Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Hello There!

Ok, this week's post is going to be pretty short but sweet for three reasons:

-I found it already written out perfectly by someone else and there's no need for me to just re-write what has already been said.
-It seems like this is all I've been working with lately- dogs who are fearful or shy and stubborn strangers who think they will be the dog's best friend.
-I am super busy the rest of the week and this is honestly all I have time for. I promise I'll post something of my own next week.

Roxie tolerates hugs from Ethan, but she'd rather be chasing a bird and stealing his snacks. 

The diagrams are especially useful here in demonstrating how rude we really are to dogs at times. As canines, dogs are inherently not as comfortable with the types of greetings we as humans use. They have learned that we are not meaning to be threatening when we hug them or lean over and pat their head. It's still weird and it's even more weird when a stranger does it.
For a dog, a normal greeting means approaching at an angle (about 45 degrees or so) so that you aren't charging head on at them- this would be a threat. Avoiding direct eye contact when meeting someone for the first time is a very safe habit in the dog world- why start a fight right away?
Sniffing is the other important part. We people talk and exchange pleasantries when we meet ("where are you from?" "What do you do?", etc). Dogs can skip the small talk and smell to find out that and so much more (who they are, where they are from , where they went today, what they had for lunch, if they live with another dog or a cat, etc.). This is why it is important to allow a dog to sniff you (not force them to sniff) to gain some understanding of who you are.

Oscar does love a good ear rub from his buddy, Matt. His body is relaxed and he is leaning into his friend. 

As you can see from the date on Dr. Yin's post below, this is not terribly novel information, but I can tell you and my clients can tell you- it's important information to know.

Have you and your dog experienced a rude greeting?

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Can I Have Your Attention?

I love when I see a dog walking along with their owner and glance upwards to gaze into their human's eyes. It's gorgeous.

 This is what it looks like.

Relaxed, happy, saying "hello".
You know what's better? Having a dog do it while walking off leash as a way to check-in with their person. It says that they are having fun with their person, they want to make sure their person is having fun too, and they have a super bond.

YOU can have this! I teach this to all my clients (unless they already know it). It is great for all dogs, especially those whose owner wants to master off leash walking in any manner, easily distracted or reactive dogs.

Best of all, it's super easy to teach:

Purpose- teaching this exercise will train your dog that it is more reinforcing to pay attention to you than the distractions around him.
Criteria- your dog should look at you.
Visual cue- Point to your eyes.
Verbal cue- ‘Look’
Important to remember:
Your dog is familiar with his own environment.  There are fewer distractions at home as compared to a park.  Begin all training where there are minimum distractions.  As your dog becomes more reliable with certain behaviors, gradually work your way to a more distracting environment.  DO NOT expect your dog to respond to you as well as they would at home in this new environment right away.  They will improve over time and with practice.

Start in an area with no distractions
Take a treat slowly wave it in front of your dogs nose and with your dog watching bring it to your eyes. Wait. As soon as your dog looks away from the treat and into your eyes, say “look” or “attention”, Click & Treat.
After 20 approximations at step 2, say ‘Look’ then ‘ok’ then Click & Treat
The above must be given in that order.  Your verbal ‘ok’ is their cue that they can look away.
When beginning this behavior only expect your dog to look at you for up to 2 seconds.
Repeat several times in a environment that is not distracting.  Slowly start increasing the length of time your dog looks at you.
Move to different environments that are not distracting, like different rooms in your house.
After 50 successful approximations of your dog looking at you while using the food lure, begin to fade the use of the lure.
Fading the food can be done by first asking for ‘Look’ with the treat in your hand by your eyes but CT your dog from the hand that is not by your eye. 
After 10 successful approximations, do not use a food lure, instead give both your verbal cue ‘look’ and your visual cue, point to your eyes.  Click & Treat from hand that is not by your eye.
After 10 successful approximations, randomly reinforce your dog.  Don’t forget the occasional ‘jackpots’ to encourage your dog to look at you in future exercises.
Slowly start to add more distractions for your dog.  For example, if you began training this behavior in your house move to your porch/ sidewalk outside.

Remember the importance of fading the food treats once your dog understands the new cue- random reinforcement is one of the strongest builders of any behavior!!

How else do you get your dog's attention?