Friday, December 6, 2013

Punishment vs Positive

I know how tempting it can be.  Trust me.  We have all been there.  At the end of our ropes or leashes as it may be.  Most of the time it's with a puppy, though yours may be full size and not looking so puppyish anymore, (under the age of 2 all dogs should be considered either a puppy or the teenage/young adult version.)

You wouldn't think twice about stopping someone jerking their child around on a choke chair or worse using a shock collar on them, why is it any different with your dog?  We get extremely upset with our own children and they speak our language.  Even spanking your child now a days is seen as a last resort instead of the first step as it was 20-30 years ago. (which I think shows a lot of progress on our part).

How is it rational for someone to adopt a new addition to the family, then proceed to choke, shock, or use other implements of fear and intimidation to teach them our language.  Really the more I think about it the more absurd it sounds.  You would be calling the cops and reporting child abuse if you saw such a thing.  Well how is that any different when you treat your dog the same way?  They don't speak our language, yet they try to please us even when we use pain to stop their natural behaviors.  The sad thing is that we don't bother to learn any of their language, we expect them to learn ours and simply follow our lead.  How many of you knows what it means when your dog looks away from your face when you are staring at them? Or when they yawn or blink slowly?  Really it's simple, yet there are only a handful of people who bother to try and understand what their dogs are saying to them.  Instead of trying to work with their dogs as you would anyone else who didn't understand your culture or language, we submit them to a barrage of intimidating treatment.  
Even if your dog doesn't seem to be phased by the constant choking or tugging on the leash it still is affecting them. Dogs don't live in a static bubble.  They are either moving forward, loving the interaction you have with them or their environment, or they are learning that every time you interact with them, you could turn into a pain inflicting irrational person.  What is normal and expected in the dog world, does not always mesh with our own view of the world.  It still surprises me when I hear people thinking that rubbing their dog's nose in their poop or pee puddles will teach them not to do it again.  How quickly we forget that they don't understand what we are trying to tell them unless we take the time to teach them.  If you rub their nose in something unpleasant they will learn to fear you, not respect you.  They will still try to please you in other ways, they will just have learned that you are unpredictable and if they think you might fly off the handle they will simply hide from you.  Having your dog afraid of you does not make them behave any better for your sake, only to keep from being abused again.
  Having watched dogs from all different backgrounds that need help with behavior I can see the dogs who have been trained using harsh methods.  They tend to not listen or want to pay attention closely to their owners. They don't have any real good reason to, if they are not wearing their training devices they know they are out of your reach and so you have not really fixed the bad behavior, you have only taught them to respond to you when you are in control of their punishment devices.

The goal with positive training is to teach your dog the good behaviors you want them to offer you.

Does this look like the face of a dog who is scared of listening to you?  Just like people, puppies go through stages and phases as they grow.  You might have a perfectly trained dog at 12 weeks of age.  Then at week 18 your dog is not listening to anything you say.  Makes you want to pull your hair out doesn't it.  It's because just like us when we were younger, they test the limits of the rules periodically.   This is what I mean when I say, until they are 2 don't expect 100% from your dog at all times.  Just like raising kids it's not over with 6 weeks of successful training.  There are the terrible twos, the    pre-teen, the teenage stage, and then they become an "adult" and they still make stupid mistakes or don't always get things right the first time.  When you adopt a new furry member of your family please remember and keep that in mind when you step in that cold puddle on the floor for the 5th time in a week. (and if you are doing that there are a few things you should and should not be doing such as a food and water schedule and using a crate or play pen when you can't keep an eye on your puppy or dog).
 Would you really think of putting a shock collar on this sweet face?
The problem is they don't keep these cute faces long enough to get through their childish phases but they still feel like this on the inside.  

Think carefully about the methods you choose to train your dog.  What does this say about you and the relationship you want with your dog?  This is for people who want control, but are afraid they can't have it.  The reason people use fear tactics in training is they themselves feel fear.  Fear based training gives you a false sense of control over any given situation.  What you are really doing though is setting the scene for a possible tragedy as the more anxiety your dog feels in situations the more likely you are to loose control in the future.  Not from a rebellion necessarily, but because fear eventually spills into aggression.  It's the next step on the negative emotion ladder. So in reality you are only just staving off the inevitable, you have created a ticking time bomb whether or not you can see it.
Pain free, positive reinforcement training does take time, and it does take patience, and it does take treats.  Time and effort though pay off big time when your dog will do what you ask simply because you have asked.  Not because you have forced or scared him to.  Your dog is happy to do what you have asked because it has always been worth it.  You now have a teacher student relationship,or parent child relationship with your newly adopted.  As the two of you continue down life's road you will find you have created the best of friends in your furry companion. Consistent, and one who seeks to live in harmony with you. In my book that is better than a ticking time bomb any day.  They may not always be perfect, but neither are we.  You will however have a true friend and companion, who sees the same in you that you do in him.
Happy training!

Monday, December 2, 2013

Redirecting, the "How To" and "Whys"

First things first.  Redirecting, what does it mean?  Simply put, it means to ask your dog to do something else in place of what it is doing.  Say you have a chronic jumper.  You may not mind it all of the time, but lets say you are in your nice work clothes, or your frail elderly neighbor is coming over to say hi. How do you get your dog to not jump on everyone, every time? (to understand why they jump on you click here) 
 The best way is to simply ask them to do something else every time they are going to want to jump.  Note, you need to ask them before they jump. Asking for a sit before they get to you is what usually works the best when it comes to jumping, just remember to praise, and pet for good behavior.  Your dogs is simply happy to see you and is asking for your attention, don't forget that negative attention is still attention, and if your dog is so anxious for it they will take the negative attention as reinforcement for their behavior.  My suggestion is to make your dog's default behavior a nice sit at your feet, then if you would like your dog to put it's paws on you, you can ask for it.

When it comes to the mounting behavior, which has very little to do with social climbing or dominance behavior, you will need to watch your dog and get to know the cues he or she displays before the mounting behavior commences. To see why they do this, and how to fix it read here.  To use a "redirection behavior" here, you will need to get your dog's attention and ask for a sit, or maybe play tug, then offer the other end of the tug toy to the other dog (if the other dog is social).  I also suggest some well timed yawns, as well as glancing away from your dog to help your him or her calm down. Those are calming signals that dogs use on themselves and those around them to help them calm down. If you use them the can also help them to calm down as well.

Another way of looking at redirecting is breaking an old habit, and replacing it with a new habit.  Don't forget the rule of thumb 30 days to break an old habit and 30 days to make a new one.  Now this doesn't mean that it is going to take two months, nor does it mean that it will take only one. Think of it instead as 30 to 60 training sessions.  Now your dog may catch on faster than that, but please remember to give your dog the benefit of the doubt and don't expect too much of him or her too fast.  The younger the dog the less "set in" the habits will be and they will generally be easier to change.  However, don't despair if you have an older dog with bad habits you want to change, they can be, it might just take a bit more patience on your part.
 Now to the why, why bother with all that work of redirecting when all you want is the behavior to stop.  Have you ever tried to break a habit that you had and wanted to get rid of, smoking, nail biting, eating too much junk food?  What helped the most?  Simply stopping cold turkey?  Did you use replacement behaviors, such as snapping a rubber band on your wrist, or eating something else that maybe wasn't quite as bad for you?  You are much more likely to be successful at changing your habits, as well as your dog's if you replace it with something else.  It's as simple as that.  Here's to you and your dog's new behaviors!