What Training Goldfish Teaches You About Dogs

Clicker Training Goldfish

What does teaching a Goldfish tricks have to do with dog training?

There are a lot of lessons to be learned about behaviour and operant conditioning by going through the work of teaching a common goldfish to swim through a small hoop or chase a plastic straw.

  1. A dog has a considerably larger brain than a fish.  Every dog, therefore, should have enough grey matter to amaze his or her owners.
  2. You cannot use a choke, prong, or shock collar on a fish.  You cannot hit a fish either.  So the trainer needs to use his or her grey matter to figure out how to make this work.
  3. Even a goldfish can be trained without lures.  Notice when the food is presented to the fish?  After the event marker (penlight), and after the behavior is performed.  This fish KNOWS what the meaning of that little plastic hoop is.  It KNOWS that it is following a plastic red straw.  It is not mindlessly chasing food dangled by its nose (figuratively speaking, of course).
  4. Your dog is considerably more forgiving on the timing of the click and food delivery that most fish are.

Enjoy the video!

Dog Begs for Food at Dinner Table – How to address this without punishment

Dog Not Begging at Dinner Table

Why is this dog sitting in the corner, not begging for food?

Dog Not Begging at Dinner Table
Dog Not Begging at Dinner Table

Why is Petey sitting patiently with his butt pressed against the wall in the corner, while my father enjoys his lunch and tea? Because of the effective use of operant conditioning (positive reinforcement quadrant only).

Dogs are scavengers by nature. Dogs came into being as scavengers of the refuse of human civilization. So, can we blame them for instinctively begging for food at the dinner table? It is a natural, instinctive behaviour that is in their genetic makeup.

How would a traditional, force and correction based trainer handle a dog that mugs you while you’re eating? Probably through the use of aversives (stuff that the dog does not like) which can include verbal correction (ennnn! noooo!!), physical correction (stepping on the dogs toes, hitting the dog in the face, choking it with a collar), or remote correction (spray bottle in the face, citronella collar, shock collar).

Depending on how food motivated the dog is, or how scary the aversive is to the dog, the behaviour may end, and it may end quickly. But at what cost to your relationship with your dog? And what has the dog learned? That humans at dining tables are dangerous.

So, how does a positive reinforcement trainer teach a dog to not beg at the dining table?

Firstly, I never fed Petey when he was begging at the dinner table. You do it once, or twice, and you have created a very powerful history of reinforcement for rewarding the dog’s persistence at bothering you while eating. If you suddenly stop feeding from the dinner table, you’ll find the dog is even more motivated now to bug you. “Hey, hellloooo. I am here again. Why aren’t you feeding me like you normally do? HELLLLOOO. What’s wrong with you? You fed me here last time. HEY!!! YOU!!!”.

So, after a few days after rescuing him, he realized that jumping on me, or sitting next to me, while I was at the dining table produced no results. That approach, in Petey’s mind, was a broken down dead end.

If you want a nuisance behaviour to end, you must, as a humane trainer, think of a specific replacement behaviour that the dog can do that is acceptable. If you just want the dog to “stop doing this, and stop doing that”, you are asking for an off-switch on your dog – which can be accomplished by just shooting it with a gun (hence the title for Karen Pryor’s seminal book “Don’t Shoot the Dog!”). In this case, I wanted Petey to sit in the farthest corner of any room that we were eating in and patiently wait.

Operant conditioning states that behaviours that are rewarded will be repeated with increasing likelihood. So, I simply kept a small handful of kibble at the dining table whenever we eat. When I spotted Petey heading towards the farther corner of the room, I clicked and tossed a kibble to Petey. After a few meals he came to learn that sitting the corner was the most likely place for him to be rewarded.

Next, after the behaviour was established, I began shaping for duration. I just kept my watch at the table. I found that Petey would sit still for about 3 minutes before breaking his sit, so I began only clicking and treating if he held his position for 3 minutes and 30 seconds. Then 4 minutes, then 5. At this point we can pretty much have an entire meal start to finish with Petey’s butt glued to the wall.

This whole process only took a couple of weeks, and we have prevented a common “nuisance” behaviour from developing into a pattern with a strong reinforcement history. Instead, Petey loves shoving his butt into corners now!

Resource Guarding – Dog growls to protect his bone

How do you safely take a toy or bone away from a dog?

Does your dog exhibit aggressive behavior when he has a bone or toy? This issue is called Resource Guarding and if not addressed, can escalate into dangerous behaviors like biting.

From an evolutionary standpoint, dogs developed this behavior for obvious reasons. If a dog didn’t protect high value objects like meaty bones from theft, it would starve, pure and simple!

In practical terms, that toy, bone, or high valued object is rewarding to the dog, and having it taken away is an undesired outcome.

Forcing the dog physically to give up the toy will cause this problem to escalate, up to and including severe biting. So how can we address it safely?

As a positive reinforcement dog trainer, you must make the behavior of giving up the toy or bone a rewarding behavior. This is commonly done by trading objects with the dog with food – after all, the dog can’t guard a toy while simultaneously taking food from your hand.

Furthermore, if every time a toy or bone is given up and it’s put away, there’s no incentive for the dog to ever give up the toy, so its important to trade for food, and then return the toy to the dog. This creates a win-win situation where there’s no downside at all to giving up the highly valued object.

If you trade for food, and return the toy enough times, you’ll find your dog actually looks forward to releasing the toy as you approach. Its at this time we can put the behavior on cue with “Out” or “Drop It”.

If your dog has developed a serious case of resource guarding, where he starts growling and even biting as you approach, it is absolutely critical that you get professional help with this work as the risk of eliciting a dog bite is very high.

Whatever you do, don’t force the dog to release the object. This only teaches the dog that he was right to guard the item in the first place, and will increase the severity of the guarding and increase the severity of his aggression response. He’ll progress from guarding looks and body language to growling, and ultimately may resort to biting to protect the object.

Start early with your puppy to practice trading. If your adult dog is growling or biting, get help right away with a trainer or behaviourist that uses positive reinforcement to teach the dog that giving up toys is a fun and rewarding game.

Reliable Recall at the Offleash Dog Park

How to train your dog not to run away from you at the park!

Second to learning how to walk nicely on leash, new dog owners’ second most requested call for help is a reliable recall while off leash. In Toronto, the unfortunate thing is most dog owners are inadvertently training to teach their dogs to run away from them!

What do knowledgeable dog owners do differently to train their dogs to stay nearby and come when called?

Shower your dog with attention and rewards when he’s near – Reward your dog for staying near you by rewarding with food (the morning dog park run is a great place to feed your dog breakfast) and fun games (tug of war, fetch, wrestling, hide and seek). Too many dog owners go to the dog park and stand in a circle talking to other dog owners, paying no attention to their dogs. They’re too focused on their coffee or chatting with owners and are about as interesting as rock to their dogs. Can you blame a dog for getting bored and wandering off?

Don’t let your dog loose focus on you for too long – By staying engaged with your dog at the park by playing with him, it’ll keep him from getting locked onto an interesting scent or chasing a squirrel – you’ll be able to interrupt and redirect with more fun and games. Dog owners that ignore their dogs often discover their dog is almost near the dog park exit are too late – any they end up rewarding the dog for leaving the park by calling their name (finally) and chasing them down – the attention earned for running out of the park is often the only form of reward that these poor dogs get! Their owners are rewarding them for leaving the park grounds by ignoring them when they’re near and paying attention when they leave.

Don’t let your dog off leash until he’s ready – A new puppy should be trained to return to handler every time he goes to the park. Keep the puppy’s leash dragging so in case he decides to bolt, you can catch him (and prevent the puppy from being rewarded for ignoring the owner). Off leash rights are something a dog should earn through consistent focus and recall exercises at home and in the yard. You might not take away the leash dragging until after a few months of daily off leash work.

No matter what your dog did right before, if he comes back to you, reward and praise lavishly. Punishment damages the trust a dog has and gives them a reason to second guess ever returning to you. Dogs that are trained punishment free never have to think twice about what’s waiting when he gets back to his handler.

Remember, reliable off-leash recall is a behavior that requires daily, consistent work, and its reliability changes dynamically based on the degree of distraction in the environment. Be patient and aim to be the most interesting thing at the dog park for your dog, every day.

Why has my dog started getting into fights at the dog park?

Is he dominant? NO…

Why has my dog, who used to love other dogs, started to get into fights at the dog park? Is he dominant?

Dominant? Usually not. Few dogs are born wanting to get into fights. Fighting behaviour is evolutionary suicide. So why has my dog started barking, lunging, and biting other dogs at the park?

There could be many reasons –

He’s not feeling well. Dogs are very stoic and hide discomfort very well. Make sure he’s been recently vetted and isn’t suffering from pain ordominant aggressive dog illness. If he is ill, dealing with the medical condition can often make the behavioral issue go away.

He’s been punished by or around dogs – One of the dangers of using punishment training (leash corrections) is that the punishment is often paired near or around other dogs (leash corrections for looking at dogs, “training” classes where leash corrections are done around other dogs in class). This can also happen at dog daycares/dog walking services that use punishment (spray bottles, physical corrections, bark collars, etc.). Pulling while on leash can also cause this (the dog sees a dog on the street, gets excited, pulls towards it, and experiences neck pain and frustration – in a dog’s mind, the other dog is causing the pain).

He’s been harassed by other dogs at the park – Look closely at the picture of the Beagle. Does he look happy? He’s doing everything he can to get away from the pushy Ridgeback. If the Ridgeback doesn’t stop, the owner of the Ridgeback doesn’t recall his dog, or the Beagle owner doesn’t leave, how long would it take before the Beagle decides to bark and lunge to send the Ridgeback away? How long would it take before the Beagle decides he hates the dog park, hates Ridgebacks, and hates all dogs? If the Beagle fights back, the Beagle owner collects his dog and leaves – reinforcing the very behavior of fighting back.

Photo courtesy of Päivi Reijonen – view the entire set on Flickr: http://www.flickr.com/photos/30096200@N08/sets/72157623555143141/

 

But I heard socializing your dog is very important! It absolutely is… BUT…

Socializing your dog at the park is a good idea, but it requires careful monitoring of his body language and selection of play partners. Our puppy socialization class teaches owners how to watch for these warning signs and ensures your puppy associates nothing but good things with other dogs. Overly rough play and bullying can just teach your dog to dislike other dogs. Young puppies also tend to be picked on and bullied by other dogs, which can teach them to be fearful of dogs – exactly the opposite of what you’re trying to accomplish.

If your dog has already started exhibiting aggressive behaviours towards dogs, don’t delay and ask us for help. The longer you allow your dog to practice these behaviours  the stronger they become, and the harder it is to undo.

On-leash aggression towards dogs

A fear aggressive / reactive German Shepherd lunges at another dog

Why does my dog bark and lunge at other dogs on leash?

First, rest assured, you are not alone. This behavioral issue is so common that there are volumes of books specifically written about the subject. Dog trainers and behaviorists refer to this issue as “on-leash aggression” or “on-leash reactivity”. That being said, this is a serious issue that needs addressing as soon as possible – the longer you wait, and the more it happens, the harder it is to address. A reactive dog can bite other dogs and even bite dog owners nearby.

What is it?

A dog with on-leash reactivity often gets along marvelously with other dogs when off-leash at the park, or in the yard, or even in home. But the minute you put on a leash and go for a walk, he becomes interested, then agitated at the sight of a dog at a distance. As you get closer, he expresses the frustration by barking, howling, lunging, and even biting. He’s so fired up that calling his name, luring him with food, or even applying leash corrections does nothing.

A fear aggressive / reactive German Shepherd lunges at another dog
A fear aggressive / reactive German Shepherd lunges at another dog

Photo courtesy of Päivi Reijonen (dog trainer and behaviorist) – view the entire set on Flickr: http://www.flickr.com/photos/30096200@N08/sets/72157623555143141/

 

What causes it?

Every dog is different, and it is difficult to figure out exactly why a specific dog develops this issue. Here are a few common reasons:

The dog never learned to walk loosely on leash, or focus on the handler when called. As a result, the dog is used to pulling around everywhere to investigate everything. The sight of a dog on the sidewalk is a novel distraction at first, so a puller struggles to go meet and sniff that other dog. Naturally, on-leash, and on the sidewalk, your dog doesn’t have the freedom to wander up and sniff every dog. The frustration of being unable to get to that interesting thing, compounded by the physical pain of the collar tension that occurs when pulling towards another dog is highly unpleasant. Soon, the dog associates the sight of another dog with feelings of frustration and pain, and very soon, through simple classical conditioning, the dog sees other dogs on the street as the reason for that feeling and pain. As it happens each and every time they see a dog on leash, the conditioning occurs very quickly.

The dog had learned to be fearful or dislike other dogs. This can occur if a dog has been harassed or attacked by another dog – sometimes it just takes one bad experience to make a dog fearful. This can also occur if a dog was not exposed to a wide variety of other friendly dogs while it was a puppy. In an off-leash setting, the dog has the option to flee. When a dog is on leash, we’ve taken away that option, so all that’s left is freeze, or fight. The on-leash reactive dog is barking and lunging to send the other dog away proactively.

The dog may be ill or injured. Dogs hide injury well, and perfectly well socialized dogs that suddenly start acting aggressively (in any context) may be hurt and vulnerable, and instinctively become more defensive. Make sure your dog is fully vetted to check for illness or injury.

 

What does not cause it:

Unfortunately, many “experts” are extremely misinformed about this and most other behavioral issues. Here are the most common and incorrect explanations they provide:

  • The dog is “dominant” and wants to fight every other dog.
  • Dogs have been selectively bred over many generations to avoid conflict – a species that is genetically predisposed to fighting tends to make itself extinct. Also, if the dog was a natural born fighter, he wouldn’t be an angel at the off leash dog park.
  • The dog doesn’t respect you as the “leader” or “alpha” or whatever and therefore is protecting you.
  • There is a behavioral issue called “resource guarding” where dogs guard their owners, but it is far more rare and typically occurs on or off-leash.
  • On-leash reactive dogs can be extremely well trained in obedience, and do everything their handler asks, and still lunge and bark.
  • You are not calm and assertive.
  • You could be totally oblivious to the fact there’s a dog approaching (and therefore relaxed) and the leash-reactive dog would still bark and lunge if they see the other dog first.

 

What training techniques should we avoid?

If you are advised to do any of the following, run far, far away from that trainer:

  • Leash corrections
    • The dog already fears and dislikes other dogs. Causing additional pain and discomfort whenever he sees another dog only compounds the feelings of frustration, fear, and hatred. The correction may suppress the behaviour  but the emotional attitude the dog has continues to slide into deeper frustration and hatred of dogs on leash. The dog has also not learned any desirable behaviour in its place (such as look at the handler).
  • Spray bottles or citronella collars
    • Many dogs fear spray bottles or citronella collars, so these “softer” aversives should not be used for the same reason. Conversely, many dogs do not care about getting water in the face, rendering them useless. In both cases, the dog has learned nothing.
  • Physical violence (yelling, hitting, poking, tapping, kicking, alpha-rolling, etc.)
    • You may suppress the behaviour (probably not) but you have also put yourself at severe risk of being bitten.
    • A dog learns that humans are dangerous, and hands are dangerous – you are creating a fear-biting dog.

What should you do about it?

Any behaviour issue that puts dogs and people at risk of injury is serious and is not something you should address on your own. This work requires you to have both knowledge of classical conditioning, operant conditioning, and practical work to manage your dog and deliver food rewards all while walking your dog on leash. Get the help of a professional dog trainer or behaviourist that prescribes the following:

  • Manage the environment – do not allow your dog to rehearse the barking and lunging. This means maintaining distance from other dogs while on leash as you train.
  • Change the dog’s emotional attitude towards other dogs while on leash – This is best accomplished by feeding your dog high value food (cheese, hot dogs, steak, chicken) each and every time he sees a dog while on leash.
  • Focus on safety – a head halter, or in extreme cases, a basket muzzle, ensures that you, your dog, and other owners and dogs are safe while you do the work.
  • Train an incompatible behavior – If you train the dog to look at your face and lock on when a dog approaches, it now has something to do other than bark and lunge.

 

Compare and Contrast: Good Training vs Bad Training

The first video has Dr. Sophia Yin (www.askdryin.com) using a combination of operant conditioning and classical conditioning to teach a leash-reactive dog to tolerate and then eventually like other dogs. You know this dog is happy because of his body language.

The second video from a certain TV program shows the use of severe leash corrections as a punishment to suppress behavior. In this case, the aggressive dog looks at another dog – the person kicks the dog (2:56), triggering the dog to bite, and then proceeds to choke the dog till it nearly suffocates. The person is bitten and dogs subjected to this punishment will suffer neck, spinal, tracheal, and ocular damage. If the owners tried this they would likely require hundreds of stitches.

GOOD DOG TRAINING:

 

BAD DOG TRAINING:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qh9YOyM2TAk

Dog Bite Prevention and Safety

Keep Your Dog and Your Family Safe from Dog Bites

Did you know that in the US, 4.7 million people are bitten by dogs each year? And, of those incidents, 77% of them are bites from the family pet (or a friend’s pet), and 50% of bites occur on the owner’s property? This means that you are more likely to be bitten by your own family dog than someone elses!

The next important fact to know is that dog bites rarely happen “out of the blue, all of a sudden”. Most dogs exhibit a wide range of body language and signals to indicate they are uncomfortable with the situation. The problem is, humans either do not understand or choose to ignore those clear communication signals. The dog is forced to either tolerate, run away, or bite.

The first thing you should do is learn how to greet and interact with dogs appropriately. The first rule is you should always ask the owner of the other dog if is it OK to say hello to them. Not all dogs will tolerate a stranger giving them a rough head pet. This is especially important to teach children. Lili Chin. of www.doggiedrawings.net created this great illustration called “How Not To Greet A Dog”:

How Not To Greet A Dog

Needless to say – dogs do not like head pets, people leading over them, staring them in the face, scrunching their hears, hugging them chest to chest, or kisses to the head. You never see two dogs greeting each other this way. You DO see primates greeting this way though – and guess what, we’re primates.

The second thing you should do is learn how to read canine body language. Once you know what to look for, it becomes very obvious when a dog is upset or in a position where a bite is possible. Visit www.doggonesafe.com and view the “Learn to Speak Dog” section here: http://www.doggonesafe.com/Speak_Dog

A few examples of signs of anxiety in a dog include

  • Head turns away from you
  • Panting
  • Whale Eye / Half Moon Eye (whites of eyes showing, especially when normally you never see them)
  • Scratching
  • Shake-off (as if the dog was wet, but he’s dry) after the hugging/touching ends
  • Yawning
  • Lip-Licking
  • Standing up and walking away

If your dog does these things while being touched or greeted by other people, this is a sign that your dog is uncomfortable. If you don’t listen to them, they may feel like they have no choice but to start showing signs of aggression like. Many people fail to even notice these more obvious signs:

  • Body stiffens
  • Lip curls / showing teeth
  • Low growl
  • Nose-bumping (jumping up to bump his nose against yours)
  • Air biting (intentionally biting and missing as a warning shot)

The third thing you should do, especially if you are the owner of a new puppy, is ensure they are extremely well socialized by the time they turn 13 weeks of age! Ensure your new puppy has met over 100 different types of people, has been handled in a variety of ways (but always gently), and fed yummy treats. This early socialization helps increase the tolerance that your puppy will have for the types of greetings they don’t like.

Lastly… if you have a young one, or are inviting young ones over to your house where they will interact with a dog – teach them that dogs are not stuffed animals or playthings – basically do the opposite of what is in the following video:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UsheRA3uP-Y

And here is a video of Gunner the Dalmation displaying every warning behaviour possible that precedes a bite. I have no idea what the mother of this toddler is thinking!!!

Top 7 Misconceptions About Clicker Training (And Food-Based Training)

Unfortunately there is a lot of misinformation about clicker training (and food-based training). While many of our new students are excited and eager to finally have a clicker training school that isn’t a two hour drive away from Downtown Toronto, some come to us a bit unsure or a bit on the fence – so if you are on the fence, this article is for you. Here are the top 7 misconceptions about clicker training that we hear when we meet new students.

Myth 1. I have to carry a clicker with me at all times or else the dog won’t perform.

Truth: Clickers are only used in the learning phase of a new behavior. After a behavior is nearly fluent, it is no longer needed.

Myth 2. If I train with food, I will need to have food with me at all times, forever, or else the dog won’t perform.

Truth: Lure-reward food-based training will create food dependency. Lure-reward training is not the same as clicker training, even though some lure-reward trainers use clickers incorrectly. Clicker trainers do not use food as a lure (or if they do, they use them extremely sparingly). If you train properly, you will not need to show your dog a treat first before it performs, nor will you necessarily have to feed your dog every time it performs. In fact, the opposite is true – if you continue to feed your dog for every correct response for too long, the dog won’t perform reliably. Clicker training actually requires you adopt what we call a variable schedule of reinforcement – in plain English, phasing out food.

 

Myth 3. Dogs get fat being trained with food.

Truth: Food rewards are prepared so small that they represent a relatively small percentage of total food intake per week. Also, in low-distraction environments or for easy behaviors, a dog’s regular meal can be used for training. I’ve never met a clicker trained dog that was overweight – most are pretty svelte since they often compete in dog sports as their training progresses.

 

Ha! Do I look fat to you?
Ha! Do I look fat to you?

 

Myth 4. If I train with food, the dog will beg for food.

Truth: Feeding your dog at the dinner table teaches them to beg at the dinner table. Giving food out by hand for no reason will teach a dog to beg for food. Training with food teaches the dog that food is only given in exchange for work performed, and only when we request the work. Well trained dogs actually never beg for food because the circumstances in which they can earn food is so black and white, they understand when it’s not available and when it’s available – and that is on our terms.

 

Myth 5. Clicker Trainers are “New Age-y” and “Soft” on their dogs

Truth: False!!! The best clicker trainers are extremely hard on their dogs. We are hard on the criteria we require our dogs to perform to in order to earn reinforcement. We are stingy on keeping access to rewards and reinforcement contingent on performing behaviors. Since nobody wants to carry around food forever, myself included, I use everything else that the dog wants in life to reinforce training. If my dogs don’t go into their crate and lay down, they don’t eat. If they don’t sit and stay while I open the door, the door never opens. If they don’t keep the leash loose while we are walking towards the dog park, we never get to the dog park.

What is true though is we will never use physical punishment in training because it is unnecessary – you can train reliable behaviors and proof them against distractions without having to inflict pain.

 

Myth 6. The dog will hear clicks from other students in class and get confused.

Truth: Dogs are experts at discriminating. Only clicks that come from the handler result in a food reward, so dogs quickly learn to ignore clicks that come from other directions.

 

Myth 7. Clicker training is a fad and it will be gone soon.

Truth: Clicker training comes from the work of B.F. Skinner and one of the earliest examples of clicker training was his graduate students, Marian and Keller Breland, clicker training pigeons to assist in aerial bombing in World War II. In the 1960s, Karen Pryor brought clicker training to dolphin training, and today it is now used to train practically every species of animal known to man. If it is good enough for the military and good enough for Sea World, isn’t it good enough for your family pet?

New Puppy Training: Top 5 Tips

German Shepherd and Doberman Puppy Play

Hopefully you are reading this article BEFORE your new puppy arrives! Puppyhood is a very brief period of a dog’s life and getting it right from the start will save you a lot of heartache and headache down the road. Here are our Top 5 Puppy Training Tips to help you out!

German Shepherd and Doberman Puppy Play
German Shepherd and Doberman Puppy Play in Puppy Socialization Class

Tip 1: Socialization

Puppy socialization is the process of exposing your new puppy to a wide variety of experiences in a safe, comfortable, and positive way. Puppies under the age of 14 weeks are extremely impressionable and early, positive experiences prior to this age can help ensure that your puppy grows up to be confident. The biggest mistake puppy owners make is thinking their dog is “too small” or “too fragile” and should stay at home until they get older. These dogs will never be as confident or relaxed as they could be. Moral of the story – take your puppy with you everywhere!

 

Tip 2: Disease Prevention

Puppies do not have a fully functional immune system and as such should not be exposed to dogs of unknown vaccination history or other areas of potential contamination. There is a particularly strong strain of Parvovirus that is prevalent in Toronto that will absolutely cripple a young puppy. Until your veterinarian advises, do not take your puppy to places like the dog park! Do attend a Puppy Socialization class, or arrange for play dates with adult dogs whose health background you are aware of.

 

Tip 3: House Breaking

The easiest and most effective way to house break a dog is through crate training. It is cruel to NOT crate train a dog, since a dog that is crate trained will love their crate and will be comfortable staying there for long periods of time. A dog that loves their crate can go anywhere (air travel, dog shows, dog sport events, hotels, car rides, etc.). A puppy should not have unsupervised access around the house – you are just asking for accidents to happen everywhere and the more they have accidents, the harder it is to house break your new puppy.

 

Tip 4: Chewing, Biting, and Destructive Behavior

Dogs chew. Puppies chew like crazy as they teethe and this will continue even as the adult teeth come out. Confine your puppy in an X-pen when they are unsupervised so they can’t chew inappropriate items. Make sure your puppy has a wide assortment of chew toys, and help them develop a preference to chew items like marrow bones or kongs by feeding meals out of them. Also, if your puppy is mouthy on you, don’t punish your dog – just put the dog away and give them something else to chew on. Nipping goes away on its own.

 

Tip 5: Begin Training and Establish House Rules on Day One

With positive reinforcement training, an animal can be trained as soon as it can see and hear. We start training puppies at When Hounds Fly at 8 weeks if possible; some breeders begin clicker training weeks before that. The earlier you start, the better, since early clicker training helps develop a thinking and creative dog early in their life. Similarly, set clear rules for your dog on day one. It is easier to relax them later, than take away privileges later. For example, if you know your Great Dane shouldn’t be on the bed or couch, don’t let your Great Dane puppy on the bed or couch, ever! Or, if you know it’ll be a problem if your soon-to-be 100 lb Newfoundland jumps on grandma, don’t greet and cuddle a jumping 20 lb Newfoundland puppy! Also, a puppy that is frequently left home alone for short amounts of time is far less likely to develop separation anxiety later in life.

 

We encourage all new puppy owners to enroll in our Puppy Socialization class! While we take puppies up to 16 weeks of age, we would encourage anyone getting a new puppy to start sooner and not delay.

What Type of Dog Collar or Harness Should I Use?

Confused by the myriad of options at the pet store when it comes to buying the right collar for your dog? Here’s a brief introduction and review of the common types of humane collars and harnesses on the market, how they work, and what they’re best for.

Flat Collar, Buckle Collar

What is it? A basic collar that goes around the neck of the dog. They can be fastened with belt-style buckles or clips.

What are they good for? Simple and inexpensive. Can be used to keep tags/ID on a dog in conjunction with harnesses or a head collar. Flat collars are best used for small to large dogs that can loose leash walk reliably.

What are the downsides? Dogs that aren’t trained to loose leash walk can choke themselves, causing stress to the eyes, neck, trachea, and even thyroid. This is especially dangerous for flat faced dogs that can suffer from a prolapsed eyeball from the pressure.

 

Front Clip Harness (Sense-ation Harness, Easywalk Harness, Freedom Harness)

 

What is it? A harness where the leash fastens to the chest. The design of the harness discourages pulling.

What are they good for? All dogs! But especially dogs that pull.

What are the downsides? Toy dogs, or short dogs will likely have their leash get caught between their legs frequently due to the attachment point. Harnesses can be chewed and destroyed if left on while unattended.

 

Rear Clip Harness (H-style harness, Vest harness, Buddy Belts, etc.)

What is it? A harness where the leash fastens to the back of the harness (along the dog’s back).

What are they good for? Toy dogs, or very short dogs, to protect their fragile necks and keep the leash near the top of the dog so they don’t get caught up between their legs.

What are the downsides? Rear clip harnesses do not reduce pulling. Harnesses can be chewed and destroyed if left on while unattended.

 

Martingale Collar

What is it? A collar that has a limited-slip component that tightens the leash becomes taught. They slip over the dog’s head.

What are they good for? Dogs with thick necks and small heads (sighthounds) that can back out and slip out of flat collars.

What are the downsides? Frequently they are misused as choke collars (sized too small, when tight, can choke and even suffocate a dog). Dogs can get caught in a martingale collar and hang themselves.

 

Head collar (i.e. Halti, Gentle Leader, Snoot Loop)

What is it? A collar that loops behind the dog’s ears and over their muzzle.

What are they good for? Dogs that are mildly reactive to various stimuli (dogs, people, cats, squirrels, etc.) as if required, you can redirect the dog’s gaze. By design they also discourage pulling, even more so than a front clip harness.

What are the downsides? Head collars attach to a very sensitive part of a dog’s neck and if the handler jerks the leash, or a dog lunges on the leash while wearing a head collar, their neck can be injured. Many people mistake the muzzle loop as a muzzle and may think your dog is aggressive.