1. September Behavior of the Month – Sit and Down

    September 6, 2016 by admin

    For September, we thought we’d get back to some basics – teaching sit and down. Does your dog already know sit?  Probably. For most of you when you ask your dog to sit, your dog will likely put their bottom on the ground, often directly in front of you. Excellent!  What about when there’s a distraction, for instance if your dog sees another person, dog, or cat on your walk?  Will your dog still sit? Asking your dog to sit can bail them out of some tricky situations. If your dog is sitting, then they’re not jumping, begging, chasing, or doing some other rowdy, unruly, or potentially dangerous behavior.

    When we’re working on sit this month, we’ll be training the dogs to understand that the word “sit” means to put your bottom on the ground no matter what’s going on around them. It may sound easy, but this can be a pretty challenging request for many young playful dogs that are having such a good time with their buddies. Many times we can interrupt play by saying a dog’s name to get their attention (Name Game!), say the word “sit” and they’ll give us the behavior. In some cases, we’ll say “sit” and the dog won’t give us the behavior.  What to do then?  We will try to make our cue easier for the dog to understand by giving them a hand signal to sit (with no treats in our hands).  If that doesn’t work, we’ll use a piece of food in our hand to lure a sit.

    For the basic skill “down”, we’ll be teaching the dogs to lay down on cue. For some of the play group dogs this is a new skill, and for them we’ll teach a down just as we would in our Basic Manners or Puppy Kindergarten classes. We start with the dog in a sit or stand and a treat in our hand, lure the dog into a down position, and then give them the treat. We’ll also be capturing this behavior when the dogs lay down on their own, essentially just walking over to a dog who just laid down and say yes or good dog and give them a treat. This is incredibly simple, but also a really effective tool for training.

    After the dogs can comfortably move from a sit to a down or a stand to a down, we phase out the lure and start using a hand signal, and then teach the verbal cue “down”. If you have any questions about the specifics of this process, let us know and we can give you the details.

    At home you can work on this the same way, asking for sits and downs on walks, when visitors come to your house, or in other distracting environments. If your dog doesn’t respond to the verbal cue when you say it, try not to repeat it.  Instead try a hand signal and, if that doesn’t work, lure the sit or down. Have fun and “Go Sit”!


  2. August Behavior of the Month – Trainer’s Choice

    August 4, 2016 by admin

     

    This month, we’re focusing a little more on the Play Group series (check out our newsletter to learn more), but will be getting back to some new Behavior of the Month material next month. For August, we’ll let the trainers in each play group choose what they want to work on with each of the dogs. Here are some of the many behaviors and skill sets they have to choose from.

     

    Impulse Control

    • One of the easiest ways to teach impulse control, and the technique we focus on the most during the play group classes, is to show the dogs ways to behave, and then reward that behavior.
    • Some examples include how to greet people (a sit gets you attention and treats!), how to greet other dogs appropriately (sniffing bottoms is very polite!), and appropriate play skills.

     

    Name Game

    • The basic game works towards name recognition and attention skills.
    • In the advanced game, the trainers teach the dogs to turn and move several steps towards them when they say their name.

     

    Recall

    • Basic coming when called skills. This is a fun one to work on because we have so many distractions to work with!
    • Rolling Recall – this is a fun game where we call the dogs 3 times in a row and ask for a more complex set of behaviors each time.
    • 4-Corner Recall – the game incorporates a stay with the coming when called exercise.

     

    Stay

    • Duration Stay – this is the most basic skill, where dogs learn to stay for a second or two and the trainer does not move.
    • Bungee Stay – in a sit or down, the dog stays while the trainer takes several steps back and then returns to the dog.
    • Circle Stay – in a sit or down, the dog stays while the trainer walks around the dog.
    • Stay at the Gate – this is one of the most advanced stay skills. The dogs stay in a sit while the trainer or another dog moves through an open gate or door beside them.

     

    Targeting

    • Hand targeting – the dogs learn to touch a trainers hand with their nose.
    • Object targeting – the dogs learn to touch an object like a target stick, pole, or specific spot on the wall with their nose.
    • Targeting a space – the dogs learn to run to a specific area, in this case the landing at the top of the stairs in the play room, and sit.

     

    Sit, Down, Stand

    • The dogs learn these basic skills in response to a variety of prompts including hand signals and verbal cues.

    Tricks

    • The fun stuff! We teach spin, sit pretty, weave, peek, back up, and more! We also teach some basic agility skills such as jumping over a low jump or through a hoop.

    As you can see, there are a lot of fun behaviors to choose from and work on, so we’ll let the trainers make the choice this month!


  3. July Behavior of the Month: Coming and Going, Safe Greetings and Potty Training!

    July 10, 2016 by admin

    This month in the Doggy Business LLC play group classes we’re going to focus on two important aspects of starting each play group:

    1. Getting each dog safely and comfortably into the group.
    2. Housetraining – giving the dogs access to the right place to go potty (outside) and then reinforcing them when they do.

     

    Getting Dogs Safely and Comfortably into the Group

    The Doggy Business play group classes were designed to have a set beginning and a specific end with 30-minute drop off and pick up periods. The drop off period allows all the dogs to arrive within a relatively short period of time. This means that they have a similar energy level – ready to play! – and also allows the staff to focus on introductions during this 30-minute period to make sure the dogs are greeting each other politely.

    When dogs are entering the building, we can use food to get their attention and reinforce polite behavior, such as a sit at the door before they leave the lobby. This not only reinforces polite manners (making them more likely to happen in the future!), but also helps the dog’s impulse control. We can teach them that polite behavior gets them access to what they want more quickly than impulsive behavior.

    Once dogs leave the lobby, we lead them through the play room to the outdoor area. There, we can focus on the introductions, making sure they are as stress-free as possible. One strategy that we often use to help with this is to avoid face-to-face greetings. We often will feed one of the dogs while the second dog gets a chance to sniff.  So, if Fido and Bowzer are greeting, we’ll feed Fido kibble while Bowzer comes over to sniff. Then we’ll call Bowzer away, and feed him while Fido gets a chance to sniff. This strategy can give each dog a chance to sniff each other and learn important demographic information about each other, while keeping them both safe and comfortable.

    New dogs are scheduled to arrive near the end of the 30-minute drop off period. The rest of the group has typically arrived by that time and are outside.  This allows us to bring the new dog into the play room and slowly introduce the new dog to the group, one dog at a time, to ensure their first day is a safe and fun experience! And it also allows us to get to know these new dogs better. Our goal is to understand the dogs that come to our play classes so that we can help them succeed.

    Housetraining

    To housetrain a dog in your home or in a new environment there are 2 keys to success. First, prevent any mistakes from happening by managing their environment. Second, teach your dog where you would like them to eliminate by reinforcing them every time they get it right.

    We work on housetraining for all the play group dogs when they first arrive to the play group class – the time when they’re most likely to need to go potty! At the start of each play group class, we take each dog to the outdoor area as soon as they arrive (thereby preventing them from going inside the play room) and then reward them as soon as they go potty outside. The rewards we use come in many different forms. We primarily use praise and food treats like kibble and other small tasty bits (making sure that dogs with food allergies are only getting their owner- approved tasty bits!), along with access to petting and attention.

    Teaching the play group dogs the appropriate place to go helps keep the facility sanitary, and also translates out into the real world when the dogs get reinforced for going on appropriate surfaces in different locations.


  4. June Behavior of the Month – Trainer’s Choice!

    June 1, 2016 by admin

    This month, we thought we’d let the trainers in each play group choose what they want to work on with each of the dogs. Over the years we’ve worked on a variety of skills and behaviors in the Doggy Business LLC play groups, and here are some of the many behaviors and skill sets they have to choose from:

     

    Name Game

    • The basic game works towards name recognition and attention skills.
    • In the advanced game, the trainers teach the dogs to turn and move several steps towards them when they say their name.

     

    Recall

    • Basic coming when called skills. This is a fun one to work on because we have so many distractions to work with!
    • Rolling Recall – this is a fun game where we call the dogs 3 times in a row and ask for a more complex set of behaviors each time.
    • 4-Corner Recall – the game incorporates a stay with the coming when called exercise.

     

    Stay

    • Duration Stay – this is the most basic skill, where dogs learn to stay for a second or two and the trainer does not move.
    • Bungee Stay – in a sit or down, the dog stays while the trainer takes several steps back and then returns to the dog.
    • Circle Stay – in a sit or down, the dog stays while the trainer walks around the dog.
    • Stay at the Gate – this is one of the most advanced stay skills. The dogs stay in a sit while the trainer or another dog moves through an open gate or door beside them.

     

    Targeting

    • Hand targeting – the dogs learn to touch a trainers hand with their nose.
    • Object targeting – the dogs learn to touch an object like a target stick, pole, or specific spot on the wall with their nose.
    • Targeting a space – the dogs learn to run to a specific area, in this case the landing at the top of the stairs in the play room, and sit.

     

     Sit, Down, Stand

    • The dogs learn these basic skills in response to a variety of prompts including hand signals and verbal cues.

     

    Tricks

    • The fun stuff! We teach spin, sit pretty, weave, peek, back up, and more! We also teach some basic agility skills such as jumping over a low jump or through a hoop.

    As you can see, there are a lot of fun behaviors to choose from and work on, so we’ll let the trainers make the choice this month!


  5. May Behavior of the Month: Dog-People Greetings, Part 4 – Meeting People on Walks

    May 9, 2016 by admin

    Over the last few months, our Behavior of the Month articles have focused on Dog-People Greetings and the reasons many dogs like to jump on people when they meet them. During this series on greetings, we’ve been specifically discussing dogs who jump up because they like people, in contrast to those dogs who jump up on people because they might be uncomfortable with the person (more on that type of behavior in a future article).  For this final article in the Dog-People Greetings series, we want to talk about the specifics of how to tackle teaching dogs to greet people when out and about without jumping! Here’s a common scenario as an example.

    You’re walking down the street with your dog on a leash and are approaching another person walking toward you. The person sees your dog and their face brightens. Maybe they’ve had a golden retriever too, and they look like they’d like to stop and say Hi. Sure enough, as the stranger approaches they slow down, eyes locked on your beautiful dog, and say “He’s gorgeous! What’s his name?” By now, your gorgeous dog has jumped up on this person and is receiving continuous petting coupled with a string of “oh, that’s a good boy”s. All the while you’re trying to wrangle your dog so that they don’t get too excited.

    In this example, the person is enjoying the dog’s behavior. We’ve all probably seen this happen. But we’ve also seen the exact same behavior directed toward a person who does not like that kind of attention from dogs. And many of us would like to have more control over these kinds of situation, even if we don’t mind our dogs jumping up on people who like saying Hi to dogs when they jump up.

    How can we gain control of this behavior so that we can prevent it from happening?

    Like most training, we can start by teaching the dog what we want them to do instead. Usually I recommend finding a behavior that your dog can perform that can be reinforced well and that is also inconsistent with jumping up – something like sitting. When greeting a new person, if a dog learns to sit to say Hi, the dog can’t sit and jump up at the same time. So we can teach a dog to sit, and that sitting can lead to the same forms of reinforcement your dog was getting for jumping up.

    The trick to this strategy is to take some time to teach it. One of the biggest challenges with this approach is being realistic about any history your dog has had with using jumping to get attention. Many dogs have a strong history of that behavior working quite well to gain access to things they like. You could look at it as a habit that you’d like to change. And like habits that we form, they can be difficult to change quickly.

    Think about anytime you’ve tried to change your patterns of eating. Say you typically stop at a cafe to get a coffee and a muffin during your work break every day. Let’s say you wanted to stop getting a muffin every day. The habit that you’ve formed has been reinforced for several weeks. Even though you want to make a change, every day you continue to have that craving for the muffin because your body is used to getting it everyday. The craving was your cue to get it, and the craving is persisting.

    The same process occurs with our dogs when they have learned something that we’d like to change. They are using a strategy that has worked quite well for a while. Our job is to set up the training so that they begin to learn a new way to get what they want.

     

    Step One: To teach your dog to sit to greet people instead of jumping on them, start by teaching them to sit on cue when on leash. I recommend doing this in a location where your dog can focus on the training and is less likely to be distracted by other things.

    The goal is to walk around this space and cue your dog to sit when you stop walking. When your dog sits, give your dog a treat. Practice this for several sessions, each about 10 minutes long. Try shooting for about four sessions per day for three days. If your dog can already do this with ease, move on to Step Two.

     

    Step Two: Now it’s time to take this same behavior out on your regular walks. Practice the same thing, asking your dog to sit on cue when walking around on leash. Continue giving a treat for sitting. While on a 30 minute walk, aim for doing one of these sits every three to five minutes. Each one of these should get reinforced with a good treat.

     

    Step Three: Now we’ll take this behavior and practice around people. It can help to have a friend as a helper with this step, but you can use the people you see while out and about because, with this step, you are not letting anyone greet your dog yet (I know, but I warned you it takes a while to get to a point where you can reliably control the jumping).

    While out and about with your dog, you’ll begin to practice having your dog sit on cue after approaching someone. You will walk your dog towards either your helper or a person in your environment, but you will stop 15 feet away and cue the sit. When your dog sits, give them a treat. Then walk AWAY from the person. Repeat this step, maintaining the 15 foot buffer, up to ten times before switching to 10 feet away. You’re now walking up to the person and having your dog sit once they are 10 feet away.

    We want this to work VERY WELL, so don’t push this one. I recommend having the helper person refrain from talking to your dog, or even engaging with them in any way. I’m sure you can guess why, right? Removing distractions during training is extremely helpful!

    Is the Environment Training Your Dog?

    If you are working with people in your environment and they are proving to be uncooperative, meaning they are engaging your dog and it is distracting to the training, simply move on to another person. People can be friendly. And their friendliness can act as a prompt for your dog to come and get attention. And, when your dog goes to get attention, they might jump up on the person. That’s not the kind of help you need when you embark on this type of training! You dog ends up getting reinforced for the behaviors you are trying to change.

    If you are working in real life settings as opposed to with a helper, you can walk towards a stranger and stop when you are 15 feet away, ask for the sit, reward the sit, and then move away from that person and to the next one. Repeat this with about 10 to 15 people. If all goes well, do the same activity but you’ll approach up to 10 feet away. Repeat this with about 10 to 15 other people. Then move to about 8 feet away. Then to 5 feet away. After you reinforce the sit with food, remember to move away from the person.

     

    Step Four: Now you’re close enough for a greeting. For greetings you definitely want to have a helper person to greet your dog (no strangers yet). That way the helper can reinforce your dog when they sit to greet with a piece of tasty food. You’ll move your dog up to greeting distance (about 2 feet away) and ask for the sit. The helper/stranger will reinforce your dog for sitting. You will then move your dog away.

    Now that you are close enough to the person that they can interact with your dog, you can repeat this part of the exercise with the same person several times. Do this with as many people as you can up to about 5 to 10 people. After that, you can then ask the people to pet your dog after they sit. The petting takes the place of the food reinforcement. Keep the petting short. And allow petting only when the dog has all four feet on the ground. After a short 2 to 5 second greeting, call your dog away. Then repeat this. You can gradually increase the amount of time the person pets your dog, and you can call your dog away if you need to to prevent any jumping.

    Wow, that’s a lot of work! Many avid jumpers I know have had the opposite training, meaning the environment has trained them to jump up more, so this retraining takes some time. If you really want to help your dog with their jumping habit, this method works really well!

     


  6. April Behavior of the Month: Dog-People Greetings, Part 3 – Hitting the Streets

    April 5, 2016 by admin

    For the last two months, we’ve focused on ways to help dogs greet each other (Part 1) and ways to help them greet us as their owners (Part 2). This month we are taking a look at ways to help dogs greet other people when we are out and about with them in the real world. As with the other approaches discussed in this series, we recognize the complexities involved when dogs are learning how to negotiate highly arousing and distracting things in their environment. Behavior is complicated. One of the first things we like to do is to try and understand what is going on, from the animal’s point of view, before addressing how to change the behavior. That is what we will do for this third installment of the Dog-People Greetings Series. What is going on from the dog’s point of view when they greet people they meet on leash when out and about? Primarily we’re talking about how dogs jump on people when they are excited to meet them. We’ll tackle how to deal with these challenging behaviors in Part 4. Today we’re going to focus on why dogs do this.

     

    An owner is out on a walk with her dog.

    The dog is leashed and the owner is using a front clip harness because it makes pulling harder to accomplish for the dog.

    While walking down the side walk, the owner and the dog spot a person in the distance walking towards them. The owner chokes up on the leash in preparation, and the dog, smiling, starts to pull toward the person.

    The approaching person reaches the dog and owner. The dog, smiling gleefully, jumps up to greet the person.

    The dog receives lots of attention from them in the form of pets and affection.

     

    Now, this scenario could have ended with the person being upset about being jumped on too, and most of us have probably witnessed both outcomes at some point. No matter the outcome, many of us would still like to gain some control over this type of behavior from our dogs. The good news is we can teach dogs not to jump up on people with a bit of training. Before we get into that in Part 4, however, let’s continue to dig into why dogs do this in the first place.

     

    Take a look at the following scenario:

     

    My cousin loves football.

    My cousin’s favorite team is playing today.

    There are only four seconds left on the game clock and my cousin’s team is down by 3 points.

    My cousin’s favorite team is about to score.

    The ball leaves the quarterback’s hands and is spiraling through the air towards the receiver.

    My cousin gets very excited and jumps off the couch screaming in gleeful anticipation.

    The receiver catches the ball in the in zone.

     

    Now, dear trainer, my cousin’s mother would like to keep her son’s butt on the couch and screaming to a minimum whenever he’s watching TV. To make the comparison to dogs complete, let’s say you cannot use language to ask anything of my cousin. Outside of using duct tape, what do you do?

     

    The parallels between this scenario and how some dogs greet other people on walks is remarkable. Here’s what they have in common.

     

    The Conditions That Are Set

    In both of these scenarios, the organism in question is aroused (AROUSAL). There is some event occurring in the organism’s immediate environment that is eliciting physiological arousal in both organisms. This happens for a variety of reasons. I’ll discuss two common ones.

     

    Animals are often easily aroused by something favorable they have been deprived of for some period (DEPRIVATION).

    • So, the dog may have been deprived of attention, say, from people other than his owner. Upon seeing a person, the dog then becomes aroused and excited.
    • My cousin may have been deprived of seeing his favorite team win a game, and therefore becomes aroused and excited when that happens.

     

    Animals are also aroused when they detect something in their environment that they have previously learned causes good things for them to happen (PRIOR LEARNING).

    • When I get home and I smell chocolate chip cookies, for example, I get excited and my mouth starts to water.
    • If a dog has learned that people do things that the dog likes, like offering food and giving pets, dogs learn to anticipate that outcome when they see or are near people.
    • My cousin likes hanging out with other people, so when his football team wins, he gets to watch them again in the future, with all of his friends.

     

    So, we have an aroused animal because it has detected something favorable in its environment, and the animal has been deprived of that thing for some period of time – AND this animal has learned that the thing it has detected typically provides something to the animal that the animal likes. Hmmm. Why would it not jump all over it? Imagine this process playing out on a regular basis, each time the dog becomes even more excited to get over to the human so that they can jump up and get some attention. A dog in this situation could end up receiving an awful lot of reinforcement for jumping up, making retraining this response even harder.

     

    What else causes dogs to jump up on people? There are probably lots of reasons, some we may never understand. I’ve heard the theory that because dogs typically greet each other face to face they want to get up to our faces to greet us. Though I’ve heard this many times over the years, I’ve never seen any research demonstrating that it is in fact why dogs do this. You’ll also hear that the “proper” way for dogs to greet each other is to sniff each other’s butts. This seems to contradict the face to face theory. I think it’s enough of an explanation that dogs who like people can gain access to attention when they jump on us. It is awfully difficult to not give attention to a dog that jumps on you. Even if you say “Off” or “Leave It”, many dogs are not deterred by these cues – sometimes because they have not actually been taught what these cues mean in this context, and sometimes because the reinforcement they seek is actually realized (some form of attention is attained), despite the cues to get “Off” or “Leave It”.

     

    One of the reasons some dogs persist in jumping up on people to greet them is that the process to greet humans is essentially presented to them as a Simon Says game. Think about it, when we get a puppy, every time someone comes near the puppy, it’s like saying, “Simon Says, ‘jump up to greet!’” The puppy jumps up and gains access to attention and fun. We don’t mind when they are small goofy little puppies, so the puppy gets a lot of reinforcement greeting people who come near. As times goes by and the dog gets bigger, people coming up to greet the dog is like saying “jump up to greet” without the Simon Says part. They jump up, just as they were taught to do. The only thing that’s changed is that the people are not enjoying it anymore. Saying “Off” is like saying, “But we didn’t say Simon Says!” We pat our heads during the Simon Says game for the same reason. A string of positive outcomes for paying attention to what Simon Says sets you up to perform the same way when Simon is silent, but the prompt is still being offered. So, we respond by performing the same behavior when Simon did Say, just like our dogs do when people are close enough to greet. What this tells us is that the history of reinforcement is more important than cues like “Off” and “Leave It” to dogs that learned to jump up in this way. What has become the cue for jumping on people is the approach of people. Opportunity is, quite literally, within reach! In short, a past history of positive outcomes can easily nullify “Off” and “Leave It”, at least until more times is spent to help the dog learn what those cues mean and that they mean what they mean in the particular context of greeting people.

     

    And that’s what we’ll cover next time in Part 4, how to tackle teaching dogs to greet people when out and about without jumping!


  7. March Behavior of the Month: Dog-People Greetings, Part 2

    March 5, 2016 by admin

    This month we’d like to focus on a particular situation that is common with dogs and one that involves jumping up during a greeting. The situation we have in mind is one many dog owners face on a daily basis, returning home to your dog after a prolonged separation of some kind. This typically involves leaving a dog at home so that an owner can go to work, or even just to the store. Upon returning home the dog is excited and much more prone to jump up on the owner when they enter the house. Has this ever happened to you? First, recognize that you, as a special member of your dog’s social group, have been gone for a while. In other, more specific terms we’d say that your dog has been deprived of your presence for that period of time. You are not accessible. Think of that like you would a glass of water. If you were deprived of access to a glass of water for five hours, how would you feel if a glass of water were presented to you after that period of time? Do you think you’d drink it more quickly than you normally might when water is available around you all the time? This is how many dogs experience being left alone, as a deprivation. When you return, they are eager to gulp down some social interaction! Instead of sipping, they chug the glass down!

    So, how do we as dog owners handle this if we’d like to prevent jumping in this context? One of the most common suggestions is to ignore the dog. I learned this in my own journey to become a dog trainer myself. After trying it a few times, I found it to be an inadequate strategy. Let’s take a moment to examine this strategy so that we can better understand it and why it’s recommended so widely.

    Ignoring the Dog: This is suggested for good reason. The attempt is to prevent some form of social interaction from reinforcing the jumping behavior. It makes sense to try to prevent any consequence to a behavior that you might suspect is reinforcing the behavior (such as pushing a dog down when it jumps on you), because such reinforcement may actually make the behavior stronger and more likely to continue. Here’s why ignoring doesn’t work so well, though. Remember how thirsty you were without that water for five hours? If I brought a glass of water into a room you’ve been waiting in, water-less, and tried to ignore any of your attempts to gain access to the water, how do you think you’d respond? Would you, in your deprived state, stop trying to get at that cool and tasty thirst quencher? Would you revert to sitting calmly if I simply ignored all of your attempts to get at the water? I highly doubt it. You’d likely try harder to gain access to the refreshing liquid that has the power to make your thirst disappear. Try this with your kids or significant other upon returning home from the restaurant with dinner and get back to me with how successful it goes! Usually ignoring just causes frustration because the dog can’t gain access to what they want. The frustration can even cause dogs to jump more! (Or kids and significant others to complain more).

    So, what can be done? We recommend working to find a way to reinforce a behavior other than jumping. The goal here is to find a behavior that you can reinforce before jumping occurs so that we can begin to teach your dog a new way to gain access to the social attention they seek when you get home.

    Here’s an example. Let’s say you want to prevent jumping when you get home from work. Let’s assume that your dog is free to wander the house and usually greets you at the door when you return. Remember that your dog is super excited to see you at this time and typically seems unable to listen to anything you say, so talking and using cues is out of the question in this moment. Here’s what I would try. I’d open the door and toss a few tasty treats into the room, right past my dog’s nose so that she could follow them to the floor. Once she’s stepped away from the door to get the treats, I’d wait for her to finish the treats and then toss some more when she looks up at me. I’d move into the room in this manner, tossing a treat or two every time she looks up at me after finishing the last one, and I’d move her through the space by tossing these treats so that I could get into the house. If I do this well, I don’t experience any jumping at all. This new game is fun for her, and we are interacting socially, but there is no jumping! I would then experiment to see if she could sit for me before I toss the next treat. I ask for a sit and she sits! I then toss the treat so that she has to go get it. I’d ask for another sit and repeat this game several times. She sits, I toss away so she has to go collect the treat. I’d find a place to sit myself, I’m tired after a long day after all, and continue this sit and toss game. She’s sitting really well. I’d then begin to replace some of the food treats with petting her, because that’s really what she’s after, some good physical interaction. She’s been without it all day. I’d ask her to sit, then reward that with some calm petting on her chest. If she gets too worked up and begins to climb on me, I’d ask for a sit and then toss the treat again. I’d work with her with this game until she can interact calmly with the physical petting but I’d continue with the tossing so that she can burn off some of that pent up energy that has developed while I’ve been at work.

    By using a strategy like this one, you engage your dog in some sort of fun activity that enables her to expend some energy while learning a new way to be social with you when you get home. I’d repeat this every day for a week or two while gradually bringing back some verbal cueing to get her to respond to that in addition to the food toss. “Get it” could be a cue you use right before you toss the treat. This preps her to go get the food. It creates anticipation of the food coming and increases her motivation to get the treat. Oh, and it does not increase jumping like ignoring does! I’d use this strategy to shape my dog to stay on the floor while having a good time and interacting with me in this new predictable way. Everybody wins and there’s no need to punish the dog at all. She’s having fun and so am I. She gets to eat part of her dinner as I help her to cope with her pent up energy and strong desire to interact socially in this new way that does not involve any behavior that I don’t like. Bingo! We’ve done it!

    Next month, we’ll continue our series on Dog-People greetings, and focus on teaching your dog not to jump up on people you meet while out and about.


  8. February Behavior of the Month: Dog-People Greetings, Part 1

    February 9, 2016 by admin

    Last month we took a look at how we make Dog-Dog greeting as comfortable as possible in the Doggy Business LLC play groups. This month, we’re going to follow up with Dog-People greetings, and specifically address jumping. Why do dogs jump when they’re greeting people? The answer is – for many, many reasons. That’s part of why it can be difficult to stop jumping. What are some of the common reasons dogs jump? For many dogs, jumping up is their favorite way to greet people, whether it’s their owners or new friends. They get attention (this may be petting, pushing the dog down, or looking at them and saying “off”) and it also may just be inherently fun. For other dogs, jumping may be related to social pressure or anxiety. For them greetings are stressful and jumping may help to relieve anxiety or could be part of an appeasement display. Other dogs may be frightened of new people, and barking, jumping, and lunging at them may have been a very successful strategy that they’ve learned to make the person back away.

    The bottom line for all of the reasons that cause a dog to jump however, is that the jumping is reinforcing to the dog. The dogs are getting something out of it. The jumping may be a great attention-seeking strategy, it may help to release anxiety, it may cause scary people to move away, or it could just be inherently fun to the dog. The jumping was reinforced, and, as we’ve discussed previously, behavior that is reinforced will happen more frequently and/or with greater intensity. That means the jumping is more likely to happen the next time the dog is in a similar situation.

    So, what are some solutions? The strategy that we’ve found to be most effective is to try to change the picture of the relevant antecedent events that cause the jumping. In other words, determine when and under what circumstances your dog tends to jump up. Once you understand the situations that cause the jumping and what is reinforcing the behavior, then you can change the way you deliver access to that reinforcement to prevent the jumping from happening. For example, how might you present yourself to your dog in a way that elicits behavior other than jumping? For now, try to discover what consequences are maintaining your dog’s jumping behavior.

    Next month, in Part 2 of our discussion of Dog-People Greetings, we’ll address the specifics of how to begin to change the behavior of jumping during greetings.  We’ll focus on dogs who jump during greetings because they’re happy to see you (versus anxious without you). We’ll describe the techniques we recommend to change how a dog greets people, and also discuss why some commonly recommended techniques, such as ignoring your dog, may not work. Until then, happy training!


  9. January Behavior of the Month: Dog-Dog Greetings

    January 13, 2016 by admin

    To start 2016 off right we thought it would be fun to take a closer look at one aspect of what we do every day during our Doggy Business LLC play groups – help dogs greet each other appropriately and comfortably. One of our main goals when we’re introducing new dogs to each other is to make the greeting as stress-free as possible so both dogs come through the greeting feeling comfortable.

    Many dogs, even dogs who love every dog they meet, can experience stress when meeting a new dog, especially if they are greeting each other face-to-face. You’ve all seen it, two dogs approaching each other and meeting – their bodies may be loose as they approach, but when they get face-to-face they both stand very still with their hackles up, their weight forward and muscles tight. Suddenly, they are baring their teeth, snarling, and snapping at each other. Could this have been prevented? Possibly!

    The first step to preventing a greeting like this is to figure out why it happens. What’s going on? Well, part of a normal greeting for dogs is to smell each other’s anus, genitals, and mouth. They get a lot of demographic information right away from this sniffing, learning about the other dog’s gender and whether or not they’re intact, as well as information about their health, diet, and even their emotional state. Generally, it’s a very important part of every greeting and many dogs really want to get over there and start that sniffing when they meet a new dog. Dogs want to be able to sniff their new friends and get that information, but unfortunately a direct approach to getting access to the new friend’s smelly bits can make a lot of dogs uncomfortable.

    One strategy that we use daily at Doggy Business to let dogs get this information in a safe way while avoiding face-to-face greetings is to feed one of the dogs while the second dog gets a chance to sniff.  So, if Fido and Bowzer are greeting for the first time, we’ll feed Fido kibble while Bowzer comes over to sniff. We use the food to lure Fido around so that Bowzer can sniff Fido’s bottom and also to keep Fido’s attention focused on us and his head away from Bowzer. Then we’ll call Bowzer away, and feed him while Fido gets a chance to sniff. This strategy can give each dog a chance to sniff each other and learn all that demographic information, while keeping them both safe and comfortable.

    Happy New Year and Happy Training in 2016!

     


  10. December Behavior of the Month: Top 10 Training Tips!

    December 8, 2015 by admin

    As we reach the end of 2015 we thought it would be a great time to review some general training strategies that can lead to success, no matter what behavior you’re working on. Here are our Top 10 Training Tips!

     

     

     

     

     

    1. Make Training Fun!

    • Training should be fun for both you and your dog.

     

    1. Get Everyone Involved

    • Get the whole family involved in the training.

     

    1. Identify Behaviors You Want Your Dog to Know

    • Plan ahead – Sit, Down, Stays, Coming When Called?

     

    1. Capture Good Behavior

    • Reward behavior you like when you see your dog doing it.

     

    1. Use Very Good Rewards

    • Good food, toys, walks and access to fun all work great.

     

    1. Keep It Simple In the Beginning

    • Make it easy enough for your dog to get it right.

     

    1. Practice Often

    • Do 5 to 10 minute sessions four to five times a day.

     

    1. Build on Your Dog’s Success as You Go

    • Add new skills as your dog masters old ones.

     

    1. Make Learning a Regular Part of Your Dog’s Life

    • Dogs are smart and always need new things to learn.

     

    1. Take a Training Class to Learn More!

     

    Happy Training in 2016!

     


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