Category "Problem Behaviour"

14Oct2020

If you need your pup to be calm at a certain time of day try changing the pup’s routine.  It might be that at certain times of day, for example the end of the day, your pup’s behaviour becomes less than perfect 😁 because he’s over tired, or over stimulated.  Or it may be that you’re working on leaving your pup for short periods of time.

Let’s say that your pup typically gets overly tired at 19:00, when you’d prefer that he chilled out…

  • 18:00 Physical exercise, remember not too much for a pup. Playing and engaging with your pup will increase the likelihood that he’ll come back to you when off lead.  This will leave him physically tired, but will increase the stress chemicals making it difficult for him to calm down.
  • 18:20 Many 2-5 minute training sessions, interspersed with games of Cheeseburgers. This will release the happy chemicals to counteract the stress chemicals and will be mentally tiring.
  • 18:40 Scentwork games such as Sprat Onna String. Sniffing releases more happy chemicals. Scentwork (finding something using the nose and brain) is particularly good for tiring a dog out. 15 minutes of scentwork is worth an hours walk to an adult dog.
  • 19:00 The pup begs you for his Kong. Licking and chewing is calming for a dog. Your pup will fall asleep as he’s chewing.😋💤
23Sep2020

We limit dogs’ choices.  We dictate pretty much everything that happens in a dog’s life – where they sleep, when they sleep, what they eat, when they eat, where they eat, when they walk, where they walk, how fast they walk…

As humans we are really good at recognising bad behaviour, but not good at either recognising or rewarding good behaviour, especially if we haven’t asked for it.  Your dog will be doing loads of good things when he’s out on a walk but is not getting recognised for it.  When your dog looks at you – great choice!  You’ve got his attention, he’s not pulling on the lead.  When your dog looks at a distraction and then looks away, or even better at you – great, great choice!  He chose to stay with you rather than to go to the distraction and you didn’t even have to use recall or the chase me game.

On your next walk to try letting your dog lead the way.  Be less controlling and commanding and just follow where he wants to go.  Try to noice all the good choices that your dog makes, and reward those choices.

It’s really difficult for us, but try to be more mindful of your dog’s behaviour.  If you’re working on loose lead walking and your dog looks at you, tell him he’s a good dog – if he’s a puller, don’t just praise him, give him a jackpot reward.  If you’re working on recall and your dog looks at another dog and looks away, tell him he’s a good dog – if he’s super friendly and loves other dogs, don’t just praise him, give him a jackpot reward.

Remember, if you don’t reinforce a behaviour then it eventually dies out.  Don’t take good behaviour for granted.  If you do a good job you expect to be paid more.  If you were consistently performing well and not being recognised it, you’d get demotivated and would give up trying.

20Aug2020

As discussed is a previous article, dogs with a secure attachment to at least one person are less likely to suffer from separation anxiety, as long as the dog isn’t isolated too early.  The longer you spend with your dog whilst he’s young, the more secure he’ll feel and the more likely to feel comfortable with some independence.

There are some easy ways in which your dog can be rewarded for choosing to spend time away from you.

Take a Kong and put a piece of rope or strong string through the middle.  Tie a large knot in the bottom end of the rope.  You now have a Kong that can be tied to something static, such as a radiator or the inside of the dog’s crate.

Fill the Kong with something that dog really, really enjoys.  I wouldn’t worry too much at this point whether the food is healthy or not, just make sure that your dog loves it, and that ideally it’s very smelly!

Tie the Kong to something that the dog can’t move that’s in a different room to the one that you’re going to spend time in, and make sure he has something comfortable to lie on.

Ideally the dog will leave you to investigate the smell of food in the other room.  He won’t be able to bring the Kong back to you as it’s tied to something, so if he choses to stay and eat what’s in the Kong, the content of the Kong is his reward for choosing to spend time away from you.  If after about 5 minutes the dog hasn’t left you to investigate, casually walk into the other room without saying anything, and see if your dog notices the Kong and starts to eat.  If he does, quietly leave the room.

It’s important at this stage that if he wants to, he’s able to come back to you, so make sure that you do not lock him in a room.  We want this to be voluntary.   He won’t develop the confidence to explore if when he plucks up the courage to leave you, you then lock him in the room.

Leave some great treats like smelly sprats in different rooms, initially in plain sight, again rewarding him for exploration.  When you see him becoming more confident about spending time away from the members of your family, you can start hiding the treats so that he has to sniff them out.  Sniffing releases serotonin which promotes happiness, and dopamine which promotes optimism and motivation, further rewarding the pup for increased independence.

 

 

19Aug2020

Here are a few simple rules for toilet training:

  • reward the pup for toileting outside
  • ignore accidents that happen indoors
  • put the pup on a toileting schedule

Read on for more details…

DON’T use the crate as an alternative to good toilet training.  Puppies come pre-programmed to avoid toileting near where they sleep, however if they have no choice because they have been confined for longer than their bladder of bowel will allow, then toileting in their sleeping area will become less taboo and more acceptable to the pup.  Avoid this at all costs.

DO heavily reward your pup for toileting outside.  The pup doesn’t understand that he shouldn’t toilet inside, but will understand that he’s rewarded for toileting outside.

DO reward your pup immediately after toileting, not when you get back into the house.  If you reward him in the kitchen then you are rewarding him for going indoors, not for toileting outside.  He’ll be keen to get back to the kitchen for his treat, and won’t spend the time he needs in the garden.

DON’T punish accidents in the house.  It’s unfair to punish your pup for something that he couldn’t help doing.  Punishing the pup will not help him to understand that he shouldn’t toilet inside.  Punishing him will tell him that it’s dangerous to toilet in front of you, leading him to toilet in hidden areas, and may mean that he’ll grow up being afraid to toilet on lead, and it will certainly have a negative effect on your relationship with the pup.

DON’T expect your pup to tell you when he needs to go out. He won’t necessarily know.

DON’T use puppy pads unless it’s absolutely necessary, for example if you don’t have a garden. Puppy pads are an extra step in house training. Dogs develop a preference for toileting on the same kind of surface as they did as a pup, so by using puppy pads, you’re encouraging the dog to toilet on soft surfaces, such as a carpet.  If the pup gets bored he may well start chewing up the puppy pad.

DO clean up with an enzymatic cleaner if your pup has had an accident in the house, normal disinfectant will not get rid of the smell of ammonia and will encourage your pup to toilet in the same place.

DO clean up faeces straight away.  Dogs don’t like to defecate where there is faeces so be sure to keep the toilet area clean to encourage him to go back to the same spot.  Your pup is at a higher risk of developing coprophagia if the faeces is left lying around.

DO run to his toilet area as that will stimulate the need to go.

DO take your pup out as soon as he wakes up, he’s very likely going to need to urinate.

DO take your dog after every meal.  Pups normally need to defecate within 15 minutes of eating.

DO take your pup out every few hours.  As a guideline puppies can hold their bladder for approximately one hour per month of age plus one hour when inactive, but for far shorter a time when active, and they’ll normally defecate shortly after eating a meal.

DO take the weather into account.  If your pup doesn’t like being outside as it’s cold or wet, in addition to the treat reward, reward him as soon as he’s toileted by taking him inside.  If the weather is good, in addition to the treat reward, reward him when he’s toileted by letting his have a sniff around the garden, or play with him before going in.

DO set your alarm and take the pup out to the garden in the middle of the night if you have a young pup.

DO develop a toileting schedule for your pup. It’s not your pup’s job to tell you went he needs to go out, it’s your job to take him out on a regular basis to give him an opportunity to toilet.

TOILETING SCHEDULE

Tip – have a paper and pen by the back door to record schedule details.

Tip – have treats by the back door so that you can reward for toileting outside.

Tip – ensure that one adult is responsible for the next toilet break – set an alarm if necessary.

This is an example toileting schedule for a 10 week old pup, you can adapt it to fit your pup.  If you record the details for 2 days this will give you great basis on which to start or continue with the toilet training.

07:00 Get pup out of the crate, pick him up and take him to his outside toilet area, collecting the treats on the way.  Put the pup on the grass, wait for him to pee.  When he does, immediately after, reward him with 5 very small treats, one after the other.  Puppy party – be really excited and tell him what a great pup he is.  Write the details on the schedule – “07:05 – pee”

07:15 Breakfast.  When he’s finished, run him out to the toileting area, collecting the treats on the way.  Wait for him to pooh, bearing in mind that this might take up to 15 minutes. When he does, immediately after, reward him with 10 very small treats, one after the other. Puppy party!  Write the details on the schedule – “07:25 – pooh”

08:30 Pup had quite a large drink of water after food and has had a play.  It’s been just over an hour since his last trip outside. Run him out to the toileting area, collecting the treats on the way.  Wait for him to pee. When he does, immediately after, reward him with 5 very small treats, one after the other. Puppy party!  Write the details on the schedule – “08:35 – pee”

09:30 Pup has had a training session and played with his toys. Run him out to the toileting area, collecting the treats on the way. Wait for him to pee.  Waited 5 minutes, he just had a sniff, try again in 10 minutes.  Write the details on the schedule – “09:35 – nothing”

9:45  Try again.  Run him out to the toileting area, collecting the treats on the way. Wait for him to pee. When he does, immediately after, reward him with 5 very small treats, one after the other. Puppy party!  Write the details on the schedule – “09:45 – pee”

We now have an idea that when he’s active he may need to go roughly every 1 – 1.25 hours.

12:00 Pup has been sleeping for a few hours and has just woken up. Get pup out of the crate, pick him up and take him to his outside toilet area, collecting the treats on the way.  Put the pup on the grass, wait for him to pee.  When he does, immediately after, reward him with 5 very small treats, one after the other. Puppy party!  Write the details on the schedule – “12:05 – pee”

12:30 Lunch.  When he’s finished, run him out to the toileting area, collecting the treats on the way.  Wait for him to pooh, bearing in mind that this might take up to 15 minutes. When he does, immediately after, reward him with 10 very small treats, one after the other. Puppy party!  Write the details on the schedule – “12:35 – pooh”

14:30 I was on the phone and missed the next toileting break.  Pup peed in the house.  I cleaned up with the enzymatic cleaner.  Set my alarm for 15:45 so it doesn’t happen again.  Write the details on the schedule – “14:30 – pee in the house”

15:45 Pup has been chilling and doing some scentwork . Run him out to the toileting area, collecting the treats on the way. Wait for him to pee.  Waited 5 minutes, he just had a sniff, try again in 10 minutes.  Write the details on the schedule – “15:50 – nothing”

16:00 Kept an eye on the pup. Ran him out to the toileting area, collecting the treats on the way. Wait for him to pee.  Waited 5 minutes, he just had a sniff, try again in 10 minutes.  Write the details on the schedule – “16:05 – nothing”

16:15 Kept an eye on the pup . Ran him out to the toileting area, collecting the treats on the way. This time he does, immediately after, reward him with 10  very small treats (just to reinforce that going outside after two unsuccessful trips is good), one after the other.  It’s raining so we head back indoors rather than having a puppy party.  Write the details on the schedule – “16:20 – pee”

18:00 Pup has been sleeping for a few hours and has just woken up. Get pup out of the crate, pick him up and take him to his outside toilet area, collecting the treats on the way.  Put the pup on the grass, wait for him to pee. Waited 5 minutes, he just had a sniff, try again in 10 minutes.  Write the details on the schedule – “18:05 – nothing”

18:15  Pup has just had dinner.  When he’s finished, run him out to the toileting area, collecting the treats on the way.  Wait for him to pooh, bearing in mind that this might take up to 15 minutes. This time he has a pooh, then a pee.  Reward him with 10 very small treats, one after the other. Puppy party!  Write the details on the schedule – “18:20 – pooh & pee”

19:30 Pup has just had the zoomies and also had water after his meal. Run him out to the toileting area, collecting the treats on the way. This time he does, immediately after, reward him with 5  very small treats, one after the other.  We’re winding down for the night so we don’t have a puppy party.  Write the details on the schedule – “19:25 – pee”

21:30 I was on the phone and missed the next toileting break.  Pup peed in the house.  I cleaned up with the enzymatic cleaner.  Set my alarm for 23:00 so it doesn’t happen again.  Write the details on the schedule – “21:30 – pee in the house”

23:00 Bed time.  Pup has been chilling with a Kong. Pick him up as he’s probably tired now and take him to his outside toilet area, collecting the treats on the way.  Put the pup on the grass, wait for him to pee and pooh.  When he does, immediately after, reward him with 10 very small treats, one after the other.  Quietly return to the house and put him in the crate.  Write the details on the schedule – “23:05 – pee & pooh”

03:00 Alarm goes off. Get pup out of the crate, pick him up and take him to his outside toilet area, collecting the treats on the way.  Put the pup on the grass, wait for him to pee.  When he does, immediately after, reward him with 5 very small treats, one after the other. Quietly return to the house and put him in the crate.  Write the details on the schedule – “03:00 – pee”

You’ve now got a schedule that you can work with and adapt as the pup gets older.

Don’t forget to adapt the timing to your pup; shorter intervals if your pup is younger, longer intervals if your pup is older.

 

 

 

18Aug2020

As discussed is a previous article, dogs with a secure attachment to at least one person are less likely to suffer from separation anxiety, as long as the dog isn’t isolated too early.  The longer you spend with your dog whilst he’s young, the more secure he’ll feel.

He’ll also need his own space in which he feels secure.  If your dog doesn’t chose to go to his bed or crate, then it’s unlikely to be his safe haven, so the first thing you need to do it give him a really great place to call his own.

In this article I’m going to use the term crate, but it’ll refer to anywhere that you’d like your dog to feel safe.

His crate is not a place for children, not matter how friendly your dog is.

His crate needs to be really comfortable, big enough for him to stretch out and should ideally be covered.

The crate should not be used as a prison/punishment as this  will negate the good associations that you are going to form.

Your dog should think that his crate has magical properties as every time he passes it he smells a really good treat in it.  He’ll be rewarding himself for going into the crate.  It’s even better if he has to sniff out the treat, as sniffing releases serotonin – the happy chemical, oxytocin – the bonding hormone, and dopamine which promotes optimism and learning.

When your dog goes into his crate voluntarily, rain some treats down next to him, thereby rewarding him for going into the crate and forming positive associations with the crate.

Close the crate door with the puppy on the outside. Show the pup some treats and sprinkle them inside the crate. Encourage the pup to sniff at the treats. Build up the excitement until the pup is desperate to get into the crate. Open the door for the pup and leave it open while he eats the treats.

Never leave your dog confined for longer than his bladder will allow.  Dogs do come pre-programmed not to toilet close to where they sleep, but will if they have no choice.  The taboo of toileting close to the bed will soon disappear if the pup is desperate.  The dog needing to toilet is thought to be a major contributor to separation anxiety.

 

18Aug2020

We expect a lot from puppies and often leave them alone, even for short periods of time, before they are ready.  This is a recipe for separation anxiety, also known as isolation distress,  which is notoriously difficult to cure.

PREVENTION IS EASIER THAN CURE

The longer you spend with your pup when he’s young, the less likely he is to suffer from separation anxiety when he’s older.  This is because, with security comes confidence; the confidence to explore the world and develop independence.

If your pup doesn’t chose to spend time away from you in the house, then he’s certainly not ready to be left alone, even for short periods of time.

If you’ve already started leaving your pup alone, I’d encourage you to invest in a webcam to ensure that the pup isn’t already suffering from separation anxiety.  The pup will be likely to bark, howl, whine, toilet inside and become destructive if they are stressed.

Puppies are at particular risk from developing separation anxiety as they haven’t yet developed independence.  Fearful dogs are also at high risk, as a dogs that haven’t been given adequate time to toilet before being left, and dogs that do a lot of fast physical exercise immediately before being left, or are left so long that they get bored.

17Aug2020

When a dog is stressed, the chemical cortisol is released.  Cortisol can take some time to dissipate, up to 72 hours.  If a dog is continually stressed, then cortisol will always be present.  Not only does stress cause the production of cortisol, but the presence of cortisol makes the dog stressed, so the dog is more likely to react disproportionally to something that would ordinarily only have been mildly stressful.

If you were sitting in the lounge watching the lunch time news on the TV and the postman knocked on the window to say that he had a parcel for you, you’d probably jump as you weren’t expecting it, but it wouldn’t ruin your day.

Let’s say that you’re not that comfortable with the dark, but you can cope with it…
And you quite like a good horror film, but it puts you on edge, you check inside the wardrobes and under the bed before you go to sleep…
And you like a good storm, it’s dramatic, but you wince at the noise if it’s a particularly bad storm.

But what if…

  • you’re watching a horror film at night
  • and there’s a bad storm that’s taken out the electricity
  • and someone knocks one the window….

That’s trigger stacking!  

The more stressful situation in which your dog is placed, the more stressed he will become, and the more likely he is to over react, and the longer he will take to calm down.

Cortisol, the stress hormone, dissipates quite slowly.  After a stressful event it can take up to 72 hours for the cortisol levels to normalise.  This can mean that more cortisol is produced before the existing cortisol has dissipated, making the dog more sensitive to other stressful events.

Serotonin is the ‘happy’ chemical.  Raising serotonin also has the bi-effect of lowering cortisol.  Lowering cortisol has the bi-effect of raising serotonin.

In dealing with anxiety or stress we look at ways of

  • lowering cortisol
  • raising serotonin
17Aug2020

DOES YOUR DOG OVER REACT TO SOMETHING?

WHAT DO WE MEAN BY OVER REACTING?

The dog reacts disproportionally or inappropriately to something, such as excessive barking, or becoming over aroused.

The motivation for the behaviour might be different – barking may be your dog’s way of telling you that he’s frightened by what he’s barking at or maybe your dog is so friendly that he gets extremely excited at the thought of being allowed to greet a person or another dog?  Either way, when a dog over reacts to something, also called going over threshold, the part of the brain that deals with reasoning, impulse control and learning is compromised and more primitive behaviours take over, such as barking.  A dog that’s barking probably can’t learn in that moment not to bark.

HOW DO YOU KNOW IF YOUR DOG IS OVER THRESHOLD?

For most dogs it will be reasonably obvious, particularly if they’re barking.  However, there is a test that you can do.  If the dog won’t eat a treat that he would normally like, then he’s over threshold and can’t learn.  If he eats a treat but grabs it from you, he’s very close to his threshold and is probably not learning much.

The things that cause the over reactions are known as triggers.

DISTANCE IS YOUR FRIEND

Dogs have ‘bubbles‘.  When a trigger enters that bubble, the dog will cross over threshold and is likely unable to learn at that point.  That means that when the trigger is present, but not within the bubble, the dog can learn things that will help change his response.  Distance is key in order to help your dog learn to not over react.  It should be noted that

  • the size of each dog’s bubble changes
  • the shape of each dog’s bubble changes

BUBBLE SIZE

Each dog’s bubble will be differ in size – the more fearful or excitable the dog, the bigger the bubble.  In addition to that, the bubble doesn’t stay the same size!  The size will vary depending on what experiences the dog has had within the last 72 hours, this concept is known as trigger stacking.

BUBBLE SHAPE

Let’s say that today your dog’s bubble is 3m.  You start your walk in an open field, so the bubble is round with a radius of 3m.

You then go into a lane that is 2m wide, the bubble is now rectangular.  If you come across a trigger, that trigger can’t pass without entering the bubble, causing your dog to over react.  Not only that, but because the bubble has become narrower to the dog’s sides – the dog needs 3m, but can only have 2m, it means that the amount of space required in front and behind has increased – the 1m that the dog has lost to the side has been added to the front and back.  Rather than the dog needing 3m in every direction, he can only have 2m to the side, which means he now needs 4m in front and behind.

Once you get the hang of the bubble, you can take steps to avoid the trigger, such as a dog or a person entering the bubble.  Don’t worry, for most dogs this will be temporary.

 

Trigger enters the bubble = dog over reacts = dog stops being able to learn

The rule is simple – distance is your friend.  Simple, but not necessarily easy, as you can’t always control everything in the environment.

One of the simple things you can do it change the dog’s association with the trigger.  Most dogs love squeezy cheese!  The way it’s packaged means it’s quite convenient to take on walks.  Now, it’s obviously not a healthy treat, but we don’t always eat healthily.  The amount of cheese that you use is small, it’s mostly licking and licking promotes calmness.

This is how you’ll practice.

  • Choose an environment where you have as much control over your dog’s bubble as possible – National Trust areas are often good choices as I think with most venues dogs should be on lead.
  • Don’t do this if your dog is ‘misbehaving’ – it’s likely that you’ve misjudged the size of the bubble and it should be bigger.   Remember that the dog can’t learn if he’s over threshold.
  • When your dog notices the trigger, present him with the squeezy cheese immediately.
  • Whilst the trigger is present the dog can lick the squeezy cheese.
  • When the trigger is out of the dog’s eye sight, the squeezy cheese stops.

The squeezy cheese is not being used as a reward in this exercise.  The point of the exercise is not to reward for not over reacting – the dog has no need to over react as the trigger is outside of the bubble.  We’re using classical conditioning, which we know can take some time to work, to change the dog’s association, and therefore the dog’s emotional response.  Over time your dog’s association with the trigger will change from, for example

another dog = scary/exciting = barking

to

another dog = squeezy cheese = happy/calm = no barking

As a by product of this the bubble naturally shrinks as the trigger is no longer eliciting the emotion response that is was, and therefore the resulting behaviour disappears.

With some dogs simply practicing this will sort out the problem behaviour.  With other dogs you’ll now be able to train a more appropriate behaviour since the dog is calmer in the presence of something that he was previously over reacting to.