Training or “Why, Why, WHY?”
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!
At a recent dog training conference I was working with a young dog, who went behind my chair, into my purse and pulled out some cellophane that had been on a cookie. I saw what he had stolen and fortunately had some treats I could offer him for the wrapper. He would not give up the wrapper for a piece of hot dog, but he loved cheese and happily traded the cellophane for cheese. I had never worked with this dog before, but I knew that if I could offer something he really liked, I would be able to get the wrapper without fighting with him. It worked! How much better will that work for you if you have practiced this regularly with your dog and if you use what you know he truly loves. For example, Bingley is so ball motivated that he once dropped a half a frozen groundhog to chase his beloved tennis ball. Within a second of dropping the frigid rodent, I threw his ball long and hard, picked up the ground hog, and tossed it to my husband who chucked it into the woods while Bingley zoomed after the golden orb. He, Bingley that is, never gave the groundhog a second thought! Whether or not my husband has nightmares about frozen rodents being chucked at him, that I do not know…
Hold it! Water and oil? Yes, water and oil.
Why on earth would I say this?
There are a lot of reasons, but the most common one is because many dogs of young couples may be well socialized to adults, but were not introduced to many children when they were puppies. Thus, the squealing, flailing, small mysterious object who arrives suddenly one day, may smell like a mammal, but the noise it generates sounds like a squeaky toy and it’s movement is like a wounded prey. Older children are oddities to many dogs as well. They run around, yelling, squealing with delight, flinging arms, toys, and generally having a grand time that excites the dog to join in, (or in the case of herding breeds, to bring into line), it may scare the dog as the excited play escalates, or their inappropriate attention (sitting on him, pulling his tail, poking his ears) may drive even the most tolerant of canines to total distraction. Thus, from the dog’s point of view, this new arrival may not be a bundle of joy, but instead a tempting bundle of intrigue or a frightening source of discomfort, which is off limits, and which occupies the near constant attention of his people.
So, what’s a new set of parents to do? There are several things that you can do to make this transition easier for all involved. The key is to start before Junior comes home from the hospital!
1) Be sure Fido knows his manners. Key behaviors to have in place are: sit, sit, sit, and sit. That is to say, sit should be your dog’s default behavior so that if he does not know what to do, he offers you a sit. He should also know to sit when asked (the first time, not the 5th), as well as to hold the sit until given the next directive. Remember, sit is your friend and can be the quickest way to keep your dog and your child safe.
2) Just as important as sit, is a good reliable recall. Imagine your toddler careening towards Fifi as she is curled up on her bed in the corner. If Junior gets there, Fifi has no escape route. So, before a close encounter of the canine kind happens, call Fifi to you and have her sit. Then direct Junior towards one of his toys or at the least, in the opposite direction of Fifi’s domain.
3) Give Fido a safe haven where he can retreat to rest and be away from the baby. This can be a crate, an exercise pen, a baby gated area, or his own room (such as the guest bedroom, the laundry room, a corner of your home office). As your child gets older, make sure he understands that the dog’s bed/blanket/crate is the dog’s and not a play place for him. Everyone needs a place to decompress, be sure your dog has one.
4) Teach Fido that bad things can mean good things for him. For instance, handle your dog all over (think ears, paws, tail) while providing tasty treats. i.e: lift his ear with one hand while giving liver treats with the other. Teach him that people approaching him while eating means tasty things happen. As he eats, approach him and call his name, when he looks up, drop some cheese or other yummy item in his food bowl. (If your dog stiffens or is otherwise leary about having people approach him while eating, get a positive reinforcement trainer to help you.) This way, if your child grabs his tail, for instance, he will be far more tolerant than if you have never paired touching his tail with treats.
When the time does come for Junior to make his entrance, here are a few things that might make the transition easier for Fifi:
1) Before the baby comes home, bring home a blanket or something else with the baby’s scent on it. Allow Fido to smell it and get used to the scent. When you do bring the baby home, keep her at a safe distance but have Fido sit near you and give him treats for being calm and quiet around the baby. If needed, have one person give the treats while another holds the baby. The key is that the baby and the treats happen at the same time. If the baby leaves the room, the treats cease as well.
2) As counter intuitive as this may seem, ignore Fido when the baby is not around and pay attention to Fido in some positive way when the baby is around. Your goal should be to have your dog not just tolerate, but actually enjoy the presence of your child. This is best accomplished by pairing the presence of the child with the presence of things the dog enjoys. Perhaps Fido gets a stuffed Kong while the baby eats, or you can scratch his ears while the baby is sleeping in a bassinet nearby, or you can toss his kibble piece by piece around the room while you sit on the couch with Junior. In this way, your dog begins to understand that the mystery object is a good thing, as good things happen to him in its presence.
3) Get yourself a copy of “Living with Kids and Dogs…Without Losing Your Mind!” by Colleen Pelar https://www.dreamdogproductions.com/livingwithkidsanddogs/resources.html#. Colleen’s book is the best on the market for helping parents deal with the chaos of a life filled with kids and dogs. Colleen has lived the life as a mother of 3 boys and 2 dogs and she has practical, easy to follow advice for kids and dogs of all ages, from infancy to the teen years, puppyhood to old dog. If you buy only one book on kids and dogs, please make it this one! It is also available on Amazon, http://www.amazon.com/Living-Kids-Dogs-Without-Losing/dp/1933562129/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1389632572&sr=1-1&keywords=living+with+kids+and+dogs, and I generally have a few copies available for purchase as well.
Also, be sure to check out all the useful information on Colleen’s website: https://www.dreamdogproductions.com/livingwithkidsanddogs/index.html.
If you are nervous about adding either a dog to a family of kids, or a child to a family of dogs, do not hesitate to call or email me with your concerns or questions. I am happy to help you make the easiest transition to this new state of being and I want you to enjoy your life of canine/kid chaos to the fullest.
Claire got her lab puppy because she wanted a happy dog who could be her steady companion on the long walks she loved to take. She envisioned strolling through the farmer’s market on a Saturday morning, greeting friends, buying fresh bread, stopping for coffee on the way home, all the while, her steady Eddie at her side. What she never dreamed of was a dog-reactive maniac lunging at other canines as she desperately tried to restrain him.
Claire sought out a positive reinforcement trainer and learned how to help Eddie with his “issues” by using desensitization and counter-conditioning to the stimuli of another dog. Eddie improved, a lot, and they were able to go on walks again, but Claire remained very careful of the distance she allowed between Eddie and another dog. She noticed that the trainer was able to get Eddie closer to other dogs than she was and chalked it up to experience. She hoped she would get there someday. What she didn’t notice was how the trainer’s reaction to an approaching dog differed from her own. Claire’s reaction to the sight of another dog was to suck in her breath, tense up, and tighten her hold on the leash. It was not a reaction she consciously thought to do, it was simply her response to stress, just as Eddie had his response to stress. The problem was, her response triggered or exacerbated Eddie’s reaction to the presence of another dog.
So what’s an owner to do when his or her unconscious reaction causes the dog to over-react to something? First, be aware of your reaction to an approaching dog. If you tense up on the leash or suck in your breath quickly, then consciously put slack back into the lead, and take a breath. Now, say your dog’s name in a happy voice (smile when you say it, it will help you to sound happy and be more relaxed). When he looks at you, give him a treat. Repeat as needed to keep you both calm. By teaching the dog that tensing up on the leash, a quick sucking in of air, or your general stiffening are actually signals for him to cue into you and relax, you will be able to have more successful close encounters!
One last note, if the idea of even trying this makes you terribly uncomfortable, then get a professional positive reinforcement trainer to help you through the process of desensitizing your dog to your reactions. A great place to look for a trainer in your area is the Trainer Search page on the Association of Professional Dog Trainers website. You can search by zip code and distance.
I get a lot of questions from friends and clients and here is one that I got recently regarding something that I said about needing to be more interesting than the distractions your dog encounters:
A: Allow me to clarify! What I meant was, IF you need to get your dog to refocus onto you, THEN you must be more exciting than pee on a pole. I let my dogs do all sorts of sniffing, but I get to be the one to control the amount of time we spend on each activity (if said dog is on lead). If said dog is off-lead, I am more flexible about time spent on olfactory activities, but ultimately I am the one who decides how long and where we go. Hence, a reliable recall (or Come!) is important to instill in your dog so that when it is time for the off-lead dog to move along, he does!
But, moreover, I was thinking about indoor noise control. While it is difficult for the three canines in my life to believe this, I honestly do not need to have EVERY truck, leaf, bird, biker, insect, or cloud announced to me. Therefore, I need to make checking in with me worth their while. Thus, I want the thought process to go something like this: