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safety, Training & Behavior

VIDEO: Handling a reactive dog that has gone over threshold

We had a mishap with our former YouTube channel getting deleted–apologies as some of our previous blogs with videos no longer work/are accessible–but we’re working on getting those videos back up on a new channel, and making new videos!

Speaking of new videos, here is a new one featuring one of our recent clients, Gordie, who is leash reactive: he barks, growls and lunges when he notices another dog while on leash. We did extensive Day Training with him to get better loose leash walking skills and address the reactivity by doing more structured setups, followed by real-life walks. This video is from one of the real-life walks, where we are surprised by another dog.

Besides dealing with this “over threshold” moment, there are other tidbits of seeing how we worked with him on reinforcing walking beside me, giving me attention and noting signs of stress.

As always, if you’re facing dog training and behavior issues, we’re here to help, so contact us!

Happy Training,
Laura
Owner, Delightful Doggies

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Delightful Doggies, Training & Behavior

Dogs will be Dogs: Addressing jumping on people

In this part of our blog series, Dogs will be Dogs, we will discuss the problem of jumping on people.

Like most problem behaviors, jumping is a very common and acceptable behavior for dogs—it’s a way to greet someone they like, so in a lot of ways, it’s a great compliment. However, it’s not what most people want, and while it may be cute when the dog is smaller or a puppy, larger dogs and older dogs can be seen as a nuisance and, at worst, injure people by jumping on them.

We do not advocate for allowing the dog to jump, and then punish the behavior. At best it may stop the behavior in the moment, but it’s still allowing the dog practice at jumping. Jumping can be very self-reinforcing to the dog so allowing it to continue is still helping the dog learn how to get better at doing it. At worst it will damage your relationship with your dog; they may start to view you as a scary person, or feel the need to fight back. Punishment has the potential for some very devastating fallout, so we opt for other approaches to cut off the behavior and teach the dog what we want, instead. It’s more productive and safer for all involved!

Arranging your antecdent

As discussed in our introduction to this blog series, antecedent arrangement–what happens before a behavior occurs–can make for less stressful, and more efficient and effective training. It is proactive rather than reactive!

If you’re expecting house guests and you know your dog loves to jump on them as soon as they come in, putting your dog in a crate or Xpen, behind a gate, or even in another room or the backyard, can cut off this behavior from happening. You could also put him on his harness and a leash and have him tethered to a sturdy piece of furniture, or to a leash hitch attached to the wall, or if you have others in your home who can hold the other end of the leash, he will be able to be managed while they arrive. Remember to make ample space, whatever management technique you use.

In other environments, having your dog on a harness and leash at all times, and ensuring there is enough space between them and the person to not gain access to jump, is key. A portable crate, Xpen or other tethers can also be used. The goal is to ensure the dog is unable to get to and jump on the human, but we also want to make sure whatever we are using that is safe for the dog, and doesn’t create anxiety. If your dog is not properly crate trained you shouldn’t use a crate but perhaps tether instead. We also do not want to leave a tethered dog unattended as they can get tangled and possibly injured. Whatever management technique you use, make sure it is safe and that you’ve considered all the possibilities.

Luna is learning that sitting gets more attention; her harness and leash is on for management in case she gets too excited!

Teaching an alternate behavior

Now that you’ve addressed how to stop the jumping from occurring, it’s important to have a plan to teach what you want your dog to do instead. For a lot of people, sitting for greetings is a goal. If your dog is managed well, you can reinforce a sit as the dog is able to sit. However, some dogs find it difficult to have the self-control to sit, even if you ask for it. It may be because the visitor is too close and he REALLY loves your aunt because she always bring him a special gift!

It’s always important to consider what the dog is able to do and how to teach him by starting where is able to be successful. For this special aunt, I may be treating him for standing as she comes in, starting the instant he notices her, and I may use a higher-value food reward because she is so exciting and I have to have the right motivation for my dog. By lowering my criteria—rewarding for the standing as soon as he notices her arrival—I am meeting him where he can be successful, and making it very rewarding to be standing rather than jumping in this moment, with a very potent food reward.

Over time, I will be able to get a sit. If I have done a great job of reinforcing him, over time he will be able to offer behavior more consistently, and relax more to offer a sit. That sit may mean aunt comes over more quickly to say hi! Standing/sitting are both alternatives that can mean attention from the aunt. If he is too excited and jumping, the aunt takes steps away, or possibly leaves. Being consistent with the consequences will mean he will learn faster and be overall less frustrated.

A harder part of this equation is instructing guests to COMPLETELY IGNORE the dog and not approach him so that he understands that jumping or trying to get at the guests doesn’t result in getting to greet them. Some people will accept being jumped on by puppies or adult dogs but it can work against your training as it won’t provide consistency for your dog to understand that jumping isn’t the way to interact with humans. Start with coachable humans and plan carefully. The human should know they can approach if the dog is standing or sitting, but should stop or even move away if the dog starts to jump.

Being patient and consistent will mean more success for you both. It’s important to repeat this process with different kinds of people who come to visit so that you can help your dog learn that ALL humans prefer standing or sitting, and do not like jumping.

Need help right away? Contact us now to solve your problems!
Laura
Owner, Delightful Doggies

Clients, Delightful Doggies

August client spotlight: Gordie the Great Pyrenees mix

Congratulations to our August client spotlight, Gordie the Great Pyrenees mix!

BestLargeBreedDogTrainingDenverLakewoodColorado
Gotta love Gordie’s smile!

Gordie is a very sensitive and loving gentleman who enjoys playing with puzzle toys and chewing on a good stick. He was adopted from Big Fluffy Dog Rescue as a puppy by his current mother, who is very devoted for him and wants the very best for him. He’s such a lucky guy!

We have been working with Gordie through our Day Training program on learning how to go to his bed when guests arrive, and his leash reactivity towards other dogs while on walks. He’s a quick study, and has realized that other dogs mean great things so it’s better to look back to his handler than to fixate and react.

Gordie’s mom has been attentive to our reports from Day Training, studying the videos we take and resources we provide, and learning how to maintain the training through transfer sessions. She’s doing an excellent job so far! It will no doubt take time and consistency but Gordie is lucky that his mother understands this, and is committed to what it takes to achieve a solid, long-term success.

We wish all dogs could be as lucky as Gordie, and we are grateful to him and his mother for entrusting us to help with their dog training and behavior needs. They are very worthy recipients of this month’s client spotlight feature!

Thank you,
Laura
Owner, Delightful Doggies

Delightful Doggies, Training & Behavior

Dogs will be Dogs: how to address problem behaviors

Welcome to our new blog series, Dogs will be Dogs, on addressing common problem behaviors!

In this first post we’ll discuss some basics of how to approach problems and considerations when dealing with any problem behavior you’re facing. Future posts will give insights on how to apply this to different common problem behaviors clients want to address, and change.

Many times in training, and in life in general, we focus on consequences for behavior. Consequences are of course important. If the animal we’re teaching finds consequences reinforcing for a behavior, that behavior will likely increase. On the opposite end of the spectrum, if the consequence is punishing or unpleasant, the behavior will likely decrease. Having this knowledge and understanding how it applies based on the animal and the behavior s/he is presenting is crucial. Far too often, however, we are looking at it from our own point of view and not through that of the animal’s.

Mac is learning that sitting will get him out of his kennel

Let’s take a simple example of this: if my dog is barking at me because he wants me to feed him dinner, and I feed him, then I’m reinforcing his barking. That seems pretty simple and most people can understand how feeding the dog dinner if he is barking at me is actually working against me and my goal of a quieter dog.

If my dog is barking because he not only wants dinner, but my undivided attention, and I decide to yell at him or tell him QUIET to communicate that I’m unhappy with him, then I am very likely still reinforcing the behavior even though I’m trying to discourage it. Any attention, even if it’s “negative” attention to try and dissuade him, is still reinforcing for him. This is not as obvious to some people–attempts to discourage him are actually giving the dog what he wants: attention!

However, if I know once I get home my dog is going to bark at me for dinner, or attention, and I ignore him COMPLETELY–maybe even going straight from the front door to the bathroom, shutting the door–then I have removed myself, and the attention he finds reinforcing. I then wait patiently for quiet. Once it’s quiet for a few seconds, I go out and give my dog a treat, or attention. The dog will learn that by being quiet, he will get what he wants, if I’m consistent with these consequences.

Consequences are important. Sometimes, though, they can be too little too late, and make for more frustrating or stressful training. With barking, it may be just as stressful for the human as the dog because the loud noise can be jarring and unpleasant. Also, if the dog has been rewarded a lot for barking, it can take longer for the dog to quiet, meaning the person has to be patient and deal with the noise.

What if I told you there is a better way?

Antecedent arrangement–what happens before a behavior occurs–can make for less stressful, and more efficient and effective training. It is proactive rather than reactive!

So, if you know your dog is going to bark as soon as you get home, how can you arrange things to make it work better for you?

If your dog is very good at a behavior that is incompatible with barking, you can ask for that behavior as soon as you walk through the door. One option may be to go get his favorite toy. If you’ve taught your fabulous, food-loving Labrador retriever to “go get his ball,” then ask for that as soon as you walk in. He can’t bark with a toy in his mouth! Once he brings it to you, you can play with him.

ABCs of behavior graphic courtesy of Lili Chin, doggiedrawings.net

If you take careful consideration of how to set you and your dog up for success to prevent or redirect the problem behavior through antecedent arrangement, you will benefit the most: your dog won’t get practice with the behavior you don’t want, making it stronger, and you will instead be able to reinforce behaviors you want instead of resorting to punishment, and experiencing frustration and a deterioration in your relationship with your dog.

You will learn more about the ABCs of teaching dogs as we continue this blog series with addressing common problems like jumping, digging, bolting doors and more. Most of what we perceive as problem behaviors are naturally occurring behaviors for dogs, which is why we have named this series Dogs will be Dogs. With patience and careful planning, you can remedy problem behaviors, give your dog appropriate outlets, and instill good manners in him.

Need help right away? Contact us now to solve your problems!
Laura
Owner, Delightful Doggies

Clients, Delightful Doggies

July client spotlight: Harley and Opie the herder brothers

Congratulations to our July client spotlight, Harley and Opie, the Kelpie and Australian Shepherd!

Harley and Opie are good boys!
Harley and Opie are good boys!

Harley and Opie have a great mom and dad who are expecting their first human baby VERY soon, and wanted to ensure everyone is happy and safe when that glorious day comes (any moment now)! Both brothers are very sensitive herders and we have been working on building their confidence, desensitization and counterconditioning to items like the doorbell, visitors knocking and entering, baby cries, and the new baby equipment, as well as helping them learn how to relax on their own. They’re also getting used to being in their own space away from mom and dad, instead of take all the attention!

Their parents have been very diligent and committed, working especially hard to have success before their due date, and it shows! They’ve sent us videos and given us updates regularly, and kept on a good schedule to keep up the momentum. Truly they have been some of the most amazing clients we’ve ever had, and very deserving of the client spotlight for this month!

We appreciate Harley and Opie and their eagerness to please, in addition to the consistency mom and dad have given them with fun training sessions. It’s awesome that they contacted us before the baby’s arrival to put their minds at ease and plan ahead to be properly prepared. Their compliance to our homework has been key to how much progress we’ve seen in these two awesome dogs in a short amount of time, and blows us away!

Thank you for trusting in us, and we look forward to seeing you for another transition session once your precious baby has arrived!
Laura
Owner, Delightful Doggies

Delightful Doggies, Training & Behavior

Four tips for surviving the Fourth

The Fourth of July can be an amazing celebration for many—but for some, including our pets, it’s one of the hardest. The sounds of fireworks and the smell of sulfur can cause many dogs to go into a fight-or-flight response, so it’s important to be mindful of this and plan ahead to minimize stress. Here are four tips for a safe Fourth:

  1. Get out of town: If you have another alternative to being around the festivities, take it! Go to a secluded cabin, go for that camping trip, head out for an evening drive—whatever works in terms of getting away from the stressor in the first place.
  2. Safety—and comfort—first! Remember to always consider safety and comfort first if you must stay in town and at home. Don’t allow your dog out in the yard or have them outside when festivities begin. Take that long walk and potty break before so you can stay in the home, safe and sound. Your dog should be microchipped and wearing tags for identification just in case anything were to happen. Making a safe space within the home that is comforting for the dog to stay in while the celebrations are happening can help keep them safe and calmer. Some dogs find crates comforting, while others may like a closet or small room. Play a white noise machine and/or soft, soothing music. If your dog likes aromatherapy or could benefit from dog appeasing pheromones, use them. Have puzzle toys or enrichment toys ready for feeding dinner so they have something else to do and enjoy. Doing some fun play or training games can also be a good alternative. Draw curtains and blinds, and do comfort your dog! Giving them support will NOT reinforce their fear so don’t let that hold you back.

    Puzzle toys can be a good way to engage your dog's brain during fireworks time
    Puzzle toys can be a good way to engage your dog’s brain during fireworks time
  3. Talk to your vet: Some dogs have so much anxiety and pure panic that it may be best for them to have some medical support, especially if they are prone to having other anxiety or are sound-sensitive to many different stimuli. There are some natural alternatives but you should never shy away from pharmaceutical intervention if it can help your dog be happier and less stressed. Talk to your vet about what options would be best for your dog. Stay away from acepromazine! It can sedate the body but not the mind, increasing overall anxiety in time.
  4. Counterconditioning is key! You can use desensitization and counterconditioning techniques before the Fourth to see better success when the celebrations take place. You will need to prepare and have on hand LOTS of bits of VERY high-value food. (Human foods like cheese, boiled meat or unflavored/non-spiced deli meat, hot dogs, etc. are best so don’t skimp—use something super wonderful!) Using a recording of fireworks, play it at a VERY low volume that won’t upset the dog, and pause as needed to give breaks. When your dog hears a firework, feed this food. Repeat and gradually raise and vary the level of the volume. You want to keep it low enough so that your dog doesn’t get panicked—your dog should be relatively comfortable but still able to notice the sound. Do this many times before the Fourth and have lots more food ready on the Fourth to pair with the real deal. If fireworks mean bits of salmon consistently, your dog can begin to see fireworks as a good thing due to this association you build over many repetitions.

Need help? Contact us!

Have a safe and happy Fourth of July,
Laura
Owner, Delightful Doggies

Clients, Delightful Doggies

June client spotlight: Barrett the cattle dog

Congratulations to our June client spotlight, Barrett the cattle dog!

Barrett rocks the loose leash!
Barrett rocks the loose leash!

Barrett is a rescue puppy adopted by an awesome, active gentleman to be a lifelong partner for myriad fun activities. In other words, Barrett is truly lucky! He’s also amazing–very quick to learn, eager to please, and just a fun dude to chill with.

I’ve had the pleasure to see Barrett twice weekly for Day Training visits to work on getting him used to the world, walk on a loose leash and come when called. It’s been a lot of fun, and we take frequent breaks to chew as a teething puppy has to have chew breaks! And play! We have to play and have fun! Playing games like “catch me” and “hide and go seek” have made come when called even more fun to learn.

Barrett is getting off to a great start because his dad knows the value of training in helping them have enjoyment together. It makes me happy to know that they are going to do well together because they’ve been working on it from the very start of his coming home from rescue. This is one of many reasons that Barrett is our client spotlight this month.

Thank you to Barrett and his dad for being so great, and for choosing us to help with their training needs!
Laura
Owner, Delightful Doggies