Monday, May 22, 2017

Socializing Leash Reactive Dogs

Do you have a dog that on leash islunging, pulling toward, or barking at other dogs or people? If so, you know how stressful and embarrassing it can be for you! You may be offered “advice” from well-meaning individuials (who are not dog professionals) that tell you just to get your dog out more and socialize him her - only to discover that this seems to make the matter worse.

Do not "socialize" your fearful, leash reactive dog, aggressive dog in social settings. A simple rule - if you cannot control the social environment around your dog so that your dog remains under threshold aka not stressed, then leave him home.

Dogs don't need to be socialized in stressful settings. If you choose to take your anxious/nervous/leash reactive/aggressive dog somewhere, then you MUST devote yourself to keeping your dog safe from intrusive interactions and work on counter conditioning and desensitization - keep your distance, keep your dog safe, make it a training moment and redirect your dog with food, a toy, reassurance and instructions. Keep your dog SAFE.

If you need help, call me. I have a lot of experience in working with leash reactive dogs.

Here is a great video from Urban Dawgs - Positive, Reward-Based Dog Training trainer Drayton Michaels on how to manage your dog in social settings in public: Click here for video

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Sunday, May 21, 2017

Puppy - walking on leash

By:  Dr. Sophia Yin

What method should you use to train?

My general rule of thumb is that we should use methods that focus on rewarding the correct behavior, starting with steps the dog can easily perform and quickly moving on to steps that are closer and closer to our goal behavior; rather than methods that rely on sheer luck that the type of dog you selected can endure it mentally unscathed. And if we choose methods that are as crude as dental care in the 16th century, we should realize that some dogs learn no matter what we do to mess them up.
Now, in the case of Bowser, the balking Schnauzer, who has learned to be afraid of the tug: let’s go back to the beginning and take 5-10 minutes to retrain the walking, step by step. First note, that unlike the methods I used many decades ago, the methods of today do not rely on corrective devices such as choke chains. Instead, they rely on combining rewards for desired behavior and removal of rewards for unwanted behavior.

Stage 1

Step 1: Practice off leash in a puppy-safe, potty safe area and reward little Bowser for sitting. Give one treat for sitting and additional treats for remaining seated. Once you have her undivided attention, then you run the other way to incite a chase. And stop after 5-7 steps, before she catches up. When she gets to you, she sits and gets a reward. Now she has the idea that it’s fun to follow you. (To see this in action watch this video from Creating the Perfect Puppy: How to Start Your Puppy Off Right and Stay on Track).

Step 2: Next, repeat the same process with a lightweight leash attached to her flat collar so she gets used to the feel of the leash. Of course, make sure that she can’t get it snagged on anything or you’ll be adding an extra day or two to your training!

Step 3: After you’ve practiced that a couple of times you’re ready to hold the leash. In fact, you can often skip that leash dragging stage. Little Bowser’s already used to following you when you sprint or head the other way. So, you can walk but with quick little steps so it looks like you are sprinting to get her to follow after you. Make sure that you keep the leash in a loose arc the entire time.

Step 3 alternative: Alternatively you can go for variation two. Walk to the end of the leash, but without letting the leash tighten. We want to avoid any pressure at first since pressure might scare her. When you get to the end, remain with your body facing forward while looking back at your puppy or face your body slightly sideways so you can see her more easily.  Then lure her to you with a treat. Do this 3-6 times in a row or more until you can rapidly walk away and when you stop and lure she readily catches up to you when she sees the treat.  (To see photo illustration, read section 5.6 in Perfect Puppy in 7 Days)

Next, repeat the process but don’t show her the treat until after she catches up to you. Once she follows you 3-6 times, she will most likely start to walk with you as you begin to walk away.

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Thursday, May 18, 2017

The Myth of the Spoiled Dog

Why is it that if a dog barks for a treat, we say he’s demanding; but, if the dog sits for a treat, we say he’s asking? The differences in value judgments here are purely human. Both behaviors are equally appropriate and doable from the dog’s perspective.

Behaviorally speaking, right and wrong are simply divided by that which gets you the result you want and that which doesn’t. It has nothing to do with that which embarrasses your owner in front of his boss, or that which impresses the neighbors. Those are concepts beyond the scope of canine understanding. A dog who barks for a treat and gets it is just as well trained as the dog who sits for a treat and gets it. They’ve just been trained to do very different things.

And what about the dog who “refuses” to sit as his owner (or the trainer on TV) repeatedly tells him exactly what he’s supposed to do. Is the dog spoiled, or is the dog absolutely clueless as to what the heck these people are screaming about?

To have a derogatory attitude toward a dog for brilliantly learning everything her owners have taught her just seems a major injustice to me. To blame a dog for being misguided, or unguided, by the people in charge of teaching her how to live in the human world seems irresponsible.

I’m adamant about this point for a couple of reasons. One is that training goes much, much faster when owners can clearly see how they need to change their own behavior in order to change the dog’s behavior. This doesn’t require blaming anyone or setting up some phony battle of wills. I know it’s popular these days to create the drama of a dog trying to take over your life as you become the dragon slayer who must tame the wild beast. But I would argue that your very domesticated dog has been following your lead all along!

(This dog who is trying to take over your life can’t go outside or eat a meal without you. How much more subservient can one get?)

What it does require is enough humility to accept and admit that we, the humans, have had a hand in teaching the dog (or not) that certain behaviors work. If you’ve ever let your dog out of a crate because he was barking, you have indeed taught the dog that barking works. The dog isn’t spoiled. He’s just doing what works. You’re not an idiot, you just love your dog and hated to have him "suffer". Let’s accept where we are and move ahead!

The other reason I feel this is so important to grasp is because of what it can do to the relationship between a dog and owner. Setting up the dog as the evil enemy who must be conquered puts us in an adversarial relationship that has little to do with why we got a dog in the first place. Would it really be such a terrible thing to marvel at the dog who is so bright that he figured out barking will get him out of his crate? If it works, what a smart dog! If he figured that out, he can learn something different!
In the end, the actual training is no different with or without the labels. A “spoiled” dog who barks to get out of a crate would be trained the same way that a “dominant” or “stubborn” dog would be. In fact, you could label your dog a genius and the training would remain the same! Regardless of what you believe your dog IS, it doesn’t change what your dog DOES.

Your _______ dog barks when put in a crate. We teach your ______ dog to be comfortable in a crate and that barking will not result in being let out, but sitting quietly will. We teach your ________ dog that sitting quietly is the key to making all good things happen.

You can fill in the blanks with whatever you like. All it will change is your human view of your dog’s behavior. Try reading the previous paragraph with the following words in the blank spaces. How does that change the way you feel about the dog? (Please notice, nothing else changes.) Stubborn, brilliant, dominant, very good, bratty, polite, obstinate, sweet, insane

My hope is that we can start talking about dog behavior without filling in those blanks at all. Your dog barks when put in a crate. Let’s change that.

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Monday, May 15, 2017


An Open Letter to Owners Who Think Treats are Bribery

I understand.  You don’t want to use treats to train your dog because he should learn appropriate behavior without having to be bribed.  If you reward him with treats, it degrades more important rewards such as your approval.  He’ll never learn right and wrong.  You want him to respect you.  He’ll also become dependent on treats and won’t perform when not bribed.
I get it.  I do.
But the thing is this.  You’re wrong.  And you’re wrong in both senses of that word.  You’re inaccurate, because you’re firing moral psychological software, evolved for social interchange in humans, at a dog, who will never be molded into an upstanding member of society.   And in spite of your good intentions, you’re morally wrong because you will inevitably end up employing pain and fear to motivate him.  The science is in and the consensus of every reputable professional organization has converged on its findings: pain and fear are detrimental and inhumane, and don’t instill moral goodness in your dog.  They just terrorize him into doing more of what you want. 
It could be you’re not interested in the science, that you’re too far down the path of finding it emotionally unbearable to motivate your dog with chicken that no amount of reason or evidence will sway you.  If that’s you, I can’t help you.   You have a tolerance – or perhaps an appetite - for dogs cowering that I will never understand.  Eventually the law will catch up with the science and you’ll be prohibited from strangling, hitting, shocking and scaring your dog, but until then you’ll be able to indulge that need.

If, however, you are amenable to evidence, and you don’t get a little charge out of seeing him cower, or see it as a sad but somehow necessary evil, read on.  Consider that you are causing a dog to suffer without any attendant upgrading of his moral being (your objective) because of this choice.  It’s an illusion.  He won't thank you one day.  He’ll never do what’s right because it’s right.  He’ll just keep wishing you’d stop scaring him.

Google “evolution of the desire to punish social transgressors” and you’ll get a large, cross-cultural, robust body of research on the urge we have to morally police other members of society.  It affects everything from justice systems to child-rearing.  But dogs aren’t people.  They don’t have the complementary software to learn the right and wrong we feel compelled to teach.  They can, however, learn safe and dangerous, and so we fool ourselves that this is proof that we’ve morally improved them when we eschew treats and instead intimidate, and they then do less of what bugs us.  Because, make no mistake, righteousness or your approval isn’t driving him.  It’s the yelling, hitting, poking, kicking, strangling, digging pins into his neck, and electric shock that’s making him act closer to the way you want.  If you saw a keeper do any of this to a meerkat at the zoo, you’d call the cops.

Sleazy trainers know you wish to create this moral being and will prey on you, telling you that these things don’t actually hurt or scare him.  They’ll label fear “respect.”  They’ll tell you that treats corrupt.  If you want to believe it badly enough, your cowering dog won’t matter as much as his fictitious moral improvement does.

It’s an understandable error, conflating dogs and children.  Dogs are in that role in our families, and our morality instincts make it all feel very compelling.  I’d like to give the last word to two colleagues who gave me terrific insight in a recent discussion among trainers about this phenomenon.
Trainer Ann-Marie Brady Levine summarizes the against-grain error we make:
“[In the case of children], it *is* what we're doing, teaching them species-appropriate behaviours. In dog training, however, we are often asking the dog *not* to engage in his species-appropriate behaviours.  We're asking him to do something at odds with his behavioural programming.  And for that to work, we have to make it worth his while.  Much as you would if you were asking your toddler to walk on her hands instead of her feet.  Praise wouldn't cut it, especially the first time you went for a stroll on a gravel road.”
Veterinarian Dawn Crandell further explains the divergent objectives of dogs and humans:
“The reward for kids behaving in a socially acceptable way is social - they make friends, people are nice to them, others think highly of them.  All this can be understood by a human brain and has value, to a human.  Dogs have no concept of all those subtle social human interactions and to suggest or think that they do is the ultimate in anthropomorphism.”

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Saturday, May 13, 2017

Teaching Your Dog to "Leave It"

By:  Robin Sockness
My Best Buddy Dog Training

Has your dog ever discovered something gross, or possibly dangerous that you don’t want him to pick up? It happens all the time - especially with puppies, and the “Leave It” command is your solution. The goal of the "leave it" command is to bring the dog’s attention back to you, away from an object that attracts him, to disengage -- so you can reward your dog. 

There are many ways it can be taught, here are a few ideas:

1.  Get a yummy, smelly treat and hold it really firmly in your hand so that the dog can not easily pinch it from your fingers. Hold the treat in front of your dog's nose so that he can sniff it, but not get it. Say the words “Leave It” firmly, but not being unkind. You may have to say it more than once before your dog loses interest. As soon as your dog moves his nose away and quits showing interest, praise him and give it to him, saying “take it!” (in a very happy voice) when you give him the treat.

You will need to repeat this exercise and build it up in tiny steps. Treat as soon as he moves his nose away, looks away, moves his head away, etc. Couple this with the command 'leave it' depending on your preference. He will come to learn the difference between leaving something alone and being allowed to have it.

As you progress, you should be able to hold the treat in front of the dog, tell him to “leave it” and he will make no attempt to get the treat. Don't forget to say “take it” when you treat him. Start upping the criteria by placing the treat on the floor and asking him to leave it - you must make sure to keep your hand near to the treat or be able to body block at first so that if he goes for it you will get there first!

2.  Put your dog on a leash that is attached to you. Toss the treat so that it is out of reach of your dog. Say “leave it” and when he stops trying to get it and looks to you for direction, hand him a treat!

3. Put your dog on a lead and walk him past the treat, always asking him to “leave it”. Praise and treat when he does. As you progress, start applying the command to other objects, a purse, a toy bin, a child's toy, litter outside and so on.

4. Have two different types of treats. One can be fairly boring to the dog like a dry bland treat, but the other type should be a high-value treat like a moist and smelly treat. Put one type of treat in each hand. Place both of your hands behind your back. Make a fist with the hand that is holding the boring treat and present your fist to your dog, letting him sniff. Say “leave it” and wait until he finishes trying to get the boring treat. As soon as your dog is done trying to get the treat, offer the higher-value treat in your other hand and say "take it".

When your dog is reliably responding to the "leave it" cue with treats, you can teach him that “leave it” applies to other things. Repeat the exercise with  different items that are fairly boring to your dog.
After using the "leave it" command the “boring” items, start using slightly more exciting items.  To increase the chances of success at learning "leave it", you want to work up to high-value items gradually. 

The ultimate goal: Anytime you say “leave it,” you want to be confident that your dog will indeed leave whatever you are asking him to leave, disengage and pay attention to you.  

Most importantly:  Keep it fun! Even though you’re practicing “leave it” as a way to keep your dog safe, you want him to see it as a fun game you play so that it remains a reliable behavior.©

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Friday, May 12, 2017

Dog Harness

Our puppy classes require that clients bring their dogs in a harness.  This is for safety purposes as we do not want any pulling on a dog's neck.  No-pull harnesses are best when training a dog to walk on leash and my recommendation is the Freedom No Pull Harness.

"The Freedom No Pull Harness was designed, invented, and patented by Jessica MacDonald, co-owner of this website and USA Dog Shop. Made in the USA: US Patent Number: 7,165,511. The Freedom No Pull harness is extremely effective for training and minimizes the effect of pulling for several reasons: (1)- tightening effect of the loop on the harness, (2)- the location of the loop, (3)- the reconfigurable design that allows you to attach to only the back or to the front and back of the harness simultaneously. "

Freedom No Pull Harness Discount Code:  My Bet Buddy Dog Training clients will receive 10% off any order over $28.99 AND will receive free shipping when spending over $34.99.  Enter the trainer code: MyBestBuddy at the end of the ordering process under the box that needs to be clicked for terms and conditions.

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Thursday, May 11, 2017

Puppy Socialization

Puppy Class is Great for Socialization!
Your puppy goes through a socialization period from around 4 weeks to 20 weeks that permanently shapes his/her future personality and how s/he will react to and handle things in the environment as an adult dog.  It is the most critical time of your dog's life. Gently exposing your dog to a wide variety of people, places, and situations in a way that is fun for the dog makes a huge and permanent difference on how his/her life will be in the future.  Gentle handling of puppies at 3 weeks of age starts the process.

Socialization means you will be helping your puppy become acclimated to all types of sights, sounds, and smells in a safe and positive manner. Proper socialization will prevent a dog from being always fearful of children, riding in a car, going to the vet, being around other dogs, etc. 

Puppies should be exposed, in a positive or neutral way, to as many things as possible.  No fear allowed! Negative experiences that occur during this critical socialisation window can affect your puppy for life. Your puppy needs to be exposed to things several times over the socialisation period - once won't do the trick, you need to have multiple exposures.

Socialization will help him/her develop into a well-mannered, happy canine companion. Having a dog who is well-adjusted and confident can go so far as to save his/her life one day.For additional information and more free advice, click here.

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