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Playing with Your Puppy!

TOYS AND GAMES WITH YOUR PUPPY

Playing regularly with your puppy will help you form a strong bond.  The purpose of play is to develop skills that will be useful throughout their lives, such as impulse control.  The more games you play with your puppy, the more he will consider you to be the most interesting thing in his world. Encouraging puppies to play with toys provides a good outlet for their physical and mental energies.

You puppy should have two sets of toys:  toys that he can play with by himself and ‘interactive toys’ that he can only play with you.  Keep the interactive toys put away so you initiate play and keep you and the toys interesting to your puppy. 

Developing interest in the toy

Rather than just offer your puppy a new toy, take it out, play with it yourself, or play catch with another family member and act like you are having fun.  Then put the toy away.  Repeat this until your puppy is chomping at the bit to join in the play.  Keep toy moving/wiggling along the ground. Then select your special toys that you will put away after every play session.

Enthusiasm first, control later

Build enthusiasm for play first, then put in controls like sit and wait later.  Keep the games fun!!

Types of Games

Fetch – often preferred by herding dogs, retrievers and hounds

Tug – often preferred by guard dogs and bull breeds

Shake and Kill- often preferred by terriers

Rules of the Games

Invite your puppy to play with you often

With Tug of War, win more often than you lose

Do not play too roughly

Teach him to “Drop It” on command – stop tugging and trade for treat

Stop before your puppy gets bored – play several short sessions per day

Stop playing immediately if you feel any teeth to skin

Stop playing if your puppy begins to growl or gets over-excited

Always put the toy away after the game

Teaching impulse control

Teaching your puppy control during games will help your adult dog maintain control, even in times of stress or excitement.  After your puppy has developed great enthusiasm for the games, practice sits/waits, downs/waits and recalls before and during play.

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Housetraining 101

1. The best way to house-train your puppy is to consistently and generously reward him for going in the right place and prevent him from going in the wrong place.

2. You want to teach your puppy the ‘rewarding’ place to go and to give him plenty of opportunities to eliminate there.  This means pro-actively taking him out every hour or so when he’s awake, after naps, after eating and after playing, as well as first thing in the morning and last thing at night.  Stay pro-active about bringing your puppy outside – don’t expect him to let you know he has to go.  As you build up a consistent reward history for him going in the right spot, he will be more motivated to go there.

3. Make sure you bring your puppy out on leash so you can control where he walks and sniffs. Go to the elimination area and just stand there and let him walk around and sniff a bit but keep him in the general area.  Be aware that any distractions will interrupt his peeing or pooping – cars, people, squirrels, etc.  Watch for signs that he is about to go so you recognize them over time.  A small puppy may only pause briefly to pee so you need to be very observant. 

4. As soon as your puppy finishes, verbally praise him and give him 5-6 tiny treats in a row.  If he doesn’t go, bring him back and take him out 5 minutes later.  Watch him carefully when you do go back in because that may be where he is more comfortable going.  Continue to go out every 5-10 minutes until your puppy goes and then lavishly praise and reward him with high value treats. Make sure you’re with him when he goes so A) you know that he went and B) to teach him that it is rewarding to ‘go’ when he is next to you.

5.  Next, you want to start tracking your puppy’s elimination schedule so you can anticipate when you need to take him out.  When inside, watch for sniffing or circling as a sign that he needs to go and ‘when in doubt, take him out’.  If he does have an accident inside, calmly clean it up with a proper odor eliminator and take note of when and where the accident happened so you can be more diligent about preventing it next time.

6. Punishing your puppy after the fact does no good –he won’t understand why you’re yelling at him so don’t it.  Just be more observant next time. The first few weeks of owning a puppy are some of the hardest and most important. Spending extra time and effort now will pay off in a big way. If your puppy has an accident inside, take a newspaper, roll it up and hit yourself in the head with it!

7. Once he’s going regularly in his spot, start putting this behavior on command- use whatever phrase you want but be consistent:  “Hurry up”, “Do your Business”, “Do Potty”, “Potty time”, whatever.  Start saying the command as your puppy starts to go.  Don’t say it when you’re not sure – we want him to associate the command with the correct behavior.  Eventually start saying the command earlier and it will be his cue to go.  This will come in very handy on a rainy or cold night when you want him to go quickly so you can get back inside.

8. Finally and the most important, the only way for you to prevent your puppy from going in the wrong place is by using 100% management and supervision.  This means that when you can’t watch your puppy, he’s in his crate and when he is out of his crate, he’s never out of your sight.  You’ll need to gate off a small area of your kitchen or family room or have your puppy on a leash attached to your belt. 

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Important Training Tips!

Important Rules to Know

  • Focus on what you want your dog to do, not what you don’t want him to do
  • Ignore the behavior you don’t want and immediately reward an acceptable alternate behavior, ie, sitting vs. jumping
  • All consequences must be immediate
  • Training is all about providing consequences to the dog.
  • You have control of your dog’s access to everything he wants in life
  • Select the behavior you want to reward – make the dog do his part of the bargain first.
  • Rather than rely on a built in desire to please (fallacy), you need to build a desire to please by exploiting your control of the dog’s environment.
  • The more lively your dog gets, the quieter you should get
  • Avoid Blocking Signals (ie hand in treat jar)–make sure your dog is focused on you
  • You need to help your dog be successful – he has to understand what behavior gets rewarded
  • A history of reinforcement is what drives the dog’s behavior so reward the behavior you want repeated
  • Rewards must be of high value to your dog.  Use favorites for difficult training
  • Fade food rewards – put dog on a random reward schedule and use LIFE rewards – walks, play, belly rubs, etc instead of food over time

Fine-tuning Your Training

  • Provide lots of feedback (praise for good, ‘uh-uh’ for no)
  • Provide prompt feedback and reward for what you want (ie, don’t reward sit when your dog gets up)
  • Raise criteria gradually, one at a time, and keep asking for more
  • Giving prompt/cue only once and wait or help your dog do what you want
  • Make sure your dog knows the behavior before you start using the cue
  • Don’t call your dog to come from a distance if you have no control over making it happen.  Always reward your dog for coming to you
  • Different locations and distractions require training from scratch
  • Don’t give things away ‘for free’ – always ask your dog to ‘say please’ with sit, down, eye contact, wait, etc. for things they want
  • Dogs still need practice
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HOW TO HAVE A BETTER BEHAVED DOG

 

 

We all want wonderfully behaved dogs, but it doesn’t happen on its own just because we wish it.  It takes time and effort to create the kind of dog and relationship you want. Here are some basic principles that can help you have a better behaved dog.

  • Have realistic expectations about your dog. No matter how good your dog is, things will get peed on, chewed or scratched/dug up. Barking / meowing, door dashing and/or pulling on the leash can happen with even the best animal.  Accept the fact that dogs are living beings and not china dolls to sit in the corner.  If you have a dog, some time during his/her life, you will loose something of value. 
  • To change behavior you have to be patient and persistent.  Change will not happen over night.  Sometimes it can take weeks or months to change behavior.  The more time you spend and the more often you work with your dog the quicker the change. Despite what some books say, most puppies can’t be housetrained in 7 days.
  • Recognize and meet your dog’s behavioral needs.  Dogs have needs for exercise, social contact with people and other animals and mental stimulation. Problem-solving toys, can provide mental stimulation. Games such as ‘find the hidden object’ and events such as agility can provide all three. 
  • Make it easy for your dog to do the right thing.  Arrange the environment so that the behavior you want is easily produced. The more often desirable behavior happens the stronger it becomes. For example, minimize distractions when you’re trying to teach your dog something new. Put scratching posts where they are easy for your cat to find and use. 
  • Make it difficult for your dog to do the wrong thing.  Arrange the environment so it is hard for your dog to make mistakes.  The more often unwanted behavior happens the harder it is to change.  Close the blinds to keep your dog from barking at those that pass by.  Scoop out your cats’ litter boxes every day.
  • Realize that animals don’t do things out of spite, for revenge or just to make your life miserable. They do what works – that is, what meets their behavioral needs, gets them rewards or allows them to escape or avoid bad things. They sometimes do some things because they are ill.  Dogs counter surf because they occasionally hit the jackpot of a sandwich or chicken leg.  Cats sometimes pee out of the box because they are sick even when they don’t act sick.
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HOUSETRAINING TIPS

Some house training reminders!

Observation

It’s up to you to make sure your puppy does not make mistakes indoors in the first place.  The more that happens, the more he’ll think it’s OK.  This means that good and constant observation on your part is essential to preventing indoor accidents.  To help with supervision, loosely tie his leash to you or tether him where you can see him.  (Do not leave him tethered while unsupervised!).

Restrict his Movements

Make sure you never leave your puppy loose and unsupervised during the housetraining period.  This means that 100% of time you are either watching him, or he is in his crate or X-pen.

Feeding Times

It is important that you regulate your dog’s food and water intake.  Pay closer attention to your dog for the hour or so after feeding so you can be ready to take him out.  Most puppies will want to relieve themselves 15 minutes after eating.  Leave food out for 20 minutes, then remove it, whether your dog has finished or not.  Don’t worry if he doesn’t finish – he won’t starve himself.

Reward

Reward your dog every time he eliminates outside.  Be there to praise while he’s going (low key praise so you don’t interrupt him) and treat immediately afterwards.  You may want to save his very favorite treats for these rewards and use these treats only for housetraining rewards for now.  Use going for a walk as an additional reward.   If puppy does not eliminate, bring him back inside, and try again in 10 minutes.  Then go for your walk – the walk is a reward for going outside, not a bribe to entice him to go.

Go With Him

Make sure you go with your puppy every time so you are present to praise and reward.  Also, this way you know for sure whether or not he has eliminated.  Also, you don’t want him to learn that it is OK to go when you’re not there (as in indoors when he’s unsupervised!). Go to the same spot or area every time so your puppy associates this as his potty area. 

Adding a Cue

When you see your dog about to relieve himself you can add a cue such as ‘good pee’ or ‘hurry up’ or ‘do your business’.  Make sure to say this only when you know he is about to go.  After a while, you can use this cue to get him to go right away (very handy for the 11 pm and bad weather potty trips).

He’s Just a Puppy

A general rule of thumb is that a puppy can ‘hold it’ about 1 hour for every month of age.  So a 4 month old puppy can hold it for 4 hours.  This is breed dependent and smaller dogs will need to go more often.  Plan your training schedule accordingly.

Eliminate Odors

Make you thoroughly clean and deodorize any indoor accidents.  Any remaining scent will entice your puppy to go in the same spot.  You can try feeding on accident areas – puppies do not like to eliminate where they eat – which is why the crate is effective.

Record Keeping

Keep a chart on your refrigerator of you puppy’s elimination schedule so you can start to detect patterns and take him out based on those patterns.

Persistence

It will take time for your puppy to fully understand that he is not allowed to go inside.  Your dog may have an occasional accident when he is 6-12 months old.  Be diligent and patient.

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Some General Training Guidelines

Think about these simple guidelines as you work with your new puppy!

Attitude

  • Act the way you want your puppy to act
  • Make all interactions fun
  • Stay calm, relaxed and confident

Socialization

  • Play “Check it out”- bring puppy to new thing and treat
  • Watch for any signs of fear and happily remove puppy from situation
  • Continue to expose to people, kids, dogs, noises, traffic, etc.

Training a new behavior

  • Use lure to get behavior
  • Give it a name only when you are SURE you’ll get the behavior
  • Fade lure quickly – use reward, not bribe
  • Reward while puppy is still doing desired behavior, not after he moves
  • Make it fun
  • Make it harder – different places, distractions, duration
  • Practice Release word – OK, All Done!!
  • Don’t over use puppy’s name

Leadership

  • No ‘free lunch’
  • No ‘free feeding’/ pick up food bowl after 20 minutes
  • Sit/Wait for everything they want
  • Apply to games, attention, walks, feeding

Taking Treats Nicely

Do NOT feed/treat puppy if he grabs for treat.  Practice at home with no distractions, then outside.  Puppy may get grabby in new environment or when over excited.  See me for various techniques.

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Help for Fearful Dogs

 

Many people try to rehabilitate their dog too quickly, forcing him to socialize with other dogs and people. This usually reinforces the dog’s view that other dogs and people are frightening. On the one hand, the dog needs to be socialized as quickly as possible, but on the other hand, he should not be forced into it. If you push your dog to do too much too soon, your dog will only become more fearful and may be forced into a situation where he feels he must defend himself. Socializing a dog and helping him build his confidence is a time consuming task. Thrusting him into the arms of every visitor and dragging him out to socialize with many other dogs can be counter-productive. Strangers should never be allowed to approach your dog to pet him. It should always be left to your dog to make the first contact. If your dog does not want to approach, that is OK. Just give him plenty of time to ‘hide and peek’ and eventually he will come out of hiding. It’s up to you to provide ample opportunity for socialization, but it is up to the dog to proceed at his own pace. Don’t verbally try to encourage him out of hiding. He will probably interpret your encouragement as praise for hiding. Don’t try to force him to come out, this will only frighten him even more.

Behavior modification techniques are often successful in reducing fears and phobias in dogs. The appropriate techniques are called “counter-conditioning” and “desensitization.” This means to condition or teach your dog to respond in non-fearful ways to sounds or other stimuli that previously frightened him such as other dogs, etc. This must be done very gradually.

Make your dog feel more secure by letting him know who the “leader” (You!) is.  Orient your dog away from the stimulus (other dogs), and prevent your dog from either causing injury or escaping.

Next, teach your dog that when he sits and stays he will receive a delicious food reward!  The goal of this training is to allow the dog to assume a relaxed and happy body posture and facial expression on command.  Make this a happy game. Once this is established, then food rewards can be phased out.

Lastly, begin counter-conditioning and desensitization to acclimate the dog to the stimuli that usually cause the fearful response.  This needs to be done slowly, and while your dog is on a leash with his head harness on.  Start by exposing your dog to very low levels of the stimulus, such as in a park where there are dogs in the distance.  Your dog is then rewarded for sitting quietly and calmly.  Gradually, if the dog exhibits no fear, move closer to the other dogs.

As I’ve said, it is extremely important that this is done slowly.  The goal is to reward good behavior, and teach the dog how to associate the once fearful stimulus with calmness and rewards.  If the dog begins to show fear during training, you are progressing too fast and could be making the problem worse.

If your dog shows fear when you move closer to other dogs, move back to a more comfortable distance that isn’t invoking the fear response, and start again.  Keep working on this, and eventually you will be able to get quite close to other dogs.

Always set up the dog to succeed.  The use of the leash and head collar will greatly improve the chances of success and because of the additional control, will often help the owner to succeed in getting the dogs attention and calming it down; faster than with commands and rewards alone.

Attempting to reassure your dog when he’s afraid may reinforce his fearful behavior. If you pet, soothe or give treats to him when she’s behaving fearfully, he may interpret this as a reward for his fearful behavior. Instead, try to behave normally, as if you don’t notice his fearfulness.

Keep your own attitude upbeat and perky. Dogs take their cues from you, so if you seem calm and knowledgeable (even if inwardly you’re tearing your hair out and wondering what to do next) they’ll emulate your own behavior. Give your dog a special place to chill out or hide in when the rest of the world gets too much.  Keep things routine as much as possible, as this will help them settle in and give them a sense of security. Exercise as much as humanly possible (depending on the individual dog’s health, fitness, and age of course). Tired dogs are happy, relaxed dogs.

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HOW TO HAVE A BETTER BEHAVED DOG

We all want wonderfully behaved dogs, but it doesn’t happen on its own just because we wish it.  It takes time and effort to create the kind of dog and relationship you want. Here are some basic principles that can help you have a better behaved dog.

  • Have realistic expectations about your dog. No matter how good your dog is, things will get peed on, chewed or scratched/dug up. Barking / meowing, door dashing and/or pulling on the leash can happen with even the best animal.  Accept the fact that dogs are living beings and not china dolls to sit in the corner.  If you have a dog, some time during his/her life, you will loose something of value. 
  • To change behavior you have to be patient and persistent.  Change will not happen over night.  Sometimes it can take weeks or months to change behavior.  The more time you spend and the more often you work with your dog the quicker the change. Despite what some books say, most puppies can’t be housetrained in 7 days.
  • Recognize and meet your dog’s behavioral needs.  Dogs have needs for exercise, social contact with people and other animals and mental stimulation. Problem-solving toys, can provide mental stimulation. Games such as ‘find the hidden object’ and events such as agility can provide all three. 
  • Make it easy for your dog to do the right thing.  Arrange the environment so that the behavior you want is easily produced. The more often desirable behavior happens the stronger it becomes. For example, minimize distractions when you’re trying to teach your dog something new. Put scratching posts where they are easy for your cat to find and use. 
  • Make it difficult for your dog to do the wrong thing.  Arrange the environment so it is hard for your dog to make mistakes.  The more often unwanted behavior happens the harder it is to change.  Close the blinds to keep your dog from barking at those that pass by.  Scoop out your cats’ litter boxes every day.
  • Realize that animals don’t do things out of spite, for revenge or just to make your life miserable. They do what works – that is, what meets their behavioral needs, gets them rewards or allows them to escape or avoid bad things. They sometimes do some things because they are ill.  Dogs counter surf because they occasionally hit the jackpot of a sandwich or chicken leg.  Cats sometimes pee out of the box because they are sick even when they don’t act sick.
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Teaching Your Puppy Sits and Downs

1. Start by sitting on the floor with your puppy where there are no distractions. Place a food treat right at your puppy’s nose and move your hand slightly up and back and as your puppy’s head follows, his butt should hit the ground.  When that happens, say YES and give him the treat. 

2. Don’t say SIT yet.  Your puppy doesn’t understand English and we don’t want to say the word “Sit” until we know he’s going to do it, so he associates the word Sit with the correct behavior. So practice a number of times until your puppy is easily going into a sit.  Once you know your puppy will sit, say SIT just before his butt hits the ground. Repeat this 2-3 times in a row and the next time, don’t put a treat in your hand but put your hand at his nose the same as before.  You want to fade out the food lure as soon as possible, but still reward him after he sits.

3. Eventually, start saying Sit before he sits and before you use your hand signal.  Say Sit, pause, then use your hand signal.  Repeat about 5-6 times and the next time, say Sit and wait for your puppy to sit.  Immediately say YES and give him a treat.  This is the way to get the behavior on a verbal command without needing the hand signal all the time.

4. Make sure you don’t lift your hand up too high with the treat which will cause your puppy to jump up.  If your puppy backs up instead of putting his butt down, use your other hand to block him from backing up, or try working in a corner so he can’t back up.

5. To teach DOWN, start with your puppy in a sit.  Use the same luring process but move your hand slowly from his nose towards the floor.  You may need to move your hand in towards his chest and then back towards you to help him slide down.  Every dog is a little different so go slowly and experiment with how you have to move his head so his body slides into a down.  Repeat a few times before adding the word DOWN. Don’t say DOWN until you know he is going to do it.

If your puppy starts to go down but his butt pops up, just start again.  Working on a slippery floor may help him slide into a down more easily.

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Naming a Behavior

The point of the cue (the “name”) is to form an association between the cue word and the behavior. The goal is for the cue to trigger the behavior. It doesn’t make sense to form an association with an imperfect behavior, so until the dog performs the behavior  you want, attaching a cue to an imperfect behavior will result in the dog performing that imperfect behavior in response to the cue. In other words, “The behavior you name is the behavior you get.”

If, after you cue “sit” the dog hesitates for 4 seconds, sits, gets praise and a treat means the dog is learning that “sit” means “wait 4 seconds, then sit”.

Learning generally happens faster with fewer distractions. Whichever of you is saying “sit, sit, sit” may not consider that a distraction, but it can be. At best, it is meaningless. At worst, it’s a distraction that can impede learning. From another perspective, repeating “sit-sit-sit-sit-sit” could even constitute negative reinforcement — nagging that stops when the dog sits.

Pavlov’s experiments demonstrated that the association between the cue and behavior is formed only when the bell,
light, “sit” or any other cue **precedes** the behavior — not during and not after the behavior. In other words, it isn’t helpful for learning to say “sit” after the dog has already sat (“Good sit”).

Dogs learn cue associations when the cue is given just before the dog begins to perform the behavior. Then it takes 20-50 repetitions for the association to be formed. The bottom line, when you are 95% certain that the next behavior the dog is going to perform is the behavior you want, say the cue, verbally praise or click, deliver the treat to reset the behavior, say the cue, praise or click, treat to reset the behavior, etc. etc.

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