At some point in your dog’s life, there may be a time where a muzzle may be a good idea like in emergencies, in grooming situations, if your dog has bitten a person or dog before for examples. The time to teach a good feeling about wearing the muzzle is not when you need it, but now. I came across this video and think it is really well done for explaining how to do it.
Parents, please do your part to help your child and your dog’s relationship to succeed. Teach your children that the place to be wild and crazy is away from your dog (and unknown dogs). If your dog (or a loose or leashed unknown dog) becomes overly aroused, movement will keep that arousal curve moving forward. Kids should be taught how to stand still and be a tree with their hands under their armpits to lower the dog’s arousal.
The other day, someone was complaining to me of how her dog really gets her mad when she is on the telephone. It seems that as soon as she picks up the receiver, he begins to bark and pace at her feet, which makes it very difficult to focus on her conversation.
“What do you do when Hank does that,” I asked.
“I immediately tell him no but he does not listen. Sometimes I will push him away or I will get him a toy to divert him,” was her answer.
Whenever a problem like this arises, it is always important to remind yourself that behavior always occurs for a reason. And if it is repeated, then it is being reinforced by something in the environment.
I have been taught to look at behavior through the lens of Applied Behavior Analysis, a systematic approach to solving behavior problems that involves looking at the very specific behavior (such as a dog barking) in terms of what is giving that behavior purpose and value? What happened *immediately* prior to the behavior (antecedent) to set the whole ball rolling? And what happened *immediately* after the behavior to reinforce it (consequence)? It is how I have been taught to look at behavior.
In this woman’s circumstance, the antecedent is her picking up the telephone receiver; the behavior is her dog barking and pacing; and the consequence to her dog is her attention and/or being given a favorite toy.
When you look at it this way, can you see how that barking and pacing behavior is getting reinforced? And how her picking up the phone has actually become a learned cue (we call that a discriminative stimulus) to bark and pace in order to receive that reinforcement?
Here is how I’d write that out:
A: Mary picks up the telephone receiver
B: Hank barks and paces at her feet
C: Mary gives Hank attention and a favorite toy
Prediction: When Mary picks up the phone receiver, Hank will bark and pace more often to get Mary to give him attention and a favorite toy.
Once you see that, developing a strategic plan to modify Hank’s behavior in the most positive, least intrusive way becomes clearer.
There are so many possibilities. Antecedent change is probably going to be the most effective here because, let’s face it, once Mary is on the telephone it is going to be difficult for her prevent Hank from building upon his reinforcement of that behavior.
A few suggestions for antecedent change strategies include: Mary could give her dog a favorite toy whenever she picks up the telephone AND BEFORE Hank begins the problematic behavior; or she could teach Hank a reliable sit or down and stay with a huge reinforcement history and then ask Hank to do one of those behaviors after picking up the phone AND BEFORE he begins the barking and pacing.
She should also have a plan in place in the instance that she cannot prevent the unwanted behaviors from occurring, so as to at least minimize the amount of reinforcement Hank receives. With a portable telephone, she can stand up and turn her back to him for example after the behaviors begin.
These are just a few ideas for solving this. When you look at behavior in the context of its environment, it gives you a very different perspective on your pet and your pet’s behavior; and it allows you to develop solutions that not only help your pet to succeed but strengthen your relationship as well.
Can I be of further help to you and your dog? Please contact me!
My dad loves to share stories of Sam’s brilliance…and keen sense of hearing. The two buddies often travel together to the store. My dad says he can’t leave without Sam because Sam knows right away when dad is getting ready to leave and comes running to go with him, waggling his tail and holding a toy.
Let’s put our Applied Behavior Analysis hats on for a minute and do a functional assessment of the environment from each perspective. A functional assessment involves looking at the specific measurable
behavior within the context of its environment including the Antecedent (setting event for the behavior), the Behavior, and the Consequence of the behavior. In doing an assessment, always begin by writing down the Behavior we are analyzing, then fill in the A and C.
1. Focusing on my dad
A: My dad announces he is going to the store
B: Sam exhibits ‘wanna go’ behaviors (immediately perks up, runs to grab one of his toys and then comes back to my dad with his whole body waggling
C: Dad gets Sam’s leash and takes him to the car (there actually could be a second ABC here if I tightened this up)
Prediction: When my dad announces that he is going to the store, Sam will exhibit his ‘wanna go’ behaviors more frequently to produce the outcome of getting to go to the car.
2. Focusing on Sam
A: Sam is laying on floor in the kitchen
B: Dad announces his excursion
C: Sam exhibits his ‘wanna go’ behaviors
Prediction: When Sam is laying on the kitchen floor, my dad will announce his excursion more to get Sam to exhibit his ‘wanna go’ behaviors
It looks to me like both Sam and my dad are doing a fabulous job of reinforcing the behavior of the other. They are great teachers. I taught them well.
Can I be of help to you and your pet? Please contact me!
Another holiday is upon us, and that may mean much added stress, activity and company. Complaints of dog over arousal, jumping on people, getting into things it shouldn’t, and even biting or growling at kids happen a lot at this time of year. Instead of blaming your dog, think through how you can help your dog to succeed through the next few days.
With this being just a few days from Christmas and Hannukah, the reality is, if you have not already spent time teaching your dog behaviors you want to see in different situations, you more than likely won’t be able to teach those behaviors with such fluency by the time guests arrive.
However, now is the time to really do an assessment of your dog’s reaction to different stimulus. Management and other solutions will be very different for a dog that has great fear reaction to people, sounds, and strange sights than for a dog who jumps on people to get attention. If your dog growls, lunges at, or retreats from strangers, the holiday party is not a good time to be desensitizing your dog to people. A better choice is to keep your dog in a safe, quiet place away from company…or even sending it to a friend’s or a kennel away from it all.
If your dog is one that will jump on guests when they arrive, consider having it behind a gate, in a bedroom out of site or in a crate in another room until they settle in and your dog is in a calmer state. Be prepared to reinforce your dog for doing the desired behavior.
With adults often come children, and, as your pet’s guardian, it is your responsibility to ensure a safe environment for everyone. Any dog will have a breaking point when it comes to interactions with people who do things to make the dog uncomfortable. Additionally, children can run around which encourages your dog to chase them, potentially leading to over arousal. Children should ALWAYS be PRO-ACTIVELY supervised around pets, and should be redirected if they are doing anything that a dog does not like. Some dog body language to look for in an unhappy dog is: a tail held low or tucked between the legs; ears held sideways for an erect eared dog or flattened back with rapid panting; tense eyes that likely show the whites around the sides; tense body muscles; looking or moving or leaning away; a center of gravity over the rear legs or to one side. Dogs may also roll onto their belly in submission. If dogs freeze, become stiff, stand with their front legs splayed and head low, showing teeth or growling, interaction with them needs to stop immediately.
Ensure that your dog has a quiet safe where it can go if it wants to be alone, and instruct and enforce to all of your guests that they are not to enter the space around that quiet place.
At least during the most hectic times such as opening presents, serving food, guests coming and going, consider having your dog in its quiet place with a chew toy such as a stuffed Kong.
Make sure that your dog is wearing its collar and name tags in case it runs out the door. Of course, also managing its opportunity to be that close to the door is also very important.
If your dog is likely to grab some of that tasty holiday food, and you haven’t already trained alternative behaviors, management is your best solution. Tell your guests to keep food and drinks away from reach. You may also want to use barriers such as gates to prevent your dog from having access.
Can I be of help to you and your pet with your dog training needs? Please contact me.
With an icy winter day here predicted in Cincinnati, I have a winter weather safety tip for your dog. In snowy weather, please remember salt and chemicals are unhealthy for your pet and should be wiped off as soon as he/she comes inside. Also, be aware of ice balls that can form between the pads and toes if your dog has a lot of fur on his/her feet which can add to the problem of retaining chemicals.
Can I be of help to you and your dog? Please click here and reach out!
I was asked the other day this question: “Does it matter if we refer to our pet by its species or its sex? Are “Good Dog!” and “Good Boy!” equal in esteeming and reinforcing good behavior?”
I am assuming that person was using those words both to let her dog know she liked her dog’s behavior and also to add value to her dog’s behavior so that she would see more of it.
Let’s first look at the function in training of using words to acknowledge a behavior. We call this using a marker. A clicker or other sound (or even another non-verbal signal) can be used as well. Moment marking training is very effective because it involves giving the learner very precise information that what occurred *immediately* preceding the mark is exactly what the trainer is looking for. If you are shaping behavior (reinforcing small steps or approximations toward a final behavior), you may mark those tiny steps with a click or word kind of like you’d play the child’s hot and cold game. You may also click in teaching simple behaviors like when a dog sits or you may mark a behavior for other criteria such as duration. That precision matters because within just several seconds time, you could be inadvertently reinforcing a different behavior if your timing is off. You can say ‘Yes!’ or click much quicker than you can deliver a piece of food.
Good markers then are distinct and short sounds that provide the learner with very specific feedback that *at that moment* the behavior was awesome. Having said that, then using two or more words that take longer to say may not be as effective because by the time a trainer gets through ‘gooood boy’, the dog may be on to doing another behavior. Another point is that, I have seen handlers who repeat ‘good dog’ over and over again. In terms of training, that is not specific enough information for the learner.
To use markers effectively, they should be used ‘as’ the behavior is occurring. No other stimulus should be present until AFTER the click or verbal word (so no reaching for your food until after you click).
Now, as for whether words matter, I’ll say the same thing I told my clients who taught their dog to come with a cue of ‘Buckeye’. Whether we are talking about a cue occurring before the behavior or a marker occurring after the behavior, the word itself does not matter. It is all in how you teach it.
You can build value for words by pairing them with things or activities your pet values. Remember that it is the stimulus that occurs AFTER something that affects the emotional response of what occurs before. A click in and of itself does not have meaning; however, if you click and then give your dog a treat with many repetitions, over time, your dog will acquire the same type of reflexive response to the click as he with the treat.
So, in answer to that question, if I am training a specific behavior, I would not use either ‘good dog’ or ‘good boy’ but rather I would use either a clicker or a single syllable word like ‘yes’ and I would spend time teaching my student the value of the marker I am using.
Parents, please remember, you have an important role to play in helping your children and your dog succeed…including preventing dog bites.
Please click here to ready my post: Supervising dogs and kids is not enough.
To learn more about dog body language, please click here: dog body language
Please watch this video below of how two girls practiced teaching their puppy recall.
I love this quote. It is so relevant to dog training (and any pet) too. Instead of blaming our pets when they are not learning what we want them to do, we need to ask ourselves as their teacher, ‘What can I do to make my lesson more clear?’ I wrote about this awhile back.
Someone shared with me the other day of her frustration she was having with her dog. It seems her dog has a favorite pillow in her bedroom she keeps on the ground and as soon as she goes in there with her dog, Fido lays on it. She keeps yelling at her dog when Fido goes to his spot, and he does come off willingly but his behavior hasn’t stopped. It’s very frustrating for her.
So, why doesn’t this women’s dog get the fact that she does not want him on her pillow? Why does he continue to choose to go there every time they go into the bedroom together despite the fact that he gets yelled at when he goes there?
My background is in learning to solve pet issues in the most positive, least intrusive ways by looking at it objectively, visibly, and measurably through the lens of Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA). ABA is a systematic approach to modifying behavior by changing the environment in which the behavior occurs. It involves looking at the very specific behavior (such as a dog barking) in terms of what is giving that behavior purpose and value? What happened *immediately* prior to the behavior (antecedent) to set the whole ball rolling? And what happened *immediately* after the behavior to reinforce it (consequence)?
So, to begin with this situation, we need to stop and look at things from her dog’s perspective. We know that behavior is simply a tool to get an animal a consequence of value to that animal, so, instead of becoming frustrated with Fido for just doing what works to get him something he wants, let’s think about what those consequences could be that are maintaining and strengthening the behavior of laying on the pillow (scientifically speaking, he is receiving positive reinforcement for this).
A few possible consequences could be sensory stimulation (the feeling of softness) or attention from Fido’s owner (when he lays on the pillow, she calls him to come off and sometimes may do something else with him that she thinks will divert his attention away from the pillow).
We also know that the antecedent to Fido’s getting on the pillow is his walking into his owner’s bedroom with her when the pillow is on the floor. But also, some other contributing factors (we call these distant antecedents) may be: Fido generally does not receive much attention during the day, the home has all hard floors with no other soft options on the floor. And additionally, we know that Fido does not go into that bedroom by himself.
The ABC analysis for this situation would be:
A (antecedent): Proximity to pillow when owner is present
B (behavior): Fido gets on pillow
C (consequence): Owner’s attention, sensory stimulation
Prediction: When the owner is present, Fido will get on the pillow more to get his owner’s attention and sensory stimulation.
When you break it down like this, it gives you a very different perspective on your pet’s ‘bad’ behavior.
Looking at that situation then, there are choices to make. Altering the consequence so that the learner is not getting reinforcement for the unwanted behavior is very important, but doing that alone does not help to teach the animal what it can do instead to get reinforcement.
Actually in this case, because it would be difficult to prevent reinforcement for the behavior once it is set into motion, a better solution would be to focus on the antecedents so as to prevent practice of that behavior (because practice with positive outcomes builds strong behavior).
Brainstorming, some possible ideas for solutions (using the most positive, least intrusive strategies) include:
1. Moving the pillow to a higher surface
2. Getting a plushy dog bed or other soft area and building great value for Fido to go there instead
3. Have high value puzzle toys or other activity available in the bedroom that Fido will want to engage in
4. Teach Fido to do other behaviors than laying on the pillow, when in the bedroom
To build value for the last three ideas, I’d remove or move the pillow while teaching and building huge value for the wanted habits so that over time, those behaviors are the ones Fido will choose to do.
When you modify behavior in this way, you are also enriching your dog’s life and strengthening your relationship with it. Those are two great reasons to see things differently.