Archive for the ‘Dog Behaviour’ Category

Training Tip: Will I have to use treats forever?   Leave a comment

Training Tip – from ThinkingPets Sept Newsletter. See whole newsletter @ ThinkingPets.com.

We get a lot of questions from concerned owners about food rewards and where it ends. “Will I always have to carry around a treat to get my dog to do what he’s told?” No you won’t. Food rewards help you initially teach your dog the behaviour that you want, such as ‘sit’ or ‘down’. After your dog knows the command off by heart, you can start to fade out the food rewards.

  • The key is to do it gradually. Start by asking your dog for a behaviour such as sit without any food in your hand. When he complies, reward him with multiple treats.
  • Once your dog can do that reliably, start asking for two behaviours before giving a reward. So ask the dog to sit and then down, for example, before giving the treat. Later you can ask for three or four behaviours in a row.
  • In the beginning, reward your dog 9 out of every times with a treat. The rest of the time you can simply use a click or say ‘good boy’. Once that is going well, start rewarding every 8 times out of 10 and so on.
  • Do make sure that you don’t accidentally always reward the ‘sit’ and not the ‘down’ with food, for example, when varying rewards.
  • Random reinforcement works very well; for the dog it’s like gambling. He will do his best every time, just in case this is the time he’ll get that cookie!
  • Never totally stop rewarding your dog. But you can work with your dog so that sometimes when you are without a treat, a good cuddle or ‘good dog’ will do just as well.
And now from me:
When you use reward based training, you have to find a reward that your dogs really wants/likes, not just one that you think he “should” like.  So do a bit of research trying out foods – for some dogs bits of apple can be as rewarding as biltong.  Ideally the food should keep well when out of the fridge if you’re not using it immediately.  There should also be a heirachy of treats – the less interesting ones for easy stuff, esp perhaps at home where there are few distractions, and exciting yummies for the park/training class.
I use a mixture of treats for my classes: Eukanuba puppy biscuits break easily and are well liked by the pups, plus thin slices of viennas dried in the oven, chopped up droe wors, cat pellets, dry liver biscuits.  All these keep well in an airtight container between sessions.
Just had a wonderful weekend at Langebaan where we had fun walking our friend’s dog on the beach – her friendly play invitations to the other dogs around weren’t always well received but she found a few pals to charge around with, such a pleasure to watch!  It’s what I encourage my clients to aim for – a well socialised animal, but obedient to it’s humans so it can go out and about and be a pleasure to have around.
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A Normal Dog?   Leave a comment

This is so true, we hear it all the time, and our animal welfare kennels are evidence of the misunderstandings that abound between dog and human.  If you’re reading this, you’re already stepping into the category of  ‘abnormal’ owner, so well done!:-)

A NORMAL DOG??

By Tracy Nonomalcao (USA)

Recently, a colleague and friend posted a picture on Facebook accompanied by a caption saying something to the effect of “does anyone have ‘normal’ dogs?” indicating that her dogs had a variety of issues which she was dedicated to working with – separation anxiety, noise sensitivity, fear aggression, etc.  “All I ever wanted was a normal dog!”

I frequently hear this in my practice and am forced to ask, “Really?  You really think you want a ‘normal’ dog?!”

What exactly is a ‘normal’ dog?  Here are some characteristics of normal dogs:

  • normal dogs bite
  • normal dogs have no standards as to appropriate elimination sites with the exception of “where I sleep is out of bounds”
  • normal dogs do not come when called if something more interesting is going on
  • normal dogs default to responding to new stimuli in their environment fearfully.  Fear is a survival adaptation and keeps a dog safe.
  • normal dogs chew, dissect, and destroy things
  • normal dogs resource guard
  • normal dogs bark and growl
  • normal dogs dig holes
  • normal dogs hump legs
  • normal dogs vocalize when left alone
  • normal dogs chase squirrels, deer, and cats
  • normal dogs kill small animals
  • normal dogs pull on the leash
  • normal dogs often like to run around as fast as they can, even if they knock over small children or grandma in the process
  • normal dogs lift their legs and pee on trees, even when we bring those trees into our houses and put lights and ornaments all over them
  • normal dogs like to sniff EVERYTHING – crotches (human and canine), fire hydrants, trees, bushes, gopher holes
  • normal dogs eat poop
  • normal dogs tear up the garbage, counter surf, and eat expensive panties or heels
  • normal dogs roll in poop and dead things
  • normal dogs do not like every dog they meet
  • normal dogs do not want to be hugged, kissed, touched, or stared at by every person they meet in every situation
  • normal dogs don’t like having their nails trimmed, mats removed from their coat, or grooming
  • normal dogs don’t naturally love being crated
  • normal dogs don’t naturally love wearing sweaters, being carried in purses or strollers, or wearing booties

Looking at all these things that normal dogs do, how many of you want one?  All of these things are NORMAL DOG BEHAVIOURS. 

If humans did not intervene, these are the things that dogs would do naturally.  I’d argue that very, very few humans would even know what to do with a truly “normal” dog if they came across one.  Normal dogs do not make good pets.

What we want in a pet dog is abnormal behaviour.  We want a creature which has evolved for millennia as a hunter to act like prey doesn’t matter.  We want dogs to learn to go potty outside the house, even when we bring doggy bathrooms (trees) into our homes as holiday decorations.

We want dogs to like every dog and person they meet.  We want dogs to be silent animals.  We want dogs to walk politely on a loose leash, even though our walking pace is comparatively very slow.  (Have you ever been caught behind someone who moves slowly when you’re in a hurry, either walking or driving?  Frustrating!)

We want dogs to never bite, no matter what, even when they are harassed, abused, and neglected.

What we want from dogs are behaviours which are ethologically incompatible with their evolution as a species.  We like dogs, but not their “dogginess.”  Normal dogs end up in shelters for just this reason.  Abnormal dogs get to stay in their homes. Part of the problem is also in what is defined as “normal dog owner” behaviour.

“Normal” dog owners:

  • don’t take their dog to class
  • don’t go out of their way to socialize the dog extensively and appropriately during puppyhood
  • place their dog’s physical and mental stimulation needs somewhere around #894 on their list of priorities
  • don’t manage their dogs to prevent rehearsal of bad behaviour
  • focus on what their dog is doing “wrong” and ignoring the dog when he does the “right” things
  • don’t train their dogs and then blame the dog for misbehaving
  • expect dogs know the difference between “right” and “wrong” naturally
  • look for a quick fix to behaviour problems
  • choose to confine the dog to the back yard, turn him into a shelter, or have him euthanized before consulting with a behaviour professional to address the problem

Normal dog owners get normal dog behaviours.  Abnormal dog owners are proactive about preventing behaviour problems and address any new problems as soon as they are noticed.  If they don’t know what to do about a problem, they research to find a good trainer who uses dog-friendly training methods.  They exercise and train their dogs, even if they are busy.  They make spending time with the dog and helping him thrive, a priority.

While no dog is perfect, realizing that virtually everything we expect of dogs is unnatural for them highlights the need for training.  Part of what makes dogs so wonderful is the fact that they are generally more than happy to exchange behaviours which are rooted in hundreds of thousands of years of instinct for an owner that will spend a few minutes a day training them to offer alternative, incompatible, and socially desirable behaviours.

Dogs don’t come “perfect,” whether they are brought into the home as puppies or as adult dogs they need training.  Well-behaved dogs rarely happen by chance, they are usually well-trained dogs.  “Bad” behaviour in dogs is not bad behaviour to dogs, it is simply normal behaviour.  I think that society does dogs a disservice with the assumption that “good behaviours” are the norm and “bad behaviours” are aberrant.  It is the dogs that pay for this misunderstanding, often with their lives.  It’s like something out of the Twilight Zone.

Posted 24/08/2011 by Rose's Puppy School in Dog Behaviour

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Born to be a midwife (for pets, not humans!)   Leave a comment

I got a new book from work yesterday (I work at Wordsworth Books during the day, puppy class in the evening):

‘The Art of Raising a Puppy’ written by The Monks of New Skete. Published by Little Brown, R300 at Wordsworth.  ISBN 9780316083270.

Written 20 years ago and recently updated and revised in a lovely hardback version, full of photos of their dogs and other dogs brought to the monastery for training.

Some quotes:
“There is an art to raising a puppy that is not solely the domain of the naturally gifted.  It can be acquired by any responsible owner; what is needed is a desire for true companionship, an openness to learning, and a willingness to invest time and energy in caring for and training the puppy.  The more informed you are on the background, development, and training of your pup, the more you will approach him with the patience and understanding necessary for an enjoyable and rewarding relationship.”

“…dog training actually goes far beyond the elementary instruction of basic obedience commands; it must encompass a whole new attitude and lifestyle with your dog.  It must touch on the levels of a dog’s own life that have often been ignored.”

So far I’ve read the first few chapters where they carefully take the reader through the birth and first weeks of life, using one of their bitches and her litter as models.  Having been midwife to 4 Jack Russell litters, 2 German Shepherd litters and 9 or so Burmese cat litters, I can honestly say that those hours spent waiting with my 4 legged girl friends, feeling their trust and  courage, watching the incredible birth process and mourning the ones who didn’t make the traumas of being born have been amongst the most precious of my life.  I WISH I could earn a living being an animal midwife!  So this start to the book resonated strongly with me.  Their purpose in starting right at birth is to help new owners (I prefer the term guardians) become aware of the impact of those early days on their puppy.  Many owners seem to think their dog’s life only began when it arrived at their house.

Will say more when I’ve read more!  You’ll find I’ll be talking books quite often as I am pretty obsessed by reading in general and learning as much as I can about understanding dogs more.