Tips For Stopping Your Dog’s Begging

dog training tips to stop your dog from begging

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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Proofing and Fluency In Dog Training

It happens so often. People will tell me their dog knows behaviors such as sit, down, and stay but when I ask them to show me, either their dog does not immediately do the behavior or does not do the behavior at all. Or many times a dog will do the behavior that is proofing and fluency in dog trainingcued in one setting but not another.

When it comes to having dog training success (for you and your pet), it is important to understand the concepts of proofing and fluency – used interchangeably sometimes. What they all refer to is how well your pet REALLY knows and understands the behavior in a variety of circumstances and difficulty.

These are some great criteria to think about in terms of proofing and fluency:

PRECISION:  Is your dog doing the behavior just as you want the behavior to look? What should that behavior look like?

SPEED: How quickly does your pet do the behavior?

DURATION: Will your dog remain in position or continue doing the behavior until released to do something else?

LATENCY: Latency is the time between when you give the cue and when your student offers the behavior. Does your dog sit immediately when you ask?

DISTRACTION: Can your pet do the behavior when there are distractions present, of varying levels?

DISTANCE: Can your pet do the behavior when you cue it from 3 feet away? How about across the room or at the other end of the yard?

Different behaviors will have different criteria of relevant importance. In teaching stay for example, the most relevant of these criteria are duration, distance and distraction.

Teaching These Criteria

Firstly, remember, when it comes to teaching behavior, knowing what it is specifically that you are looking for (what should the behavior ‘look like’) is important because if you do not know, you will provide unclear guidance to your learner. For this article, I won’t delve a lot into teaching cues; however, please click here to read more. That is an important step in teaching fluency.

A few more tips on proofing behavior in dog training

  1. Work on one fluency criteria at a time. Initially, you have to ‘get’ the behavior to happen in order to reinforce it (and reinforce it heavily to build value), and give it a cue. So that comes first. (I’m talking about active behaviors vs a stay.) In teaching a stay, the three most important criteria are duration, distraction and distance. As you are working on teaching one criteria (and increasing its difficulty), lower the criteria you are looking for in the other areas. For example, once I have given a cue to the behavior ‘sit’ with specific specifications of what ‘sit’ looks like; while I am teaching latency (sitting immediately when asked), I’ll lower the criteria temporarily of what the behavior of ‘sit’ looks like. When working on a ‘stay’, if I have built up to a minute of duration indoors, I will dramatically lower the duration of the stay when I move to another environment. I will also lower the duration when I introduce distractions.
  2. When introducing distractions, begin with a low level distraction in the same environment with a high rate of reinforcement. As you move to new environments, in the beginning, keep the stimulus (like a group of people or person walking another dog) far enough away that your dog can continue to focus on you. You may want to increase the value of the reinforcer you are using also. (Please click here to read about your pet’s Awesome List.) Only increase the proximity between you and the stimulus when your dog is giving you feedback that he can still do the behavior and show interest in the reinforcer. Always start where you know your dog can succeed; and if he cannot, then take that as your feedback that you need to get further away (and/or lower your criteria and/or have higher value reinforcers).
  3. Once you work through these steps on several behaviors, you’ll find that all subsequently taught behaviors tend to generalize more rapidly.

Remember, learning will come much more quickly when the teacher gives a lesson plan filled with fun!

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Tips For Getting Out Of Show-Me-The-Money Cycle

Are you among the many dog owners who have a pet those goes into ‘Show me the money’ mode before deciding whether to do anything you ask?  It is such a common problem.

Why does it happen? Well, for one, humans are pretty good at holding food in their hand held in plain view when teaching their dog behaviors (so the student is being lured); and humans are also pretty good at responding to attention seeking behaviors by doing something deemed valuable by a smart dog – such as giving attention, a piece of food, or beginning a game of fetch.

Will your dog only listen when you have food? Here are some dog training tips.Humans are also pretty good at inadvertently teaching different meaning to cues (such as giving a cue for ‘sit’ and when the dog walks away to find an awesome toy,  is called back and given a treat upon arrival which is a multiple reinforcer for walking away instead of ‘sitting’ after the cue). In general, humans are pretty good at breaking down cues by using them at times when the chances are low that there will be success (among many other ways). And dogs are pretty good at figuring out that when the clicker comes out or a bag of treats appears, that suddenly the predictability of reinforcement for certain behaviors goes way up. (Please see my post on discriminative stimulus.)

Ugh, so, how can you break this cycle?

One way is to build ‘training’ into your everyday life. In other words, always be on the lookout for what your dog values at that specific time such as going for a walk, going out the door, playing tug or fetch, or sniffing a fire hydrant; and have spontaneous teaching moments using those things as reinforcers for wanted behaviors.

Note here that those ‘wanted’ behaviors should be taught in advance in a real training session.

Here are some dog training tips:

Make going out the door contingent upon your dog sitting on a mat until released. (Click here to read how to teach this.)

Make a game of tug contingent upon your dog sitting and waiting until you give your dog a cue to grab the toy.  Or you can ask your dog to do any number of already learned behaviors prior to a cue for GAME ON.

Call your dog to come from another room with some kind of reinforcer – be unpredictable here. It could be that sometimes coming to you results in a game of chase or fetch. Other times you may run grab a cookie when he gets to you, or attach a leash (if he enjoys walks).

If your dog is behind a gate, you can teach your dog that his remaining seated while you walk up to and over the gate is what gets you to step over and pet him; while his getting up results in you walking away from the gate.

Do you see the pattern?

With all of these scenarios, the common elements are:

Consistency in cues/feedback to your dog
You are taking that dependence on food out of the equation
You are building value for listening to you and for doing behaviors you ask by teaching a positive                  association between you and positive consequences of behavior
You are decreasing that dependence on ‘Show me the money’

Here is a challenge for you. Can you name four or more things that your dog values? And can you brainstorm for ways in which your dog can use behaviors to GET those things of value?

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!

Teaching Cues In Dog Training

I see it happen a lot. People ask their dog to do a behavior (give their dog a cue) and their dog does any number of things EXCEPT the behavior that is asked of it to do.

In dog training, why cues break down and tips for teaching strong cues.Why this happens can be any number of reasons.

Among those reasons:

In your dog training, the cue has been severely weakened by negative consequences occurring after a behavior (as an example, you call your dog to come from play and then lock him in a room by himself or you ask your dog to sit and if he is slow, then you push his rear end to the ground).

The cue was not ‘proofed’ meaning it was not taught in a variety of environments with a variety of criteria, and so what your dog may know in one situation does not generalize to ALL situations.

Doing anything BUT the behavior cued results in a bigger payday than doing the behavior that is cued.

In your dog training, the behavior that was intended to be cued has not been taught with clear criteria and fluency, and thus the cue meaning for the learner is different from the meaning you had intended. As an example, you may want your dog to ‘stay’ in a down position for five minutes until released but your dog gets up in five seconds. One of the many questions you should be asking yourself is, ‘does my dog really understand what I mean when I say stay’?  It is easy to forget that dogs do not speak human.

What is a cue anyway?

Scientifically speaking, a cue is simply a stimulus that elicits a behavior. Discrimination is the tendency for learned behavior to occur in one situation but not in other situations. (Learning & Behavior, Paul Chance) Therefore, a change in the environment known as a discriminative stimulus becomes a cue for that behavior to be set into motion.

It is important to remember that it is the consequences of that behavior, positive or negative, that determine the future probability of that behavior occurring. The cue is simply an indicator to the learner that that window of time for that consequence to happen is now.

How do you create strong cues?

These are some general tips.

Knowing this about learning, the way to build huge value for cues is by first teaching the behavior that you want to see with the criteria you are looking for, by giving the behavior huge valued reinforcing consequences.

Since you are teaching an association between a cue and a behavior (and the behavior’s consequence), by teaching the behavior first, not only are you pairing the cue with the behavior that is of the criteria you are looking for, you are also pairing the cue with valued consequences that the learner learned through many repetitions. When is the time to add the cue? Add the cue when you can reliably predict that the wanted behavior is about to happen.

Always remember to teach new lessons in environments where your student can succeed so begin in an area with minimal distractions at a time when your dog will be motivated to give you attention.

After successful repetitions and lessons of your dog doing the behavior following your cue, if your dog does not do the behavior after your giving your cue, be very careful not to reinforce your dog’s unwanted choice. Instead, pause and then cue again. If your dog still does not do the behavior after several tries, that is feedback to you as the teacher that you need to go back a step in teaching the behavior. You can also practice being careful not to reinforce your dog for doing the behavior when he does it without the presence of your cue. This is called teaching stimulus control, meaning you are teaching your dog that he will ONLY get reinforced for doing the behavior when cued DURING active training.

Another note about cues is that they should be short and distinct.

Oh yes, and learning AND teaching should be fun!

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Why Learning Should Be Simple

“Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler.” ~ Albert Einstein

Dog training tips for helping pets succeed by making the lesson as simple and clear as possible.I love this quote. In its great simplicity, it speaks volumes for both effective teaching and learning. This, from a world famous, brilliant physicist known for his general theory of relativity and recognized with a 1921 Nobel Prize.

I think about this often when I am doing dog training and behavior consulting. A question foremost in my mind is always, ‘how can I help my student succeed with this lesson?”

If the lesson is too difficult student frustration can lead to poor motivation, and with poor motivation focus on the teacher can quickly evaporate. When that occurs, teaching – at least teaching what we WANT our student to learn – is often not effective.

It is important to remember that in order for us to teach a behavior and strengthen its future rate, we first need to ‘get’ the behavior to occur so that we can follow that behavior with a reinforcing consequence. I continue to remember observing in a two day class with reknown trainer Dave Kroyer a session where he was coaching another trainer on teaching her dog to put his nose in a hole of a scent box. There was a moment when her dog was not ‘getting it’ and began pawing at the box. Dave’s response was to pick the box up and ask the trainer what they could do to help her dog understand. The answer was to put the box on its side. With that small change, her dog immediate went to the open hole and placed his nose inside.

And, once you and your student have success, then you can build upon that success from there by incrementally adding to the behavior as your learner can continue to succeed.

What are some ways in which you can make your lesson plan as simple as possible but not simpler?

For one, begin teaching in an environment with minimal other distractions. It is hard enough to focus on learning something new. With stimulus going on around you, it is that much more difficult to focus. Please read this column I had written on the importance of decluttering the teaching classroom.

Break the behavior down into small steps or approximations, and reinforcing your learning after each behavior approximation toward the final behavior. This is known as shaping, and it is a lot of fun to practice. Please click here to read a past post about it.

Be aware of the importance of timing when it comes to teaching new behaviors. Contiguity refers to the closeness in time between the behavior and its consequence while contingency refers to the degree of correlation between the behavior and its consequence (*if* I do this behavior, *the* this is the consequence that will follow). The less time there is between the behavior and its consequence, the quicker and easier the animal can build that relationship.  Please click here to read more. The immediacy with which you can ‘click’ and mark a correct behavior is one of the reasons why clicker training is so effective.

Use reinforcers that are of value to your learner. Remember, it is the learner that gets to decide what is of greatest value to him/her and that can change throughout a day. Learners will always choose to do the behavior that gets them a consequence of the greatest value to them so plan ahead and make sure you’ve stacked the deck in your favor. You can read more in this post.

Dog Training Tips For A Safe Thanksgiving

Having guests over? Remember, a tired pet will have much greater value for resting rather than jumping so make sure you give your friend plenty of exercise earlier in the day. And, an animal that is busy focusing on a valuable toy is also less likely to notice other stimulus that would otherwise have his full attention.

Additionally, remember, those manners behaviors that may be of importance to you during your get together need to be taught well ahead of the holiday, and practiced with increasingly difficult criteria. The time to learn and teach is not when you need rock solid performance.

dog training tips to ensure a safe and fun Thanksgiving by Cincinnati dog trainer Lisa DesatnikHowever, something fun for you and your pet to do with guests is to show off the ‘trick’ play behaviors you have worked on. I know when I begin asking our Sam to go through his twenty plus behaviors, his tail is generally wagging the entire time.

With adult guests often come children, and as your pet’s guardian, it is your responsibility to ensure a safe environment for everyone. Even the most docile dog will have a breaking point when it comes to interactions with people that make him uncomfortable. Children should always be pro-actively supervised around pets; and should be redirected if they are doing anything that a non-human animal doesn’t like. They also should not be wild and crazy around your dog, as that could cause your dog to get wild and crazy as well.

Some body language to watch for in dogs that says they are not happy includes: a tail held low or tucked between the legs; ears held sideways for an erect eared dog or flattened back with rapid panting; tense eyes that likely show the whites around the sides; tense body muscles; looking or moving or leaning away; a center of gravity over the rear legs or to one side. Dogs may also roll onto their belly in submission. If dogs freeze, become stiff, stand with their front legs splayed and head low, showing teeth or growling, interaction with them needs to stop immediately.

If your dog has any kind of known fear or reactivity issues, the time to work on this is not when company arrives. Your best option may be to offer your pet a ‘safe place’ such as a back bedroom or crate (that you have taught a positive association with in advance) where you can have your dog hang out instead.

If your dog is a known beggar around the dinner table, you may want to begin now teaching an acceptable, alternative behavior to pawing and scratching guests. Remember, as his teacher, his ability to learn is dependent on your reliability (and EVERYONE in your household) to quickly reinforce the behavior you want to see – and every time he does the behavior in the beginning.

Begin by teaching the alternative behavior (like sitting or laying down) and get it reliably on cue. Once on cue you can begin teaching him to hold that behavior for longer durations before delivering reinforcement.

Then, you can cue him to do the behavior before you sit down at the table and heavily reinforce it. You can teach him to sit or lay down in a bed or on a mat as an alternative. Gradually then you can teach him to sit or lay down with more distance from you, then adding in teaching him the duration for his stay. And then add the difficulty of higher value food on your table.

If at any time he gets up and bets, you can simply push your plates into the center of the table and turn your back. Then wait until or cue him to sit or lay down and holds that position for 5 to 10 seconds before reinforcing him for that.

Dogs are pretty smart. If ‘you’ teach him that begging only gets people to turn away and push food aside but sitting or laying down gets a nifty treat, guess which choice he’ll make?

 

 

 

 

 

Self Control Is An Important Skill For Dogs

A reminder, teaching your dog or puppy self control skills and to stay is important in so many contexts…waiting at an open door, for calm greetings, for YOU to initiate play as just a few examples. Here are some tips for beginning to teach it.  The game that I show here for teaching self control can be used in so many other applications, substituting other environmental reinforcers for food such as the opportunity to sniff, to play with a ball, to tug, to go outside, to have a leash put on, to go into or out of a car.

tips for teaching dog self control and waiting

Tips For Teaching Your Dog Loose Leash Walking

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Now that I’ve gotten these reasons out of the way, I want to remind you…you can have a training walk and still have fun together. In the middle of your walk, ask your dog to do another behavior you have worked on or after a few ‘good’ steps, pull out an awesome toy.For some reasons why you may be having problems teaching your dog loose leash walking. please read further. Remember, pulling on a leash can lead to heightened reactivity.

To Help Your Pet Learn, Keep Clutter Out Of The Lesson

I was one of more than 500 trainers from across the globe who convened on Dearborn, Michigan in March for the Karen Pryor Clicker Training Expo. It was a phenomenal opportunity to learn from some of the best trainers and behaviorists whose focus is on modifying behavior in the most positive way.

distractions in dog trainingIn one of our labs about hands on experience teaching a behavior chain, Trainer and instructor Laura VanArendonk Baugh began with a sort of Wii game. She gave instructions at the very beginning. The game involved a foot pad with up, down, right and left arrows. On a large screen, arrows moved up and when one touched an arrow at the top, the contestants were told to tap the corresponding arrow on their foot pad. As the game went on, the movement got quicker and quicker. The winner had the highest number of correct foot taps.

Although Laura gave directions at the very beginning and asked if there were any questions, once the game began things got a little complicated. In addition to the moving arrows on the screen, there were other distracting lights in the background and people in the audience making noises. There was the added pressure of increased speed.

One of the contestants thought she needed to put both feet onto each arrow on the foot pad which required a tiny bit more time to do the behavior.  As the game sped up, people in the audience shouted guidance to them.

When it was done, we analyzed what had just happened and compared it to animals we train.

Performing the behavior of tapping their foot to the correct arrow on the pad when the arrows matched on the screen was a challenge with the distracting lights, and the difficulty rose as the speed of the arrow movement increased. When this happened, errors also happened more frequently. And, as errors began happening more quickly, some of those watching couldn’t help but shout out tips.

So, even with Laura having given clear directions at the beginning of the game, learners still had some pretty major hurdles to overcome and their ability to succeed waned as a result.

What does this have to do with training?

Well, for one, it was a great reminder to us of some of the factors that go into helping our animals succeed in our learning environment.

It demonstrated the importance of having minimal to no distractions when teaching new behavior skills. Focusing on learning is enough of a challenge. This includes environmental stimulus such as the presence of other dogs, and also trainer chatter. Remember, pets do not speak English so your verbally telling him what to do can complicate the classroom.

If we make our classroom too difficult and that causes errors, then our learner is practicing unwanted behavior. Additionally, it can cause frustration and lack of interest in the training.

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