. Cues are a way that we communicate with our dogs and get them to do the things that we like. They can be done verbally or signaled. Some examples of verbal cues are “sit,” “down,” “come,” “stay” and “leave it.” Signaled cues for us are palm up for sit, palm down for down, and palm straight out for stay.
How to teach your dog a cue
The first thing you need to do is select the behavior you’d like to teach. For most behaviors it is easy to get it started with a food lure. A food lure is a piece of food that your dog gets to lick and nibble on while you get him to do the behavior you’d like. Once he does the behavior, he gets the food lure. Once he is doing this reliable we can start to add in the cue. If we were using “sit” as the example, we could have started with the dog in a stand (on all fours) and we would have had him follow the food lure as we brought it over his head and towards his rear. This should have caused him to fall into a sitting position. As soon as he is doing this reliably (4/5 attempts) we could add in the cue. Our cue for this is lifting our empty hand palm up over the dog’s head. The recommendation is to just hold it there and wait for the dog to sit. Once he does, reward him with a treat from your other hand. If we wanted to go a step further and get the dog to do the behavior for a verbal cue then we would want to make sure the dog is doing the behavior reliably for the hand signaled cue. If he can do it for the hand signal 4/5 times then we can add it in. The way to do this is to say your verbal cue first, wait a few seconds and then follow with that hand signal. This will take several repetitions for the dog to get it. The point is to get the dog to see that the verbal cue actually predicts the hand signal. Once he gets it he will start to do the behavior before you have the chance to give him the hand signal.
How to ensure your cue is reliable
Once you’ve got your behavior on cue there are a couple things you want to do. The first thing is you want to make sure that the behavior cued always gets rewarded. If the behavior is not rewarded it will stop happening. This is because behaviors happen because of the consequence that comes from the behavior. You can reward the behaviors a few different ways. You can use food, toys, attention or other environmental reinforcers. Depending on the situation one will work better than the other.
The second thing you want to do is make sure that you only give the cue one time. Once you’ve got your dog responding to a verbal cue, say it once and see what happens. If the behavior doesn’t happen, instead of repeating the cue, give the hand signal that you worked on prior to the verbal cue. This will increase the probability that the behavior will happen without losing the value of the verbal cue. Once again, make sure you reward the behavior. The point of only giving the cue once is because the more you give it without getting the response, the less value the cue has. This means that when you need it to happen, it probably won’t. It’s the same for a hand signal. If you repeat your hand signal over and over your dog will start to tune it out.
What to do if it just isn’t working
If your dog was responding to your cues and all of the sudden stops it could be for a couple reasons.
One reason is because the environment may be too distracting. Distractions are competing motivators. This means that your dog finds those distractions appealing and wants to investigate them further. The best way to get your dog to respond when they are around is to practice your cues with them far away. A good way to do this is to introduce the cues in your home. Once they are happening reliably, go outside to the least distracting part of your yard and practice them. If you need to, go back to the beginning and lure a few. If you do have to go back to a lure to start, try to quickly get back to the hand signal. We don’t want our dogs to be “lure dependent.” (Lure dependency basically means that a dog will not do the behavior unless food is in sight.) Once your dog is doing the cues reliably, go to another part of your yard where the distractions may be a bit more intense. Follow the same pattern as mentioned above.
Another reason may be because your rate of reinforcement is too low. This basically means that you’re moving a little too slow and not giving your dog enough reinforcement to continue with the behaviors. This typically happens when there are competing motivators. The best way to get your dog to respond to the cues is to ask for a behavior, reward it and repeat. This will increase the chances that your dog is staying focused on you and responding to your cues.
Your dog will never respond to your cues with 100% reliability, so don’t expect it. Remember that they are animals and they have their own minds. The best way to get it to happen is to use a high rate of reinforcement, proof it in different environments with a variety of distractions and to go to the previous step if the first cue doesn’t work. (Verbal, Hand Signal and then Food Lure) By always rewarding the behaviors you ensure that the chances of them happening again in the future are high. To set yourself up to always reward the behaviors it’s a good idea to have a treat bag on you and treat jars throughout your home. Also remember that you can always leverage the thing that your dog is motivated to have. If you follow these guidelines you will have a dog that responds reliably to your cues.
The age old question, should you feed your dog from the table? What happens if you feed your dog from the table? Will this create begging? Let’s take a deeper look.
Dogs do what works. This means that if hanging out by the table results in getting food scraps a dog will do it. This is what humans refer to as begging. Quite frankly, if what you have smells good, a dog is probably going to be interested which will equals begging too.
At this point you’re probably assuming that feeding your dog from the table is bad. But what if we told you that you can feed your dog from the table and it won’t result in having your dog’s nose in your meal? The answer is to reward your dog while he is far away from the table. If you’re consistent with this, your dog will develop a bias towards being away from the table instead of being near it.
A great way to make this happen is to teach your dog how to “lie down” and stay on cue. You can take those skills and cue him to stay and wait for his table scrap from there. (Side note: Not all table scraps are safe for dogs. Additionally instead of using table scraps you can use dog treats.)
In conclusion, by following what is mentioned here, you are allowed to feed your dog from the table as long as you feed him while he isn’t right next to it. Regardless if you want to give table scraps or not, to decrease begging you should teach a down-stay and implement it at mealtime. During this implementation you’ll want to use rewards to reinforce the behavior making it more likely to happen again in the future.
Here's a video on the subject
The first time I experience something new it can really stick out. This is the same for everyone. We all know how important first impressions are to us. But what about our dogs? Do they remember when they come across something new? Are they even paying attention? Let's look a little deeper.
Animals are always learning. They are either learning from the consequences of their behaviors or they're learning by way of association. I think we all understand consequences to behaviors. If you comb the beach for buried treasure and find some, you're likely to keep looking for more. This is because you like the consequence of looking for treasure. The consequence of finding the buried treasure is actually going to help build an association too. You're very likely now to love beaches. Imagine if this was your very first time at a beach?
Associations happen when something predicts something. If a beach predicts buried treasure, you're going to like beaches. If a dog hears a bell prior to receiving food, the dog is going to like the sound of a bell. Associations are always being built. The strongest association that happens for dog or human is the very first impression of something new. If a dog walks into our training center and is given lots of tasty treats, that dog is going to see that the training center predicts tasty treats and is going to build a positive association especially because of that first impression. If a dog is walking down the street and a bus goes by making a very loud startling noise, the dog is going to be afraid of buses because they predict loud noises which are scary.
It's extremely important to set our dogs up to see that new stimuli (people, places, noises, surfaces etc.) predict awesome stuff. This is especially important because that first experience is so salient. It's what is remembered most. Having a behaviorally sound adult dog is contingent upon those first impressions.
To set yourself and your dog up to succeed it's very wise to have tasty treats on you in a treat bag. The goal is to give your dog lots of great stuff a few seconds after it is experiencing something new. Scary bus goes by and your dog alerts to it, give him lots of good stuff. This will show him that buses going by predict awesome stuff. Once again, this is extremely important the very first time your dog experiences that thing.
Another way to set your dog up for success is to make sure that you aren't using a training device that causes any pain or discomfort. Choke chains, prong collars and shock collars all work via pain or discomfort. This is the easiest way to teach your dog that things in its environment predict things that the dog doesn't like. If you're currently using a device that works via pain or discomfort, take a look at this for alternate devices that will give you control and won't have any side effects.
Remember, first impressions matter to us and they matter to your dog. Take advantage of them. If you have a young dog, you're going to come across a lot of "firsts." Have your treats ready and build some positive associations.
Dog owners have questions, and dog trainers have answers. Most of the questions that dog owners have are due to the fact that their dog is doing behaviors that they dislike. That is where the answers from the trainer comes in handy. One thing that must be mentioned before continuing on here is that the dog training industry is unregulated. This means that anyone can call himself or herself a dog trainer and can give any type of answer without any proof that it will work or no mention of any side effects that could come from the advice given. So do your research before hiring a dog trainer. Click here for more information on that topic.
So lets get into some secrets to a happy, healthy, relatively stress free life with your dog.
1. Consistency is Everything
What does it mean to be consistent? It means providing things your dog enjoys after it does behaviors you enjoy and ensuring that your dog doesn't get anything it enjoys for doing behaviors that you don't enjoy. Getting good stuff for behaviors will most likely lead to reinforcement of those behaviors which means they will continue to happen in the future. So if you're providing good stuff for when your dog is lying on its bed instead of standing underfoot in the kitchen, you'll see more lying on the bed in the future and less underfoot in the kitchen.
If you're consistent about consequences you'll find that your dog is doing less to aggravate you. Be consistent about ensuing your dog isn't able to get into stuff when left alone. This can be done by utilizing a crate, a gate, or a dog daycare that is properly staffed and understands dogs.
Dogs also benefit from routines. If you're consistent about when they eat, train, and exercise things are much easier. If you're dealing with a dog that is eliminating in the house, one of the first things to do is get him on a strict schedule. If you live in a home with multiple people, ensure that everyone is being consistent.
2. Exercise is a Must
A lot of issues that people deal with on a daily basis are the result of a dog that hasn't had its needs met. It is a must to provide an outlet for your dog's energy. If you do not, your dog will find an outlet and it's going to result in frustration on your part. Yep, there goes your shoes, your wall, your socks... You'll end up chasing your dog around the house trying to catch him so he'll drop that forbidden object. A questions we get often as trainers is how to prevent the game of keep away. Well, with a young dog, it's inevitable that it will happen from time to time if there are management fails, but the best offense here is a good defense. That defense is helping your dog release its energy in an appropriate fashion.
You can provide exercise in multiple ways. One is to work the your dog's brain. This can be accomplished by doing 10-15 minute training sessions where you either working on regular obedience behaviors or you can even get fancy with it and teach tricks. Teaching tricks is a great way to improve your training skills as well. Click here to learn more about teaching tricks.
The other more obvious way is to do physical exercise. Walks, fetch, jogging, tug... There are so many ways to do it and a lot of it will get you exercise too. At least an hour of physical exercise for a young dog is a must. You've probably already caught on, but if you don't you'll regret it later.
3. Training is a Must
If you want to live in harmony with your dog then it's highly recommended to teach them skills like sit, down, stay, leave it, and come. Stay is one of the most valuable behaviors especially when you have multiple dogs. We use stay often when we are trying to get one dog outside and we don't want the other two to follow. Instead of getting into a power struggle trying to body block or overpower the other two, we ask them to go to their beds and remain there while the other dog goes outside. In return for this behavior they get a small food reward.
"Leave it" comes in handy in so many ways. We use the behavior of "leave it" in place of the word "no." Anytime that we would say "no" to our dogs we ask them to "leave it" instead because this is a behavior we have taught them. This behavior means to give up, or back off. "No" to a dog means nothing and the human ends up repeating it until they're voice gets louder and it startles the dog so it stops the behavior. This falls under the power struggle that we work to avoid.
4. Rewarding Behaviors is a Must
Food is usually the easiest reward that can be given. We recommend having small treat jars placed strategically throughout your home so you always have access to a reward to give at the opportune moment. This comes in very handy when you're having your dog stay, or come. The goal with rewarding behaviors is that it is going to serve as reinforcement which means the behavior will happen more frequently in the future. If behaviors that you like happen more frequently in the future, then you're going to be happy because if your dog is doing wanted behaviors, it isn't doing unwanted behaviors.
Different situations call for different rewards. If your dog likes to bolt out of the door, you can teach him to wait and if he does, the reward can be going outside. If your dog is very motivated to greet a person, that person serves as the reward at that moment. If your dog is pulling on leash to get to a fire hydrant, that hydrant could be the reward. All we need to do is teach/ask for behaviors and then provide access to the thing the dog wants when done correctly.
5. Socialization is a Must
A dog that is sequestered in a home all day everyday is very likely to develop issues when he finally gets to experience the world outside the home. Socialization is about building positive associations with the things that the dog comes across. If you're walking your dog and he sees a person, you can provide a piece of food for your dog noticing the person. With repetition, your dog will start to associate people it sees with stuff it likes. This is just a quick example. Ultimately though, it is extremely important to get your dog out so it can see the world and build positive experiences.
One of the mistakes people make is thinking that a dog will build the association all on its just be experiencing this stuff. It will most likely not work that way for your dog. And if you're using "training equipment" like shock collars, choke or pinch collars you could be helping your dog build negative associations. You can learn more about that here.
Take a look at this video for a real world example of socialization:
What is a bored dog?
A bored dog is an under stimulated dog that has not had his physical or mental needs met. A bored dog has lots of energy that needs to be released. When a human does not meet the needs of their dog, the dog finds a way to meet it's own needs. When a dog meets its own needs, it's typically happening in a way that annoys the human. Some examples are digging, barking, barking, barking, jumping on counters, getting in the garbage etc.
How to prevent boredom
Preventing boredom is a little labor intensive. Every dog is different so their individual needs are different. Generally speaking though about an hour of physical exercise is a good rule of thumb. This can be all done at once, or it can happen over multiple exercises. You can meet their physical exercise needs by going for walks, jogs, playing fetch, lure coursing, agility etc. This will keep their body active and obviously helps release energy.
If you think about it, most dogs spend 23+ hours inside the house each day. This is an animal that would probably be spending 20+ hours per day searching for food. Their bodies are designed to be active. Even for the dogs that get a lot of outside time in their yards, it's still pretty boring because it's the same old environment. Here in NE Ohio a lot of electronic containment systems have been popping up in residential areas. In most cases these dogs are being left outside by themselves. These dogs get bored pretty fast generally speaking and end up barking at everything that passes by. In those cases people are wondering why their dog is bored. Unless you have a huge property, most dogs don't find it very enjoyable to be out in a yard surrounded by an invisible line that produces a shock if they get too close. This actually causes a lot of frustration which leads to more barking. In that case too, whenever adding in aversives, negative associations can and will be built. So a dog that is bored at first and barking at things passing by, gets frustrated because it can't get to the things that are passing by. From there, at some point the dog will get too close to the line when the thing passes by and then the dog receives a shock. In the dog's mind the thing passing by caused him to get shocked and then the association is built. The dog now really dislikes when things go by and the barking increases.
That is just one example of how a bored dog leads to more unwanted behaviors that annoy their humans.
Another downfall of a bored dog finding it's own things to do is that your dog will probably be reinforcing it's own behaviors. If your dog is bored and gets into the trash, and in the trash is a bunch of tasty stuff, there is very good chance that in the future your dog will get into the trash. This means the behavior has been reinforced. This is just one example. But any behavior that a dog does to relieve boredom, it's very likely that the behavior will happen more and more which will get very annoying for you as the owner.
Another important way to prevent boredom is to provide mental stimulation for your dog. For starters, throw away that traditional food bowl. The easiest thing to do that isn't labor intensive at all for the human is to give the dog an interactive food toy. This means that your dog will have to work for its food. This will actually provide mental and physical stimulation. There are a lot of different options out there for interactive food toys. We actually sell some at our training center. Interactive food toys are beneficial because it makes the dog work for its food. If your dog is currently eating out of a bowl, the meal probably lasts less than 5 minutes. Using an interactive toy can take anywhere between 5-20 minutes to consume a meal. During that time your dog is using its brain to get the food. Additionally, a recent study showed that animals prefer to work for their food. It's a win-win.
Other ways to work your dog's brain include 10-15 minute training sessions, hiding food around the house and cueing your dog to find it, teaching tricks, playing hide and seek, chewing bones etc.
They say that 10 minutes of mental stimulation is equivalent to about 30 minutes of physical exercise. That isn't going to be true for every dog, but what we have found is that when you seriously work a dog's brain, it really tires them out. Dogs will even start panting from a mental workout.
While it may be a little labor intensive to meet your dog's needs, it needs to be done if you want to have a relatively stress free life with your dog. If you put the work in, your dog is less likely to go around looking for things to get into. You'll also see a huge decrease in the amount of barking your dog does. With some training, management, and ensuring your dog's needs are met, you will have a very happy life with your dog.
Do you ever go for hikes with your dog(s)? Hiking is a fantastic form of enrichment for most dogs. Here in NE Ohio we are very lucky to have the Cuyahoga Valley National Park that has a ton of different trails. We also have the Metro Parks which have a ton of trails.
Hiking is a great form of enrichment because there is so much to take in. All the sights and smells provide mental stimulation for your dog. Obviously as well, hiking is a great form of physical exercise. Depending on where you live you may have flat trails to choose from or even trails with many ups and downs to get you and your dog's heart rate going. Hiking for Kelly and I serves as a great way to just shut off our brains from all the day to day stuff that we deal with.
There are some rules to follow when hiking. Here in Ohio all of the trails that we know of have leash laws. Leash laws are in place for a reason. The biggest reason for us as dog owners is because a lot of us have dogs that do not enjoy the presence of all other dogs. Especially when approached in a very enthusiastic way. So it is nice to be able to hike with our dogs with the piece of mind that other dogs will not bombard us.
Another rule is to clean up your dog's waste. People really appreciate walking on a trail that isn't littered with dog feces. Okay, enough with the rules, let's move on.
What to bring
- Anti-pull gear (Front hook harness or Head Halter)
- Poop Bags
- Spray Shield
- Hiking boots really make a big difference
- Depending on where you're going you may want to bring some snacks
- Cell phone (put it away unless you're taking photos or have an emergency)
All of these things listed are important. Spray shield is something that we always carry just incase someone isn't following the rules and lets their off leash dog run up to our leashed dogs. (In general it is a bad idea to let your dog meet other dogs while on leash. This can create a lot of frustration and things can go south.) Anti-pull gear is super important. This can really make your hike enjoyable because your dog won't be yanking your arm off the entire time. If you're looking for ideas in this department we sell some at the training center. Hiking boots for us are really important too because we are going over different terrain which includes walking through streams. It feels good to have dry feet!
If you're new to hiking, try to find an easy trail to start. The CVNP for example has all the trails mapped out with the elevation changes and the distance. See if where you're planning on going has something similar. Be prepared to have some fun!