Training Tips – January 30, 2012

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.

Anyway 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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The Release Word – January 26, 2012

The Release Word tells the dog that she no longer has to hold the position you put her in, whether it’s sit or down or come. It is the command that gives you unquestioned leadership, since the dog cannot release itself. Once you have chosen the release word, it should stay consistent throughout the dog’s life. This is the key component to teaching Wait and Stay.

We suggest you use a word that has no other connotations to it – “Release” is a very good one. Others are – “Dismissed,” “Go Play,” “At Ease,” “That’ll do.” “OK” is difficult — you should say the name first, to get the dog’s attention, and to differentiate that word from all the other times you say the word OK in conversation. Don’t use “Good Dog,” since you’ll be using that phrase to praise the dog.

Use the release word to literally release a dog from an exercise. Whether she’s watching you or on a sit or down, it works the same way. When you’ve decided the exercise is at an end, say the release word you have chosen, then step away from the dog, and invite her to take a break.

Teach your dog what the RELEASE WORD means:
• Ask the dog to do something she knows how to do (maybe “sit”).
• When she’s sitting, say your release word, and give her a treat.
• Do that about 5 times, and she’ll begin to understand.

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Good Behavior Spontaneously! January 23, 2012

Wouldn’t it be great if your dog naturally offered you good behaviors all the time? Just think about life with a dog that you didn’t have to nag to get them to sit, down or watch you. Is this an elusive dream? NO! It’s all possible and quite easy to achieve. To start this process you can do a couple things. The first way is to capture the behavior when it occurs. This basically means catch your dog in the act of doing something good, mark it with a word like “YES” or clicking so he knows he did the right thing and reinforce him with a treat. I prefer to use this technique whenever possible. For example, wait for your dog to sit on his own, yes/click and treat.

The second way is to lure the behavior. With this technique, one would use a food lure to get the dog to do the behavior, yes/click and reinforce him. Once the dog understands how to do the behavior, you can begin to teach him to offer the behavior on his own.

For sits begin by asking for or luring a couple sits to “prime the pup” and then reinforce. Now move so the dog will get up and you just stand there and smile at your dog. You can talk to him, but don’t cue the sit in any way. The second he sits, YES/CLICK and treat. Repeat every time he offers the sit. The more you reinforce it the more ingrained it will become, until your dog begins to offer it as a default behavior any time he wants something or doesn’t know what else to do. For eye contact carry some non-perishable treats around with you or stash them around your house. If your dog spontaneously gives you eye contact, YES/CLICK and treat. Repeat this often.

For downs repeat the same process you used for the sit. Lure a couple downs and then just wait for your dog to offer it on his own. Be sure to reinforce him when he does. If he doesn’t offer the down on his own, help him out by using the down hand signal only and reinforce when he does. Now gradually fade out your hand signal. For example, if you currently have to move your hand all the way to the floor to get your dog to down, the next time stop your hand 2 inches from the floor, etc.until you don’t have to indicate the down with your hand at all. This is a good spontaneous behavior to teach dogs who jump on people.

Reinforcement doesn’t always have to come in the form of treats, although using treats at first will speed things up. If can be a toy, a kind word, a smile, petting, a walk, chasing a squirrel, etc. Be sure to always reinforce good behavior in some way every time.

Most dogs do not like to be pet on top of their heads initially. They usually don’t mind if you come back to their heads, but most do not like the sight of your hand coming down towards their heads. It can be intimidating to them. When you reach your hand towards your dog’s head how does he react? Does he look away, back up, lick his lips, yawn, duck his head or run away? If you answered yes to any of these questions, your dog does not want to be pet on the top of his head.
Keep in mind that in the winter when it’s dry and there is a lot of static electricity if you pet the top of his head and shock him, you’ve not only NOT reinforced him, but you’ve punished him too. Remember, reinforcement must be reinforcing to your dog not you! If your dog does not like it, it’s not reinforcing.

Get in the habit of observing your dog and then reinforce them for good behaviors. He won’t feel compelled to do bad things to get your attention because doing good things will always pay off for him. Train yourself to be more in tune with your dog and you will be on your way to a loving, well-mannered and respectful relationship.

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Adolescent Changes – January 16, 2012

A dog’s adolescence is the time when everything starts to fall apart, unless you make a concerted effort to see it through to the stability of adulthood. Your dog’s adolescence is a critical time. If you ignore your dog’s education now, you will soon find yourself living with an ill-mannered, under-socialized, hyperactive animal. Here are some things to watch for.

Household etiquette may deteriorate over time, especially if you start taking your dog’s housetraining and other good behavior for granted. But if you taught your pup well in his earlier months, the drift in household etiquette will be slow until your dog reaches his sunset years, when housetraining especially tends to suffer.

Basic manners may take a sharp dive when puppy collides with adolescence. Lure/reward training your puppy was easy: you taught your pup to eagerly come, follow, sit, lie down, stand still, roll over, and look up to you with unwavering attention and respect because you were your pup’s sun, moon, and stars. But now your dog is developing adult doggy interests, such as investigating other dogs’ rear ends, sniffing urine and feces on the grass, rolling in unidentifiable smelly stuff, and chasing squirrels. Your dog’s interests may quickly become distractions to training, so that your dog will continue sniffing another dog’s rear end rather than come running when called. (What a scary thought, that your dog would prefer another dog’s rear end to you!) All of a sudden he won’t come, won’t sit, won’t settle down and stay, but instead jumps up, pulls on-leash, and becomes hyperactive.

Bite inhibition tends to drift as your dog gets older and develops more powerful jaws. Giving your dog ample opportunity to wrestle with other dogs, regularly handfeeding kibble and treats, and periodically examining and cleaning your dog’s teeth are the best exercises to ensure that your adolescent dog maintains his soft mouth.

Socialization often heads downhill during adolescence, sometimes surprisingly precipitously. As they get older, dogs have fewer opportunities to meet unfamiliar people and dogs. Puppy classes and parties are often a thing of the past and most owners have established a set routine by the time their dog is five or six months old. At home, the dog interacts with the same familiar friends and family, and is walked, if at all, on the same route to the same dog park, where they encounter the same old people and the same old dogs. Consequently, many adolescent dogs become progressively de-socialized toward unfamiliar people and dogs until eventually they become intolerant of all but a small inner circle of friends.

If your adolescent dog does not get out and about regularly and few unfamiliar people come to the house, his de-socialization may be alarmingly rapid. At five months your dog was a social butterfly with nothing but wiggles and wags when greeting people, but by eight months of age he has become defensive and lacking in confidence: he barks and backs off, or he snaps and lunges with hackles raised. A previously friendly adolescent dog might suddenly and without much warning be spooked by a household guest.

Puppy socialization was a prelude to your safe and enjoyable continued socialization of your adolescent dog. However, your adolescent dog must continue meeting unfamiliar people regularly, otherwise he will progressively de-socialize. Similarly, successful adolescent socialization makes it possible for you to safely and enjoyably continue to socialize your adult dog. Socialization is an on ongoing process.

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