Goes Deaf When Called. Takes No Notice.

The young couple adopted mix breed Buddy at five months old. He is now nearly two. They were told he had Beagle in him, though it’s hard to tell.

There really is nothing wrong with the young dog that a bit of motivation and consistency won’t solve – along with some systematic training exercises to get him to pay attention to them.

Buddy goes deaf when they call him.

Continue reading…

Changing No to Yes using a clicker

Bella is the most adorable, soft, cute, friendly and totally scrumptious Beagle puppy of six months old.

She greeted me with lots of jumping up. She jumped up at the counters. Bella jumped at and onto the table. 

Bella is told NO. She’s told GET DOWN.

Bella being taught Yes with a clickerWhen I arrive I usually ask the people, where possible, to cease all commands. I like to see what the dog does when not controlled.

Like most people they found this hard. It demonstrates, however, that the commands they are constantly giving her teach her nothing. ‘Get Down’ may work in the moment because she just obeys the word.

It doesn’t stop her doing it again.

In fact, I would say that it might increase the behaviour if attention is what she wants.

Being unable to scold her left them helpless. They can’t simply put up with the behaviour, can they!

They already had a clicker. We were going to turn NO into YES.

The little girl aged eight sat next to me. Her instructions were to click as soon as Bella’s feet were on the floor. She was a little genius.

The child clicked and then I dropped food on the floor for Bella.

Bella too was a genius. She caught on to what clicking was all about very quickly.

Kids in bed, Bella moved on to challenge us all further. She scratched at the door and chewed the mat.

How were we going to stop her without saying NO?

With a clicker we will teach her an incompatible behaviour – a ‘Yes’.

I put out my hand to her. In no time she was touching my palm with her little cold nose. Click. Food. The man took over and he, like his daughter, was a genius too.

In one session Bella and the man, both novices, had learnt what clicker was all about. He was able to put the action on cue with the word Touch’. He was very much on the ball. I took a short video of him.

Bella went to jump at the table, the man called ‘Bella-Touch’ from the other side of the room and she ran straight over and touched his hand. Click. Food.

Soon he will be able to drop the click altogether.

We had a little break with Bella in her crate, then the man carried on. Bella was now looking at me and at the table without jumping up. Yes. Click. Food.

Being constantly told No can be very frustrating for a dog – just as it would be for a child. Bella gets stirred up and may hump the lady. She humped me.

I stood still and froze. She would have to stop eventually. As soon as her feet were on the floor I clicked. Food.

They need food to hand all the time for now – she can earn her meals. If no clicker, the word Yes will do.

They are changing their mindset from No to Yes.

To give Bella something acceptable to take out any frustrations on, she will have a ‘box of tricks’. A carton that she can wreck full of safe rubbish from the recycle bin with bits of food buried amongst it.

She can really go to town on that.

 

 

Allowing the Dog to Work Things Out

Two Labradors lying on sofaWhat a great evening I had with a lovely family and two wonderful Labradors. Black Lab Joey, four years old, is probably one of the calmest and most easy-going Labradors I have met. Golden Milly, also a rescue, is just one year old and a lot more bouncy.

Her lady owner is very committed to Milly’s training, taking her to regular classes with plenty of socialising and doggy daycare. Milly is a very bright and loves learning.

Sometimes there can be a bit of conflict, in my opinion, between what is learnt in formal training classes and the sort of behaviour that is needed for real life. My views may not be popular with everyone.

I myself prefer the dog to be allowed to work things out for herself rather than being given ‘commands’ to get her to do regular daily things. Commands (I prefer ‘requests’ or ‘cues’), have their value in situations where the dog is unable to make the right choice by herself in order to fit in with life alongside us humans.

A dog who is allowed to work things out for herself will become a lot more attentive without repeated commands thrown at her and, importantly, the dog will feel she has choice.

If one were to add up the number of times Milly has been told to sit and wait at the door before stepping out, it must run into hundreds. Does she still need to be told? If sitting at the door is what she wants, the lady simply needs to wait and after all this time Milly will sit eventually I’m sure. She may need to open the door slowly and be prepared to close it again if Milly gets up too soon – but she no longer needs to be told.

It’s the same with the jumping up. Conventional ‘training’ will probably teach the word ‘Off’ or else ask the dog to sit. I wonder how many times Milly has either been told to get down, to sit or been pushed down. Hundreds? Sure, she may get down in the moment but she will still jump up the next time and with the next person. This is causing problems when they have guests and when they meet someone when out. Milly only jumps up because it’s still rewarding to her in some way. If people only making it really rewarding when her feet are on the floor, she will work it out for herself.

The lady wants Milly to sit on a mat beside the stairs instead of jumping up at the stairgate and then onto her when she comes down in the morning.  About five stairs from the bottom she says ‘Mat’. To get her to stay there she has to keep repeating ‘Mat’ until she gets to the bottom.

How many times will she have said ‘Mat’ as she comes down the stairs, I wonder. Hundreds?

I’m sure, if she just waits, Milly will do as she has now been repeatedly taught. The desired behaviour needs reinforcing – the lady can drop food over the rail to Milly as she descends all the time she stays on the mat. If Milly gets up, the lady can step backwards and start again. She need not talk – in fact words will probably distract Milly.

Without my help the lady is already doing brilliantly with Milly. She’s a dog to be proud of.  I hope, however, that changing the emphasis to from obeying commands to encouraging the dog to learn some self-control and allowing her to work things out for herself will contribute that bit extra richness to their relationship.

Imagine how annoying it would be for you if every time you walk out of the room the same person says ‘Shut the door!’. You’ve got it!  You are going to shut that door! If you keep being nagged maybe you will rebel and stop shutting it!

NB. For the sake of the story and for confidentiality also, this isn’t a complete ‘report’ with every detail, but I choose an angle. The precise protocols to best use for your own dog may be different to the approach I have worked out for Milly. Finding instructions on the internet or TV that are not tailored to your own dog can do more harm than good. One size does not fit all. If you live in my own area I would be very pleased to help with strategies specific to your own dog (see my Get Help page).

Beautiful Dog but Out of Control

English Bull Terrier on the stairsIf a picture could tell a story – this is it!

Sometimes I go to a situation where it’s hard to know where to start, particularly if the dog is jumping up and flying all over the place, desperate for attention – which she’s accustomed to getting in the form of being told off harshly and NO!

We sat down at the dining table and eighteen-month-old English Bull Terrier Millie was straight up onto it. The lady shouted at her to get down which she ignored. She takes very little notice of the lady who has to speak loudly and fiercely to get Millie to take acknowledge her at all. The lady absolutely adores her and it’s hard for her when her dog is so out of control.

It’s amazing what tiny pieces of cheese and a quiet voice can achieve!

It took a long while – most of the three hours that I was there discussing all the things necessary in a consultation – but by the end Millie was sitting down in the corner beside my chair. I did it by simply not trying to tell her to do anything. The lady herself now needs to be able to motivate her to willingly do things without using any force.

First, instead of dealing with the jumping and getting onto the table, I dealt with what we did want – with her getting off the table and jumping onto the floor. Soon we had a reliable ‘Off’ – rewarding with ‘Yes’ followed cheese as soon as her feet were on the floor. I showed the lady how willingly Millie did this when asked once and by then just waiting for her to comply, followed by a food ‘thank you’.

Then Millie came and just happened to sit in the corner beside me. I was waiting for this. I immediately gently said SIT to label what she was already doing and fed her cheese – saying SIT in a very pleased voice and feeding her, loving her, while she remained sitting. Each time she came back and sat I repeated this. It wasn’t long before she realised that just coming and sitting beside me was a lot more rewarding than jumping on me or jumping on the table.

Then towards the end, I had her sitting on cue (when I asked her). I was thrilled. It seems like a small step, but it’s a leap for Milly and for the lady who will continue with this work – starting in Millie’s special ‘sitting corner’ beside the table, speaking to her gently and using food.

The actual problem that has most been distressing the lady is that her black Labrador, Ruby, has had to go and live with her son. Ruby, now three years old, took an instant dislike to the puppy Millie from the moment she arrived. Eventually, at a year old, Millie turned on her. A massive fight ensued so one of the dogs had to go.

The lady pines for Ruby and badly wants her back. There will need to be a very different and much calmer, controlled atmosphere in the house if that is ever to happen.

While Millie is quite so stressed and excitable there is little chance of getting them back together, so reducing her stress levels is our first aim and getting her under some control – particularly self-control. She needs more suitable exercise and fulfilment which we will be looking into next time. We will eventually be working on various protocols with a possible reuniting in neutral territory being the final goal.

Fortunately Ruby is happy living with the son. Millie herself will be a lot happier when she has a bit more healthy stimulation and exercise, and learns what is wanted of her through positive reinforcement.

NB. The precise protocols to best use for your own dog may be different to the approach I have worked out for Millie. Finding instructions on the internet or TV that are not tailored to your own dog can do more harm than good. One size does not fit all. If you live in my own area I would be very pleased to help with strategies specific to your own dogs (see my Get Help page).

Puppy Parenting – Puppy Training

Petite Brabancon Griffin puppy

Jack

I had a real treat yesterday. I went to fourteen-week-old Petite Brabancon Griffon siblings, Jack and Coco.They were absolutely adorable. Apparently there are only about seventy-five of the breed in the country.

There were no problems to address but the couple had missed out on their choice of local puppy classes this time round and wanted to make sure they were going in the right direction meanwhile.

But what actually is puppy training? Is it ‘commands and tricks’ or is it about the puppy learning for himself what works and what doesn’t work? Parenting puppies is about more than just training tricks so we will be giving them a really stable home base from which to learn and these particular excellent classes will continue where I left off – being totally force-free and reward-based. Griffon, Petite Brabancon puppies

We looked at ways to make sure that the puppies didn’t become so attached to one another (one of the common problems when adopting siblings) that they would one day take no notice of their humans and could become vulnerable should they need to be separated. Short periods apart and some walking individually will be built into their days.

Another sibling problem is that one can become overshadowed by the other and never really shine in her own right (Coco could potentially be the one here), another reason for sometimes treating them as individuals rather than a ‘pair’.

Both dogs are scared of traffic so we discussed how they can be desensitised. They have the perfect spot for this where they can stand well back from a road and observe passing traffic from a distance the dogs are comfortable. Working on desensitising, they can gradually work their way nearer as and when the puppies are relaxed and ready.

I demonstrated teaching Jack to sit to the point where he wouldn’t stop sitting! First I lured him, then just waited and marked and rewarded the moment he sat, then added the cue, then he was responding to the cue – and all in no more than ten minutes. Now we had taught him to beg – ‘if I sit I get fed’ – so now he will only get the food when he’s asked to sit!

We did a little off lead walking beside us and then loose-lead walking around the room.

I can’t wait to go again in a couple of weeks!

NB. The precise protocols to best use for your own puppy may be different to the approach I have planned for Jack and Coco, which is why I don’t go into exact detail here. Finding instructions on the internet that are not tailored to your own puppy can do more harm than good. One size does not fit all. If you live in my own area I would be very pleased to help with strategies and training tailored to your own puppy (see my Get Help page).

 

Little Chihuahua is Perfect!

Chihuahua lying on his back in his bedThis little dog is a dream. I’m in love.

The lady is wheelchair-bound and has had 20-month-old Chihuahua Pepe for ten weeks now. Apparently he came from a home where they also had two big dogs.

He doesn’t bark too much, he isn’t demanding in any way, he doesn’t pull on his lead, he’s confident and friendly with other dogs – he has a dog walker. He’s not nervous of anything. He is fine with the people who regularly need to come in and out of the lady’s house.

He even takes himself into the sitting room with a chew when she needs to go out.

The problem is that with limited mobility, the lady needs Pepe to be more responsive to her requests.

He may go out in the garden last thing at night and finds it much more interesting than coming in to her when she calls him, particularly as she is unable to use a bright tone of voice.

When someone comes to the door, for his safety she needs him to jump on her lap before she wheels herself over to open it. It can take many ‘UP UP UP’s before he does so and she worries about the person waiting outside.Pepe's lady lacks mobility so he needs to respond to commands

I asked her, “What do you think is in it for him to do as you ask?”

She replied, “I cuddle him!” I could see she thought that was a silly question!

Well, this independent little dog isn’t fussed about cuddles, possibly because she tries too hard.  (I did find he likes a little tickle on his chest and behind his ears best).

The lady never uses food.

I demonstrated the power of food rewards by teaching him to both sit and lie down in about five minutes.

To get his attention she is going to use a whistle. It will be a bright sound. First she will ‘charge’ it with repeated ‘peeps’ followed by cheese or chicken (something special), many times until Prince gets the connection.

Then, when she wants him to come to her, one little ‘peep’ should do. She can immediately drop him the food which she will have beside her on her wheelchair in a pot or bag.

If she wants him on her lap, she will ‘peep’ and then pat her lap with ‘Up’. Then he gets his reward.

What a lucky lady she is to have rehomed such a wonderful little dog – a dog with no issues at all.  He is obviously a very happy Pepe to be living with her too.

NB. The precise protocols to best use for your own dog may be different to the approach I have worked out for Pepe, which is why I don’t go into the exact details of your plan here. Finding instructions on the internet or TV that are not tailored to your own dogs can do more harm than good. One size does not fit all. If you live in my own area I would be very pleased to help with strategies specific to your own dog (see my Get Help page).

Too Reliant Upon Commands

They don't want Terrier mix to jump up at people

Billie

The decision was that Billie shouldn’t jump up at people anymore.

Up until now jumping up has been very rewarding in terms of attention. The 6-month-old terrier cross (right) is looked at, spoken to in terms of reprimands and also touched – pushed off.

She may get down but it doesn’t teach her to stay down or not to jump up another time.

The lady even, without thinking, caught herself automatically fussing Billie as she jumped up.  Modifying behaviours like this need consistency and patience. That’s it.

The dog should get absolutely no reinforcement for jumping up from anyone – no family members and no guests.

But, most importantly, what about letting the dog know what it is we DO want?

Jumping up is natural behaviour to dogs. Puppies in particular want to get level with our faces where so much communication takes place – just as they do with other dogs.

The most powerfully effective way to teach Billie not to jump up is to reward and reinforce her for feet on the floor. We worked on this continually all evening while Billie, unused to the jumping getting no results, tried harder and harder – in effect becoming more and more frustrated as is to be expected.

Beagle mix on crate rest due to neck injury

Harvey

She was waiting for the usual instructions or reprimand, but nothing was happening!

We simply outlasted her. Every time her feet were on the floor we rewarded her immediately. We turned, looked away or tipped her off each time her feet were on us.

She was learning to work things out for herself.

Beagle

Sadie

A dog that has been ‘trained’ using commands can often find it bewildering when left to think for herself.  She is used to being ‘directed’ and it can take a while for the penny to drop.

Eventually Billie was sitting on her bed nearby and even lying down. All the time she was earning her food.  She had the self-control to sit still while I took the photo.

Billie lives with Beagle Sadie and Beagle cross Harvey. I arrived to find poor Harvey on crate rest due to a neck injury. Harvey and Billie are a ‘terrible twosome’ when Harvey is fit, so I will need to go back when he is mobile again. Meanwhile, this very active dog has nothing to do, so he will need mental stimulation.

All are rescues with pre-existing baggage. Work needs to be done in other areas, particularly with walking nicely and reactivity to other dogs.

NB. The precise protocols to best use for your own dog may be different to the approach I have worked out for Billie, Harvey and Sadie, which is why I don’t go into the exact details of your plan here. Finding instructions on the internet or TV that are not tailored to your own dogs can do more harm than good. One size does not fit all. If you live in my own area I would be very pleased to help with strategies specific to your own dog (see my Get Help page).

Speak Quietly and Dog Will Listen

Poodle Bosco is a confident friendly little dog is a testament to their good 'dog parenting'.

Bosco

Denver, an ex stud dog in a puppy farm, was rehomed from Many Tears Rescue in Wales

Denver

Two gorgeous Toy Poodles! They have had ten-year-old black Bosco since he was a puppy and the confident friendly little dog is a testament to their good ‘dog parenting’.

Denver they rehomed from Many Tears Rescue in Wales a couple of years ago and he was used as a stud dog in a puppy farm. The damage done to these dogs with years of being being pent up and complete lack of early socialisation is awful. He is about five years old. Initially he spent most of his time hiding – especially from the man. They have come a long, long way with him since then but now need that final push, someone with experience who can see things through different eyes.

Denver will still make a wide berth around the gentleman, running to hide under the kitchen table from where he watches in ‘safety’. Where cajolling and trying to win him over has gone some of the way, I feel running around trying to please him is exerting its own pressure upon Denver. The man in particular needs more of a ‘take it or leave it’ approach. Both little dogs have too much freedom with dog flap left open day and night, even when the couple are out. They graze on food permanently left down. Some basic boundaries should also go some way to making Denver feel more secure.

He keeps his distance – quietly watching – on alert. He was wary of me; with my body angled away and my hand slowly out with a piece of cheese, he gently took it from me then quickly backed away to safety.

Little Denver needs to learn to happily engage with the man as he does now with the lady, so I showed him what I would myself do. I first demonstrated with Bosco so Denver could watch him being rewarded with cheese. Looking away from him, I then very quietly and gently asked Denver to sit which he did at a distance of about six feet from me. I gently tossed him cheese. When he was just one inch closer I asked him to sit again – cheese. In this way, over a period of days or maybe even weeks, the man will get Denver close to him – he can even earn some of his daily food quota in this way. The reason I asked Denver to sit was so he might feel the food was for doing something easy – sitting – rather than doing something very hard which was to engage directly with the man.

Once Denver is sitting close, he can hand him the food rather than drop it on the floor. Next step is to touch him just once before feeding – and so on. Later on he can gradually be taught to ‘touch’ people’s hands and to look them in the eye using clicker-type method (operant conditioning). The secret is to break everything down into tiny steps and to be very patient.

While this process is being worked on, the man must make no attempt to touch Denver at any time. If he plays sufficiently hard to get for long enough, the little dog should eventually feel safe enough to actually choose to be touched.

Denver keeps his distance - quietly watching - on alert.

Denver

I demonstrated with Bosco who had been taught lots of actions just how effective speaking very softly and saying the word only once can be. The dog focusses. A firm command is not far short of using physical force in order to make a dog do something and therefore exerts pressure of a kind. A gentle ‘request’ means the dog feels he’s choosing to do what we want.

Think ‘request’, not ‘command’!

Patience is something these people have already demonstrated over the past two years that they have in abundance.

Nervous or Friendly Exuberance?

Nervous excitement

Labrador hiding under a chair when the harness came out

Daisy

Could she be nervous?

Because a dog jumps all over you when you arrive, grabs and mouths you and excitedly runs around panting and carrying toys, I don’t believe it is necessarily simply a display of friendliness.

Pale Labrador Daisy was certainly not unfriendly, but all this hyperactivity when I arrived spelt something different to me.

Nervous excitement

I liken dogs like this to the sort of person who opens the door to a guest and then is all over them, kissing them, welcoming them, forcing drink and food onto them, fussing around, talking non-stop and never leaving them alone.

A human doing this would be in a highly anxious or nervous state – certainly not relaxed and simply happy to see her guest.

The reason I was called is that Daisy is erratic with other dogs when out – but not all dogs thankfully. She is fine with some and not with others. I could see that she was also quite highly strung at home.

When I arrived the excitement carried on for about twenty minutes until she lay down and panted for a while before settling.

Daisy lives with 13-year -old Weimaraner Suzy (looking like a queen on her chair!). Suzy is doing brilliantly for her age, but as a younger dog was apparently even more hyped up than Daisy.

Worried before walks

Suzy

I am a believer in a dog being as comfortable as possible when out walking and encountering other dogs, using equipment that also gives the owner maximum confidence. An anxious or nervous dog will immediately pick up on anxiety in her human.

We looked at Daisy’s stiff and rather uncomfortable harness and then I showed the kind I prefer. As soon as the harnesses came out Daisy was looking away, obviously very nervous. She went and hid under a chair.

This is how she is before walks. Worried.

There is a lot of general stuff to be done at home to do to give Daisy maximum faith in her owners and to boost her confidence. At the moment both dogs get everything they ask for in terms of attention on demand, whilst not necessarily cooperating when demands are made upon them.

Nervous Daisy will be happier and more confident with a reward-based relationship where she is happy working with humans who make firm decisions, who don’t give in to her all the time and who help to make her feel safe when out.

It will then be their decision whether or not she should engage with a certain dog and not hers.

Training commands doesn’t always help

Daisy has been to training classes and knows a lot of commands. Some things take more than just training. They take respect and willingness too, so in a way it’s the humans that need to learn.

Things like the mouthing and jumping up have been unwittingly reinforced. If telling her to ‘get down’ or to ‘stop’ happened to work, she would no longer be doing these things after two years.

NB. For the sake of the story and for confidentiality also, this isn’t a complete ‘report’. If you listen to ‘other people’ or find instructions on the internet or TV that are not tailored to your own dog it can do more harm than good. Click here for help.

Over-Trained Collie Lacks Enthusiasm

Border Collie Ellie can be rather aloof, bestowing her attention largely under her own termsEllie is a clever, gentle, beautiful, well trained 4-year old Border Collie. She knows a large number of commands and names for various objects. She is also a perfect example of how knowing words and commands can be pretty irrelevant if she feels like ignoring them. It always works best if a dog wants to do something of his or her own free will.

Ellie can be rather aloof, bestowing her attention largely under her own terms. She can be quite demanding whilst not putting herself out in response to their demands. This is most demonstrated by her lack of recall, even indoors or from the garden. She absolutely understands what is required, but sees her owners’ wishes as irrelevant so she simply iognores them. In subtle ways she is used to making them do the running.

Where food is concerned her humans, like so many, feel they are in control (human fashion) with commands to Sit and Wait after the food is down, but because her food is always brought to her Ellie may well see it differently – like she’s being waited on. The little routine she has to go through must make no sense to her. Where is the logic of waiting after the food is down or available? Is there any animal that would do that? Waiting before it goes down is a lot more sensible – as does having to put in a bit of effort to go get it!

In some circumstances Ellie can be quite a nervous dog with some typical Collie traits. She is worried by other dogs they meet when out, and very reactive to passing large or sudden vehicles, trains on the nearby railway line and so on, wanting to lunge and chase them. No amount of traditional training or ‘controlling’ has stopped her doing this beyond preventing her through physical strength. She barks at vehicles, horses and dogs as they pass her garden. It is difficult because these things happen suddenly. Dogs react most to ‘sudden’ (as do we). A steady stream of tracters or trains would soon habituate her.

In their role of parents/leaders, her humans now need to convince her that they are there to protect her and to make the decisions,both at home and when out. Commands, telling her to Be Quiet and ‘training’ just are not doing the job. What is needed is a lot more subtle.

This is a classic example of people who have done all the ‘right’ things to give their dog a happy and fulfilled life – long walks, training, socialising, agility and so on – but where things don’t improve. The only way things will change with Ellie is if her humans change what they themselves do. The whole walking, barking, reactivity thing needs to be dealt with in an entirely different way. Instead of imposing human demands upon her, she needs a chance to work out for herself the appropriate behaviour without the distraction of commands. She needs to feel safe.

Don’t get me wrong, commands like Come, Stop, Stay and Sit all have their place, but we tend to use them willy nilly when they are inappropriate or unimportant so they lose their power when they are vital. A calm state of mind isn’t well served by commands. Silence is Golden (I think that was The Tremeloes!).  A loose lead, a calm owner who takes appropriate action rather than using commands, who acts logically as a leader or parent would – and that is not to force her to Sit and Wait, trapped like a sitting duck as ‘danger’ approaches (or to march directly onwards commanding ‘Leave It’ as most traditional dog training will dictate) – will result in a more confident and trusting dog. And this brings us back to the beginning. In order to trust them with her safety, she also needs to see them as the decision-makers and protectors at home too.

There is a lot to think about to start with, but gradually if people work at it and are consistent, if they look at things from the dog’s perspective, a new way of living with a dog becomes a way of life and the dog learns self control.

I can help you, too, with these problems or any other that you may be having with your dog.