Learn About Positive Reinforcement Training and How To Apply it With Your Dog
There are a host of dog training philosophies, each with their own, often-times vocal, champions. Our sitters and walkers at TLC House & Pet Sitting practice positive reinforcement training that uses rewards. Rewards are in the form of treats or praise or play to reinforce good behavior and ignore all bad behavior. Most in the dog community consider positive reinforcement to be the most effective method for behavior modification in pets.
Positive Reinforcement in Practice
In practice, while walking and caring for dogs, this means keeping commands short and uncomplicated. Your dog is looking for consistency and the desired behavior must be rewarded immediately every time the proper action is performed.
Don’t Reward Bad Behavior
At the same time, it is critical with positive reinforcement training to never reward undesired behavior. Rather than doling out punishment, unwanted behavior from your dog is dealt with by withholding something from your pet. Withholding attention, toys or even companionship in the form of a “time-out” are good options. Finding what works best for your dog is key. Often shaping behavior will involve a vocal interrupter during a negative behavior to encourage the dog into choosing the right action.
Use Treats Wisely
Our sitters/walkers come to know what your dog loves as a reward. It can be a walk or maybe just a hearty belly rub. Most dogs love their treats and it is important to know how to handle food rewards during positive reinforcement training. When first working with a dog to illicit a new behavior, a treat every time the action is performed is known as continuous reinforcement. Always accompany the handing out of food with robust praise.
Once your pet is demonstrating consistent performance of the behavior it is time to cut back on the rewards. See our previous post about ‘Too Many Dog Treats‘. Instead of a treat every time, withhold the treat – but not the praise – once out of every five repetitions. Then twice, then three times and so on. Mix up this intermittent reinforcement pattern so as not to frustrate your dog. Keep up the praise but dial down the excitement level to a “this-is-what-we-expect” tone of “good dog.”
Positive Reinforcement Training Pays Dividends
Positive reinforcement in this fashion requires patience but with time your dog will become the solid canine citizen we all want our pets to be. And he will be doing it because he is getting what he wants out of the bargain – your praise and admiration and a tasty morsel every now and then.
Although it is natural for a dog to bark, some overdo it. If your dog happens to have the issue, then the first thing to do is perhaps to establish the cause of excessive barking. Once you identify the reason, it will be easy for you to find ways to stop the dog from barking. You will have to train them gradually.
Why Would a Dog Bark?
Barking is a form of vocal communication, and dogs may use it to mean many things. It all depends on the situation. Below are some of the reasons:
Boredom or loneliness
Protecting their territory
Once you start training the dog, remember the following tips:
Do not shout at your dog to stop. The dog may think that you are also barking.
Have consistency so that you do not confuse the dog. Do not let your dog get away with undesirable barking sometimes.
Keep your training positive.
How to Train Your Dog to Stop the Behavior
Treating excessive barking will require some tactics, based on the reason why your dog is barking. Some of the solutions may be:
Ignore the Barking
How to stop your dog from barking may include ignoring it. After you identify that the barking aims at getting your attention, you can ignore it until they stop. It may take longer than you expect, but that is the best solution you can offer. Do not even look in their direction.
Once they stop barking, you can reward them with a treat. If you do that several times, they will start understanding that silence rewards them with a treat. You can now lengthen the time required to remain quiet before they get the reward.
Keep the Dog Tired
The technique requires you to give your dog sufficient exercise – both mental and physical. Doing it every day keeps the dog tired, and they are less likely to bark when they get bored or frustrated. The exercise will depend on the dog’s age and breed and may include long walks or an activity like chasing the ball.
Get Your Pup Used to Excitement
If you notice that your dog starts barking before going for a walk or mealtime, you can change the program. If the barking starts when you are getting the leash so that you can go for a walk, return the leash.
We hope this helps you understand how to stop your dog from barking so much.
Canine social anxiety is a real problem for more dogs than you’d imagine. Therefore, if you have ever been asked to start your puppy on socialization, it is in part due to the debilitating effects of social anxiety. Dogs who were not socialized as puppies can have some degree of this anxiety. Anxiety is typically seen in a more devastating degree in dogs that have had no human contact. Dogs from puppy mills, or those with no human contact can have extreme social anxiety.
The Symptoms of Anxiety
Anxiety appears in dogs just like it does with humans. It can come from a fear of the unknown or even fear after a traumatic event. The source of anxiety is the same, no matter which circumstance he is under, and that source is terror. If your dog is experiencing social anxiety, then you will know based on his behavior.
Behaviors exhibited during a canine social anxiety attack could mean a total shut down of the dog’s emotions. This is similar to that of a human dissociating, or turning off their ability to function in reality. Basically, a dog having a total melt down with anxiety will hunker down to the ground, walk slowly, keep his tail tucked while refusing to acknowledge or obey you. This is because he is terrified. In these situation, your pup’s mind is shutting off to protect itself emotionally from becoming more traumatized.
Other anxiety symptoms can be excessive or constant whining, barking and even growling. Your dog, when faced with his trigger will do whatever he thinks he needs to do to protect himself. As such, he could lash out at you or simply shut down. This makes your job as his caretaker far more difficult.
Help Your Dog Cope with Canine Social Anxiety
Social anxiety in dogs is not something that can be trained out of him in a day, week or even a month. It is a fighting battle that can take many months or even years with consistent help and training. You can start your anxious dog down the path of healing his social anxiety with counter conditioning. This is the training tactic that helps change the way your dog feels about his trigger. If your dog was human, he would go to therapy. However, since he is your furry best friend he is relying on you to help him through this.
Don’t be afraid or wait to contact a professional dog trainer or animal behaviorist for help. Sometimes, dogs just need time and patience while other times they have real work in front of them that requires professional help. When it doubt about canine social anxiety, always ask a professional! Meanwhile, you can start by giving your dog a high value food treat whenever he sees his trigger. This may, however, only work for dogs who’s anxiety is not very severe. If your dog’s anxiety is so dire that he shuts down, you will need to start small and in a space he is comfortable and familiar with. Never punish a dog for anxiety, no matter how frustrated you get. Remember, he is terrified! If he shuts down, take the rest of the day off. Let him then settle in the most comfortable place he knows.
Train with Kindness, Not Punishment
While some may encourage you to punish a scared dog, in reality it only makes your dog’s behaviors worse. It can even lead to him lashing out and biting you or someone else. Instead, take it slow and stay within his threshold. If you don’t push him, he will gain more confidence. Then, he will let you know when it’s time to take the next step.
For canine social anxiety, you are your dog’s helper. He cannot call a dog trainer nor ask for your help. He does not know why he feels the way he does, and he is counting on you to help solve his problems. Do your anxious dog a favor and go slow. Always provide praise and positive reinforcement for good behavior. And never give your dog a reason to be anxious!
Are there rules of dog owner etiquette? You betcha.
We’ve all experienced the awkwardness of a poorly behaved dog. Whether it’s in public or in someone’s home, it’s hard to know what to do. Do we say something? Do we pretend it’s not happening? As a dog owner, it is a good idea to teach your pup to practice their doggy manners. Not sure what this means? We compiled a list for you. These will help you be well on your way to being a good dog parent who practices their dog owner etiquette.
Is Your Dog Jumping On People?
This rule is the one that is most often broken. Yep, you walk into a home and here comes the dog, jumping all over you. Practicing good dog owner etiquette means knowing how to stop this behavior. Some people say it’s okay because they are dog lovers but not everyone wants a dog jumping all over them. In some cases, these exuberant dogs actually knock people down. Depending on the person’s age, this could be dangerous.
So how do you keep it from happening? Put the dog on leash, so he cannot get to the person entering through the door. In fact, teaching your dog to do a sit /stay while on the leash really comes in handy. Eventually, once the proper door behavior has been learned, you may no longer need to use the leash.
Is Your Dog Barking Excessively?
If you have ever been within earshot of a non-stop barking dog, you know excessive barking can be a real annoyance. If you are unable to keep your dog from barking consider making some adjustments for those around you.
For instance, we should all try to be good neighbors and bring our dogs in the house. This is especially appreciated during the evening so that our dogs are not disturbing the peace. If you know a neighbor sleeps during the day, consider keeping your dog indoors throughout the day as well. If necessary, crate your dog, and the neighbors will love you.
How Do Walks Impact Dog Owner Etiquette?
Did you know that dogs that are taken for daily walks will be less likely to feel a need to release pent-up energy in unacceptable ways such as excessive barking of jumping? Even more, if they get used to a regular walk routine they’ll generally be calmer throughout the day.
Are You Allowing Your Dog To Run Free
Unless you live in a very remote area your dog should be within your control or yard at all times. This means on a leash or in your fenced yard. Allowing your dog to run loose in most areas is not only against the law, it is also very dangerous for your dog. Thousands of dogs a year are run over while roaming the streets. A dog owner that cares for his dog will never allow his dog to run loose. If your dog shows any type of aggression while running loose, you are vulnerable to a tremendous amount of liability, should your dog happen to bite a person or another dog.
Picking Up the Poop
One of the fundamental rules of dog owner etiquette is pick up after your pup.
This issue is a real problem for a large number of homeowners. You’ve seen it, someone walking their dog and allowing them to poop on someone else’s property without scooping it up. Surprisingly, this has become such a problem in some communities that all dogs in those communities are swabbed for DNA. Any waste material that has not been picked up is checked with the DNA on file, and the offending owner can be fined up to $500. So, bag the poop to keep your neighborhood clean (and keep neighbors happy with you).
Need Help with the Behavioral Issues?
Practicing good dog owner etiquette will provide a better sense of community for all dog owners and homeowners alike. However, if you have tried working on their barking or jumping and still need some help, fear not. There are several resources to help you with your pet and encouraging him to do his best. This article by the ASPCA helps you find the behavioral help you may need.
5 Warning Signs of Feeding Your Pup Too Many Dog Treats
If you have a dog you probably have some dog treats in your kitchen. In fact, some of our clients have so many snacks that the dog rarely eats real food. Giving your dog too many dog treats can actually cause several types of health and behavioral issues. Be on the lookout for these warning signs and cut back on giving your dog treats accordingly:
1. Your Pup Becomes Demanding
If you are giving your dog too many treats he has probably started demanding them after different activities. For example, you may find that your dog demands a treat when you come home or when you get up from taking a nap. You get the idea. When a dog is given too many treats, they find several situations that require a treat.
2. They Won’t Obey Without a Treat
Did you use treats during the training of your dog? If so, you may find that he won’t sit, or lay down, or stay without a treat in return now.
The simple reason for this is that he was bribed in the beginning and now expects treats all the time for accomplishing any of his obedience tasks.
3. Potty Time?
If treats were used to teach your dog to do his business you may find he is waking you up in the middle the night to take him outside. He probably doesn’t need to go out. He really just wants his treat.
4. Is Your Dog Aggressive?
This warning sign of too many dog treats is a serious one. If your dog shows any sign of aggression with you, eliminate the treats immediately. This is true for other family members, and other pets, too. Until this issue is resolved, usually with the help of a canine behavior specialist, do not introduce treats or bones. Aggression, brought on my treats or bones, can lead to injury.
5. Is Your Pup Putting on Weight?
Last but not least, is your pup overweight? When that little fluff ball of yours begins to look like a rolly -polly ball then it’s really time to eliminate or cut back on the treats. Giving your dog too many snacks is definitely the way to put unhealthy weight on your dog that it does not need. Weight issues often lead to additional health issues.
Finally, keep in mind that when it comes to treats, less is better. Try not to let your dog trick you into giving him more than he should have. According to the AKC, it’s all about calories.
We tell people that dogs are really smart and are really good at training people. In fact, often times, dogs are better at training people than people are at training dogs.
Are you concerned about introducing your dog to your new baby?
Bringing home your new baby is an exciting time for you and your spouse! However, the experience may be a bit challenging for your dog. It’s important to understand that since your dog has been your one and only up until this point, they may become confused, jealous, or maybe even frightened.
To help eliminate these types of emotions in your dog, laying the foundation for a friendly relationship between your baby and pet is helpful.
Read on to learn some ways of properly introducing your dog to your new baby.
Your Dog May Be Jealous
It’s a well known fact that dogs are known to get jealous when they aren’t the center of attention anymore. This can be unavoidable since you will be spending a great deal of time with your infant instead of your dog. Sorry, Fido!
While jealousy is an undesirable reaction from your pup, accepting that your dog is just missing your attention may help you cope.
Making Time for Your Dog
When you do have free time, try to use it to play with your pet. Allowing your dog to get bored, especially during this transition time, can lead to destructive behavior. In some cases, it may even lead to uncharacteristic aggression. Therefore, creating a daily play-time routine that your pup can anticipate will help.
Keeping this routine consistent will help mitigate those jealous moments your dog is feeling.
While you may be over the moon to share your new bundle of joy with Fido, try to start slowly with your introductions. Babies are small and can move suddenly. One of the last things you want is for your baby to surprise your dog with a flailing arm or kicking leg. Dogs are very inquisitive creatures, and baby and pup will need to be monitored during at least the first few weeks of together time.
Tips for Introducing Your Dog to Your New Baby
When your baby comes home, greet your dog alone so that it doesn’t get too excited and jump on your baby. Afterward, have your dog adjust to the sight and smells of your baby while your pup is on a leash.
Acclimate your dog to the smell of your baby, via a blanket or clothing. Also, introduce your pet to the smells of baby powder, lotion, etc.
After a couple of days, remove the leash from your dog and monitor them closely as they observe your baby. Make sure to watch out for signs of aggression such as growling, intense stares, or baring of teeth.
Create Boundaries for Your Dog
Once your dog becomes used to your new baby, it’s time to create boundaries. Ideally, you should be able to command your dog to go to their “quiet place”. This is important if you are trying to perform a task your dog doesn’t understand, such as changing your baby’s diaper or feeding them.
If you do not already have one, purchase a crate, bed, or designate a quiet place for your dog to go to so they won’t disturb you and your baby when you need time alone.
Congratulations on making it to the second part of the article series “Training a Puppy”. In the first part, we discussed a few important training tips that included helping your puppy recognize their name, giving them a new collar, and teaching them when they should go outside. Now that you are familiar with some basic training tips, it’s time to learn how you can make your puppy more obedient. Obedience is key to having a happy pet/owner relationship. Here, we’ll dive into some helpful ways you can teach your puppy to understand and obey your commands.
Learning How to Crate your Puppy
dog owners reject the idea of using crates for their furry friends. However,
professional trainers and veterinarians have long accepted crating as one of
the quickest and least stressful ways to reinforce desirable behavior in dogs.
Dogs are pack animals, and they instinctively have an urge to possess their own
special place or “den”.
it’s important to never take advantage of this instinct by forcing your puppy
inside their crate as a form of punishment. Instead, place a soft blanket
inside the crate and leave the door open as you introduce your puppy to their
new den. This will allow them to grow comfortable with their crate and come and
go at their leisure. Soon, you’ll be able to leave your puppy in the crate if
you anticipate being away for a few hours.
that puppies should only be left in a crate for a maximum of 3-4 hours. Puppies
can’t hold their bladders very well, and being in their crates for too long can
cause depression and anxiety.
Keeping Communication Consistent
they are young, puppies are very smart and are capable of molding their own
behavior to make you happy. The only way your puppy will do this is if you
apply consistent communication between their actions and your reaction.
your puppy does something right or desirable, praise them enthusiastically and
reward them. If they do something wrong, make it clear that you are not happy
by giving them a firm “no” and praise them when they correct their behavior.
example, if you don’t want your puppy on your furniture say “no” loudly and
guide them off every time they climb on. Then, praise them when they climb unto
the floor. Puppies are great learners and understand your body language, but it
can take them a few tries to fully understand when you don’t appreciate their
consistent communication makes it easier for them to understand what you’re
saying and apply your commands in the future.
Correcting Puppy Mistakes
puppies are brilliant learners, they sometimes have an urge to do things that
are clearly not okay, such as biting and destroying furniture. It’s helpful to
remember that puppies aren’t spiteful. If they are performing a destructive
act, they probably got the idea that it was acceptable.
eliminate this type of behavior, you’ll have to catch your puppy in the act and
immediately correct it. For example, the incorrect approach to discipline your
puppy is not to yell at them or crate them if you’ve discovered a severely
damaged pillow under your sofa. That’s because dogs can’t connect a punishment
to an action that may have happened a few hours ago.
you must catch your puppy performing a bad deed in the act. Just like we’ve
mentioned above, remember to give them a firm “no” and praise them abundantly
for responding to your command.
Congratulations on your new family member. Training a new puppy can be one of the most challenging and most rewarding jobs you’ll ever encounter. If you’re a first time puppy owner, you may be wondering what in the world you’re supposed to do with this furry bundle of joy. We remember our first puppy, and it can be a confusing time if you’re not sure what to do or how to do it. Here, we’ll venture to help you navigate through these first few days, weeks and months with a pack leader mindset and confidence.
It’s All In a Name
The first time you call your puppy’s name, you know exactly what it means. Your pup, however, only hears it as a word. Therefore, it’s important to start adding value to the name so that your pup is encourage to respond to it.
Say your pups name and then give them a reward. The reward can be in the form of a very small training treat or part of their daily food. Do this three or four times in a row. We find that pups at this age — with short attention spans and little bellies — are most motivated when they are hungry. Training at meal time will help to drive home the message of their name.
Now that your puppy understands that the sound of their name gets them a reward, it’s time to get them to respond when you’re not face to face.
Wait until your puppy is distracted. Which with a puppy, shouldn’t take too long. Call their name and put a treat on their nose (keeping your hand in place). Then turn them towards you (either with your other hand or by moving the treat that they will instinctively follow). Once they are facing you, give them the treat. This reinforces that your pet should respond to you when they hear their name.
To ensure that you can command your pup by calling their name, do not over use it. If a pups name is overused, it tends to be watered down in importance, and they may choose to stop responding to it. Training a puppy is also about training us humans.
Using a New Collar
As a right of passage, every puppy learns to wear their new collar. At first, they may scratch at it or act as if they’d like it taken off. This is normal. It’s similar to us getting used to new shoes or new glasses, for instance.
Long-term, a dog’s collar is very important. Training a puppy to wear a collar gives you a way to keep your puppy, and later your adult dog, safe.
Play Time and Out Time
Did you know that you can use toy play time as a way to teach your puppy to go outside?
Start by finding a toy that you can hold securely and animate it on the ground for them — dragging it from side to side. Make it look exciting so that your puppy is interested in engaging with the toy. Once your puppy gets a hold of that toy and is tugging back and excited say the word “out”. At the same time, present the reward (treat, dog food) and tell them “good girl/boy” once they take it. Do this in succession a few times. This helps lay the groundwork for using the word “out” to instruct your puppy that it’s time to go outside.
In Part 2 of this series, Training a Puppy, we’ll be covering a few other essentials for new puppy owners, such as how crating a puppy is helpful for you and them.
Dogs are a wonderful part of the family. They show their affection in many ways. With so much love to give, they want to jump on everyone. While it may seem cute at first, this is not a good behavior long-term. Jumping can be troublesome when guests arrive at your home, especially for the very young or old. Teaching your dog proper manners when someone comes to visit is good for everyone. Fear not if your dog is no longer a puppy as It is never too late to teach your dog new tricks. There are a few tried and true tips you can use to get your dog to stop jumping on your guests.
Be the Pack Leader
A dog pack always has an established hierarchy. Every pack needs an alpha leader. Your dog’s instinct is to try to be the pack leader. However, if you assert yourself as the alpha, he will follow your lead. A dog jumping is just another way of establishing control over you. This is how the dog shows his dominance. Your dog may continue this behavior with guests. When your dog jumps on someone, he is showing who is in charge of the house. For the best results, you’ll want to work to correct this behavior right away and as often as it happens. As a pack leader, you’ll need to show your dog the appropriate behaviors.
Keeping Your Dog Calm at the Door
If your dog is a little hyper, the ringing doorbell can set him into motion. He may not be able to contain his joy when visitors arrive. That can be uncomfortable for guests, especially for those afraid of jumping dog. Working to calm your dog before the door opens can prove very helpful. This may mean taking a few moments to help him settle down. This will help him to understand that he’ll need to be calm before greeting guests. The best solution is to put him in a down or sit position. If you continue to work with him, the dog will associate the doorbell with these commands. Once your dog is calm and attentive, he can greet your guests. It may also be a good idea to let your guests know you are working with your dog. This can help avoid anyone opening the door before the dog is relaxed and quiet.
Reinforcing Good Behavior
A dog that jumps will often get a lot of attention and love. In the dog’s mind, he is being rewarded for this behavior. You might not realize it, but this is reinforcing a bad habit. There are a few ways to keep this from happening. As much as you love your dog, never show affection if he jumps on you. When he jumps, simply ignore him. Try, instead, focusing on reinforcing good behavior. Try keeping a few treats by the front door. When he starts to jump, you must immediately put him in a sit or down position. Once he has done that, he can be rewarded. He will start to associate the good behavior with treats and affection. This is the type of behavior you want to reward.
Remember, it’s never too late to train your dog to have good or better behaviors when your guests arrive.
Perhaps this has happened to you. You come home and find your mild-mannered pet has ravaged a curtain or torn apart a shoe from your closet – objects she has never paid attention to before. What is going on here?
It could well be a case of misdirected aggression from your dog or cat. Have you ever been upset with your boss at work and taken out your frustration on a co-worker instead? That is a form of misdirected aggression. Dogs, who are social creatures living in a hierarchal environment, do the same thing. If a dog is upset or out of sorts or challenged, he may lash out at an alternate target. Which could well be your favorite sofa cushion or TV remote.
Cats, who operate more as independent contractors, are especially prone to misdirected aggression. When a feline routine is disrupted a cat can take out its displeasure in myriad mysterious behaviors – including aggression towards you.
Understanding an incident of misdirected aggression is critical. Your pet is demonstrating an appropriate behavior but choosing an inappropriate target. If you can analyze your pet’s surroundings you can perhaps decipher the cause and correct it through counter-conditioning. One way a pet sitter can help is to minimize disruptions in your pet’s daily routine during your work and travel schedules. Stress reduction helps keep anxiety levels low and property destruction to a minimum.
At TLC we can help pet owners assess common redirected aggression in pets and help channel that energy into appropriate responses.
For More Information
If you have questions about redirected aggression in pets or general questions about pet care, you can contact Kara Jenkins, Owner of TLC Pet Sitter. We are also available by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Raising a puppy sounds like a good ole’ time of throwing a ball and watching him scurry after it. We all know how holding a sweet puppy can just melt your heart. However, there is so much more to raising a puppy. Becoming a responsible puppy owner requires a lot of work and patience. If you want a great dog, raise a good puppy.
Never Know “No!”
Your puppy was born into this world completely helpless and blind. Now, in your care, he is fully dependent on you to teach him about the world around him, as well as what behaviors are unacceptable. Unfortunately, many trainers using old, outdated methods still tell you that the first thing you should teach your puppy is the meaning of “No!” The science and theory of learning, however, states otherwise. A puppy learns quicker and far more consistently when you can prevent his bad behaviors and reward the good ones. This motivates him to perform good behaviors instead of focusing the bad behaviors. An excellent example of preventing bad behaviors would be the use of a crate or playpen for housebreaking. Keeping your puppy in a safe place while you cannot keep an eye on him prevents him from wondering into another room to potty. When you take him to the proper potty place, you can reward him for doing his business. With time and consistency, he will want to potty in the right place, because you have positively conditioned him to do so!
Training Starts Now
The very first thing you should do with your puppy is begin training. This does not mean that you should begin a full training session before stepping foot indoors, but it does mean that the moment your puppy becomes yours, you should jump straight into his schedule! Dogs rely on schedules, and your puppy is no different. If he is given the ability to potty at the correct times, eat at specific times and given ample exercise and play times you have already started training! Puppies learn from repetition, and a schedule will get his mind and body in sync with the schedule you have made for him.
Even if your puppy is meant to be yours and yours alone, ask others to chip in on his care. Puppy care can be a difficult and daunting task to do it right all alone. Puppies need a potty break every hour or hour-and-a-half. If this doesn’t fit your schedule, ask a close friend of family member to do it and get them involved in your puppy’s life. It will be both rewarding for you, your friend or family member as well as your puppy. There may be times when you cannot be there when your puppy is in need, and it is helpful for him to learn to continue his schedule, even when it is with another person.
It’s Cute Now, But Not Later
Your puppy’s jumping and barking may be cute now, but when that little Labrador grows into an extra-large canine, it will just be annoying! A large, or even medium sized dog can easily knock over a person, making it a dangerous behavior to learn. Begin your puppy’s obedience by reinforcing behaviors like: no pawing, jumping, or being forceful with others in order to get what he wants. It’s simple to teach. First, hold a toy or treat that your puppy wants and wait. Then, he will get excited, jump, bark, or even lay down. These are all typical behaviors puppies use to get what they want. Finally, the moment he gives up and looks the other way is the moment you reward him by giving him the treat or toy! Continue doing this throughout the day, especially during play sessions. He is learning that he must be polite and gentle to get what he wants.
Consistency is Always Key
You will hear this one a lot, but it is for good reason. If you let your puppy get away with something you have just reinforced bad behavior that you were working to change. Telling yourself, “It’s okay, just this one time,” will simply add confusion to your puppy’s understanding of boundaries. Stick with your puppy’s training regimen and schedule. Remember to keep it training fun. After all, it is just one big game to your puppy. With the right attitude, it can be a fun game for you, too!
News headlines are constantly highlighting dog attacks. As such, even more dogs are being euthanized in shelters as they are deemed aggressive, dangerous and unpredictable. Would it surprise you to hear that all of this would be preventable with a basic knowledge of canine behavior?
The Fearful Attacker
It is true that no dog attacks without reason, and almost every time that reason is that his body language was ignored. The vast majority of dogs who bite, bark, growl or lunge do so out of fear. Something occurred, whether you can see it or not, that made the dog feel threatened and fearful. His language was ignored, and thus he reacted in the only way he knew to protect himself. Other behaviors can come into play as well, such as resource guarding which is another fear based behavior. Remember being told as a child to not pet an eating dog? It is because a dog with resource guarding problems may lash out if prompted, even when you are just trying to be his friend.
The fearful dog who causes harm to a human or other animal is a serious danger. The people and animals around him can become hurt or even killed, which also puts his life in danger. If your dog has a bite history or at risk of biting, don’t try to train him yourself! You need a specialist or experience animal behaviorist to help your dog get a better grip and understanding of the world around him. This expert help will keep you all safe!
Unpredictable Shelter Dogs
Shelter dogs are often characterized as aggressive dogs. Dogs who are healthy and yet considered non-adoptable according to a shelter’s temperament testing system also falls into the category of being misunderstood. These dogs are in need of help and are often just scared. A scared dog will act in the only way he or she knows, which is to protect themselves from harm. This is often seen as an aggressive dog.
Considering a dog has no ability to understand what humans are telling them, they have no idea if the next person that walks into their kennel, picks up their food dish or puts a leash on them will cause them harm or not. The human may unknowingly provoke the dog by moving their body in a manner that gives the dog reason to be fearful, such as walking straight up, bending over the dog, reaching a hand towards the dog and even eye contact.
There is hope for these shelter dogs if they are given a chance. The fear in them can be changed through the training method called counter conditioning. It is a simple, but time consuming tactic based on the premise of changing a dog’s emotion over his trigger. The trigger can be a human, another dog, or even loud noises.
Counter Conditioning for Fear in Aggressive Dogs
Teaching a dog to accept something that he is terrified of can be challenging. It can take from a few days to months to change how a dog feels about something, but it can be done! Counter conditioning is the act of doing just that, and it requires patience, time and consistency. Get started with a handful of irresistible treats and the dog’s trigger at such a distance that the dog hardly notices. Every time the dog acknowledges the trigger without reacting, give him a treat. Work up, over time of short sessions, to having the trigger within only a few feet from the dog without him reacting. When you get to that point, you can call it a big success!
Dogs who are euthanized or have lashed out, bitten or snarled over resource guarding is a terrible tragedy. Resource guarding is a natural behavior that even the dog’s wild cousins, the wolves’ exhibit. Resource guarding is when a dog feels protective over an item, food, or even a person or another dog. This is the dog’s fear of that item being taken from him. Even this dangerous and overly common behavior can be trained out of a fear aggressive dog, sometimes within days!
Don’t Throw In The Towel!
It is extremely rare that a dog may be beyond the ability to rehabilitate or reform in their fearful and aggressive behaviors. Professional help is often times the best answer, but those few who are lucky enough to have the natural ability to communicate with dogs and are educated in the theory of training can effectively treat or even cure fear aggressive behaviors. Learn all you can, and never throw in the towel!