July 21, 2020
We'll post a link to this presentation in the chat so you can follow along or refer to all the linked resources afterwards.
"We need to learn to understand the language of dogs so that we can understand what our dogs are telling us. That is the secret of having a good life together."(Turid Rugaas - Calming Signals - The Art of Survival)
Spend time watching and studying your dog to learn what her particular body language means. Or after a "situation" occurs, think back to what you saw right before.
If you catch her early stress signals ⌃, you can get into management or (even better) training mode
and prevent problems.
Creates predictability and security.
Decreases stress about what will happen next.
Create a predictable, consistent daily routine, with times for sleeping, eating, play, socialization, enrichment, and learning.
Include time for "structured downtime" to help your dog learn to relax on his own.
Arrange the environment to set your animals up for success.
Sometimes it's easier to train yourself than your pets.
Pick up valuables, set limits on how long old pets interact with young pets or children, block off no-go areas, etc.
Reduce frustration, and form the basis for desirable, lifelong habits.
Meeting enrichment needs goes a long way towards supporting calm behavior.
Dogs and cats enjoy a variety of toys. Food puzzles and chews help meet their mental and oral enrichment needs.
Provide multiple daily options for mental & physical exercise.
"Enrichment is manipulating the environment to suit animals' (normal) behavior(Steve Dale - American Zoos)
or encouraging animals' behavior
to match the environment."
(source: Steve Dale, "Enrichment for Geriatric Dogs and Cats" presentation at the Lemonade Conference)
(source: Amy Cook, Ph.D. "The Play Way" presentation at the Lemonade Conference)
Studies have found that play after learning helps dogs perform better when they do the skills again later.
Play with your pets for at least 20 minutes a day, and after every training session.
But these are the things we tend to focus on.
The more you have to say "No",
the more you're introducing punishment
and frustration into your relationship.
And the more stressed out you and your animals will be.
Often where a frustrating behavior is happening,
it's in a situation where "training" is not happening:
Frustration happens when
the path to reinforcement is not clear.
Focus on "Alternate behaviors":
Build up a little box of pre-trained, non-irritating behaviors you can use in the moment as a shortcut.
Behaviors that are easy to do, well-practiced, high reinforcement history.
Then ask yourself:
"What is causing this behavior to happen?"
"What is the opposite of what my dog is doing?"
Then ask your dog to do that behavior instead.
With a teenage wild child, it can start to feel like
everything they do is wrong.
Pretty soon, that's all we can see: our BAD DOG.
When we start focusing on what our pets are doing right,
we realize we're missing a lot of GOOD things our they are already doing - things we want them to do.
And we're missing opportunities to reward those things.
Catch your dog doing something good 5 times a day.
Divide some of your dog's daily food into "treat stations" that you keep around your home.
Watch for your dog to do something you do want - UNCUED - and provide surprise rewards.
You're providing information. It's not fair only to tell your animals what they're doing wrong, and ignore them when they're getting it right.
When you start looking for opportunities to reward your animals, you'll probably find:
They're already doing lots of good, rewardable things that you've been missing out on.
They'll probably start doing those things more often trying to get more rewards out of you.
(or easily pushed over threshold)
To help your dog, you need to understand her threshold, and try to stay under it.
"'Threshold' is the sweet spot, the place where learning and thinking occur, where choices are possible, and where behavior changes (good ones!) can happen."(Suzanne Clothier, "Understanding Thresholds: It's More than Under- or Over")
With fearful dogs, the primary factor of threshold is usually
With a Whoa Doggie, "threshold" may be
psychological, emotional, or sensory.
like walks, hikes, agility, ball games, tug, etc. ...
may not be enough to take the edge off your dog's energy.
If all you ever do is go for longer and longer walks, or play ever-rowdier ball games, then all you're doing is turning your dog into an athlete who needs more and more exercise.
Check your touches - position, speed and pressure matter
Everyone almost always needs to slow down, and either use more or less pressure.
Training, play, nosework, puzzle and interactive toys, training classes, socialization opportuntiies.
Muscles you're building: concentration, focus, impulse control, patience.
When you get to make choices, you feel like you have a say in your situation. This can help you relax and enjoy the moment.
When possible, give your pets a choice:
go this way or that way, interact or walk away, have this treat or that treat, etc.
Listen and respect when your pet makes a choice, especially to avoid a bad situation!
It's easy to fall into the "punishment trap".
We're tired, we're frustrated, we're irritated. We just want the behavior to STOP.
Maybe a sharp "No" or a loud noise or something more punitive worked in the past.
The thing is, it probably only worked that one time. Or maybe it even backfired.
The negative side effects of punishment, and how difficult it is to dole out a well-timed punishment adequate enough to be effective, have been well documented:
Punishment can suppress behavior.
The question is: what tools are you giving your pet, what alternate behaviors have you taught instead, to point him toward the path to reinforcement, to tell him what to do, and ensure his needs are met?
You may need multiple approaches to working with your dog depending on what you're asking her to do, what's in her nature to do, and what her energy level is on any given day.
Multiple factors can play into how well your dog is going to do today, or how that walk is going to go, or if a training session will be a success:
Is your dog stubborn, or is there a physical, mental, emotional blocker?
Is he "not very smart", or is he not skilled or coded for what you want?
Have you given him a clear ask, with a clear path to reinforcement?
Have you answered his question: "Why should I do this for You"?
Each dog is a unique individual, with her own
thoughts, feelings, opinions, and preferences
that deserve to be respected.
Very few dogs are actually stubborn.
A whole lot of dogs are mischaracterized and misunderstood.
Only when we look at the dog in front of us, and truly see him for who he is right now, will we build a long-lasting, trusting relationship.
Training techniques must:
Choose a trainer whose advice you trust and training techniques you can espouse.
Ask questions and if you don't get answers, or answers you like, keep shopping!
Visits Ethics in Animal Care to find a humane pet professional in Austin.
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