Wednesday, September 5, 2012

The value of the collar grab

I find the collar grab to be one of the most under trained behaviours.

It is so easy to train. Grab collar give treat, requires no thinking, no hard work and can be done on a walk or walking around the yard for dinner.

It is so valuable.  Most dogs sooner or later play keep away from their owners, for some it is an every day occurrence   This is such a dangerous behaviour and the more you do it the worse it gets.  I have had a lot of clients say the dog is being dominant or he is playing or he thinks its a game or he doesn't like putting his halti on or his nails clipped etc.  It doesn't matter you are still practicing the dog not coming when you need him to.

Remember it's all about value.  Where is the value for a dog who likes his collar grabbed => the value is with you grabbing the collar.  Where is the value for the dog that plays keep away => the value is with you not grabbing the collar.  If you spend the next week with your dogs dinner doing collar grabs I guarantee you that your dog will start not only allowing you to grab his collar but actually moving towards you to have his collar grabbed.  One or two repetitions will not affect this behaviour it has to be at least 30 times per day.

Give it a try and see what you get, I dare you :).

Note:  with coated dogs I also practice grabbing the scruff, I find the collar is too hard to find often enough that I want them comfortable with me just grabbing the scruff

Thursday, August 30, 2012

What to do about puppies with piranha tendencies

Puppy's bite.  They are not being bad, or dominant, or trying to raise their pack status, they are just being puppies.  This being said the sooner you can eliminate this behaviour the nicer that sweet little thing with those pointy teeth is to live with.

Our goal at all times it to build value for the behaviours we want, not just correct the behaviours we don't want.

Here are some suggestions to get you interacting with your puppy and not getting bitten.

Lead with a toy.  Instead of playing with your hands always have a toy for your dog to grab onto.  Tug is a great game and keeps the dogs teeth on the toy where they should be.

Reward the correct behaviour.  Start small, can you touch your dog with one finger without the mouth starting to search out a body part?  Great reward that.  Work up to a whole hand, then stroking, then handling.  Not only with this give you a dog that will allow petting without biting it is a great start for all handling including brushing and nail trims.

Give the dog a break.  Sometimes dogs just need to rest by themselves, leave them be.  

Lot's of time to work on this on those cold nights.

Have fun.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Humpy Bunny

All dogs at some point in there life hump something or someone or some dog.  It's normal and a sign of arousal, but lets face it as behaviours go it is embarrassing and therefore a behaviour you would like your dog to never do again.

Like any behaviour you have to figure out what you have and what you want.  Keeping in mind you can't teach a dog what not to do but what to do.

Sit usually is a  nice opposite behaviour to humping people.  Build value for sitting in front of people, for sitting when you approach people and for sitting when people approach you.

Humping while playing with other dogs is a little harder to work with but still completely fixable.  You need some skills first.

  1. Can you collar grab your dog. When you approach your dog does he move towards you or away.  Once you have the collar is he totally happy to sit there or does he snap and struggle.
  2. Can you collar grab your dog if he is playing in a field on his own.
  3. Can you collar grab your dog if he is playing in a field with one other dog.
  4. Can you collar grab your dog if he is playing in a field with multiple dogs.
How does your dog play with the other dog, does he constantly try to hump or do they just run around and wrestle.  If he constantly tries to hump you other need a different dog that he doesn't do this with or try you walking and not just standing still, dogs are a lot less likely to hump while moving.  Once you have achieved your dog playing with other dogs and not humping your dog is creating value for the appropriate way to play.  

Now whenever your dog goes to hump your job is to quickly go in and interrupt.  Take his collar walk him a few feet away, let him settle down a few seconds and then release to go play.  If he immediately goes back to humping take him out of the situation completely and reassess.

How much practice has your dog had for playing without humping.  You can try less dogs, different dogs, walking.  Some dogs get much too high playing with other dogs and need regular interruptions to get them back to an operant state.  Let the dog play for a few minutes and do a collar grab remove him from the play and ask for some skills e.g. sit, down, spin and then release to go play.

Any skill is all about practice.  The more he humps the more he will learn that is how you interact with other dogs, the more he plays and doesn't hump the more he learns that is how he plays with other dogs.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Making every day life rewards work for you

You reward your dog numerous times per day.  There are a million things that your dog finds rewarding that you control in your every day life.  Being cognizant of what those rewards are and how you use them will make a huge difference in how well behaved your dog is.  

Take for example opening the back door for your dog to go out.  Your dog jumps and barks at the back door because he sees a squirrel outside.  Without thinking about it you open the door because it makes the barking stop, which is rewarding to us.  Now lets look at what you are training.  Your dog is learning anytime he see a squirrel if he loses his mind, you will let him go chase the squirrel, from the dog's point of view there is very little that is a much higher reward than chasing a squirrel to most dogs.  The dog doesn't understand the difference of being on leash and squirrels aren't available but in the back yard they are, or you can chase the squirrel as long as you don't cross the road. 

Spend the next few days paying attention to all the behaviours your dog does that you really wish he would stop.  Start trying to figure out how they are being rewarded.  Keep in mind there are behaviours that are self reinforcing such as barking and are much harder to change because of that.

Remember for a behaviour to be repeated it must be being rewarded.  A behaviour without rewards will eventually fade.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

It's Training Time!

Believe it or not, all dogs want to learn. Whether it’s the most rambunctious pit bull, or the sweetest cocker spaniel, dogs want to have fun with their owners and be obedient. Shake-a-Paw Dog Training offers extensive training for not only the canine, but for the dog owner to continue working with the pup after dog training is complete.

Dog trainer, Paola Hoger is the owner and head instructor of Shake-a-Paw Dog Training, which serves the South Mountain, Kemptville and Winchester, ON areas. Paola will teach you how to train your dog in either group or one-on-one obedience classes so that you both can learn in the best environment for you.

Every dog has its own personality, but Shake-a-Paw treats all of our best friends with the respect and kindness they deserve during our dog training and obedience classes. We’ll always be patient with the dogs and their owners, because learning can take time and we are 100% understanding about that.

Trust dog trainer Paola Hoger and her team to properly train your dog so your dog can go home a polite and well-mannered canine. We promise, you’ll both be happier!

Friday, July 20, 2012

But It's Mine - Resource Guarding

When a dog resource guards he is telling you that whoever or whatever is approaching when he has whatever or whoever is threatening.  It is not because he is dominant or feels you are below him in the pack order.  The more you battle with your dog and prove you can take whatever the worse it gets.

With puppies I like to build a history of people approaching while my puppy is eating or chewing or sleeping and good things happening.  Simple exercises like puppy eating dinner and someone walks by and throws a piece of sausage in the bowl.  Pretty soon the dog is looking forward to someone approaching the bowl.  This leads to being able to call the dog away from the bowl or cue another behaviour.  I practice the same approach with toys and bones.

Old school methods did a lot of taking toys to prove you could.  In my experience this left me with a dog that if the opportunity presented itself, such as outside with a dead thing in his mouth, there was no way he was going to come within hands reach so I could take it.

I am also proactive and while playing these games with my dog I always protect the dog from feeling threatened so he does not practice guarding.  For example my dogs are all in crates when they get fresh bones so they can all chew in peace.  No one is obsessing about taking someone else s and no on is feeling threatened that someone else will take their bone.  Same with dinner they are at the very least separated and usually crated so no bad feeling are being practiced.

I have been in houses where the dogs are fed side by side sometimes even with bowls that are attached.  From what I have observed there is usually one dog who feels a little (or sometimes a lot) intimidated and to me that is just not a good existence.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Finding Something To Reward

I read a book the other day that spoke about how are brains are trained to find the bad and not the good.  It said you actually have to train your brain to observe the good.  I think this is an important part of dog training.

I will take as an example a new beginner class coming into the room.  Most people will correct their dogs multiple time per minute.  Leash pops, bum squishes, hey hey, etc.  For most of these dogs they have never experienced that many dogs in that small a room while they are on leash.  Even more confusing to the dog is the behaviours they are exhibiting have been rewarded in the past.

Instead wouldn't it be great if you rewarded your dog for any good behaviour.  I am sure at some point your dog was not pulling, or barking, or lunging.  That is an improvement and I guarentee you if you continue to reward the good, the good will happen more often.

Remember any behaviour that is rewarded will be repeated.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

The Quality of a Cue

Let's start with defining the meaning of cue.  A cue is a word or signal that the dog receives that elicits a response.  To properly create that response the cue needs to be paired with the action over and over until the dog has made the connection.  No puppy, no matter how smart the breed or parents where comes with any cues, your job is to train them.

To begin this association of cue and response you have to be able to create the response before you add the cue.  For example you want to teach your dog a verbal cue for sit.  Most puppies and/or dogs will sit when you show them a treat and then bring your hand up by bending your elbow.  Once you can predict that the moving of the hand will get the sit and not some other behaviour you are ready to begin to add the verbal cue.

Whenever teaching a new cue for a behaviour the order is new cue, pause, old cue.  In this case the verbal "sit", pause, then the hand signal you have created. You repeat this enough times and your dog starts to anticipate the hand signal and sits as soon as you give the verbal.  I also incorporate the verbal "sit" in any situation that I can predict my dog will sit, such as at meals and at the door.

The worst thing you can do to this brand new cue is to say it when you are not sure the dog will do it.  You first have to grow the strength of the cue until you are confident the dog understand it.  The best way to know this is to test it.  Do a number of repetitions of sit with you standing in front of him how you originally taught him.  This will bring the "sit" cue into the front of his brain.  Now go sit in a chair and give the "sit" cue.  Chances are your dog will sit since you just did a bunch of repetitions and you have just built a lot of value for sitting.  Now you have started to clarify when I say "sit" even if I am sitting in a chair you are expected to sit.

One important note to keep in mind.  I will allow my dog to fail no more than three times int his situation or any training.  You want to try not to change anything and allow him to fail.  Failing is good it explains to the dog what will not be rewarded and your dog is brilliant about working for rewards.  After three failures I have to reassess; is my dog to stimulated by the environment or was whatever I tried too hard and he wasn't as knowledgeable as I expected.

Friday, June 22, 2012

What Every Dog Should Know

I started a new Basic Manners class last night.  I always love the first night because I never know what is going to arrive.  There is always a large variety of breed, ages and owners.  All with different expectations of what they hope to get our of this class.  My job is to help them achieve ...

In my opinion the least your dog needs is to come when called, walk well on leash and allow you to catch them when you need to (of course you don't need this skill as much when they come when called :)).  The other skill your dog needs is self control, in other words not to lose their minds anytime they see _____.

Recalls (coming when called) are the easiest thing and the hardest thing to teach.  It's all about value for you as opposed to value for the environment.  Every now and then you meet a dog who just doesn't care about anything but their owner and they tend to have great recalls.  That is not the norm, the norm is everything is wonderful and your the crazy person who is always yelling.  Starting with something as simple as rewarding every time you call your dog for the next two weeks will alone make a humongous difference.

Walking on leash is in my opinion the hardest thing in the world to teach your dog.  It's like driving your car without a speedometer, nothing to slow you down.  Add that to the fact that most dogs get heavily rewarded every time they pull towards something and it is a monolithic task.  Again it's all about value just starting rewarding the dog for walking beside you and preventing the dog from walking anywhere else will go a long way into shifting the value for walking with you.  Remember it took a while to train your dog to pull this well don't expect huge changes overnight, but if you are patient you will start to see changes over time.

The last needed skill is your dog letting you catch him.  The first step never, ever scare or intimidate your dog when you have his collar, this is a sure fire way to prevent him from ever letting you catch him.  Start out on leash, grab your dogs collar and reward.  Do this a lot, usually I use their dinner so you can get a huge amount of repetitions in.  What I am looking for is when you reach for your dog he moves towards you not away.

So there you have it, these are the skills you need for a great dog.  Really it's not asking a whole lot of work on your part and it will provide you years of living with a dog who everyone want to have.

Monday, June 18, 2012

The Excitement of the First Time

Yesterday Iggy and I went to K9 Cup.  K9 Cup is an agility event hosted by ADSC, very much like an agility trial except designed for dogs getting ready to compete in agility.  This is probably my eight time but I haven't been in a number of years and I had forgotten what a good time it was.

It was wonderful seeing all these dogs with their owners trying out something that for a lot of them was the first time.  It is great to know that a lot of these people bought a dog did the usual obedience training and then thought it would be fun to try some agility.  A couple of years later here they are competing off leash.  The dogs are so happy that mom or dad took an hour a week to train and spend time with them.  It made their lives much happier and therefore much better behaved.

Sometimes I watch people with their dogs and I am sad when I realize how little time and training could make everyone's lives so much better.  Training your dog in agility may not seem that it will teach your dog how to be better behaved but that hour a week starts to create that relationship and bond that is the beginning of a wonderful friendship.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

The Privilege of Dog Ownership

Today you get to hear me rant.  There is nothing that gets me more upset than a dog owner who is so disrespectful of those around them that they give a bad name to dogs anywhere.  I feel every dog owner should be responsible for their dogs actions and never allow the dog to behave in such a way that it gives a bad name to dogs.

Yesterday my mother-in-law went for her daily bike ride and got a pretty serious bite on the leg.  There is no excuse for that to ever happen.  This was an adult dog, I have a very hard time believing that this dog has not displayed any aggressive or chase behaviour before.  It was therefore very irresponsible for the owner to allow it to be loose.  How could someone be so irresponsible to put someone else at risk of serious injury  I don't understand.

A few days ago a dog was left to die in a parked car while the owners went shopping.  Did the people not think that maybe the car would get too hot.  These people where on their way home from Woofstock a big dog event in Toronto, maybe thinking that they were caring dog owners is incorrect.  From what I understand people saw the dog, then security was called, then the police where called and then the fire department came.  How long did this take?  Did people actually watch the dog die?  Why didn't someone immediately break the window?

There is no surprise when events like this happen on a regular basis that there is a large part of the population that wants nothing to do with dogs.  They don't want them living on their street, or playing near their children, or at public events.  A few dog owners give dogs a bad name and ruin it for the rest of us.  I personally was in a building in a line up with two of my dogs sitting quietly next to me, the little girl in front of us turned and started talking to the dogs, the lady behind the desk started screaming at all of us and freaked the little girl out.  What horrible experience has this women had that left her that fearful of dogs.

As dog owners it is our responsibility to protect our dogs and people we expose our dogs to.  To train our dogs so when people meet them the get a better impression of dogs not worse.  

Monday, June 11, 2012

The Perfect Dog

There is nothing like a new puppy.  They have their own special smell that you just can’t get enough of.  They are perfect and innocent.  The dreams of the perfect puppy and the perfect dog that they will grow make you smile.  You have just spent a pile of money getting the perfect leash and collar, dog beds, toys, food, crate, etc.  Hopefully the training of the puppy is also a priority.

Iggy at 6 weeks
The easiest situation to train a dog is when there is no competing behaviour to deal with.  Your puppy comes home with no habits good or bad and it is your job to mold this puppy into the dog you are picturing in your head.  Yes there are the lucky few who don’t really do a lot of training and end up with the perfect dog but they are not the norm.

If you spend the time during the first six months to a year of the puppy’s life with you, training, you will then get to spend the rest of your dog’s life with a dog who you enjoy living with and makes life less stressful, not more.  This does not require harshness, or being the boss, it just requires consistency and a clear picture in your head of what that perfect dog is to you.

When working with some of my clients I regularly hear in sheepish tone “my dog does this ______” insert sleep on the bed, get on the couch, eat human food, etc.  I always answer with a smile, “That is great”.  The perfect dog for you is not the one that behaves the way your neighbour or the book says it should behave; the perfect dog is the one that does what you want.  As long as you want him on the bed or couch than that is fine.  There is nothing more rewarding for the owner than sitting on the couch cuddling your dog.

This being said, every behaviour you allow will have consequences.  You have to be aware of what these consequences are and are you willing to live with them.  For example; if you just got a puppy that could grow to around 100lbs and you are allowing him to jump on your you kids, that will probably be a behaviour you regret allowing, when your dog reaches full weight in a few months’ time.  On the other hand you have a 10lb dog who jumps you might decide that isn’t worth the effort to try and change since most people who greet little dogs regularly pet the dog for jumping on them because they don't want to bend that far.

Enjoy your puppy and train it to be the best dog you have ever had.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Welcome to my first Shake-A-Paw Dog Training Blog.
I am very excited to see where this will lead us.  
Please feel free to ask questions.  I will do my best to answer all of them but please remember all questions will be answered in general since I cannot comment on a dog I have not met.
I always like to start my classes with the question “What is your favorite thing about your dog?”
I will tell you mine
Iggy - 2 year old Border Collie
My favorite thing about Iggy is he loves everyone, never met a dog or person that he couldn’t love.
Splash - 9 year old Chesapeake Bay Retriever
My favorite thing about Splash is her drive.  I love watching a dog do what they were bred to do and Splash will retrieve until her feet fall off.
Max - 11 year old Siberian Husky
My favorite thing about Max is the talking.  He can discuss anything with me and the more excited he gets the louder he gets.

Let me know what your favorite thing about your dog is.