Training or “Why, Why, WHY?”
Nota been: 4/28/16. The Granville Farmer’s market opens for the 2016 season on May 7, so I thought it appropriate to resurrect this blog for the opening bell to help your dog enjoy the market as much as you do.
Granville’s Saturday farmer’s market is in full swing and will continue through October. It is a great place to get anything from peaches to perennials, wax beans to beeswax soap, and bacon to bread. It’s also common to see people strolling with their favorite canine down the middle of the market, paying no attention to what is happening at knee level or below.
First of all, it’s hot. The pavement radiates the summer heat and the temperature 18-24 inches above the ground is going to be the hottest. Test the pavement by placing the back of your hand on it for 5 seconds. If you can’t keep your hand there, it’s too hot for canine paws as well. But, moreover, think about how you feel when you’re hot. Are you always tolerant, kind, desiring of another chance to sit on the hot ground and wait for someone while they stop, yet again, to talk? Thinking about it in this way, our dogs are remarkably tolerant of our dithering about.
Distractions also abound, visually, orally, audibly, and especially aromatically. Walking down the center of the market is like running a gauntlet. Simmering beef entices us to the right; a beautiful bouquet strikes our fancy so we veer left; then back again for salsa, soap, or cinnamon buns. Meanwhile, Rover has just gotten a whiff of dog bones (at the front of a booth, RIGHT AT NOSE LEVEL!!!), seen a cute spaniel 15 feet away, or snarfed up a dropped piece of cheese, and would really like to further investigate any/all of these enticing diversions. And what do we do when he balks? We scold him for not listening, and pull him along to our next encounter where he will continue to be challenged and we will continue to demand that he be perfectly behaved.
Another significant challenge for Fifi is space.* Dogs, like people, have clear personal space. Think about the person you have just met who is a “space invader” and gets so close to you that you can smell the coffee on his breath. Are you comfortable? Do you try to put some distance between you and Mr. Mocha? What do you do if there is no room to move away, do you get a bit forward? Tell the person to back off? Try to get around him somehow?
Now, imagine if you are an affable Golden retriever who, in general, likes people and other dogs. You are at the market with your favorite person, and have been there for a half hour or so. It has been very exciting: lots of smells, a bit loud, it’s starting to get hot, you really would like to get a bone and go home, people have been petting and touching you from all sides, (without properly introducing themselves), and now there is a child in a stroller RIGHT next to you with icing all over his hands and face. Your beloved person is busy choosing beans, and holding your leash tight so that you don’t clean-up the sugar-frosted toddler. So you are in a bit of an excited or aroused state. Nothing bad per se, but you’re definitely more sensitive to the surroundings. Now, into this mix comes a dog who is socially awkward and comes right up to your face, head on, and immediately tries to put his head or paws over your shoulders. You have never met this pup, he’s kinda rude, and he’s starting to get awfully familiar! You try to back away, to give yourself a bit of distance from this space invader, but there is no place for you to go. What’s a dog to do?
If the Golden, who really wants to resolve this peacefully, has no other option, he may snarl or snap at the offending dog. This will cause his owner to scold him, jerk him away, and/or swat his behind, and say, “Bad Rover! I’m so sorry! He generally really likes other dogs!” And, I would bet $1000 that the owner of the dog who was inappropriate in his greeting will say (in a hurt or put out tone of voice), “He was just trying to say ‘Hi!'” Yes, perhaps he was. But, unfortunately, the circumstances surrounding his awkward greeting did not lend themselves to a bonhomie outcome.
All this seems to me to be incredibly unfair to Fido, primarily because we are not telling him clearly what is expected of him, only that what he is currently doing, once we actually pay attention to him, is wrong. So, what do I expect an owner to do? Here are some simple rules to make the farmer’s market a happy experience for all involved:
1) Check the temperature, especially if you are headed out later in the morning. If you find it sweltering, so does your pup. Leave Fido home with a tasty Kong to keep him occupied while you wander around the market. Or, if you need to bring him, pack some water for him, and keep him in the shade as much as possible.
2) Be aware of what is going on around the dog at his level. For example, if someone (or some dog) is lurching towards your pooch and he backs up to give himself some more room, step in-between the approaching person/beast and your dog so that he is protected from being overwhelmed. Body blocking is a great way to protect your dog’s personal space.
3) Know your dog’s body language** so that you can intervene before something happens. Remember that your dog is probably in an excited state and therefore, will be more likely to overreact. If you can recognize when your dog is on edge, you can make sure that he has plenty of space, especially around his head, and room to move away from any agitation.
4) If your dog is nervous or uncertain about crowds of people or other dogs, walk him around the market rather than through the gauntlet. I have made this suggestion to a variety of my clients whose dogs have social or spacial issues. The goal here is to get your dog use to being in public, around other dogs, and/or an abundance of distractions without overwhelming him and setting him up for an unsociable encounter, aggressive display, or full-blown panic attack.
5) Keep it short and reward often. Reduce your dog’s stress by keeping your visit to the market short and sweet, and include a lot of rewards for being a good dog. Take some biscuits in your pocket and distribute them liberally as you walk through the market. This will keep Fido focused on you and much happier about the constant busyness around him.
I want both you and your dog to have fun outings together. By paying attention to what’s going on at knee level or below you are setting both of you up for a happy and successful morning at one of Granville’s summer institutions*Further information on canine personal space:
Dog Bit Prevention 2013 by Patricia McConnell
Helping an Anxious Dog by Jessica Miller
**I have written several blogs on canine body language here are a few:
Do you ever wonder how to get your busy, energetic, or overstimulated dog to chill out? Busy dogs demand attention and I have found that the key to getting your dog to do what you want (i.e.: calm down and take a nap) is to provide him with what he needs (i.e.: run, play, tug, run some more!), plus a way to get from intense activity to zen dog. Hence, the Funnel of Activity.
I learned this from Dr. Meghan Herron, veterinary animal behaviorist at The Ohio State University. Like a funnel, which goes from wide to narrow, you need to go from big to small activity with your dog. Start with providing your miscreant with big, aerobic, fun activity to get his energy expended, then move to less active behavior that provides mental stimulation (such as working on a new trick like shake! or spin!, or give Fido an intelligence toy), to a deep tissue massage and end with a tasty stuffed Kong to get your dog ready for some quiet time. Whether you have 20 minutes or 60, the basic formula is the same:*
1) First 1/2 of your time: aerobic activity such as frenetic ball chasing
2) Second 1/2 of your time is divided into thirds (1/6 of total time):
1/3 = mental stimulation (do some training) or an intelligence toy followed by;
1/3 = slow, deep massage ending with;
1/3 = quiet time with stuffed Kong
I have used this formula with my dogs as well as with the dogs I used to sit for and have found it to be a great way to teach dogs how to settle, because you are providing them what they need both physically and mentally. I have encapsulated this process of turning chaos into calm in my handy Funnel of Activity chart:**
*Feel free to experiment with the formula so that it better serves your dog’s needs. For example, after running around outside, my grand-dog Tex, needs indoor activity before he can begin to settle. Therefore, after vigorous play he gets an intelligence toy, such as a Buster Cube or a Kibble Nibble, that he rolls all around the house as a 10+ minute cool down. A massage follows, and then he is content to gnaw his antler chew or work on a tasty Kong.
**Many thanks to Blake Kishler, my ever patient and faithful graphic artist for his help with making the Funnel of Activity chart. http://www.blakekishler.com
Since doing this post, we have also done a podcast (episode 43) on this topic. See: The Funnel of Activity
Teaching your pup to walk civilly on lead is not easy. At least it isn’t easy for most people, hence the plethora of training aides such as head halters and no pull harnesses, not to mention the inquisition inspired choke chains, prong collars and shock collars. If it were easy, all dogs would be prancing alongside their owners without a care in the world. In fact, this is why I offer a 6 week specialty class devoted solely to loose lead walking.
I have published other blogs on the subject (Set you and your dog up for a successful outing!, Stop, Look, and Listen!) which give suggestions on how to get your dog to focus on you and the task at hand. One thing I recommend is:
Keep your walks short.Begin with 15 minutes or less. I would much rather have you take three 15 minute walks rather than one 45 minute walk as this gives you good practice at being on lead, but is short enough to be fun and successful for both of you.
While I have a specific philosophy of training that guides what I do, over the years I have found that I need to pay attention as to how to apply these principles. Each owner must work not only within the framework of who her dog is, but who she is as well. For example, when a dog is young and more easily distracted, I have found that being animated is helpful in keeping the dog’s attention. Some owners are very comfortable using a silly voice, shuffling their feet, whistling, etc. But, for shy individuals, this can be just as big a challenge as actually training the dog. The advice a horse trainer once gave me: Quiet hands, Busy feet, helps me guide owners to their animation comfort zone. The key is being precise in your movements, so you clearly communicate to your dog what you want him to do. If your hands are steady and move only when needed to cue your dog, or deliver a treat, then your voice and pace can be used to keep him engaged in the training, making it possible to be both animated and quiet.
(2) Quickly back up 4 steps and have your dog sit and down. Repeat 3 times, then give a tasty treat.
(3) Quickly back up 4 steps with sit, down, sit. Repeat 3 times and reward.
A common problem with puppies is general mouthiness, but when an owner is trying to clip the puppy’s leash onto its collar it can go beyond annoying to infuriating . The typical response seems to be to tell the puppy “NO!” and try to get it to settle by sheer force of will and a stern voice. I have not found that this is the most successful method and it generally results in a frustrated owner and a non-compliant dog.
So, what’s an owner to do? The answer is surprisingly simple actually! Use treats to get the the dog to look at you, then lure him into a down and place the treats between his paws as you clip the leash either on or off. If the dog will not do a down, then simply put the treats between his front paws and as he leans down to eat them, snap on the leash. You can use a small handful of kibble as the treats, but I find that adding in a few really yummy treats helps to motivate the pup to be still. Here is a wonderful little video illustrating this technique:
One last hint for leash mouthiness, if your dog is toy motivated, give him a stuffed toy or ball to hold while you snap on the leash. It is really, really hard to hang onto Mr. Bear and bite your leash at the same time.
Puppies bite — and thank goodness they do. Puppy biting is a normal, natural, and necessary puppy behavior. Puppy play-biting is the means by which dogs develop bite inhibition and a soft mouth. The more your puppy bites and receives appropriate feedback, the safer his jaws will be in adulthood. It is the puppy that does not mouth and bite as a youngster whose adult bites are more likely to cause serious damage. (Ian Dunbar, DogStarDaily.com)
Here’s Dr. Dunbar talking about the importance of bite inhibition and allowing your puppy to use his mouth:
I do understand that excessive biting can be frustrating, so if you cannot get your puppy to inhibit his biting or if your puppy seems to be biting out of fear, seek out the help of a positive reinforcement trainer or a certified animal behaviorist so that you can nip that problem in the bud.
Many of my clients come to me with rescue dogs of varying ages, abilities, backgrounds, and idiosyncrasies. The tendency is to think that older dogs cannot learn new things, or dogs rescued from difficult situations have canine learning disorders. Dogs, like humans, are individuals and while each one learns in his or her own unique fashion, the reality is there are certain guiding principles one can use to teach a dog to be a well mannered member of your family no matter how old or unfortunate the dog may be.* One of the most important things to keep in mind is the old adage: practice makes perfect! Repetition is the heart of learning and consistent daily practice is what makes behaviors happen.
Another key component of learning is to make it manageable. As my mom use to say, “You have to walk before you can run.” Break harder behaviors into easier components. Or, start small to build large. Working each day on core behaviors that build on one another creates a consistently well-behaved dog.
With that in mind, here some tips that may help you to incorporate dog training into your daily routine:
- Train in every room in your house where the dog is allowed. This helps your dog to learn that a command means the same thing no matter where it is given.
- Train in several small increments every day. Try adding four or five 5-10 minute sessions into your schedule each day. You will likely find this to be easier and more effective than one 40 minute session.
- Keep it simple. When training for short periods such as 5 minutes, choose one behavior to work on for that short session.
- Add distractions gradually.
- End on a positive note. When after 5-6 tries your pup gives you that perfect tucked sit you were working on, reward him well and end that session.
- Be happy and positive about training. Training should be fun! Build play time into training by using it as a reward in place of food.
Awhile back I found the article below about human learning, but the principles apply to dog training as well. He discusses how long it takes to learn something and that new skills often need to be broken down into parts. Hopefully you will all be encouraged by this fellow’s venture into learning a new skill to continue to play, learn and train with your dog. Enjoy!
*This is a general principle and I readily admit that there are some dogs that are extraordinarily difficult to train or rehabilitate and who may need much more than the average beginning training class. This does not negate the fact that learning theory does work for these dogs, or that the vast majority of newly adopted dogs cannot benefit from consistent, humane training and repetitive practice thereof.
House Training: the bane of all new dog owners!
- For all dogs, but especially for small dogs such as Puddles the Peek-a-poo, house training is a big issue. But, it doesn’t have to be the breaking point for you and Puddles if you follow these basic principles:
1) choose a place outside where you want Puddles to potty;
2) reduce the possibility that Puddles will piddle in the wrong place;
3) ignore mistakes; and
4) reward heavily when Puddly-poo is successful.
And please note: punishing Puddles for inappropriate piddling won’t solve the problem. Rather, management is the key to setting any dog up for successful house training! Here are some basic management techniques that will make your life easier and help Puddles make good decisions.*
- While training Puddles to go outside it is important to reduce as much as possible the opportunities for mistakes. Do not leave Puddles unsupervised until you are sure he is asking to go out on a consistent basis. (My rule of thumb is 3 weeks without an accident).
- If you cannot supervise Puddles, have him in a crate with a Kong, chewy, or anything that will keep him happy and occupied in the crate.
- When Puddles is with you, have him on a leash that is tethered to you or a piece of furniture near you so that you can keep an eye on him and get him outside when he shows signs of needing to eliminate. When Puddles does start to act as if he needs to potty, take him outside on his leash so that you have control over where he goes and he can’t just wander off.
- Keep in mind that dogs’ bladders tend to “wake-up” during transitions between activities, such as, the transition from playing to not-playing, eating to not-eating, sleeping to waking, etc. When Puddles transitions, snap a leash on him and take him outside immediately. If he does not potty in 5 minutes, put him in a crate and wait 10 minutes. Take him out again, leash him, and lead him outside. Repeat this 5-minutes-on-10-minutes in crate pattern until Puddles piddles. Then reward him with treats, praise, and play.
- If Puddles starts to eliminate and you can catch him, interrupt the process with a “Whoopsie!”, and get him outside as fast as you can. Even if he only passes a small amount of urine or feces, reward him heavily for going in the right place.
- If you find an “accident” just clean it up and keep trying!
*For information on how to get your dog to tell you he needs to go outside, check out this Sept. 2013 blog post:http://apositiveconnection.com/2013/09/house-training-how-do-i-get-sparky-to-tell-me-he-needs-to-go-out/
- Pumbles gets distracted.
- I call Pumble’s name and back up a few steps to encourage Pumbles to move towards me.
- Pumbles comes towards me.
- I turn so that we face the same way and I speed up for a few steps to make it rewarding and fun for her to walk with me.
- 6-7 steps later, Pumbles gets a treat.
* The other four would probably be jumps on people, won’t come when called (or won’t listen in general), barks too much, and is too mouthy.
In our group classes, we have a rule that if another dog barks, your dog gets a treat. This has proved to be puzzling to our owners until they give it a try and see that it is a great way to get their dogs in the class to remain calm and focused on them.
Think of it from the dog’s point of view:
Sparky: “WOOF!” (Hey, guys! We’re in class, wanna play? Huh? Huh?)
Phaedo: (Thinking) Hey, that’s Sparky! Hmm, maybe I ought to tell him that if I had opposable thumbs and could unhook this leash, I would SO love to play…
Phaedo: (Thinking): Whoa! Chicken just happened! Cool! Got more?
Xerxes: “WOOF!” (Yo, Sparky, I got your back, Jack!)
Phaedo’s owner swoops in again.
Phaedo: (Chewing and thinking): What just happened here? One of the bro’s barks and I get chicken…hmmm. Perhaps there’s a pattern developing here???
A group class can be very exciting (or stressful) for our dogs as there are plenty of new smells, people, and dogs in a new environment. Some dogs will respond to this heightened awareness by vocalizing, and that can encourage other dogs to vocalize as well. Therefore, we advise owners to short circuit this cycle. By interrupting Phaedo’s orientation to Sparky (and Xerxes) with a tasty treat, Phaedo learned that when another dog is a distraction it is worth his while to check in with his owner. Moreover, when a dog is focused on his owner, and not the world around him, the owner can ask him to do something such as sit, down, or meditate on world peace. We have also found that it tends to lessen Sparky’s barking as well, because no one is responding to his alert. This nifty technique can be used outside of class as well.
This week I had our Bernese Mt. Dog at MedVet and decided to do a bit of an experiment as the waiting room at MedVet is busy with a variety of dogs in variable states of arousal, anxiousness, and/or excitement. Whenever I go to the vet’s office, I take a bait bag full of treats, to help keep my dog focused and relaxed, but this time I tried tying treats to the behavior of dogs around us.
I started by finding a place where we could sit and I would see the approach of any dog before Buckley. He was a bit nervous about being there, and was drooling, panting, and watching every movement around him (Buckley, being a Mt Dog, drools and pants even when not aroused, but this was a bit more intense). I gave him a few treats to get his focus on me. Then, a dog walked by, I offered a treat, Buckley checked in, and relaxed a bit. I had him lie down facing me to help him relax. Two dogs out of his sight at the front desk, squabbled and he shot up into a sit, got lots of treats from me as long as the dogs debated, and he settled himself into a down. When a dog walked by us, Buckley got a treat. When one vocalized, 2-3 treats. A shepherd mix growled at him, and he got a fistful of treats as we moved to a new location.
This continued into the examination room. A couple of dogs were clearly upset in the hallway outside the room and in the room next to us. I fed Buckley as the kerfuffle continued and while he alerted to the noise, he did not start pacing or whining in response to their stress (something he tends to do when he is excited). By giving Buckley a reward for his calm response, and keeping him focused on me, he had a much easier vet visit and did his part in keeping the general peace.
So, next time you are out with your favorite canine, take some treats along and when you hear another dog bark, whine, growl, or otherwise vocalize, give your dog a treat and you too will find that the barking of another dog will soon become a cue to your dog to check in with you.