News: Guest Posts
It’s that time of year when good doggy manners manner. Sophia Yin, DVM has these simple pointers for teaching how not to jump up on your guests, but how to be good hosts and greet them by sitting politely. Her techniques, like using high reinforcement rates, can be easily applied to other training essentials, like the “holy grail” of a solid recall. Give it a try! —Editor’s Note
Everyone knows that you should reward good behavior and ignore bad behaviors, right? So if your dog jumps on you, ignore the jumping and then reward with a treat when he sits, right? WRONG! This answer is wrong enough that if you're one of my interns and, after your first several sessions, you still think it’s right, you will not be an intern for much longer. Why? Because if this is the information you provide to clients, many will fail and turn to more punitive methods. The following are 5 essential tips for approaching problem behaviors such as jumping.
Tip 1: Don’t ignore the unwanted behavior. Remove the rewards for unwanted behavior instead. It turns out that if you ignore unwanted behavior, you may accidentally be rewarding it. You should instead remove rewards for unwanted behavior-which is very different. For instance, most clients complain that they are ignoring their dog when he jumps but they aren’t getting the results they want. They don't realize that the dog does not perceive their actions as removal of attention. Their hands are still dangling like tug toys or they are still walking around which makes them look interactive, see the video below. What owners should be told is to remove what their dog wants, attention in this case, within 0.5 seconds and do it in a way that the dog perceives that they have removed their attention. That may mean standing up completely straight and holding both arms folded against their body while they stand silent and stationary. Or it may just mean pulling their hands away and back to their body. If they remove their attention in a clear manner, they will see a quick and clear response from their dog.
Tip 2: Train the desired behavior first. It’s essential that the humans know to first train the good behavior—sitting politely—or it could take the dog forever to figure out what else will earn rewards besides jumping. A five or ten-minute training session where the dog earns 10-50 rewards is generally adequate.
Tip 3: Use a high reinforcement rate first. Then quickly and systematically reduce and vary the rate. Once the dog is sitting, the owners need to reward at a high reinforcement rate. Giving just one treat for sitting often won't hack it. The first treat you give is for sitting, but additional treats are for remaining seated so that Rover doesn’t just get up and try to jump again. At first, the treats should come rapidly—enough to keep Rover seated—but as soon as Rover is sitting stably at that treat interval, the interval should be increased and varied. This process should be repeated until Rover is sitting automatically and remaining stably seated. Then the focus should be on switching to other rewards such as petting and praise.
Tip 4: Use a flash lure to prevent Rover from getting the first jump in. If your dog tends to jump on you and then sit afterwards, you should change your strategy FAST so that you don't accidentally reward this chain of behaviors—jump then sit. You can add in what I call a flash lure before Rover has a chance to jump. As he’s running over to you but before he has a chance to jump (preferably when he’s about 2 steps away), suddenly flash a treat right to his nose level by just straightening your arm. This will cause him to stop will all four feet on the floor. When he's completely stationary, you can quickly bring the treat all the way back to your body and clearly out of his reach so he knows he doesn't get it yet. Once he sits, then he gets the treat.
Tip 5: Practice a lot in a short period of time. Because your goal is to develop a new greeting habit with your dog, it’s essential that you practice a lot over a short period of time. For instance, if you set up the situation where your dog is excited to see you five times a day and each time he earns 10-20 rewards and never has a chance to jump then by tomorrow he will probably be sitting automatically in this situation. By the end of the week, the good behavior should be a habit!
That's, of course, assuming that in between your practice sessions he didn't have a chance to get rewards for the opposite behavior!
These are some important subtleties that can help you get behavior changes quickly. It’s important to apply these principles to all training exercises to get the fastest progress.
Used with permission from Dr. Sophia Yin, visit her on drsophiayin.com
Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Personal preferences vary
I’m not proud to admit it, but once when we were fostering a puppy, frustration and lack of sleep led me to moan to my husband, “Whose bright idea was it to say yes to having a puppy in the house?” (The answer, obviously, was me.) The puppy who led me to complain was a four-month old field bred English Springer Spaniel who was active by any standards and who didn’t like to eliminate on leash, but was perfectly happy to do so in her crate. If she settled down to relax with something to chew on, it never lasted more than about two minutes. Sigh.
When she was just a few weeks older, we were not quite so mentally and physically exhausted and life improved for us. She was a delight in play and on outings of all kinds, and we had great fun training her because she was so enthusiastic about the process. She was also so adorable that it was impossible to take a bad photo of her. The cuteness of puppies goes a long way with me, but I can’t help feeling that it does not completely compensate for the challenges of puppyhood. I know many people disagree and love the puppy stage more than any other.
Adolescent dogs pose challenges to most guardians. During this developmental period, most dogs become more independent and less likely to stick close to you at all times. Without the adorable puppyness to protect them and without the calming influence of age, adolescent dogs are at risk of being too much trouble to guardians who were not prepared for a dog, and somehow failed to realize that all puppies do grow up. Adolescence is the age at which more dogs are surrendered to shelters or rescues than any other age.
Some rules and routines, lots of exercise and play, plus a good solid base of training (especially recalls) during puppyhood usually buffer people and their dogs from the worst that adolescence can bring. That makes it easier to love having a dog of this age. There’s the joy of new possibilities and activities, a minimum of health issues or related limitations and fun to be had in so many ways. Yes, even a well-trained dog at this stage of life is likely to respond to a known cue occasionally by looking at you with an expression that says, “Yeah, I heard you. I’m just not interested in doing that right now.” And yes, adolescence brings some unpredictability in behavior in almost all dogs, but many people enjoy this lively, exploratory phase.
Dogs in middle age are often the easiest to live with. From the age of about three years to six or seven years, dogs are typically in a lovely intermediate stage. They are active and willing to do just about anything, but often more flexible than when they were younger. If the morning walk gets postponed a couple of hours, they are less likely to react badly with pacing, whining, chewing, or other issues. (I say “less likely” because it can still happen, and some dogs are never tolerant of a lapse in activity or a change in schedules, no matter what their age.)
Many dogs in this age range have a good base of training, and can handle many situations. Training is a lifelong pursuit, but dogs of this age whose guardians have worked hard on training have usually mastered what they need to know by now.
It is often wonderful in many ways to have a middle-aged dog, but not everyone realizes their good fortune at the time. The appreciation often occurs when they acquire a younger dog who is full of vim and vigor. There’s nothing like such a dog to make people yearn for the easy keeper stage that had been taken for granted with the previous dog.
Old dogs are a special wonder, having outlived many of their peers. I love to meet those dogs who have 13, 14, 15 or more years behind them and marvel at their graceful aging. Sometimes old dogs can make me feel a little bit emotional as I see their bodies failing them. When they struggle to see or to stand up to greet me, or I see one chase a ball with a speed that’s more walking than running there’s a certain sadness to it, but it’s matched by a sweetness, too. Geriatric dogs are the lucky ones who have had full lives, though nobody could convince me that even a single dog has ever lived long enough.
It can be hard to have an older dog because they may need a lot of physically demanding, exhausting extra care, and expensive medical bills may be a drain on finances. Remembering them in earlier, more carefree or pain free times, perhaps as a mischievous puppy or a young adult with endless stamina hurts the heart. Still, there’s a special kind of love involved in caring for a dog to ease the way through the later part of life and even to the very last second of it. Though a dog’s golden years may be wonderful, many dogs need a little extra patience and care. Knowing that the time to say good-bye draws near reminds me of how precious the special moments together are. That can make the great love for a dog a little bigger even when you didn’t think there was any more love to be had.
Each age has its advantages, and I sometimes think I like whatever age the dog is. If forced to choose, though, I suppose I’m especially fond of the oldest of dogs. Which age do you like best?
Dog's Life: Lifestyle
8-year old Husky-Beagle mix limps to find help
Just before Thanksgiving, John Miles was out walking his 8-year old Husky-Beagle mix Lucy in the streets of Boston when they were both hit by a speeding car. John blacked out from the trauma, which included two broken legs, a broken arm, and 15 facial fractures. Lucy was also hurt, but managed to limp to a nearby dentist's office and bark for help. The pup then made her way back and stayed by John's side until rescuers arrived. Lucy braced herself against John's body and refused to budge, even as he was lifted into the ambulance.
John was not carrying his wallet, so first responders used Lucy's identification tags to get in contact with his family (an important reminder that we should always carry identification, even if we're just going outside for a quick walk around the block!).
Both John and Lucy will be in surgery this week for their injuries. In the meantime, Lucy has been staying with John's family while he's in the hospital. According to John's daughter, Caitlan, Lucy has been crying for John to come home. Thanks to Lucy's heoric act, the two will be reunited soon and on the mend!
Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Deputy LeAna Cudzilo is honored for her selfless rescue
Deputy LeAna Cudzilo was recently awarded Deputy of the Month by the Manatee County Sheriff's Department in Florida for saving a runaway pup from shark infested waters.
Back in August, a Coonhound mix named Fern was startled by the new invisible electric fence installed in her yard. The surprise shock caused her to run through the "barrier" and fall off of a nearby boat dock. The scared pup ended up in the ocean late at night, howling for help.
Fortunately Deputy LeAna arrived on the scene and quickly took control of the rescue. She asked the dog's family to get in a boat and help her get Fern back to shore. However, Fern was scared of the boat's motor, making it difficult to pull her to safety. LeAna also noticed people shark fishing on the pier, meaning the situation was worse than she originally thought. By now Fern was also starting to struggle to stay afloat as exhaustion set in. LeAna knew she had to take action fast. Ignoring the threat of sharks and fishing hooks in the dark ocean, LeAna removed her belt and vest and jumped into the 25 feet deep water and guided Fern back to safety.
According to Sheriff Brad Steube, the Department decided to honor LeAna for going beyond the call of duty and averting the tragic loss of a pet.
With so many negative incidents involving law enforcement and dogs recently, it's always great to hear a positive story. I'm also glad that Fern was reunited with her family and hope they will reconsider the invisible fence.
There are many reasons I don't like electric fences--the electric shock itself, the possibility of trapping pets in an area that other dangerous animals can enter, the fact that some dogs can run through the shock, etc. Fern's plight highlights how easily the product's flaws can end up in a tragic situation.
A wonderful pictorial story of a very unique animal rescue—amazing how the dogs took to this little baby squirrel.
Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Another way in which dogs are perfect
For most runners, finding training partners is a challenge because of many factors: social compatibility, scheduling issues, trail versus street preferences, tendency to be competitive. Additionally, and perhaps most limiting, they must run at close to the same pace.
Enter the dog, and voilà, problem solved! Dogs have the ability to run at a wide variety of paces. As long as they are healthy and free of any prohibitive medical issues, including injuries, most dogs can comfortably run at the pace of any human runner.
In my town of Flagstaff, Ariz., you can see that range of paces daily. On the most popular running routes, you’re bound to see slow folks with a dog trotting along side as well as professional elite runners zipping by in a serious hurry with their dogs, and everything in between. One of my running partners is a mixed breed named Marley, and he is happy at a lot of different speeds.
Here’s me running with Marley while we cool down at a very slow pace after our run.
And here’s my husband with Marley going at a much faster pace.
Marley is equally comfortable at either speed.
It’s true that sometimes dogs do better with faster runners and are more likely to pull or leap around with slower runners, but specifically training the dog to run nicely on leash at the slower pace is the key to enjoyable runs for both people and dogs. Also, there are occasionally intermediate paces that a dog struggles with simply because that pace is not quite right for any particular gait, but mostly, our dogs adjust to any pace.
As a bonus, the social and scheduling issues that face us with most humans are irrelevant. People enjoy running with their dogs, and suggesting a running outing and having our dog beg off because of being tired or because of another appointment isn’t going to happen. Dogs are the perfect any-pace running partners. As if we needed a reason to love them any more. . .
What is it about some cats and dogs when even the braviest of canines give ground to much smaller kitties protecting their patch—on the top of a staircase, near a doorway, a hallway or just about anywhere where a cat likes to guard? It's amazing how well dogs understand feline body language that cries out "you shall not pass." I guess if helps if have sharp claws with kung fu moves.
If you live with a multispecies family, who rules the roost in your household?
Dog's Life: Lifestyle
A judge to decide the fate of a pup caught up in a divorce
Shannon Louise Travis and Trisha Bridget Murray are getting a divorce, but there's only one thing they really care about--their Dachshund, Joey. The former couple is about to go to court over who gets to keep the 2-year old pup--New York's first matrimonial pet custody case.
Shannon and Trisha's ordeal is becoming more common as pets shfit in our culture to being true members of the family. New York City Justice Matthew Cooper summed up the predicament saying, "People who love their dogs almost always love them forever. But with divorce rates at record highs, the same cannot always be said for those who marry."
According to Judge Cooper, New York lags behind other states in the legal standing of pets. In a city with canine concierges and dedicated pet taxis, it's surprising that this hasn't come up before (there have been non-divorce custody cases). But Joey will not be treated like property. In the hearing, Judge Cooper will be looking to see who was responsible for Joey's needs and will ask questions similar to those used in child custody cases.
Judge Cooper will have a difficult decision to make as the outcome of this case will certainly influence future pet custody cases. But it sounds like they have the right person for the job.
Judge Cooper said, "If judicial resources can be devoted to such matters as which party gets to use the Escalade as opposed to the Ferrari, or who gets to stay in the Hamptons house instead of the Aspen chalet, there is certainly room to give real consideration to a case involving a treasured pet."
Judge Cooper is a dog lover himself and his 12-year old rescue, Peaches, gives him a special interest in making sure this case gets the attention it deserves.
Dog's Life: Lifestyle
People don’t see the dog you love
There are so many drawbacks to living with and loving an aggressive dog. You have to manage or prevent any situations that cause your dog to behave aggressively. That may include feeding time, the arrival of visitors, or seeing other dogs. There’s the constant concern of an incident happening despite your best efforts at prevention. It may be impossible, or at least challenging, to join others for group walks, journeys to the park or to visit family over the holidays. But sometimes the worst part about having an aggressive dog is that other people don’t see the dog you love.
They only see the dog going crazy, barking at the delivery guy or lunging at every dog in the neighborhood. The creature they see is a snarling, growling, snapping dog who exhibits little behavior that makes getting to know him seem remotely appealing. They don’t see the sweet dog who cuddles with you at night and makes you smile when he tosses his toy in the air himself and tries to catch it with amusing, but largely unsuccessful, acrobatic moves. They don’t have the opportunity to see the dog who does a down stay all through dinner, who comes when called perfectly at home and performs any number of charming tricks on cue.
After years of working with them, I can assure you that most dogs with aggression issues are lovely to be around in most situations, however badly they may behave in others. Almost every client whose dog is aggressive makes some comment to me along the lines of “Other than when he’s biting (or lunging, barking, growling) he’s such an angel!” and I believe them. Many aggressive dogs are not at their best when out in public around strangers or other dogs, but are kind and lovable around the family, including small kids and even the cat. When you have a dog like that, it hurts when other people don’t see the good side of your dog, even though that’s what you see most of the time.
If you have an angel who is all too often an angel in disguise, what do you wish other people could see in your dog that you see every day?
Dog's Life: Lifestyle
The world said good-bye to one of Michael Vicks former fighting dogs this week as she succumbed to age related illness. Georgia became quite a celebrity after her rescue and left her mark on all who knew her. While I never had the opportunity to meet her, I’ve been told that Georgia was delightful and unforgettable.
I have to confess that when I first heard that some rescue groups were going to see if any of Michael Vicks fighting dogs could be saved, I disagreed. It didn’t make sense to me try and save dogs who had been bred and trained specifically for fighting when friendly, healthy dogs who had never been trained to fight were being euthanized all over the country every day. I love the breed, and was broken hearted by what they had been through, but I still thought it safest to let them go.
In the years since that terrible event, I have had the good fortune of meeting several of Vicks former dogs and I fell completely in love. The dogs I met were affectionate, happy, typical dogs who loved people and wanted to play with other dogs. Saving the Vick dogs ended up being a fabulous choice on so many levels. It is a reminder that all dogs deserve to be judged on their own merits, not by breed or history. It also brought a great deal of attention to all canine victims of dog fighting and gave some wonderful animals the love and happiness all dogs deserve.
Georgia was heavily scarred from fighting and was one of those who could not live with other dogs but she had a vast number of human friends who adored her. Georgia and the other Vick dogs were originally rescued by the amazing BAD RAP (Bay Area Dog-lovers Responsible About Pit-Bulls) rescue group. They traveled across the country hoping that a small number of the dogs could be saved. Instead they found that very few of the dogs were aggressive and many even enjoyed other dogs. BAD RAP evaluated the dogs, helped care for them and facilitated their eventual rescue and placement.
Some of the dogs that were unable to be adopted at that time were sent to foster homes and sanctuaries. Georgia went to Best Friends Animal Society in Utah, where she received much needed attention and training. She eventually passed her Canine Good Citizen test and was adopted into a loving home.
Georgia spent the last two years of her life as the beloved companion all dogs should be. When I think of Georgia, I try to remember one of the best lessons of dogs, which is to live in the moment. Georgia didn’t dwell on the past but lived joyfully in the moment. She was described as exuberant, confident and full of life.
Sweet Dreams Georgia and a huge thank you to all who helped her and the other Vick dogs get a second chance.
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