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HOW TO HAVE A BETTER BEHAVED DOG

 

 

We all want wonderfully behaved dogs, but it doesn’t happen on its own just because we wish it.  It takes time and effort to create the kind of dog and relationship you want. Here are some basic principles that can help you have a better behaved dog.

  • Have realistic expectations about your dog. No matter how good your dog is, things will get peed on, chewed or scratched/dug up. Barking / meowing, door dashing and/or pulling on the leash can happen with even the best animal.  Accept the fact that dogs are living beings and not china dolls to sit in the corner.  If you have a dog, some time during his/her life, you will loose something of value. 
  • To change behavior you have to be patient and persistent.  Change will not happen over night.  Sometimes it can take weeks or months to change behavior.  The more time you spend and the more often you work with your dog the quicker the change. Despite what some books say, most puppies can’t be housetrained in 7 days.
  • Recognize and meet your dog’s behavioral needs.  Dogs have needs for exercise, social contact with people and other animals and mental stimulation. Problem-solving toys, can provide mental stimulation. Games such as ‘find the hidden object’ and events such as agility can provide all three. 
  • Make it easy for your dog to do the right thing.  Arrange the environment so that the behavior you want is easily produced. The more often desirable behavior happens the stronger it becomes. For example, minimize distractions when you’re trying to teach your dog something new. Put scratching posts where they are easy for your cat to find and use. 
  • Make it difficult for your dog to do the wrong thing.  Arrange the environment so it is hard for your dog to make mistakes.  The more often unwanted behavior happens the harder it is to change.  Close the blinds to keep your dog from barking at those that pass by.  Scoop out your cats’ litter boxes every day.
  • Realize that animals don’t do things out of spite, for revenge or just to make your life miserable. They do what works – that is, what meets their behavioral needs, gets them rewards or allows them to escape or avoid bad things. They sometimes do some things because they are ill.  Dogs counter surf because they occasionally hit the jackpot of a sandwich or chicken leg.  Cats sometimes pee out of the box because they are sick even when they don’t act sick.
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HOUSETRAINING TIPS

Some house training reminders!

Observation

It’s up to you to make sure your puppy does not make mistakes indoors in the first place.  The more that happens, the more he’ll think it’s OK.  This means that good and constant observation on your part is essential to preventing indoor accidents.  To help with supervision, loosely tie his leash to you or tether him where you can see him.  (Do not leave him tethered while unsupervised!).

Restrict his Movements

Make sure you never leave your puppy loose and unsupervised during the housetraining period.  This means that 100% of time you are either watching him, or he is in his crate or X-pen.

Feeding Times

It is important that you regulate your dog’s food and water intake.  Pay closer attention to your dog for the hour or so after feeding so you can be ready to take him out.  Most puppies will want to relieve themselves 15 minutes after eating.  Leave food out for 20 minutes, then remove it, whether your dog has finished or not.  Don’t worry if he doesn’t finish – he won’t starve himself.

Reward

Reward your dog every time he eliminates outside.  Be there to praise while he’s going (low key praise so you don’t interrupt him) and treat immediately afterwards.  You may want to save his very favorite treats for these rewards and use these treats only for housetraining rewards for now.  Use going for a walk as an additional reward.   If puppy does not eliminate, bring him back inside, and try again in 10 minutes.  Then go for your walk – the walk is a reward for going outside, not a bribe to entice him to go.

Go With Him

Make sure you go with your puppy every time so you are present to praise and reward.  Also, this way you know for sure whether or not he has eliminated.  Also, you don’t want him to learn that it is OK to go when you’re not there (as in indoors when he’s unsupervised!). Go to the same spot or area every time so your puppy associates this as his potty area. 

Adding a Cue

When you see your dog about to relieve himself you can add a cue such as ‘good pee’ or ‘hurry up’ or ‘do your business’.  Make sure to say this only when you know he is about to go.  After a while, you can use this cue to get him to go right away (very handy for the 11 pm and bad weather potty trips).

He’s Just a Puppy

A general rule of thumb is that a puppy can ‘hold it’ about 1 hour for every month of age.  So a 4 month old puppy can hold it for 4 hours.  This is breed dependent and smaller dogs will need to go more often.  Plan your training schedule accordingly.

Eliminate Odors

Make you thoroughly clean and deodorize any indoor accidents.  Any remaining scent will entice your puppy to go in the same spot.  You can try feeding on accident areas – puppies do not like to eliminate where they eat – which is why the crate is effective.

Record Keeping

Keep a chart on your refrigerator of you puppy’s elimination schedule so you can start to detect patterns and take him out based on those patterns.

Persistence

It will take time for your puppy to fully understand that he is not allowed to go inside.  Your dog may have an occasional accident when he is 6-12 months old.  Be diligent and patient.

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Some General Training Guidelines

Think about these simple guidelines as you work with your new puppy!

Attitude

  • Act the way you want your puppy to act
  • Make all interactions fun
  • Stay calm, relaxed and confident

Socialization

  • Play “Check it out”- bring puppy to new thing and treat
  • Watch for any signs of fear and happily remove puppy from situation
  • Continue to expose to people, kids, dogs, noises, traffic, etc.

Training a new behavior

  • Use lure to get behavior
  • Give it a name only when you are SURE you’ll get the behavior
  • Fade lure quickly – use reward, not bribe
  • Reward while puppy is still doing desired behavior, not after he moves
  • Make it fun
  • Make it harder – different places, distractions, duration
  • Practice Release word – OK, All Done!!
  • Don’t over use puppy’s name

Leadership

  • No ‘free lunch’
  • No ‘free feeding’/ pick up food bowl after 20 minutes
  • Sit/Wait for everything they want
  • Apply to games, attention, walks, feeding

Taking Treats Nicely

Do NOT feed/treat puppy if he grabs for treat.  Practice at home with no distractions, then outside.  Puppy may get grabby in new environment or when over excited.  See me for various techniques.

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Help for Fearful Dogs

 

Many people try to rehabilitate their dog too quickly, forcing him to socialize with other dogs and people. This usually reinforces the dog’s view that other dogs and people are frightening. On the one hand, the dog needs to be socialized as quickly as possible, but on the other hand, he should not be forced into it. If you push your dog to do too much too soon, your dog will only become more fearful and may be forced into a situation where he feels he must defend himself. Socializing a dog and helping him build his confidence is a time consuming task. Thrusting him into the arms of every visitor and dragging him out to socialize with many other dogs can be counter-productive. Strangers should never be allowed to approach your dog to pet him. It should always be left to your dog to make the first contact. If your dog does not want to approach, that is OK. Just give him plenty of time to ‘hide and peek’ and eventually he will come out of hiding. It’s up to you to provide ample opportunity for socialization, but it is up to the dog to proceed at his own pace. Don’t verbally try to encourage him out of hiding. He will probably interpret your encouragement as praise for hiding. Don’t try to force him to come out, this will only frighten him even more.

Behavior modification techniques are often successful in reducing fears and phobias in dogs. The appropriate techniques are called “counter-conditioning” and “desensitization.” This means to condition or teach your dog to respond in non-fearful ways to sounds or other stimuli that previously frightened him such as other dogs, etc. This must be done very gradually.

Make your dog feel more secure by letting him know who the “leader” (You!) is.  Orient your dog away from the stimulus (other dogs), and prevent your dog from either causing injury or escaping.

Next, teach your dog that when he sits and stays he will receive a delicious food reward!  The goal of this training is to allow the dog to assume a relaxed and happy body posture and facial expression on command.  Make this a happy game. Once this is established, then food rewards can be phased out.

Lastly, begin counter-conditioning and desensitization to acclimate the dog to the stimuli that usually cause the fearful response.  This needs to be done slowly, and while your dog is on a leash with his head harness on.  Start by exposing your dog to very low levels of the stimulus, such as in a park where there are dogs in the distance.  Your dog is then rewarded for sitting quietly and calmly.  Gradually, if the dog exhibits no fear, move closer to the other dogs.

As I’ve said, it is extremely important that this is done slowly.  The goal is to reward good behavior, and teach the dog how to associate the once fearful stimulus with calmness and rewards.  If the dog begins to show fear during training, you are progressing too fast and could be making the problem worse.

If your dog shows fear when you move closer to other dogs, move back to a more comfortable distance that isn’t invoking the fear response, and start again.  Keep working on this, and eventually you will be able to get quite close to other dogs.

Always set up the dog to succeed.  The use of the leash and head collar will greatly improve the chances of success and because of the additional control, will often help the owner to succeed in getting the dogs attention and calming it down; faster than with commands and rewards alone.

Attempting to reassure your dog when he’s afraid may reinforce his fearful behavior. If you pet, soothe or give treats to him when she’s behaving fearfully, he may interpret this as a reward for his fearful behavior. Instead, try to behave normally, as if you don’t notice his fearfulness.

Keep your own attitude upbeat and perky. Dogs take their cues from you, so if you seem calm and knowledgeable (even if inwardly you’re tearing your hair out and wondering what to do next) they’ll emulate your own behavior. Give your dog a special place to chill out or hide in when the rest of the world gets too much.  Keep things routine as much as possible, as this will help them settle in and give them a sense of security. Exercise as much as humanly possible (depending on the individual dog’s health, fitness, and age of course). Tired dogs are happy, relaxed dogs.

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HOW TO HAVE A BETTER BEHAVED DOG

We all want wonderfully behaved dogs, but it doesn’t happen on its own just because we wish it.  It takes time and effort to create the kind of dog and relationship you want. Here are some basic principles that can help you have a better behaved dog.

  • Have realistic expectations about your dog. No matter how good your dog is, things will get peed on, chewed or scratched/dug up. Barking / meowing, door dashing and/or pulling on the leash can happen with even the best animal.  Accept the fact that dogs are living beings and not china dolls to sit in the corner.  If you have a dog, some time during his/her life, you will loose something of value. 
  • To change behavior you have to be patient and persistent.  Change will not happen over night.  Sometimes it can take weeks or months to change behavior.  The more time you spend and the more often you work with your dog the quicker the change. Despite what some books say, most puppies can’t be housetrained in 7 days.
  • Recognize and meet your dog’s behavioral needs.  Dogs have needs for exercise, social contact with people and other animals and mental stimulation. Problem-solving toys, can provide mental stimulation. Games such as ‘find the hidden object’ and events such as agility can provide all three. 
  • Make it easy for your dog to do the right thing.  Arrange the environment so that the behavior you want is easily produced. The more often desirable behavior happens the stronger it becomes. For example, minimize distractions when you’re trying to teach your dog something new. Put scratching posts where they are easy for your cat to find and use. 
  • Make it difficult for your dog to do the wrong thing.  Arrange the environment so it is hard for your dog to make mistakes.  The more often unwanted behavior happens the harder it is to change.  Close the blinds to keep your dog from barking at those that pass by.  Scoop out your cats’ litter boxes every day.
  • Realize that animals don’t do things out of spite, for revenge or just to make your life miserable. They do what works – that is, what meets their behavioral needs, gets them rewards or allows them to escape or avoid bad things. They sometimes do some things because they are ill.  Dogs counter surf because they occasionally hit the jackpot of a sandwich or chicken leg.  Cats sometimes pee out of the box because they are sick even when they don’t act sick.
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Teaching Your Puppy Sits and Downs

1. Start by sitting on the floor with your puppy where there are no distractions. Place a food treat right at your puppy’s nose and move your hand slightly up and back and as your puppy’s head follows, his butt should hit the ground.  When that happens, say YES and give him the treat. 

2. Don’t say SIT yet.  Your puppy doesn’t understand English and we don’t want to say the word “Sit” until we know he’s going to do it, so he associates the word Sit with the correct behavior. So practice a number of times until your puppy is easily going into a sit.  Once you know your puppy will sit, say SIT just before his butt hits the ground. Repeat this 2-3 times in a row and the next time, don’t put a treat in your hand but put your hand at his nose the same as before.  You want to fade out the food lure as soon as possible, but still reward him after he sits.

3. Eventually, start saying Sit before he sits and before you use your hand signal.  Say Sit, pause, then use your hand signal.  Repeat about 5-6 times and the next time, say Sit and wait for your puppy to sit.  Immediately say YES and give him a treat.  This is the way to get the behavior on a verbal command without needing the hand signal all the time.

4. Make sure you don’t lift your hand up too high with the treat which will cause your puppy to jump up.  If your puppy backs up instead of putting his butt down, use your other hand to block him from backing up, or try working in a corner so he can’t back up.

5. To teach DOWN, start with your puppy in a sit.  Use the same luring process but move your hand slowly from his nose towards the floor.  You may need to move your hand in towards his chest and then back towards you to help him slide down.  Every dog is a little different so go slowly and experiment with how you have to move his head so his body slides into a down.  Repeat a few times before adding the word DOWN. Don’t say DOWN until you know he is going to do it.

If your puppy starts to go down but his butt pops up, just start again.  Working on a slippery floor may help him slide into a down more easily.

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Naming a Behavior

The point of the cue (the “name”) is to form an association between the cue word and the behavior. The goal is for the cue to trigger the behavior. It doesn’t make sense to form an association with an imperfect behavior, so until the dog performs the behavior  you want, attaching a cue to an imperfect behavior will result in the dog performing that imperfect behavior in response to the cue. In other words, “The behavior you name is the behavior you get.”

If, after you cue “sit” the dog hesitates for 4 seconds, sits, gets praise and a treat means the dog is learning that “sit” means “wait 4 seconds, then sit”.

Learning generally happens faster with fewer distractions. Whichever of you is saying “sit, sit, sit” may not consider that a distraction, but it can be. At best, it is meaningless. At worst, it’s a distraction that can impede learning. From another perspective, repeating “sit-sit-sit-sit-sit” could even constitute negative reinforcement — nagging that stops when the dog sits.

Pavlov’s experiments demonstrated that the association between the cue and behavior is formed only when the bell,
light, “sit” or any other cue **precedes** the behavior — not during and not after the behavior. In other words, it isn’t helpful for learning to say “sit” after the dog has already sat (“Good sit”).

Dogs learn cue associations when the cue is given just before the dog begins to perform the behavior. Then it takes 20-50 repetitions for the association to be formed. The bottom line, when you are 95% certain that the next behavior the dog is going to perform is the behavior you want, say the cue, verbally praise or click, deliver the treat to reset the behavior, say the cue, praise or click, treat to reset the behavior, etc. etc.

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Teach Your Puppy to ‘Drop’

1. Playing regularly with your puppy will help you form a strong bond.  The purpose of play is to develop skills that will be useful throughout their lives, such as impulse control.  The more games you play with your puppy, the more he will consider you to be the most interesting thing in his world. Encouraging puppies to play with toys provides a good outlet for their physical and mental energies.

2. First we want to develop interest in the toy. Rather than just offer your puppy a new toy, take it out, play with it yourself, or play catch with another family member and act like you’re having fun.  Then put the toy away.  Repeat this until your puppy is chomping at the bit to join in the play.  Keep the toy moving/wiggling along the ground. Build enthusiasm for play first, then put in controls like sit and wait later.  Keep the games fun!!

3. Playing Tug is an excellent way to teach your puppy to Take it and Drop it Start by wiggling the toy along the floor to get your puppy excited.  Let him get the toy and then gently tug for 2-3 seconds.  Then say DROP IT, and put a treat to his nose.  Praise him for dropping the toy and repeat the game.  As your puppy gets better at the game, start asking him SIT before letting him get the toy and tell him TAKE IT.  This helps him learn to wait patiently for the things he wants.  Keep your tug sessions short so your puppy does not get over-stimulated.

4. Ideally, your puppy should have two sets of toys:  toys that he can play with by himself and ‘interactive toys’ that he can only play with you.  Keep the interactive toys put away so you initiate play and this keeps you and the toys interesting to your puppy. 

5. You never want to grab something out of your dog’s mouth (unless its dangerous).  This will only make your puppy want it more and want to keep away from you.  You want to be able to approach your puppy and tell him DROP IT.  Playing with toys is a great way to teach this since he gets the toy back.

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Socializing Your Dog or Puppy

Ongoing socialization is extremely important to prevent behavior problems.  Socialization is especially important before the age of 3 months, but should also be done throughout your dog’s lifetime. Gentle socialization plays a huge role in preventing aggression and fearful behavior. 

Lack of socialization can lead to hyperactive behavior, barking, shyness and aggression.  The younger you begin socializing your dog, the better, but all dogs can be gradually brought into new and even initially fearful situations and learn to enjoy them. 

Socialization is a lifelong process.  For example, if your dog does not see any dogs for months or years at a time, you would expect his behavior to change around them when he does finally see them again.

How to expose your dog to something new or something he is wary of:

  • Make sure that you remain calm, and up-beat and keep his leash loose, if he is wearing one.
  • Expose him gradually to what he is fearful of, never forcing him.  Allow him to retreat if he wants to.
  • Reward him for being calm or for exploring the new situation.

Try to expose your dog regularly to all of the things and situations you would like him to able to cope with calmly in the future.  Progress slowly enough so that it is easy for your dog to enjoy the sessions.  It will seem like a lot of time to spend at first but it will pay off with a well-behaved dog. 

Below are some examples, but this is just a start:

  • Meeting new people of all types, including children, men, crowds, people wearing hats, in wheelchairs, etc.
  • Meeting new dogs (do not bring your pup to areas with lots of dogs until after 4 months)
  • Exposure to other pets such as cats, horse, birds
  • Teach him to enjoy his crate
  • Riding in the car (be sure to restrain him using a crate or seatbelt for safety)
  • Being held, touched all over and in different ways, being bathed and groomed
  • Visiting the Vet’s office, groomer, daycare, boarding kennel
  • Exposure to loud noises and strange objects (example – umbrella opening)
  • Exposure to traffic, motorcycles, bicycles, skateboards, joggers
  • Getting him used to being left alone for a few hours at a time
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The Sit Savant

Most of us take the sit command for granted. After all, it was probably the first command we taught our dog – and it was so easy! But does your dog really know the sit command? Or does he think it means just touch his butt on the ground, pop right up and get a treat?

A really good sit can help with all sorts of control issues such as:

  • Easily distracted dogs
  • Door dashers
  • Overly exuberant greetings
  • Dogs who jump up on people
  • Leash pullers
  • Leash and other forms of aggression

Work on teaching your dog to sit until they are released. Just as if it were a stay, or a wait. Sit until given the release word. And to sit no matter what is going on.

For our purposes, you may want to use two different commands:

SIT – means facing you

CLOSE – Means in heel position at your left side. This position allows you to have more control over your dog in difficult situations.

The goal is to “proof” the dog using the following:

  1. Duration – how long the dog has to sit
  1. Distance – how far away you are from the dog
  1. Distractions – level of distraction while in the sit
  1. Different locations – work in one place first – then change

Examples:

Practice sits with your back turned to the dog, a bag on you head, around a corner, you get the picture.  Sit won’t work in the vet office if you haven’t worked through distractions or a different picture than you in the kitchen with a treat!  Practice sits when your dog is very excited, so she ‘sits on a dime’ (like stopping on a dime).

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