Proactive training: Tired of correcting your dog every time you turn around? Make this your New Year's Resolution no matter what the time of year: "I will be proactive with my dog, not reactive!" Instead of waiting for your dog to dig, give her a toy (like a Buster Cube) to keep her busy! Rather than interrupting your telephone call to tell her to be quiet, when the phone rings have her go get her ball... So, give this a try: Think of your dog's most a nnoying behavior and envision an incompatible behavior to teach her as an alternative.
Nagging: Are you letting your dog nag you? Nagging behaviors are annoying and only teach the dog that you are the one being "led." To be your dog's true leader, you must not give in to her attention-seeking behavior. First, make sure you ignore any such nagging (for example, if your dog paws at you get up and walk away). Realize that if your dog has been nagging you for many months/years, the nagging will increase before it fades away. (In learning theory, this is called an extinction burst.) Don't give into the nagging no matter what. Do not acknowledge it even by yelling at her (or laughing at it if is cute but nagging behavior such as "talking"). As strange as it sounds, the yelling/laughing does acknowledge the behavior! Perhaps, you've seen parents give in to a child at a store screaming for a toy because they are embarrassed or even overwhelmed by it. Secondly, be proactive! If your dog nags you during your dinner, prior to sitting down at the table, give her an interactive toy (like a Kong) or put her in her crate. Lastly, decide on a polite behavior and capture that. For instance, if you want your dog to sit and give you eye contact to "say please," when your dog does just that capture it by clicking it and rewarding it. If need be, shape it by first rewarding the sit and then waiting for both the sit and eye contact. Here's a video of Maxine the pig being taught to give eye contact instead of grabbing treats from the hands of volunteers at Heartland Animal Sanctuary in Dane County WI. If Maxine can do it in less than 5 minutes, how fast can your dog learn to be polite??!!!
Training in a Multiple-Dog Household: It's important when training dogs in a multiple-dog household that you work with each dog individually on a behavior until that behavior becomes a habit. Otherwise, the dogs will sabotage your training efforts. For example, if you call your dogs to come before it's a habit, they will start coming and then get distracted and chase each other instead. A good resource is Patricia McConnell's book Feeling Outnumbered available on www.dogwise.com.
Recalls: "Dashing through the snow," coming when you call - does your dog ignore that verse? Having a solid recall (come command) is the most important behavior you can teach your dog. Give this a try: Have a line/leash on your dog (for safety sake). With the line and treats/toy in your hand, back up quickly (if your dog is shy, you'll need to determine how much excitement/”quickness” she can handle). Encourage your dog in. Get her excited to come to you! But remember, talking depends on how solid/shy the dog is. Saying “pup, pup, pup,” or clapping helps but not all dogs can handle that much encouragement (again depends on your dog’s noise tolerance)… When your dog starts coming in, mark it by saying "yes" or clicking a clicker** and reward with treat/toy. Praise by incorporating the cue word you want to use in the future (such as “good come, good girl”). Make a game of it – it’s fun to run to Mom!
Door dashing: Does your dog barge out the door when you least expect it? Teaching a "wait" at the door is essential to avoid any escapes. Try this: With your dog at your side and on leash (and you prepared with treats/toy), open the door ever so slightly. If your dog starts forward, shut the door. Keep working it again and again. When your dog remains in place, click/mark, reward and praise using the cue word you wish to implement in the future (such as "good dog, good wait"). You step through the door and give your release word. IF your dog is a practiced escape artist and continues to shoot past you at the door, you may want to start by tossing treats behind you so the dog goes to them and is busy eating while you go out the door. This would be a temporary fix until you can work on the procedure above. With a multiple-dog household, make sure you work this individually until it becomes a habit. Then, start working the group, using a group name like "Dogs, wait." Click here to see a demonstration of this technique.
Jumping: Is your dog jumping for joy or for attention? Jumping up on people is annoying attention-seeking behavior, yet is often reinforced by our friends and family who "don't mind" and even reward your dog for doing so. Give this a try: approach your dog. If she starts to jump up, don't say a word except to use your "body language" by crossing your arms, turning your back and walking away. You want to send the message using the language she understands best -- body language. And the message you want to send is: "If you're going to play like that, I'm taking my ball and leaving!" Keep practicing until you can approach and she keeps all four feet on the ground. When she does, click or mark the behavior and reward her with the attention she desires (and deserves)!
Drop its: So your pup pulled another sock out of the wash basket and you're tired of chasing her for it!? It's not too late to teach her to drop what she has... Since puppies start life competing with their litter mates, they persist until we teach them otherwise. Work on a simple "drop it," by exchanging an item of higher value for what she has in her mouth. That way, she will begin to understand that she is not in competition with you for anything! Give this a try: offer her a toy (one she likes, but not her favorite). When she starts playing with the first one, have her favorite treat/toy in hand. Put her favorite right up to her nose; when she drops the first toy, put the favorite in her mouth. Say "yes" or click to mark the behavior. Praise her! When she starts doing this consistently, you can add a cue such as "drop," "give," "out" to the process.
Counter surfing: Does your dog help herself to goodies on the counter? Dogs can get into real trouble surfing (eating foods that will make them sick, eating the guests' portions of your meal, or even turning on the stove!). Make sure you remove temptations and supervise her access to the kitchen. Teach an incompatible behavior like sending her to a mat in the kitchen instead. When she goes to it, click and give her a treat. When your dog is reliably going to the mat, you can put it on cue. Until then, you can also use body blocks to keep her from the temptation.
Leash walking: Tired of your dog pulling you daily as you take that 3 mile walk? Taking your dog on a walk for exercise when she pulls the entire way defeats the purpose, frustrates you and her, and just teaches her to pull! Try this instead: For exercise, play fetch by throwing the ball down the hall and/or down the stairs. Your dog doesn't know to fetch? Take a bucket of balls and throw them one at a time down the hall; keep "firing" them down there as quickly as she returns them. After she's worn off some energy (and her tongue is hanging out), take a few minutes to do some sits/downs and focusing exercises. Then, put on the leash and walk in short bursts up and down the hall, making sure you stop every time she tries to pull. Only proceed when the leash is loose.
House Training: Can't figure out why your dog is still having accidents in the house? Try this: keep a diary of when your dog eats, drinks, and then subsequently urinates and defecates. The key is to understand your dog's physical needs (is it 15 minutes after she drinks that she has to urinate or is it 5 minutes?) and then meld her needs with your time restraints. Also, use a crate and limit her freedom in the house. Supervise her at all times so that you can start to see her signal that she has to "go." Remember that her signal may be subtle (like pacing or sniffing more). So, you need to keep both eyes on her. A good resource for housebreaking is Way to Go! by Patricia McConnell available on www.dogwise.com.
Crating: An excellent tool for keeping your puppy out of harms way -- a crate is sometimes misunderstood as a "jail." Quite the opposite! After all we use cribs and playpens for our babies... A general rule for how long to keep your puppy in the crate during the day is one hour for each month of age plus one hour; therefore, an 8-week old puppy can be crated for three hours during the day before she needs a break. Night time in the crate is another story -- the puppy's system slows as she sleeps so typically she can last longer. How much longer depends on her size, when she last ate/drank and defecated/urinated, and if any noise awakens her.
Reactivity: Does your frightened dog try to scare off what it's afraid of? Many dogs that suffer from fear aggression, demonstrate reactivity around their triggers. If your dog is reactive, a helpful behavior to teach her is the "find it command." With find it, you toss treats in the direction away from the trigger. This should be done ONLY if the dog is not already reacting to the trigger. (Otherwise, you're not only rewarding your dog for the reaction but, most likely, the dog will be too aroused to take the treats.) The "find it" also gets the dog associating that good things happen when the trigger is around, as well as teaching an incompatible behavior to lunging at the trigger. To practice "find it," you set up at a distance from the trigger where the dog is calm (the dog's body language should tell you so). When the dog looks at the trigger, give him a "nano" second to look back at you. If he looks at you, click and jackpot him with treats and happy voice. Then toss some small treats on the ground away from the trigger and tell him to find it. You can also use a favorite toy with this exercise instead of the treats but it has to be a very high-valued toy (one that he may carry around for awhile).
Separation anxiety: Does your dog get upset when you leave for the day? Or, do you feel guilty leaving her? Before her distress turns into separation anxiety (a full-blown panic attack), make your departure a "fun thing" for your dog (and you). Try this: using an interactive toy such as a Kong or Busy Buddy, build up anticipation to your departure. Stuff the toy with delectable treats (e.g., layer with peanut butter/cheese/live and kibble). Be creative! Check out www.kongcompany.com for some recipes. Freeze the stuffed toy so the treats are challenging to get out. Then start building up your dog's anticipation by giving her the stuffed toy in short stints. That is, when she starts "getting into" the toy, take it away and put it back in the freezer. Do this in short bursts. When she starts looking excited as you reach for the toy in the freezer, you know she's starting to anticipate. So, start giving her the stuffed toy as you add in some of your departure routine, working up to putting your coat on, grabbing car keys, etc. A good resource for separation anxiety is I'll be Home Soon by Patricia McConnell available on www.dogwise.com.
Coprophagia: Does your dog suffer from Coprophagia-- a hard-to-spell and hard-to stomach habit? Coprophagia is a digestive behavior involving the consumption of feces. The ultimate cause of coprophagia in adult dogs has always been elusive. Some feel that the problem is behavioral while some feel it is an organic reason. Try this: Deny access to feces is the first step. On walks, the dog should be kept on a leash or halter and taught a “leave it” command when it attempts to sniff or ingest any feces. Supervise your dog when outside. In certain studies some dogs showed some benefit when a plant-based enzyme supplement was added to their diet. So try adding pineapple to your dog's food or products such as Forbid or Prozyme.