Teaching Impulse Control

teaching dog impulse controlMany of us get annoyed when our dog jumps on us, whines, or nips at us for attention. Or when our dog impulsively dives to grab a shoe. We wish our dog could see an open door and not bolt through it. We get irritated when our dog barks, jumps and/or runs around when we take out a leash.

Here is the thing. Seeing something it wants and sitting near it unless or until told it can have it, is not something dogs inherently do, just as a young child taken to a candy store would more than likely not choose to sit in a chair and read a book. Unless, that is, that the dog has been taught that sitting near something it wants is what gets him the opportunity to have it; or the child has been taught that sitting in a chair in a candy store gets him/her a piece of candy or something else of value.

While choices in life are always made based on where the value is at that particular moment in time, impulsivity is the tendency to act without thinking for instant gratification. I may eat that chocolate cake sitting in front of me because it is there and it is REALLY tempting even though I know I am trying to lose weight. I may buy that expensive dress because it looked great on me in the store even though I have no immediate place to wear it and it is more than my budget would allow. I am willing to bet that all of us have made impulsive decisions at one time or another.

Dogs are the same way. In the moment, a dog may see a shoe on the floor and put it in its mouth, may see a leash and bark and run in circles, or may be excited to see its humans and will jump on them. The list can go on.

Here is the thing to always remember (I know, I keep repeating myself), while impulsivity may affect that split second decision, experience is what teaches the learner to repeat and strengthen a behavior or to modify and weaken its occurrence.

When we share our homes with pets, it is so important for us to realize we have a lot to do with the behaviors we see in our non-human companions. We need to be aware of our pet’s needs for physical and mental stimulation.

We also need to be aware that with every interaction of every waking moment, it is the consequences of behavior that determine the future rate of that behavior.

So, think about how you can incorporate this into your everyday life to live with a pet that makes more human acceptable choices. In another post, I wrote about a basic exercise for teaching self control – teaching your dog that the choice of going after food in your hand makes the opportunity go away but the choice of backing up from your hand gets the food. Think about how that exercise is expanded to other everyday life.

  1. The choice of barking in a crate gets humans to walk away or ignore him but the choice of sitting quietly gets the crate door to open.
  2. The choice of sitting at a door that opens gets him the opportunity to go outside but the choice to make a move toward the door makes the door close.
  3. The choice of dropping a toy at his owner’s feet gets him a tasty treat or a game of tug or something else but the choice of running away from his owner with the toy or keeping the toy in his mouth gets the owner to ignore him.
  4. The choice of walking by your side gets your dog the opportunity to receive a tasty treat or the opportunity to go sniff flowers or a hydrant with you but the choice of pulling at the end of the leash makes you stop forward movement.
  5. The choice of barking and pushing over you gets you to stay seated and keeps the car door closed but the choice of sitting in the car seat gets the door to open.

What can you add to this list?

At the same time, think about how you can add greater value to the acceptable behaviors your dog does so that he will choose to do those behaviors more often. Or what behaviors do you need to teach your dog that can help him to succeed in that circumstance?  If you want your dog to choose to lay in his bed instead of bumping you while you are working at your sink, how can you make that choice more valuable for your dog (while ignoring the behavior of bumping you)?  If you want your dog to lay down with relaxed muscles when you stop playing, how can you build value for your dog to lay down with relaxed muscles?

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Tips For Teaching Your Dog Calm Greetings

Jumping on people is a common greeting of many dogs, but, while perfectly normal for a dog, most humans would prefer their pet keep all four paws on the floor. And especially if those paws belong to a dog or puppy that is going to grow to over 100 pounds.

Dog training tips for stopping a dog from jumping on people by Cincinnati certified dog trainer, Lisa Desatnik, CPDT-KA, CPBCI know I do a lot of reminding about this but it bears repeating. Remember, dogs are like every other living being when it comes to behavior in that they are constantly learning from their environment what behaviors to repeat and strengthen, and what behaviors to lesson. They make their decisions based upon where the value is for them…and that value is all about the consequences of that particular behavior. If a behavior works to get them something THEY value, then they will continue to do it. If the behavior DOES NOT get them something of value, the frequency of that behavior is going to lessen.

Dogs that continue to jump on humans who walk through the door do so because they are being positively reinforced for that behavior…whether humans see it that way or not. Scientifically speaking, positive reinforcement (R+) is simply a consequence of behavior that is added to the environment that increases the frequency of the behavior. As humans we do not get to decide what constitutes that R+ for our pets, but we can be keen observers to figure out what is happening immediately after a behavior that is of value to our pet so that we can make changes to do three things:

  1. Set the environment up so as to prevent our pet from practicing (and building a reinforcement history for) the unwanted behavior while
  2. Teaching and building huge value for an alternative and acceptable behavior we would rather our pets do and
  3. In the case that our pet does practice the unwanted behavior, we pay careful attention to NOT give any value to that behavior.

Let’s go back to this jumping greeting behavior.

Some of the possible reinforcers for that behavior can be: attention, humans that move and make noise, and release of energy.

The problem that many who have tried to ignore the unwanted behavior have discovered is that a jumping dog – especially a big dog – is pretty difficult to ignore, and with little dogs…well, let’s just say humans are very good at reinforcing little dogs for this greeting. Another problem is that often times there are some people who do not mind a dog jumping while other people do not like it at all. One of the reasons why ‘problem’ behaviors become so strong is because they are intermittently reinforced, meaning sometimes the behavior gets the animal something of value and sometimes it doesn’t. Gambling is a pretty tough habit to kick and that is exactly what this creates. This is why that three step process is so important to solving any behavior issue.

So, how can you prevent your dog from practicing the excited greeting to begin with? Management is very important. With a Great Dane puppy (and her family) I am working with, there is a hallway to their large kitchen/family room space where the puppy stays when her family is away. A gate at that entrance way prevents access to humans which allows for practice of humans ignoring her, staying or moving to the other end of the hallway until she can remain seated. One week of practice of this and her greetings were very different.

Another client taught his dog to station in a bed at the far end of a room, then practiced this with people coming to the door with a high rate of reinforcement, and then was able to practice teaching his dog to walk by his side to greet new visitors (and taught visitors to have calm entrances). The goal would be to practice this with visitors moving more quickly as the dog can continue to succeed.

Always remember, your dog does not do behaviors to be stubborn or bad. Your dog simply does what works for him to get something of value and was not born understanding the wants of humans. It is up to you as its teacher, to teach the behaviors you want to see more. And while you are doing it, enjoy the process!

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Stopping Puppies From Nipping At Ankles

The other day I was overhearing a woman giving advice to another woman on her puppy’s naughty and very irritating behavior of biting at her ankles and pants when she walks. The advice was to yell at the puppy (take pants out of the puppy’s mouth) and tell the puppy to sit when it happens.

tips for stopping your puppy from nipping at your ankles by Cincinnati certified dog trainer Lisa Desatnik, CPDT-KAHmm, here is the thing. Usually when I hear people talk about ‘trying’ to solve that behavior problem in that way, they keep having to yell at their puppy because the puppy does not stop doing the behavior.

Why? Well, remember, animals are always using behavior as a tool to get a consequence of value to them. If a behavior is reoccurring, then that behavior is working for the animal. In this case, the potential list of valued consequences for the puppy or dog could be among other things attention, mental and physical stimulation, or sensory stimulation (having pants in his mouth).

Generally speaking, although each dog is an individual, herding dogs are more genetically wired to do this but any dog or puppy can. Among the many dogs in which I have seen the nipping at ankles and pants behavior were a puppy vizsla, german shepherd, labradoodle, great dane, and just this past weekend, a puppy King Charles.

In each situation, I was able to stop the unwanted behavior by focusing on teaching the puppy more acceptable behavior choices instead.

Why isn’t punishment enough to stop behavior?

Before I write about what I did to modify behavior, I wanted to address why scolding a puppy for this (or any unacceptable behavior) is not your best solution. For one, if you have tried that in the past and your puppy is continuing the behavior (meaning, later on will go back to doing the unwanted behavior) then the yelling, attention and perhaps moving of your body may actually be of value to your puppy instead of an aversive. Or it could be that in the scheme of things, the nipping at your ankle is SO valuable to your puppy that it trumps any negative association with your yelling at him.  Another possibility from my example above is that, if you have taught ‘sit’ as a behavior that gets your dog lots of positive reinforcement, then asking your dog to sit immediately after your yelling and removing his mouth from your pants, can become a reinforcer for nipping at your ankles.

On the other hand, if your yelling at him does work to reduce the frequency and/or intensity of your puppy’s unwanted behavior, then I’d have to ask, at what cost? It most certainly does not teach your pet what he should do instead. Just a few of the potential negative ramifications of using an aversive teaching strategy are that it can cause apathy, generalized fear, counter aggression and escape/avoidance behaviors. Punishment requires escalating the intensity in order to maintain that suppression, and ultimately the teacher then becomes associated with those aversives.

Puppies, dogs, even birds and other animals did not join our lives inherently knowing what behaviors are and are not acceptable to their human companions. Those are things we need to teach them with fairness.

Solving nipping at ankles

Okay, so let’s look at how to solve the problem in the most positive way.

Firstly, with every behavior it is important to look for two things – what is happening in the environment to set the ankle/pant nipping behavior into motion in the first place and what is the immediate consequence of that behavior that is maintaining or even strengthening it. Then, think about what you can do to prevent practice of that behavior (and getting reinforcement for it) while also building value or teaching a different, more acceptable behavior with lots of positive reinforcement.

With each puppy it can be different. If your puppy is likely to go for your pants or shoes during play, make sure that you have acceptable toys in hand to direct your puppy to playing with them instead of focusing on human legs. I like to engage in constructive play with puppies meaning I am teaching behaviors and self control through play….for example, when they sit, then the toy moves. If you can’t be actively engaged with your puppy (but always you are actively supervising), then another alternative is an interactive toy that keeps his attention like a food puzzle toy. And if active supervision is not an option at that time, then the best place for your puppy is a confinement area like a crate or x-pen so as to prevent your puppy from engaging in unwanted behaviors.

If your puppy tends to grab your pant leg as you walk, think about what you want to do and focus on that, but before your puppy grabs your ankle (because with each practice of grabbing your ankle, your puppy is gaining a reinforcement opportunity for the unwanted behavior). I will slow down as much as needed for that particular puppy and will even begin with marking (with a verbal ‘yes’ or click) and reinforcing the puppy for standing at my side while I am stationary, and continue to mark and reinforce being at my side with his head up as I move. I’ll only gradually move quicker as the puppy tells me through his ability to continue to walk at my side with his head up, that he is learning the behavior I want to see. If at any time the puppy goes to bite my ankle, I become a tree so as to avoid giving any reinforcement for the unwanted behavior; and then, I adjust my plan to go slower so as to help the puppy succeed.

My challenge to you is this: Instead of thinking in terms of what your pet is doing that is bad from your perspective, think about what that behavior is getting him and what you can teach him to do instead. And, as always, have fun!

 

 

Are You Puppy Police?

When the subject comes up of scolding a puppy (or dog) for getting into something humans think it shouldn’t, chewing up something of value to humans, or going potty in the house, I want to remind you of this comparison I like to use.

You are in essence playing the role of the traffic cop who is watching passersby from the side of the road to pull over and punish (with a traffic ticket) them for driving over the speed limit. Think about that for a minute…if you have ever seen those flashing red lights in your rear view mirror, has that very irritating fine – and mark on your driving record – caused you to stop driving over the speed limit every time you get in the car. Or does that experience cause you to be more vigilant in looking for police when you want to get somewhere faster?

Here is the thing about punishment. It has so many potential negative ramifications, among them being that it can create apathy, fear, anxiety and even aggression; and if you are the punisher, then you will become associated with that aversive consequence. Punishment also does not teach your pet what you want it to do instead.

Why punishing your puppy for bad behavior won't stop behavior. Another thing to keep in mind is that, just as with any consequence, if you are scolding your puppy for a behavior that was done in the past, too much time has gone by for your puppy to learn that association between the unwanted behavior and the punishment so you could be simply teaching your puppy that doing whatever it was doing at the very instant just before you yelled (which could be coming to you) caused you to respond that way. I am sure that is not your intention.

So, here is the other thing, if are having the housetraining problem of your puppy peeing on the rug for example and you yell, spank or do something else aversive to it at that instant, think about it. Are you really teaching your puppy to never pee on the rug (What happens if his bladder is really full and he has to relieve himself?) or are you teaching your puppy that if he cannot wait and has to go, that he better find a spot that is out of view from humans (think about your lesson with the traffic cop)? If your puppy is bored and his teeth ach, and he really needs something to put in his mouth, do you think your punishment would teach him he should never chew on whatever happens to be available, or do you think you are teaching him to stay away from you when he has a human object?

One more point is that, once you have gone down that road of using aversives with a puppy who has had accidents in the house, it is so much more difficult to do effective housetraining since your puppy will be less likely to go potty in front of you (and you need to be able to see him go so that you can provide reinforcement immediately).

Lesson here: Set your puppy up for success with good management to prevent unwanted behaviors from being practiced while you are teaching your puppy the behaviors you want to see…with lots of positive reinforcement!

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Why Puppies Pee Inside

This has come up in conversation several times these past few weeks. If you are trying to teach your puppy to go potty outside, and your little friend, who just emptied his bladder outside urinates after being inside for even a few minutes, it is understandable that you could be frustrated. Let’s talk about that a little.

First things first, understand that it most certainly is not happening to make you angry but there are many other possible Some potential reasons why your puppy may be peeing in your house, and how to stop it. Puppy housetraining tips.causes.

Below are a few possible reasons why your puppy is peeing inside :

There is a medical reason. It could be that your puppy has a urinary tract infection or diabetes or something else. These are some symptoms to be watchful for: frequent urination, dribbling urine, blood in the urine, straining or crying out while urinating, frequent licks to the genital area. If you notice any of these symptoms, please visit your veterinarian.

Your puppy is not fully emptying its bladder when outdoors. This can especially happen in the morning as your little friend is so eager to begin the day, or when you first come home after an absence. If it does not empty everything, it will still need to go when you come back inside. You may want to stay out a little longer to see if your puppy needs to relieve itself again.

Your timing is off in reinforcing the urination. If you are too quick and mark/reinforce its peeing behavior, you will be interrupting (and stopping) the behavior before it is complete. Your mark/reinforcement should come immediately after your puppy finishes going potty. Also remember to keep the treats out of sight so your puppy will not be focused on the food, and will more readily learn the association that the behavior of urinating outside ‘causes’ the treats to appear.

To that point, you may not be providing clear enough information to your puppy that going potty is why you are outside. This can occur if you let your puppy out without being on leash and it finds many reasons to explore its environment and get reinforcement from other behaviors.

Your puppy simply drank too much water. Remember that what goes in, also goes out. They tend to drink more in the waking hours of the morning, and after eating dry food and playing.

What are some ideas for solving this?  Here are a few things to keep in mind:

Contact your vet if anything does not seem right to you. Ruling out possible medical reasons is the first step.

Management is SO important. If your puppy does not understand that outside is the place to go potty, preventing practice of urinating (and having bowel movements) inside – and getting reinforced for that behavior – is key while you are teaching your puppy wanted habits. Unless you are certain that your puppy has fully emptied its bladder outside, either having it in a crate or tethered/having a leash attached to its collar while you are ACTIVELY supervising it is just so important. Only when you are ACTIVELY supervising it, will you see it begin to show signs that it has a need to urinate and you can act quickly to bring it outside.

Take your puppy out more frequently. As a very general rule, take your puppy out first thing in the morning and last thing before turning in for the night, immediately after your puppy wakes up, shortly after eating, within about 15 minutes from drinking, after playing or other activity…and frequently during the day. It is helpful to write out your schedule of activity so that you can see patterns in your routine and your puppy’s behavior and cycle.

Stay outside longer with your puppy, especially in the morning. Give your puppy the chance to empty its bladder more than once. If your puppy urinates quickly and then wants to run off and play, keep it on leash.

Choose a potty spot and bring your puppy to that spot consistently. Do not play when you are in that spot. Teach your puppy that THAT place is for pottying.

No punishing for incorrect decisions. If your puppy has an accident in your house, do not punish it. Instead, clean it up with an enzymatic cleaner (such as the Nature’s Miracle Stain & Odor Remover) and then think about what you can do in the future to prevent that behavior from being repeated.

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Do Puppies Grow Out Of Problems?

Puppies chew. They play. They run. They get into things we do not want them to. They vocalize. They grab things on impulse. They also may show signs of backing away from unfamiliar things in their environment of signs of pulling toward other things.

Oh so cute they are! We love them for their adorableness but get so frustrated with their bad habits. But, won’t they grow out of those habits?

Do puppies grow out of problem behaviors? Yes and no. Cincinnati certified dog trainer Lisa Desatnik answers.Well, not always.  

While it is true that biologically there are certain behaviors puppies are prone to do like destructive chewing for both teething relief and an outlet for young energy, what is important to realize is that every waking moment puppies – just like all animals – are learning from experience. They are learning constantly associations between behaviors and consequences. Quite simply, those behaviors that are serving to get something of value (from the perspective of the learner) are going to be ones that are repeated. AND if those behaviors get the animal something it values only sporadically, then you will see an even stronger, longer lasting, virulent behavior.

What does this mean for you as a puppy owner (or any pet owner)?

Well, take for example that unwanted chewing of shoes. While a puppy’s natural clock gives it a great need for chewing and destroying, the more times he gets positive reinforcement for that behavior, the more he is likely to repeat it. And often humans add to the value of that destructive chewing and destroying by giving the puppy attention or a game of chase when it has something in its mouth.

While puppies do go through developmental fear periods, if a puppy startles, moves back from or growls at something in its environment; or exhibits elevated heart rate, barking or digging when its human leaves the room, it is a mistake to think that behavior will just magically go away as the dog matures. In fact, those behaviors may more than likely strengthen and even generalize to other fear responses later. If, for example, a man in a white coat gives a puppy a painful injection then later other people in white coats may also cause elevated heart rates, etc. Remember that learning also teaches negative associations between behaviors and consequences/neutral and conditioned stimulus. This is why it is so important to teach young puppies early on that their world is a good place by exposing them carefully and positively to a wide range of environments, people, objects, sounds, and other stimulus (doing this by providing positive outcomes for your puppy and ensuring by watching its body language that it is feeling good in that moment).

Management is a critically important step in puppy training to help young minds grow in ways you want them to. By working to prevent those unwanted behaviors from being practiced (and building a reinforcement history for them) while also focusing on giving your puppy opportunities to practice wanted behaviors with positive consequences, you will be helping your pet and you to have many happy years together.

As a puppy owner, you have an important role in helping your puppy get its needs met in appropriate ways while building value for behaviors and habits you want to see more of…for the rest of your relationship together.

 

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Solving Loose Leash Walking Problem

Is it an issue of having more control?

dog training tips for solving dog leash walking problemsThe other day I began working with a client (and his dog) on loose leash walking skills. As I initially watched them walk together, I saw that, while they walked side-by-side without distractions, if Fido’s nose picked up on something to sniff, he simply stopped to sniff while his owner stopped with him. And, if Fido saw something ahead that he wanted to get closer to, he walked faster to the end of the leash until it was taught.

Why was this happening? Was this an example of a bad, stubborn who needed to be controlled better by his handler?

Not from my eyes. What I observed was a dog who was simply making behavior choices based upon where the value was for him. There is great sensory stimulation for sniffing; and, as for the pulling, well, it worked to get them to move toward what it was he wanted to get closer to. He was also saying with his actions that there was far greater reinforcement history with stopping when he wanted to sniff or pulling on the leash to go forward, than there was to walking by his handler’s side.

Note: In a previous post, I shared some of the reasons why people have problems with loose leash walking their dog. You can read them here.

Something else that I observed what that his handler had not taught him with clarity as to what ‘he’ wanted Fido TO DO when the leash was connecting the two of them; and without that clarity, Fido made his own choices for getting what he wanted.

Always when working on solving pet behavior issues, I like to work from a standpoint of focusing on what it is you WANT your pet to do instead of focusing on stopping the unwanted behavior; while preventing or at least minimizing opportunity for practice of the unwanted behavior – and especially for reinforcement of the unwanted behavior.

I won’t get into the mechanics here but with loose leash walking, that means spending time teaching your dog how you WANT him to walk on a leash (whether by your side or simply with a loose lead) with positive reinforcement. And, as for those distractions, instead of keeping them off limits to your dog, think of them as powerful positive reinforcement tools you can use in your training kit. You can teach your dog that walking a few steps by your side earns him the opportunity to go sniff that incredible fire hydrant; or that walking next to you and sitting or stopping when you stop gives him the opportunity to say hello to that person across the street.

Stop thinking about controlling your pet, and switch to controlling the consequences of your pet’s behavior. And always remember to have fun along the way.

 

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

Stopping Your Dog From Biting The Leash

I have seen and heard about the problem with large and small dogs and puppies. Instead of walking with all four paws on the ground on a loose leash as their head is facing forward or slightly to the side, they are grabbing at the leash to pull it, chew on it or play with it. (NOTE: I how to prevent and stop your dog from biting and tugging on the leashwill refer to this as ‘bad leash behavior’ in this post.) Ugh, it is a frustrating problem!

So, why does it happen and what can you do about it?

Why it happens

There are many reasons but what they all have in common is this. Behavior is simply a tool animals use to get consequences. If that behavior persists and even strengthens, then it is being reinforced by the environment.

That being said, it could be that a puppy has not had enough exercise prior to clipping that leash on which means your puppy has a greater need for mental and physical stimulation. Jumping at or tugging on a leash while the human on the other end is reacting in some way by either tugging back or pushing the puppy down or another reaction, may be even heightening the value then of your puppy’s bad leash behaviors since, from the puppy’s perspective, ‘bad leash behaviors’ cause games with humans to begin.

Another possible cause could be that your puppy has a real need for chewing or having something in his mouth, and the leash being in close proximity to your puppy’s mouth is an easy solution. The sensory stimulation from having something in his mouth could be a reinforcer for maintaining or strengthening those ‘bad leash behaviors’.

It could also be that your puppy is over stimulated by his environment or even stressed by his environment and those ‘bad leash behaviors’ are being reinforced by the release of tension.

Your sudden attention to your puppy could also be a source of reinforcement.

What can you do about it?

Well, one thing I do not recommend is the use of reprimands. Not only are there so many potential serious side effects from punishment (please see this post) including that punishment does not serve to teach your puppy what you want him to do instead and that your puppy will come to associate you with that negative, in order for punishment to be effective, it needs to be strong enough to stop the behavior.

Instead, think about the function that the ‘bad leash behaviors’ serve for your puppy – in other words, what is of value to your puppy that he gets by doing those behaviors? What can you do to prevent those unwanted behaviors from occurring in the first place (and getting reinforced)? And, what can you do to lower the value of that consequence and also teach your puppy a different behavior that can get him the same or greater value.

It may seem like a lot to think about but it really just takes some consideration, and practice.

These are just a few ideas:

Teach your puppy to sit with relaxed body muscles while you clip on the leash to begin reinforcing that response from the beginning.

Teach your puppy that walking beside you with a loose leash is what gets great things to happen. I may use a combination of tug toys, food, or the opportunity to sniff a mail post as a reinforcer for walking at my side.

Teach your puppy to hold a ball or other toy in his mouth on walks if your puppy is one that likes the sensory stimulation of having something in his mouth.

If you need to walk your dog at a time when you can not be in training mode (like when you are rushing him outside to go potty), you may want to use some management to help you both succeed. Using a double-ended clip, you can attach a metal choke chain (the only time I will use a choke chain) to the color and clip the leash onto the other end of the choke chain. Puppies are much less likely to get reinforcement from chewing on metal.

Additionally, if your puppy does get a hold of that leash, it is important that you be very careful so as to NOT reinforce it. Many times I have found that if I drop the leash immediately when a puppy mouth touches it (although still holding the end, just dropping the length to the ground) that it becomes boring.

Also, by knowing under what conditions your puppy is most likely to begin those ‘bad leash behaviors’ – like when he is stressed, over stimulated or lacking exercise, then take care to not walk him in those conditions until you have sufficiently taught him wanted behaviors, taken care to give him an acceptable outlet for getting his needs met (like giving him something to hold in his mouth), and/or are managing the situation so practice is less likely to occur.

 

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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.

Understanding Motivation

Motivation. According to the dictionary, it is the state or condition of having a strong reason to act or accomplish something.

Think about that for a minute and how that has impacted your ability to learn and achieve goals. Let’s try something. Write down an accomplishment of which you are proud. Then write down the compelling factors that inspired and encouraged you to reach motivation is an important factor in dog training successwithin yourself to succeed.

Undoubtedly there was some driving force that gave you the confidence, drive, and determination. Maybe it was a mentor who believed in you, applauded each small step along the way and reminded you of your strengths. Maybe it was the beach vacation you were able to afford. Maybe it was the status that you achieved and respect from others. Maybe also, it was a fear of being rejected or ridiculed if you did not succeed. Or it was that by reaching your goal got you more distance from something else unpleasant (you were able to get a new position and no longer report to a negative boss, for example).

At any given time, those motivations may change. Life, after all, is constantly changing; and as living, breathing beings, we change to adapt to our environment.

Remember, scientifically speaking, behavior is simply a tool used to get a consequence. It functions to either move an animal toward something positive or further from something aversive. Researcher Edward Thorndike named that relationship between behavior and its consequences the Law of Effect; and it states that the strength of a behavior depends on its past effects on the environment. (Paul Chance: Learning & Behavior, fifth edition)

So, going back to motivation, when you think about it, it comes down to a simple question – ‘What is in it for me?’ And a simple answer, “I will choose the behavior that serves to get me the most valued consequence FOR ME.”

How does motivation impact your dog training success?  Everything.

If your pet finds stimulus around you of greater value than focusing on your lesson, guess where your pet will choose to put his energy? If your pet has been in his crate for hours, do you think he will find more value in laying quietly at your feet or practicing an active game?  If you are cooking steaks in your kitchen and you call him into your living room for an impromptu training session, if your dog does not have a history of finding your training session INCREDIBLE, you may find yourself frustrated if your dog chooses to stay in the kitchen when you call. Likewise, if you are in your yard and your dog runs to bark at a passerby, if you have not spent sufficient time teaching your dog that coming when called results in over-the-top great things, then why would he choose to turn his attention to you in that moment?

There are so many factors to consider when it comes to motivation for your pet. Here are just a few.

When training, especially in teaching new behaviors, choosing the least distracting environment will not only make it easier for your pet to concentrate, it will minimize competing reinforcers.

Know in advance what is on your pet’s List of Awesomeness, and use choices from that list as part of your reinforcements for behavior.

Make your lesson easy for your pet to succeed by teaching small approximations toward the end behavior. If it is too difficult, you may lose the interest of your student.

Keep your training session short so that both you and your student can be focused.

Have fun!

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