Barking Dog? Resolutions ** Danger! ** Do Not Use an Anti Bark Collar on Your Dog or Puppy, without reading this first!

bentleybarkOkay, so your dog is barking and you have the perfect, initial solution; buy one of those anti bark dog collars, right? WRONG!

Please do not misunderstand, I agree there are situations when an anti bark collar is a good choice, but spraying a dog with citronella, sounding a tone, (or using an e-collar ) are never at the top of my list of tools and solutions for barking.

Anti bark collars address the symptom, not the causes. You may very well stop your puppy or dog from barking. But, if the dog is fearful, aggressive, anxious, stressed or neglected, an anti bark collar could increase these emotional conditions.

DANGER! YIKES! We love our dogs and puppies. We certainly do not want to harm them! Before you use an anti bark collar on your dog or puppy, take a moment to review these thoughts.

Positive punishment (immediately adding an aversive stimulus to reduce the preceding behavior) rarely makes your pet dog less fearful, less aggressive, less anxious, less stressed, or less neglected!

Dogs bark for many different reasons. In many instances, obedience training, a change of schedule, and/or adjusting something in the dog’s surroundings will be part of the solution.

Here is a short list of resolutions I have suggested for clients:

Close the window blinds / pull the curtains

Crate train the dog (a crate trained dog is one who will relax in the crate, regardless of the activities surrounding the crate.)

Relocate the puppy’s crate

Teach your puppy to relax in her crate

Teach the dog a polite way to get your attention.

Increase physical activities

Teach your dog to ring a bell to signal the desire to go outside (or inside)

Teach your dog to go to place

Learn how to train your dog, and do it!

Teach the dog that all dogs and people are not dangerous or threatening

Teach the dog to relax

Teach “quiet” or “enough”

The first thing you should do is determine the root cause for the barking. Here are some guidelines for determining the cause of your dog’s excessive barking.

Normal Barking – Resolve via Obedience Training

  • Attention Signal to Owners, Other Dogs, Other Pets

Wants to go outside / inside / into room / other side of gate / out of crate

Soliciting Attention

Begging for Food

Soliciting Play-time

Soliciting Interactions with other Pets

  • Excitement

During Play, Before Walks

Barking at Door Bell, Door Knocks

  • Protecting, Guarding, Alarm Barking

Barking at Noises, People’s Voices Outside, Television Sounds, etc.

Barking at Neighbors, Passersby, Joggers, Bicyclists, Trucks, Cars,

Strangers, Other Dogs, Birds, Squirrels, House Cats, etc.

Abnormal Barking Resolve via Behavior Modification

  • Fearful – Distance Increasing Behavior

Barking at Cars / Trucks

Barking at Strangers

Barking at Dogs

  • Anxious or Stressed

Barking when confined in crate, laundry room, behind gate, etc (anxious barking is usually accompanied by excessive salivation)

Barking when alone

Happy Training!
Alan J Turner, Companion Animal Behavior Counselor & Trainer
Private and group dog training in Germantown, Collierville, and Memphis TN

Puppy Play Biting Solutions

crisco_lewis2Have you ever watched dogs play together? They are a riot! They jump, mount, growl, bite, mouth, snap, nip, bark and chase. That’s how they play. It’s normal behavior!

Play-biting occurs when some of these normal, play behaviors are directed at human body parts and human clothing. Play biting is a stage of development. All puppies play bite, some more than others. Puppies mature and grow out of the play biting stage.

Puppies that play bite after 6 months of age are treating their humans like puppy play mates.

Play biting by older pups is most often the result of inappropriate play and miscommunications by humans.

I categorize play-biters by placing them into one of two Groups. This is because some tips work well with 10 week old pups, but fail miserably with 6 month old pups.

If the pup is 8-16 weeks old, I automatically place them into Group A, the group of puppies that is learning about play-biting and making progress.

Play biting by these younger pups is normal and can usually be easily reduced, assuming the humans follow some guidelines. If their humans are consistent, young pups rarely graduate to Group B.

Group B pups are puppies 6 months and older that are still play-biting. Pups at 17-24 weeks could be in either Group A or Group B.

Pups in Group B are likely to exhibit other annoying behaviors such as jumping up, mounting, attention-barking, counter-surfing, mouthing and more.

There’s no shame if your dog falls into Group B.

None of this stuff comes to anyone in a dream!

There’s no reason that you should automatically know how to raise your 21st century pup.

There is so much inaccurate, contradicting information about dog training. Everyone you meet is an “expert”. It’s all too easy to follow the wrong advice. I know I did! Give yourself a huge pat on the back for finding this accurate resource.

The concepts for reducing play-biting, mounting, and mouthing are pretty much the same as the concepts for reducing most unwanted behaviors. There are several actions to consider.

  • Meet your dog’s basic needs
  • Avoid play that involves tumbling, wrestling, hugging or interacting with your hands.
  • Teach your puppy which behaviors you do like.
  • Practice with your dog.
  • Interrupt misbehaviors by redirecting your pup to perform wanted behaviors.
  • Pay your puppy for complying.

Change Your Behavior

Few (including myself) can resist the soft cuddly fur of a puppy. I firmly believe that puppy tumble therapy is a marketable service. The buyer enters a room with several 7-10 week old puppies, gets on the floor and just soaks up puppy-glee by touching, tumbling and interacting with the puppies. I can’t imagine how such interactions would not be helpful for stress relief. I’d pay for the opportunity. Wouldn’t you?

Most people’s ideas of playing with puppies involve tumbling and rough handling.

Aren’t handling, pushing, wrestling, poking, teasing, tumbling, hugging, holding, cuddling, rolling, and chasing all good clean fun methods to interact with puppies? Fun? . . . yes; helpful for teaching a puppy? . . . no.

Expect to be bitten if you get on the floor and play wrestle, hug, manipulate, or otherwise use your hands to roughly interact with your puppy.

All these behaviors give puppies the impressions that we are just like their canine playmates. Puppies play rough with other puppies. At some point, puppy handling morphs into miscommunications which morph into playful puppy attacks! Ouch, those needle teeth are sharp!

It would be difficult for me to estimate how often I’ve heard this phrase.

“My child used to love the puppy but now she’s afraid of him. He randomly jumps up on her, steals her toys, mouths her arms, and nips at her heels and clothing. Sometimes he even knocks her down”.

When you think about it, these behaviors are in the same class of behaviors dogs exhibit while playing with other dogs.

The first step to resolve these issues is prevention. Attach a leash or long line so that your pup cannot mug your child.

Children and untrained dogs do not make choices which promote safe play. It’s best to supervise all interactions between children and animals.

Set aside time each day to introduce your child and your pup to safe games like fetch or hide-n-seek.

Sit-for-treat, roll over, and adult-accompanied, leashed walks are examples of other safe activities children can play with pups.

Nothing increases behaviors better than rewards! Establish reward systems for your child and your pup. Pay your child and your pup for playing nicely.

Other Preventative Measures

Ok, I’ll ease up on the lecture. Regardless of your perfect behaviors, your pup will play bite. That’s what they do. Here are some tips to help you survive this period.

Group A: 8-16 Week Old Puppies

  • Tie a stuffed toy on a 10-12 foot line. (I use ¼ inch diameter nylon line I purchased at the hardware store.) Drag the toy when you walk. Praise the pup for attacking the toy instead of your ankles and feet!

  • Sometimes you just want to handle your pup. Before you start grooming or handling, get a decoy. I use a Kong® toy stuffed with a bit of peanut butter. Hold the Kong® and let your pup get engrossed in the treat while you perform grooming or necessary inspections. Free Range Bullie sticks are also great decoys.

  • Pay your pup for chewing the correct items. Deliver a treat and praise when he is engaged in wanted behaviors. Remember, when you increase appropriate behaviors, the inappropriate behaviors decrease in frequency!

  • Use decoys when your child wants to stroke your pup. Choose periods when your pup is less active for stroking.

  • Avoid sudden hand movements, especially movements near your pup’s face and head.

  • Avoid pats on top of the head. Stroke your pup under his neck and south of the collar instead.

  • Use long gentle strokes instead of short, harsh pats.

  • Harvest some of that puppy-fur therapy when your pup is asleep!

Interrupt — Redirect — Pay

The Play-biting period is an educational journey for our pups. This is when they learn about bite inhibition and jaw pressure.

Pups that learn about jaw pressure and bite inhibition are less likely to deliver deep puncture wounds as adults.

Puppies learn about bite inhibition as they play with other puppies.

Here’s how a puppy learns from his littermates. When one pup bites another too hard, the recipient will yelp and withdraw.

This provides the play biter with valuable information about jaw pressure and contributes to the development of excellent bite inhibition.

This education from siblings and parents takes place early in a pup’s life.

Pups that are removed from their littermates before 8-9 weeks (or pups that are an only child) are at a greater risk for exhibiting more extreme versions of play biting.

Teaching puppies about jaw pressure reduces the probability of them delivering dangerous bites as adolescents and adults.

Ouch – Withdraw Method

Adults can continue the education process by following the following sequence. (This is not for children nor is it how to address play biting by Group B pups, which have already perfected their naughty behaviors!)

At this point we have two goals. Our short term goal is to teach the pup about jaw pressure. Our long term goal is to teach the pup that teeth-on-skin is unacceptable.

  • When your young puppy play-bites, allow it. The instant you feel those needle teeth sting, speak a high-pitched “ouch” and immediately withdraw. Walk away and ignore your pup.

  • If your pup becomes more excited after the “ouch”, follows you or bites your ankles, try this. Attach a leash and tether the pup to a piece of furniture. Now he can’t follow.

  • Ignore your pup for several seconds while you review your behavior. Are you sending the wrong signals? Are you somehow enticing the pup to bite?

  • Reengage by redirecting your pup to interact with a decoy.

  • Praise your pup for chewing the item.

  • Repeat the sequence several times in succession. Pups learn by repetition. It may take a week or more of using this sequence before your pup catches on.

In some cases, the “ouch” and withdrawal method is a slow process. Here are factors to consider.

  • If a confident puppy has practiced and has refined play-biting as a normal method to interact with people, it will take more repetitions before the puppy will understand. Keep at it and you will succeed.

  • If the pup is not offended by your departure, then withdrawing will not be effective.

  • If family members are inconsistent, then the puppy will continue to play bite.

  • If the puppy is older than 12-14 weeks, the ouch method will probably be ineffective.

  • Failure could be a sign that the pup’s physical and mental exercise needs are not being met.

Sometimes it’s difficult to interrupt and redirect. The puppy seems to be out of control and will not listen.

This pup either needs more exercise or a nap. If excessive activities such as play-biting occur late in the evening, the pup may be ready for bed. If it occurs after the pup is well rested, then perhaps it’s time for some exercise!

In some cases, (especially in families with unwilling ‘ouch-withdraw” participants), I find it necessary to focus solely on teaching the pup to interact with appropriate items.

To encourage a pup, hold a decoy for your pup to investigate. When your pup touches it with his teeth or tongue, say “yes” to mark that instant of success.

Immediately deliver praise and/or a treat. After the pup catches onto the game, methodically extend the amount of time the pup must interact with the item before you mark success and deliver praise.

Group B: Puppies 6 Months and Older

Group B dogs are usually much larger (than Group A pups) and some of their newness has worn off.

Group B dogs have perfected play biting as a method to communicate with humans.

Because the dogs are older and families have yet to teach the dogs about play-biting, it is very likely that the family has unknowingly increased other obnoxious behaviors such as jumping up, nipping at clothes, attention-barking, object stealing, et cetera.

Group B dogs are at risk for being mistreated. Group B dogs are a bit closer to being sequestered into isolation or re-homed.

All of the preventative methods are effective with Group B dogs. In addition, you will need some management tools to control these larger dogs.

  • Start a training program.  Use kind methods to teach the dog basic obedience commands.

  • If your Group B dog jumps up and play bites, attach a leash. Step on the leash to prevent the dog from succeeding. Use a buckle collar for this exercise.

  • Correct and careful use of a head collar provides some families relief from the obnoxious behaviors of some Group B dogs.  Check with your veterinarian or trainer for information about head collars.

What Not to Do

If you’re reading this I’m guessing you’ve tried all the popular methods to stop play-biting.

Some suggest that you squirt a play biting pup with a water bottle, bop the dog on the nose, hold the muzzle shut, grab the puppy by the scruff, shout “No Bite” or even roll the pup over and hold him down. These are questionable solutions.

Some pups will learn by these corrections and others become anxious, confused, fearful, or more playful.

The water bottle is the only suggestion I might share – in rare situations.

Ask any person whose adult dog is grumpy during mouth and muzzle inspections. “Say, did you hold your dog’s muzzle shut when he was a pup?”

These uncooperative patients learned long ago that hands approaching face equals discomfort.

If you are using corrections to teach your pup about play-biting, and it is still a problem, it’s time to change course!  What you are doing is not working.

Another problem with suggesting these methods is that people naturally become focused on stopping unwanted behaviors instead of starting wanted behaviors. This places them on a path of miscommunication with their pups. How will most people respond when the corrections are ineffective … when the squirt bottle doesn’t work?  . . .

People naturally respond with more force and harsher punishers.

Some pups will stop play biting when harsher punishers are used. Of course these pups may stop coming when called, and start urinating in fear, but hey, they’re not play biting!

In addition, forceful techniques send messages to our children about resolving problems with force, when kinder, more efficient methods are available. Try the kind methods. You’ll be surprised how well they work!

Some people, (far be it from me to single out a specific gender or age group) believe that rough play teaches pups to be good protectors.

I have some experience teaching protection dogs. I have full exposure to the techniques and exercises. None of the professional, protection dog trainers I have worked with use rough play as a method to teach a dog to protect.

If any of the members in your pup’s circle of humans, insist on playing rough, expect your puppy’s play biting to continue or increase.

Play wrestling teaches puppies that rough play is ok.

In addition, games which include jumping up not only increase inappropriate jumping up, but can compromise a growing pup’s bone development.

People rarely eliminate play biting in a few days, because play biting is a normal stage for puppies. If you follow these suggestions, you can minimize play-biting during this period and prevent it from becoming a true problem in an older dog.

If your pup’s play biting is increasing in frequency or magnitude, contact your veterinarian for the name of a trainer or visit http://apdt.com and search for a trainer near you.


Happy Training!

Alan J Turner

Dog behavior counselor and trainer, Memphis, TN


Who is Regulating our Pets’ Foods?

bonzi_11Many of us know that several pet foods were recalled by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in March 2007. As the investigation unfolded, additional brands and/or products were added to the recall. Most of the major brands were affected. How could so many different brands contain the same source of contamination?

Throughout many short and incomplete news reports, I noticed conflicting stories about the regulation of pet foods and the source of the contamination. Here are some facts about the regulation of pet foods and the pet food recall of March 2007.

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is responsible for ensuring that human and pet foods are safe and properly labeled. This leads us to believe the FDA is regulating ingredients, but this is not necessarily so. Many ingredients such as the meats, poultry, grains and by-products are considered “safe” and do not require routine inspection or approval by the FDA.

The FDA does not inspect or regulate the source or quality of ingredients that make up the protein and fat in pet foods.

The FDA does regulate the production and distribution of food additives, chemicals and drugs that are included in pet foods. In addition, the FDA regulates the proper labeling of pet foods. The order by which ingredients are listed on the label and any health claims on the label fall under the jurisdiction of the FDA. Health claims on labels relate to claims that a particular food is helpful in the treatment or prevention of diseases.

The FDA labeling requirements are in concert with AAFCO (Association of American Feed Control Officials). AAFCO is a self-regulating organization whose members primarily consist of representatives of the pet food manufacturers.

AAFCO is not a government organization and does not have any enforcement capabilities; however AAFCO is considered an authority on which ingredients and nutrients should go into pet foods.

The Pet Food Institute (PFI) is another organization involved in pet food manufacturing. PFI is the “voice of pet food manufacturers”. The primary function of the 50 year old organization is media relations. PFI represents 97% of all pet food manufacturers.

Pet Food Recalls

In March 2007, FDA learned that some pet foods manufactured by Menu Foods were causing illness and death among cats and dogs.

The USA company, Menu Foods, manufactures and packages pet foods for many of the major pet food companies. The companies give Menu Foods their recipes and Menu Foods manufactures and packages the finished products.

The source of the contaminant was an additive used in many pet foods, wheat gluten. The FDA does regulate the production and distribution of food additives. The contaminant in the wheat gluten was melamine.

“Wheat gluten is a natural protein derived from wheat or wheat flour, which is extracted to yield a powder with high protein content. Pet food manufacturers often use wheat gluten as a thickener or binding agent in the manufacture of certain types of pet food. Melamine can be used to create products such as plastics, cleaning products, glues, inks, and fertilizers. Melamine has no approved use as an ingredient in human or animal food in the United States.” US Food and Drug Administration. (2008, February 19). Charges Filed in Contaminated Pet Food Scheme. Retrieved March 6, 2008 from http://www.fda.gov/consumer/updates/pet_food021908.html

The FDA recall included numerous Menu Foods products manufactured for many popular brands of pet foods. Other food manufacturers were affected by the recall too. Several companies voluntarily recalled some of their manufactured products.

The wheat gluten originated in China and was purchased by Chem Nutra, Inc., located in Las Vegas Nevada. Chem Nutra imported the wheat gluten for resale to various pet food manufacturers. Menu Foods was one of the larger animal feed manufacturers that purchased contaminated wheat gluten from Chem Nutra.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) was also involved in the investigation because some farm animal feed and fish feed contained the tainted pet foods. The animals and fish consumed the feed and were processed for human consumption. Scientists determined the risk to humans who consumed meat from the farm animals was very low.

On February 6, 2008, a federal grand jury returned indictments against several key individuals and companies. Two Chinese nationals and their businesses along with Chem Nutra, Inc and key officers were included in the indictments. Menu Foods was not named in the indictments.

Happy Training!

Alan J Turner, Companion Animal Behavior Counselor & Trainer

Private and Group Dog Obedience Training, Memphis TN

How’s Bentley

Member: APDT

Experiment with Puppy Crate Location to Reduce Barking in the Crate

ellie_treehouseDogs are social mammals. They like to be close to their people. That being said, dogs are adaptable. Some pups and dogs can learn to relax in a crate that is placed in a laundry room or basement, away from the people.  Some don’t adapt so well.

My initial suggestion is to place the crate in a corner of a common area. This presents the puppy with a safe resting spot near his people.

Placement depends on the individual pup’s personality and when the dog will be crated.

If you use a crate primarily when you are away or asleep, a laundry room or basement may be a good choice.

Keep in mind that it is better to teach the dog to relax in the crate when you are gone and when you are home. This is not accomplished if you only crate at night or when you are away.

Don’t be shy about experimenting with crate placement. Find the best spot for you and your dog.

Sometimes, moving the crate to another location resolves problems such as barking and eliminating in the crate.

A crate trained dog / puppy:

  • will not eliminate in the crate
  • readily enters the crate when asked
  • relaxes in the crate when alone in the home
  • relaxes in the crate when people are home and active
  • relaxes in the crate when other animals are not crated

Start Off Right!

Visit the products page and purchase, Puppies for Thinkers – crate training, housebreaking, house training, meeting basic needs, play-biting and much more.

Happy Training!

Alan J Turner – Companion Animal Behavior Counselor & Trainer, Canine Specialization

Private and Group Dog Behavior and Training Services

Memphis, TN

How’s Bentley

Chocolate & Other Harmful Foods for Dogs

img_19661Mary Jane and her brother, Mark Anthony are miniature dauschunds in Memphis Tn.

There are some people foods that can be very harmful to dogs. These include chocolate, grapes, raisins, macadamia nuts, tea, coffee, and sugar free candy.

The toxic ingredient in chocolate is theobromine, which is very similar to caffeine. Dogs that ingest as little as 50 milligrams of theobromine per pound of body weight may exhibit signs of toxicity.

Milk chocolate contains about 44 milligrams of theobromine per ounce (mg/oz). Semi-sweet chocolate contains about 150 mg/oz. The most toxic is baking chocolate which contains about 390 mg/oz.

  • 34 ounces of pure milk chocolate is a toxic dose for a 30 lb. dog.
  • 10 ounces of pure semi-sweet chocolate is a toxic dose for a 30 lb. dog.
  • 4 ounces of pure baking chocolate is a toxic dose for a 30 lb. dog.
  • Two tablespoons of hydrogen peroxide is an appropriate dose to induce vomiting for a 35 lb. dog.

Do not feed your dog grapes or raisins. These have been linked to kidney failures.

Do not feed your dog sugar-free snacks that contain xylitol. According to the AVMA, even small amounts of this sweetener can cause a life threatening or fatal drop in blood sugar.

Do not feed your dog macadamia nuts, tea, or coffee. These can be harmful to your dog.

For more information about food choices, including the B.A.R.F. diet, organic foods, quality of dog food ingredients, and selecting a better food, please visit the Products Page and select Puppy Owner’s Manual, a complete guide to all you’ll need to know to start off right!

Alan J Turner

Companion Animal Behavior Counselor & Trainer, Canine Specialization

Private and Group Dog Training, Memphis TN

How’s Bentley

Member: APDT

Canadian Dog Sniffs Buried I.E.D. in Afghanistan

Beautiful Black German Shepherd Dog, not Koma
Side picture of a beautiful black German Shepherd Dog is not Koma, the hero dog in the article.

Koma is a hero to Canadian troops in the Arghandab valley, Afghanistan. The explosives detective dog found a land mine that was buried right in the path of the troops.

According to of THE CANADIAN PRESS and reported on Star.com, the German Shepherd explosive scent detection Dog, Koma, was attracted to a particular spot which contained a buried improvised explosive device (I.E.D).

The dog was trained in the United States and in Afghanistan.

Alan J Turner

Free Training and Behavior Information

http://howsbentley.com

Lucy the Goldendoodle in Mississippi River Flood – Memphis

img_0265Lucy was retrieving like a full blooded Labrador Retriever today! The 1.5 year old female Goldendoodle was quite excited to be splashing and running in shallow flood waters of the Mississippi River. She was absolutely on target and would not come back without the treasured stick!

Lucy quickly made friends, and competed with two other dogs, but Lucy always came back with the stick! GO LUCY!

I work with Goldendoodles and/or Labradoodles every week. They are a popular and excellent mix! The retriever genes fuel the gentle, cooperative, “Oooookay” attitude of a Labrador or Golden Retriever. The Standard Poodle genes might say, “Why should I?, What’s in it for me?” They are excellent dogs if you meet their exercise and stimulation needs AND provide basic obedience training!

I took these pictures of the Mississippi River in Memphis TN. The river is the second longest in the USA and the largest by volume.

Today in Memphis TN, May 17th, 2009, the river is above the 34 foot flood stage. It is expected to crest at 34.5 feet. At 35 feet, most of the land within the mainline levee system will be flooded. Yikes! The National Weather Service issued a flood watch.

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Alan J Turner, Companion Animal Behavior Counselor & Trainer, Canine Specialization

Private and Group Dog Training in Memphis, TN

Owner: How’s Bentley

National Dog Bite Prevention Week

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May 17 -23 is National Dog Bite Prevention Week.

According to the AVMA, 4.7 million Americans will be bitten by a dog this year. 500,000 to 800,000 of those people will require medical attention. About 12 people a year die from dog bites.

At the top of the victim list is children, followed by U.S. postal workers.

More dog bites occur to children in the summer months, presumably because children spend more time with their puppies and dogs in the summer.

There are several things we can do to prevent dog bites to children.

Tips for Children:

  • never approach strange dogs
  • always ask permission before petting a neighbor’s dog
  • do not disturb dogs that are caring for puppies, sleeping, resting, or eating
  • never reach for a dog that is under a bed or piece of furniture
  • avoid running and screaming near dogs
  • all food that falls on the floor belongs to the dog
  • avoid wrestling with a dog or puppy
  • look for warning signs such as lip curling and growling

Adults:

  • never leave a child and dog together, unattended
  • socialize the dog
  • keep the dog current with vaccinations and medical treatment
  • obedience train the dog
  • closely supervise all interactions between children and dogs
Companion Animal Behavior Counselor & Trainer, Canine Speciaization
Private and Group Dog and Puppy Training in Memphis, TN

Interrupters: Squirt Bottles, Newspaper Swats, Shake Cans – Are They Effective for Changing Dogs’ Rude Behaviors?

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Interrupters are corrections people use to momentarily stop their dogs’ behaviors. Examples of potential interrupters are shouting “no”, squirting with a water bottle, shaking a can with pennies, tossing keys on the floor, swatting with a newspaper, or holding a pup’s muzzle closed.

Interrupters can stop a behavior for the moment. Great, sometimes we need to stop a dog or puppy from misbehaving! Unfortunately, interrupters do not necessarily decrease the likelihood of the behavior reoccurring in the future.

Interrupters decrease behaviors for the moment and can be very useful short-term tools when we are unprepared. Interrupters do not efficiently modify behavior over the long term.

Many of my clients with serious problems unknowingly intensify the problems via the improper use of interrupters.

If you answer “YES” to any of the following questions it is very likely that you are using interrupters inefficiently and/or your methods of communicating and teaching are flawed.

  • Have you used the interrupter on many occasions to stop the same behavior(s)?
  • Is the behavior occurring as often today as it was yesterday?
  • Will the dog cower at the sight of the interrupter, even though he or she is not misbehaving?
  • Does the interrupter need to be visible, or held in your hand, before the dog will comply with your wishes?
  • Are you constantly carrying the interrupter with you, or purposely placing the interrupter within easy reach?

Using constant interrupters as teaching tools has unwanted side effects, the least of which is a confused, distrustful dog. In addition, interrupters do not teach the dog which behaviors you do want.

Interrupt – Redirect – Pay

You can use interrupters effectively if you complete the thought and tell your dog what is acceptable. Interrupt –> redirect –> pay is the most efficient use of interrupters.

Anytime you say “no”, ask yourself these two questions. What exactly would I like my dog to do at this moment and exactly where would I like him to do it?  Once you have these answers, you’ve just identified your redirect behaviors and your next training goal. Teach your dog to perform the redirect behaviors in that specific context. Do this when you have complete control of the environment.

For instance, suppose your dog jumps up on the dishwasher door and licks dishes when you are loading your dishwasher. Ok, you’ve defined the problem, now decide on a solution.

What exactly would you like your dog to do when you load the dishwasher? Where would you like him to do it?

You’ve decided that you’d like your dog to lie on the kitchen area-rug when you load the dishwasher. Here’s a summary of your training plan. Variations of this exercise can be used to address other problems such as bolting out open doors and stealing food from counters.

Remember, you can’t teach your dog when life is calling the shots! Set aside some time and teach your dog this specific skill.

First, teach your dog “Go to Place (place is the rug)”.

Gradually increase the time he must stay on the rug before you pay him.

Add the distractions of the dish loading process – one step at a time. Have him stay while you bend down and touch the handle, while you operate the door handle, while you open and close the door, while you place a dish inside, et cetera.

After a few short sessions, your dog will know exactly what to do, when you load dishes, and he will know exactly where to do it!

The next time your dog jumps up on the dishwasher door, tell him “no”, immediately cue him to Go to Rug, then release and pay him – after you are through with your task.

Better yet; before you begin to clean up, tell your dog to “Go to rug”. Don’t forget to pay him after you are finished cleaning up!

Happy Training!

Alan J Turner – Companion Animal Behavior Counselor & Trainer, Canine Specialization

Private and Group Dog Behavior and Training Services

Memphis, TN

How’s Bentley

FREE – Dog Won’t Come? Teach Your Dog to Come Bump Your Target

criscojailPlease read Start Here AA-1 through AA-5 before you teach your dog to target.

Crisco, the turbo Jack Russell Terrier in the picture, will almost always come when called. Crisco has been very well trained by her owner via the use of targets!

Here are some thoughts about targets introduced to me by Kayce Cover, B.S., M.A.

Targets give the dog critical information about where success will take place. Examples of targets are a simple wooden dowel with a piece of tape on one end for contrast, your hand, extended fingers, or other items such as a business card, ink pen, plastic lid from small food container, piece of tape on the wall, dot of light from a laser pointer, etc.. You can purchase a target stick from pet supply stores.

Many trainers use targets to teach service dogs how to operate light switches, press doorbells, open doors, pick up items, et cetera. The dog is taught to go to the target, bump the target with his nose (or any other body part) maintain contact with the target, sit / lay on the target, pick up the item touching the target, or any number of behaviors, depending on the type of target and the application.

The use of target(s) is an excellent method to teach motion behaviors or to teach the dog where a behavior should occur.

Simple applications for target sticks are teaching a dog to spin and to heel.

Target Touch

Here’s how to teach your dog to bump a two finger target. To form a two-finger target, extend your index and middle fingers and tuck your ring finger and little finger into your palm with your thumb.

You will present the two-finger target on a plane, horizontal to the floor, as if you are pointing to someone next to you. The dog will touch the outside or knuckle side of the target.

Say “Touch” and immediately position the end of the target one inch from your dog’s nose. He will sniff it.  Do not move your target to touch his nose. He should come to you!

Mark the instant (with your conditioned marker) he touches your two finger target with his nose and immediately withdraw your target. Deliver a reward. Repeat three times, but place the target a bit farther away and to the left or right of your dog’s nose on trials 2 and 3. Now you can use the two-finger, nose target, to guide your dog into position.

Target Here – Foster a Partnership

The “touch” exercise is much more than a simple command. It is a very clear method to tell your dog what you’d like him to do and exactly where success will take place. It is a powerful tool for building an attitude of cooperation, a partnership.

The target provides a visual focal point, a precise point in space, where a behavior is to take place.

Using a target is one method to recall your dog. To use it for a come command, do this. Instead of saying “touch”, say “here” and then present your two finger target a few inches from your dog’s nose. Practice “here” at various distances in very short sessions. I usually practice this command 3-5 times during a short practice session.

I view “here” as a tool for nurturing a senior – junior partnership with Bentley. When I ask him to target, I’m really holding a two way conversation about cooperation.

I’m asking Bentley – “Hey Bent, I’d like you to come over here and bump my target with your nose. Do you understand what I want you to do? Do you understand where success will take place? Do you understand that I will pay you for your cooperation? Are you willing to cooperate? “

Bentley races over to bump my target. He’s replying, “Hey Alan, I know what you want me to do. I know where success will take place. I know you’re going to pay me. I’m willing to cooperate.”

Troubleshooting Target Here

Teaching your dog to touch your two finger target can be frustrating! Sometimes the dog will bite your fingers, or just quit targeting altogether.

If your dog is biting your target, check for these common errors. Review your timing and target placement. You should mark the instant he touches the target, not one second afterwards. Are you withdrawing your target immediately after you mark the instant he touches it? If you leave your target in place after the marker, your dog may mouth or bite the target. It’s best to remove your target immediately after you mark the touch.

If your dog sometimes ignores the target, review the placement of the target. Position the target nose height or lower.   The target should be horizontal to the floor (as if you are pointing to something next to you).

What are your actions after he bumps the target? Are you moving the target towards the dog (thus bumping him right before he reaches the target)? Do you end his fun or mark the instant and give a reward?

Some dogs lose interest if you repeat the exercise more than 2-3 times during a short session.

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Happy Training!

Alan J Turner – Companion Animal Behavior Counselor & Trainer, Canine Specialization
Private and Group Dog Obedience Training
Member: APDT

Dog Police recruit Citizen Wardens in Beijing, China for Toilet Training Help

bimmerOn April 17, 2009, the English People’s Daily online (English / Chinese news) reported that government officials in Beijing China are recruiting volunteers or “citizen warriors” to educate the public about the responsibilities of dog ownership.  Their duties will include informing dog owners of laws and statutes, enforcing toilet habits, and offering behavior and toilet training help.

Pet dog ownership in Beijing –  703,879 in August 2007.

Alan J Turner

Companion Animal Behavior Counselor & Trainer

Private and Group Dog Training Services in Memphis, TN

Shy Puppy? Afraid of Leash or Collar? Tips and Suggestions

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Some puppies are uncomfortable when exposed to new environments or equipment. If your puppy becomes excited or frightened, just name the item or event, and act as if all is well.

If your puppy remains focused on the item or event, distract his or her attention from the scary thing.

Instead of saying “It’s OK”, divert your pup’s attention with a treat or a toy.

It’s normal for puppies to be leery of new things. Let your puppy adjust with minimal input from you. Both you and the pup should play the roles of observers.

Some people believe it’s a sign of confidence if a puppy never becomes frightened. A truer test is to measure the length of time it takes for a puppy to return to a normal state.

Afraid of Collar or Leash

Occasionally clients report their puppies “freeze up” or lie down when they attach a leash, collar or harness.

This poses a problem in regards to house training, walking and managing unwanted behaviors, such as jumping up.

I tell all my clients to attach a leash or short line, even when their puppies are inside the house. This is so they can prevent their dogs and puppies from practicing rude behaviors.

The leash is an excellent inside and outside management tool. All dogs should be able to relax when a leash is attached, regardless of the dog’s location.

Initial protests to equipment fittings are not difficult to resolve unless people ignore the protests and drag their puppies via attached equipment.

If your puppy is afraid of a collar or harness, do this. Let your puppy investigate and smell the item. Name it. Attach the collar or harness, praise your puppy; hand him a food treat and then remove it. Repeat several times.

Next, attach the equipment immediately before feeding. Praise your pup. After your puppy has eaten, remove the item. Do this for several meals but methodically increase the amount of time the collar or harness is attached after the meal. In a few days, your puppy will like his equipment!

Some puppies quickly learn to dislike the leash because their owners pull and jerk on the leash.

Always supervise any dog when a leash is attached.

If, while following these instructions, your puppy is still afraid of the leash, break your introduction process into more, smaller steps. Use a very short piece of a leash instead of a 4 or 6 foot leash. Once your dog is accustomed to the short piece, use a longer piece.

Introduce the concept of restriction and the leash in several small steps and your puppy will learn to like the leash!

First, let your pup smell and investigate the leash. Name it.

Next, attach the leash and praise your dog. Hand him a food treat. Remove the leash.

After several instances of attaching the leash and immediately removing it, attach a short, lightweight, leash and let your puppy drag it around for a while. Do not pick up the end of the leash. Do this several times throughout the day, or every evening for a few days.

The subsequent step is to pick up the end of the leash, hand your puppy a food treat, and then drop the leash.

Do this several times in one session. Hold a few sessions throughout the day or evening.

Next you’ll introduce the concept of leash and equipment pressure.

Tell your puppy, “This is pressure”, and apply a slight, steady, and brief tug on the equipment. Praise your puppy and hand him a food treat. Repeat a few times.

Add just a bit more pressure each time. Vary the area of the pup’s body that is affected by the pressure by tugging right, left, up, down.

Finally, you will pick up the leash and walk one step. Don’t pull your puppy! The leash should be loose and not tight. Coax your puppy. Praise your puppy for following you. Repeat several times, but add another step each time.

After few instances, your puppy will be accepting of the leash.

Alan J Turner – Companion Animal Behavior Counselor & Trainer, Canine Specialization
Member: APDT