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

 

 

Motivating Operations For Training Success

Yesterday morning, in the later part of a training appointment for a precious eight week old puppy, we spent a little time working on teaching her the crate is a good place to rest. It was after we were in their back yard moving around, having her thinking and playing. She was a tired little girl when we got back to her kitchen and she was most definitely needing some nap time. I left their house with a sleeping puppy completely zonked out with her head resting on a stuffed animal in her crate, and got to thinking about how motivating operations were at work here.

What do I mean by that?

Well, scientifically speaking motivating operations are environmental variables that have the power to either increase the value of a stimulus, event or object as an effective behavior reinforcer (this is called an Establishing Operation) or to decrease the value of a stimulus, event or object as a behavior reinforcer (this is called an Abolishing Operation).
That word ‘motivating’ is a key word here as motivation has a big role in learning. It boils 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.”

As your pet’s teacher, you can impact your and your pet’s training success using motivating operations to heighten the value of behaviors you want to see. And remember too that sometimes this is most positive, least intrusive solution to solving a problem behavior while you are working on teaching your pet the skills and wanted choices to make in certain situations.

Here are some examples:

If you know your dog is very likely to have poor table manners when you sit down at the table, and you are having a guest over before you have time to teach your pet alternative behaviors at that time, one solution is to give your pet a long walk before dinner so that your dog will value resting more than bumping humans at the table. (There are other management choices you could make too but this is one example.)

On the flip side, your dog will value exercise more after a long nap. This would be a great time to practice active training and games.

You can heighten the value of a toy or a special kind of food by keeping it out of sight and using it just for training times.

On the flip side, this is one of the reasons why free feeding (leaving food in your pet’s bowl all day) is not a good idea, as your pet’s continual opportunity for the food will come to devalue it.

Motivating operations in crate training

Building value for napping and resting in the crate becomes easier when you practice it after giving your puppy active learning and playing time. Puppies go and go and then need to nap. Without that rest, a tired puppy – like a tired and cranky human baby – is prone to making poor decisions. Naps are important and taking one in a crate is a great place.

Yesterday morning, when the little girl was exhausted and inside her crate, her owner gave her tiny smears of cheese through the bars as she began to settle, first sitting, then laying down, and ultimately closing her eyes. She was completely asleep. With enough practice of this, she will come to learn the crate is a place to relax and will probably even seek it out when she needs a quiet space to be alone.

 

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

Socialization For Puppies

When it comes to setting your young puppy up for success to handling life experiences with confidence and an eagerness to discover and learn rather than approach unfamiliar noises and sights with trepidation, the greatest gift you can give your new companion is early socialization.

socialization for puppiesThe sensitive period for this is at approximately four to twelve weeks of age (with the time frame of eight to ten weeks known as the ‘fear period’ where negative experiences can last a lifetime). It is during this period when experiences can have long lasting impact on your dog’s behavior.

What exactly do I mean by ‘socialization’?

Good socialization is so much more than simply exposing your puppy to new stimulus. It is about being diligent to ensure that interactions with his environment are fun, positive, and definitely not overwhelming. Any time a puppy is not enjoying the situation; there is the potential for doing more harm than good. However, short exposure to unusual objects, surfaces, sights and sounds where your puppy feels good (and you will know by his body language) are very empowering and resilience building.

Here are some suggestions to keep in mind when it comes to positive socialization:

Keep experiences short, at a time when you can be actively focused on your puppy and his emotional state. Bringing your puppy to your child’s softball game or to a busy public event has the potential for doing harm if you are distracted, allow people to crowd around or handle a puppy that is uncomfortable, a loud noise or in-your-face dog or child scares your puppy, or any number of other situations occur to cause your puppy to have a negative experience. Going to an event and being at a distance where your puppy shows loose body muscles, can focus on you and the environment, and can accept food is a better idea; allowing your puppy to move forward at his own pace – always with the option to move away.

Similar thoughts – Do not let well intentioned strangers overwhelm your puppy by surrounding him, lurking over him, grabbing him, tugging, hugging or lurching over him. Do not ever force your puppy to approach or interact with anyone or anything that they are backing away from or showing any hesitancy around (tense muscles, turning away, yawning, muzzle licking, etc.). These puppies need help building their confidence. Instead, move away and give your puppy distance and begin teaching positive associations by pairing the stimulus with something positive while allowing your dog to approach at his own pace.

Lots of short socialization sessions are better than longer ones. There are some puppies who should not go out every day. If you are out for a longer outing, you can give your dog a break by allowing it to relax in a safe and secure crate in the car (that is, if your puppy is relaxed in the crate and car).

Be careful of using food to lure. Luring a puppy into an uncomfortable situation, to decrease distance between it and something or someone new, can have negative consequences. That food may draw him closer but as soon as the food is gone, those puppies find themselves where they do not want to be and suddenly may exhibit a fear response. Food should be used to reinforce behavior (given to a puppy AFTER a behavior) not to lure a puppy, especially when it comes to socialization.

Do not take your puppy to a dog park until at least five to six months of age and have been socialized to a variety of dogs. This is not the place to teach socialization. Please see my post on dog parks. Also, do not let your puppy meet unknown dogs you see in public unless you are prepared for things to go wrong in a split second. Relying on a complete stranger to be honest and objective about their dog’s behavior is gambling with your puppy’s safety.

Have goals in mind with your puppy’s experiences. Are you going someplace to simply observe or to interact? Will you be taking your puppy to a new place to meet new people or to simply observe or play?  Do you want your puppy to habituate to bikes or other moving vehicles so that they are just background?  Always know when to stop (before your puppy becomes overly excited or shows a fear response).  Stop the experience at its peak.

Give your puppy positive experiences with a wide variety of surfaces, sights, sounds, animals, environments, and people. You can give your puppy exposure also to other dogs and stimulus by sitting in a parking lot and letting your puppy watch, pairing the sights and sounds of the environment with valued reinforcers.

Teach your puppy that alone time is okay too. Puppies who are taught tolerance of being alone will be more adjusted.

Teach your puppy that calm behaviors or behaviors you want to see more of, are the behaviors that get him what he wants in life. Do not teach your puppy that uncontrolled wild and craziness gets him good stuff in life. Please see my post on impulse control in dogs and puppies.

 

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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?

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

 

 

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!

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

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!

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