Chewing and Destruction. Finding his Own Employment

Chewing everything, jumping up and toileting in the house.

Chewing everything

Marley

Chewing and toileting indoors are enough to drive a patient dog owner mad! These are the negatives. Marley is beautiful. He is affectionate, gentle, brainy and funny.

They have been very fortunate with their older dog, an unusually placid German Shepherd. When getting a second dog, they hadn’t bargained for a ball of energy like Marley.

The nine-month-old Cocker Spaniel is so much like my own Pickle at that age in temperament. I have first-hand experience of a working dog without sufficient employment. He too would have been finding his own things to do by way of chewing and destruction had I not done things differently. Despite having had many dogs, Pickle was a big learning curve for me. I had never lived with a dog that required so much mental stimulation.

I wasn’t prepared for having to spend quite so much time doing things with my dog in order to keep him ‘good’. This meant providing some of the fulfillment his working breed requires.

He’s an ongoing project. It never stops and he’s now six years old.

The first thing I learnt very quickly with Pickle was that ‘No’ made him worse (see here how ‘No’ doesn’t work). Even though I knew from both experience and learning, that ‘No’ only makes things worse in the long term, I’m only human and sometimes couldn’t help myself! It made me feel better.

I also learnt the importance to my sanity of adapting his environment.

I particularly understand the frustration for busy people who have a dog like Marley or Pickle.

Adapt the dog or adapt the environment?

Pickle – a pen didn’t work

Marley’s most infuriating trait is his constant need for chewing.

To my mind he has access to too much of the house and there are too many things for chewing about the place. He will chew just about anything and has demolished a couple of DVDs in the past two days. I saw the chewed leg of a nice piece of furniture.

People often try to adapt their dog to fit into their environment.

I recommend they do the opposite – adapt their environment around the dog by making significant but mostly temporary changes. This by lifting and removing everything tempting or chewable and providing a constant supply of chew items. By shutting doors and blocking areas.

Adapting the dog means constant vigilance. Adapting the environment means teaching the dog what is acceptable one thing at a time.

Although the goal of my visit is to stop Marley chewing everything (as well as toileting in the house and jumping up), these things are just symptoms. They are symptoms of a dog that needs more one-to-one time, providing even more enrichment than his good off-lead walk a day.

Some activities are mentally stimulating whilst also stress-reducing – like hunting, foraging ….and chewing. A long walk, particularly if spent chasing a ball, may have the opposite effect.

Chewing helps a dog to calm himself – as it does ourselves. We chew chewing gum for instance.

The destruction is about keeping himself busy and maybe also helping himself to calm if he’s over- stressed (aroused/excited/bored). Digging, chewing, wrecking things, humping and so on are all symptoms – of ‘stress’.

Dogs do what works.

If jumping up works in terms of getting anyone’s attention, then Marley will jump up.

The price we pay, if ‘not jumping up’ is important to us, is for everyone, both ourselves and visitors, to react in the same way. Take away the ‘reward’ – attention. Then and just importantly they show him what does work. It will need time and patience.

Maybe as his jumping up is light and doesn’t hurt, they should decide how important this is to them and to pick their battles?

My Pickle never jumps up and it’s not because he is highly ‘trained’ (he’s not). Right from the time he arrived as a four-month-old puppy jumping up simply didn’t work. No notice of him was taken if his feet were off the floor. Plenty off attention was given when his feet were on the floor.

If chewing things satisfies a need to relieve frustration, boredom or other stress, then Marley will chew anything he can find. He needs regular activities and enrichment provided by his humans, and not only when he’s doing something they don’t want him to do. Initiating activities when he’s relaxed and restful is making ‘calmness’ rewarding.

Sometimes the time and hard work needs to be shared a bit more equally between family members and then it doesn’t seem quite so bad.

Effort put in on Marley now will pay off big time later on. I would guarantee that if he was taken out daily with a ‘positive force-free’ gun dog trainer who worked him, he would have more self-control at home. He would no longer be chewing things, jumping on people and toileting indoors.

Unrealistic and impossible, I know. But we can do other things that fulfill our brainy, working dogs.

My attempts to catch a photo of Marley!

 

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 with maybe a bit of poetic licence. The precise protocols to best use for your own dog may be different to the approaches I have worked out for Marley. Finding instructions on the internet or TV that are not tailored to your own dog can do more harm than good as the case needs to be assessed correctly. One size does not fit all so accurate assessment is important. Everything depends upon context. If you live in my own area I would be very pleased to help with strategies tailored to your own dog (see my Help page).

No No! Uh-Uh! New Puppy and Total Confusion

We get a new puppy with the belief that it must fit in with our family life. He must learn what is acceptable right from the start.

No No leaves puppy confusedThis sounds reasonable, doesn’t it?

What most people do is to try to teach the puppy what is NOT acceptable instead.

Cocker Spaniel Cookie is nine weeks old, and they have had him for just two days.

They have three very young children too. There are toys everywhere. The children have furry animal slippers. They run about and they make lots of exciting noise.

Imagine what a huge adjustment this is for a puppy, away from the only world he’s known.

Cookie gets excited and bites a child’s foot. Screams from a very upset child.

Dad goes ‘No No!’.

Cookie chews the carpet. ‘No No!’ A loud sound from a human. Or ‘Uh-Uh!’ It temporarily stops him. It’s possible he doesn’t even know the barking noise is aimed at him, but it’s very loud.

The most important message I can give this family in my first visit is to be creative. To find all sorts of ways of showing Cookie what he can do instead.

I showed them how to teach the puppy to come when called – for food. ‘Cookie-COME’ in a kind and bright voice. This then puts him on some sort of remote control unless, of course, he’s too aroused. Instead of ‘No No!’, they can call him away from what he’s doing and reward him for coming.

Then they can give him something else to do instead. It’s hard work and constant while puppy is awake.

The second important message is, when Cookie uses his teeth on something inappropriate, to keep showing him what he can chew. This means they need many more small and chewable objects to hand. 

A puppy needs to chew.

From www.dogguy.net

They also need pockets full of tiny tasty rewards – to reinforce everything he does right and to reward him.

Cookie has run of the downstairs and the quite big garden. He charges around, chasing the children as he would other puppies. With space comes uncontrolled wildness.

Parents are continually having to rescue their children from a puppy hanging onto their clothes.

So, the third most important thing in this very first visit was to lend them a puppy pen. Having had complete freedom for a couple of days Cookie may object for a while of course. They can make the pen into a kind of wonderland with, for instance, lots of stuff from their recycle bin for him to chew and wreck.

This will be Cookie’s safe place. Children don’t go in there.

Even outside the pen, they should let sleeping dogs lie. This is hard with youngest not yet two years of old. Cookie needs protecting too. I suggested the little girl imagines Cookie, when asleep, is in a bubble. If she bursts it a horrid smell comes out. She drew me a picture.

Cookie’s Bubble

One forgets how exhausting a tiny puppy can be.

I shall be going again in a few days when Cookie has had time to settle in. There is a lot to cover to make sure a puppy gets off to the very best start. We will be pre-empting possible future issues like resource guarding or separation problems.

They should be ‘socialising’ him to life outside – other dogs, cars, bicycles, people of all ages, shops and so on. This even before he has finished his injections because the earlier they do this the better. He’s so tiny they can carry him.

‘No No!’ is confusing. Correction and crossness can at best result in a puppy that is unmotivated to do what we want, scared of us even. At worst it can lead to confrontation or aggression. Focussing on trying to stop puppy doing puppy behaviours means everyone will be frustrated.

‘Yes Yes!’ is motivating. The puppy will want to please. Focussing on and reinforcing what puppy does right means everyone will be happy.

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.

 

 

Food Glorious Food.

An emergency visit to another biting puppy!

Food works wondersThe young couple have had eight-week-old Springer Spaniel puppy for just four days. His flying at them and grabbing legs and clothes as they walk about has reached such a level that they are wearing their wellies in the house now!

Actually this is sensible. So many people with puppies walk about in bare feet, socks or even fluffy sllppers with pom-poms and suffer.  Puppies instinctively chase and play with moving things.

Their trump card is – food!

Until a few days ago Piper was with her litter mates, all eight of them. She would chase, grab and bite. They would let her know, as would her mother, if she was too rough and she would understand.

Unfortunately, we humans are speaking an entirely different language. We think, with NO, whisking the hand away and perhaps grabbing her that we are telling her to stop. To her the play-kill game is simply intensifying.

Piper has now had four days honing her ‘grabbing clothes, chasing feet and biting hands’ skills!

In my first visit we dealt with the biting in exactly the same way as I did with Henry a few days ago.

We used food. We used food, not to reward biting but to reward behaviours that involved not biting.

They will also get a pen so she has a small area in which good things happen and in which she has plenty to chew and destroy when she gets over-excited! A sancturary, too, where she can fall asleep with nobody, children in particular, disturbing her.

I am always amazed how quickly such a young puppy catches on to what a clicker is all about.

I use it simply to say ‘Yes!’. If there is no clicker to hand the word can be used. It’s always followed by food. In a few minutes the puppy is looking for ways in effect to please us – looking for ways to make us say ‘Yes’ with that click. Every small wanted behaviour gets a ‘Yes!’ – like walking beside me without flying at my trousers. Very quickly she realised that she earned attention (and food) for sitting or being still.

Adorable.

The food she needs to eat anyway can be used for something useful. It can be used not only to teach her that the best things happen when she keeps her teeth for her toys and chews, but also to help introduce her to the outside world.

There are countless things outside their house and garden that Piper has yet to meet

The earlier the better.

Cars, lorries, wheelie bins, people with hats, other dogs big and small, bangs, smells – the list is endless. What better than to take her tea out in a pouch and with every new thing she encounters give her a bit of her food. She is small and light. She can be carried.

This way she will develop a happy curiosity and confidence in encountering new things – before the fear period hits at about thirteen weeks. Like a baby at a certain age may suddenly start to cry when a stranger says hello, a puppy can suddenly experience wariness. Unfortunately three months of age coincides with when most puppies venture out for the first time after their injections and it can be too late.

I shall visit again next week to see how they are doing. There are lots of things Puppy Parenting entails, including making sure from the beginning that puppy can be left alone for short periods happily, toilet training and walking beside them around house and garden without a lead initally.

The young couple should soon be able to save their boots for the country walks they will be taking with their wonderful Springer in a few months’ time.

 

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 with maybe a bit of poetic licence. The precise protocols to best use for your own puppy may be different to the approach I have worked out for piper, and group classes may not always provide all the answers for problems in the home. Finding instructions on the internet or TV can do more harm than good. If you live in my own area I would be very pleased to help with your own puppy. (see my Help page)

 

 

No No and No Doesn’t Teach a Dog

NO isn’t conveying to Buster what they do want of him

The word No didn't work. Clicker and food and Beagle is attentive.No No is a sure route to making an already confused dog even more bewildered – and frustrated too.

They picked up Beagle mix Buster from a rescue just a few days ago and though totally in love with him they are a little overwhelmed.

I find it hard to believe that he’s been there for two months and not quickly adopted. He’s beautiful with the softest coat imaginable. Possibly he wasn’t snapped up sooner because of his jumping up and excitability. He is only eleven months old.

You can imagine how an energetic young dog when released from two months confinement might react to being let loose in a house and garden!

He jumps up at people and the more they push him down and say No, the more wound up he gets, eventually using his mouth, teeth and claws on the hands that are pushing him away.

He jumps up at the sides in the kitchen while they prepare food. No No just winds him up.

He has mad tearing about sessions which can result on his leaping onto them or grabbing articles and wrecking them. No No!

They have a hamster in a cage at his head height. He is very curious. No No.

 

Turning No into Yes

Starting right now they will concentrate on three things – strategies to calm him down generally, removing temptation where they can, and turning No into Yes.

People can be quite surprised when I suggest a high rate of food reinforcement for everything they ask the dog to do and even to mark moments when the dog is being ‘good’ – not doing things they don’t want him to do. (This isn’t quite the same as doing things that they do want him to do).

People can also find the idea of constantly carrying food on them a challenge. This isn’t extra food which would merely make the dog fat. Why feed him all his food at mealtimes? Why not let him earn it throughout the day?

You can see from my photo how focused he became when I started working with my clicker and tiny food rewards. I had asked him to Sit (which he knows) and Wait (which I’m sure he doesn’t know) – and he did it!

Buster needs to constantly be shown what IS required of him. If jumping on the sides is not wanted, what is? Feet on the floor. But – what’s in it for him? Jumping up at the sides, the chaos it can cause and the possibility of a stolen snack is very rewarding to him. No No is just background noise.

This is my favourite video demonstrating the confusion No can cause and the success of Yes instead.

I suggest a sort of swear box. Whenever anyone says No to Buster they have to put 50p in the box. They can then treat themselves to a meal out. If they do very well, it might only be a coffee!