Monday, August 30, 2010
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I got an email from an old friend of mine about their young Great Dane pup who was showing some nasty habits around the food bowl. Turns out this dog would growl and snarl around the food bowl, and Tracy (friend) has three small kids! This story plays out every day throughout America, and whether you have kids or your dog is a Great Dane or even a Pekinese, it is a very serious issue! No one wants to deal with a social deviant with four legs!
What if I told you that in many cases we cause this behavior ourselves! The ironic part is that we create the problem each and every time we get or fill Rover’s bowl with food! This topic will require several blogs, but hold on and let’s get started by talking about how we feed our dogs and what can be done about that food bowl or resource guarding grumpiness!
First off, let’s take a look at how a dog in the wild would eat, and compare it to how we, as humans, usually feed our dogs. In the wild, a dog left to its own devices would spend roughly 18 hours each day looking for and eating its food. They are scavengers, hunters and opportunists. Since food is the most important resource they have, they would spend the majority of their time getting it. Now let’s look at how we as humans do it! It’s 7:30am and you are running late; the kids need to be at school by 8:10; you have a conference call at 8:30; and…oh crap! Fido hasn’t been fed yet! You throw some food into a bowl and slap it on the ground, and Fido goes to it! 60 seconds later, Fido is done eating so you rush out the door and Fido is left to figure out what to do for the next 23 hours and 59 minutes!!!! If you are a “really good” dog owner you might repeat this process 2 to 3 times a day, using up to 2 or 3 total minutes of Fido’s day relating to eating, but really, what does he do with his free time till his next meal?
• Eating the couch or some other fun piece of the house?
• Barking incessantly at squirrels (garnering complaints from the neighbors)?
• Peeing and pooping all over the house?
• Looking for, destroying and/or eating, underwear, socks, shoes or any other item that smells like their owner?
Do any of these sound familiar???
This list could go on forever, but suffice it to say that the way we feed our dogs leaves them with a lot of “free” time (see blog posts Why do dogs bark & what can be done about it? Parts 1 & 2). And as my mom always said “Idle hands are the devils play things”!!!
For the time being let’s get back to food bowl aggression, and how solving that behavior will circle back to fixing these other problem behaviors! In fact, by the end of this series of blogs, you will hopefully realize that by feeding differently you can positively affect all problem behaviors…with just a couple of changes in your dealings with Fido.
Okay, why would my loving dog all of a sudden become a social deviant around their food bowl? Well the simple answer is…we are taking a basic survival ritual (hunting, finding and finally eating their food) and making it last roughly a minute! Not to mention we are using a food bowl (inanimate object) to hold the resource they covet the most. And finally, we are not making them work for this resource! In essence, the frustration of only getting 60 seconds of time to eat, in a predetermined place and out of an inanimate object and not having to put in any effort to get the food, leads Fido to believe the bowl and whatever is in it is his property! Now, is it any wonder why Fido growls, snaps or gets grumpy around the food bowl? It is important to recognize that if Fido is behaving this way, you will really want to think twice about using some of the dominance theory you may have seen on TV last week! Hopefully you can see that yelling, slapping, touching or correcting a dog in this situation is probably not going to be effective, might even escalate the behavior and have you leaving this world with a few less fingers than you entered it with!
First off, if you are reading this and are saying “I don’t have that problem,” that’s great! But understand that it’s important to make sure you never do! The techniques I am going to share with you in the upcoming posts are for dogs on both ends of the spectrum…those with problems and those without; with the goal of making sure they never have the problem and maybe fixing a few other “unrelated” problems along the way! So, I really recommend starting these ideas with a puppy before the bad habits form, but since this topic is what to do when the problem is already present, let’s go ahead and get started and see what we can do about it!
The next two blogs will focus on the steps you can take to eliminate dog food/bowl aggression!
Monday, August 23, 2010
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INTRODUCTION TO A NEW CHAPTER IN KANSAS CITY DOG TRAINING!!!!!
HEARTLAND POSITIVE DOG TRAINING ALLIANCE
A new group has been born right here in Kansas City where educating others about humane, effective, science based dog training is the goal. The brain child of Patty Homer, Skip Daiger & Kay Lampe, this group was created for like minded trainers, pet professionals and dog owners to meet, learn, discuss and collaborate on all things dog. A place where we can be part of the positive training revolution taking place in dog training today, and make a difference for not only the dogs of Kansas City but their owners as well.
One of the main tenants of positive training is what I like to call ignoring (or redirecting) the bad and rewarding the good. With that being said we are not here to put down any other trainer or ideas, but rather we are here to focus on improving the lives of our furry four legged friends. With quarterly educational opportunities and 2 membership levels (professional and supporting) we hope to change the dog training world by showing the results of our techniques and methods in hope of giving people alternatives to the traditional correction based approaches. As with any group we want to be diverse, but at the same time true to our core values. As a member of HEART all we ask is;
• Use the least aversive methods possible to mold, shape, teach and modify canine behavior
• Not using collars that offer a shock option or choke chains
• Using pinch or prong collars only as a last resort
• Never using corporal punishment, physical or verbal abuse
• Train through positive motivation, kindness, love and patience, not fear, pain or intimidation. Much the same way we raise our kids!
Anyone with different views is always welcome to attend HEART’S educational events, but membership is limited to professionals and dog owners who believe in the above statements. We understand there are many views on dog training; HEART’s focus is to promote positive training through education.
We will be promoting this group through trainers, veterinarians, dog boarding facilities and anyone else who wants to be a part of this organization. As we grow we hope to be able to draw local and national professionals to help educate the group, and others, on all things dog. We will also do our part in the community. We are in the process of introducing a free “ask a trainer” resource for the Humane Society of Greater Kansas City, and sponsoring events such as Canine Good Citizens evaluations at local pet fund raisers!
In the end Heart is here to help spread the word about positive, scientific based training methods for both dogs and people. We believe with time and effort, our results are best for both, and through healthy dialog and education we can impact more change as a group that we can individually. With that being said please join us to bring a little more heart to dog training in the heartland.
Charter Member HEART
To join, request HEART’s newsletter or for more information about HEART please contact email@example.com
Monday, August 16, 2010
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Now let’s look at the fourth way to deal with the jumping up problem, the one that most folks don’t remember or enforce, the only one that will address the issue of a dog that jumps up...IGNORE THE BAD BEHAVIOR! I don’t care how hard it might seem, you will not talk to, look at, or address the dog in any way while the bad behavior is happening! You will start by walking in the door and not looking at the dog. If they jump up on you, you will not touch the dog. Rather you will turn your back on the dog or preferably you will walk right by. Some dogs are over the top and will jump up on your back. In this case, you may have to leave the room and shut the door. Go in the kitchen; make yourself a glass of iced tea (or maybe an adult beverage – age consenting of course!). If the behavior continues, go into the bedroom and change clothes, and shut the door if necessary. The goal here is that until you get the behavior that you want, which should be a dog that is not jumping on you, you will not respond. By ignoring the behavior, you are withholding the reward which is your attention and this is where owners fail. Read on and I will explain how to start training your dog using the 15 minute ignore, rather than Fido training you!
The entire objective of the 15 minute ignore is to take back leadership in your own house! Hopefully I have convinced you that in many cases your dog has learned how to push your buttons and get exactly what he/she wants from their favorite human. Don’t feel bad, my wife points out to me on a regular basis that if I can see this in my dogs, why do I let my kids rope me into this scenario daily. So, you let dogs push your buttons and I let my 7 and 10 year old boys push mine! (That should make you feel better) The end result is the same, we allow ourselves to forget to ignore the bad and reward the good. I simply ask for 15 minutes max and we should be able to fix both the dogs and the kids!
Let’s think about our kids when they are young. We go through the store and do everything we can to avoid the candy aisle, but that one time we take a wrong turn and there we are. Our kids start asking for candy and we tell them no. Then our kids start yelling and screaming that they want the candy, throwing a fit right there in the store (haven’t we all been there at one time or another???) We are mortified as people start to stare. Here is the turning point…we can give in to stop the embarrassment and give them the candy, we can pick them up or take their hands and leave the store (without finishing the shopping) or we can ignore the behavior, continue down the aisle and complete the shopping, without reacting at all to the temper tantrum. Sound familiar? Read on…
We are back to not touching, talking or addressing the dog, in essence, you need to ignore them. Be ready though, Fido is not used to this insolence from his human and trust me, he will try every trick in the book to get you to flinch (much like your children.) Do not blink. Most dogs don’t even make it 15 minutes, at the 8-9 minute mark they get pissy and say “TO HECK WITH YOU” and sulk off in the corner and lay down with that huffing noise that only a disgruntled dog can make. Be careful and don’t get cocky because you are only half way there. You must now wait a couple of minutes and allow the dog to remain in a relaxed state. This is the moment you have been waiting for. NOW REWARD THE DOG FOR THE GOOD JOB OF BEING CALM!!!!! Go to the dog and lavish him with love. If you can pull this off for let’s say 4-5 weeks, you will have a dog that will not jump up on you when you walk in the door, because that behavior gets them nothing positive! Fido now realizes if he wants Mom or Dad’s attention, being calm will get him what he wants.
Now if your dog is already comfortable with the sit command and is regularly using sit to get what they want (remember post Sit - Say Please???) you may have something to incorporate into the 15 minute ignore, sitting down. If, after you have ignored the jumping up behavior, FIDO comes to you and sits on his own, you need to take advantage and reward that behavior. This means he has figured out that rather than behaving inappropriately, if he sits at your side, that is a suitable behavior rather than jumping up, so he gets your attention. Take advantage of this and lavish him with love. As time progresses, FIDO will begin to use sit, or he’ll go lay down, sooner upon your entry into the house and there will be fewer instances of the jumping up to greet you.
After all that, you can finally answer the question of who is training who… the right way! Remember…Keep It Simple Stupid! Ignore the Bad; Reward the Good, or if you’re really smart…Redirect the Bad; Reward the Good!
Sunday, August 08, 2010
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Let me paint you a picture! You walk through your door at the same time every day and WHAM! Fido puts both paws right in the middle of your chest and you end up on your butt on the floor! Before you know it, you have been given a bath in doggie kisses!! Now imagine this scenario playing itself out every day, not only to you, but to every person that walks through your door. Whether the dog is big or small, this reunion/welcome that plays itself out daily is both embarrassing and dangerous. Does this situation ring true in your house? How does it make you feel? Well, what I am about to tell you is not going to make you feel any better. You are getting the exact behavior from your dog that you have been asking for! Yes… you are the reason your dog acts this way every day. Now don’t shoot the messenger, just read on and let me explain.
There are four ways I have seen people deal with a jumping dog, and three of them positively reinforce the bad behavior of jumping. The fourth, unfortunately, is the one people don’t think of, and is the only way to eliminate this common problem behavior. Let’s look at the wrong answers first.
1. The pogo stick: This one seems to be very popular with the big dogs where they either look like a bucking bronco or jump up and put their front paws square in the middle of your chest. This behavior in big dogs is especially scary for visitors that are small, frail or already scared of dogs. Little dogs are notorious for the simultaneous bark (that sounds like they are going to eat you) and the jump up on the legs, scratching bare legs, ruining pantyhose in the process, which many times triggers a push or swat. So, small Fido comes running up and jumps up on us and we immediately push or swat the dog away, or large Fido plants his paws on our chest and we push or knee them away (the pogo stick.) Now let the games begin! Fido is thinking “awesome, man do I have my human trained well, see how fast I can get them to play this cool game!” They jump… you swat or push; they jump…you swat or knee…over and over and where it stops…Sorry, but I still get a kick out of watching the owners get madder and madder at the behavior while the dog is going “do it again, do it again!” Remember, I am laughing with you, not at you
2. GET DOWN…STOP…OFF (translation to dog BARK, BARK, BARK): So, you’ve walked in the house and the dog jumps up on you and you start by saying “Get Down”, “Off” or “No”! The more Fido ignores these commands, the louder you say them! No offense folks, but this one fits all of us at some point or another…well mostly! Guys seem to be more programmed to yell and scream. I rarely see this one with the girls, but sometimes they lose it too. Please try to remember, DOGS DON’T SPEAK ENGLISH! So no matter how much you yell, scream or plead, all your dog hears is BARK, BARK, BARK. Fido is more that willing to join in, barking in excitement at the game, and before you know it, you the human, are having a wonderful conversation in dog! Once again, Fido is so proud of how quickly he has been able to train his human into this wonderful conversational game! Additionally, if the commands aren’t working, you might start to swat or push (pogo stick) and you are now encouraging two bad behaviors (jumping and barking!)
3. OH honey I missed you come give mommy some love: Okay girls, now it’s your turn. This one is usually all yours. It’s been a long day at work, the boss has been a jerk and there is Fido waiting at the door just for you. When you walk in, FIDO jumps up on you, and before you know it, you are on your knees giving your best friend a great big hug with kisses and all. Guys, don’t laugh, I have seen you do it too! You just wait until you think no one is looking. And with the little dogs, you are way more apt to pick FIDO up when he jumps up on you and also encourage visitors to pick him up when he is jumping up on them since “he just wants to love on you!” (Bentley… inside joke!) or at least that is what you think!!! Same as the other two though above, Fido can’t wait to tell his friends how quickly he figured out what buttons to push to get just the right behavior out of his human.
If you are thinking “oh crap” at this point, that’s good. The first step in fixing the issue is knowing what the problem is, so you are on track. You recognize the bad behavior. Now, what behavior are you looking for? You have to make a conscious decision on what you want your dog to do instead of jump on you – right? So, now it’s time to figure out how to address Fido’s behavior so that you are responding appropriately when he jumps up on you or your visitor!
Check out the next post… Ignore the Bad, Reward the Good – 15 Minute Ignore!
Sunday, August 01, 2010
My dog barks...What can I do? Park it Part 2…Wireless Door bell (thank you mister Pavlov) using Park it along with the door bell.
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Now that you have park it down and it is working during dinner and when new people enter the house, you are ready for the graduate school level of park it! Let me ask you a question, would you be interested in having your doorbell be the cue for Fido to park it? Think about it, when you say park it, the dog goes and lays down on his or her blanket or pillow, right? What if we add another cue, in this case a bell that would mean the same as the words park it! Sound too good to be true? Well it isn’t, read on and make Pavlov proud! Classical conditioning or Pavlovan psychology simply works off the idea of associations. We are going to do nothing but pair another association to the verbal cue “park it”. If this sounds a little fuzzy, go back and review my posts on terminology and it will clear right back up!
Needless to say, all we need is the new cue (doorbell) and the cue that already works (park it) and of course the behavior (lay on your bed). I know this is going to sound crazy, but I want you to go directly to Home Depot and buy a wireless (remote) door bell and head back to the house, ‘cause we are going to have some real fun! We are going to do what in dog training we call combining cues. We will teach Fido that the noise of your new wireless door bell means the same thing as the words park it. Why a wireless doorbell? Because you can cheat! Yeah I said it…CHEAT! Remember that when you combine cues, you must lead with the unknown cue (go review the post Training Terminology 2 - Cues) which is the nonverbal cue (the door bell ) and follow it immediately with the spoken cue park it. Over a period of time (probably 4-6 weeks of 15 minutes a day practice) you will have a dog that instead of charging the door barking when he hears the doorbell, he will go to his or her bed and wait for the next command!
This all seems pretty simple, but why you ask, the wireless door bell? Because I said you could CHEAT, it makes practice easier, and you can do it yourself. How? Keep it Simple Stupid! You can put the ringer in your pocket and have the door bell with you while you practice! And you don’t need your spouse, neighbor or kids to help with this one since you’ve got the remote ringer! Trust me, it works. All you are doing is basic behavior theory! As I said, Pavlov would be so proud.
If you really wrap your head around this idea, you can easily see how many problem behaviors can be fixed! We are always ready to let a trainer know what our dog is doing wrong (what we don’t like!) but spend very little time on what it is that we would rather do (what we would love to happen!) This is exactly the $64,000 question in dog training. What it is we want? Don’t waste time trying to get inside your dogs head, or asking the philosophical question “What is motivating my dog to behave this way?” Focus on just two things! What is the behavior I don’t like (what I want to go away) and what is the behavior I want to see (what I want to reinforce.) Do this and you will be on your way to becoming an incredible dog trainer, not to mention a wonderful dog owner! I’d like to mention at this point, this idea does not end with dogs; it works on kids, spouses and even the mean and nasty boss! You cannot change an existing behavior without knowing what different behavior it is that you would like to see! The next blog will take this idea into another common problem dog behavior...The dog that jumps all over you!!!!
- Mike Deathe
Being able to train “any dog” is really not the question to ask. As far as I am concerned, training people is a much more effective way of solving problem behaviors in dogs. What I do is nothing new or magical. I use basic behavior theory, and positive reinforcement techniques to change behavior or teach proper ones to begin with. There are many ways to train a dog and if done right, none are any better than the other. I want all of my students to understand that positive reinforcement is, in my opinion, the best and fastest way to teach a dog. Please take the time to go to my website www.muttzrus.com and look at my blog (keep it simple stupid pet blog) and decide for yourself. You should not make training decisions based off of a brochure; talk to at least three trainers; check out blogs and get references; then make your choice. I hope that in the end you will choose me as your trainer
Mike Deathe is a stay-at-home dad who found his passion as a dog trainer in 2008. He enjoys identifying unique and useful “muttz” related products. He is the author of Keep It Simple Stupid (K.I.S.S.) Pet Blog. Mike has had dogs since he was four years old and there are currently four dogs and two cats living in his home! As an avid pet lover, he regularly sees the number of dogs and cats that never find a home. In 2009, he and his wife Kate founded Muttz “R” Us, a t-shirt and pet product company with a philanthropic motto of “Adopt a Pet, Save a Life.” In 2010 Muttz “R” Us also launched KEEP IT SIMPLE STUPID DOG TRAINING! Visit us at facebook or twitter or follow the blog @http://muttzmembers.blogspot.
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