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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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Teaching Your Puppy to Ring a Bell for Housetraining

This is an easy, useful thing to teach your puppy so he can let you know he has to ‘go’.   Do this after you’ve built up a ‘reward history’ for your puppy to eliminate outdoors in his ‘spot’.

Begin by hanging a bell or bells over the door handle of the door where your dog goes outside.  It’s even better if he goes out one door to eliminate but another door for walks or play.

Every time you take your dog or puppy outside to go to the toilet physically get him to nudge the bell with his nose or paw. To begin training make sure he is in a calm state and preferably in the sit position. You can gently take his paw and make him touch the bell or gently position him to nudge the bell with his nose. I say ‘gently’ because we don’t want any fear associated with this procedure. As soon as the bell rings say the words ‘Go Potty’ or whatever words you choose. Praise him lavishly or give him a small food reward and then go outside immediately.

For a young puppy take him outside once an hour or a couple of minutes after eating or waking. Stand with him but don’t distract him at all. Let him sniff around. If he goes to the bathroom while outside tell him what a good dog he is while he is actually peeing or pooping.

It is important to choose a word or phrase for your dog’s elimination. You can call it what ever you want as long as you are consistent with it. For example: While he is peeing say, “Do a pee, good boy, well done” or “Go potty, great work, good dog’ By saying these words your puppy will then be able to learn these words and associate them with the the action. Say the same words when he rings the bell to go outside.

DO NOT let him ring the bell if you are going out for a walk or a game in the yard. This would be a recipe for disaster. You don’t want him ringing the bell every time he wants to go out to have fun.
Good luck with your door bell training. One thing to remember is be consistent and do it every single time your dog or puppy goes out to potty.

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Introduction to Clicker Training

The use of marker signals, like clickers, to train animals has been in use for over 60 years so it’s hardly a new concept. However if you haven’t clicker trained an animal before, it’s brand new to you, so here’s how you can comfortable using a clicker to train your dog.

If you have ever seen the animal acts at places like Sea World and Marine Land, you have seen how effective this sort o training can be. Clicker training has its roots in the science of classical conditioning – think Pavlov’s Dogs. Because it’s based in science, you will find it a fast, effective and efficient method training. While dogs of different breeds can behave differently, no dog is immune to the principles of learning theory and it is using those principles, that we will train our dogs.

Clickers are not ‘magic’ – they are just simple tools. Their main advantage is that they are cheap, easy to carry and use, and they produce a unique sound that can be used as a marker signal. Owners of deaf dogs will often use a small flashlight as a marker signal and marine mammal trainers use whistles. All these markers perform the same task; they provide the animal being trained with information. In order to be an effective training tool, your maker signal needs to meet certain requirements.

Unique: Its unique signal sounds stands out from the everyday background sounds like human speech.

Consistent: It sounds the same no matter who is training the dog.

Immediate: It needs to pinpoint the exact behavior at the precise moment the dog does it. Mechanical markers are more precise than verbal ones when you want to pinpoint a behavior.

Charging the Clicker

By pairing the ‘click’ marker signal with a reward (small food treats), the dog learns that the sound predicts a treat. This process is called charging the clicker. You click and immediately give the dog a small treat. Repeat 20 times. At this stage we don’t care what your dog is doing; they just have to learn that the click predicts a treat. After one or two sessions your dog will learn to associate the click sound with a treat.

How Does the Clicker Help Me Train My Dog?

When your dog does something you like, you mark it with a click and give the dog a treat. Rewarded behaviors will be repeated so the dog will continue to do things that earned him a click in the past. The clicker communicates the following information:

• I like the behavior you just did
• You have earned a reward for that behavior
• That behavior is now over

For example:
The dog starts to go into a sit position. The dog hears the click as he is sitting and gets a treat. You can either repeat that cycle or move onto a new behavior. If you accidentally click, just feed the dog and start again.

Getting the Behavior to Happen

We use 3 primary methods to get desired behaviors.
• Luring
• Capture
• Shaping

Luring: Holding a food lure in your hand you motion the dog into a position such as sit or down. Luring techniques are useful when first teaching a behavior but they must be faded quickly in order for the dog to truly learn.

Capture: Good trainers are observant. By observing the desired behaviors as they naturally occur and click/treating them, they will occur more often. An example would be clicking as you notice your dog going into a down and then rewarding him.

Shaping: By shaping you would click and treat small portions of the desired final behavior. For example if you were shaping a sit you would click/treat any small movement starting with the dog’s head coming up and the butt heading towards the floor. Finally you get the complete sit behavior and click and treat for that.

Naming the Behavior

With new behaviors that the dog does not know well, we train the behavior first before we call it anything. Naming the behavior (putting the behavior on Cue) is the last piece of the puzzle. Dogs are not verbal and do not understand English! So be patient and get the behavior to happen reliably before giving it a name.

Training a Simple Behavior – “Touch”

Charge up your clicker and then hold your non-clicker hand with a flat palm facing your dog, holding your target hand close to their nose. As they touch their nose to your target hand, C/T. Using the concept of shaping, you may need to start by clicking and rewarding for just initial interest in the target hand, or just turning towards it. Be patient. Eventually your dog will move his nose to your open palm. Once they are freely touching the target hand, only click for actual touches. Repeat 10 times, moving your hand slightly to the left and right and gradually further away by taking a couple of steps. Keep repeating the variations.

Your dog is learning that it’s their actions that are causing you to C/T and the desired action is the nose to palm touch. Your dog has now learned their first clicker behavior and you have had a chance to practice your clicker timing and treat delivery. Once the dog can do several touches with you moving your target hand you can add the verbal cue “Touch” to the behavior. Only say the cur once as the dog is in the process of touching the target hand.

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Adolescent Dogs

A dog leaves puppyhood and enters adolescence at about the age of 6 months, and doesn’t leave it until it is 2 and a half or 3 years old. The most challenging age is usually between 9 and 18 months (which is when most dogs are surrendered to shelters). Some dogs pass through the phase with little trouble, but most drive their owners crazy! During this phase, it can be hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel.

Adolescent dogs have insatiable curiosity about the world, which they explore through all their senses, including taste. They have no idea what things are supposed to look like, or how much they cost. They don’t know what cars can do to them, or that people on bicycles are really people – to the dog, they can be moving objects, and moving objects were put there to be chased and nipped. Other bad behaviors can include:

Digging – this is when they’re on their way to China by way of your lawn.
Chewing – a brand new set of molars needs exercise, and furniture seems like a good place to start.
Jumping up – many adolescents are extremely rough – they greet and play with you and each other as though both of you are made of steel.
Running away – remember when your three month old puppy stuck to you like glue? Well, no more – this dog has places to go and people to jump on.
Growling or snarling – some dogs figure this is as good a time as any to challenge authority – you.
Obedience – Obedience? They’ve never heard of the word and don’t understand the concept.
Not doing homework, taking your car, dying their hair – oops, that’s teenage people! However, dogs go through the same thing, in their own way.

So…what do you do about it? Wring your hands, clean up the mess…and MANAGE YOUR DOG.
Start by thinking of your dog as a phenomenally active two-year-old child. Parents expect to have to childproof their home against the damage a little-one can do; multiply it by ten and you have some of the damage that can be inflicted by your dog.

Here are some rules you might want to set to help keep your house (and sanity) intact.

1. Earn the right to roam. Many people crate train their puppies to help housetrain them. Continue to use your crate for sleeping purposes, and to put your dog in when you need some time to yourself. But don’t stop there. Limit your dog’s space in the house to a manageable size until you are pretty sure he’s trustworthy – a kitchen, or family room blocked by baby gates is one alternative. Then you can CATCH him as he begins to chew on that table-leg. And you can take ALL potentially attractive items off low tables – or even high ones if he’s a big dog!
Though many people use a doggie door, it’s usually not a good idea to let the dog have complete in and out privileges, certainly not at night. That gives him a very large space to protect, and encourages such behaviors as barking and fence fighting. Instead, let him use his doggie door when you are home, and confine him when you’re gone. Give him more space as he proves himself worth it.

2. Learn to play politely. If he has a habit of jumping on guests, even if he’s just overly friendly, take away his greeting privileges. Many – if not most – people don’t like to be greeted by paws on their chest. Set up a tie-down – a short leash attached to an immovable object – and when guests arrive ask them to wait a couple of minutes while you attach the dog to his tie-down. When he’s quiet and they’ve settled in, you can let him off his tie-down (though you may wish to leave a leash on for control), and he can socialize. This is better than putting him outside, where he will feel ostracized and may whine and bark, which you certainly can’t control while you’re entertaining your guests. If he whines or barks on the tie-down, say “quiet” and squirt water on him, or use a can filled with pennies to intimidate him.

If he jumps on you, try this method to discourage the behavior: REPLACE the behavior with a more
acceptable one, and only reinforce that. For instance, if you come home from work and he’s jumping all
over the place, stay calm, protect your body (!), tell him to sit (once! does no good at all to repeat the
command to an excited dog) and when he backs off and sits, pet and praise him. Many of the other
techniques we use teach the dog what NOT to do, not what TO do…and they need to learn what we want.
To help you with that, ask him to sit before petting him ever…before throwing the ball…before giving food.
It should be his way of saying “please.”

3. Control that mouth. If your dog chews on you, it’s called “mouthing,” and you should treat it as a serious
problem. It’s an instant signal that playtime is over. If a dog is under three months of age, you can squeal
like another puppy and stop playing for a few seconds… but for any dogs over three months, make sure
they know it’s serious. Stop playing abruptly, freeze and growl “NO” (one of the few times you should say
that word, which loses its value the more it’s over-used). When the dog backs off, smile and begin playing
again. If the dog continues to mouth, go through the whole thing again, then walk away. Alternatively,
freeze, place your hand around the dog’s mouth, hold it gently and apply pressure downwards (this is not
violent or hard – it’s just a sign that you are displeased).

Your dog should learn that though he shouldn’t play roughly with you, he can play roughly with OBJECTS.
So the same time you teach him not to mess with your skin (or any other human’s), teach him to play tug
of war with a toy he likes. The tug part is easy (!) – teaching him to drop it can also be easy. You just
have some treats handy, and while the dog is tugging, you say, “drop it,” and push a treat in the side of the
dog’s mouth. As he tastes the food, he’ll let the toy go. Praise him, and start the game over again. Within
minutes, he’ll be tugging and letting go at your command – after all, this is a win-win situation!

4. Sharing is good. Ever try to take something from a toddler when they don’t want you to? Expect a battle –
it can be hard! Same with adolescent dogs. In the dog world, what’s mine is MINE, and they need to
learn that food and objects are really yours – but you’re very generous with them. With food, as your dog
finishes eating, walk up to him, tell him to sit, and offer him better food. Put a bit in his mouth, and a bit in
his bowl. You don’t need to take food away from him if you play this game a lot.

5. Exercise is essential. The only good adolescent is a tired adolescent. Two long runs a day are good.
Dogs were designed by nature to be active in the morning and evening hours, and we can help that by
exercising them at that time, and encouraging rest in between.

6. Learn to say please. Teach your dog to sit before he gets anything he wants – food, attention, petting,
whatever. Better yet, take him to school¸ where he can learn how to behave in a civilized manner.
Obedience classes often improve a rocky relationship, and can be fun for both owner and dog.

The best news is that things will get better with your management, time, and age, and by the time your dog is 3
or 4 years old, you’ll have the dog you always wanted.

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New Puppy Basics

Here is some great introductory information for all of you new puppy or dog owners out there!

1. Positive reinforcement training is the best way to teach your puppy good behavior and develop a great relationship in the process. Puppies learn by the consequence of their actions. That means rewarded behavior gets repeated. Behavior that doesn’t get rewarded diminishes. Attention is one of the most rewarding things you can give your puppy and withdrawing attention is one of the most effective negative consequences you can use to stop undesirable behavior.

2. As you interact with your puppy, you want to think about catching him in the act of doing something good. Reward spontaneous acts of good behavior. As your new puppy is jumping and chewing and biting and stealing, if you provide lots of attention during these episodes, your puppy is likely to find that attention rewarding – even if you are saying no – and he will continue to do these things. Then, when your puppy does get tired and lies down quietly, you think – oh good, let’s leave him alone. These are times that you want to go over and calmly praise your puppy and give him a tiny treat. He may get up and follow you, but ignore that and continue to reward him when he sits or lies down or looks at you on his own. Pretty soon your puppy will start doing these things automatically.

3. Another rule of thumb is to not focus on what you don’t want your puppy to do, but what you want him to do instead. So when your puppy is jumping, instead of saying NO, teach your puppy to SIT and you can teach him that sitting is more rewarding than jumping. He gets attention when he’s sitting, not when he’s jumping. If your puppy is chewing furniture, teach him that chewing a bone or playing with a toy is more rewarding. All of these things will help your puppy choose the right behaviors on his own.

4. As you start to teach your puppy good manners, you need to be aware of his ability to learn in different situations. You want to think in terms of teaching your puppy each behavior first at Kindergarten level and working up very gradually to college level. The factors that determine these grade levels – or degrees of difficulty- are duration, distractions and distance.

When in a familiar or room, it’s easy for your puppy to learn. When there are no distractions, it’s easy for your puppy to focus on you. When you’re close to your puppy, it’s easier for him to pay attention. If any one of these things changes, you’ve just skipped a grade or two. So, if you move into a new room in the house, you’ve just increased the difficulty. If you’re in the familiar room but there are toys on the floor (distractions), then you’ve just made it harder for your puppy. And if you move 5 feet way, its now tougher for your puppy to focus on you. Be aware of these things as you teach your puppy any new behavior and always set up your training to allow your puppy to be successful. Then move gradually from Kindergarten to College by changing just one variable at a time.

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Adolescent Dogs

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 hand feeding 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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Home Alone for Puppies

Most new puppy owners tend to focus initially on housetraining, curbing puppy nipping and some basic training. An often neglected area of training is teaching your puppy how to be alone. If you have the luxury of being home most of the time, your puppy never really learns to be alone and this can lead to serious separation issues down the road. These are challenging issues to change, so its recommended that you teach your puppy early. The following information will be helpful in this regard.

Home Alone
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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Introducing Your Puppy to His Crate – December 5, 2013

Using a crate to help your puppy learn housetraining, how to settle, how to be comfortable being left alone, how to travel well, etc. has many long term benefits for both of you.

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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Some General Training Guidelines – October 23, 2013

Some general guidelines for a raising a well-behaved dog.

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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