Thursday, January 2, 2014

Out with the Old and In with the New!

At this time of the year we are busy setting new goals for ourselves, have you stopped to think about setting some for your 4 legged companion?   It's really very similar to teach them to stop doing that really annoying thing, such as jumping all over you nice work suit as you get ready to walk out that door.  So how do you do it?  Well I just finished reading an article on how to succeed in your own personal goals and I was surprised at how much is exactly the same for dogs as it is people (in fact I had to double check I wasn't reading about dog training).

First off everything we do has a cue.  All our habits can be trace back to some sort of a trigger.  The same is true of your dog.  Why is it you are always craving that dessert after dinner?  Is it because that was what your family always did, so you do it too?  Why do we eat comfort food when we are upset?  Because it triggers good feelings and memories.  It literally makes us feel better. 

 Your dogs are no different.  What triggers your dog to jump on you?  Watch closely, notice the patterns that set life up.  A lot of times you dog knows when they hear the sound of your car, it makes it's own unique sound on the road.   When they hear that they get excited.  When a dog is happy to see someone instinct tells them to lick the lips or mouth of the one they are happy to see, just like we  give someone we love a hug.  The only problem is that our mouths are so far away.  So they jump.  When you are getting ready to leave you probably go through a routine, you dog notices that, and so starts to go through their own.  

If your dog is feeling lonely or bored and wants to play, but you are glued to the t.v. set, what's a dog to do?  Well they always get you up on your feet when they pick up an item that is either forbidden (your understanding, not theirs ), or if they pick up some new, novel thing.  Then they get you to play that beloved game of chase.  Even if it ends with them getting into trouble, they think it's worth it.

So how do you fix that?

This is where you get to choose new cues, what they are to mean, and when they will be implemented.  Lets take the issue of chewing on things he shouldn't.  You will need to teach the "drop it" cue and the "leave it" cue.  Then work on the "come" and the "fetch." Here's how it would go.  Take a tug toy and start playing.  Grab a yummy smelling treat and hold it right up to his nose.  He will drop the toy to open his mouth in order to eat the treat.  Right there is where you would click and then let him have the treat. The click tells him what he just did is correct, and that is what he is getting the treat for.  Then you repeat.  Play tug, say "drop it" while holding the treat up to his nose, then click and treat as soon as he drops the toy.
Next work on the "leave it" cue.  Hold a treat in your hand and tell your dog to leave it.  He will most likely try to get it.  It is most important that he does not.  Close your hand around the treat and if you need to pull it in close to you (not above you which will induce jumping).  As soon as he settles back down away from the treat, click and he can have it. Slowly try to get the treat down between his paws, this might take some time.  Don't go any faster than  he can resist.  You want to set him up to succeed, not fail or he will get frustrated and not like to play this game anymore.

So now you have your dog dropping things  and leaving them where they were dropped for you to come retrieve.  Now call your dog to you for a nice pet, or a treat.  That will then reinforce the come.

 Now to teach your dog to play fetch, so that when you are tired, your dog can still play with you without getting into trouble.  See how we are replacing the triggered behavior?
Here is a short clip of how to teach your dog to play fetch.  Note that your dog will take a bit more time, as Roxy knows how to fetch, she is simply being taught to fetch an item she does not normally fetch.  The teaching method is the same though.

So remember if your dog is needing some help with his New Years goals this year, you now have the know how to help him.  Don't just try to stop bad behavior, replace it with something you want your dog to do instead! 
Here's to a Happy New Year!

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