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Time outs – August 28, 2012

There are many ways to do an effective time-out. The most important element is good timing. As soon as your pup begins to jump up on someone, bites too hard, barks for attention, or is heading for food on the kitchen table, say something that informs him that he just earned himself a time-out (like “Too bad” or “Time-out”), and then swiftly escort him to his time-out place. The whole idea of a Time Out is to withdraw attention. All attention is very rewarding for your dog and withdrawing attention is a very effective negative consequence. None of this should be done in anger – just a neutral “Too Bad” and then either remove the pup or remove yourself for 30 seconds.

• To do a time-out when you and your pup are in a puppy-proof room, you can just leave the room and shut the door.

• If your puppy is ok being left alone in the kitchen or family room, you can be the one to leave. Say “Bye” and walk into another room and close the door behind you.

• If your pup is in an area that will be fun or dangerous, you will need to tether or crate him for his time-out. To crate him, simply place him in his crate and leave. A small utility room or ex-pen serves the same purpose.

• A utility room makes a good time-out place. If you are using a bathroom, make sure that toilet paper and shower curtains are out of your pup’s reach. The more puppy-proof the room, the better.

• Tether stations can be used for time-outs and to keep your puppy out of trouble when you are nearby but unable to supervise him closely. It is handy to have several tether stations around the house, so that one is always nearby. Tether stations are simple to set up. Screw an eyehook screw into the wall or the floor and attach three feet of clothesline cable, with a clip at the end to attach to your puppy’s collar.

• A good option for time-outs when you are out and about with your pup is to put the leash under your foot so that pup cannot go anywhere or jump up on you, and to wait for a few minutes, ignoring him completely. You can do this for pulling on leash if you are unable to change directions (because of traffic or pedestrians).

• Regardless of what type of time-out you do, only release your puppy from his time-out when he has been well-mannered for at least one minute (no tugging, jumping, whining, pawing, etc.).

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Tricks of the Trade for Dog Training – August 20, 2012

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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Things to Do with You New Puppy – August 15, 2012

Don’t Expect Your Pup To Understand Sentences
It’s okay to babble along to your pup as you care for it, just don’t expect it to understand anything you’re saying. It will only understand the tone of your address. Dogs can learn a number of word cues (“commands”) – even hundreds of them – but they are just that, word cues. A pup can and should be taught at least a few words of human language. In English, “Sit!” and “Dinner!” are a couple that might be useful on occasion. But if you tell the dog, “Sit in your Dinner”, the meaning is lost. Dogs do not have a language center in their brains like humans do, and they cannot fathom syntax. Use one-word commands when communicating. Say the word clearly. Say it only once. And say it with importance. Reward the desired response immediately. Do not use the pup’s name when addressing it (unless the pup is at a distance). Do not repeat commands. Dogs hear even better than we do. Their “deafness” is usually not attributable to poor hearing. It is selective – they choose not to obey. Remember that if a dog does not respond to a verbal cue it should not be punished. The opposite of reward is not punishment – it is no reward.

Don’t Allow Young Children (Under 6 Years Old) To Interact With Your Pup Unsupervised
It comes as a surprise to many people to learn that children and puppies, though both cute, cannot be trusted alone together. Bad things can happen. Children are naturally curious. Often a child will do “something bad” to the pup by way of experimentation. In one case, a dog bit a child and the dog had to be euthanatized. On post-mortem it was found that the child had jammed a pencil into the dog’s ear, snapping the end off after penetrating the dog’s ear drum. If accidents like this are to be avoided, complete supervision is necessary. It’s not usually the dog that starts the trouble, it’s the child. If you can child-proof your dog, there should be no cause for concern.

Do Not Feed From The Table.
Puppy food is best for pups (AAFCO approved, is most desirable). Adding an assortment of human foods in who-knows-what quantities will not only detract from the optimal (proprietary) food but will encourage fussiness. Also, if the human food is fed from the table, you will wind up with a dog that mooches around the table at mealtimes, always begging for food. Start out the way you intend to continue. Set limits and be firm about them. Make sure that you feed your pup a good quality food. This is essential to his good health.

Do Not Expect Love And Attention To Substitute For Good Puppy Parenting
Young pups are so adorable that it is very tempting to always give them all of the love and attention you possible can. But it is also important to set limits of acceptable behavior. This is especially important as they go through the canine equivalent of “the terrible twos” at about 4-5 months of age. Bad behavior, like excessive or hard nipping, should be punished by immediate withdrawal of attention (following sharp exclamation of a word like “Ouch” or “No-bite”). This is how puppies communicate their likes and dislikes to each other. Spare the “Ouch” and spoil the dog!

DO NOT SUPPLY ALL THE GOOD THINGS IN LIFE FOR FREE
One simple rule is to make the pup work for food and treats. “What’s work?” you ask. It’s having the pup “Sit” or “Down” in order to receive food and treats (like Grace). This will make sure that the pup always views you as its true (resource rich) provider and, therefore, leader. Problems of owner-directed aggression downstream can be all but completely addressed by this simple measure. Don’t give everything away. Insist on good puppy manners: Manners maketh the pup.

DO NOT EVER GET ANGRY WITH YOUR PUP

Work hard to remind yourself, whatever happens, that this is a baby you are dealing with. If you lose your cool, you will act incorrectly, your puppy will think you have gone crazy, and you will lose its respect and trust. Be a good puppy parent. Think cool.

Following these simple rules of what NOT to do can help create the dog of your dreams as opposed to a canine nightmare. The basics are the same as in child raising. Be fun, be fair, but be firm (the 3 F’s) and set limits. Children are happier when their parents are obviously at the helm, and so are dogs. Dogs need strong leaders if they are to be model canine citizens.

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Some General Training Guidelines – August 8, 2012

Here some good guidelines to consider as you teach your new puppy how to be a great member of your family.

Don’t Expect Your Pup To Understand Sentences
It’s okay to babble along to your pup as you care for it, just don’t expect it to understand anything you’re saying. It will only understand the tone of your address. Dogs can learn a number of word cues (“commands”) – even hundreds of them – but they are just that, word cues. A pup can and should be taught at least a few words of human language. In English, “Sit!” and “Dinner!” are a couple that might be useful on occasion. But if you tell the dog, “Sit in your Dinner”, the meaning is lost. Dogs do not have a language center in their brains like humans do, and they cannot fathom syntax. Use one-word commands when communicating. Say the word clearly. Say it only once. And say it with importance. Reward the desired response immediately. Do not use the pup’s name when addressing it (unless the pup is at a distance). Do not repeat commands. Dogs hear even better than we do. Their “deafness” is usually not attributable to poor hearing. It is selective – they choose not to obey. Remember that if a dog does not respond to a verbal cue it should not be punished. The opposite of reward is not punishment – it is no reward.

Don’t Allow Young Children (Under 6 Years Old) To Interact With Your Pup Unsupervised
It comes as a surprise to many people to learn that children and puppies, though both cute, cannot be trusted alone together. Bad things can happen. Children are naturally curious. Often a child will do “something bad” to the pup by way of experimentation. In one case, a dog bit a child and the dog had to be euthanatized. On post-mortem it was found that the child had jammed a pencil into the dog’s ear, snapping the end off after penetrating the dog’s ear drum. If accidents like this are to be avoided, complete supervision is necessary. It’s not usually the dog that starts the trouble, it’s the child. If you can child-proof your dog, there should be no cause for concern.

Do Not Feed It From The Table
Puppy food is best for pups (AAFCO approved, is most desirable). Adding an assortment of human foods in who-knows-what quantities will not only detract from the optimal (proprietary) food but will encourage fussiness. Also, if the human food is fed from the table, you will wind up with a dog that mooches around the table at mealtimes, always begging for food. Start out the way you intend to continue. Set limits and be firm about them. Make sure that you feed your pup a good quality food. This is essential to his good health.

Do Not Expect Love And Attention To Substitute For Good Puppy Parenting
Young pups are so adorable that it is very tempting to always give them all of the love and attention you possible can. But it is also important to set limits of acceptable behavior. This is especially important as they go through the canine equivalent of “the terrible twos” at about 4-5 months of age. Bad behavior, like excessive or hard nipping, should be punished by immediate withdrawal of attention (following sharp exclamation of a word like “Ouch” or “No-bite”). This is how puppies communicate their likes and dislikes to each other. Spare the “Ouch” and spoil the dog!

DO NOT SUPPLY ALL THE GOOD THINGS IN LIFE FOR FREE
One simple rule is to make the pup work for food and treats. “What’s work?” you ask. It’s having the pup “Sit” or “Down” in order to receive food and treats (like Grace). This will make sure that the pup always views you as its true (resource rich) provider and, therefore, leader. Problems of owner-directed aggression downstream can be all but completely addressed by this simple measure. Don’t give everything away. Insist on good puppy manners: Manners maketh the pup.

DO NOT EVER GET ANGRY WITH YOUR PUP
Work hard to remind yourself, whatever happens, that this is a baby you are dealing with. If you lose your cool, you will act incorrectly, your puppy will think you have gone crazy, and you will lose its respect and trust. Be a good puppy parent. Think cool.

Following these simple rules of what NOT to do can help create the dog of your dreams as opposed to a canine nightmare. The basics are the same as in child raising. Be fun, be fair, but be firm (the 3 F’s) and set limits. Children are happier when their parents are obviously at the helm, and so are dogs. Dogs need strong leaders if they are to be model canine citizens.

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Adolescent Changes – August 1, 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 d-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.

Dog-Dog Socialization also deteriorates during adolescence, often at an alarming rate, especially for very small and very large dogs. First, teaching a dog to get along with every other dog is difficult. Second, it is unrealistic to expect a dog to be best friends with every dog. Much like people, dogs have special friends, casual acquaintances, and individuals they don’t particularly like. Third, it is quite natural for dogs (especially males) to squabble. In fact, it is a rare male dog that has never been involved in some physical altercation. Everything was fine with young pups playing in class and in parks, but with adolescent dogs, the scraps, the arguments, and even the play-fighting seem all too real.

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