Having a dog whose enthusiasm for new people exceeds the bounds of normalcy is one of the most common complaints I get from people. How do you get your dog to not jump whenever he meets someone? Here are two easy steps you can take to help your dog stop being a kangaroo and start being a well-mannered member of society.
The first is a video from Ian Dunbar’s website, DogStarDaily.com about teaching your dog to not jump when meeting strangers. (For more info on Ian see my post: http://apositiveconnection.com/?p=2059) The basic thrust of the activity is to recruit 6 friends for a 20 minute training session for your dog. Find a block to circumnavigate and have your friends go clockwise around the block (spaced out single file about 25 yards apart), while you go counterclockwise with your favorite springbok. As you approach your friends, ask your dog to sit and give him a treat when he sits. Have your friends pet him and give him a treat as long as he is seated. As you proceed around the block several times your dog will catch on that sitting to meet someone is what brings a treat! Do this until Fido reliably sits for all 6 friends. Then treat them all to Whit’s!
Here is the video: http://www.dogstardaily.com/videos/meeting-strangers-sirius-puppy-training-classic (Please note that you will probably have to sign up to view this video. Have no fear! DogStarDaily does not send you emails, require a credit card, or anything of that nature. So go ahead and sign up, there is a lot of good info on this site!)
The second thing you can do comes from my mentor, Robin Bennett. She suggests putting your dog on a leash when people come to the door (once again you can stage this with 6 friends that you invite over for a Margarita party. Have them come to the door one at a time, 5-6 times each). Hold the handle of the leash at your waist and where the leash touches the floor is where you step on it with the ball of your foot. Your dog will be able to sit, lie down, or stand, but it is unlikely that it will be able to jump up. (If it can jump, then adjust where you put your foot so that he cannot jump up). Now, reward him for not jumping when people come through the door. You can also use this method when you are out walking with your dog and some one approaches to say hi and you don’t have time to say “Sit.” Or, it’s handy if you are talking to someone in a high traffic area. Step on the leash while you converse so that if someone approaches unbeknownst to you, your dog will not be able to vertically launch himself. You have prevented the jumping, and you can ask the dog to sit as soon as possible.
Here is the link to Robin’s blog on this: http://www.robinkbennett.com/2014/01/12/get-your-dog-to-sit-even-when-hes-crazy/
Remember that your dog does not think it is rude to jump up on people as this is standard canine operating procedure. Be consistent and patient with your congenial canine and he will soon learn that good manners mean good times!
As I have hinted at in earlier posts (http://apositiveconnection.com/?p=1756) sit is one small command, that provides giant relief for owners. Sit is especially important for big dogs to perfect as it can be very intimidating to meet a standing Sasquatch, much less a mobile giant! But, if the 120 pound furball is seated, he is far more approachable and much less threatening.
Sit is also a terrific way for your dog to learn to say, “Please.” By requiring Fido to sit for everything he wants in life (i.e.: dinner, go out the door, a treat, a ball, to jump on the couch, rent Benji from Netflix, etc.), he learns some self control and that good things happen when he puts his best paw forward. Most people would not win many Brownie points with the people they live with, if upon arriving in the kitchen each morning they pounded their fists on the counter, looked at the lady of the house and said, “Breakfast, Woman!” Why shouldn’t we expect our dogs to have some manners as well?
So I recommend letting “sit” be the canine equivalent of please. Sit is a very neutral position for most dogs. It does not put them into a vulnerable position (such as lying down can be), but nor are they in a ready-for-action position (such as standing). Instead, they are grounded, but not threatened or threatening. There are two ways I like to work on sit with my dogs.
The first is to wait for my dog to offer a sit and then reward him with a treat within 1/3 of a second of his bottom hitting the ground. It is important to reward the desired behavior as soon as possible after the dog has performed it so that you reinforce the behavior you want and not a subsequent one. I do not ask for a sit because I want my dog to be actively engaged in the process and to realize, “Hey! Go Figure! I put my bottom on the ground and Mom gave me a treat! Let’s see if I can make her do that again!” When the dog learns that his actions bring rewards, then that action is more likely to be repeated and he is more likely to be fully engaged in the learning process. He is also more likely to make this his default behavior for those times when he doesn’t know what to do.
As much as I want my dog to default to a sit and learn that good manners bring good things, I also want him to know that when I ask him to do something, such as sit, I expect him to do it, and preferably quickly. I have found that the faster my dogs respond to a command, the more they stay engaged with me and look forward to what comes next. To create a snappy response from your dog, have your dog do 3-4 sits and count how long it takes for him to complete the behavior from the time you say “Sit.” The fastest of those 3-4 times is your new standard. (For example, if your dog’s fastest sit is 2 seconds, then the only sits that will now be rewarded with anything other than “Good dog!”, are those that take 2 seconds or less.) As your dog becomes faster at this, re-assess your time.
When practicing either of these exercises at home, I use part of my dog’s daily food allowance for rewards. Take a 3 oz paper cup and fill it with a portion of your dog’s daily ration of food and use that for practicing your sits every day (It doesn’t matter if you stretch it over the whole day or for a few hours in the evening, just be sure to use every piece of food in the cup by the end of the day.) If you do this, then I guarantee that your dog will have the fasted sit of any dog on your block, and a whole new level of self control!
Being forced to meet someone who scares or intimidates you is not fun, at all, ever.
For naturally extroverted people, this may be a rare occurrence, but ask any shy person (who you know well) what it feels like to routinely encounter someone who descends upon her with a boisterous voice, an overly eager handshake, and a million rapid-fire questions. Chances are this is her worst nightmare, and being told to “just get use to it” probably isn’t helpful, at all, ever.
The same is true for your shy, worried, or fearful dog. I once met a lovely woman with 2 small dogs, who were rather shy with strangers and not eager to meet me. So, I sat quietly at the kitchen table, ignoring them (waiting for them to make the first move to meet me), when all of a sudden the woman said, “This is Violet, she’s a bit shy but will be just fine.” Then, in one quick movement, she grabbed the little dog and plunked her in my lap. Violet and I were both caught off guard, and we both froze in place. After a moment, I gently petted her side and let Violet jump off my lap as soon as she could move again. Although I appreciated her attempt to help Violet get to know me, it didn’t help, and Violet never became comfortable with me, at all, ever.
Forcing your shy dog to participate in the big, wide world, without the necessary support, can make her fears and anxieties worse. Reisner Veterinary Behavior and Consulting Services posted this on their Face Book page in January 2013 and I think it is a good reminder of what nervous dogs face and what our good intentions may actually mean to them:
If your dog is worried or nervous, especially if she is an adult, taking her to public places to ‘socialize’ her is not necessarily a positive thing to do for a few reasons: (1) it is not possible to control what other people do; (2) unfamiliar people may come too close, too quickly or touch and interact with your dog inappropriately; (3) it may be scary for her to be given treats by strangers; (4) it will not give your dog an opportunity to gain confidence at her own pace. This is a kind of ‘flooding’, which is not recommended for anxious dogs (at all, ever…). Instead, keep your dog at a safe (for her) distance*, using food (from you, not from strangers), voice and movement to counter-condition her anxiety. (Italics mine)
If you have a dog that is anxious and uncomfortable, call me, 740-587-0429. While I cannot promise that your dog will be nominated for “Socialite of the Year”, I do know that together we can help your dog become more comfortable with her world now and, perhaps, for ever.*A good rule of thumb for measuring a comfortable distance for your dog is the closest distance that a stranger can get and your dog will continue to take treats. For example, if your dog stops taking treats when a person gets within 6-7 feet, then a comfortable distance for strangers, for your dog, is 8-10 feet.
Last week I looked at some of the evidence about canine origins. A comment from last week suggested that the current evidence from gene sequencing seems to strongly support the archeological, not the mitochondrial evidence. In a study* that was released early this year, a team of scientists sequenced the genes from three gray wolves representing three regions where domestication may have occurred, a Basenji and a Dingo (breeds isolated from modern wolves) and a golden jackal. These genomes were compared to the sequenced genome of a Boxer.
Based on their analysis, the team concluded that dogs and wolves parted evolutionary paths sometime between 9,000 and 34,000 years ago. That predates our development of agriculture, supporting the idea that dogs accompanied our hunter-gatherer forebears and only later adapted to an agricultural lifestyle. Of more interest, though, is the fact that the three dog genomes formed a sister group to the wolves, rather than clustering under one of them.**
Therefore, we can safely conclude that dogs have been around for several thousand years, and that dogs (not wolves or hybrid wolves) were the first domesticated animal. Moreover, to consider them and their social structure to be wolf lite ignores the uniqueness of dogs, not to mention it sets them up to be misunderstood and mistreated by people in the pursuit of establishing “dominance” over the dogs in their household/pack.
So, how did we get to this idea that we can use wolf pack behavior to better control our domesticated buddies? In the 1940’s a series of studies were conducted on
captive wolves gathered from various places that, when forced to live together, naturally competed for status. Acclaimed animal behaviorist Rudolph Schenkel dubbed the male and female who won out the alpha pair. As it turns out, this research was based on a faulty premise: wolves in the wild, says L. David Mech, founder of the Minnesota-based International Wolf Center, actually live in nuclear families, not randomly assembled units, in which the mother and father are the pack leaders and their offspring’s status is based on birth order. (Dog Training and the Myth of Alpha-Male Dominance, Time Magazine, July 30, 2010)
The behaviors that were observed in these short term studies were not representative of long term interactions of a stable wolf population. Moreover, what the researchers observed were “what are now known to be ritualistic displays and [they] misinterpreted them. Unfortunately, this is where the bulk of the “dominance model” comes from, and though the information has been soundly disproved, it still thrives in the dog training mythos.” (History and Misconceptions of the Dominance Theory, by Melissa Alexander, 2001) A prime example of this is the alpha roll. This gesture of submission comes from a lower ranking member of the pack who is appeasing a higher ranking member. It is all voluntary and is not forced by the higher ranking member. “A wolf would flip another wolf against his will ONLY if he were planning to kill it. Can you imagine what a forced alpha roll does to the psyche of our dogs?” (Melissa Alexander)
Melissa Alexander also discusses a study done by Dr. Frank Beach on dog packs which lasted over 30 years. He came to some interesting conclusions and insights about dogs including what being alpha means. It does not mean that a dog is physically dominant over another dog, but is in control of resources that he values. An alpha dog may allow another dog to have a bone or a bed, but it is because he doesn’t care about that resource. In addition, Alpha dogs “rule benevolently” and do not resort to squabbling to keep their place. Medium ranked dogs are the ones who quibble in an attempt to raise their rank. The lowest ranking dogs also do not fight, but accept their lot in life with equanimity. So, if you man-handle your dog, force it to the ground, and growl at it, how do you think this affects your status with your dog?
If you want to be the alpha dog, then control the resources. Your dog wants out? Make him sit first. Have him sit before you serve dinner, let him on the couch, give him a bone, or go for a walk. Consistent training with clear rules and positive reinforcement will build a relationship with your dog based on cooperation and trust and establish you as his benevolent leader, not his brutal dictator.
*For a good summary of the study go here: Dogs are not Domesticated Wolves.
**To read the original study go here: Genome Sequencing
Dogs are dogs. While there is virtually no doubt that dogs originated from wolves, they are not wolves, and according to some scientific evidence may have ceased to be wolves as long ago as 100,000+ years. Although that is a short blip geologically, it is, nonetheless, a pretty long time to not be something.
Various studies in the last 20 years have looked at the origins of dogs via their mitochondrial DNA. The results of these studies have raised some interesting theories on the origin of this species. While DNA that determines eye color, curly hair, and earlobe shape, comes half from mom and half from dad, mitochondrial DNA, on the other hand,
comes entirely from the mitochondrial DNA of the mother. In normal sexual reproduction genetic change from one generation to the next is very rapid, as the parental genes are mixed and remixed in new combinations. Mitochondrial DNA, in contrast, can change only by mutation, which takes place quite slowly — at a rate of around one or two percent every 100,000 years. (The Truth About Dogs, Part Two, by Stephen Budiansky, The Atlantic Online, July 1999).
Because it changes so very slowly, it can be used to gauge when dogs and wolves first separated, and the results seem to conclude that it happened about 135,000 years ago! There are indications that dogs split from various wolf populations around the world and that there was some interbreeding between wolves and dogs. But, the split did not occur very often, nor was there a lot of interbreeding. Dogs, it seems, left their wild brethren behind and integrated pretty quickly into human society. It also appears that humans and dogs may have conjoined before humans were fully human.
Archeological evidence tells a different, but not necessarily incompatible story. The earliest canine fossil records seem to Russian plain about 15-17,000 years ago (though others state that it is southern China, which is also the only fossil record that indicates dogs were used as a food source). Recent studies (2011) by paleontologists in the Czech Republic found dogs from the paleolithic period, one of which was buried with a large bone in its mouth that was “clearly placed in the dog’s mouth after death indicat[ing] that a human being was involved in the burial, as no other known animal would be capable of doing such a thing.” (http://phys.org/news/2011-10-evidence-domestication-dogs-paleolithic-period.html). According to Wikipedia, there was a dog found buried with a human in Israel which dates from 12,000 years ago, and a burial site in Germany called Bonn-Oberkassel with joint human and dog interments dating to 14,000 years ago.
Interestingly, there is no western European cave art depicting dogs, perhaps suggesting, that before 16,000 BC dogs were unknown in western Europe. However, not all animals known to early hominids were depicted in cave art, nor do we know the reason cave art was created. So, does the lack of canine portraiture indicate that dogs were unknown to early man, or just not depicted in art for some reason? Dogs did however, make the art scene in Ancient Egypt, appearing on the walls of burial sites dating back to at least 3500 BC.
I have barely scratched the surface of the current debate about the time and place that dogs became dogs and commenced on this journey with their human companions. I think, however, the important thing to remember is that whether you look at DNA or at the fossil record, dogs and man were clearly besties by 10-15,000 years ago, making them the first domesticated animal, and truly deserving of the title: Man’s Best Friend.
Next Week: Why it matters that dogs are not wolves.
A vet friend of mine (and great dog owner) posted this link on her Facebook page titled:
It was posted on Victoria Stilwell’s website* and it lists the 5 most important factors which contribute to dog aggression. In order:
#1: Training methods used.
The researchers found that dogs trained using punishment and aversive training methods were twice as likely to be aggressive towards strangers and three times as likely to be aggressive towards family members.
Aggressive training methods create fearful, insecure dogs who often cease to use warning signs before biting, and cope with their fear and insecurity with aggression. A confident dog trained using positive methods does not feel the need to react aggressively. This study exemplifies why it is critical that dog owners, regardless of their dog’s breed, behavioral problems, or past history, choose positive methods over punitive methods.
In other words, violence begets violence. You want a gentle, social dog? Then treat it with gentleness and humane, dog-friendly training methods. To find a positive reinforcement trainer in your area, check out the trainer search feature on the Assoc. of Professional Dog Trainers website: http://www.apdt.com/petowners/ts/
Owners under the age of 25 are almost twice as likely to have aggressive dogs.
#3: Dog Gender.
Male dogs (neutered or not) are twice as likely to be aggressive than spayed females. It didn’t say anything about intact or lactating females.
Dogs who attended puppy classes when they were young were about one and a half times less likely to show aggression towards strangers. This factor may be twofold: first, that owners who took their puppies to puppy classes are more likely to be overall responsible dog owners, and second, that these dogs received socialization from a young age. (Emphasis mine).
Please join us for training. It’s fun, it’s rewarding, and it starts up again March 11th and 12th! Check out our class offerings at: http://apositiveconnection.com/training/
#5: Origin Of The Dog.
“Dogs that were bought from a breeder were much less likely to be aggressive than dogs obtained from shelters or rescues, pet stores, or Internet sites.” Unfortunately, getting a dog at a shelter means that you probably do not know its full background and how it was treated by previous owners. That makes it even more important that you choose positive reinforcement training methods in order to provide the best chance for a successful adoption. Also, it isn’t advisable to purchase a dog at a pet store or online as it is highly likely that these puppies are products of puppy mills or backyard breeders who are more interested in profit than breeding healthy dogs with stable temperaments.
The bottom line here is that it really does matter how you choose to interact with your dog. There is a positive connection between positive reinforcement and well adjusted dogs, so why not choose the method that enhances your relationship with your dog as well as improves the chances that he will be a happy member of society at large?
*Ms. Stilwell provides a nice summary of the study, but for a more in-depth look go here: http://phys.org/news/2014-02-aggressive-dog.html. It also includes some good suggestions for reducing the chance of aggression developing in your puppy (including leaving him with his litter until 8 weeks of age) and tips on body language that will help you to spot an aggressive dog. For my two hints on avoiding dog bites, see last week’s blog: http://apositiveconnection.com/2014/03/beware-of-the-slipper-or-how-to-successfully-meet-and-greet-a-dog/
Your chances of being killed by a dog or dogs are roughly one in 18 million. That means you are twice as likely to win a super lotto jackpot on a single ticket than to be killed by a dog. That means you are five times as likely to be killed by a bolt of lightening-not just struck by one, mind you – killed.
She further notes that “dog bite fatalities fall far behind other very rare causes of death in children, including five-gallon buckets, party balloons and swings.” Children are much more likely to be killed by a family member or caregiver than a dog. In fact, the average number of deaths per year caused by family and friends: 826, caused by dogs: 10. If you include the entire population, death by choking is 5555/year, bicycles: 774, falls: 14,440, dogs: 16.
But what about incidents with dogs that don’t result in death, but require medical treatment? Interestingly, Ms. Bradley notes:
In the United Kingdom, where injuries are broken down by very specific causes, bedroom slippers and sneakers each cause significantly more medically treated injuries than dogs. This is also true for “other” shoes, which do not include slippers, sneakers, sandals, high heels, platforms, clogs, or boots. And you can’t avoid the danger by going barefoot, which is almost twice as dangerous as any kind of footwear.”
Here are the numbers to support this statement: (Average number of injuries per year): Bare feet: 423,825; Sneakers: 214,646; Shoes: 198,670, Slippers: 64,974; Dogs: 62,743 (note that it doesn’t stipulate if this is dog bites, or just injuries involving a dog, such as tripping over one and spraining an ankle). With these sorts of statistics you’d think there would be a push for breed specific slipper bans…
Moreover, if you look at the raw numbers of dogs, estimated to be 60-64 million in this country (one for every 4-5 people) and figure that they come into contact with several people every day, that results in tens of billions of hours of dog-human contact every year. Realistically, anything with that level of exposure is going to have some risks or hazards attached. Comparatively, Ms Bradley states that,
roughly 180 million people of all ages in the US participate in some kind of sport or physical activity at least occasionally. The actual exposure time is probably much lower than that with dogs, but at least it’s a large scale one. So about double the number of people who live with dogs participate in sports. Yet emergency departments treat over 13 times as many sports-related injuries as dog bites. (emphasis mine.)
Still, dog bites do happen and children (especially those between the ages of 5 -9) are more likely than adults to be bitten, and boys are more likely to be bitten than girls. Children are also more likely to be bitten by a resident or family dog than a stranger dog. So what are parents to do to reduce the risk of a dog bite to one of their children? If I could give only two pieces of advice to anyone wishing to avoid being bitten here they are, in order of importance:
#1: Do not approach or pet a dog with a closed mouth.
#2: Wait and let the dog approach you.
I choose these two rules because they are easy to understand and remember for people of all ages, especially rule number one. So, what is the big deal about a closed mouth? First of all, this is something that is quick and easy to note about any dog and it is a bright line that children readily understand. Secondly, while this isn’t the only way a dog communicates its feelings about a situation, a closed mouth can serve as a good general indicator of a dog’s approachability. Dogs, like humans, often carry tension in their mouths. And, like people, when stressed or uncertain, dogs may keep their mouths closed. Just as people who smile are more approachable, dogs with open mouths tend to be more relaxed as well. Think of it this way: if he isn’t smiling at you, he probably doesn’t want to meet you.
As for rule number 2, if a dog wants to meet you, he will come up to you. Be patient and allow a dog to make the decision that you are irresistible! Sometimes dogs have bad days. Perhaps their hips hurt, or they are tired from running, or they are sleepy, or they have already met enough people that day and do not wish to meet any more. If you allow the dog to make the decision about who he meets, you are much more likely to have a good encounter. Think of it like this: how many new people do you want to meet who charge into your personal space and thunk you on the head, even when you feel great? Now imagine you are hot, tired, sore, or uncertain about how that stranger smells or looks. How tolerant would you be to his intrusive behavior?
Dogs are remarkably tolerant and gracious about the rudeness displayed to them by humans, increase your chances for a great interaction by giving the dog a choice.
* Find Dogs Bite, But Balloons and Slippers are More Dangerous at : http://www.amazon.com/Dogs-Bite-Balloons-Slippers-Dangerous/dp/1888047186/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1393907976&sr=8-1&keywords=dogs+bite+but+balloons+and+slippers
Blog Posts by Category
- Training or “Why, Why, WHY?”
- Behavior or “What the heck?”
- Informational or Doggie Demographics
- Care and management or living together in harmony
- Philosophy of training or “Why be positive?”
- Toy Box or stuff that doesn’t fit neatly elsewhere
- Take your medicine…all of it! November 14, 2018
- Is all stress bad? October 31, 2018
- Supervising your child and dog requires more than being in the same room! October 17, 2018
- Moving and Your Pet. October 5, 2018
- Seasonal mindfulness. September 21, 2018