Archive for the ‘Behavior and Training’ Category

Space Etiquette for Dogs

Saturday, June 29th, 2019

HOW TO MEET A DOG

Friday, June 28th, 2019

Asking the Owner is Great, But How About Asking the Dog?

Friday, June 21st, 2019

from:  https://www.pamdennison.com/asking-the-owner-is-great-but-how-about-asking-the-dog/

Asking the Owner is Great, But How About Asking the Dog?

Asking the Owner is Great, But How About Asking the Dog?
Pamela Dennison (c) 2017

Although people actually asking permission to pet your dog from a safe distance is verrry slowwwly on the rise (people are still racing up to strange dogs, still getting bit, still causing trauma to the dog, still thinking dogs are public property…sigh…), there is one part, equally important, that continues to be missed.

Asking the DOG!

True stories:
You ask to pet someone else’s dog. They say “yes, you may.” You walk right up to the dog, reach down and over the dog’s head with arm outstretched…and whammo! Instant dog bite.

I had this happen at my business about a month ago: A stranger walked in to inquire about dog training. She saw the cute Pug across the room and without an invitation, made a beeline for the dog. Dog was scared and started growling. I instantly stepped in between and the stranger started to walk around me to get to the dog. I had to hold the stranger by the shoulders to stop her. I asked her what she was doing. Her response, “I want to pet the dog.” I told her to look at the dog, “does it look like that dog wants to be pet?” (in the meantime the dog is still growling). Her reply, “But I want to pet the dog.” I told her “It’s not about what YOU want, it’s about if the dog wants you to approach and pet.” She wasn’t all that happy about me physically blocking her from getting to the dog, but finally backed off.

Even with the most innocent “ask and receive permission from the owner,” did you ever think to ASK the dog? Obviously we can’t “ask” the dog like we just did their owner, but if you’re observant and get out of your own internal wish to pet that dog come hell or high water, you can actually ask the dog.

When I’m petting a strange dog (after getting permission, although I have to say, I rarely ask to pet someone else’s dog, preferring to admire from a distance – yes even with my own clients dogs), I do NOT just walk up to it and thrust my hand in it’s face. I squat down sideways, look away, yawn, lick my lips, keep my hands to myself, and wait….I watch out of the corner of my eye to see if and how the dog approaches. If the dog comes up nicely (no head down, tail not tucked, not too timidly, no overt calming signals, etc.), I still wait…if the dog sniffs me, great. I still wait…(a dog sniffing you is NOT an invitation to pet it). If the dog inserts it’s face under my arm or hand with a typical “pet me” motion, then I do a few soft strokes on the chest and then take my hand away and wait…if the dog walks away, I let him move away – he’s allowed to have his own opinion about how and how much he’s willing to be touched. If the dog stays with me, I’ll pet a little more, then take my hand away again and wait… I give the dog an “out” so that if they want more petting, they can have it and if they don’t, I don’t pressure them to accept it.

There have been some dogs that when I approach sideways, tell me from many feet away that I’m too close. I don’t pressure the dog – I simply walk away. After all, we all have our own comfort zone, where we will allow, or not allow certain people to come into or stay out of it. It’s only fair to respect dogs for the same thing.

Take a look at the photo above. This dog isn’t all that thrilled about being pet on the head – you can see his head ducking and he’s licking his lips. If you aren’t aware of dog body language and you approach a dog inappropriately, be aware that you may be inviting a bite.

Educate yourself! THE best resource is Turid Rugaas and her book and DVD on Calming Signals. (www.dogwise.com) Get them both and be sure to watch the DVD a minimum of 12 times. I’ve watched it over 2,000 times. No lie.

This is a link to a fabulous article, that may help you put it all into more perspective – from the dog’s point of view. http://www.drandyroark.com/dog-not-petting-zoo/

Signs of Fear and Anxiety in Dogs

Thursday, January 17th, 2019

For help with this in your dog, consult a credentialed dog behaviorist who uses positive reinforcement NOT intimidation or correction trainer.

A Service Dog is more than a vest

Thursday, January 17th, 2019

Using a “U-Turn” to Leave Trouble Behind

Tuesday, February 6th, 2018

Excerpted from Feisty Fido by Patricia McConnell, Ph.D. and Karen London, Ph.D

A “U-Turn” is a great tool to have in your training repertoire. A U-Turn is exactly what it sounds like: You and your dog are walking forward, and on your cue, you both instantly turn 180 degrees and move in the opposite direction. Your dog turns because he knows your cue means: “Quick! We’re going to play the turn-around-really-fast-and-go-the-other-way game!” Your dog doesn’t turn because he hits the end of the leash. That would increase the tension and could elicit the very behavior you’re trying to avoid. He turns because he knows the game, hears the cue and almost without thinking, wheels away from trouble.

Like Watch, the action itself is simple, but it needs to be mastered to be truly useful. And like Watch, a U-Turn is another behavior that is incompatible with your dog barking, lunging or stiffening. A U-Turn differs from a Watch cue in that you use it when you know your dog will be too aroused to perform a Watch or has already barked or lunged at another dog. The goal of a U-Turn is to get you out of sticky situations, and if you and your dog master both the Watch and the U-Turn, you’ll be able to handle most of the situations that life can throw at you.

Canine Body Language Danger Signs

Wednesday, January 17th, 2018
Web Only Article May 19, 2017

By Pat Miller, CBCC-KA, CPDT-KA

The number of times a person has been bitten gives a big clue as to his capacity to read, understand, and respond properly to canine communications. Someone who has been bitten numerous times either doesn’t pay attention to what dogs say, or doesn’t respond appropriately.

Dogs almost always give clear signals – though the signs may be subtle – before they bite. A “bite without warning” is truly a rare occurrence. Most of the time the human just wasn’t listening, or didn’t have any education about what the dog was expressing. I have worked with dogs professionally for more than 40 years and, knock wood, experienced only a handful of bites, none of them serious.

I remember with crystal clarity an incident from when I was a humane officer for the Marin (California) Humane Society, responding to a complaint of a Rhodesian Ridgeback who was at large – and reportedly aggressive toward people. I pulled up in my animal control truck, got out, and started up the sidewalk toward the house. Suddenly I saw a brown blur out of the corner of my eye, and realized the Ridgeback was charging at me from behind the house. I froze in place.

She ran straight up to me and muzzle-punched me (hit me with her closed mouth). Although I had not received any in-depth training in understanding dog body language, I realized that this was a strong warning, and if I moved abruptly she would likely bite me. She stepped back a couple of feet, and I slowly backed up to my truck. Once there I was able to retrieve a control pole, gently noose her, load her into my truck and, unscathed, walk back to the house to talk to her owner. Phew!

The ability to read and react appropriately to dog body language can keep you safe with your own dog as well as others you may encounter. Here are four photos that present different levels of danger based on the dogs’ aggressive expressions.

dog hard stare

This mother dog is giving the photographer a direct stare – and her eyes look somewhat “hard.” Her stiff, forward-leaning posture and ears, and slightly pushed-forward lips, are warning you to stay back. She’s not aroused, just guarding her puppies. It would be wise to heed her warning.

dog aggressive posture

The next dog is also pushing her lips forward, in a slightly more threatening display. Her posture, tail, and ears are quite stiff, and her hair is standing up a little. She’s laser-focused on another dog, and not in a particularly friendly way. This dog hasn’t aggressed yet, but she’s starting to get aroused. We’d give her a wide berth.

dog aggression

Here are two dog body language lessons in one photo. The adult dog is making a fearsome face, drawing his lips back in an impressive snarl, and holding his ears and tail up and stiff. But notice that he’s not leaning at all forward, and his eyes are not super hard (though it’s difficult to see from this angle). He’s giving the puppy a stern warning to “Don’t come near me!” and the puppy reads this loud and clear. She’s responded with a classic puppy grovel: she’s lowered her body posture and leaned backward, and she’s holding her ears back and wagging her tail. She won’t look directly at the adult, but looks away with soft, squinty eyes. Note that she’s trying to appease the adult dog – she’s acknowledging his warning – but she isn’t terrified or afraid for her life.

untrained aggressive dog

This dog is dangerously conflicted. His lips are pushed forward hard, but his ears are pinned back; his eye contact is hard and direct but his tail is low. His posture looks like he’s leaning forward and back; he’s frightened and willing to come after you. This dog was being held following his (and another dog’s) attack on an elderly woman who was in her own yard. The dogs were untrained, unsocialized, and inadequately contained; both paid the ultimate price for their owner’s negligence and irresponsibility.

Fundamentals of Shaping Behavior

Saturday, December 9th, 2017

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Shape, Rattle and Roll – Fundamentals of Shaping Behaviors

Excerpted from Jane Killion’s book When Pigs Fly! Training Success with Impossible Dogs

In this chapter you are going to learn a fun and effective way to teach your dog new skills using a process called “shaping”. Shaping involves slicing the behavior you want your dog to do into tiny pieces, successively clicking and treating each “slice,” until you have built up the finished behavior you want to train.

Here is how shaping works. Imagine you are looking at a frame-by-frame motion picture of your dog picking up a tennis ball. What would the first frame be? Probably turning his eyes towards the ball. Then maybe a direct stare at the ball. Then lowering his head towards the ball. Then about six more frames where his head gets progressively lower and lower. Then touching his nose to the ball, then opening his mouth, then putting his mouth around the ball, then closing his mouth around the ball, then lifting his head for about six more frames. Each of these “frames” is called an approximation – a little step towards the finished behavior or picking up a ball. If you want to teach your dog to pick up a ball by shaping it, you progressively click and treat all of the “approximations” that I have described above in this way:

  1. The first step is the dog turning his eyes towards the ball. After you have clicked and treated that glance toward the ball couple of times, your dog will start offering it. By “offering it”, I mean he will deliberately glance towards the ball in an attempt to make the clicker go off.
  2. Once your dog is firmly and deliberately offering the glance towards the ball, you can hold out and not click it. Your dog will keep trying the glance, and then, when he sees that it is not paying off, he will offer “improvements” on that behavior, like a bit of a head turn in that direction. Voila! You have frame number two, the head turn, which you can start click and treating.
  3. Again, once your dog is firmly and deliberately offering the head turn, hold out for any tiny lowering of his head. Click and treat that a few times, and then, when you are sure he is offering a bit of a head bob, hold out for a bigger head bob. Again, when reinforcements are not forthcoming, your dog will offer different “improvements” on the head bob, which will eventually included lowering his head toward the ball more than he had before. You continue this way, reinforcing and then holding out for more through the rest of the “frames” of the “movie” of your dog picking up the ball.

For more advice on training impossible (and not-so-impossible) dogs, purchase Jane Killion’s When Pigs Fly! Training Success with Impossible Dogs from Whole Dog Journal.

Training Tip from the Whole Dog Journal

Saturday, November 11th, 2017

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Slow Down Your Tasmanian Devil

You contemplate taking your dog for a walk with mixed emotions. You love the idea of going for a companionable stroll through the neighborhood together, but when you pick up his leash he becomes the Tasmanian Devil.

Here are suggestions for turning this potential disaster into the enjoyable outing you dream of. Exercise first. Spend 15-20 minutes tossing a ball for your dog in the backyard, or providing intense mental exercise with a heavy duty shaping session. You’ll take the edge off his excitement, reduce his energy level, and make leashing-up and walking more relaxed and enjoyable for both of you.

Pick up his leash throughout the day. He gets amped up when you touch his leash because it always means the two of you are going for a walk. If you pick up his leash numerous times throughout the day, sometimes draping it over your neck and wearing it for a while, sometimes carrying it from room to room, sometimes picking it up and putting it back down, the leash will no longer be a reliable predictor of walks, and he won’t have any reason to get all excited about it.

Use negative punishment. Not a bonk on the head. It means setting up the situation so that doing the behavior you don’t want causes a good thing to go away. If, when you pick up the leash, he goes bonkers (the behavior you don’t want), say “Oops!” in a cheerful tone of voice (what’s known as a “no reward marker,” it simply tells him no reward is forthcoming), set the leash down, and walk away. When he settles down, pick the leash up again. You’re teaching him that getting excited makes the opportunity for a walk go away; staying calm makes walks happen.

For more information on how to reform a puller into a more pleasant walking companion, purchase Whole Dog Journal’s ebook Walking Your Dog.

The Myth of the Alpha Dog

Friday, October 20th, 2017

From the DogStar Foundation:  www.dogstarfoundation.com

 

Pack it in! the myth of the alpha dog

“He’s a alpha dog”, “She’s dominant”, “You have to be pack leader”

I’ve heard all these phrases this week – as I did last week and the week before! You only have to turn on the TV or look at the internet to find them, along with someone telling you that your dog is really just a wolf, needs a firm pack structure and that you have to be in charge otherwise your dog will think he is the pack leader and take over the household with disastrous consequences.

The problem is that all of this is nothing more than pop psychology based on false science. It continues because it is an easy concept for people with little knowledge to grasp and despite being totally disproven, there are enough grains of truth in there that people buy into it – and it is their dogs (and their relationship with their dogs) that suffer.

So let’s debunk this one!

First of all, dogs and wolves are totally different species. Think about humans and gorillas and you can kind of see what I mean! The best knowledge we have now is not that dogs descended from wolves but instead that dogs and wolves both descended from a common ancestor. Dogs threw  their lot in with man and evolved to live harmoniously with us and prosper from our success, while wolves developed as a wild species whose very existence depended on keeping as far from us as possible.

Even if (despite science!) you do still think that pack theory is a thing for dogs, its worth considering that wild wolves do not live in packs where a domineering pack leader constantly keeps everyone in line with displays of aggression and violence while everyone else battles for position (as was originally thought). Wild wolf packs are families. The alpha pair are indeed in charge but that is because they are the parents and all the rest are (quite rightly) guided by them.

Dogs do not live in a pack structure. Left to their own devices away from man and with adequate resources, they form loose social groups but not structured packs.

So for dogs, there is no such thing as an alpha dog – or a pack leader.

As for dominant dogs… The behaviours that most people think of as being ‘dominant’ are generally something totally different. Aggression is one of the behaviours that people categorise as a dog showing dominance. Aggression however is a high risk behaviour designed for one purpose and one purpose only – to make bad stuff go away. ‘Bad stuff’ for dogs are things that make them feel frightened, threatened, worried or stressed.

Dog to human aggression is fear of humans or what they will do
Dog to dog aggression is fear of strange dogs or what they will do
Resource guarding (guarding food or anything important to the dog) is fear of someone taking your stuff away
And sometimes aggression happens because a dog is sick or is in pain.

That means that the dogs that most people say are ‘dominant’ are actually the ones that are the most scared, frightened, worried, or anxious. And the methods used by people who don’t know any better to ‘stop a dog being dominant’ are generally things that make the dog feel even worse. Crazy isn’t it?

So let’s stop using pop psychology to try and understand our dogs, and instead spend time watching and really understanding them. Think about how they feel and how you can make them feel better.i

Don’t try to be a pack leader –  try to be a better guardian.

If you need help with your dog’s behaviour, look for a trainer who uses positive reward-based methods (where the dogs gets rewarded for doing things right, not punished when he does things wrong).

If they mention the phrases ‘pack leader’, ‘dominance’, ‘alpha’ – or suggest equipment that causes your dog pain such as choke chains, prong collars, electric shock collars etc – find another trainer. Your dog is your best friend – make sure you are his.

Carolyn Menteith KCAI (CDA), DipCAPT is a dog trainer, behaviourist and writer about all things canine.

As an internationally renowned dog expert and experienced broadcaster, she will be familiar to many in the UK from her appearances on TV in shows such as Top Dog, What’s Up Dog? and Celebrity Dog School. She is also a regular on radio programmes when a dog expert is needed

Carolyn gives seminars and teaches nationally and internationally on training and behaviour. dogtalk.co.uk