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Stay Patient with Your Pup – April 28, 2011

You know most of us nowadays have WAY too much to do in life in general. I don’t know about you but it seems like if I get to sit down and do nothing for even just a little while it’s a luxury!

You have a job and/or a family or maybe you have another business or volunteer work or you are active in your community or church. Or maybe you just have an active social life.

Sometimes you can be so busy that you wish the dog was just EASIER to deal with! “I don’t have time for all of this right now!”

Have you ever said this? Maybe your dog is starting to “act up” or misbehave and you feel like, “I don’t need this right now!”

Once you start feeling or thinking this you need to go on high alert! You may be about to lose your patience!

A couple of things to remember: First, if your patience is thin, don’t even think about training your dog or trying to fix any behavior problems. Now is not the time to train!

Take a deep breath and get through the situation, whatever it is, without “losing it” and remember: Whatever is going on with your dog you can begin to make changes almost immediately but not if you’re pushed for time or impatient. Your dog will feel your tension and will also feel tense. This will make the situation worse!

Second, remember that one of the keys to getting your dog to behave is for you to be the leader. In the dog world the leader doesn’t “lose it”. The leader is calm and composed.

When you get tired or impatient or pushed for time by your circumstances it’s easy to be frustrated when your dog doesn’t respond like you want.

So if you are having one of those frustrating moments or days when your dog is just not behaving well, don’t lose your patience. When you lose that then you’re not acting like a leader!

Get through the situation by reminding yourself that it can be fixed, but today is not the day. Wait until you have more time or your situation is more convenient to begin the training.

Be patient and be the leader!

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Tricks of the Trade – April 25, 2011

As a dog owner you may have wondered from time to time what professional trainer’s secrets are. Or you may have wondered while attending a class why some owners seem to be more successful than others. The temperament and personality of an individual dog certainly come into play but there are some “tricks of the trade” that anyone can use to achieve better training success.

1. Rate of Reinforcement
The most effective trainers nearly always have a higher rate of reinforcement during teaching new behaviors than less effective trainers. According to some informal studies successful trainers are giving reinforcement as much as five times more often than less successful trainers. This means that when training your dog something new you should reinforce the right behavior (or parts of the right behavior) very often which makes the behavior easier for your dog to understand.

2. Practice, Practice, Practice
Good trainers know that reliable response to commands is built on repetition. Your dog will need to perform new behaviors many times in all different situations before the behavior can be considered reliable. This means other than practicing at home or at class you need to “take the show on the road” and practice on walks, at parks, at pet stores and anywhere else you can think of. This helps dogs to understand that the commands will be rewarded and must be followed no matter what is going on around them.

3. Good Timing
When you click and give rewards has a huge impact on how quickly your dog learns new behaviors. Your dog will repeat behaviors which are rewarding but if your timing is off they may not be the behaviors you were looking for! A common example of this is when teaching Sit, owners click (or treat if not using a clicker) after the dog has gotten out of position. Poor timing sends mixed messages to your pooch. Strive to click (or treat) while the behavior is happening.

4. The 80% Rule
It’s difficult for many trainers, novice and experienced alike, to know when to move on to more advanced parts of a behavior. A long time rule of thumb is you should be getting a correct response at least 80% of the time before moving on. This means if you are practicing come and your dog comes eight out of ten times from a distance of twelve feet you are ready to try a longer distance. If the correct response is under 80% however, you need to put in more practice before advancing.

5. Keep It FUN!
Dogs respond better to training when it is presented to them as a game. Don’t be afraid to get silly praising your dog. Often people get a routine and stick with it practicing the same behaviors every day in the same order. Boring! Not just for the dog but for the trainer as well. Switch it up, teach something new every couple days even if it’s just a trick. Keep training sessions short but plan on having multiples each day. Three 5 minute sessions are better than one hour long one when practicing at home one on one. Avoid training when you are in a bad mood or if you or your dog aren’t feeling well. If you find you are becoming frustrated ask your dog to do something easy and end the session on a high note.

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Raise the Bar for Your Dog – April 21, 2011

To keep your puppy or dog interested, keep asking for his very best. When you are starting out, every tiny effort toward good behavior is rewarded. But once a behavior is basically learned, it is time to raise the bar.

Use these criteria:

If you repeat yourself (don’t!) or physically help your puppy get it right, praise but no treat. Put the treat right to his nose then put it away. Too bad –try harder next time! You’re not angry but he doesn’t get a gold start for C- level work. If you want to encourage his best, treat only for A-level responses. Save your treats for the best performance your puppy can currently offer. Give a few small treats in a row for great responses or a breakthrough response (first correct effort). If your puppy offers a behavior without you asking for it, say ‘thank you’, but don’t treat.

While you are feeding, smile and praise. Don’t fake the praise – feel it and your puppy will feel it. Keep making it clear to your puppy what you really like (his very best!). If his slow Sit after two commands gets the same treat and praise that an immediate Sit with full attention gets, how is he supposed to know which is better? If you want the best, reward the best with your best.

Brian Kilcommons, a well-known area trainer puts it very well:

“You get what you pet”. In other words, if you pet your dog while he’s jumping, you’ll get jumping. If you pet your dog while he is sitting quietly, you’ll get quiet sitting.

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Tips for Rewarding Your Dog – April 19, 2011

A motivator is anything that your dog will work for. Some dogs will work for praise, but only for certain behaviors. Most dogs need something tangible – we suggest the use of small bits of soft food, which are very attractive to your dog, and which are good for them.

• Make a list of five foods you dog would love to have. Save the top one for emergencies, bring the others to class and train with them at home.

• Make a list of five things your dog really loves to do – use some of them as rewards for good behavior.

• Consider your dog a bank account; every time you give her a reward, it’s actually a deposit towards the future. If you don’t practice, don’t blame the dog – that would be like blaming the bank for not saving money when you haven’t put any in there.

• Make sure your dog is hungry and wants to work when you train.

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Using a Marker Word for More Effective Training – April 15, 2011

The marker word/sound or “bridge” lets you “mark” the instant your dog has done something that you like. After marking a behavior you deliver a special reward – the motivator! We suggest you use the verbal “yes!” or try using a clicker.

The marker is NOT praise; instead, pair verbal or physical praise with the delivery of the motivator. Eventually, you will mark and reward very special behaviors, and simply use verbal or physical praise at other times.

Teach your dog what the MARKER WORD/SOUND means:

• Relax with your dog in a comfortable spot without many distractions. (Do NOT be asking your dog to do any behaviors; your dog should just be with you.)
• Make your marker word/sound, and then deliver a motivator (toss a treat, tennis ball, etc.).
• Repeat that sequence 20 or 30 times during the session.
• Repeat the session at least two or three times over the next day or so.

You are teaching your dog to associate the marker word/sound with the delivery of a treat. You’ll know your dog has learned the meaning of the marker if you make the sound (“yes!” or “click”) at some random moment, and your dog immediately looks at you (or comes running!) for the delivery of the treat.

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Jazz up and Settle Down – April 13, 2011

Many owners experience great difficulty and frustration trying to get their adolescent dogs to settle down. Many dogs bark and bounce like crazy when the front doorbell rings. Dogs perform moon loops just because the owner says, “Walkies,” or picks up the dog’s leash. And on walks, some dogs literally explode with activity and uncontrollable enthusiasm at the mere prospect of meeting a person, another dog, a squirrel, or a leaf.

Many owners ignore their dogs when they are calm and well behaved and only attempt to control the dog’s behavior when he is really out of control. Obviously, this is a most challenging way to train. And it isn’t going to work that well. First, owners should practice settling down their dogs in easier scenarios — when the dog is less excited, or even when the dog perfectly calm and relaxed. For example, while your dog is snoozing on his bed, ask him to join you to settle down on the couch. Your dog would be only willing to obey. Then owners should settle down the dog in more distracting settings. For example, when walking your dog, ask him to settle down every 25 yards and by the end of just one walk, you’ll have a very different dog — much more attentive and biddable. Finally though, owners must “confront the beast “and learn how to teach Mr. Hyperdog to settle down quickly and willingly, anytime and anywhere. In many adult dog training classes, dogs are never allowed to bark and bounce or express their enthusiasm and so, owners can never learn how to settle down their dogs when they are excited. Obviously, we have to allow dogs to bark and bounce in order to practice teaching them to settle down and shush. However, rather than let the dogs be rambunctious at will, we teach the dog’s to be rambunctious on cue.

Interestingly, as soon as we instruct owners to jolly up their dogs and get them to vocalize and jump in the air, most dogs simply stand and stare and observe their owners with some considerable curiosity. This is a classic example of Murphy’s First Law of Dog Training: When trying to teach a particular behavior, usually the opposite happens. With a little encouragement though, most owners quickly learn to teach their dogs to jazz up on cue, whereupon the owners may now, at their convenience, repeatedly practice teaching their dogs to settle down on cue. The jazz-up-and-settle-down sequence is repeated until every owner can get their dog to settle down and shush within three seconds.

Once the owner has taught their dog to perform a “problem” behavior on cue, the behavior is no longer a problem that works against training, instead the activity may now be used as reward to reinforce training. For example, after a lengthy period of settle-and-shush, you may instruct your dog to bounce, circle, bark, rollover, or tug as a reward. After walking calmly on leash, you may instruct your dog to pull as a reward. (Especially useful when going uphill.)

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How Dogs Learn – April 11, 2011

How Dogs Learn

• Dogs repeat behaviors that are rewarding and avoid behaviors that are not
• Dogs don’t generalize – you need to re-teach in new places with new distractions
• Dogs learn by the consequences of their actions – ie, reward vs. ignore
• You have control of everything your dog likes/wants
• You can use that power to train your dog
• Training = controlling the consequences of your dog’s actions
• Rewards, timing and consistency are the keys to learning
• Dogs must be allowed to succeed = getting the reward
• This requires observation and judgment for ‘rewardable’ behavior
• This requires patience and increasing difficulty in small increments

REMEMBER

• Whatever you reward/train now will be the behavior you get when your puppy grows up
• You get what you pet. You raise what you praise.

Order of Training

• First GET the behavior – no English!
• Use luring, capturing or shaping to get the behavior
• Quickly remove lure but consistently reward
• Then add the cue as the behavior happens (when you know it WILL happen)
• Eventually use the cue to ‘get’ the behavior
• Train ‘no reward’ with “uh-uh” or “too bad”

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Introducing the Crate to Your Puppy – April 7, 2011

In order that your puppy associate his/her kennel crate with comfort, security and enjoyment, please follow these guidelines:

1. Occasionally throughout the day, drop small pieces of kibble or dog biscuits in the crate. While investigating his new crate, the pup will discover edible treasures, thereby reinforcing his positive associations with the crate. You may also feed him in the crate to create the same effect. If the dog hesitates, it often works to feed him in front of the crate, then right inside the doorway and then, finally, in the back of the crate.

2. In the beginning, praise and pet your pup when he enters. Do not try to push, pull or force the puppy into the crate. At this early stage of introduction only inducive methods are suggested. Overnight exception: You may need to place your pup in his crate and shut the door upon retiring. (In most cases, the crate should be placed next to your bed overnight. If this is not possible, the crate can be placed in the kitchen, bathroom or living room.)

3. You may also play this enjoyable and educational game with your pup or dog: without alerting your puppy, drop a small dog biscuit into the crate. Then call your puppy and say to him, “Where’s the biscuit? It’s in your room.” Using only a friendly, encouraging voice, direct your pup toward his crate. When the puppy discovers the treat, give enthusiastic praise. The biscuit will automatically serve as a primary reward. Your pup should be free to leave its crate at all times during this game. Later on, your puppy’s toy or ball can be substituted for the treat.

4. It is advisable first to crate your pup for short periods of time while you are home with him. In fact, crate training is best accomplished while you are in the room with your dog. Getting him used to your absence from the room in which he is crated is a good first step. This prevents an association being made with the crate and your leaving him/her alone.

5. Leave the room for short periods of time when he is in the crate. Come back and praise for quiet, calm behavior. Leave for longer periods of time – then vary the times – so he’ll get used to being alone in the crate first while you are home.

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Polite Behavior at the Door – April 5, 2011

The doorbell provides instant reward for many dogs. When it rings they bound toward it, barking furiously…scaring whoever is at the door. That human response is the reward. It’s even more fun to bark at a postal carrier or delivery person — and watch them run away!

To modify this behavior, or to stop it before it starts, change the reward to one you can control.

• Provide yourself with some rather delicious treats and put a leash on your dog. Have a friend prepare to come to your door many times. When the doorbell rings, pull Duke towards you, make him sit and give him a treat. This may be quite difficult if he’s already discovered how much fun it is to bark at doorbells.

• Do it again…and again. Don’t yell, scream or hit the dog…just reward the proper behavior. What you’re aiming for is an association between the sound of the doorbell and a treat.

• Once you have that association, take the process one step further. When the doorbell rings, answer it (with Duke on a leash). When he sees the visitor, tell him to sit, and give him a treat. After a few more repetitions and a few more practice sessions, you have a dog who is interested in guests, alerts to their presence, but isn’t out of control.

• Now begin withdrawing the treat, only giving it when he gives you a spectacular performance.

• Alternatively, if you wish the dog to like visitors, provide them with the treat.

So you have this progression:
• The doorbell rings
• You and the dog go to the door
• The dog sits
• You open the door
• You or your visitor gives him a treat and praise
• The dog is released

Be patient and your dog will soon be sitting when the doorbell rings.

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Teaching Your Puppy to be Home Alone – April 2, 2011

All owners find it occasionally necessary to leave their puppy at home alone. So before leaving your puppy for long periods, you should teach him how to amuse himself appropriately when left alone, such as by chewing stuffed chewtoys, and learning how to enjoy his own company without becoming anxious or stressed. A dog is a highly social animal and therefore requires adequate preparation for spending some of his time in social isolation and solitary confinement.

To teach your puppy how to settle down calmly and quietly when you are absent, start by teaching him to settle down with a chewtoy at times when you are present. Right from the outset, make frequent quiet moments part of the puppy’s daily routine. Following the confinement schedule will help your puppy train himself to settle down. Additionally, encourage your puppy to settle down beside you for longer and longer periods. For example, when you’re watching television have your pup lie down on leash or in his crate, but release him for short play-training breaks during the commercials. For a young puppy, you can’t have too many rules.

When playing with your pup, have him settle down for frequent short interludes every one or two minutes. Initially have the pup lie still for a few seconds before letting him play again. After a minute, interrupt the play session once more with a three-second settle-down. Then try for four seconds, then five, eight, ten, and so on. Although being yo-yoed between the commands “Settle down” and “Let’s play” is difficult at first, the puppy soon learns to settle down quickly and happily. Your puppy will learn that being asked to settle down is not the end of the world, nor is it necessarily the end of the play session, but instead that “Settle down” signals a short timeout and reward break before he is allowed to resume playing. If you teach your puppy to be calm and controlled when told, you will have years of fun and excitement ahead. Once your puppy has learned to settle down and shush on cue, there is so much more your dog can enjoy with you. Until you have trained your puppy to enjoy spending much of his day at home alone, you might recruit a puppy sitter who has time to spend with him.

Separation Anxiety

Maintaining your puppy’s confinement schedule when you are at home prepares your puppy to be calm when you are gone. Allowing a young puppy unrestricted access to you when you are at home quickly encourages him to become overly dependent, and overdependence is the most common reason why dogs become anxious when left at home alone. Try your best to teach your puppy to enjoy his own company, to develop self-confidence, and to stand on his own four paws.

Once your puppy is confident and relaxed on his own, he may enjoy all of his time with you when you are at home. When leaving your puppy for hourly sessions in his short term confinement area (dog crate), make a point to check how he fares when left in another room. For example, periodically confine your puppy to his crate in the dining room while you prepare food in the kitchen, then keep the pup in his crate in the kitchen while the family eats dinner in the dining room.

Most importantly, when you are at home, make certain to familiarize your puppy with his long-term confinement area (puppy playroom). Confining your pup when you’re home enables you to monitor his behavior during confinement and check in on him at irregular intervals, quietly rewarding him for being quiet. Thus your pup will not necessarily associate his confinement area with your absence, but rather he will learn to look forward to time spent in his playroom with his special toys.

Give your puppy plenty of toys whenever leaving him on his own. Ideal chewtoys are indestructible and hollow (such as Kong products), as they may be conveniently stuffed with kibble and occasional treats which periodically fall out and reward the pup for chewing his toy. If your puppy is gainfully occupied with his chewtoy, he will fret less over your absence. Additionally, leave a radio playing. The sound will provide white noise to mask outside disturbances. The sound of a radio is also reassuring, since it is normally associated with your presence.

When Leaving Home

Make sure to stuff a number of chewtoys with kibble and treats. Make sure to stuff a piece of freeze-dried liver into the tiny hole of each Kong, or deep into the marrow cavity of each bone. Place the tastily stuffed chewtoys in your puppy’s long-term confinement area and shut the door . . . with your puppy on the outside! When your puppy begs you to open the door, let him in and shut the door, turn on the radio or television, and leave quietly. Your puppy’s chewing will be regularly reinforced by each piece of kibble which falls out of the chewtoy. Your puppy will continue to chew in an attempt to extract the freeze-dried liver. Eventually your puppy will fall asleep..

Home Alone

Dogs are quite happy to sleep all day and all night. They have two activity peaks, at dawn and dusk. Thus, most chewing and barking activity is likely to occur right after you leave your pup in the morning and just before you return in the evening. Leaving your puppy with freshly stuffed chewtoys and offering the unextracted treats when you return prompts your puppy to seek out his chewtoys at times of peak activity.

Jekyll-and-Hyde Behavior

Smothering your puppy with attention and affection when you are home primes the pup to really miss you when you are gone. A Jekyll-and-Hyde environment (lots of attention when you are there, and none when you are gone) quickly creates a Jekyll-and- Hyde puppy which is completely confident when you are there, but falls apart and panics when you are gone. If you allow your puppy to become dependent upon your presence, he will be anxious in your absence. When stressed, dogs are more likely to indulge in bad habits, such as housesoiling, chewing, digging, and barking. During your puppy’s first few weeks at home, frequent confinement with stuffed chewtoys is essential for your pup to develop confidence and independence. Once your puppy is quite happy busying himself with his chewtoys whenever left alone, you may safely allow your now wellbehaved and confident pup to enjoy as much time with you as he likes, without the fear that he will become anxious in your absence.

Wonderful Weekends and Worrisome Weekdays

Whereas weekend attention and affection is wonderful, it primes your new puppy to miss the family on Monday morning when the parents go to work and the children leave for school. By all means, play with and train your puppy lots during the weekend, but also have lots of quiet moments to prepare your puppy for lonely weekdays.

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