Tuesday, September 28, 2010
Petting Party Part 1: ARE YOU READY FOR SOME FOOTBALL??? HOW TO CONVINCE FIDO TO LOVE HOUSE GUESTS…THE RIGHT WAY!!
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How would the guys in the audience like it if I told you how to get your wife or girlfriend to actually appreciate and even encourage you to watch every football game this season? Ladies, how would you like your husband or boyfriend to finally get off his duff and teach that damn dog to quit going nuts every time the doorbell sounds and, for that matter, to stop growling and/or jumping on your house guests? What would you say to the opportunity to actually do something together as a team, while enjoying good food, great company and being able to include the dog as well! This is no pipe dream, it’s a football (or pick your favorite sport) petting party. And the best part is, that all it’s going to cost you is some adult beverages, pop or other drinks and the time to invite people who enjoy football (and dogs…but more on that later!) By the end of the regular season you will have a much busier and enjoyable social life as well as a dog that can’t wait for the door bell to ring, and who no longer exhibits those habits you find so annoying!
If you have read my post My Dog Barks…What Can I Do? Park It Part 2…Wireless Door bell and practiced this technique, you might have been only partially satisfied with the results! Yes, the doorbell does not cue your dog to bark anymore, but maybe now you have Fido waiting for the door to open just so he can announce to the world “one more step and I will bite your leg off,” only to find your mother-in-law on the other side…(Stop laughing that is not funny) You may have even noticed that your dog will grumble for what seems an eternity or that you have to put him away for the safety of all concerned. Or maybe you have a dog that well, “loves too much,” and just assaults everyone who comes through the door by jumping up on them with love and affection! Either way, with some good, old, basic classical conditioning, combined with some football, beverages and a pot luck supper; we can fix the problem before the play offs even begin! How does that sound?
If the annoying behaviors listed above sound like those that you see at your house with your dog, trust me…I hate to bring this up again, you are once again reaping what you have sown! You did not do enough during the critical socialization period with your dog and that is why he goes DEFCON 4 whenever a stranger rings the door bell (or, for that matter, comes through the door.) So as always, I recommend you begin this technique when the dog is a puppy (8-18 weeks) for prevention, to keep the problem from ever occurring! But do not despair, this technique will also work with older dogs as long as you use a little caution and ensure appropriate friend selection prior to the exercise! Keep in mind that the reason your dog is freaking out is that people make him nervous, anxious, scared, territorial, excited, overly happy…pick any damn adjective you want; and we never taught him to associate house guests with rules or something positive! That is all about to change!
You and your spouse must now pick 10 close friends (no…they will not all show up week 1!!!) that can help you with this problem. Let’s set some guidelines for starters…your aunt who is still single at 48 and lives with 32 cats will not be a good selection. Neither is your best friend, her husband and their 8 kids under the age of 10…at least not during week 1’s game! We might introduce kids at week 4 or 5, but slowly…not 8 at once! I need you to pick friends who own dogs and also have lots of patience! Inform your friends of what is about to happen, and make sure they are the kind of friends that can follow directions! We don’t need that yahoo standing at the front door saying “Oh relax, I’m a dog person,” and trying to use his years of “TV Dog Training,” only to be rushed to the emergency room! You might even call your dog trainer or Veterinarian and ask them if they would be willing to help you. They will probably be glad to lend a hand, and they might even bring other dog people with them! Let’s face it he/she and their friends will be perfect! Ok, so you and I are hopefully on the same page and you have made your list, called your friends and are ready for SOME FOOTBALL! Now what?
Glad you asked, now for some party planning!!! The next blog post covers the logistics of your Football Petting Party.
Sunday, September 19, 2010
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The Third Technique…Make your dog work for their food!
So now we’ve made it to the last (at least on this topic) technique! We are feeding our dog(s) everyday using toys. We are even using part of our dog’s daily food ration to feed them by hand! We are paying close attention to make sure that all associations during meal time are positive, as well as making sure our dogs realize that feeding time is a PARTY and an opportunity for everyone to have fun! So, what else does this crazy dog trainer want us to do? Simple…this final part of the dog bowl aggression series is to make sure that our dogs actually work or show behaviors we want during the eating process! At this point, we switch from Pavlov to Skinner and are now dealing in the world of operant conditioning, where we reward those behaviors we want to see continue and increase. In other words, I choose the behaviors I want to reinforce…ignore the bad & reward the good. This isn’t just during meal time; it includes treat time as well. For me, I find it easiest to use the command sit and use it most often (see the blog Sit…Say Please), but there is no limit to where we can take this principle! When we walk up to our dog with their frozen Kong, we need to ask for a sit or a down! We can even ask for a shake or roll over. The key is before we share the food with our dog they must work for it! If I have a child bring a piece of cheese to my dog during dinner, I always have them ask for a down or maybe a shake depending on the child’s size! But keep in mind, with some dogs, just allowing a child to approach them and being happy to receive the surprise, could be considered work as well. Dogs that are never asked to work for a resource tend to view the resource as theirs and possibly as something to guard…so make ‘em work!
This technique has an infinite number of possibilities…going through doors, being allowed on beds or couches, problem barking and being appropriate meal times. Let’s take getting on the couch as an example...Some people don’t want their dogs on the couch and that’s OK, YOU set the house rules. But, I do let mine on the couch (when my wife is not around since she is a no dogs on the furniture person!), so let me explain to you how I make them work for that privilege!
1. The couch is mine and I decide whether to share it with my dogs!
2. My dogs must say please to get permission to get on the couch! and finally
3. They must be invited up on the couch.
Ok, so how does this play out in my living room? Let’s say I’m watching a Jayhawks basketball game, crashing on the couch and Lexie decides she wants to join me! The following must happen…she has to say please (come up to me and sit) and I then have to decide whether I want her on the couch. If I do, I invite her up and we watch the Jayhawks dismantle another team (Rock Chalk Jayhawk!) If not, I simply instruct her to lie down and reward her for accepting my choice! Keep in mind, if you are going to tell the dog “NO” and you are expecting the dog to live by that rule, they need to have something of equal (or greater) value to enjoy in lieu of the couch…i.e. a dog bed. If you do not provide such an alternative…what do you think will happen when you leave them alone in the house…couch anyone!?!?! If you have crate trained your dog from the beginning, this will probably not be an issue when you are away. Remember, a problem prevented is a habit that never begins.
What if she just hops up on the couch without being asked? Well, she is immediately told “off” with a disapproving tone and sent to her space (bed or crate) and ignored for a couple of minutes to let her know the decision was inappropriate! An important distinction here is that an increase in volume is not necessary, but your tone or inflection of voice is critical. Over time she has learned the rules and has no real problems with them. Don’t be misled; dogs, like kids, will occasionally test their parents. To be honest, how you deal with their mistakes will have a huge impact on their future decisions!
Hopefully you now have some ideas to help create the dog you have always wanted!!! But a word of caution, while these techniques can work for a dog that is aggressive around the food bowl, I don’t recommend trying them alone. Aggression is a tricky and sticky situation and should be dealt with; but with the help of an experienced positive reinforcement trainer! This is not only for your safety, but for the safety of the dog as well. That being said, the earlier we start teaching good behaviors, the less likely you will ever have to deal with these problems. But know that if you do have these problems, help is only a phone call away! My suggestion is to go through the Association of Pet Dog Trainers (APDT) to find a trainer in your area and remember to Keep it Simple Stupid, and don’t forget to have fun!
Sunday, September 12, 2010
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The Second Technique…Feed your dog from your hand (or by hand!)
So usually we look at feeding time as a hassle and waste this precious resource, then complain to our dog trainer (or anyone who will listen) that we just don’t have time to work with our dog…sound familiar!?!?! Well I am here to tell you (and hopefully teach you) that we have plenty of opportunities to work with our dogs! Based on the earlier post, we have hopefully given up on the “food bowl” and started using toys to feed our dogs! This should help positively impact high energy levels, problem solving, associations to negative stimuli, and understanding what is and is not appropriate for chewing. But now for technique number two…FEEDING YOUR DOG BY HAND!
Each morning I put each dog’s food (yes all four) in plastic storage bowls. 2 cups for Penny, 3 cups for Bear and Lexie, and 4 cups for Leo! I then load up the Kongs and put them in the freezer and the magic begins! I then take a handful of the remaining food from the bowls and begin to hand feed my dogs. Donovan and Dylan usually help with this! We go from dog to dog, and spend about 10-15 minutes hand feeding (while the Kongs are chilling in the freezer!) By doing this, I am killing three birds with one stone…I am building positive associations between my dogs and my kids, promoting that “warm fuzzy feeling” of the dogs being around the kids while they get their most important and fun resource and I’m also reinforcing the old adage “don’t bite the hand that feeds you.” I have even been known to have people new to the house walk up to my dogs while they are eating and give them surprises! I have the strangers toss special treats to the dogs while they are enjoying their Kong. For example, I try to have kids give the best surprises (hotdogs, leftovers or canned chicken.) Adult friends of mine will give liver treats or whatever other treat I have laying around. I do this so that no matter who comes up to the dogs during feeding time, the dogs will always look up as the stranger approaches wondering what kind of surprise is coming, and not wondering “Oh my gosh are they taking my food?” Guess what, my dogs now actually love having people around them while they eat! Why, because people always bring gifts!
This technique can be used outside the house as well! After I have filled the Kongs for the day, I can then bag up the leftover food, in a Ziploc or treat bag, grab the leash and take this show on the road! Let’s face it, if you have read my blog you know I believe in walking your dogs daily! It not only works off excess energy, but also helps with training your dog in more distracting environments than your living room! Let’s face it…most of our dogs are great in the house but out in the great wide world, well that’s often a different story! So grab that food and head out the door (after they sit and say please for the leash and of course provide you a nice wait at the door!) The beauty of this technique is you can focus on almost anything! I can simply walk the dog and every 50 feet ask for a sit, maybe a down or even a watch me! And you all think you don’t have time to train…is it possible that you are not only wasting feeding time but the walk as well? You could find a nice park bench and just sit down and wait for dogs, kids, cars, skateboards or anything else that might trigger your dog, and use your leftover food to associate good times with that “evil Tony Hawk” wanna be that drives your dog crazy! Switch it up and just make sure that you are hand feeding your dog 10-15 minutes a day while working on whatever you learned that week from the crazy dog guy in class or on whatever drives Fido nuts! The simple truth to hand feeding is not only associating food (a positive) with everything possible, but to bond with your dog. I want you to stop reading for a moment and tell me what kind of relationship you would have with your dog if you had started this process the day the pup came home! Don’t lament too much, rather get out there and make up for lost time! I hope you are thinking I can’t wait to get the party started!!! But wait; there is still one more technique to add…Nothing in the world is free!!! This topic will be covered in the next blog post!
Monday, September 06, 2010
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Dog Bowl Aggression, and the Wonderful Resource We Waste Everyday…Part 2!!!
The last post gave you the skinny on the problem behaviors that food bowl aggression can lead to and why they happen. The next three posts will provide some options for ways to incorporate meal time into your dog’s training!
There are three basic techniques that you need to be familiar with as you work with Fido to eliminate the dog bowl aggression…
1) Use toys to feed your dogs
2) Feed your dogs from your hand
3) Have your dogs work for their food
So let’s take a look at each of these ways to use feeding time as a training tool!
The First Technique…Use toys to feed your dogs
As queried in an earlier blog post, why are we wasting feeding time and only giving the dog 60-90 seconds of unsupervised activity time from a bowl? (Thank you Dr. Dunbar!) Instead, we could use feeding times to teach, train and mold our furry four legged friends to use proper doggie manners! To get started, I suggest you feed your dogs at least twice a day (three if your schedule allows) and do not use a bowl. I want you to split up the feedings so the dog has their favorite point of the day (meal time) multiple times vs. only once. Toys will give your dogs more mental stimulation, thus helping to wear out the mind, which is much better than just letting them wolf down their food in 60-90 seconds which would leave them bored. (Remember idle hands…?) More importantly, toys make the dogs work for their food instead of just waiting for their human to fill the magic bowl!
It is important to remember classical conditioning at this point when you are feeding your dog (Pavlov anyone!) This is a great opportunity to build positive associations with food! Previously, we had just the 60-90 seconds to pair an association with dinner time, but as we use food dispensing toys, we might have upwards of 10-15 minutes to make those same connections! You can even freeze the toys with food in them and gain additional time while you eat! What do I mean by associations and classical conditioning? Well, if my dog is aggressive around, let’s say kids, while eating; I want kids to be present around the dog while the dog is eating! I always take steps to ensure safety, but with kids, you have to be extra careful! A simple and easy safety measure is to tether the dog when feeding them (remember to use a toy) and simply having the child in the room with the dog (but NOT sitting right next to him!) Tethering is also effective when you have multiple dog households, dogs that don’t really like each other or even with cats. Through use of toys as the means to deliver the food, you are positively reinforcing the association of chewing on toys as an appropriate behavior (rather than chewing on the couch, pillow, shoe, etc…!!!)
The goal is to create a subconscious mindset in your dog that all the good things in the world (food) happen when this stimulus that makes me nervous (child) is around. Please remember that this is not going to make your dog think “I love kids” just because they are around during meal times; but it is more like that warm fuzzy feeling those of us who love coffee get when we walk into a Starbucks. We associate the smell of coffee with a sense of well being!
Once again I want to stress that this does work with dogs with problems, but it is not a quick fix! I find that if I can teach people to use these techniques from puppyhood, these problems will rarely occur. So to those of you that have dogs that already have food bowl aggression, it’s time to get busy; and for those of you who have a puppy…let’s get started young so that you can build a positive association at feeding time from the very beginning!
Now we have toys at feeding time working for us…so what’s next? What about making food even more important (as well as your status and relationship with your dog?) Why not feed your dog by hand?
See the next blog post Dog Bowl Aggression, and the Wonderful Resource We Waste Everyday…Part 3!!! which focuses on the Second Technique – feeding your dog(s) from your hand (or by hand.)
- 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.
com/or check out the website @www.muttzrus.com for more details.