Dogs will be Dogs: how to address problem behaviors

Welcome to our new blog series, Dogs will be Dogs, on addressing common problem behaviors!

In this first post we’ll discuss some basics of how to approach problems and considerations when dealing with any problem behavior you’re facing. Future posts will give insights on how to apply this to different common problem behaviors clients want to address, and change.

Many times in training, and in life in general, we focus on consequences for behavior. Consequences are of course important. If the animal we’re teaching finds consequences reinforcing for a behavior, that behavior will likely increase. On the opposite end of the spectrum, if the consequence is punishing or unpleasant, the behavior will likely decrease. Having this knowledge and understanding how it applies based on the animal and the behavior s/he is presenting is crucial. Far too often, however, we are looking at it from our own point of view and not through that of the animal’s.

Mac is learning that sitting will get him out of his kennel

Let’s take a simple example of this: if my dog is barking at me because he wants me to feed him dinner, and I feed him, then I’m reinforcing his barking. That seems pretty simple and most people can understand how feeding the dog dinner if he is barking at me is actually working against me and my goal of a quieter dog.

If my dog is barking because he not only wants dinner, but my undivided attention, and I decide to yell at him or tell him QUIET to communicate that I’m unhappy with him, then I am very likely still reinforcing the behavior even though I’m trying to discourage it. Any attention, even if it’s “negative” attention to try and dissuade him, is still reinforcing for him. This is not as obvious to some people–attempts to discourage him are actually giving the dog what he wants: attention!

However, if I know once I get home my dog is going to bark at me for dinner, or attention, and I ignore him COMPLETELY–maybe even going straight from the front door to the bathroom, shutting the door–then I have removed myself, and the attention he finds reinforcing. I then wait patiently for quiet. Once it’s quiet for a few seconds, I go out and give my dog a treat, or attention. The dog will learn that by being quiet, he will get what he wants, if I’m consistent with these consequences.

Consequences are important. Sometimes, though, they can be too little too late, and make for more frustrating or stressful training. With barking, it may be just as stressful for the human as the dog because the loud noise can be jarring and unpleasant. Also, if the dog has been rewarded a lot for barking, it can take longer for the dog to quiet, meaning the person has to be patient and deal with the noise.

What if I told you there is a better way?

Antecedent arrangement–what happens before a behavior occurs–can make for less stressful, and more efficient and effective training. It is proactive rather than reactive!

So, if you know your dog is going to bark as soon as you get home, how can you arrange things to make it work better for you?

If your dog is very good at a behavior that is incompatible with barking, you can ask for that behavior as soon as you walk through the door. One option may be to go get his favorite toy. If you’ve taught your fabulous, food-loving Labrador retriever to “go get his ball,” then ask for that as soon as you walk in. He can’t bark with a toy in his mouth! Once he brings it to you, you can play with him.

ABCs of behavior graphic courtesy of Lili Chin, doggiedrawings.net

If you take careful consideration of how to set you and your dog up for success to prevent or redirect the problem behavior through antecedent arrangement, you will benefit the most: your dog won’t get practice with the behavior you don’t want, making it stronger, and you will instead be able to reinforce behaviors you want instead of resorting to punishment, and experiencing frustration and a deterioration in your relationship with your dog.

You will learn more about the ABCs of teaching dogs as we continue this blog series with addressing common problems like jumping, digging, bolting doors and more. Most of what we perceive as problem behaviors are naturally occurring behaviors for dogs, which is why we have named this series Dogs will be Dogs. With patience and careful planning, you can remedy problem behaviors, give your dog appropriate outlets, and instill good manners in him.

Need help right away? Contact us now to solve your problems!
Laura
Owner, Delightful Doggies

July 2017 clients

July has been hot and humid–and busy! We are happy that we have so many wonderful clients keeping us on our toes, and entrusting us to help them with their dog training and behavior needs. We were blessed to be surrounded by spunky puppies, amazing adult dogs, and committed guardians who want to help their dogs be the best they can be. Thank you!

Clicking on the photo icons below will take you to our June 2017 clients Flickr album; if you click on the slideshow button (top right computer/play icon), you can view all the photos in a fun slideshow format. Remember to also join us on our Facebook page to see even more photos of client dogs, great articles, news items, blog posts and more! You can also check us out on Instagram.

Harley and Opie Cocoa and Samson Bella and Sierra Lexi Moose Finn Bentley Miles Azacca and Teva Abby and Dudley Niko Sawyer June Lucy Timmy Gordie Harley Bailey Buddy Alice Misty and Ginger Luna Sassy Charlie Berrin Juniper

Stay cool out there!
Laura
Owner, Delightful Doggies

July client spotlight: Harley and Opie the herder brothers

Congratulations to our July client spotlight, Harley and Opie, the Kelpie and Australian Shepherd!

Harley and Opie are good boys!
Harley and Opie are good boys!

Harley and Opie have a great mom and dad who are expecting their first human baby VERY soon, and wanted to ensure everyone is happy and safe when that glorious day comes (any moment now)! Both brothers are very sensitive herders and we have been working on building their confidence, desensitization and counterconditioning to items like the doorbell, visitors knocking and entering, baby cries, and the new baby equipment, as well as helping them learn how to relax on their own. They’re also getting used to being in their own space away from mom and dad, instead of take all the attention!

Their parents have been very diligent and committed, working especially hard to have success before their due date, and it shows! They’ve sent us videos and given us updates regularly, and kept on a good schedule to keep up the momentum. Truly they have been some of the most amazing clients we’ve ever had, and very deserving of the client spotlight for this month!

We appreciate Harley and Opie and their eagerness to please, in addition to the consistency mom and dad have given them with fun training sessions. It’s awesome that they contacted us before the baby’s arrival to put their minds at ease and plan ahead to be properly prepared. Their compliance to our homework has been key to how much progress we’ve seen in these two awesome dogs in a short amount of time, and blows us away!

Thank you for trusting in us, and we look forward to seeing you for another transition session once your precious baby has arrived!
Laura
Owner, Delightful Doggies

Four tips for surviving the Fourth

The Fourth of July can be an amazing celebration for many—but for some, including our pets, it’s one of the hardest. The sounds of fireworks and the smell of sulfur can cause many dogs to go into a fight-or-flight response, so it’s important to be mindful of this and plan ahead to minimize stress. Here are four tips for a safe Fourth:

  1. Get out of town: If you have another alternative to being around the festivities, take it! Go to a secluded cabin, go for that camping trip, head out for an evening drive—whatever works in terms of getting away from the stressor in the first place.
  2. Safety—and comfort—first! Remember to always consider safety and comfort first if you must stay in town and at home. Don’t allow your dog out in the yard or have them outside when festivities begin. Take that long walk and potty break before so you can stay in the home, safe and sound. Your dog should be microchipped and wearing tags for identification just in case anything were to happen. Making a safe space within the home that is comforting for the dog to stay in while the celebrations are happening can help keep them safe and calmer. Some dogs find crates comforting, while others may like a closet or small room. Play a white noise machine and/or soft, soothing music. If your dog likes aromatherapy or could benefit from dog appeasing pheromones, use them. Have puzzle toys or enrichment toys ready for feeding dinner so they have something else to do and enjoy. Doing some fun play or training games can also be a good alternative. Draw curtains and blinds, and do comfort your dog! Giving them support will NOT reinforce their fear so don’t let that hold you back.

    Puzzle toys can be a good way to engage your dog's brain during fireworks time
    Puzzle toys can be a good way to engage your dog’s brain during fireworks time
  3. Talk to your vet: Some dogs have so much anxiety and pure panic that it may be best for them to have some medical support, especially if they are prone to having other anxiety or are sound-sensitive to many different stimuli. There are some natural alternatives but you should never shy away from pharmaceutical intervention if it can help your dog be happier and less stressed. Talk to your vet about what options would be best for your dog. Stay away from acepromazine! It can sedate the body but not the mind, increasing overall anxiety in time.
  4. Counterconditioning is key! You can use desensitization and counterconditioning techniques before the Fourth to see better success when the celebrations take place. You will need to prepare and have on hand LOTS of bits of VERY high-value food. (Human foods like cheese, boiled meat or unflavored/non-spiced deli meat, hot dogs, etc. are best so don’t skimp—use something super wonderful!) Using a recording of fireworks, play it at a VERY low volume that won’t upset the dog, and pause as needed to give breaks. When your dog hears a firework, feed this food. Repeat and gradually raise and vary the level of the volume. You want to keep it low enough so that your dog doesn’t get panicked—your dog should be relatively comfortable but still able to notice the sound. Do this many times before the Fourth and have lots more food ready on the Fourth to pair with the real deal. If fireworks mean bits of salmon consistently, your dog can begin to see fireworks as a good thing due to this association you build over many repetitions.

Need help? Contact us!

Have a safe and happy Fourth of July,
Laura
Owner, Delightful Doggies

June 2017 clients

We’re in the midst of the busiest time of year, and really want to thank all of you for your continued trust in us to help with your dog training and behavior consulting needs. It’s been raining puppies, too, which has been very fun! The diversity and individual personalities we get to work with is so much fun and helps us continue to learn and grow as professionals. Thank you for choosing the Delightful Doggies training team!

You can click on the below photo icons to visit our June 2017 clients Flickr album, and if you click on the slideshow button (top right computer/play icon), you can view all the photos in a fun slideshow format. Please join us on our Facebook page to see even more photos of client dogs, great articles, news items and blog posts. You can also check us out on Instagram!

Barrett Timmy Lucy Snoop Dogg Harley and Opie Kirby Luna Moose Avanti Zappa and Suki Gryffen Niko Charlie Rylee Bodhi Sierra Bella Neepo Huck Lily and Tyson Misty Finn Miles Bentley Bumi June Sawyer

We hope you’re having a great summer!
Laura
Owner, Delightful Doggies

June client spotlight: Barrett the cattle dog

Congratulations to our June client spotlight, Barrett the cattle dog!

Barrett rocks the loose leash!
Barrett rocks the loose leash!

Barrett is a rescue puppy adopted by an awesome, active gentleman to be a lifelong partner for myriad fun activities. In other words, Barrett is truly lucky! He’s also amazing–very quick to learn, eager to please, and just a fun dude to chill with.

I’ve had the pleasure to see Barrett twice weekly for Day Training visits to work on getting him used to the world, walk on a loose leash and come when called. It’s been a lot of fun, and we take frequent breaks to chew as a teething puppy has to have chew breaks! And play! We have to play and have fun! Playing games like “catch me” and “hide and go seek” have made come when called even more fun to learn.

Barrett is getting off to a great start because his dad knows the value of training in helping them have enjoyment together. It makes me happy to know that they are going to do well together because they’ve been working on it from the very start of his coming home from rescue. This is one of many reasons that Barrett is our client spotlight this month.

Thank you to Barrett and his dad for being so great, and for choosing us to help with their training needs!
Laura
Owner, Delightful Doggies

The power of connection in successful dog training

There are lots of components that go into successful training: your timing, the delivery of the reward, having the right motivation for the dog, managing your environment for success, and many more. Each of these in and of itself is worthy of a blog post, but today I’m going to talk about one of the cornerstones and how I perceive it: the ability to truly connect with your dog.

What is a connection and how do you know you have it? For me, it’s when my dogs look happily at me, come to me without me even asking, and look to me as though I have their back. By and large, my dogs find it extremely rewarding just being around me. I notice the good behaviors they give me and reward them. I talk to them and look at them in a loving manner. I do things with them they enjoy, and I enjoy as well, sharing that mutual enjoyment.

Here are my tips for building a good, solid connection with your dog:

  • Empathize with your dog. We are so caught up in what the dog SHOULD do, or DOES know, that when they don’t do what we’ve prompted from them, we get frustrated. We repeat ourselves: “Django, sit………sit………..SIT!” Our voices and actions become white noise to our dog, and we go down the road of being upset, which can lead to unnecessary and unpleasant punishment, deteriorating our relationship. Remember there may be reasons why your dog isn’t doing what you think he should be doing—and knows how to do. Sometimes they actually haven’t been taught to understand what we’re asking in all situations so we need to retrain at easier criteria. Perhaps your dog didn’t hear you, or is thinking about it and just needs a moment more than what we will give. Sometimes they may be too afraid, or the pavement is too hot or cold, or they may be experiencing some type of pain or discomfort. The dog is refusing for a reason, not out of stubbornness. The more you can realize where the holes are with your training, or what he may be experiencing at the moment by contemplating his point of view, the less frustration you can experience and the more trust you will be able to build with your dog overall.
Loo offers a check-in to mom after seeing another dog
Loo offers a check-in to mom after seeing another dog
  • Reward all the check-ins! One of the simplest things you can do, the instant you get your new puppy or dog, is reward him EVERY TIME he looks at you, in as many places you can, and with as many distractions, as possible, of his own accord. We call these “check-ins,” and your dog will be most successful if you do this first in less distracting environments, then in increasingly more distracting areas and scenarios. You can’t overdo it in the beginning, especially as the surroundings change. The more you do this, the more they will learn you are the most amazing thing in their world! In less distracting situations you can use their regular food ration and simple training treats, but in more distracting environments (exciting to be in the park on a weekend!), you will have much better success if you have little bits of hot dogs, chicken or cheese—any real food that your dog doesn’t normally get but will absolutely love. Everything starts with looking at you—a sit, a down, a loose leash walk—so if you start by rewarding simple check-ins, you will have a strong foundation for even better manners and relaxed behavior.
  • Acknowledge when they get it right. Often! It’s all too easy to ignore the good kid, right? The naughty one in the back always gets called out, gets called up to the front, gets all the attention. This usually doesn’t work well overall because the naughtiness is more rewarding than being good and quiet! It’s a simple analogy but it helps us realize that there are many times when our dogs are being good and we aren’t acknowledging it (as well as how much we end up reinforcing “bad” behavior instead). Make a point to have treats at hand more often than not to reward good behaviors when they’re offered, at spontaneous times, and see the awesome results of paying attention to the good kid—he repeats all that awesome stuff, more and more. Even if I don’t have a treat at the time, I want to tell my dogs they’re being good, or give some attention to them in the form of affection or play, so they know I appreciate their awesomeness when it happens.
  • Have full engagement with your dog. I am a huge advocate for food in training, and to also continue maintaining behaviors you’ve already built, but it’s also important to use other reinforcing items to engage your dog in myriad ways to build your relationship together. Often when I’m walking a dog I love to praise them as they’re doing well in addition to treating them to stay by my side, and to tell them how awesome they are before releasing them for a sniff break. By engaging them a bit more than just being stoic or relying on the treats alone, and allowing them freedom to do what they want, I think most dogs are more eager to actually be present with me on the walk. It’s not like I have to talk or pet them the entire time, but I do enough to motivate the dog and add even more fun to what we’re doing, instead of staring at my cell phone or talking on a Bluetooth. You can also engage in playing with the dog with a toy, or a game you both enjoy as well. If I’m enthusiastic, and genuine, they will pick up on this and know that we’re a team together—we work hard but we also play hard!

These strategies build a reinforcement history with the dog—I am always oriented toward helping the dog find the right path and rewarding for what I like most. The stronger your history, the better your success at having a dog that will be happy to do what you like—it’s fun for the dog, and it helps build a real connection with them. It builds a solid relationship!

Need help? Feel free to reach out, and happy training!
Laura
Owner, Delightful Doggies