These are Three of my Challenging Things

These are Three of my Challenging Things

Standard Top Three

    1.    “Doesn’t come when called”
    2.    “Jumps on people”
    3.    “Pulls on leash”

These things come up, time and time again, as the top three issues people have with their dogs. Are you in the same club? I hope this article will help you and your dog walk that training path together with more ease and understanding.

He ain't misbehaving. He is simply behaving. Don’t blame the learner.

•    Coming when called
Your recall cue should elicit such a sense of anticipation and happiness in your dog that when he hears it, his reaction is reflexive, instantaneous, and joyous. The reason why we lack success in training recall is that we often go about it in the opposite way we should. We choose a word - a noise to our dog - that we want him to respond to, whether it’s his name, “come” or whatever, then we say it, hoping our non-verbal companions will magically understand. When it doesn’t work, we repeat it, louder, like the typical rude American in a foreign land asking for directions. We blame the listener for failing to comply with instructions he neither understands nor has any reason to respond to.

The Dinner Bell Strategy - Channeling Pavlov!

Part I: Classical Conditioning*: Recall Cue then Party Heartily
Train it in reverse. That’s right. Without expecting any behavior whatsoever from your dog, say your recall cue just once then immediately, within 2 seconds, throw a party for him. The party should consist of whatever he values at that moment and should last about 5 seconds.

“Fido!”, then treats fall on the floor at your feet

During this phase, do not make the mistake of saying “Fido” and failing to produce the goods. How would you feel if the dinner bell rang, but it rarely meant the feast you were anticipating? You’d likely start to ignore it. Why bother?

Part II: Classical to Operant Conditioning*

Assuming you’ve done enough repetitions of Part I to the point where your dog clearly expects something awesome will happen after he hears the recall cue, you will add a bit of distance so that he moves toward you when you call him. Be inviting; turn away from him and start to move away so he must chase you down, but don’t go too far yet. Just before he gets to you, drop those treats on the floor.

“Fido!”, move away, then treats fall on the floor at your feet just before he catches up

Gradually build your dog’s understanding of the cue by strategically and carefully adding complexity. If there is a failure at any point, a) go back to Phase I, b) increase the value of the reward, or c) make it easier by decreasing the distance or distractions.
(See DDN, March, ‘22, “What’s that Noise?”)

2. Jump, Jump, Jump!! [“Ah, might as well jump (jump!) Go ahead and jump. Jump!]

Many dogs would be great stars in their own version of a Van Halen music video. Jumping up on people can be “oh so much fun” for our pups, and they learn quickly that it either works or doesn’t work. “‘Works’ or ‘Doesn’t Work’” are the basic questions our ever-clever dogs are asking themselves, and they base their future behavior on the answers. If your pup tends to jump up on people, the answer is clearly, “this strategy works for me.” As with many behaviors, if we want them to change, we need to change the consequences. If we want more of a behavior, we have to pay for it; if we want less, we have to withhold payment. With jumping dogs, the typical payment is attention. From their perspective, it’s wickedly exciting when a person squeals and wiggles and thrashes about. Do the opposite: say nothing and stiffly and abruptly move into the dog’s space before his paws make contact with you. Fold your arms against your body. Save others from being victims of your jumping dog; it’s not their responsibility to train him. This may mean keeping him on leash around other people, at least until he settles down and is less likely to jump.

Start teaching young puppies that jumping up on people will not result in payment of any kind. If they learn it’s a fun strategy, it quickly becomes a habit and is likely to follow them into adulthood.
(For a more in-depth article on jumping, see DDN, Jan ‘20 “Get a Jump Start on the New Year”)

3. Pulling on Leash

Walking nicely on leash has to be one of the least natural behaviors we expect our dogs to do. It’s admittedly a tough one, but the same rules apply: if pulling works for the dog, it’s a strategy he will employ in the future. Unfortunately, most puppies learn from the get-go that pulling works, then they get bigger and stronger, and it continues to work. Because leash walking is a dog’s ticket to the larger world, when it’s a struggle, the world is often very small. We owe it to them to learn how to teach them.

There are many, many methods and angles to teaching good leash walking. Here are just a few:
Train heel position as a stationary behavior.

This concept is fairly new to me, but it has made a world of difference! If your dog realizes that heel position (either side) pays generously, he will want to be there, just like he gravitates to the feet of the highchair where Johnny tends to drop tasty things onto the floor. Practice inside your house. Start off by standing still and inviting Fido to come to your side. Remain standing still and feed your pup one treat after another after another (“fast feeding”) before you step forward a tiny bit. See “Walk 'n' Dine with 8-week-old puppy” on my Vimeo channel.

Prevent Pulling.

Fit your dog to an anti-pull (front-clipping) harness or head halter. No gear is fail-safe; you still need to train.

Do not go with the pull; if you do, you are teaching your dog to pull.

Make heel position a great place to be! Play tug with your pup at heel, move in fun and exciting ways, so he’ll want to stay close. Reward, reward, reward!
(see DDN, Sept ‘21 “The Rule that Makes all the Difference”)

 Happy Training!

*”Classical Conditioning” is a learning process that occurs when two stimuli are repeatedly paired; an emotional response can be created.
**Operant Conditioning” is when an association is made between a behavior and a consequence for that behavior.

Diana Logan, CPDT-KA Certified Professional Dog Trainer, Knowledge-Assessed  Pet Connection Dog Training, North Yarmouth, Maine | | 207-252-9352

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