Training People Is Like Training Dogs

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Did you know you can train people just like you can train dogs and parrots?

What is so awesome about learning how to train non-human animals with scientifically sounds positive reinforcement based strategies is that this kind of teaching applies to ALL living beings…including people. I loved this segment on The Meredith Vieira Show this morning where psychologist Wendy Walsh talks about using Applied Behavior Analysis to train husbands.

Please click here to watch the segment.

Training people as you train dogs and parrots was the topic of the Meredith Vieira Show

What If Your Dog Will Not Budge On A Walk?

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When you share your home and your life with a dog, there are so many activities your will be doing together. One of those that is pretty much universal is walking together joined by a leash.

And one of the most common issues people have with their puppy and dog is walking with their dog or puppy on a leash, a loose leash that is.

how to stop a dog or puppy from pulling and not budging on a leashI’ve addressed some of the reasons why that activity may break down.  I thought I’d specifically write about tips for solving an issue of a dog or puppy who plants his feet (or rear end) down on the ground and will not budge, as I have seen this happen time and again. I will refer to this as ‘no-budge behavior’.

Before talking about the behavioral modifications, you may first want to consider if there is an underlying medical issue that is giving your dog reason to stop in his tracks – especially if this is a sudden behavior change. Watch your dog or puppy carefully to see if he is favoring one leg over another; or if he seems uncomfortable in any way. If you touch a spot on his body, including his legs, does he wince or growl? If so, you should talk to your veterinarian to see if there is a physical or medical issue going on.

Additionally, take into consideration the outside temperature and the walking surface. Black surfaces can be extremely hot to a dog’s sensitive paws. Also keep in mind, dogs don’t sweat as humans do (much of their heat is released through their paws and panting). Certain dogs – especially those with short noses, thick coats and heavy muscle mass may be more sensitive to heat. And, some dog are more sensitive to the cold as well. Therefore, weather could be a reason for your dog’s unwillingness to walk with you. If weather may be the culprit, you may want to choose a different time a day, a different surface, give your dog more rest time (and bring plenty of water); or choose to find another activity that can give your dog an outlet for his mental and physical exercise needs. (which is a great idea even with walks)

And also, listen to your dog by watching his body language and paying attention to the surrounding environment. It could be that you are walking toward something that is aversive to your dog in some way (maybe he had a negative encounter with another dog or person in the past, in that area before – or a similar area, as an example). If that could be what is going on, then you may want to either avoid that situation or work with your dog to build a positive association with that environment instead.

These are some ways that I have worked through this issue with dogs and puppies.

Keep in mind, my focus is on using the most positive strategies for modifying behavior; and so, I focus on teaching wanted behaviors and building value for those behaviors while trying to avoid situations where my student will practice unwanted behaviors.

So begin by taking account of those situations when your dog or puppy is likely to stop cold in his tracks and not budge. What is the environment, the time of day, your dog or puppy’s previous activity been (maybe he is tired, for example)? Keep a record of this. Sometimes the most simple solution is modifying the environment (called antecedent arrangement) so as to not set that unwanted behavior into motion to begin with. And you definitely do not want your student to be practicing that no-budging behavior.

Practice building value for your dog or puppy walking next to you, following you, and paying attention to you off leash. Here is a link to a game for building value at being by your side. Watch for the criteria you are looking for, mark it with a click or verbal marker, and then give your student a reinforcer (I have used any combination of food, games, or the opportunity to chase me as reinforcers.)

Now, practice this with a leash attached to your student’s flat collar. If needed, you can begin this in a space free of danger of the leash snagging on something and let the leash drag on the ground – or you can hold the leash. If you are holding the leash, ensure that the leash is loose and there is not pressure on your student’s neck.

Practice walking and marking (with a verbal marker or clicker) when your student is walking with you where you want him to be (with a loose leash). Do this first in an environment that DOES NOT have the history associated with your dog or puppy’s no-budge behavior. You may want to begin by standing stationary and building value for your student being at your side, and then take a single step and continuing the process.

Gradually you can add more steps, continuing to mark and reinforce your student for walking on a loose leash. Since you will have kept a record of where and when the no-budge behaviors are likely to occur, you can pay special attention to practicing with a high rate of reinforcement BEFORE you get to that spot; and then walk away from the spot and continue to get closer and closer with each repetition. NOTE that you also should be watchful for any body language your student is using to indicate uneasiness and do not push your student beyond that comfort zone. If there is a fear or other reactivity issue, you may want to work with a trainer who uses positive strategies.

While I work to try to avoid the leash/neck pressure, there are times where it may happen and so teaching your student positive association with that – and to move toward the source of pressure instead of away is also a good idea. Similar to the collar grab game, practice a slight tug on the leash (not so much pressure as to cause discomfort) and follow that with a treat. Then practice waiting for your dog to shift his body weight toward the pressure, then making a small movement toward it, and more movement toward it. (This is called shaping.) Practice this numerous times through the day and you can gradually add a little more pressure.

What you do not want to do is continue to pull on your dog or puppy’s leash while he is practicing that no-budge behavior. When you are both pulling against each other, neither one of you is going to win; and there is the potential to inflict harm.

I can tell you that recently several puppies who had a history of the no-budge behavior, eagerly walked by my side after my spending time working through these steps.

And always remember – to have fun!

 

The Role Of Teachers In Pet Training

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I love this quote. It speaks volumes for training animals. When you teach by encouraging your student to make choices, set them up so they make lots of ‘good’ choices, and then give positive reinforcement for those choices, you make learning from you fun.

dog training tip by Cincinnati dog trainer Lisa Desatnik of So Much PETential

Dog Training Tip: Remember, Training Goes Both Ways

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Can you relate? Remember, in every relationship each of us is shaping the behavior of the other whether we realize it or not. Learning never stops. Behaviors that get repeated are the behaviors that have a history of getting the learner something of value.

dog training tip from Cincinnati trainer Lisa Desatnik of So Much PETential

How To Stop Your Dog From Barking Out Windows

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It is not uncommon for people who share homes with a dog to complain about their furry friend bursting into a barking frenzy as a response to seeing or hearing something outside the window. Understandably the noise can be really annoying to human ears, especially when it comes at inopportune times.

There are so many reasons why dogs react to stimulus by barking, panting, running side to side, and have accelerated heart beats. It could be territorial or fear or barrier frustration, or for herding dogs, it could even be due to your dog’s instincts to herd.

If this happens on a regular basis, you may want to take steps to modify your dog’s behavioral reaction.

Here are a few suggestions. Please note that behavior is always the study of one, with differing environments, stimulus and animals. These are some general considerations to think about.

Let’s look at this behavior modification plan from the standpoint of the Humane Hierarchy, a ranking of training methodologies going from least intrusive for the learner to most intrusive. For more on this, please see my post.

Antecedent Arrangement

If you have ruled out a medical or nutritional variable, then let’s begin with antecedent arrangement. What can be done to manage the environment so that a) your pet will not have access to practice that unwanted set of behaviors and b) your pet will have less motivation to do the unwanted set of behaviors.

Remember, practice strengthens behaviors and if your pet has access to seeing and hearing those outside stimulus when you can not be in teaching mode, you will be setting your pet up to keep practicing and getting reinforcement from those behaviors.

If your dog is barking at what he sees out the window, then consider blocking access to that window. Drawing the curtains may not be the solution as curtains can be moved by a pushy nose. Some suggestions are preventing access to the window or applying a cling film (that can be easily removed) to the window (purchased at a home supply store).

If your dog reacts strongly to outdoor noises, playing white noise or a radio may help.

As a motivating operation, if you increase your dog’s mental and physical exercise, you will be making resting more valuable to your dog. Think in terms of exercising your dog’s mind and body through training, thinking toys and games.

Positive Reinforcement

In a controlled setting, when you are fully focused and in training mode, you can teach your dog behaviors you would like to see in him when he sees something outside.

A friend of mine saw trouble ahead when her neighbor began letting two dogs out to run and bark on the other Baxter is a labradoodle who was taught to not bark at dogs he sees through the windowside of the fence. Karen first saw Baxter, who is a certified therapy dog, running back and forth and she anticipating the barking that would come next. In that moment, she averted his attention quickly and then started putting together a plan. With high value treats, she began teaching Baxter that the cue ‘doggie doggie’ was for alerting (turning his head to look at them) to the other dogs, and then running to Karen for something awesome. She began teaching this inside, behind a window where Baxter could succeed before moving to outside.

What Karen was doing was very similar to Leslie McDevitt’s Look At That Game beautifully detailed in one of my favorite books, Control Unleashed. In a very simplified description, Look at That teaches your dog that *when* he looks at a stimulus, *then* something awesome happens like a pretty tasty treat getting delivered by a well liked human. As your dog’s teacher, playing this means being in a location and at a time when your dog will not be over threshold (in other words BEFORE the lunging, barking behavior begins). Begin by teaching your dog to look at something more neutral. As soon as your dog notices the stimulus, then you mark that behavior such as with a verbal Yes! or a click, and then follow it with a high value treat. As you have continued success, you can first move this game to a more distracting environment, and then a more distracting stimulus. (Leslie recommends teaching this with a cue.)

Very important here is the timing and consistency with which you teach this. Before going any further, I encourage you to read my post on classical conditioning.

As for timing, remember, for your dog to learn that one stimulus (in Karen’s case, the barking dogs next door) predicts another stimulus (tasty food), then the dogs barking must come before the tasty food.  Marking the very moment your dog sees the stimulus is very important as the quicker that consequence occurs after a behavior, the easier it is for an animal to build the association between behavior and consequence.

The management portion of this plan is important because if you allow your dog to practice reacting to his environment outside of your limited training time, you will make behavior change very difficult.

As for Karen, with enough practice, instead of barking back to the dogs next door, when he hears them outside, he runs to find his housemate.

In your house, you can practice classical conditioning without the cue as well.  In a controlled learning environment and without the cue, practice having your dog see stimulus such as people walking to your door or riding a bike down the sidewalk and immediately follow that with giving your dog a super tasty treat. (beginning this at a distance from the window or with people at a distance from your house where your dog will not begin barking and progressing only at the pace at which your pet can succeed at remaining calm – having relaxed body muscles and normal heartrate). The changes you are seeking are internal, involuntary responses. As trainer Kathy Sdao says, the emotional response to the second stimulus infects the emotional response to the first stimulus. You can do this exact same process only with sounds instead of visual stimulus.

To see a fun example of the effectiveness of classical conditioning, please watch this video.

On a last note, remember, if your dog jumps and barks at the sound of your doorbell, chances are pretty likely he has learned that jumping and barking at the doorbell causes the door to open and either – incredible people or scary creatures to walk in. That is another lesson for another day.

 

Tips For Teaching Your Dog Loose Leash Walking

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Pulling or reacting to passers by while on a leash is such a common complaint I hear from people about life with their dog. And, understandably so.  If you have ever been that person on the other end, you know it can turn what was supposed to be a care free walk into a major stressor very quickly.

tips for training dog loose leash walkingWhen I observed several handlers recently who were having this issue, I noticed something in common. One thing that struck me was the disconnect I saw between human and dog, even in an environment with fairly low distraction – on a driveway.

Sure, they were tied together by a cord known as a leash but there was no REAL connection. The dogs were focused on everything else around them. If they wanted to sniff something, they would stop and sniff. If they wanted to get somewhere quicker, they would just walk faster (with their owner following).  Two things the dogs did not do were walking by their owner’s side and occasionally looking at their owner.
In each case, it was as if the owner was not present except for the tension or jerk on the leash when the dog behaved in a way the owner did not like.

If those dogs were so disconnected in a low distraction environment, it was of no surprise to me that those same dogs would react by barking, jumping and/or moving toward other anything else that gets their attention, disregarding the human at the other end of the leash.

The problem is, with every practice, the dog is learning all kinds of unwanted behaviors. And he is learning that the environment is far more important than paying attention to his owner.  With each walk, I predict their disconnect will continue to grow.

Here are just a few of the reasons why loose leash walking may break down:

  1. Lack of clarity in criteria. Ask yourself, what exactly do you want your dog to do when you go for a walk? (Do you want your dog to be at your side or a little in front of you? Do you want your dog to sit when you stop? What do you want your dog to do when a person or dog approaches?) If you cannot answer that question, then you cannot give your dog the clarity he needs. Without clarity, he will come to his own conclusions about what to do during a walk. And guess what? You may not like his choices.
  1. Lack of practice and proofing. When you know what you picture ‘loose leash walking’ to look like, spending up front time teaching him that criteria with consistency in an environment where you both can focus will greatly impact your success. Then ‘proof’ this behavior with distractions, adding difficulty only when your dog can continue to loose leash walk as you want him to. Please click here to read more about proofing behavior.
  1. Lack of consistency. If you ‘sometimes’ follow with a taught leash as your dog runs toward a distraction, then guess what? You may be contributing to an even stronger behavior of running toward a distraction as you dog becomes a slot machine player. Please click here to read more. Know that once you begin teaching your dog about loose leash walking that you need to consider every walk a training walk.
  1. There is a weak reinforcement history associated with you. This is a really important foundation. If, in other contexts, you intentionally or unintentionally use aversive strategies to modify behavior (like yelling at or squirting your dog with an irritant or simply do things that make your dog uncomfortable), then the value for him to focus on you may have been weakened. Remember, every waking moment your dog is taking in feedback from his environment, and is learning where the value is for him. The more you teach your dog with clarity and positive reinforcement, the more he will want to listen to you.
  1. There is a strong and established history of reinforcers from the environment that are competing against you. If your dog has had a lot of practice paying more attention to the flowers, fire hydrants and moving animals, and they give him all kinds of good things like sensory stimulation and an outlet for his energy and prey drive, it very well may be worth his while to do all that he can to get to those stimulus as quick as possible. The value would far outweigh the value of responding to you. Plus, when he is in his over aroused state, he may not even notice you yelling or pulling on the leash. I’ll point out here too that this also goes for reactive issues. If your dog has a history of getting a heavy jerk on his neck at the presence of scary dogs or people, then those dogs and people may likely become even more scary as past experience has taught your dog an association between them and unpleasant jerks on his neck. However, great for you is that you can actually use those distractions to build value in your dog’s eyes for doing the behaviors you want him to do. Please click here to read about the Premack Principle.

Now that I’ve gotten these reasons out of the way, I want to remind you…you can have a training walk and still have fun together. In the middle of your walk, ask your dog to do another behavior you have worked on or after a few ‘good’ steps, pull out an awesome toy.

Tugging As A Dog Training Tool

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I have been working on down/stay/release and recall this month with an awesome and super smart dog. (I know, not unlike lots of other dogs I have worked with.)

In training, I talk a lot about building value for behaviors by using reinforcing consequences that are of huge value to the learner (to the learner are the key words). For this sweet boy, tasty food like chicken and cheese are pretty great but tugging trumps everything.

And so, as I began teaching ‘release’ as the last part in the behavior chain of sit or down, wait, then release; I have been using the opportunity to tug a lot as the consequence to releasing on cue. As we have been building on this, I have been mixing things up though so he often will not know whether his getting up from a down and running to me will result in a good, short game of tug or a piece of tasty food or a short game of chase.

There are many directions I could take this post from here. I thought I’d write about tugging today because it can be a powerful tool in your reinforcement toolbox during training.

tugging with your dogFirstly, I’ll address a common statement. I have heard many times that tugging can make dogs aggressive or allows dogs to assert dominance over people.  Here is the thing. Dogs already have predatory energy. It is part of who they are, and tugging – properly, with rules – gives dogs a release for that energy.

Some Benefits of Tugging. There are many.

Tugging strengthens behaviors…and relationships. A few weeks back, I wrote about how classical conditioning affects emotional states and training.  With enough pairing of a release cue and an opportunity to tug, your dog will come to associate the release cue with the awesome fun, which will in turn mean that the stay will become associated with the positive emotional state of the release cue. Of course operant learning (meaning your dog is also learning that good consequences happen when he stays until released) is also at play. And likewise, with you on the other end of that tug toy, you will become associated with the fun opportunity to tug too, which adds to your dog’s reasons for wanting to listen to you. A double whammy of goodness!

Tugging is an outlet for redirecting inappropriate use of teeth. Tugging (again, properly with rules) not only gives dogs and puppies something appropriate to mouth, it is great exercise as well. And we know the benefits of exercise as it relates to behavior problems.

Distractions are less important. Dogs in lower arousal states will notice more of what is going on around them, and is more likely to register those distractions. Think about yourself, and how, when you are really focused on something that you are not thinking about your stressors.

Tugging properly with rules is great for teaching self control. When you teach your dog that the game starts with your cue, stops with inappropriate play, and ends on your cue, you are teaching your dog valuable skills in impulse control. And the great part is, your dog won’t even know you are in class!  He/she just knows it is all about having fun.

What are tugging rules?

Rule One
Tugging begins only when the human cues it. This means your dog will not start the game on his own by bringing you the toy or grabbing for it while you are holding it. I like to use ‘get it’ as this cue. As soon as I say ‘get it’, I present the tug and make it super enticing for the dog to want to play.

Rule Two
Your dog should drop the toy upon your cueing him.

To teach this, begin by giving your dog the cue (I use ‘get it’), and before your dog’s arousal heightens (after just one or two seconds), hold the toy firmly and still, say your release cue (I use ‘out’) and then present a very high value piece of food near his mouth. The second he releases his grip, mark that with a verbal cue like ‘yes’ or a clicker and give your dog the piece of food.  Later, keep your food behind your back until he let’s go and then give him the food…and you can also offer another game of tug. (Remember – to give your cue first to begin the game.)

Once you teach Rule Two reliably on cue, then you will need to proof Rule One, meaning, practice swinging the toy around and if your dog goes for it, the toy should be taken away. Only when you give the cue will the game begin. You can also ask for a control behavior first like sit, then release the sit with a cue and then say ‘get it.’

Rule Three
Game stops before your dog becomes over aroused and also if your dog’s teeth touch your hands. Stop the game with your out cue.

Short games of tug, between 3 and 10 seconds, will keep you both focused and will leave your dog wanting more.

Rule Four
Test all of the rules. Not following them means there will be no tugging. Period. But give your dog more opportunities to succeed. With consistency, your dog will learn the rules and you will have a great opportunity for mental and physical exercise, strengthening your relationship, and fun!

Rule Five
As you advance, teach your dog that it is controlled behaviors like sit or down that lead to more games of tugging. Teaching your dog to calm himself from arousal is a great skill.

 

Okay, now you’ve got the game rules. Now go out there and have fun!

 

Are You Teaching Your Pet Unwanted Behaviors?

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The other day I was working with a client whose dog had a ‘bad’ habit of pulling really hard on a leash to greet oncoming people. It is actually not an uncommon behavior problem that I get called upon to help with.

On that appointment, over the course of one hour with numerous short sessions, that same dog learned to stay at his owner’s side with a loose leash while I walked up to pet him. Much more work will be needed with different people in different settings but the learning process was begun.

How did that change occur so quickly?

Really, it comes down to where the value is for the animal. Whenever I see a dog or parrot or other animal doing something that is unacceptable, the first question I ask myself is – what is reinforcing that behavior? In other words, what purpose does that behavior serve for that animal because if a behavior did not help an animal get something of value, then the behavior would weaken.reinforcement for pets

Often what that means is that people, as their caretakers, can often be the cause of unwanted behaviors without even realizing it.

Dogs are incredible observers. They spend their waking hours watching and learning and figuring out the best way to get what they need and want.

I thought I’d share a few of the ways you may be ‘teaching’ unwanted behaviors without realizing it.

Ignoring your dog UNTIL he does a behavior you do not like. (I see this with human kids too.) When I was assisting with a class I saw a student standing with his dog sitting at his side. However, while his dog was doing exactly what that man wanted his dog to do, it was only when his dog got up and barked at the dog next to him that the man looked down to talk to his dog, tell his dog to sit and say ‘good girl.’  Here, that dog was learning *if* I sit down calmly, I get no attention but *if* I get up and bark, my owner talks to me and tells me what a good girl I am.

Punishing GOOD behavior. If you call your dog to come when he is playing outside, and he promptly comes running but only to have you bring him inside so that you can leave, you will be teaching your dog *the fun stops* when I come when called.

Reinforcing unwanted behavior without realizing it. If you open the door when your dog is jumping on it, you are teaching your dog that jumping on the door gets it to open. If you put your dog’s leash on him while he is barking, jumping and whining, you have just taught him that barking, jumping and whining get the leash attached which then leads to an awesome walk.

I wanted to share this as another reminder that teaching occurs daily with every interaction. Training is not only about the formal sessions where you are teaching obedience or trick behaviors. It is about those every day moments where you catch those behaviors you want to see more of, and find a way to make those behaviors valuable to your pet; while making sure you do not give value to the unwanted behaviors – and even set the environment up so those unwanted behaviors do not occur in the first place.

 

 

July 4 Safety Tips For Your Dog

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The time is drawing near. July 4 is many a dogs’ least favorite of holidays. Loud, unpredictable noises accompanied with big light displays can be very scary.

I’ve written about July 4 safety tips before and have revised them below.

July 4 dog safety tipsWhile you are attending your community parade or other holiday event, if your dog can become over-stimulated or afraid around crowds, unfamiliar sounds and sights, the best place for him/her is at home. You will not be doing your dog a favor by forcing him into a stressful situation. Desensitizing your dog to stimulus should be done in a controlled environment, always with your dog under threshold. Please see the bottom of this post for more on systematic desensitization.

If you spend outdoor time with your dog during the day, remember your heat safety precautions be careful to prevent your dog from overheating. A few things to keep in mind – find shady places to relax, give him/her plenty of water, minimize time spent walking on black asphalt or other surfaces that absorb heat, if your dog enjoys water then hoses, sprinklers and baby pools can provide many opportunities for exercise, watch your dog for any signs of heat related stress.

If you are entertaining, remember to keep alcohol and other toxic food away from your dog. Always actively supervise children around your dog to redirect them if necessary. Hugging, kissing, straddling, poking, pulling on body parts (like a tail), and chasing should be prevented. If your dog has been known to do unwanted behavior around guests, some suggested things you may want to consider are – planning ahead to teach him/her alternative behaviors, make sure he/she has high value enrichment activity toys, and/or give him more exercise before your guests arrive.

This is a good time to double check that your dog has proper identification in case there is an unplanned escape outside a door. Still, make sure to secure your door including a doggie door or screen windows if you have them.

Preparing for fireworks

Provide your dog with plenty of mental and physical exercise before the fireworks begin as a tired dog will be less apt to react.

Know that many dogs are afraid of the loud, sudden noise of fireworks and they may also be sensitive to the vibration caused by the noise. You may see your dog shiver, pant, pace, hide, or do destructive behavior. He/she may turn away from food. He could even try to escape out of your home or your yard which is why making sure your house is securely closed is so important.

Make sure that your dog has an accessible safe place (from his/her perspective – NOT yours). You more than likely have seen your dog retreat there on other occasions where something scary occurred – maybe it is underneath a desk, in a closet, or under a bed. If you are leaving your house, make sure your dog can get to that safe place. Some dogs, however, react by moving and being active. If possible, try to have your dog in an area away from windows with the shades drawn.

If you are at home during the fireworks, spend time with it in the safe place and provide your dog with attention and comfort if your dog seeks you out. You will not be reinforcing fear, and so long as you remain calm, your presence can help your dog cope. If your dog is not too anxious, you may even be able to do some counter conditioning where you give your dog a piece of high value food (like meat or chicken) immediately *after* a boom.

Sometimes wearing a thunder jacket or DAP collar can help; however, not with every dog. And playing white noise, or a television loud enough to mask the noise may help. You may want to consider lower frequency sounds to cover up the low frequency sound of the big booms. (But please make sure that does not scare your dog BEFORE July 4) I found a low frequency station called Low Frequency Vibrations on Pandora.

 

If your dog has severe cases of situational phobias like fireworks, you may want to talk with your vet about fast acting anxiolytic medication.

What A Bollywood Class Taught Me About Pet Behavior

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The other day I went back to the dance studio where I have many happy memories from past group ballroom and salsa lessons. I heard about a Bollywood class and I thought it’d be fun to learn. Or try anyway.

You may be thinking right about now, what does this have to do with pet training. Please continue reading and you will see where my thoughts are going…

So, theretips to exercise your dog's mind and body I was in a room of familiar and unfamiliar faces who had taken several other Bollywood lessons before that night. Our teacher was wonderful and she has such a warm, inviting smile that she wore frequently.

Before turning on the music, we began by learning some footwork and practiced several times. I was doing great and feeling confident. I remember looking around the room and seeing how others were doing also. Our instructor went through some of the steps more times so that we could get them.

Next, she taught us the arm work. Again, it was not really that complicated. Some of the moves required arms to flow, others to raise and lower or use our shoulders, or sway our upper body backwards and sideways. I was able to follow along up to that point fairly easily.

The trouble came for me when we put it all together. The steps and movements that I didn’t have any problems with until then suddenly became really, REALLY difficult. And when the music was added, I was extremely challenged. No longer could I even look around the room. I found myself having to stare at our instructor trying to follow along as best I could but I didn’t do a good job. My muscles were tense. My moves had no fluidity to them as my body became rigid just trying to do everything together – which by the way, I did not do very well.

When the music ended, I realized my heart was beating pretty fast too even though we really were not doing anything you would consider aerobic, especially for someone who can exercise on aerobic machines for an hour or more without problem.

And finally, I get to how this relates to our pets. In an earlier post, I wrote about an activity we did at the Karen Pryor Click Training Expo demonstrating how difficult it is to focus on a thinking task with distractions. So I won’t focus so much on that here.

What I do want to focus on is the element of mental exercise. I am often reminding clients that exercise is for both the mind and the body, and when you do an activity that engages both the level of stimulation is greatly magnified.

Some easy ideas for exercising your dog’s mind and body:

Positive training using clickers to shape behaviors while teaching him behaviors AND giving him exercise all at the same time.

Foraging/food enrichment toys where your pet has to work to get that tasty food that is inside.

Play tug and fetch, and other active games (while also teaching game rules such as ‘take’, ‘out’, ‘come’, ‘sit’, etc.)

Have a doggie play date with another dog who plays well with your pet.

If your dog likes water and likes to chase, take out your hose, turn it on and move it around. You can even add in training to this by teaching your dog to do a calm behavior like sit until released with the reinforcement being the movement of water.

For water loving dogs, you can put water resistant balls and toys in a kiddie pool filled with some water.

What other ideas do you have? I’d love to hear.

 

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