Author Archives: Sydney

Shut the Front Door!

Small brown dog is peering out the front door or a house.

Front door etiquette for your puppy is an important set of skills to teach early on in the game plan! And no I am not talking that malarkey about your dog having to go out the front door behind you!

The doors and large windows in our homes can elicit excitement in a pup. There is the opportunity for viewing or smelling or greeting that can cause a puppy to become over aroused or stressed and ultimately become a problem.

As with any of the preventative exercises that we do, we embark (pun intended) on them with a knowingness that this is predictable doggie behavior that just might get them into some serious hot water (putting it nicely) if we don’t pay attention and do our due diligence.

You can teach your puppy that the front door is not such a big deal. Even if their favorite person arrives bringing treats and toys. Santa, is that you! (I know your weren’t expecting him to use the front door) No matter what is happening at the door you want to be able to get your pup to settle with relative ease and play it cool.

Hey all you puppy people, games are the way to go! Your training sessions should feel like a game. Aim to make them fun, short and lighthearted. With some practice under your belt you can start to put these skills into play in ‘real life’ situations. Just like all the magic that happens with your pup’s education, training is all about layers. Teach your puppy basic skills and build upon them as he learns and matures.

Here are some foundation behaviors for you that teach a puppy the ins and outs (pun intended) of door etiquette. Continue reading

Dogs will be Dogs

woman running on dock with a lighthouse in the background. She is running towards viewer and has a dog on either side of her running along in a carefree manner.

I have a challenge for you. For one day I want you to observe your dog, play with your dog, and work with your dog without judgment!

I have a vivid childhood memory of being at my Grandparent’s place. We were celebrating a birthday for my younger sister in their beautiful back garden. My Sis and I were messing around as sisters will do and my Grandpa Johnny got impatient with us. What I remember so clearly about this was what my Mom said to her father, she gently chastised him and informed him that kids will be kids. I felt so good when she defended us from my stern Grandfather. It felt liberating and safe to be me!

I think the quality of any relationship can be enhanced with an absence of judgment. This is no easy task! We are constantly labeling and defining everything in our lives. Events and people are condensed down to good or bad. Things make us happy or make us sad. Maybe we are missing some of the richness of life when we view things this way.

We have a propensity to do this with our dogs too. Whether it is teaching a puppy the ways of the world, or working on more complex moves with a more mature dog.

New puppy parents frequently want more from their pup than what is realistic. Or get impatient when everyday behaviors, like come and loose leash walking take time to train to fluency.

I am not going to call any of this bad. That would be judging and today I am taking myself up on my own challenge : ). Today I am going to hang around with my dog and simply be with her and have fun. We will work on moves, some that I have been working on for months! We will play and walk. Sometimes she will pull me, sometimes she won’t. She will mostly always come running when I call. I hope that I contribute to her feeling good and safe and free to be her, I think I do.

If you feel inclined to take us up on this challenge maybe you will share some of your experience of that day with us here.

Walk This Way

This is an illustration of a woman and a puppy. The woman walks in a straight line towards a tree. The puppy walks all over the place, ending up at the tree. #puppytraining #puppycoaching #puppysocialisation #looseleashwalking #politewalking #karenpryor

Picture an ape swinging from the jungle canopy making her way from point A to point B. A pod of dolphins leaping skyward out of the water and then splashing back in again, a frog hopping or swimming through a pond. How each of these animals moves on the earth is different. Swimming, swinging, slithering, soaring, hopping, no legs, two legs, four legs, wings, fins! Wow!

Imagine if you were required to keep up with a pod of sea lions, take a walk with a kangaroo or keep pace with a snail for a day. Hmm.

With that image fresh in your mind picture what it means to teach our four-legged puppy friends to walk with us. Let’s think about the finer points involved in teaching another species to amble along at our pace. To not do the things they want, but instead pay attention to us.

pull quote: Brace yourself, they don’t want to walk with you.Does a dog naturally walk in a straight line the same way you do? No. A dog will move forward in different directions, often making turns and big circles, choosing not to follow a sidewalk or a well-worn path but rather, their nose!

So this is the first thing to consider when we complain about unruly pups on leash. How are we going to interest our dog to walk this way? Continue reading

Musings from a Recall Warrior

One year old Border Collie with front paws up on rail while she scans the ravine

 

I live in a busy city with many things competing with me for my dog’s attention. I need to be on my game and engage my dog giving her good reason to check in with me. Enter The Recall Warrior. I practice calling my dog multiple times everyday. On the sidewalk, parks, in the house and in the yard. Each time making it worth her time and effort. I pay well over the going rate! If I’m half a block from my walking destination I may go for 5 recalls before I get there. Just running a few paces in the opposite direction calling her to ‘come!’ Take the time to condition a rock solid Recall with your dog! It’s fun and with it comes peace of mind.

The Art of Reward

a hand drawn illustration of a puppy with a bubble above his head. In the bubble are four activities: a ball bouncing, a dog dock diving, a puppy getting a belly rub and a squirrel under a tree. The caption to the right the puppy “Hmm... what do I LOVE?" and below that "I know - let's go shopping for a pink puppy dress!"

 

It’s a hot, sunny, summer day at the beach. Not a cloud in the sky. The waves gently lap the shore, gulls call to each other. The sun is beating on you and you’re thirsty. You’re waiting for your friend. Finally you see them walking down the beach carrying a gift bag. “Sorry I’m late!” they call. “This is for you!” In the bag is a handmade wool sweater. “I knitted it myself! It is really warm and thick.” “Thank you!” you say, as you think …wow, nice sweater, weird, but nice. I don’t really like wool… and I’m not that keen on the color blue… why wouldn’t she just show up with a cold drink for me instead?

You’re stranded on a deserted island and your food and fresh water supply is dwindling fast. A very promising looking bag has washed up on the beach. Eagerly you run to it hoping for food, fresh water or a communication device. Inside are oodles of hundred dollar bills. Drat!

Silly stories? Sure they are, but they illustrate an important point. Not all rewards are created equal. Things that are rewarding in some circumstances are not necessarily rewarding in other situations. What one person finds rewarding can be of zero interest to another. We are all different and so are our pups.

So how does this relate to us training our puppies with rewards?

When we work with rewards we need to make sure the rewards we choose are actually rewarding to the puppy. In essence this means that the puppy is the one who should be determining what we are using.

How do we do this? We need to observe our pups and learn their preferences. We need to get creative and have fun with rewards. We need to keep a variety or rewards on hand and aim to have plenty of fun surprises for our pup’s great performances! We must master the art of reward!

a hand drawn illustration of a puppy with a bubble above his head. In the bubble are four activities: a ball bouncing, a dog dock diving, a puppy getting a belly rub and a squirrel under a tree. The caption to the right the puppy “Hmm... what do I LOVE?" and below that "I know - let's go shopping for a pink puppy dress!"

Observe and Get Creative

Rewarding your pup with food is great as long as the pup loves the food. Some dogs prefer toys to food, others prefer a chance to chase something, greet a person or get a good belly rub or massage. What my dog finds reinforcing may be very different from what your dog finds reinforcing.

One of my favorite rewards for Fen is to let her chase a squirrel (as long as the squirrel has a good escape route) that I have called her away from. She has to come away beautifully twice and then on the third time she might get to chase. Not always, but sometimes.

This is an example of watching and seeing what my dog loves and using it to reward her great recalls. It’s a win for me, for Fen and for the squirrel that always gets away, although the squirrel might not agree.

Another example of observation is Fen’s response to me clapping and cheering for her when she makes a great catch while we are playing ball. Her body posture changes, it lifts and she runs back to me a bit faster and showier, she looks so happy about her accomplishment and really appears to love the cheering on. Try cheering and clapping for your puppy the next time you are playing a game with them. Do they seem to respond to the cheering in a positive way?

Variety!

What’s in your treat pouch? Our rule of thumb is a minimum of 4 different types of tasty food treats. Does your pup love the food in your treat pouch? If not it is time to experiment and see what your puppy gets excited about. Tasty pieces of cheese, turkey, hotdog or smoked duck are all usually good bets for pups that are food motivated. Kibble tossed with a tiny bit of bacon fat can be irresistible. The challenge is to get creative and have some really ‘high value’ puppy currency available for those times when you need it.

What’s in your puppy’s toy box? Is there a fun array to choose from? If the toys are always put away after play it helps keep them interesting to your puppy. It is really fun to let your puppy pick which toy she wants to play with during a play/training session. Put a few in a line on the floor and then see which one your pup picks up.

One of my students made me laugh when he told me that he buys all these nice toys but what his dog really loves to play with are old deflated balls and other things she finds in the trash. Good for him for being a keen observer of his dog’s preferences!

An Invitation!

We invite you to experiment and get creative with what you use for rewards with your pup. Have fun with it. Once you have a good sense of your dog’s reward preferences you’ll be surprised to find what a treat this is for you. Training, playing and working together becomes much more successful. You’ll both start having a blast!

The 2017 #Train4Rewards Blog Party button

 

 

 

 

 

We’re pleased to be participating in the #Train4Reward Blog Party. Be sure to check out all of the other great blog postings at Companion Animal Psychology!