What would you like me to do instead?

Tug with Snickers and Meika

What would you like me to do instead? Dennis Fehling CPDT (KA)

 

When it comes to behaviors that we do not want our dogs to do we as humans always want the behavior to just stop. What if we were to communicate to your dogs that instead of doing what they are doing this is what I would like you to do instead?  With this thought process we are actually doing a lot to teach our dogs that there are other choices they can make instead of the ones that we do not want them making for themselves.  Here is an example: Let’s say that your dog jumps on your guest when they come over, this can be very frustrating to not only you, but can actually teach your guest that coming over to your home is not the best experience in the world. We want our guest to have good experiences when they visit and we also want our dogs to be well behaved. If we set our dogs up to succeed then everyone will be happy and our dogs will learn to practice good behavior instead of bad behaviors.  Let’s face it, our dogs are not born jumping on our guest they learn to do this by repetition and attention.  When I say repetition I meant that each and every time we have guest over especially when our puppies are very young, who cannot resist petting a jumping puppy because they are so cute at that age. We do not think that we are actually teaching them bad habits until our little puppy is now a 125lb dog that is knocking down granny or small children. It is best to start teaching puppies when they are very young that there are more appropriate ways of getting attention than jumping.  Here are a few tips to show your puppy what you would like them to do instead of jumping or any other behavior that you do not want from them.

  1. Tell your guest to not pet a jumping puppy, be mindful that it is not your guest responsibility to train your puppy. If you have one of those friends or family member that will just not listen to what you want then set your puppy up for success by crating or keeping your puppy behind a baby gate or some other kind of barrier with a favorite chew toy. One of my favorite chew toys is the Kong toy. This amazing toy can be filled with all sorts of goodies that will keep your puppy happy.  There are several recipes on the internet for filling Kongs.

 

2.  Communicate with your puppy or older dog what you would like them to do instead of using words like no, off, down, stop it, bad dog.  If you really think about it your puppy or even adult dog really does not understand what any of these words mean and are probably just reading your body language and listening to your tone of voice. Give your puppy or adult dog another job to do instead of the one that they have chosen for themselves.  Let’s say that your puppy or older dog chose something that you do not want them to chew on.  Instead of just taking the forbidden chew toy away show your dog that if they settle on a mat or their bed they get an even better chew toy.  Forbidden objects should be kept away from these puppies or older dogs so they do not get to practice getting better at chewing objects that are forbidden.

 

3.  Here is a very common behavior that I hear about all the time, puppy nipping and biting.  Ok in a perfect world puppies would never bite but in their world your hands and feet are fair game and are a pretty fun way to get you to act crazy as well as giving them attention.  Ask yourself instead of your puppy biting you what you would like your puppy to learn instead?  Instead of yelling or trying to be a dog by doing the yelp thing, which we as humans will never be able to do as well as other dogs and it could make the biting much worse by making the puppy even more excited. This is a great time to do some training by teaching a trick or even basic manners like sit, stays or leave it. You can also trade your hands for a tug toy or if our puppy is really determined crate your puppy until he/she calms down. Remember that each puppy or adult dog is different but they all learn the same way.  I want you to remember that when showing your puppy the “what you would like them to do instead” you have to be sure that the replacement behavior is just as valuable as the one you want to stop or you will have to rethink your plan.

 

4.  Our dogs are constantly gathering information and are also learning what does and does not work for them.  Dog tend to do what works for them and contrary to popular belief they are not the people pleasers we think they are.  When was the last time your dog washed your car or took your place at work? They are very simple creatures that require very little except clear communication of what is expected of them.  We cannot expect them to understand the things that we do after all they are not human.  If you are using punishment to communicate to your puppy or adult dog ask yourself if you have been as clear as possible as to what you expect of them and have you done your best to set them up for success.  Punishment based training can have all sorts of negative fallout between you and your dog while a dog that has been positively trained looks forward to training and in the long run will be a much happier and healthier dog.  One last piece of advice.  Be as clear as possible with your dog and what you expect of them.  Set them up to succeed by arranging their environment for success and last but not least if they are doing something that you want to change ask yourself what that change would look like then train that change.

 

My goal for these tips is to try and get you to think a little differently when you are communicating with your dog.  The more creative you get in showing your dog what you want, instead of stopping behavior in the long run, you’re actually working much less and your dog will learn more.  Ask yourself if someone you have never met or even a family member or close friend just said stop it when you were doing nothing (at least in your opinion) how would you know what they wanted. If you saw that they were getting to close to the edge of a cliff and you said stop they would probably understand what you wanted them to do.  Humans process information much differently than animals do. We cannot expect our dogs to always understand what we are saying.  Teaching a dog what we would rather they do instead of what we do not want them to do is a very effective approach to training and also teaches us to be much more creative in our approach to communicating with our dogs.

1 comment - What do you think?  Posted by admin - December 7, 2013 at 5:32 pm

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Tips for a great outing with your dog while on a walk.

 

Dennis and his friends for life, Snickers, Meika, Flash, Beau and Pawsey

Dennis and his friends for life, Snickers, Meika, Flash, Beau and Pawsey

  Hello everyone, I just wanted to share some tips with all of you who have dogs and who would like to enjoy those walks a little more.  For those of you who have reactive dogs you know that in a heart beat an enjoyable walk can turn into a nightmare especially if you run into an off leash dog that might have not read the memo that in the city there are leash laws.  It would be so cool if dogs could read but this is something that has to be the responsibility of their humans. The fact that we live in a world with some humans that read and still choose to ignore those signs it is up to us as responsible dog parents to protect our dogs while on walks.  I know from experience that when you think that nothing can happen it usually does, we live with a reactive dog and have learned to be very careful with Meika (GSD in photo above). When Meika was younger I really did not look forward to taking her for walks because of what would usually happen .  It would go something like this, we are walking down our dirt road after making sure that we were as safe as possible by first scanning our area before we went out the gate.  We live in a very rural area and people tend to walk their dogs off leash.  We do have the luxury of being able to see all the way down our road from both ends and also have a lot of escape routes onto other properties so just in case we do run into an off leash dog we can go fairly far away.  It would never fail though that just when I thought we were safe a dog would pop out of nowhere and the nightmare would begin, Meika would lunge and bark and pretty much go crazy, nothing would work because she was just over threshold (point of no return) she would not eat treats and I did not exist.  Meika was very reactive right off the bat at 8 weeks of age and I did not have the tools to teach her that the world of dogs was safe and that all dogs were not out to get her.  So our journey began to help Meika which brings me to my first tip.  

#1 If you have a reactive dog the first thing you need to do is find a qualified trainer or behaviorist to help you and your dog though this journey.  It is very hard to do this on your own without a great support system of qualified trainers as well as understanding friends with calm dogs to work with.  When looking for a trainer make sure that whom ever you find uses force free training methods. There are so many methods out there as there are trainers and so called trainers.  Not every method is a right fit for each person and their dog.  Dog to dog aggression and dog to human aggression is a very serious behavior issue, which can mean the life or death of your dog if not done correctly.  The person you choose will hopefully understand your issue and be a positive role model and teacher for both you and your dog. If this person recommends anything that makes you feel uncomfortable then consider another trainer.  Talk to your friends or Veternarian as they can really be a valuable resourse, if this trainer teaches classes ask if you can attend a class before you start the serious work of rehabilitating your reactive dog.  If this person recommends prong collars, shock collars or choke chains this is another red flag.  Ask yourself how you would feel if you were afraid of something and then someone made you feel pain to try to make you feel better about the thing you fear.  It has been scientifically proven that force based training methods do not make the dog feel better about their fears and most times can make the fear worse.

#2 Use positive training tools.  IF you are currently using a prong collar or choke chain I urge you to try one of the many positive humane training harnessess out there.  It is proven through science that these tools (choke chains, prong collars) can actually increase pulling through what is called the opposition reflex, simply put if you push, the dog has a tendency to push back against you. If you pull, they have a tendency to pull against you. I know if someone was choking me I would want to get as far away from them as possible.  All of this aside think about the association that your dog feels when he/she sees another dog and pulls towards the other dog and feels pain in their neck or if a correction is given (pulling sharply with the prong or choke chain) how is this improving your dogs opinion of the other dog or thing they fear? I know from the many clients that I have had who before they came to us have used prongs and chokes and their dogs reactivity has gotten much worse.  After all do we not want our dogs to have positive associations to other dogs, people, places and things while on our walks?   I sure do.  One of my favorite harnessess is the freedom no pull harness by Two Hounds Design.  Not only is this one of the finest harnesses around the companies customer service is amazing.  The harness has a lifetime guarantee and they will replace up to two straps if your dog chews it.  There are many other great harnesses out there as well like the Wonder Walker, they are a Seattle Washington based family run company.  I am sure if you are working with a positive trainer they will have their own recommendations, these are the ones we use most of the time and have sold hundreds of them as well as traded many for prong collars and choke chains. 

#3 Plan your route, especially if you have a reactive dog.  This is often overlooked when it comes to walking our reactive dogs and can get you into trouble. It is very important to know your escape routes if that neighborhood has off leash dog coming towards you and your dog.  Make sure that you have the necessary tools to fend off an attack and if possible go with a friend or partner for support.  I carry a great product called Spray shield, it is a citronella based spray that does not harm the dog other than making them sneeze (I know from experience by accidentally spraying myself). It is not intended to break up a fight between two committed dogs and is best used as a prevention tool by spraying the on coming dog before he/she can actually make contact with your dog.  The spray cost about $13.00 depending on where you get it.  Another great tool is a portable air horn which can be bought at most sporting goods stores or boating stores, it makes a pretty high pitched noise.  One bad side effect is that it might scare your dog, but is much better than a dog fight and a lot less expensive than a vet visit.  I have had dogs charge me while on walks and all I had to do is toss treats over the oncoming dogs head or actually hit the dog in the face with the treats, this might buy you some time to get safely away with your dog.  One side effect it might teach this off leash dog that approaching you is a good thing so use this trick sparingly and as another tool.  Another thing you can do is teach your dog a rock solid stay if you actually have to walk towards the other dog to keep the approaching dog away from you and your dog.  Not only is the stay a very valuable tool it can save your dogs life in many situations. 

 

#4 Carry great treats in a treat pouch or some other way that you can get to the treats fast.  I do not recommend putting the treats in your coat pocket as I have in the past.  You will forget the treats are there and wash them with your coat and this might get you into trouble with the laundry person.  Treat pouches can be bought at any pet supply store, some of the nicer ones have pockets in them to carry keys, toys and other things that you might need while on your walk.  Carrying treats is a reminder to you to reward your dog for good behavior, which we all tend to not notice.  Remember there are many ways to reward your dog and food is just one of them, you can also use praise, play, toy’s and anyother thing that your dog finds reinforcing.  By having more tools in your box of tricks you will be more equipped to catch your dog getting it right.  This has been the argument from many old fashioned trainers is that us so called cookie trainers  always have to have food in order for our dogs to work for us. This is just not true as we have many more options available to us.  There are times when dogs just are not in the mood for food because of stress or the environment that they are in, there are also times when petting is just not reinforcing this is why we use many tools as positive trainers and have figured out what is reinforcing to our dogs at the time.  The more tools you have the better equiped you are to teach your dog.  You might also consider learning how to use a clicker (one of my favorite tools) there are many books and videos on the use of clicker training so I will not go too much into it other than to say that it is such a positive and simple tool to learn and use.  How hard is it to see your dog do something you like then click and treat.  It is also one of the fastest way of teaching new behaviors. We use clickers in our manners classes as well as my work with reactive dogs with great success.  You will find that your dog will love clicker training if you give it a try.  Here is how I use a clicker while on a walk with my dog.

Keeping with the positive association method I actually look forward to seeing dogs so I can reward my dog just for looking at another dog at a safe distance.  As I am walking, my dog sees another dog, I will click my clicker just for my dog looking at the other dog or the other thing they might fear or what they are concerned about. We are doing a few things here.  One is our dog knows that the presence of other dogs will earn them a click and a treat and it also heps us to be on the lookout for other dogs, bikes, skateboards or any other things we are trying to make positive associations with.  The clicker is an amazing tool and I encourage you to check it out.  Just yesterday I went to a local Park in Bend Oregon called Pine Nursery dog park, although I will not take my reactive dog into a dog park under any circumstances, I do recognize a great free training opportunity when I see one.  Meika and I practiced seeing other dogs walking towards the dog park at a safe distance. While she is under threshold (Meika stills feels comfortable) she sees another dog, I will click then walk away then give her a treat as a bonus reward.  This is a technique we use in BAT (Behavior Adjustment Training) founded by Grisha Stewart MA CPDT.  BAT teaches reactive or fearful dogs that they have many more choices then they thought they did.  In Meika’s case, Meika wants distance from the other dog so that is what I give her.  I can now say that we had an amazing walk with no issues. This is something I never thought I would have been able to do with Meika.  She now really enjoys our walks together.  I also want to mention that by doing this positive work with Meika others that might be doing punishment based training see how well this is working and always ask me what I am doing.  I want positive training to catch on like a virus so in order to make that happen we have to be out there showing the world what we are doing and how we do it with our own dogs.  

#5. I believe that all walks should be great opportunities to work on training our dogs.  Our dogs will never learn to work around distractions if they are never taught to work around distractions.  Walking can provide many opportunities to work on basic manners like sit, stays, leave it’s and touches(hand targeting).  These are great tools that you never know when you might need them.  All of these tools can not only improve your dogs skills, but yours as well and can potentially save your dogs life.  It is very important to ask for sits before crossing streets so your dog learns that when we come to a crossing this is what happens instead of just bolting across traffic.  This also shows the rest of the world that you are really taking the time to train your dog to be the best they can be. One very important thing that I want to mention is that walking your dog is also suppose to be fun, yes training is important but don’t overlook your dog’s need to sniff and interact with their environment.  I see many people walking their dogs in perfect heel position which can be useful in a lot of situations but jeez don’t forget what dogs really love to do, sniff.  It is so important to them to be able to sniff the ground, they take in a lot of information about their world and it is natural to them while heeling is not.  I have been told by clients that just my recommendation of letting their dogs have as many sniff breaks as possible while on their walk tires them out. When they get home their dogs are much more relaxed.  I tell them that their dog has to get the sniffing out of their system.  With this approach you might not get as far as you want with your dog but at least they had fun.  I believe it was Patricia McConnell that wrote “your dog can burn as many calories just engaging in a mental activity as they can by running”.  Sniffing is a great mental activity and there is actually a sport called K9 Nose Work that is one of the fastest growing dog sports in the world.  My wife Pam is a Certified Nose Work Instructor and her clients tell her all the time that after classses their dogs go home and sleep and are much more relaxed. So with this in mind let your dog sniff. 

There are times though when you just don’t have the time to let your dog hang out in the bushes for 15 minutes because you have to get to work or run errands, so a brisk non interrupted walk is what you need to do.  There is nothing wrong with that and many dogs love just getting out. but remember  your dogs mind also needs exercise.  When you can’t get them out because of the weather or time constraints Kongs are the way to go for a lot of dogs, it is hard work getting that stuff out and you can be very creative with how you fill them.  We always keep a large supply for our puppy classes as well as our other classes.  Chewing on a frozen Kong toy can provide, in some cases, a couple of hours of great mental exercise for your dog.  We get very creative with what we put in them as well.  Below are some recipes I pulled off the internet to get you started.  I know this is a bit off topic but I thought this would be a great tool when you just can’t walk your dog..

 

Kong Recipes

 

 kong toyA Kong is a tough, hollow, rubber cone designed to be filled with food. Kongs come in different sizes, are freezer proof, and are extremely resilient to being chewed. For powerful chewers, the black Kong is recommended. Red is for normal chewers, and for older dogs and puppies, multi-coloured, softer rubber Kongs are available. A dog should be supervised for the first few times that it is given a Kong, and unless a dog proves that it can destroy it, it is probably the safest activity toy to leave with a dog whilst alone.

I have yet to meet a dog who doesn’t show any interest in a tasty filled Kong. Some dogs take a little time to really get into the ‘zone’ of licking out all the filling, but all quickly realise that Kongs are wonderful things. Many dogs who tend towards anxiety develop licking compulsions towards themselves and surfaces such as floors and walls. Licking is a comforting, stress-reducing activity, and using a Kong to encourage but redirect this behaviour into an acceptable and even more rewarding outlet can really help to put socially insecure dogs at ease.

A Kong is a great way to introduce a puppy to being left on its own and to view its owner’s departure as a good thing. The same applies to adult dogs who are prone to separation distress, as part of a rehabilitation program. For dogs who are convalescing and need to have their physical activity restricted, splitting the daily food ration into four smaller meals and feeding each in a Kong is a great way to provide rewarding, alternative activity and not overload the body with too much food in one go. For dogs who tend towards anxious excitement when visitors call, a Kong smeared with something tasty inside can provide a useful distraction.

A number of things that dogs find tasty that can be smeared inside a Kong to provide a quick, two-minute distraction include peanut butter, cream cheese, meat and fish pastes, Marmite and Bovril.

There are special pastes and biscuit type products available to stuff into Kongs, however, cheap and healthy alternative fillings are extremely easy to make. A portion of a dog’s daily kibble ration, cooked white rice or cooked, mashed sweet potato all provide a good base to which ‘extras’ can be added such as foods that promote good digestive health, foods that can help to calm separation distressed dogs, and foods that provide a vitamin or protein boost.

About 50% of dogs are lactose intolerant meaning that they cannot digest lactose, a sugar that is found in milk, yogurt and cheese. Lactose-intolerant dogs are often very flatulent and may produce softer than normal faeces. If you suspect that your dog is lactose-intolerant, it is better to avoid feeding yogurt and cheese as whilst the foods in themselves aren’t harmful, the abnormal bacteria activity within the dog’s gut can lead to bacteria imbalances and malabsorption of nutrients, vitamins and minerals.

Foods to avoid because they are toxic to dogs include chocolate, grapes, raisins, sultanas and onions. Watch out for ‘hidden’ sources of onion too – stock cubes often contain onion and are very high in salt, so are best avoided.

Kongs can also be filled with water or cooking stock and frozen in hot weather. As well as being a cooling and soothing treat for teething puppies, this is a great way to provide liquid to dogs that need to be crated when left.

To prepare and freeze a liquid-filled Kong:

  1. Plug the small end of the Kong with a good-sized lump of peanut butter. You could also use a piece of cheese or sausage to do this, so long as it provides a good seal.
  2. Next, place the Kong, small end down, into a mug.
  3. Fill the up-turned Kong with liquid.
  4. Put the mug into the freezer.
  5. When the liquid is frozen, the Kong is ready to serve.

Of course a Kong doesn’t have to be filled with liquid to be frozen. Any stuffed Kong can be frozen, and a frozen filling will provide a longer-lasting treat.


KONG STUFFING RECIPES
Here are just a few Kong stuffing recipe ideas. If you have a tried and tested recipe that you would like to share, please contact me and I will include it on this page.MEATY TREAT
Ingredients: A portion of your dog’s normal kibble, about a teaspoon of meat paste, a chunk of banana (about an inch thick).
Method: Half fill the Kong with kibble, then add the meat paste. Using the handle of the spoon, mix the meat paste into the kibble. Add some more kibble, packing it in well, and then plug the large opening with the banana.
Food Fact: Banana is a ‘pre-biotic’ food, which means it provides a good nutritional base to feed the dog’s friendly gut bacteria and so promote good digestive health.

CALMING KONG

Ingredients: A portion of your dog’s normal kibble, about a dessertspoon of cottage cheese, a chunk of banana (about an inch thick).
Method: Half fill the Kong with kibble, then spoon in most of the cottage cheese. Holding your hand over the large opening, shake the Kong to coat the kibble in the cottage cheese. Add some more kibble, packing it in well, then top with the remainder of the cottage cheese before plugging the large opening with the banana.
Food Fact: Cottage cheese contains a good source of the protein amino-acid ‘casein’, which the body converts into naturally occurring opioids that have a calming effect. This is especially useful to help separation distressed dogs to feel more relaxed when alone. Bananas are also thought to have a calming effect too.

SWEET & NUTTY

Ingredients: Warm freshly boiled white rice, warm freshly steamed and mashed sweet potato, about a dessertspoon of peanut butter.
Method: Mix and mash together the rice and sweet potato and peanut butter. Fill the Kong with the mix and it’s ready to serve. Alternatively, wait until the rice and sweet potato has cooled before making the mix and then freeze the Kong to use later. When frozen this mix seems to last for hours, so it’s a great boredom buster, especially on long car journeys.
Food Fact: Sweet potato is a great source of beta-carotene. Beta-carotene is converted by the body into vitamin A and acts as powerful antioxidant, helping to support immune system health.

FRUITY FREEZE

Ingredients: Banana, a small handful of blueberries, natural yoghurt.
Method: Mash or blend the banana, blueberries and yoghurt together in a bowl. Place the Kong, small end down, in a mug, and spoon in the mix. Place in the freezer and serve when frozen.
Food Fact: Blueberries are high in antioxidants and vitamin C, and can help to support cardiovascular and urinary tract health.EGG-CEEDINGLY TASTY
Ingredients: 1 scrambled egg, 1 chopped Frankfurter or hot-dog sausage, boiled white rice.
Method: Mash the scrambled egg and rice together in a bowl and then mix in the chopped sausage. Fill the Kong, using a chunk of sausage to plug the end.
Food Fact: Egg is 100% nutritionally complete, meaning that it contains all the protein-amino acids that the body needs.TUM-EASE ~ Thanks to Carole Green (owned by Cody) for this recipe suggestion.
Ingredients: Cold boiled white rice, about a dessertspoon of natural bio-yoghurt.
Method: Mix and mash the rice and yoghurt together and fill the Kong. Serve straight away or freeze for later.
Food Fact: The blandness of boiled white rice coupled with the ‘friendly’ bacteria in natural bio-yogurt makes this a great recipe for dogs with sensitive tummies.PUMPKIN PIE ~ Thanks to Eryka Kahunanui (owned by Bizzle Fo’ Shizzle and Sarah Bean) for this recipe suggestion.
Ingredients: Pureed pumpkin, tahini paste (or peanut butter).
Method: Mix together the pureed pumpkin and tahini paste and fill the Kong. Serve straight away or freeze for later.
Food Fact: Tahini (sesame butter) is a good source of calcium and zinc, minerals essential for healthy bones. I hope this gives you some ideas……. 

     #6.  Another great tool for getting you dog out there is your bike.  There are just some dogs that require more exercise and a walk will just not do it for those dogs.  I use a great product called a bike tow leash, here is their website http://www.biketowleash.com/ here is also a video showing how it works http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m2tcKb2cgEE . I have had mine for about three years and love it.  I paid about $120.00 which was worth every penny after years of just using a leash( not the safest approach). 

7. Trail walking with your dog, a lot of my clients love to run the trails in Central Oregon with their dogs and most like to do this off leash.  In a perfect world all dogs would be off leash, their would be no dog fights and we would just all get along.  Well we do not live in a perfect world and dogs do fight, especially dogs that have not been properly socialized as puppies.  These dogs are usually on the trails because their owners never think that they will ever run into another dog. What usually happens is that your friendly dog runs into a not so friendly dog and a fight happens, now we have not only one dog that has had a bad experience with other dog, we have two.  It is just my opinion. but I keep my dogs on leash all the time when outdoors or on the trails.  Your dog might see a deer, bear, couger or any other form of wildlife, and in a worse case scenerio your dog could get hurt or lost.  Another thing that we have to be on the lookout for is wildlife traps that are also trapping our domestic dogs and in some cases killing them. The traps in our area can be off the trail only a few feet.  The choice to have your dog off leash is always going to be your choice. 

Now lets say that you are on a trail with your dog on a leash and you are approaching another dog on a narrow trail.  I always like to plan for an emergency because we cannot assume that the other dog or person will be friendly, so have a plan of action ready.  You might have to completely move off the trail to make sure your dog and the other dog are safe, in an emergency I carry very valuable treats just in case I cannot get enough space between my dog and the other dog, so while that dog is moving past my dog is having a treat party.  I am accomplishing a few things here, one I’m keeping the positive association to other dogs strong, another is my dogs is hopefuly going to be glued to the hand with the chicken or hot dog so he/she is not worried about the other dog. 

One thing that I see all the time, that makes me shake my head is when a person with a reactive dog forces their dog to look at the other dog at a close distance while the dog goes by, or the person whose dog is on a choke or prong collar repeatedly corrects their dog for even looking at another dog.  Ask yourself how you would feel if the thing that scared you the most was just a few short feet away and you had to stare at it as it went by and be corrected at the same time.  It would not be a great experience for you. Years ago a great trainer named William Campbell wrote an amazing book called ‘Behavior Problems In Dogs’.  There is one chapter where Bill talks about the jolly dance(routine) instead of getting upset when your dog sees another dog Bill recommended doing a Jolly Dance, in other words your dog sees another dog and you get very happy and pretty much make a fool of yourself, this really works. Of course your silly behavior might get you funny looks, but it might teach others to do the same after they see how it helps your dog focus on you.  Just imagine if every person with a reactive dog got happy when their dog sees another dog just how the dogs opinion might change.  Give it a try and see what happens.  This is also a great way to get your dog to pay attention to you and not the other dog, who cares what others think just as long as you avoid a dog fight or potential dog fight.  

Don’t forget to bring your clicker and treats while hiking with your dog on the trail to be ready to reward good behaviors, like coming when called, sitting when asked or just to work on basic manners in the field.  If you only practice in class or at home then your dog will never be able to do it while hiking so set them up for success. 

8.  I also want you to think about some of the challenges you might encounter while walking around town, especially in a more distracting environment like the city or a loud place that your dog has never been to before.  I remember last year when Bend Oregon had a pet parade.  There were literally hundreds of different dogs of different breeds and temprements.  I took our rescue dog Cole there and wow was that a lesson for me. I swore that I would never do that to him again.  Although he did very well and made lots of human friends I thought about it when I got home how stressful that was for Cole and the hundreds of other dogs that were there.  Some of the dogs were literally being dragged down the street, they clearly did not want or need all of this. I was surprised that there were no dog fights or at least none that I saw. 

I did see something that really upset me along with many others.  There was one little dog that was being lifted by helium balloons about thirty feet in the air.  This poor little guy was clearly stressed but in the name if entertainment this dog was put through hell.  I watched him give so many signals that he was not comfortable, he was yawning almost uncontrollable as well as shaking.  This was not a dog that was enjoying himself and was just not doing very well but coping the best he could at the time.  I want you to really think when you are walking with your dog how they feel about where they are and to notice some of the stress signals that you otherwise might not notice.  Look for lots of lip licking, yawning, body shaking, excessive blinking, changes in their coat can be a dead give away that they are stressed.  I know when Cole who is very dark gets stressed his coat will fill with white dandruff looking specks. This is not dandruff but a response to stress and is a reminder to me to really pay attention to his needs.

There are a few other things to consider when walking your dog in the city. Think about all of the noises and things that your dog might not get to see on a regular basis, then all of a sudden, planes, trains and automobiles, oh my!!!  This can be a pretty big deal for your dog.  There are also hidden dangers on the side walks like broken glass, food, old gum. Than there are children that want to hug your dog or that person who just has to touch your dog or let their dog meet yours so being prepared is key.  I would suggest teach a very strong leave-it cue. 

Another thing that I have been teaching our students in puppy class as well as our manners class, that it  is not require that their dogs sit for petting.  I came up with a little saying a few years ago “More people are bitten by dogs that are sittin”.  This is also a personal choice because most people are taught in class that before greeting people their dogs must sit.  Think about this for a munute then ask yourself how you would feel if a stranger came up to you and just started hugging you or petting you and you had to just take it.  Just because they are dogs does not give everyone the right to touch them at anytime.  I believe the safest approach is always to ask before touching.  I am working with several clients right now who’s dogs are just not comfortable being touched and that is OK too. Yes we can teach our dogs to accept touch, but there are just times when they might not want to be touched, do not be afraid to say no or tell people (especially children) to ask first.  Better safe than sorry.   Here is a great website that is called ‘Dog’s In Need Of Space’ that has a lot of great resources for dog parents.  They even sell vest that say’s ‘Dog’s In Need Of Space’ or DINOS http://dogsinneedofspace.com/  please check it out. If you have a DINOS dog, be their advocate.

 here are some other signs of stress.

Signs of Stress Checklist

STRESS SIGNALS CHECKLIST (check all that apply)

Eyes:
[ ] dilated eyes
[ ] glazed over
[ ] squinting
[ ] whale eye (whites showing)
[ ] avoidance (eyes or head turned away)
[ ] direct stare
[ ] blinking
[ ] quick movements of the eyes
[ ] looks frequently to handler for direction
[ ] red eyes (mucus membranes turn red with increased blood pressure)

Face:
[ ] furrowed brow/scowling
[ ] veins popped out over eyes
[ ] ears uneven
[ ] ears up and aroused
[ ] ears plastered back
[ ] buries head like ostrich
[ ] quick movements of the head

Mouth:
[ ] licking lips or nose
[ ] clomping jaw
[ ] yawning
[ ] panting – too wide
[ ] panting – too shallow
[ ] velvet tongue
[ ] snarling, lip curling, showing teeth
[ ] drooling
[ ] air snaping
[ ] whiskers slicked back or pricked forward

Vocalizing:
[ ] whining
[ ] screaming
[ ] excessive barking
[ ] sharp yipping
[ ] growling

Posture:
[ ] stiff
[ ] avoidance
[ ] cowering
[ ] hiding in back
[ ] turning away
[ ] stretching
[ ] tail up (when it usually isn’t)
[ ] tail down (when it usually isn’t)
[ ] stiff-legged walk
[ ] freezing

Others:
[ ] slow or shallow breathing
[ ] sniffing
[ ] trembling
[ ] clinched toes
[ ] red pigment ears/eye rims
[ ] normally white skin looking pinkish (increased blood pressure) look in the ears where hair is thin
[ ] chewing/scratching at self
[ ] self injury/mutilation
[ ] spinning/circling
[ ] digging/escape behaviors
[ ] chewing at bars
[ ] rubbed at top of nose
[ ] passing gas
[ ] sweaty/moist paw prints on floor
[ ] blowing coat
[ ] unexplained loss of weight
[ ] unusually loose feces
[ ] loss of bladder or bowel control
[ ] goosing, shoving or poking handler
[ ] leaning into or hiding behind handler
[ ] lethargic
[ ] attention seeking
[ ] circling or arcing

Dogs may exhibit some of these stress responses at any given time.  I am sure there are more but this is a great list to think about.

I hope these tips have given you some food for thought the next time you and your dog go out for a walk.  I also encourage to make the walk as fun as possible for you and our dog.  So get out there and walk with your dog as it is a lot cheaper than a gym membership and there is more fresh air to be found outside……

Dennis Fehling CPDT (KA)

 

 

 

2 comments - What do you think?  Posted by admin - June 24, 2013 at 7:18 pm

Categories: Dog Training   Tags:

Fulfill the need and you fulfill the dog!

 

Dennis and his amazing dogs

Dennis and his amazing dogs

I have been thinking about this for quite sometime now and decided it was time I put my thoughts into words through a case study of a great dog and family I have been working with.  I am not going to mention names because of privacy issues but am hoping you will enjoy the read. I have chosen an amazing profession where I get to work with people and their dogs.  Could there be anything better in life to do and get paid for it?  In the last six years I have become a behavior junkie and have devoted my life to helping as many dogs and people as I can through positive training with people and their dogs.  I have been thinking for awhile how as a trainer am I addressing the real needs of my clients and their dogs which is why the saying ” fulfill the need and you fulfill the dog” has become my mantra of sorts. 

On to my case study.  I first met my clients after their dog had bitten another trainer and also my client on many occasions.  Although the bites were not to the point where hospital visits were required they were still bites which for dogs are never good things.  It had gotten so bad that my clients were becoming afraid of their dog and I have to admit this dog did worry me.  They had been to puppy classes, adult dog classes and although their dog could perform the task there was something missing for this dog.  One of my favorite people, trainer/behaviorists in the world the amazing Kathy Sdao recently wrote a great book call ” plenty in life is free” her book really hit home for me.  Kathy’s book was a very personal essay on the dangers and over use of the NILIF protocol (nothing in life is free) as it applies to dogs.  NILIF pretty much says that your dog has to earn everything it wants from affection to tug games or anything else that your dog values. 

Kathy herself will admit that the NILIF protocol was something she had advised her clients to do with their dogs for years until her own dog Nick bit one of her friends.  I think she said in the book ” what am I doing” this was a huge revelation for Kathy which led to her book.  I have never been a fan of the NILIF protocol but have to admit I have advised my clients to ask their dogs to do things like sit for their food, sit before having the leash put on but never agreed that a dog has to preform for attention.  Like any training method it can take on a life of its own and get out of  hand by well meaning people and trainers trying to figure out how to address behavior issues. 

I consulted with my client and their dog after the last bite to the previous trainer had happened.  What I found is that they had been taking their dog to the dog park then immediately after the visit were going to classes.  They thought that they were fulfilling their dogs needs by socializing him as well as making sure he got daily amounts of exercise which most American dogs never get enough or at least an appropriate amount for their breed.  After the bite the trainer recommended they see me, which I will forever be grateful to this trainer.  This dog was seriously at the point where the owners were considering putting him down as they could no longer trust him and their lives were constantly in a state of anxiety day to day because of his erratic behavior.  The bite to my client was totally out of the blue and according to them there was no warning. In my opinion there is always some kind of a warning if we really look close.  This dog had been giving all of the signals and responses to situations but most had gone unnoticed by everyone. 

I think the dog park visits for this dog were very overwhelming at the time, especially when he was expected to perform at class right after.  He had been playing with other dogs, had free access to the other dogs and people and if I could get in his head I am sure he would have told me that it was way too much for him as far as attending class and to be expected to do the required task without being able to interact with the other dogs in class.  I think he just did not understand why he could not play anymore and it took him over the top with frustration and he bit.  After our initial consultation I recommend that he discontinued the classes as well as the dog park visits for the near future until we could work through some of the more serious issues as we did not want another bite to happen.

I recommended that they get rid of the NILIF protocol and had my clients start the Karen Overall relaxation protocol.  This dog was very stressed by having a harness put on him, he would become very mouthy and grab very forcefully on the leash as well as becoming very mouthy while attempting to put the harness on.  His behavior would deteriorate progressively as they made their way out the door, he would chew on his leash, jump, snap, bite the leash and would not let go so walking was very difficult.  My clients could not walk him together as he would jump very forcefully on the female (client) to the point she was becoming more afraid of her own dog and her safety was being questioned. 

The relaxation protocol was working great and the mouthing while putting on the harness was getting much better, the walking however was not.  I recommended that only one person take the dog for his walk (the male client) he was much more relaxed then his wife and had never been bitten.  We got rid of the leather leash and went to a very lightweight chain leash to help stop the mouthing while waking (worked wonders right away).  I had my client give his dog something to carry while on their walks, when I was with them the first time I gave him my glove and he seemed very relaxed until he got bored with the glove. He had started to jump on me very forcefully and at one point grabbed my arm pretty hard. I then stayed away on the rest of the walk about twenty feet away, which seemed to help him calm down.  I still felt that something was missing with this dog, his needs were not being met. 

Cole

Cole

As the weeks went by we did some TTouch ground work to help with teaching his brain new patterns of movement. He did very well and the mouthing seemed to be getting much better.  We followed this up with a play session with our dog Cole.  Cole is a rescue wolf dog that has been invaluable to us working with dog dog issues. My clients dog really seemed to enjoy the play session after training.  My clients sent me a very nice and positive e-mail the next day saying that he was so calm after the training and that the walk the next day was almost perfect, some mouthing was still happening but not to the level it had been. 

Dog sniffing

Dog sniffing

I recommended that the relaxation protocol continue as well as some structured play session with Cole and our assistant Andrea’s dog.  I also started my clients dog on a nose work program that my wife Pam Bigoni teaches.  We started out with just Cole and then added a few other dogs to the class.  While my client waited their turn to search I had them practice the relaxation protocol which worked very well between searches.  Each day my clients reported that their dog was becoming the dog they really envisioned and hope to have.  My client (female part) was still not able to walk her dog because of not only her fears but her dogs over the top behavior when she would join the walk, jumping, mouthing, grabbing etc,etc.  I also forgot to mention that their dog has very bad night terrors (doggy nightmares) which I am sure was contributing to his behavior and anxiety.  I want to mention that during all of this we were working with a veterinarian. 

My wife Pam and I had teamed up for a home visit because one of their other concerns was their dogs behavior when company would come over.  He would constantly beg for attention, get very mouthy and overall very stressed whenever anyone would come over.  So our visit was meant to duplicate a couple of friends coming for a visit.  In the beginning he was kept behind a barrier so he could calm down a little before the greeting.  He got a frozen kong to chew on as well as clicks and treats for good behavior.  He caught on very quick.  They let him out and right away he started to get a little obnoxious and mouthy. It was right then when a huge light bulb went on in my head, this dog is screaming to get attention but has no clue as to how to ask in a way that was acceptable (thump on my own head) his needs were not being met or fulfilled to his satisfaction. 

I borrowed a great acronym from another very gifted trainer that I met during a seminar in seattle last year. Her name is Emily Larlam.  The acronym is RIP(not rest in peace) Reinforce, Interrupt and Prevent (brilliant), I teach this to all of my clients as a way of noticing great behaviors their dogs do on their own without being asked.  It basically sets our dogs up to succeed in everyway while adding some great management tools.  I had my clients write down a list of the things they would like their dog to do more on his own without being told.  I also had them write a list of all the great things they love about their dog as well as the things they wanted to change.  I also do this with all of my clients, as the training progresses the list of the things they want to change gets shorter and is a way for them to see real change.  I had them start to reward (R) all great behavior they see as well (I), interrupt behavior they are about to see and then by setting their dog up to succeed they really learn to  get creative about management and (P) prevention. 

I also borrowed abother great trainng tool from Kathy Sdao called SMART training.  (S) see, (M) mark with clicker or verbal marker like yes (A) and (R) reward (T) training.  This has really been helpful to my client as far as noticing more good behaviors in their dog, marking the behaviors and rewarding them.  They have noticed a dramatic increase in good behavior.   

We did another play session with Cole and a K9 nose work class that followed and the next day I was sent another great e-mail about how calm their dog was and how the walks were actually becoming enjoyable.  She still could  not go for a walk though so here is where I went out on a limb by talking with my clients in detail about what needs were not being met and recommending a dog park visit.  This is a park that they were very familiar with and had been taking their dog when he was in previous classes.  I know I am probably going to take some flak for the recommendation but they agreed and so we went.  I forgot to mention one of the other issues was getting in and out of the car which was becoming a huge problem after clicker training and shaping this is no longer a problem.    

We spent about an hour at the park and monitored his play very carefully.  The next day I got another e-mail telling me how thankful hey were because for the first time in 8 months she could actually walk her dog.  OK, were we onto something with their dog?  I think so.  They told me that they had some friends with a dog about the same age and breed and could be available for play dates, they started having this dog spend the day with their dog, they included the other dog on walks and trips in the car.  I also recommended that dog park visits would not be a bad thing (I know what you are going to say).  They started to make visits to the park two times a week as well as play days with other dogs at their home.  Each day we would talk and the news just continued to get better.  My client actually cried when she told me that for the first time in 8 months she was able to walk her own dog by herself. 

It has been almost two months since their dog has mouthed them, they have gotten rid of the chain leash and they are also in our K9 nose work class with 5 other dogs and their dog is doing amazing (one of our best students).  They also have for the first time since they got their dog they have been able to get away for a vacation.  We recommended our pet sitters to them and the meeting went very well, no mouthing.  She said he was an absolute perfect gentleman.  They recently had a huge gathering at their home and reported that their dog was so calm and relaxed and everyone had a great time.  I had talked to her at an event and she asked me ” is this normal”?  I said is what normal? She said that you see such an overnight turn around in behavior.  I said it was not actualy overnight but I was surprised that it did happen so quick.  I told her that a combination of changes that they made, positive training and fulfilling their dogs needs played a huge role in the change. 

I said that it was not just one thing that has really helped to change this dog but a combination of the relaxation protocol, K9 nose work, TTouch training, clicker training, getting rid of NILIF and alot of patience.  I also told that above all there is one common thing with all of this, we did it in a very positive way where nothing was forced and we came up with ways to fulfill the needs of their dog.  I am so proud of this case for a lot of reasons most of all that he is still around to have been able to change as he was very close to loosing his life.  They never gave up on him and did so much good work and had the patience that few have.  This dog has also taught me so much as far as how the dogs in my care are getting their needs met in a way that works for my clients and their dogs. 

Whenever someone ask me why their dogs do what they do, I ask them what they think their dog is getting out of the behavior.  Most will say attention is what their dog is getting.  This is where the conversation can begin and how I try and teach them to fulfill their dogs needs before their dogs fulfill their needs for themselves. 

Disclaimer. I have never been a fan of dog parks and caution all of my clients as far as the safety of dog parks.  In the end it is their choice to make.  If they decide to take their dog to the dog park I try and educate them as best as I can and hope that they have good experiences with their dogs.  Thanks for reading

 

Dennis Fehling CPDT(KA)

Be the first to comment - What do you think?  Posted by admin - December 26, 2012 at 10:52 pm

Categories: Dog Training   Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Our amazing girl Meika

Hello everyone, I felt that I had to tell Meika’s story in a way that honored her and also as a way to give hope to many people with reactive dogs.  My wife Pam and I used to be in search and rescue and were training another amazing dog named Lucky for search and rescue work.  Lucky would have been a great search dog if it were not for a degenerative disease that took the use of his rear legs away.  One day Lucky was hiking and the next he was dragging his legs.  We had a wheel chair made for him and he lived for another 6 months before we had to let him go.  It was a very hard decision at the time but we knew we made the right choice for Lucky and his quality of life.

Lucky hiking to Edison snow park shelter

Pam and I had talked about getting another dog to train for Search and rescue work and decided on getting a puppy, something we normally do not do because we believe in rescuing first from shelters or rescue groups.  We wanted to train a puppy from the ground up so we found a breeder in Salem Oregon with just the puppy we thought we needed.  I had talked with the breeder about the type of puppy we were interested and the temperament required for SAR work.  This breeder specialized in German Shepherds who excelled in tracking and police work.  We knew that this type of puppy was not going to be cheap but we were prepared to pay whatever we had to get the right puppy within reason.  I was told that he had one female left and he would make me a great deal on her.  We were told that he normally sold his dogs for at least $2500.00 or more so when he told us we could have this puppy for $800.00 we thought !wow! what a deal this is.  I think he knew that this puppy was not going to fit the bill for SAR work, after all he has been doing this for over 40 years and knows what he has(buyer beware) if it seems to ggod to be true then it usually is.

Meika in her posing position

  We made the trip to Salem and picked up out newest family member( Mekia) we would later name her.  Here is what the name is suppose to mean.  “Your first name of Meika has given you a responsible, expressive, inspirational, and friendly personality. Expression comes naturally to you and you are rarely at a loss for words: in fact, you have to put forth effort at times to curb an over-active tongue. Self-confidence has made it easy for you to meet people and you are well-liked for your spontaneous, happy ways. You sincerely like people and do not often experience loneliness: your work and home-life are likely filled with association” Did not mention anything about liking dogs which we found out in spades later.

Meika was very nervous right off the bat, the breeder said that was normal.  I agreed because after all she was leaving the only home she had ever known and going with people she had never met.  We got Meika home and wow nervous was not even close to what this girl was feeling.  We got her out of the car and she immediately latched onto my leg and would not let go, here I was dragging this fairly large puppy around our property attached to my leg. I knew that this was not going to work for very long as she was going to get much bigger.  I lured her away from my leg with a stick so she could carry something in her mouth, a German Shepherd thing. 

 She started carrying small sticks and quickly started finder bigger sticks( 10lb pieces of fire wood) which she carrys to this day or at least something has to be in her mouth.  Now we had to introduce her to our other dogs, I thought no big deal after all she came from a kennel full of other dogs.  We started off with one dog at a time, she immediately attacked each and every dog( no one got hurt so don’t worry) I as so clueless because for years I had only taught basic manners classes and had no idea about what caused aggression and how to fix it. 

The days went by and Meika learned to get along with our other dogs, Stormy our late American Stafford shire was her best buddy.  She was also very fond of Tuka our late wolf dog.  As long as Meika was with her group she was fine.  We made the huge mistake of taking her to a dog park in Bend Or, and to this day I am sorry for ever doing this.  We thought we were socializing her with other dogs but the other dogs mush have seemed Iike Satan to Meika because she attacked everyone of them, did I mention she was only 9 weeks old when we took her to the park( bad idea) she was not only attacking every dog in her path she was biting and ripping as well.  Pam and I thought ” what are we going to do? We pretty much kept Meika home for six months until we decided we needed some professional training help, another very bad mistake for which I will always regret for the rest of my life because of the hell we put Meika through. 

We looked in the phone book for a local trainer  out of Bend Or.  I am only   She claimed to be an aggression expert so we figured ok now we can get Meika the help she deserves.  She started by doing a temperament test which if I only had know what I know today I would have laughed and told her to get an education because this was a complete joke.  We were told after the aggression test that Meika was not aggressive towards humans( really now) we told her that Meiks’a issue was not with people but with other strange dogs. so now the training began.  It was about 100 degrees out that day and the training started with us walking meika through come cones( made no sense then and still does not) then she brought out what looked like a hobby horse which I guess was supposed to fool Meika into believing it was a dog.  Meika did not even look at this imposter because she is if anything a brilliant girl that is not easily fooled.

Now it was Pam’s turn to walk Meika through the cones, God know why but this was her plan.  Meika was getting really nervous now as well as very thirsty.  We were told that meika was not allowed to have water.  OK we said you are the expert( I feel so stupid all these years later).  Meika stopped moving and was jumping.  Now the aggression expert said to us” I want you to pay attention to what I am going to do because this is how the aggression will be fixed.  I said OK now we are getting somewhere.  She took the leash from Pam and brought Meika to a spot by a gate and then( please forgive me Meika for what this monster did to you) started beating her in the head with a metal dog food bowl.  I said what in the hell are you doing? She said that ” this little bitch needs to learn who is in charge” I grabbed Meika from her and Meika jumped on her and she began choking Meika.  We said we are done here and left.  Meika immediately jumped in the jeep and drank to her hearts content, she was shaking uncontrollably until we got home.  She refused to eat for a couple of days until we figured it was the metal dog food bowl we were feeding her out of( go figure ha!).  This began my journey as a trainer to learn as much about dog reactivity and behavior as I could. 

I started to go to as many seminars and workshops on aggresson and behavior as I could afford in the hopes of finding a cure for Meika.  I guess I can say that in some strange way I owe this so called aggression expert for making me go out and get a real education so Meika would never have to go through this again and I could learn to help as many dogs as I could as well as teach clients that there are many positive ways of helping their dogs rather than beating them in the hopes of fixing their aggressive or fearful dogs.  I also owe a huge thanks to Meika for not giving up and to Pam for supporting my obsession to help as many dogs and people as I can.

I would love to be able to say that Meika has been my obsession as far as fixing her but honestly I have not spent as much time doing the work that I should have with her over the years.  I can also honestly say that I wish I had protected her from the things she has gone through since her early nightmare with the aggression expert. Meika was attacked by a pack of Coyotes and had over 300 stitches and over 13 drains in her body.  She was attacked by an off leash dog and had to have surgery for that which was a nightmare for her especially after just recovering from the Coyote mauling, just recently she was playing with our wolf dog Cole and he got her with his nail and ripped her open and she had to have three surgeries to repair that.  I realize I cannot always be there to watch everything that happens to Meika and have to forgive myself for what she has gone through. 

Now you might be saying ” does this poor dog have any kind of a life?’ if you know Pam and I at all you know that our dogs are our life and we do as much as we possible can to make sure that they have great lives.  Meika has been to many places and has had many dog friends and is in great shape considering all that has happened to her. I can also tell you that I have not ignored her training and recovery, after all she has five great dog buddies whom she loves to be with.  Meika’s issues has always been new dogs.  I have done alot of work with her including BAT( behavior adjustment training) which she has done amazing at.  I can also tell you that I am constantly rewarding her good behavior around our other dogs. 

I know this has made a huge difference in her recovery and happiness.  I have also included her in hundreds of class orientations for new students for our puppy and adult dog classes.  Meika loves this time she has with me and loves to interact with the new students and it keeps her clicker skills very sharp. I know all of this has made a huge difference in her reactivity to other dogs as I can actually take her for a walk now and not worry so much that she will have a blow out be so stressed that she does not enjoy the walks.  Fortunately we live in the middle of nowhere and have five acres for her and the other dogs to run in and rarely if ever encounter an off leash dog.  That was until yesterday and is also why I decide to write Meika’s story because this was so amazing I could not keep it to myself.

I got home yesterday from a private training session and decided to take a few of our 6 dogs on a hike down our dirt road.  It was a sunny but cold day and thought it would be a nice change for Meika to do something different as far as her daily walk.  Pam would take the other five dogs around the property while I took Meika down our dirt road then when I got back I would tak another dog and repeat this until they all had at least a three mile walk.  Meika and I had got about 500ft when this little off leash and alone dog came out of nowhere.  He was just a little guy with an attitude and wanted the world to know he was there.  He saw us and immediately started barking at Meika and me.  I thought ” dam I have not seen an off leash dog in months and the one time when it is just Meika and I this happens” I did not have any treats or my clicker, just my wits and hopefully some dumb luck.  Meika barked once(amazing) considering this dog was only 10ft away and would not stop barking at us.  I told him to go home and he just looked at me and said ” you are not the boss of me and I am enjoying this way too much to stop” I started to walk back towards the house when I thought” this is just too good of an opportunity and Meika did not seemd to stressed out by this little dog so we pushed on. 

 I have to admit I was totally amazed and proud or Meika, this dog did not stop barking for a second and Meika just walked very calmly like this dog was not even there.  I know when she is stressed and she actually seemed to be enjoying this dogs company.  He got within two feet and we just walked like we were supposed to all be together.  I thought to myself “wow is it just Meika growing up and maturing or has all of the things I have been doing over the years actually working.  I have literally clicked and treated her thousands of times for great behaviors around our other dogs, I have told her what a good girl she is when she has seen another strange dog and not reacted.  Could all of this actually be getting through to her?  We walked for another mile or so with this little dog until he turned off to his street and went home.  I was so proud of Meika that I could not wait until I got her home and told Pam the great news. 

I made it back home and I said Pam” you will not believe what Meika did” I told her the story and she said well our other dog Flash did an amazing this as well.  We have a couple of dogs behind us that are allowed to fence fight with other dogs( not ours) we make sure we are with them when they are at the back of the property at all times.  The other dogs were barking at Flash and Pam called a touch(recall>come when called) from the back of the property and he did not even think about coming as he just flew to Pam.  We were so proud of both our dogs that we talked about it for awhile and just said ” we must be doing something right” I hope you have enjoyed this story about an amazing dog and her journey through life.

 

Meika and her stick…..

 

Dennis Fehling CPDT(KA) thanks to Meika and hundreds of other dogs out there.

5 comments - What do you think?  Posted by admin - November 16, 2012 at 1:05 am

Categories: Dog Training   Tags:

Unrealistic Expectations

 

Dennis and His old buddy Beau

 

 

        Hello everyone, I wanted to talk about a topic that I feel does not get much attention. I am calling this unrealistic expectations.  Recently we had some friends over to our home for four days.  My wife Pam and her friends we attending Terry Ryans amazing chicken camp.  Chicken camp is a place where students learn to work with another species(chickens) to help make their clicker skills better.  You might be asking yourself ” well does it work” I can say as a student of Terry’s in the past that it really does and is a fun time as well.  The friends we had visiting are both dog trainers and very savvy as far as dog behavior and were very respectful of our dogs, all six of them.  I had a talk with Pam before they arrived as far as what to expect as we do not have much company and our dogs do get very excited as should be expected, they all love people.   Our dogs do not live in a bubble and are exposed to many different things and in my opinion are very well socialized.  We do have a jumper in our family and her name is Snickers( rescue girl) and is a year and a half American Staffordshire terrier and has all the personality of a Diva.  We have worked very hard to teach Snickers that there really is no reward in jumping but sometimes the best laid plans can be destroyed by friends and family.  Like all dogs ours are no different as they have different personalities and behaviors that we manage and many that we are very proud of( they love people). I have to admit that we do let our dogs get away with a lot when it is just Pam and I.  They get to sleep in the bed, they are allowed to lick the plates after dinner( some find this repulsive), they get to sit in the chair with us and soemtimes they get rewarded for behaviors that some would find crazy. When I talked with Pam she had said that one of the ladies that was staying with us finds licking the plates is just about the nastiest thing on the planet, I said I am not going to change or even expect our dogs to be any different when we have company as I did not think it was fair( i did concede by just not giving the dogs the plates to clean). After all they have been allowed to do some of these behaviors which for them and us are considered( normal everyday behaviors) so why do they have to be expected to change for our guest?  Our guest arrived and the usual barking and excitement happened as did the jumping by Snickers.  She does not jump on us any more but no matter what I tell people they just cannot ignore her or pay attention when she is in the Diva mode.  We did have some jumping and yes the ladies told her no and off all the usual stuff they know better not to do as it does not work especially when they do respond to the word they are immediately rewarded with a good girl or good boy( oops, do I see a behavior chain happening?) dogs are masters at building behavior chains.  I am happy to report that by the end of the visit Snickers was no longer jumping after I explained how Snickers learned to build this behavior chain by our former pet sitter. I do have some expectations of all of our dogs but cannot expcet them to behave any different with others than with us at home.  After all it is us that have trained them( not perfectly) but trained none the lesss.  I have so much to be proud of in our dogs.  They have never bitten any person, they rarely have any scuffles and if they do they are over very fast.  They are all amazing around food and accept any person or dogs( in their group) around their stuff and food without incident.  They all walk very nicely on a leash and hardly ever bark unless when they are concerned about something or during play.  I see so many people embarrassed by their dogs behavior and many of my clients apologize for their dogs, I tell them” there is nothing to apologize for” in the hopes of making them feel less guilty about what they have taught them either on purpose or just by chance.  In closing I want to remind you that the next time you have company over and expect your dogs to behave any different than they do when it is just you and your family you just might be expecting something that will not happen.  I also want to remind you that you also get excited when you have guest over, especially the ones you have not seen in awhile.  You hug, you cry, you give high fives, you laugh and carry on so how is it not acceptable for your dogs to behave any different, they just do it in their own way.  So now is the time to start preparing for the real world by training your dogs the way you would like them to be when they are confronted by the real world. Dennis Fehling CPDT(KA)      

  

 

Be the first to comment - What do you think?  Posted by admin - September 14, 2012 at 11:11 pm

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What about no bark don’t you understand?

Dennis and His old buddy Beau

I was recently hiking the Deschutes River Trail In Bend Oregon with my wife Pam and our newest rescue dog Cole.  I love this trail as it is pretty close to home and at times can be a very peaceful walk and other times I just have to shake my head and wonder what people are thinking when they take their dogs on this outing.  How many times have you heard someone telling their dog to stop or down or off or my all time favorite NO BARK NO BARK NO BARK? Do we really think our dogs know what no bark means or for that matter and of the other things we say to them during the day when we don’t want them to do something we don’t like like jumping, barking, digging, or anyother normal dog behavior. 

 I really try and educate my clients when it comes to using any of these meaningless words because just the implication always or at least most of the time means something negative or the words just do not work because sometimes the words they intend to stop the behavior become one very important link in a chain of behaviors where the dog actually looks forward and waits to hear the chosen word because they usually get some sort of praise like a treat or petting.  An example would be my dog jumps and I say off spot or down spot.  Now the chain is almost complete because as soon as the dog gets down they get praised or are given a treat, dogs are masters at linking behaviors together so this is why these words just create too much work.  Now back to the hike. Pam and are were about half way down the trail when we came across a nice litte small Poodle mix and his/or her people.  Their dog started barking up a storm while Cole(our dog) just looked as he rarely ever barks.  He was interested but no more than any other dog he sees. As we went by the little poodle, his mom must have said no Bark at least twenty times which I think made the barking worse.  It clearly was not working for her or her dog and to her credit this is probably what she has been told to do.  I am wondering how hard it would be to just keep a handful of treats for her dog so when their dog did see another dog they could actually try something that just might make more sense to the little dog like when he/shes sees another dog good things happen like praise or treats.  This can be so easily done but the information that is being given out there by either inexperienced trainers or others is creating so much conflict in the dog world.  I actually got a call from a person the other day that said she was told to hit her puppies on the face with newspaper when they jump as they need to know that the jumping is not acceptable.  I explained that there can be some fall out to this type of training and can cause the puppies to become very hand shy or reactive to children that might want to pet them because of the motion created by hitting them on the face with the rolled up newspaper.  I hope she got the concept for the puppies sake

Surely we can better educate the public so life can be made much simpler and less violent to their dogs and other pets.  I guess I should have said something to the woman saying no bark to her dog but in the past I have been told to mind my own business so now unless I really fear for the dogs safety and welfare I try and lead by example and when i walk by with my dog in a nice and calm way I just keep saying in a louder than normal voice ” good job good job and then just hope that they see how much easier it can be done. 

 

Dennis Fehling CPDT(KA) 

Friends For life Dog Training

Be the first to comment - What do you think?  Posted by admin - August 3, 2012 at 1:57 am

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Is there any doubt that positive training works?

Our dogs training me

Hello everyone it’s Dennis again with another story on the benefits of positive training and the pitfalls of positive punishment based training.

Recently I was hiking with our newest Rescue dog Cole(black boy pictured at left standing) We rescued Cole from a wolf dog rescue in Roseburg Oregon from a group of very dedicated people with amazing animals.  Cole was one of seven puppies who’s mother is Pele( mid content wolf dog) seems that Pele escaped one night and had a little bit of an interlude and months later 7 beautiful large puppies were born.  Pam and I were not exactly looking for another member of our group but as luck and the grace of god(dog) would have it Cole fell into our laps and has been the most amazing dog.  Our Old boy Beau who is 15 now has been helping me with reactive dogs for 6 years now just is too tired for the work and I had been asked by a local hero of mine(Kim Kahl) who does wolf dog rescue in Central Oregon had been bugging me about Cole for a few months so I finally asked about him, his temperament and some other information which helped Pam and I decide that this great guy deserved a great home forever.

Cole

Ok on to the topic of this story which is how can we keep denying that positive training is faster, better and last longer than traditional force based training methods.  The night we adopted Cole we were staying at a hotel in Eugene Oregon and decided to go for a long walk(mistake with current collar) Cole was a very bad puller so I had to go back to my TTouch training and put him in a Balance leash(worked great immediately).  Then after walking him over five miles in this set up I had to get him  a harness.  We went to a local pet store where they had a huge selection of great harnesses.  I should have thought to have brought one but hind sight is rarely used in my case.  I put the harness on and wow what a difference.  To this day this amazing dog has only pulled rarely when looking at Geese.

Dechutes river trail

I decided to take Cole to the Dechutes river Trail in Bend Oregon.  The trail is beautiful and is about three miles in length if you do the entire loop.  There you will see a lot of people hiking , running and just enjoying this part of Oregon with their dogs(lots of dogs)  and kids.  We started on the trail and were about 5 minutes in when I saw a guy and what looked from a distance to be an English Bull dog.  I was wrong it was an American Bull Dog Puppy which I found out later was about five months old.  From this distance I saw his owner leash correct him at least twenty times with a choke chain.  I thought to myself here we go again Dennis another misinformed person using outdated methods to teach their dogs to walk nicely on a leash.  I was walking behind a couple when the guy asked them how many times they were doing the loop?  They said three times.  Here is what I noticed about this poor little puppy.  One he was clearly terrified to be stopping, his head was down he was shaking and showed no interested in the humans or Cole.  This puppy was not a normal happy puppy that we want to see happily wanting attention from others and other dogs,  he wanted out of there.  The  couple asked how old the puppy was and I said he looks like a baby, the guy said five months and then were told he was an American Bulldog. Then the guy asked the couple if they had seen any of his training videos about getting puppies in shape and obedience training?  They said no he said he would tell them how to see them.  This is when i had to say something.  While we were all standing there this puppy was given at least another twenty pretty hard leash corrections.  I said to him is that really necessary?  He just blew me off and kept talking to the other couple. He saw my training shirt which say’s friends for life dog training where we celebrate the power of positive training.  He probably thought here we go another cookie, fluffy, positive trainer.  Well, I forgot my treats and all I had was a harness,a leash and plenty of praise for Cole which for him can be more than enough if i forget my stuff.  I had to get out of there as I have a habit of getting angry with people like this and nothing positive would have come out of it so off Cole and I went on our hike.  I did want to mention I observed something  I had never seen before in my dogs or any dog.  While this guy was leash correcting his dog Cole jumped and started to whine, he never jumps.  He does whine but only on occasion.  I believe Cole was also very uncomfortable with what this guy was doing to his dog and wanted to get out of there as well.  Dogs know when something is not right and he told me that this guy was not right. This was not just a small reaction he was really upset and would love to do research on this or read some research that someone has done. I thought to myself as I walked away that we have had Cole for three weeks and in one day with a harness and clicker training Cole walks perfectly on a leash while this guy has had this puppy for five months and has to constantly give leash corrections( which is proving to be faster) Positive training with a scientific approach or this type of training which clearly is not working for this guy and at the same time creating fear in this soon to be very large Male American Bull Dog.  I am really scared for this and all of this guys puppies.  He is a breeder and does quite a bit of it…

We continued our hike passing multiple dogs, people, bikes all the while Cole was just enjoying the outing with his dad.  Some other observations I made on the hike.  We must have passed fifty dogs.  My observations were, all of the dogs that were being jerked by the neck and told to leave it very loudly were growling or barking at Cole who just walked calmly by but I did notice that he was still uncomfortable when they did this to their dogs.  Another observation was the dogs that were not being jerked by he neck we very happy to be out and about and almost looked like they were smiling.  One person in particular was very over the top with their handling and again I had to say something.  We were being approached by a very large Alaskan malamute with a prong collar on, I have seen him and his wife before on he trail.  Cole and I went to the side of the trail so as to not make this dog any more uncomfortable than he was going to be.  Like clockwork this guy jerked his dogs neck so hard and screamed at his dog to leave it the dog went ballistic when he saw Cole.  We were about 15ft away and I said to him and his wife “wow that will teach him to like other dogs and enjoy his trip with you” he like the other guy blew me off while his wife gave mean I’m sorry look but what can I do.  I thought to myself hey you can leave this jerk or you can help your dog by hiring someone to help your husband work with your dog.

 

How can we continue to believe that this type of training is faster and produces better longer lasting results when it slaps us in the face by the number of dogs that are clearly uncomfortable while in leash with their people?  The evidence is so clear when in the time I was hiking with Cole every single dog that was being jerked or yelled at reacted not only to other dogs but people and the dogs that were treated with the respect they deserved were all amazing and were having a great time. So the fact that this is not just something that happened when I went on  hike with my dog one day it is that this happens thousands of times each day with pet owners and trainers teaching positive training in classes and on other hikes or walks all over the world. So why is it so hard for those that still continue to use outdated and punishing methods on their dogs?  I suggest that if you are still one of those people or for that matter a trainer that would like to see if another way can and will work I suggest that you go on a hike with your dog and just observe, I bet you will see miracles happen if you look for them.

 

Dennis Fehling CPDT(KA)  positive trainer of both humans and their canine companions.

www.friendsforlifedogtrainng

where we celebrate the power of positive training

1 comment - What do you think?  Posted by admin - May 14, 2012 at 9:07 pm

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Working at your dog’s level

Dennis Fehling and his friend Meika

How many times have you heard or even said to yourself that “my dog always does it great in class or she is always perfect at home”? This is actually a very common thing and often mistaken for a dog being “stubborn” or “stupid” or my favorite “dominant”.  A couple of years ago I was working with a client at a park in our area when we saw a woman come into the park with a beautiful  Chesapeake bay retriever.  She brought her dog up to the gate and demanded a sit which the dog had no intentions of doing and was at this point incapable of even the most basic of commands due to his excitement level.  We also noticed a very large shock collar on her dog(Argggggggg).  There were probably 20 or more dogs in the area at the time so alot was going on. 

 

 She proceeded to ask the dog for a sit again and again with each time the dog not complying with her demands and getting shocked.  You are probably asking yourself why I did not intervene?  Great question.  I have been known to go a bit overboard when it comes to defending dogs who are being abused and felt that maybe by my actions and her seeing the dog we were working with doing everything we asked of her maybe just maybe she might catch on.  Well, she did not and finally gave in and opened the gate to the park.   Her dog ran as fast away from her as he possible could and went and hid in the bushes and pretty much shut down.  Oh I forgot to mention that when the woman finally gave up she kicked her dog in the head for good measure probably more out of frustration and the expense of the useless shock collar that clearly did not work.  We all finally said something to her but that is for another story.

The point of this story and this blog is to show that there are times when your dog  just can’t do what you are asking them to do, basically over their level due to many different things like the environment, other dogs, strange people the list goes on and on.  Lets look at some of the positive things first before judging her too badly.  The first thing I do have to commend her for is that at least she is trying to get her dog out for exercise and to socialize him at least in her mind.  The second thing I want to give her the benefit of the doubt is that she was told by a force based trainer that this is what she needed to do if she wanted her dog to listen to her.  She was given bad information and trusted what this trainer told her to do.  This kind of bad information is given to many well meaning people all over the world.  Some do it while others know that something is just not right and seek another way of  training their dogs. 

Now lets look at how this could have been done differently and more positively

When I say working at your dogs level I mean what is your dog capable of doing at any given moment in time.  How many times do you work on your sits outside of a training class in different situations and environments? While it may be possible to get your dog to sit at home where it is quiet, it may be another story when you are downtown or at a dog park where there is so much going on that your dog  just can’t do it.  I can tell you that your dog is not being stubborn, dominant or willful they are just being expected to do something that is not at their level yet.  Imagine if you were afraid of speaking in public.  This can be a very frightening thing for most people and unless you have practised you might not do as well as if you had been prepared.  You could have taken a course on public speaking where you are coached and taught all of the little things that can make it less scary like speaking to an audience of one then two then three and so on until you are comfortable speaking to a larger audience. 

Working at my dog's level

This is how we can prepare our dogs to be more comfortable in exciting situations.  We start at a level where they are comfortable.  All dogs are different where one might be the kind of dog where nothing bothers them.  We  have seen these happy go lucky dogs who seem to go through life without a care in the world and thrive on challenges. Then there are those dogs who just need a little more time to adjust and prepare for the task at hand.  I would recommend that you find a positive reinforcement based training class so your dog actually enjoys the training instead of dreading it.  Start slow with your dog and gradually increase the level of the three d’s Distance, Duration and Distractions.  Let me explain just how important these are.  I am going to go back to the shock collar woman to explain the three D’s.  She could have made it easier for her dog by by increasing the distance to the gate and all that was going on.  She might have tried backing off ten feet and then trying again to get her dog to sit.  If that did not work then try backing off a few more feet.  I know when I take my dogs to the park I always start off with a wait in the car so I can safely get their leash on then I ask for a sit just to have them check in with me.  They get a treat and off we go.  On the way to the park I might ask for other things like sits, or hand targeting(touch).  I do these things just to get my dogs prepared so when I do need their attention it is not that big of a deal for them.   

Now lets look at the second of the three D’s Duration.  It is pretty hard to get your dog to stay for any length of time if you have not practised it then top it off by expecting them to do it when there is alot going on. Lets go  back to the woman at the gate.  She could have backed her dog away from the gate so she  could of at least gotten a sit then if she wanted her dog to stay she could have only asked for a one second stay instead of asking for more time then her dog was capable of(working at her dogs level) then her dog would have been successful and not punished for not being able to do what she wanted him to do.

Now for the last part of the three D’s Disatractions.  This is probably the hardest thing for our dogs.  after all look at what we have to compete with.  There are other dogs, squirrels, other people, noises, smells. We might not see or smell something but you can bet our dogs see or smell it long before we do.  Lets take one last look back at the woman at the gate.  There was so much going on at the gate, dogs, people, smells that the distractions were just too much for her dog.  She could have once again started farther back>distance< to give her dog a better chance of success at the sit.  She could have take him to a quieter area>Distractions< then try to get her dog to sit for the required amount of time she wanted>duration< thus making all of the above much easier for her dog.  I like to think of the three D’s as dials on a radio.  If you turn up the volume on one you have to turn down the volume on the others to make it easier for your dog.  If you are to close to the distraction then don’t expect too much time on the duration.

I hope that this gives you a little food for thought the next time you ask your dog to do something and they appear to just ignore you.  Look at what is going on around your dog and ask yourself ” how can I make this easier for my dog?” Can I take a step back and try again or can I increase the value of either the food reward, toy or praise.  Remember your dog is not trying to frustrate you they are just in their own way telling you that you are not working at their level.  Until next time remember to help your dog and you succeed by thinking about the three D’s and how you can make it easy on you and your dog. 

Dennis Fehling CPDT(KA)

1 comment - What do you think?  Posted by admin - December 5, 2011 at 5:03 pm

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Why force your dog when you can ask!

 
Dennis Fehling and his friends for life

Hello everyone, it has been awhile since my last post so I thought it was time to get writing again about my passion Dog Training.

I was recently hired by a very nice woman to help her with her very fearful Chihuahua male.  Her biggest concern was his fear of new people and car rides.  He would tremble, urinate or deficate depending on the length of the car ride and this was really starting to become a problem for her and her dogs. 
 
My client is an older woman with several female friends that get together a few times a month to quilt or just get together.  Her dog was becoming so afraid of these visits that her friends did not really enjoy the visits as much as she would like because she was always having to comfort her dog.  He would bark for most of the visit or just dart back and fourth between her guest and was not really having a good time.  My client has another little older male Chihuahua with severe health issues so she thought that getting a younger dog would help him have a better quality of life.  So she did what she promised herself she would never do, she bought  puppy from a pet store.  This store in particular has a long history of selling damaged dogs and cats.  These dogs are rarely ever handled or walked and most come from puppy mills  < great article please read and then come back .  My client wanted me to help her right away with helping her dog overcome his fears of car rides.
 
 I began my work by first making friends with this little guy. I knew I had my work cut out for me but I love a challenge.  We started out by going out of the house and running towards the car, we got about ten feet from the car then I  gave him his favorite treat and ran back to the house.  I repeated this until after about 15 minutes we were actually sitting in the car together, he was on my lap.  I would then toss a treat out of the car and he would come back for more.  My client was saying the whole time that “this is so amazing” he has never gotten into any car by his own choice.  I told her when we ask our dogs and not force is can really be amazing what we can accomplish in a short amount of time. If we build trust by asking and not forcing then our dogs feel safe and not threatned.  The session was going so well I decided to end it on a very positive note and gave her some easy homework to do until our next session. 
 
My client called me to say she was ready for another session but this time it was to teach her to trim her dogs nails.  This is something she is very finicky about and has not had very good experiences with groomers in the past when it comes to nail trims for dogs.  Now don’t get me wrong there are some amazing gentle talented groomers out there as well as some less than gentle ones just like trainers some are gentle and use positive reinforcement training while others rely on harsh punishment based training to work with dogs and humans.  I explained to her that we might not get one nail done at the session but I would give her the tools to do the job gently and without causing any undue stress to an already fearful dog.  I had a(friend) assistant come with me to keep her other dog busy and also to teach her how easy it can be done.  In no time my friend had made friends with both dogs.  I wish they were all this easy.  Most are not.
 
I started the session by just lightly touching each paw and treating.  For very shy dogs you can do this with another object than your hand like a paint brush( Learned this in TTouch).  After all most dogs do not have have a bad history with a paintbrush so this is a great way of helping your dog to overcome their fears of having their feet touched.  Fortunately I did not have to do this with my clients dog as he was very willing to let me touch his feet for food.  At the first session I auditioned treats to see what really rocked his boat and this is what I used for the nail session(loved natural balance).  I then started to apply just a little more pressure to the paw touches until I could actually hold his paw for five seconds without him pulling away. Important note> It is really important to give a lot of breaks while doing this.  I had my client play tug with him and throw a ball between each session which lasted about five minutes. 
 
After about twenty minutes I then started to have the dog nose target the nail clippers and treat then I would squeeze the clippers together and treat.  I then used a match stick to duplicate the sound a nail would make being clipped.  Each session was followed by a break.  I then would build the length of time I would hold his paw then treat.  when I could hold his paw for about ten seconds I then actually was able to clip one of his nails.  My client let out a yahoo and was about to start dancing.  I then started to say to her dog in a very happy voice”who wants to do his nails” and would then touch the trimmers to his nail and then treat.  To make a long story short we ended up getting five of his very long nails done in a hour and a half.  She actually did three of them. 
 
What she said to me next was so uplifting that it really makes me happy doing what I do.  She had told me that a Groomer/trainer where we live had been doing his nails and the way she did it was not the best of experiences for her dog.  This person would restrain this little guy or have my client restrain him very tightly and fight him every step of the way to get his nails done.  Most of the nails were cut to close and he  bled every time she did them.  She said the whole time we were doing it today he did not seemed stressed and we did not have to restrain him.  He could have left at anytime but chose to stay with us. She told me that this Groomer/trainer was very rough with him and she did not feel right about the last visit when most of his nails were bleeding so she did not go back. 
 
The reason I decided to write about this example is to really show that there is no reason to force your dog to do anything and  you can do so much more with positive training then with force based training.  there is so much bad information going around as far as what the right way or wrong way to train a dog or that if we use food to train we are not really training but bribing our dogs.  Well when we work we get paid is that bribing or is that for a job well done. So when I ask my dog to do something instead of forcing my dog I get much faster results and a much happier dog that really wants to learn.  Why do so many people feel the need to always be forcing their dogs to do things when it is so much easier to ask. I am continuing to work with little Oliver and my client to help him be a more confident happy dog.  More to follow.
 
Dennis Fehling CPDT(KA) 
 
 

2 comments - What do you think?  Posted by admin - November 18, 2011 at 12:13 am

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Are we relying on food too much for our dog training?

Dennis Fehling and his friend for life Meika

Hello again everyone, this is a question I have been asking myself quite a bit lately as far as when it comes to training a dog.  Recently we have had several students at our dog training facility  who have come to us from other trainers.  Some have been out of convenience while others were looking for other positive dog training options in the area.  One client said that they were tired of “throwing food at their dog”  I asked her what she meant and she said “why does it always have to be about food? Can’t our dogs learn to work without bags and bags of food all the time”. Another client said that their dog does agility and will not work unless food is involved.  I thought to myself this is getting to be an issue with people and they are worried enough to say something.  To be totally honest I find that very refreshing and empowering coming from a client.  How many times have we seen the client blindly following the advise of a trainer by not asking questions because they assume that the trainer is all knowing and all seeing.

I have seen some trainers that scare the heck out of me, no wonder their clients are afraid of speaking their minds.  As trainers we need to take in to account that our clients are intelligent people who for the most part want what is best for their dogs, this is why I encourage my clients to ask questions and not just take what I say as the gospel when it comes to dog training.  After all we are all learning and continue to learn as new things in the dog training world surface.  Ok, on to my thoughts on the use of food.  First I love using food in dog training as most dogs will work for it eagerly depending on the training situation they are faced with.  It is a very positive thing to do for your dog and can help us out of a lot of training situations especially when working with reactive/aggressive or fearful dogs.  I do understand the frustration that clients face when they ask their dog to sit and their dog refuses unless they have that tasty treat with them. This is where I think we as trainers may be failing our dog’s and clients when it comes to rewards.

Albert Einstein.....

First of all I will say again that most people are intelligent enough to understand basic learning theory and reinforcement schedules if we explain it to them in a non condescending way that they can easily understand.  Second we need to teach them that there are other things in life that their dogs like and enjoy doing then eating.  Some dogs love play more than food or a chance to be with their favorite human or dog friend.  Then there are the “real life rewards” things that just happen like a favorite pee or sniffing spot or just running free without a leash.  There are so many things that are dogs find valuable, food just happens to be what we call a primary reinforcer or unconditioned reinforcer>something the dog naturally wants and does not have to be bribed to do.  After all if your dog does not eat then they will die simple as that.  I have heard so many times that my dog is not food motivated.  Now think about that statement.  If your dog was not motivated by food then how would he/she survive.  It is true in rare cases some dogs will just refuse to eat which leads me to think either a medical or emotional issue is at work.  Most dogs are motivated by food we just need to find out what kind motivates them the most.

When it comes to dog training does it always have to be about food?  I asked some of my fellow/female trainer friends for their opinions and here is what they had to say. All of these links are Facebook links so you will have to have a Facebook account if you want to connect with them.

Linda-Sunny Troup Don’t get me wrong, I love praise too and hearing I’ve done a nice job is, well………..nice. But I really get motivated when I get PAID@

Stormi King Parish

I think it’s important to give our clients multiple tools for training. Food is the obvious primary reinforcer, but it’s important to remember environmental rewards and opportunistic rewards can be just as powerful. Sometimes food isn’t the… most salient reward in a given moment, maybe the chance to sniff a bush or the opportunity to play a game is. The more we recognize potential reinforcers that exist all around us, the easier it is to truly know what the best reinforcers for our dogs are and helps us keep things fun and interesting. Take Jack for example – he’ll do anything for a piece of kibble, but the chance to play with a stuck trumps any food item you could possibly offer. And hey, sticks are free 🙂
Diane Garrod

Dennis, you asked “are we relying on food too much in dog training”. What Sunny and Stormi have to say, I emulate. The relying indicates something else though – and needing treats for everything means that variable and differential reinforc…ements are not being trained. Variable indicating intervals when a treat is given, say every 3 times as both treat and clicker are faded away. Differential meaning different types of rewards, functional, toys, games, touch, praise etc. – whatever the DOG likes – not what the owner likes to give. The only skill I always treat for is recall (coming when called), unless in a show situation. Behavior training should use treats to change the way the dog sees a trigger or stimuli until the wanted behavior becomes STRONG. Then variable reinforcement can begin and differential. For a strong sit for instance, you no longer need treat or clicker. So it depends. If someone is “relying” on treats then their knowledge base needs honining on when and how to use them, types to use, and when to fade them. Dogs need incentive and treats provide that for faster and retainable learning. In behavior work, treats calm the dog if used correctly, and change the meaning of triggers. Once the meaning is changed then variable and differential work can begin which will make the behavior stronger. For ttouch work, bodywork for instance you are working toward calm, and focus, relax even and so since it is slow, mindful work the treats may inhibit the learning here and activate instead of calm. As Linda said, there are exceptions to that rule also.
Casey Lomonaco I agree with the previous posters. I like to tell my clients, “we use food (treats) to train, we use life to maintain.” Food is only one nation in a whole world full of reinforcement opportunities
Inna Krasnovsky

I see food as currency in the dog’s world and I use food with some of the most difficult cases I have, it works very well (especially with aggression-cheese and hot-dogs are my biggest ammo!). That said not all dogs are created equal, while… most work for food (and I use very high value treats), I met some dogs who prefer other rewards (tug, running, etc.) and I also meet dogs who are too nervous to eat outside so I have to come up with a different way to reinforce them. Ultimately I always start with food (if the dog is willing to eat), once the dog is fluent in the behavior, I start to fade out the food rewards and eventually we can switch to praise or other forms of attention. On a different note, I am very big on “life rewards” as well, and there are endless and creative ways to reinforce dogs in daily situations, (everything from going for a walk, to coming out of the crate, to running, to playing with another dog, and so on).
Julianne Meyers High value treats (chicken, cheese, sometimes steak) have been x-tremely important in my personal training (agility, recall, tricks, dance etc.) You can taper the distribution to praise & petting…Treats should be small and healthy..
Kathy Shaker And just because a treat like cheese is easy to throw, shows up on a lot of surfaces and doesn’t make a mess, it may not be high enough value to your dog. My guys were willing to work for string cheese, but when I switched to chicken breast, Yoda became much more attentive and animated. He drags me to the arena now.

Our boy Flash.

I really loved these great response from some very awesome trainers and value their professional input.  I think we all can agree that everything depends on each unique situation and each individual dog when it comes to using food in training our dogs.  From my own personal experience with my dogs especially our Aussie Flash his motivation is really chasing things(go figure).  i have learned when flash in the chase mode there is no food in the world that will bring him our of that mode so I don’t even try while our

Meika our poster child for patience..

German Shepherd Meika even when highly distracted will still eat just about anything or at least carry a stick if life gets to distracting or hard to deal with. Keep this in mind when you are working with your dog and your dog is not responding to what you are asking them to do.  Take the environment into account and ask yourself ” is this too much for my dog to handle?” how can I make this easier for my dog and can i help my dog out by working at their level and not our’s.
When I say working at your dog’s level I mean is what you are asking of your dog beyond their ability which is why the food might not be working for you and your dog.  I believe the environment plays such an important role in how our dogs respond regardless of what type of food we are using.  Let’s say you are at the dog park and getting ready to go in to gate and you ask your dog to sit and no matter what you try your dog will not sit, no amount of tasty chicken or liver treats is going to get this dog at this time to even do the simplest of things like sit.
After all your dog has graduated from puppy class, adult dog class, intermediate manners and many other classes and this time your dog is just not paying attention to you.  So you might just be thinking is the food not working because it always does in class, my dog can do anything in class but why does he/she have this problem at the dog park or favorite hiking spot. I  can telly you that this is not a food thing but an environment thing.  There is just too much stuff going on for your dog to think.  After all his friends are here and when he/she is in the park he/she gets so much attention what is a dog to do?  I say make it easy on your dog by taking a step back and making it easier for your dog and don’t think that in this situation food is going to be the answer.  Your dog wants to go into the park plain and simple and no amount of chicken or whatever you have will work.  If you have to walk away from the gate entrance and try a sit or anything that your dog knows and if it happens have a party for your dog by letting them in the gate as their just reward and know that all of your valuable training has not been wasted and you have learned a very valuable skill in this situation.  it is not about the food but a life reward of getting to play and run free for a little while.
I hope this has given you much food for thought(no pun intended) as to what is reinforcing to your dog and what is not at any given time.  Think smartly about how you can use food and different rewards to your advantage.  Have fun figuring what really motivates your dog and how you can best use these motivators when you need them the most.  This is what i carry with me on our walks.  Treat pouch $16.00, tasty treats $free by using healthy leftovers, you dogs favorite toy $ depends on your dog, poop bags to keep the nasty stuff off the ground for the next person and their dog, knowing what your dog really likes and will work for $priceless…………….
Have fun and Happy training.
Dennis

 

4 comments - What do you think?  Posted by admin - October 10, 2011 at 10:41 pm

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