Saturday, November 18, 2017

Off Leash - The First Step

You want your dog to be able to go for walks off leash? Right? It is your dream that you and your dog go for a hike in the forest, or walk through the park? AND when you call for Fido, he comes running back to you like he was as fast as a jackrabbit in front of a prairie fire? The reality may be that every time your dog has gotten away from you, he has run as far and as fast away from you as he could. Sound like someone you know?  If you answered yes, then please read below ;)

Tasty (high value) treats, like meatballs, meat chunks, fish
Some temporary fencing
A few carabiners
A dog food bowl
6-foot leash

 A game I like to play to start dogs on their off-leash journey keeps everyone safe and starts to build that invisible leash that eventually will keep your dog with you.

Even if you never plan to allow your dog to go off leash this game may help you if ever an accident ever happens and Fido is suddenly free.  You have created some great value built for staying close, keeping him out of harm's way. 

Start off by finding a fenced in area that your dog is not familiar with (somewhere you do not usually take him).  Some ideas could be outdoor hockey rinks, many townships leave them up all summer and they are fully boarded.  Softball diamonds, I bring along a bit of temporary fencing and some carabiners and use it to block off the dugout entries and voila a fenced area. (We do recommend that you check with local by-law to make sure dogs are allowed!)

Next, have some great treats with you that are big enough to throw (I like 1/4 of a meatball) and a hungry dog helps. (The first time you try this it is helpful to leave a leash on your dog.)  When the fenced area is all secured let your dog go.  DO NOT CALL!  Walk around, when your dog chooses to come within 10 feet of you throw a meatball at him.  Make sure he sees it by throwing right in front of him, if he is running fast he might not see it otherwise.  After about 5 repetitions of walking away and then throwing treats when he gets close he should be starting to slow down when he comes near you, now you reduce the distance he has to be before you throw the treat to about 7 feet.  Keep doing this until he will come, and take the treat from your hand.  NOTE: This likely will take more than one session.

When it is time to go home walk over to the door, pull out his food bowl and put a bunch of treats in it.  DO NOT CALL!  When your dog comes over and eats the treats just walk up and stand on his attached leash.

With some practice and lots of rewarding you will be rewarded with a dog with an excellent invisible leash!

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Do you know what you are rewarding or reinforcing?

Do you pay attention to how and when you interact with your dog all (ALL) of the time? For example, when you are letting them out for their morning pee do you just open the door and let them go? Then you probably are not aware of how your actions and reactions affect the behavior of the dog. In the above example, if you allow the dog to charge out the door every day then why would they not think that is okay when you open the front door and visitors arrive? Being observant and setting criteria for behavior that matters to you through reward and reinforcement will help with a cohesive relationship full of understanding and good manners.

Here are some examples on how you may be reinforcing your dog and not even aware of it:

Attention is a VERY strong reinforcement.  Much behavior gets created and maintained by attention alone.  For example leash biting.  The more you tell your dog to stop biting the leash the more you are interacting with your dog, therefore, the more you are reinforcing the behavior (read: vicious circle).  Jumping, the more you push your dog down the more you are rewarding them for jumping.  Getting too far away off leash (ranging), the more you call your dog back for going too far the further he will go so you will call him back.

I see this a lot when it comes to being able to catch your dog.  The dog is off leash and the owner goes to catch the dog and the dog keeps backing up (and moving away).  Owner reaches into their pocket pulls out a cookie and the dog allows himself to be caught (huh!?!). Think about it? What did the dog learn from this interaction?
Another situation I see is the owner asks the dog to sit; the dog stands there and looks at them without sitting (you know this look well don’t you? I sure do!).  Owner reaches into their pocket and pulls out a cookie and the cues the sit, the dog sits (again I say “huh!?!”).  What rewarded the behavior in this situation?

In both of these situations, the owner reaching for a cookie is what is rewarding the behavior, not what you asked of them.

The Environment
The environment rewards our dogs all the time. For example, dogs pulling on the leash. The dog quickly learns when I want to see something I just pull towards it and I can get to it.  By allowing the dog to pull you forward you are rewarding the behavior.

So how do you solve this problem?
Well first, you need to pay attention to your dog, your surroundings and yourself and actually SEE what is being reinforced and rewarded in the situation? Observation and self-awareness are the keys to managing situations that you don’t want to happen. In our first example of letting the dog out to pee, if every time you go to a door you ask your dog for a ‘sit’ and release them outside with a release word (Okay, break, free etc.) would this solve your problems at the front door as well?

Shake-a-Paw Basic Manner Classes and Private in home consultations help you become an observant and self-aware dog owner. If there are some nasty behaviors or just little things that drive you crazy, then reach out to us. We would love to help!

Sunday, January 1, 2017

To Pee Pad or Not to Pee Pad

How to House Train Your Puppy to use Pee Pads

Canadian winters often with wind chills of -30°C or lower are best enjoyed from the warmth and comfort of the indoors. However, life with a young four-legged companion usually means going out in any weather condition. Woe is the naked dog ... especially a small naked dog.

The temptation to teach your puppy to go on a pee pad is strong. Really who wants to house train a puppy in the dead of winter? Standing outside for five minutes or more waiting for your puppy to do his business is nobody's idea of fun and it's definitely not fun for your puppy.

Training with pee pads can create habits that are difficult to break for your dog. Pee pads can tell your dog that it's ok to relieve himself on any absorbent surface in your home. Repeated use of a pee pad in the same area conditions your dog to do his business there with or without a pad. Challenges aside, sometimes pee pads are a necessary evil in the house training of a puppy. Here are some suggestions for making them work; 

Always follow puppy house training rules.  Puppy’s need to be taken out approximately every hour,  when they wake up, finish eating and a few minutes after play.  Most puppies suddenly stop moving around and start sniffing right before they go.  Every puppy is different but if you are observing your puppy you will soon learn his/her cues that they are about to eliminate.
  1. Establish a pee room. Naturally the bathroom is a perfect pee room!
  2. When your puppy has to pee, take him to the bathroom, put down the pee pad. (At first, you can cover the whole floor with pee pads and then remove pads reducing to only one as habits are formed);
  3. Close the door to confine puppy in the bathroom with you in there.
  4. When your puppy relieves himself, praise and reward  him with a treat usually I use their kibble.
  5. Clean up the mess and leave the bathroom. Don't forget to close the door behind you. Keeping the bathroom door closed at all times, helps the dog understand that the bathroom is the place to go to relieve himself and that he needs to let you know when he needs to go.

As the weather gets warmer, you can start taking him outside when they go to the bathroom door. Eventually, they will start asking to go potty at the outside door instead of the bathroom door. The key is to keep the bathroom door closed so he never gets an opportunity to go potty in the bathroom for at least six months after the last time you allowed it.

You can use the same technique to train your dog to use a litter box. Dog-sized litter boxes and special dog litter are available from your local pet store. Treat the litter box the same as a bathroom in your house. Don't change the location of the box, put an x-pen around it. If he enters the litter box, don't let him out until he performs his business. Once he's done, reward him and let him out. It's about shaping behaviour.

What other methods have you tried in meeting your dog's bathroom needs? Let us know by commenting below!