July 21, 2020
What behaviors make YOU say "whoa!?"
"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)
Arrange the environment to set your animals up for success, reduce frustration, and form the basis for desirable, lifelong habits.
Use exercise and games to satisfy your dog's mental and physical needs.
Meeting enrichment needs goes a long way towards supporting calm behavior. Most dogs enjoy toys of all varieties including food puzzles and chews to meet their oral enrichment needs.
Provide multiple daily opportunities for mental and physical exercise.
What is enrichment?
"Enrichment is manipulating the environment to suit animals' (normal) behavior or encouraging animals' behavior to match the environment."(Steve Dale - American Zoos)
What does enrichment do for animals?1. Alleviate boredom 2. Brain exercise 3. Physical Exercise / Burn calories 4. Prevent behavior problems / assist in treating existing behavior problems 5. Interrupt progression leading to compulsive behaviors 6. Outlet for anxiety 7. Physiological benefits - exercise > flexibility > balance > muscle tone > strength > strengthened immune system 8. More resources means less competition in multi-pet homes 9. Learning throughout life may delay or prevent onset of cognitive dysfunction 10. Encourages "natural behaviors" 11. Fun
(source: Steve Dale, "Enrichment for Geriatric Dogs and Cats" presentation at the Lemonade Conference)
Play synergizes with most training plans! Studies have found that play after learning helps dogs perform better when they do the skills again later.
What does play do for animals?1. Social Connection 2. Physical relaxation 3. Practice trust (give and take) 4. Relationship tension reduction 5. Developing "language" 6. Promotes oxytocin, reduces cortisol, and lowers BP 7. "Play can both help measure if an animal is stressed, and address that stress directly!"
(source: Amy Cook, Ph.D. "The Play Way" presentation at the Lemonade Conference)
The more you have to say "No", the more you're introducing punishment and frustration into your relationship.
Frustration happens when the path to reinforcement is not clear.
Focus on "Alternate behaviors" - a little box of pre-trained, non-irritating behaviors you can use in the moment as a shortcut, something you can resort to in case you get frustrated.1. "What is the opposite of what my dog is doing right now?" 2. Often where a frustrating behavior manifests, it occurs in a situation where "training" is not happening: we're doing something else, we're busy, we're distracted, we just don't want to train.
Try to catch your dog doing something good 5 times a day.
With a teenage wild child, sometimes it seems like everything they do is wrong.
When we start focusing on what our dogs are doing right, what we realize is we're missing a lot of things our dogs are already doing - things we want them to do - and we're missing opportunities to reward these things.
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, and provide surprise rewards.
What you'll probably find when you start looking for opportunities to reward your animals is that 1) they're already doing lots of good, rewardable things that you've been missing out on, and 2) that they'll probably start doing those things more often trying to get more rewards out of you.
How does stress affect a dog's threshold?
How does stacking up these stressors trigger reactive outbursts (barking, mouthing, humping, leashing biting, etc.)?
"'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, "threshold" is often primarily an issue of
With a Whoa Doggie, "threshold" may be
psychological, emotional or sensory.
Stressor + Stressor + Stressor = 🔥🔥🔥
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.
You may need multiple approaches to working with your dog depending on what you're asking him to do, what's in his nature to do, and what his energy level is on any given day.
Things to consider when choosing your training techniques and trainer. Training techniques must:1. Get results 2. Be respectful: humane, fair, honest 3. Enhance your relationship 4. 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!
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