Monday, September 26, 2011

The Jumping Dog or How to Lose Friends

Canine Companion conducts dog training classes in Fort Wayne, Huntington and surrounding communities and behavior consulting nationwide. Along with their combined 30 years experience and endorsement by national organizations, the trainers are all graduates of Purdue University’s DOGS! Program and have earned the title of Certified Pet Dog Trainer through the Association of Pet Dog Trainers.


The Jumping Dog or How to Lose Friends

One of the cutest things is when a small puppy reaches up by jumping towards us. Friends almost always say in a baby like high pitched voice “Oh isn’t he cute” and “Oh it’s OK, I don’t mind”.

Fast forward five months or more. The same friends who once thought your canine cute now has a look of terror or disgust upon seeing him bound towards them! The dog is excited to see people who once welcomed him and equally excited to meet new friends, before you know it his front paws are all over them. Where did the cuteness go? When your friends eye glasses are bent and hanging half off their heads, their clothes now sport muddy paw prints and worse, a big snag has been added to their outfit the cuteness is no more! Still worse is the five-year-old who ends up being knocked down and bumps his head. Gone are the days of the cute puppy who jumped to meet and greet everyone.

It could have all been avoided by asking family, friends and all who stopped by to simply not interact with the puppy until he was calm and keeping all four feet on the floor. The good news is, even the old dog who has been jumping since puppyhood can be shown a better way of greeting people. Thank goodness it can be reversed!

First we need to understand jumping from a dog’s point of view. Puppies while with their pack, jump into their mother’s face for many canine acceptable reasons, from food to submission it’s part of canine culture. We remove puppies from this canine culture placing them into our human culture. We talk to our puppy using baby like high pitched voices when we want to interact. This, in the canine world, tells the puppy you’re excited and want to play. The only reasonable action for the puppy is to become excited and jump into your face, just like he would have done to his canine mother. The puppy is only trying to let you know he too, is excited to be with you. Any behavior we encourage or reinforce will become stronger, from puppy jumping to barking and more. We unintentionally reinforce our puppies to perform unwanted behaviors as adult dogs and then wonder what went wrong.

So how do you stop unwanted jumping? The first thing to do is stop encouraging the puppy or dog to jump by getting him excited. Upon coming home walk in the house without saying a word to the puppy or dog. Doing this communicates your coming home is no big deal and therefore he has no reason to get excited and start jumping. Go about your routine for 10 to 20-minutes and when your dog no longer seeks your attention, you may initiate interaction. Interact with your dog using a low pitched voice and calm words, which will keep the dog calm.

The longer your dog has jumped the longer it will, most cases, take him to stop jumping. It’s no different than you trying to stop a bad habit. The longer you practiced the bad habit the longer it will take you to stop thinking about doing it again.  The second step is to cross your arms and turn your shoulder towards the dog whenever he jumps followed by once again facing the dog as soon as he puts four feet on the floor. Doing this tells the dog you will ignore him unless he has four feet on the floor. It will take time for him to problem solve what you want from him, so be quiet, patient and consistent. You must also be your dog’s advocate by insisting your family, friends and visitors do the same.

Enlist the help of family and neighbors to speed up the training. Ask them to stop by with the purpose of ignoring your dog until he’s got four on the floor. All will be thankful as well as learning how to work with their own jumping dog.

Tip of the week: When ending unwanted behaviors, increase exercise, which not only lessens his energy level, but also expands your dog’s world. The more he gets out, meeting people, places and things, the less excited he will be when the world enters his home. Also use food stuffed toys to redirect your dog’s attention when visitors stop by. 

Bark questions to: Canine Companion, 11652 North - 825 West, Huntington, IN 46750 or email info@caninecompanion.us

Copyright 2010 by Susan Sharpe

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

My Dog is Stubborn

Canine Companion conducts dog training classes in Fort Wayne, Huntington, Columbia City and surrounding communities and behavior consulting nationwide. Along with their combined 30 years experience and endorsement by national organizations, the trainers are all graduates of Purdue University’s DOGS! Program and have earned the title of Certified Pet Dog Trainer through the Association of Pet Dog Trainers.

“He is so stubborn” – trainers hear this statement on a daily basis. The truth is, dog’s do not have the same emotions that humans do, and stubbornness is a human response, not a dog reaction. They can, and often are, under-motivated. Why should he do what you have asked? Dogs are self-centered – what is in for the dog? No dog will follow cues “just to please you” – as many breeds may be described. They do it only because there is something rewarding in it for them. Sadly sometimes their reward is to escape punishment from their owner.

First and foremost, find what your dog likes and use them for motivation. Some dogs love squeaky toys, tennis balls, tug toys or any number of toys. Not all dogs like the same types of games and toys, so you must find what your dog likes and then use these items as motivators for learning. Such as coming when called.

All dogs like food, they must eat to stay alive, but not all food is created equal and not all dogs have the same food motivation. Some dogs enjoy their kibble; other dogs require a higher level of payoff (hotdogs, cheese, liver, tuna, etc.) to work well around distractions. Behavioral studies have proven dogs need a minimum of five different flavors to prevent habituation to the treat. This is no different than you eating your favorite food every day. It wouldn’t take long for it to lose its value. When your dog is outside and you call him, and he fails to come, he not being stubborn, he is just under-motivated. Think of your dog’s options when he is outside and hears your call. He can stay outside and keep barking at the neighbor’s dog, which is so much fun. Or he can come to you where you put him indoors with nothing to do. He is not being stubborn; he is weighing his options, which is more rewarding for him.

You can also use praise and petting as a reward, but know on a scale of 1 to 10 (10 being the most rewarding) praise is rated a three. Most dogs don’t like to be hugged and kissed. If in doubt look in the mirror while hugging your dog to make sure he is enjoying it. Some dogs hate belly rubs – it makes them feel intimidated while others do enjoy it. Be sure the attention you use as a reward is actually something your dog enjoys, and not what you assume he enjoys. Most dogs hate to be patted on the top of the head, but that’s usually the first place people pet them. Find what your dog likes when it comes to petting, not what most humans would assume dogs like.

When using reward-based training it is important to pair the right reward for the right conditions. For example when coming to you from across the room, a good scratch on the neck may be all you need, but when coming to you from across a field, the reward will need to have a bigger payoff in order for the dog to be motivated enough to come when called. The reward must have a high enough payoff to give up all those distractions and come to you. You must be the best thing going to win your dog’s attention.

Reward based training instills in dogs there is always hope for great rewards when performing a cued behavior. When you produce a great reward as a surprise the dog comes to learn, sometimes he gets a fantastic reward and other times he gets a nice scratch on the neck.

Keep your dog guessing so he continues to try harder and harder for the big win. In the case of coming when called, it means your dog will come, when cued, in hopes of that big incentive!

Tip of the week: To learn more about reward based training, and finding out the types of rewards your dog may like best, find a positive reinforcement trainer in your area.

Bark questions to: Canine Companion, 11652 North - 825 West, Huntington, IN 46750 or email info@caninecompanion.us  “Copyright 2010 by Susan Sharpe”

Friday, September 2, 2011

How To STOP Your Dog From Pulling On Leash

Canine Companion conducts dog training classes in Fort Wayne, Huntington and surrounding communities and behavior consulting nationwide. Along with their combined 30 years experience and endorsement by national organizations, the trainers are all graduates of Purdue University’s DOGS! Program and have earned the title of Certified Pet Dog Trainer through the Association of Pet Dog Trainers.


How To STOP Your Dog From Pulling On Leash

Dogs pull for many reasons. They want to get to something at a faster pace then you do. They see, smell something interesting that you do not. They are excited to greet another dog, person, chase a squirrel, and fight another dog. The possibilities are almost unlimited; however, there is a gentle training method that can work on all the above reasons and more.

Regardless of why your dog is pulling, what it wants when pulling is forward motion. You are the smarter one of the two, (measuring on a human IQ scale and not a dog’s IQ measuring scale) you really are, do not believe otherwise. Whenever the leash is tight, instantly stop and this prevents reinforcement, which strengthens the very thing you do not want your dog to do… pull. Stand still, do not talk, wait on your dog to problem solve what it takes, to once again, receive forward motion. Stand still until the dog shifts his weight backwards some dogs will move a foot backwards, but often the dog will turn his head back towards you creating slack in the leash. Whatever the reason, once the leash is not tight instantly give forward motion by walking forward. The definition of a tight lead is simple, it’s either extended straight out or its not. Hold your end of the leash at your waist to prevent your arm from being pulled away from your body giving the dog unintended forward motion. The length of the leash needs to be the same while teaching your dog to walk causally.

The above is simple, but good timing and patience is required. When the dog backs off there is no pressure on the leash, if you fail to instantly give forward motion you are sending mixed signals to the dog.

Finally you need to know dogs generalize slowly. Once they learn to walk nicely around you home, take them down the street, slowly and gradually adding new environments to teaching the loose lead walk. Regardless of the environments, stick with the program so your dog does not receive mixed signals. He cannot be expected to learn what you want if you are not consistent.

Success always depends on the student’s teacher and like it or not, you are the teacher of your dog. Failure to have patience and good timing is your success or your failure, not that of your dog. If you remain with this method and are honest with your consistency, timing and patience, you will find your dog walking much nicer within a couple weeks and often within a day or two depending on how long your dog has pulled and the dog’s internal make up or prey drive.

This method prevents placing the responsibility on the dog; dogs only do what they are born to do. Nothing more, nothing less, you need to accept the responsibility of teaching your dog, not punishing them for something you lack patience to properly train!

Tip of the week: There is new equipment now available to help lesson opposition reflex (opposition reflex engages when the dog pulls and you pull back). Call us for more information concerning this newer equipment at 260.436.5556 or use a flat buckle collar. Always being mindful if the dog pulls, you instantly stop, stand still and be quiet, when the dog backs off, you instantly move forward!

Bark questions to: Canine Companion, 11652 North - 825 West, Huntington, IN 46750 or email info@caninecompanion.us

 “Copyright 2010 by Susan Sharpe”