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Tips for Coming When Called

Now that spring is finally here, its a good time to practice teaching your dog to COME.  This way you can both enjoy nice romps on the beach or walks in the woods.

– The two most important things to remember are to always praise your dog when they come to you – and set yourself up for success.Teach your dog that ‘Come’ means – run to me, there’s a party over here

-Never say ‘Come’ when you think your dog may not do it
-Only call your dog to come when you KNOW you can make them, not hope that they will
-Always balance distance and distractions for level of difficulty – ie, work at a level where your dog can be successful. If there are distractions, work at a short distance away. If there are no distractions, you can be farther away
-Do not call your dog to ‘Come’ for anything she doesn’t like
-Never call your dog in anger
-Call your dog only once – and then make her come or walk away
-Always praise and reward your dog for coming to you- make sure you reward and praise a lot!! (a full 20 seconds of petting for example)
-Never punish your dog for coming to you – even if it takes awhile for him to get there.
-Never chase after your dog
-Get your dog to chase you if you don’t have control
-Practice first indoors with no distractions
-Use a food lure at dog’s nose and walk backwards to start the behavior
-Practice “Find It” and “Hide and Seek” to train the recall
-Practice calling ‘Come’ for mealtimes and for walks
-Practice 10 times on each outdoor leash walk (intersperse walking backwards and calling your dog)
-Gradually add distractions and different locations
-Practice outside on a long line –first with no distractions, then add distractions
-Use high value food rewards when practicing outside
-Don’t expect to get from kindergarten to graduate school quickly – this takes time!!
-Practice “Gotcha” so your dog is used to having its collar grabbed
-Say name first, make sure you have attention, and then call Come
-Praise your dog as they come to you
-Do NOT repeat the command
-If your dog does not come, go get him, show him the treat he missed out on and eat it yourself (make sure it is edible by you), making a huge deal over how good it was. Repeat if necessary but this should work for independent dogs.

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Help for Your Barking Dog

With the quality of lives our dogs are living today as full-fledged members of our families, it’s hard to figure what they have to bark about! But all barks are not equal, and you must diagnose the cause before you can have any hope of eliminating it. Here are some techniques for diagnosing and then modifying this troublesome behavior…

Demand Barking
It is in our nature to respond and comfort the cries of our babies, whether they be of the human or canine persuasion. Of course, cries of true distress should not be ignored, but demand behaviors are a different matter. Yips of protest when your dog is first left alone in the crate, or an attention-seeking pup demanding to be plucked up into your lap, should not get the desired result, or you will be beleaguered by these behaviors for life. Instead, ask your dog for a polite sit (the doggie equivalent of “please”) before petting her. Approach her crate only when she’s calm and quiet. If your puppy barks at you for attention or for food, turn your back to her, or put her food away and leave the kitchen. In so doing, you’re teaching her that these behaviors impede progress rather than hasten it.

Recreational Barking
Recreational barking is often misdiagnosed as separation anxiety because it frequently happens when the family is absent. When barking is the sole symptom, first investigate the possibility that it’s recreational. The act of barking is self-reinforcing so it is a behavior that is likely to intensify without modification. Increase exercise, particularly before leaving for long periods of time, so that your dog is tired and ready for a rest in your absence. Hire a dog walker to break up the time that he is left alone. Incorporate fun mental challenges like stuffed puzzle toys for your pup to work on in solitude. Leave some classical music playing: It can be relaxing and it can also dampen outside noises that might provoke your dog to bark. As a last resort, the use of a citronella bark collar can inhibit the behavior by establishing an unpleasant consequence.

Barking Due to Separation Distress
Separation distress-related barking (whether it be due to separation anxiety or simply hyper-attachment) usually happens immediately upon being left alone. In the case of separation anxiety, other indicative symptoms are destructive (or self-destructive) behavior, breaking of housetraining in a housetrained dog, or anorexic behavior.
You must treat the underlying cause of your dog’s barking by gradually building his tolerance to periods of separation. Most importantly, never use punishment in an attempt to decrease separation anxiety-related barking, as it will only increase the anxiety in an already anxious dog.
Fear-Driven Barking
Under-socialized dogs may bark when in the presence of certain people, other dogs, or unfamiliar circumstances. It is important to initially keep your distance from these ‘scary things’ by using desensitization and counter-conditioning techniques. This basically involves creating a positive association to these ‘triggers’ and teaching your dog an alternate behavior to barking, such as Sit and Look at me. A qualified trainer can help with this process.
Punishing fear has the same unfortunate result as punishing anxiety – it only escalates the emotional trauma that the dog is experiencing. Treat the fear and the barking will resolve itself.

Communicative Barking
One of my clients has a darling Lab named Bella. Bella is a happy girl and so she should be: She has an affectionate, attentive mom and lives a very good life. There are times, though, when Bella needs to speak up! – when her Tricky Treat Ball rolls out of her reach under the furniture or when she needs a potty break. Bella’s not pushy, though; she lets out a single yap and waits for the attention she requires. This is perfectly appropriate doggie behavior.
Gone are the days when dogs are to be seen and not heard. Communication is a necessary and essential part of our relationships with our canine family members and should not be squelched completely. So, rather than barking back at your dog, identify her grievance – whether it be one of an emotionally stressed dog or of a too-pampered pooch – and treat the cause.

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Training Tips!

A good trainer is: Fast, Patient, Generous, Unpredictable and Variable.

In the beginning, you must reinforce a behavior IMMEDIATELY every single time you give the cue. This is called the “acquisition” stage of the behavior. As the behavior becomes more reliable, you can begin to delay the reinforcement (treat, ball, affection), or go to variable reinforcement (reinforcing every few times). You must stop being predictable! Here are some tips to make you be a better dog trainer.

• Concentrate on and reinforce the things your dog is doing right. Try to ignore behavior you don’t want to see repeated. If you can’t ignore it, manage it.
• Remember that the reinforcement (treat, ball, toy) you use has to be reinforcing to your dog! Kibble (dog food) usually isn’t enough, unless the dog is starving. Experiment with different levels of reinforcement – from regular treats up to pieces of leftover meat or cheese. Save your most potent reinforcement for the behaviors that are most difficult for your dog.
• Placement of the reinforcement is extremely important. Where your treat goes, so goes your dog. Thus, if you want your dog to walk right beside you, make sure you deliver your treats next to your leg, at the dog’s head level. Try not to make the dog jump for a treat, unless you want the dog to do so – as in a trick.
• Marking a successful behavior. As you teach each exercise, make sure your dog knows exactly what you want him to do. Do this by MARKING the precise moment the behavior occurs. We call this a bridge. So, in teaching a Down, the instant her entire body touches the ground, you say “YES!!!” and deliver a treat. As the behavior gets more reliable, stop saying “yes” every time she does it. However, each time you say “YES” a treat should be forthcoming.
• Make it harder. When you began training your dog, you lured the dog into position. Once there you gave her a treat. Now we wish to prompt the behavior, mark the proper one, and reward intermittently from an unknown place.

As an example, if you were trying to get your dog to lie down, you would begin by luring, then rewarding the behavior. By now, when you say “Down”, she lies down – but she does it much better when she sees the treat in your hand. So we have to teach her the ZEN of TREATS – in order to get the treat, she must give up the treat. Hold your treat in the hand that is not doing the signal. Show the dog your hand without the treat. Tell or signal the dog to Down, and wait for the dog to do so. Wait until she does. Don’t go back to the lure yet. When she does lie down, give her a wonderful treat from the other hand. You are teaching the dog that the treats she can’t see are even more potent than the ones she can. And it’s teaching her she doesn’t have to see the treat to do the exercise. (If she doesn’t down, she may not understand; go back to the beginning, and review until you get a good down with a lure).

Do that for a while. Then, delay the treat for a tad, and when you do deliver it, do so from a desk or counter. Then give it for two downs (twofer), then three, then four. But never go to no rewards. Try to vary your reward as well; different kinds of treats, a tug toy, or ball playing after a short session.

• Never take a behavior completely for granted. That leads to the Straight A Student Syndrome. If no one pays attention to you when you’re being good….you’ll be bad! F students get a great deal of attention when they make a C, and they learn that creating havoc leads to more attention. Pay attention to the correct behavior!
• Targeting. If you want your dog to follow your hand cues, one of the ways to accomplish that is by the use of a Target. This technique also fades the use of the treat quickly. You teach your dog to watch your hand for instructions. Begin by showing him your palm. Put your other hand behind the back of your first hand with a treat in it, and stick them both in front of his nose. Most dogs are curious; when he touches your palm, say “YES!” and give him the treat. Do that 20 times. The 21st time, put your treat hand behind your back. When and only when he touches your Target hand, say “YES!” and give him the treat. Do that many, many times. Now move the treat someplace else, and do it again. Now have the dog follow your hand, and when he touches say “YES!” (the yes is a MARKER word that means “you got it!”) Now say “Touch” or “Target” when he touches your palm. When he’s got that, stop giving him a treat when he touches your palm with no signal. When he’s got that, make him do two touches for one treat…then three then four, etc., but never stop giving rewards completely.

Crime and Punishment

A word about the use of punishment. Punishment ONLY WORKS if it’s appropriate, delivered at the instant the erroneous behavior occurs, and is identifiable with that behavior. It is very difficult to appropriately punish a dog, since you CANNOT EXPLAIN TO THE DOG WHAT HE DID WRONG.
Most people punish at the wrong time. For instance, if you were going to punish the dog for not sitting, you must do so as the dog is getting up. Not after he has done so. Not after he is walking away. Not after he sneezes, or scratches. If you wait, he will identify the punishment with the sneeze, scratch or walking, and it will not be effective.

At its best, punishment focuses on what the dog did wrong, and doesn’t tell him what to do. This is why it is much more effective to just give a Negative marker (wrong, or uh-uh, or OOPS or Too Bad) and go back to the behavior, preparing to reinforce correct behavior.

In the home, punishment is virtually always counter-productive, since the timing is almost always way off, and the dog identifies the punishment with the punisher — you. She will begin to cower or act submissive whenever a certain set of criteria are met. For instance, you walk in the door after being gone for a long time and look around. Sometimes you then begin yelling, sometimes you don’t. What follows is very predictable — the dog goes into a submissive posture (“that guilty look”), just in case. She also may begin refusing to come when called (would you come to an unpredictable punisher?), or she will crawl, and sometimes submissively urinate.

Not effective.

Punishment is also ineffective because it teaches animals to suppress milder warning signals (growling, raising of hackles). Aggression always occurs after a series of warning signals.
Go for positive reinforcement. It works better, and produces a happy, obedient dog.

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Teaching Your Dog to Take Food Gently

It’s important to teach your puppy to take treats gently, not to snap or grab or bite your hand.  If your puppy tends to do this, teach him to lick for treats using the “fist of Kong” method.

1. Put a smear of peanut butter or cream cheese in the palm of your hand.

2. Make a fist and then relax you hand and move your thumb so that there is an opening near your thumb. You hand should be shaped like a kong.

3. Present your hand to the dog.

4. The dog will sniff and then use their tongue to get to the stuff in your fist. When the dog licks your hand, click (if you use a clicker) and then open your fist and allow him to take another lick or two.

After the dog gets the pattern, you can transition to solid foods, by using a peanut butter smear and also put a treat in your hand. When he licks, open your hand and let he eat the treat. The treat should be presented in a open hand with the treat resting on your palm (don’t present a treat between the finger tips).

In case where you can’t outlast the dog because he is chewing your fist, remove the fist, turn your back and walk away for 5 seconds. It might be necessary to tether the dog so that you can walk away. This doesn’t happen all that often because most dogs quickly learn that they can lick the peanut butter. For the first rep, present an open hand – this makes it more likely that he’ll lick when you present the fist (and it tests whether he’ll be interested in the smear you are using).

Once you’ve started doing this, use the lick for treats method for delivering treats while doing other training. So when you deliver a treat when luring a sit, use the fist of Kong.

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