How To Keep Dogs Off The Couch

From time to time I get asked how families can keep their dog from jumping on their sofa or chair. I have also gotten asked whether or not they should even allow their dog on furniture.

Cincinnati Certified Dog Trainer Lisa Desatnik, CPDT-KA, has tips for stopping your dog from getting onto furniture.Let’s talk about the second sentence first. Unless you have a situation of location guarding, meaning your dog stiffens or curls his mouth, growls or snaps at you when you approach him lying on your chair, that really is a personal choice. (If you do have a dog that location guards, please seek assistance from a trainer who uses positive strategies to help.) As you can see in my photo, if it is at night time and I get up from a spot I have warmed to get a snack, I have pretty much forfeited my spot to Sam. In our family, we don’t mind. He will come off his resting spot easily when we want him to. We even put a blanket on his favorite couch in the computer room, so he doesn’t dirty it when he lounges during the day.

However, if your choice is to allow your dog on furniture, there should not be a ‘sometimes’ contingency within that sentence. Saying that your dog is allowed on furniture when it is just your family around but not allowed when you have company over, is very confusing to a dog. Additionally, some family members may enjoy having your dog’s company on the couch and others may not. Another problem comes into play when you want to allow your dog on only certain furniture, but not others.

Inconsistent rules are pretty tough to live by for an animal, especially when it does not speak our language. Can you imagine what that’d be like to have a bowl of chocolates out within reach of a child and you told the child he could only take candy ‘sometimes,’ how difficult we would be making it for him to make a aright decision?

Now, let’s say that you do not want your dog on furniture. How do you teach that?

Prevention is key!  Remember, more often than not, your sofa or chairs may very well be the softest places inCincinnati Certified Dog Trainer Lisa Desatnik, CPDT-KA, has tips for stopping your dog from getting onto furniture. your whole home to rest. They are also great spots to be higher for looking out windows or being closer to their favorite humans. Given an option, can you see why your dog would CHOOSE to jump on sofas and chairs? Your pet is always simply making behavior choices based upon where the value is for him in that moment. Every time that your pet gets onto your furniture, that choice is being reinforced. It is giving him more reasons in the future to make that same choice when given the opportunity.  If you are not liking his choices, then it is up to you to teach him new choices.

This is where prevention comes in. If your dog even ‘sometimes’ gets onto furniture and gets reinforced, it is being intermittently reinforced and that schedule of reinforcement builds very strong behaviors. It is the culprit behind most – if not all – of problem behaviors. While you are teaching your dog a better choice (from your standpoint), you will need to find a way to eliminate access to practice. The photo shows one way that a friend of mine is using. You can also gate off that area when you are not around to actively be in teaching mode. You may also want to cover a window if the sofa is a means for looking outside. Brainstorm ways you can cut off access to keep that jumping on furniture behavior from being practiced.

Build value for an incompatible behavior! If you do not want your dog jumping on your soft plushy sofa, get your dog his own soft and plushy area to lay down on (better yet, get your dog MANY plushy beds for choice and have them located in central locations where you spend time) and then spend time teaching him that hanging out on that bed is super awesome. Not only is it soft, but other good things happen when he is on that bed too like getting tasty treats and human attention. Really spend time making sure that you are adding extra value to being in that soft place. Remember, your pet is making behavior choices all the time based upon where the value is for HIM, so just telling him no when he has made a choice you do not agree with is not helping him to know what you would like for him to do instead.

Additionally, proactively teach your dog what you would like for your dog to do while you are on the couch BEFORE your dog decides to jump on board. When you are in training mode, practice spending some time with your dog around furniture but on the floor to build value for the floor. If your dog looks toward the furniture with intent, you can redirect his attention BEFORE he begins the process of actually jumping onto the furniture.

Be prepared for mistakes. The goal here is for there not to be errors, to be the most effective, but in the case that you may forget one day to take your dog out of the room when you leave for a minute and he chooses to take your spot on the couch, be prepared. (And then do not let it happen again.)

What you DO NOT want to do is pull your dog by the collar to get him off or use another form of aversive punishment. Not only is that not fair to a dog who simply saw a comfy place to lay his head, it will teach him that bad things happen to him around you. And will teach him that if he wants to make some choices, he had better do them out of sight of his human. If you do not have a resource guarder, you will be giving him reason to become one in the future.

Another thing to be careful of, is that you not lure him off with food or a toy as you may actually be adding value to that decision of getting on the sofa since, from your dog’s perspective, getting on the sofa got you to produce high value treats or play.

Instead, consider just ignoring him and going to his pillow to have a good time without him or doing something fun in the other room. Eventually he will come off, and then you can work building value for being in his bed. After which, you can remind yourself that better management must in practice if you are really going to make a solid behavior change in your dog.

My challenge to you is this: When your pet is doing something you do not like, think about what you would like for your dog to do instead. Be the giver of good things for good choices. Your dog will thank you for it!

Communication Matters

I have long admired Leslie McDevitt, MLA, CDBC, CPDT, and have read her book, Control Unleashed, several times. The first time being early in my career, and it had a lot of influence on me. Leslie teaches how to use games and communication to affect behavior change, and build confidence, trust and focus in the learner. I love that.

How do you and your pet communicate? How you answer that question will go a long way toward helping train your dog or bird (or other pet) in the most positive way. It is that kind of approach to teaching that I am continually striving to improve upon because I see learning in a positive way as discovery and enrichment and empowerment. It is an ongoing process that has huge capacity for improving the quality of life for every student and teacher.

There are so many factors that contribute to dog and parrot training effectiveness; one of those is the nonverbal conversation between both the giver and receiver of information. At any given moment in our relationship, our pets are giving us feedback as to how they are feeling about their environment. They may turn or move away, lick their lips or yawn, stare straight at a stimulus or avoid eye contact, growl or play bow, walk slowly or pull forward or sit and plant their feet stationary when on leash, take food gently or grab it quickly.

If we, as their caretakers, their protectors and their trainers, do not ‘listen to’ and heed what they are trying to tell us, that confidence, trust, focus, and discovery can all break down. Their capacity to learn what it is we are trying to teach breaks down. And our relationship can break down as well.

Earlier this summer I completed IAABC’s two-month Control Unleashed Mentorship with Leslie. In the first week, she shared with us how she has always seen her CU Program as being about that conversation about the environment between itself and its handler, allowing the dog to process information while remaining in a calm and handler-focused (think and learn) state. The dog is empowered by being able to ask to work more or less, to move closer or farther away from something; and to have those requests listened to.

What does this mean? Here are a few personal examples of conversations with a few animals I either have or have trained.

My conversation with a bird

When Dreyfuss, my pionus, is on a window perch, she will either stretch a leg or a wing, stand still, or spread her wings if I come near and she does not want to step up in that moment. On the other hand, if she does want to step up, she may shift her body weight back and forth, lean slightly forward, come closer to me, and even hold one leg up.

If I didn’t understand her body language, and moved my arm in to her body (putting it in a place where she was clearly trying to indicate non-aggressively that she didn’t want there) she would lunge. If that didn’t work, she would escalate her behavior to a bite.

When this happens with other bird owners, often the unknowing person may define their as being dominate, territorial or mean; but as you can see above, really it was just a case of a bird trying to communicate non-aggressively that she wanted to stay where she was at. Unfortunately, with repeated experience, that bird may come to realize the ONLY effective way to communicate with humans is to lunge at or bite them to get them to back off.

Learning how to have that conversation with Dreyfuss, to understand how she communicates, has helped me to modify her behavior in the most humane and positive way. I never force her to step up. I teach her that stepping up gets her good things and we practice it.  When she is on a perch and she does her ‘want to step up’ behaviors, I walk over to her and offer my arm. In this two-way conversation, we are both listening to each other. Dreyfuss is being empowered by having an effective, non-aggressive way to tell me what she wants. And, as a result, she wants to step up more.

A conversation with a dog

The other day, I was at the house of a new client and demonstrating how to teach a reliable sit behavior. We were in a room of their house and before beginning to train, this was a dog that was interacting with me and soliciting attention. However, when I stood there, still and facing him, waiting for him to sit, he would not stop moving.

Was this a case of a dumb or obstinate dog? Nope. This was a dog that was feeling uncomfortable with that pressure. As soon as I turned away and focused in another direction, he came up and sat at my feet. I was able to click and toss a treat away, and he came back and repeated his sit. We had a great game going. And, very quickly as his confidence grew, I was able to face him and he sat.

Without that two-way conversation, a trainer may have felt the need to increase pressure on him instead of decreasing pressure, which ultimately helped both of us succeed.

How do you and your pet communicate? How you answer that question will go a long way toward helping you change behavior in the most positive way.

 

Can I be of more help to you and your pet? Please get in touch!

Are You Teaching Your Pet Unwanted Behaviors?

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.

Could you be causing your dog or parrot's bad behavior? Cincinnati Certified Dog Trainer, Lisa Desatnik, CPDT-KA, explains.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.

Can I be of more help to you and your pet? Please contact me!

 

 

Have A Jealous Or Stubborn Dog? Why I Can’t Help.

It happens SO often. When you ask pet owners about problems they are having with their pets, it boils down to their pet being dominant, jealous, dumb, stubborn, territorial, vicious, a pest, or just plain BAD.

Why labeling dog behavior with constructs does not help to solve dog behavior problems by Cincinnati certified dog trainer Lisa Desatnik, CPDT-KAWell, here’s the thing. When you tell me your dog is jealous, stubborn, or unmotivated I have absolutely no idea what it is that your dog is actually ‘doing’ that causes you to see him as jealous, stubborn or unmotivated. When you tell me your bird is dominant or vicious, a number of different pictures go through my head – none of which could describe how your bird is behaving.

Descriptor words like jealous or stubborn really serve no value when it comes to behavior modification. They are adjectives that are better known as constructs in the science world.

Susan Friedman, Ph.D., described it this way: “A construct is a kind of label that goes beyond a description of observed behaviors into the realm of hypothetical explanations for why an animal does what it does. While a construct may give a summary for a pattern of behavior, it serves as no help when it comes to developing a plan for changing the behavior with the most positive and least intrusive strategies.”

Dr. Friedman went on to teach say that “constructs are nothing more than concepts that can’t be tested; constructs provide us with excuses to blame or worse get rid of the animal; constructs increase the use of ineffective training strategies and strategies based on punishment; constructs give us a false understanding of the problem when we’ve only given it a name; constructs foster self-fulfilling prophecies because you get what you expect; and constructs end our search for actual causes we can do something about.”

Just the other day someone was complaining to me about problems she was having with her dog who became ‘jealous’ when she got a boyfriend. “Bob is a good dog. He’ll grow out of it,” was her response when I asked more questions.

Hmm. How about, instead of labeling her dog’s behaviors with constructs, that she asks herself the following questions instead: What does this label ‘look’ like in terms of actual, observable behavior? Under what conditions does the behavior occur? What is the immediate outcome the behavior produces for my dog?

The answers will help her determine clearly defined behavior-change targets, antecedent predictors that set the behavior in motion, and what consequences maintain or strengthen the behavior. For example, instead of saying, “My dog is jealous,”, she could say, “When I sit on the couch with my boyfriend (antecedent), Bob paws and bumps me (behavior) until I give her attention (consequence).”

Now I can see clearly what the behavior is that my friend wants to modify with an alternative behavior she wants to see more of instead. Now she can create a plan to make changes in the environment to set Bob up for success such as teaching Baxter a behavior that is put on cue, and that is given when she sits on the couch with company.

And in the end, everyone succeeds.

Can I be of more help to you and your pet? Please contact me!

 

 

 

Way to Go Pete And Valerie!

Most of my blog is about dog training tips; however, I thought I’d share this post from Facebook about one of my clients. I am very proud of this boy (and his people)! I really wish I had taken a video from my first visit. They had just adopted him. He did not have an understanding of his bite strength and no tolerance for frustration. He was not aggressive meaning he would not growl, bite, lunge with intent to create distance, harm or protect, he simply was a dog who didn’t understand this concept of self control. I remember him being in the room and if ignored, grabbed your arm or your clothing and broke skin. Today this guy is one heck of a student. Clicker training and shaping him is so much fun. Sunday we worked on his laying down and staying with a knock on the door – something that was out of the question before. Seeing that learning process is just the coolest thing. Great job Valerie!

Pete is a Cincinnati Labrador Retriever who has learned a lot through in home dog training with Cincinnati Certified Dog Trainer, Lisa Desatnik, CPDT-KA.

 

Can be of help to you and your pet? Please contact me!

 

 

The Art of Teaching

I love this quote. When you think about teaching and training as inspiring discovery, it puts you into such a positive mindset. It is exciting. It is fun. It makes you smile. And, when you think this way, you have a much better chance of infecting your student with those same perspectives. Today, let’s build discovery!The art of teaching is the art of assisting discovery...a quote to inspire you in dog training.

 

Can I be of more help to you and your pet? Please contact me!

Training A Puppy To Sit

When I visited this sweet little West Highland Terrier puppy over the weekend, she showed her excitement for greeting me by jumping on my legs and wagging her tail. And, as precious as she is and as glad as I was to see her This West Highland Terrier puppy learned to sit for a calm greeting instead of with punishment. Cincinnati Certified Dog Trainer, Lisa Desatnik, CPDT-KA, explains.too, I stood very still and she actually sat pretty quickly. I’ll tell you what I did in a minute, but first…

Her human wanted to know, “Aren’t you going to tell her no?”

My answer to her was, “no.”

And here is why. Telling Maggy no would not have solved the problem. In fact, Maggy has more than likely been told no before and she continues to greet people as she knows how. Maggy isn’t wrong. She is simply a puppy who is reacting to the moment and doing what has gotten her something of value in the past. Jumping on people gets them to give her attention, to move and laugh and even make loud noises. For a little girl with a lot of energy to burn, those are pretty high value reinforcers for greeting people as she does. Not to mention the reinforcer of her own mental and physical stimulation.

If telling her ‘no’ and pushing her away has not stopped her excited greeting behaviors, then you are actually reinforcing her for those behaviors instead since the behaviors are strengthening. Oh my!

But on the other hand, if telling her ‘no’ actually had worked to lessen the likelihood of Maggy jumping on people, then here are some of the potential dangers of that kind of puppy training strategy with punishment. It does nothing to foster a love of learning. In fact, animals that are taught with aversive training will likely behave only to the level to avoid that negative consequence. It can create apathy, fear, anxiety and even aggression in the learner. YOU can become associated with that aversive consequence. And, it does not teach the puppy what it is you want it to do instead.  Additionally, remember that young puppies are developing very quickly. Negative experiences they encounter during their sensitive period can have long term impact on their development as an adult dog.

What did I do instead?

As soon as Maggy sat down, I immediately said, “Yes!”, and gave her one treat after another. Then I moved and she followed, and sat in front of me. I told her that magic word and this time tossed a treat. She ran to the treat, then ran back…and SAT! We played this game for several minutes before taking a break to go outside. When she came inside, we switched it up. After saying, “Yes!,” I ran a few steps for her to chase me. Other times after saying, “Yes!”, I grabbed a toy and moved it around.

I could just hear Maggy saying to herself, “Wow, this is so cool! All I have to do is sit and I have the power to make people run, toys to move and treats to rain from the sky. I’m going to sit a lot!”

And that is the incredible thing about training with positive reinforcement (with consistency and good timing). You see very strong behavior frequencies because those behaviors are associated with great outcomes.

There was a gate separating the kitchen area where Maggy was and the dining area. After going to get something, when I returned, there was Maggy wiggling her little body on the other side of the gate. She jumped a few times and then you could see her thinking, “OH, I’ve got this figured out. If I sit, I can make Lisa step over the gate!!

What a brilliant girl!  She sat and I tossed a treat behind her and then stepped over the gate.

Puppies are such little sponges for learning. There is so much you can teach them in the context of fun. Why even begin down that journey of using aversives?

Can I be of further help to you and your pet? Please contact me

 

 

A Reminder About Teaching Reliable Recall

On teaching your dog a reliable recall.
Just as a reminder…our dogs live in the moment. They are constantly making decisions based upon where the value is for them. If you haven’t spent the time teaching your dog that coming to you when you call, will result in a positive outcome, why would your dog ‘choose’ to come vs doing something else?
 
Always begin teaching that recall word in an environment with minimal distractions, and only use it when you can guarantee success.  Using positive reinforcement to train your dog will build strong value for behaviors. And guard that word like it is gold. Take care to not follow it with an aversive (from your dog’s perspective).
A reminder about teaching your dog a reliable recall.
Can I be of more help to you and your dog? Please contact me!

A Simple Solution to Dog Problems

Sharing a lesson from the field:

Antecedent Arrangement, or management, and how it can help dog owners solve dog barking out the window problemsThe other day, at an appointment with a new dog training client, one of the problems she had mentioned was how her puppy – a terrier mix – would bark A LOT at squirrels Ellie saw out this one window in the living room. If you have a dog prone to this behavior, then you more than likely can empathize with my client. You probably never knew you had so many active animals outside until you brought a dog into your life. You may even look forward to evening darkness when finally, you have some quiet.

Think about it from that dog’s perspective. Having to be on alert all day, watching out for those critters who could be scampering through the trees at any moment can make you pretty tense. And then, just when you are able to relax, well, there goes another squirrel!

Anytime you are working to modify behavior, it is really important to manage the environment so that your pet does not get practice of that unwanted behavior. The scientific term for this antecedent arrangement, which refers to arranging the environment so that whatever is serving to set that behavior into motion is, well, not available; or so that your pet has less motivation to do that behavior.

In terms of the humane hierarchy, a ranking of training methodologies going from least intrusive for the learner to most intrusive, antecedent arrangement is a high #2 on that list, just below ‘addressing medical, nutritional and physical environment variables’.

And, there are many times where antecedent arrangement is enough to modify the behavior. I give examples in this blog post.

Ellie is yet another example. I just got off the phone with my client who told me she followed my recommendation to eliminate Ellie’s access to that window; and she has seen a dramatic change in her dog this past week. In addition to the lack of barking, Ellie has been better able to focus on other things and she is overall very much calmer. I can’t wait to go back for our second appointment.

This is my challenge to you: when your pet is exhibiting a behavior you do not like, an important question to ask yourself as your begin the journey of behavior modification is this, “What I can I do right away to make a change in the environment so that behavior won’t be set into motion because every behavior that gets practiced, gets reinforced.”

5 Reasons To Teach Your Dog Tricks

Five Reasons To Teach Your Dog Trick Behaviors

If you think teaching your dog novel behaviors is a waste of time, I encourage you to think again. I have five reasons why you may want to spend a few minutes to train some different behaviors.

They can be used as reinforcers. When taught with a high rate of reinforcement, the behavior itself becomes a reinforcer as it has over time come to be associated with a valued consequence. You can add value to loose leash walking if, after your dog walks by your side so many steps, that you suddenly tell him to grab a ball, run around a pole, or jump.

They build value for paying attention to you. It makes life more unpredictable. If you ask your dog to sit for everything he wants in life, then that sit just becomes automatic. There is really no need for your dog to have to pay attention. If on the other hand, your dog can not predict that you may ask for a bow, a turn, a jump OR a sit, in order to have the opportunity to do or get something he values, then he had better be alert and focused or that opportunity will be gone.

They create better teachers and students. The more you practice teaching with success, the better you will become at teaching; and the more your dog practices learning from you in positive ways; the better your dog will become at being learning.

They strengthen relationships. The more experience your dog has with associating you with positive outcomes, the more your dog will want to be around you. And, the more success that you have in training and the more fun that you have together, the more that you will want to do with your dog as well.

The learning process is great exercise. It is tough work to have to use your brain and your body to problem solve and figure things out.

 

Can I be of more help to you and your pet? Please contact me

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