Tips For Stopping Your Dog’s Begging

dog training tips to stop your dog from begging

Can you relate to the photo? Over and over my mom tells Sam to go away when she sits on the sofa at night and he looks at her this way, but he knows better. If he persists, eventually she will get up and get him a chew toy.

Sam, like all our pets, is no dummy. He knows his behavior can get him a consequence he wants. No matter how many times I talk to my mom about it, she will continue her pattern…and as a result, so will Sam.

If she REALLY wanted to solve this, some ideas include:

She could use management, like keeping him in the kitchen behind a gate, when she wants to sit on the couch at night.

‘Before’ Sam begins his staring behavior, she could give him a longer lasting chew toy that he values. When he is focused on something else, he is not focusing on staring at my mom.

‘Before’ she sits down on the couch, she could play some games with him or engage him in training which would cause him to value resting more and staring at her less when she sits on the couch.

She could teach Sam to do another behavior when she sits on the couch like laying in his bed.

AND, while doing these things, if Sam should still sit in front of her and stare, she should stand up, be a tree and ignore him….giving no value at all to the unwanted behavior.

Remember, our pets are always making decisions based on where the value is for them. By making the wanted choice, the most valued choice for our pet, they will choose to do the wanted behavior. And that is good for everyone!

 

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Core Exercise For Dogs

I am a pretty consistent exerciser, working out about 5 to 6 times a week. There is such an emphasis with people to strengthen our core – the muscles of our abs, spine and supporting limbs. That strength decreases lower back pain and stress on the rest of our body, and helps us to have more upright posture and prevent injuries.

Core strength in dogs is also a good thing, decreasing the incidence of injuries associated with osteoarthritis or other soft tissue issues, of iliopsoas strains, and spinal pain. I spoke with Ginger Jones, CCRP, canine physical therapist at the Care Center about core strength exercises the other day. “Core work,” she told me, “is integrated into everything I do.”

It is that important whether you have a very active, a young, an old, a big or small dog.

Ginger explained how you may notice signs of a weak core in everyday activities. There may be excessive sway in the hind end in movement. You may see your pet have difficulty making the transition from positions such as going from sitting to standing. Sometimes, depending on the situation, a dog’s inability to hold a sit stay could be due to weak core muscles.

Please note: Before you begin new exercises, clear them with your veterinarian/health care professional. You can mix these exercises up, doing several consistently at least every other day. They can also be considered a warm up before other activities.

Exercises to strengthen your dog’s core

Ginger said even simply walking your dog over uneven surfaces causes your dog to shift its body weight, engaging core muscles. When you take that leash out, keep an eye out for things in the environment you can encourage your dog to step on or move over. Walking up and down inclines and stairs involves trunk muscles too.  In your home, you can encourage your dog to walk on pillows or folded towels for example as another surface.

Exercises while standing. Holding a stand can be more difficult than you think in the beginning (think of the plank exercise for humans). Encourage your dog to stand and hold that position for up to ten seconds or longer. You may need to begin with just a few seconds of holding position. These are some of the ways Ginger engages the muscles more during the stand (for all of these, use a non-slip surface)

With a lure, encourage the dog to turn its head in different directions to follow the food.

Gently sway your dog from left to right while supporting it. Note: you are not rocking your dog so hard that it will need to move its legs to regain balance. As your dog becomes stronger, your dog will need less support from you.

Again, while you are supporting your dog, lift one leg for a few seconds and then replace it on the ground. Do this with each of your dog’s legs. For difficulty as your more forward with this, you can increase the time for each leg lift and decrease the amount of support you provide.

Sit to stand. Changing positions is great for strengthening your dog’s core. Encourage your dog to go from stand to sit and sit to stand (and you can incorporate laying down too). You can increase repetitions up to 5 or 10 times on a variety of surfaces.

Walking backwards and in a figure eight. This exercise, while fairly simple, helps a lot with balance and hindlimb strength.

Cavalettis.  A cavaletti is basically walking your dog over a series of raised surfaces. You can make your own or purchase them online. You can even use a ladder. This exercise requires your dog to lifts its hind legs over each surface improving strength, range of motion, balance and flexibility. Ginger said you can begin with a series of two-by-four boards. You can also use PVC pipes or broomsticks, or other poles. Begin with the hurdles laying on the ground and gradually increase the height. You can be creative in hurdle holders. I have seen people use crushed soda pop cans (placing the hurdle end over the crook in the can), laying the hurdle on blocks, ect. The hurdles should be placed one body length of your dog apart, and begin with about a four inch height (depending on the height of your dog). You can have four to seven hurdles. Walk your dog through the course four or five times initially and then increase the repetitions as your dog gains strength.

Elevated paw touch. Practice having your dog stand with its front paws on an elevated surface such as a chair to increase the weight bearing load of the back legs. You can increase the time in small increments as they increase their rear leg strength. When your dog can hold that position for at least 15 seconds, you can practice adding some gentle hand pressure to its body as was practiced with the stand. You can also practice this with your dog’s rear legs on the elevated surface.

Using a wobble board or balance ball.  Practice having your dog sit or stand on a BOSU or balance ball (you will need to support your dog in the beginning, and also just to desensitize your dog to being on it, you may want to wedge the ball so that it does not move when getting started).

Additionally you can teach your dog to put its front or rear paws onto a ball or wobble board. To do this, I first taught our dog to paw target (stand with his front paws on a surface) on a variety of surfaces and rotate his back legs so the behavior itself was not new. Below is a video of me demonstrating clicker training using shaping to teach a Vizsla to paw target, and then a video of me teaching our Sam to put his paws on a balance ball.

Teaching beginner paw targeting

Teaching our Sam to keep his front paws on the balance ball

All of these exercises are not that difficult to practice and teach, but they are so important to the wellness of our pets. A dog that does agility needs this strength to minimize injury risk. A dog that does confirmation will need good core strength to hold positions. For that matter, working dogs, older dogs, and puppies will all benefit. And you will have fun in the process!

 

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Realize That Each Dog Will Learn Differently

I was reminded again the other day, the importance as a teacher of recognizing that different animals learn differently, have different thresholds for frustration, and different values of reinforcement. That recognition and application to the lesson at hand can very well be what either helps and animal succeed…or fail.

10-06-learn-smI was demonstrating the beginner self control game that I have taught to dozens of other dogs, in different circumstances. Here is a link to a description of that game. Basically, you are teaching a dog without any words that *if* it persists in going after food in your hand, *then* the consequence is that the hand remains closed. However, *if* the dog moves away from the hand, *then* the hand opens and *then* the dog gets that valued prize.

Many dogs *get* this concept fairly quickly but this dog is not one of those statistics. The presentation of the food in my closed first near to his head was just too much stimulus for him. He is a dog with an extremely low frustration threshold and an extremely high drive for food. He was becoming so aroused that he began jumping, pawing, mouthing, and panting.

Teaching him by following the same steps as I taught other dogs simply was not going to work in this case. If I had continued, I would have continued to set us both up for failure. So, we stopped. My clients and I talked for a few minutes, then they did some practice of showing me his ‘place’ behavior and I did some hand targeting with the dog.

When I went back to the self control game, this time the dog was sitting and I held my hand with the food a few feet from his face. This time he was able to succeed, for a very short time in the beginning, of staying in position before I marked that behavior with ‘yes’ and gave him a treat. We very quickly were able to proceed with my moving my food hand closer (marking and treating him for staying put) to his face with success by making that one small adjustment. AND, with each success, there comes more success with more practice and positive outcomes.

It was a great lesson in teaching. Always remember, just as in a school classroom where all children learn differently, there is no size fits all when it comes to dogs (or any animal). Some have lower tolerances for frustration and you need to adjust your reinforcement schedule or difficulty, to help them succeed. Others need further distance from or environments with fewer distractions. Some dogs may be highly motivated by a game of tug for a reinforcer and other dogs would have zero interest in that opportunity. As your pet’s teacher, a big part of your role is continually monitoring it all. If your pet does not understand what it is you are teaching and loses interest in the training, stop, analyze your training and come up with another strategy.

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A Game To Teach Self Control

The Red Light, Green Light game uses play and exercise to build skills of self-control in your dog. It is a ton of fun for both you and your four legged friend.

 A pre-requisite for this game is to first work on teaching your dog controlled behaviors such as sit or down. This is a great way for building more value for those behaviors.

Playing this game with your dog is a fun way to train self control and other behaviorsBegin by moving around until your dog begins to move also. Before your dog becomes overly aroused, stop your movement. If you have been practicing that controlled behavior on cue, then you can give your dog the cue as soon as you stop. You become very still and be a tree. As soon as he does the controlled behavior, then give him his release cue (such as ‘release’ or ‘let’s play’), and encourage him to move as you move.

 

As you are having success, you can increase the difficulty by doing more active behavior to get your dog in a more active state and then ask for the controlled behavior by giving your cue.

 

You can also work on duration of your controlled behavior before giving your release cue. (Remember that when you are working on building duration, you are adding very short amounts of time – seconds – before giving your release cue.)

 

Additionally, you can also work in exercises to teach your dog to go into a calmer state. When you stop movement, either sit or stand and ask for your dog to lay down (or you can simply wait for your dog to lay down). Then go through a shaping process of calmly reaching down and giving your dog a treat as you notice his body muscles begin to relax.

 

You can include several people with this game too, just make sure that when you stop and give your dog the cue for his behavior, that EVERYONE stops moving at once and BEGINS moving at once.

Make sure you give your dog clarity when it is time to end the game. I tell Sam ‘all done’ when we are finished training or playing. After this game, you may want to sit for a few minutes immediately afterward to make it even more clear for your dog. Once you have given your dog the end game cue, then it is absolutely important that you ignore any and all attempts by your dog to keep the game going. If you give in, then you will be teaching your dog that bumping or jumping on you, or other attention soliciting behavior works to get play to resume.

 

This is a fun game to involve children too; however, always play this with adults present. To help kids have more success, adults should first play this with their dog to teach their dog the game rules – and children should not be encouraged to be wild and crazy around their dog, as their dog’s arousal may escalate quickly. Teaching children how to be still, like a tree, when their dog is a great safety measure for both kids and dog.

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Benefits Of Kongs To Dogs

There are so many benefits to giving your dog a stuffed Kong, or other food chew toy or activity toy. When you just put food in a bowl, typically either your dog will either gobble it up quickly or graze slowly which may lead to your leaving food out all day. In either case, there the opportunity for enrichment really is not there. And by leaving food out all day, your dog will tend to value it less (not to mention it makes house training pretty difficult). Think about these food toys as enrichment and trouble prevention.

 Giving your dog a stuffed kong or other food activity toy has so many benefits.

Lessons In Puppy Success

Commonly, people who are having trouble teaching their puppy a proper potty area, or who are having problems with their puppy chewing on things not meant for puppy teeth, also happen to be tips for preventing puppy behavior problemspeople who do not use a crate – or practice good management.

The problem is prevention of practicing unwanted behavior while teaching wanted habits and behavior is absolutely critical when it comes to setting your puppy up for success. After all, he was not born understanding your house rules. He has mental and physical needs and will find ways to get those needs met in either acceptable or unacceptable ways (according to your perspective anyway). Without the management component, your puppy may choose to do behaviors you do not like but the reinforcement he gets from his environment for doing them is going to create long lasting habits.

Additionally, crate time is a great way to teach your puppy to settle In puppy training, a crate is helpful for housetraining, teaching how to settle, and separationwith or without a chew toy and even practice separation from you.

Last week I puppysat for a client and shared my home with this adorable little girl.

While here I didn’t even have one circumstance of her pottying indoors or grabbing something that was not intended for her to have. On her last day, she even let me know twice when she needed to go outside to relieve herself.

What did I do? Every waking moment of every day, she was very carefully managed. When she was not in her crate, she had a leash attached to her (although not attached to me indoors) and I was actively supervising her. After opening her crate door, she and I engaged in fun play (with a teaching component in there) or training. Going outside to potty always occurred after a few minutes of activity and she always went. I could tell when she also needed to make a bowel movement and waited for her to continue sniffing to finish all she needed to do before taking her in.

One day I could tell she needed to do this but she kept getting distracted so I took her inside with me and kept her right next to me with a watchful eye. We went outside every ten minutes to no avail. Finally, before taking her another time, we played fetch in my living room and she immediately went as soon as we got to the grass. If I had not been as careful as I was on this day, there is no doubt she would have just had a bowel movement on my carpeting and by doing that, she was beginning a reinforcement history for a habit I did not want her to learn.

After time spent directly interacting with her, when I did not want to ‘actively’ supervise her, I always put her back into her crate and, being tired, she just laid down and rested for sometimes a couple hours while I got things done.

In keeping with this routine, the crate was not a negative to her but a positive as it was time that she could settle herself after being mentally and physically engaged. (If your dog sees being his crate as a bad, stressful place to be, please spend time teaching your dog a positive association with it.) And time that she was laying in her crate while I was cooking, working or cleaning was time that she was NOT biting on furniture, seeking out shoes, or making an unwanted potty choice.

Additionally, because I spent so much time and energy playing fun and engaging games with her toys, those toys were becoming of great value to her. And, since animals make decisions based upon where the value is, she was choosing to seek out her toys more and not pay attention to my things.

With this consistency, by the last day, I was able to leave her in my living room and walk out of the room, out of sight for short periods and twice she actually told me when she needed to go outside to go  potty.

A big mistake that people make when it comes to having new pets is a lack of consistency, a lack of management, and a lack of teaching wanted behaviors with lots of positive reinforcement. If you are finding that your puppy is making poor decisions, instead of blaming your puppy, think about what you can do differently to help him to succeed.

How Crate Games Make Going Into The Crate Fun

I have been working with this Havanese puppy, Migo, on training him to go into his crate.  I did this by making the crate a hugely valuable place to be (from his point of view), by using clicker training and positive reinforcement.

You can see how much he enjoys crate games by how fast he runs back in. Since he is moving in so fluidly, it was time to begin adding a cue just as he is on his way into the crate.

Teaching Dog To Sit With A Game

The other day, I had a second training session with this adorable labradoodle puppy and his family. He laid patiently at their side while we began talking through solving the issues that come with bringing a young, energetic companion into their home with sharp teeth and an incomplete understanding of human household etiquette. (It is so awesome that their whole family is on board and eager to learn about training.)

dog training tip - teaching a dog to sit by Cincinnati dog trainer Lisa DesatnikThen we got up to work on actual training. After their practicing some hand targeting and name game exercises, we started doing some work on building value for his sit behavior. Initially they were using treats as a reinforcers; however, he was noticing more of the environment than of his teachers, and being slow at offering the sit.

Remember, this is a little guy who was born to play and who had just spent over a half hour in the car followed by time resting. He was ready for activity.

So, I wanted to show another approach. I stood in the center of the room and when he followed and sat at my side, the second his rear end touched the ground, I proclaimed, ‘Yes!’ and then proceeded to run and grabbed a tug toy.

As just about any labradoodle puppy will do, he began chase. It was Game On! In just a couple of seconds, I stopped movement. He responded by putting his rear end back on the ground, and I immediately marked that behavior again with Yes! and began moving again. We even worked in some initial tug game rules (adding the cue ‘get it’ before giving him the tug and then teaching the ‘out cue – but tugging will be another topic for another post).

All of a sudden this puppy who was uninterested in his classroom became a straight A student.

So, I thought I’d talk a little about why this happened and some of the lessons here about training.

Firstly, as our pet’s teachers it should always be our goal to figure out how we can make our lesson plan clear and understandable for animals who do not speak our language. In this case, practicing capturing the sit behavior, marking it and reinforcing it with many successful repetitions in their home with low distraction will help to build fluency with sit (part of this family’s homework).

Timing is important to teaching with clarity. Especially since non-human animals do not speak English (or other human language), marking the very specific behavior you are reinforcing tells learners, “Yes, what you just did this second was exactly what I was looking for.”  Without good timing on your part, you may inadvertently teach behaviors you do not want to see.

Motivation is another important concept to keep in mind in training. Remember, when given choices, animals will choose to do behaviors that get them the most valued consequences. It is our job as their teacher to figure out how to make the behavior choices we want to see, the most valuable choices for each learner. And that changes all the time. Probably a dog will value chicken or meat over dry dog food, and my bird Barnaby will value a piece of cream cheese over a pellet. After a big meal, an animal may be less motivated by food. After a long exercise (and once settled), an animal will probably be less motivated to do activities and value resting instead. On the other hand, after a long nap, a puppy is going to be ready to play. A dog sitting at a door may value the opportunity for smelling flowers or running in the grass.

By being aware of what your pet values, you can increase the value of the behavior you are teaching by following it with (or I should say, marking the behavior with a click or verbal word that is followed by) a highly reinforcing consequence. (In this case, that consequence is the opportunity to chase or tug.) And with enough pairing of the behavior such as sit with a valued consequence such as meat, a game of tug or a game of chase, the less probable behavior (like sit) will become more probable.

The Sit Means Play Game

This game is actually terrific for teaching several skills in addition to sit. It works on self control and the ability to turn on and off active movement. You can also build up to working on duration as you wait longer in between marking and releasing the behavior to play.

Steps simplified:

  1. Initially capture your pet sitting
  2. Mark that behavior (such as either a verbal marker such as ‘Yes!’ or a click)
  3. Follow the mark with a game of chase, tug or something else (for no more than a few seconds)
    (NOTE: in the beginning you will want to stop this game before your dog becomes too aroused)
  4. Then stop and stand still
  5. When your pet sits, go through the steps again

Variations of this game can include different reinforcers such as the opportunity while on leash to greet someone or sniff the grass, the opportunity to get a leash attached, or any activity that gets your dog’s tail wagging.

Here is a video of me using this game to give our Sam the opportunity to run find treats.

As always..remember to have fun!

Dog Research: Do Dogs Want To Work For Their Food?

Have you ever had an Aha Moment? Also known as a Eureka Moment, it is that incredible feeling you get from deep inside when a life event gives you clarity, or when suddenly you understand a previously incomprehensible problem or concept. To everyone who has Researchers in Sweden recently investigated which a dog prefers – an easy paycheck or one that requires him to problem solve to achieve. Guess what they learned? Yep, dogs much prefer the opportunity to control their environment and have to earn their keep.experienced it, you know how profoundly that moment can change your day…or even your life.

Now think about how you typically feed your dog his meals. More than likely, you feed your pet at least some – if not all – of his meals in a bowl on the floor. Yes, I know, you are probably thinking right about now what an Aha Moment could possibly have to do with how you feed your dog, and why that matters. Well, I’ll explain.

Researchers in Sweden recently investigated which a dog prefers – an easy paycheck or one that requires him to problem solve to achieve. Guess what they learned? Yep, dogs much prefer the opportunity to control their environment and have to earn their keep.

(“Positive affect and learning: exploring the ‘Eureka Effect’ in dogs” by Ragen McGowan et al, University of Agricultural Sciences in Uppsala, Sweden)

About the study

The research looked at six matched pairs of beagles who were taught how to manipulate three of six pieces of equipment in a room. Their success was marked with a distinct sound and followed by a treat.

A week after their training sessions, the dogs were tested in a new environment. Each dog was an experimental dog for half the time and a control dog for the other half. The testing room included a start arena with all six pieces of equipment and a gate leading to a runway that led to the reward. After leading the experimental dog into the room, an assistant turned away offering no additional interaction. When the dog did the behavior it was previously taught to do, the gate opened which gave access to the ramp leading to the reward. With the control dogs, the gate was opened after the length of time it had taken for the experimental dog to solve the puzzle, so the dog spent the exact amount of time in the room as its pair. The only difference between the two conditions was whether or not the gate opening was contingent on the manipulation of the equipment.

Among the findingsdog behavior research from Sweden on enrichment and training

Interestingly, dogs were quick to enter the test room initially but the control dogs became increasingly reluctant. By the end of the test sessions, the control dogs even had to be coaxed from a handler to enter the area. Also dogs acting as controls were observed to chew on the operant device on several occasions, but not when acting as experimental animals. That chewing tended to occur more toward the end of the study during the last matched pair of testing after they had already served as the experimental animals three times. Researchers hypothesized this behavior may have been caused by frustration because no longer did manipulation of the equipment (a behavior that had in the past resulted in a valued positive reinforcement consequence) lead to the door opening.

Experimental dogs were more active in the start arena than control dogs despite the fact that the dogs had equal knowledge of the reward at the end of the runway and thus should have shown similar levels of anticipatory excitement. In other words, “the dogs were experiencing a learning process that they did not experience when they were acting as controls.”

Also, researchers found that experimental dogs wagged their tails more. More than that, researchers found the dogs wagged their tails more when expecting a food reward or contact with a human and less when expecting contact with another dog. (Keep in mind, these dogs were never deprived of contact with other dogs, but they did not receive treat items regularly and they received less human contact than other dog contact. All of these motivating operations may have contributed to where the dogs had the greatest value.)

Their scientific conclusion

“The experimental animals in our study were excited not only by the expectation of a reward, but also about realizing that they themselves could control their access to the reward. These results support the idea that opportunities to solve problems, make decisions, and exercise cognitive skills are important to an animal’s emotional experiences and ultimately, its welfare.”

What is the take home lesson for you?

When we bring animals into our homes, we need to remember that enrichment is such an important piece of setting ourselves, our pets, and our relationship up for success. Providing our pets with opportunities to problem solve, exercise their minds and bodies, and use their senses allows them to expend energy they need to use in positive ways and also adds to their quality of life.

And, I don’t know about you, but I happen to love seeing our Sam’s tail wag.

Always remember…be creative AND have fun!

I’d love to hear from you your ideas of how you engage your pet in active learning.

 

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Dog Myth About Chew Toys

Fact or myth: If you give dogs chew toys, they’ll learn to chew everything. Renowned trainer Jean Donaldson, shares her thoughts. You can read Jean’s other top dog myths here.

dog chewing behavior myth by Jean Donaldson

 

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