Archive for Dog Behavior – Page 2

Talking Dogs, How Technology Can Make It Happen

Every professional dog trainer’s dream? Dogs talking to humans. In the article “Meet The Researcher Who Wants To Get Dogs Talking To Humans In Five Years,” new technology is discussed that will facilitate clearer communication between dogs and their people. Specifically, service and search dogs are both mentioned in the article as targeted audiences for the technology. Researchers are training dogs to utilize a specialized harness to indicate specific hazards, in the case of service dogs, or a specialized dummy attached to the collar to trigger a GPS location signal, in the case of search dogs.

But as a certified professional dog trainer, it’s important to remember that dogs speak to humans all the time. Dogs are social creatures, and every interaction is an attempt to convey something – I’m happy; I’m hungry; don’t take my bone; I have to pee. It requires training and practice to understand some of the more complex or subtle forms of communication, but they certainly are talking. For an in depth discussion of interpreting dog body language, register for Raising Canine’s “Canine Body Language.” Interpreting body language is an essential skill if you’re interested in becoming a professional dog trainer.

Can technology help us to improve our relationships with our dogs? Absolutely. In the instance described above, the service and search dogs are being trained to communicate in specific, human-friendly ways that a lay person can easily understand. The technology is an interface between the dog and the human that the human handler can easily interpret. So while technology can help, there is still a need for training and an understanding of body language for communication between humans who specialize in dog training and dogs to exist and improve.

Resource Guarding Face Off

For a great commentary on body language related to resource guarding, read Patricia McConnell’s blog entry “Who is Going to Win?” We can’t mention often enough that becoming a professional dog trainer means acquiring and maintaining a strong understanding of canine body language. Keep practicing, and hone those skills!

Greetings: Not Meeting Leashed Dogs

As a certified professional trainer, be ready to have solutions for your less sociable clients. Your less sociable clients or clients sensitive to the special needs of their shy dogs may be less desirous of dog-dog interaction on walks. These clients can use a few helpful tips and words of encouragement.

1. Meeting social needs.

Help your clients understand that dogs experience a diminishing desire for social interactions with unknown dogs as they age. With this knowledge, they are less likely to feel pangs of guilt for minimizing on-leash greetings during regular walks. It’s also important to help clients understand that dogs are individuals, and their dog may have different needs than previous dogs or friends’ dogs. There are social butterfly dogs and wallflower dogs. Shy or fearful dogs simply may not feel comfortable meeting new dogs on walks.

2. How to speak with other dog walkers.

Give your client some examples of how they can avoid dog-dog interactions. Having a few responses for oncoming dogs and their people can help some clients have more confidence about speaking up and advocating for their dog. A few examples include:

· An extended arm straight out from the body with an open hand, palm out. This resembles a halt gesture.

· “We’re training and not meeting strangers today.”

· Simply turn and walk away.

· “My dog isn’t friendly with new dogs.”

Each of these is polite but clear. Most clients with whom I have discussed this topic are uncomfortable either with confrontation or with giving strangers a negative opinion of their dog. The above suggestions take this into account. Some clients aren’t shy. They’ll simply yell “STOP!” or tell people their dog is contagious or even that their dog is. But most importantly, your clients should have a response with which they are comfortable so that they can respond readily on walks.

If you hold an appropriate class (shy dog class or reactive dog class), you can practice this technique with your clients, so they are better prepared when it happens in real life.

Read more tips for creating successful greetings in our Greetings series: “Greetings Meeting the Friendly Stranger,” Greetings: Mom, You’re Home!,” and “Greetings: Meeting The Friendly Leashed Dog

8 Tips For Introducing New Dogs To Your Household

Bringing a new dog home is an exciting – and stressful – time. If you’re lucky, your clients will seek out the advice of a canine behavior specialist. That’s you! You can also help your clients understand the need for advice by bringing up intrahousehold introduction, what they are and why it’s especially important they go well, in your basic obedience and puppy classes. Here are 8 tips to help your clients to a successful introduction:

1. Limit initial exposure to sharing the same household without meeting or greeting. This allows the dogs to become accustomed to each other’s scent. Minimally, your target goal should be several days, but up to 2-3 weeks is better for dogs that are easily stressed or dogs that have less than desirable social skills or play styles.

2. Make initial meetings low stress by allowing some distance between dogs, for example, by using parallel walking exercises.

3. Up close meetings are best accomplished in large, open spaces.

4. Dogs are generally more comfortable interacting off-leash, but if necessary a drag line can be used.

5. Introduce only 1 new dog at a time. In multi-dog homes, try for 1 new dog every 1-2 days, but only if introductions progress smoothly.

6. Be familiar with the dogs you are introducing. Do they resource guard? Have a good recall? Knowing a little information about the dogs will help you choose what tools you can use: food, verbal cues, toys.

7. Know how to interrupt interactions.  Some examples include: 1) Using body pressure by moving away from interacting dogs to get stuck dogs moving out of corners; 2) Using a food lure if there are no resource guarding issues; 3) Throwing a ball or introducing a lon, soft toy that both dogs can hold and tug.

8. Know when to interrupt interactions. 1) Freezing or stiffness should be immediately interrupted. 2) Lengthy play with no breaks should be interrupted. 3) Non-reciprocal play should be interrupted. 4) Highly aroused dogs should be interrupted.

Read more tips for creating successful greetings in our Greetings series: “Greetings Meeting the Friendly Stranger,” Greetings: Mom, You’re Home!Greetings: Meeting The Friendly Leashed Dog” and “Greetings: Choosing Not To Meet Leashed Dogs.”

Greetings: Meeting the Friendly Leashed Dog

If your clients walk their dogs regularly, as a professional dog trainer you can anticipate hearing from them – “what do I do when I encounter other friendly, leashed dogs?” Clients dog walk for a number of reasons: exercise for themselves or their dogs, socializing – again for themselves or their dogs, and mental stimulation, among others. For your social butterfly clients, you’ll find that they will have a strong desire to allow their dogs to interact with dogs they encounter on walks. Here are a few positive dog training tips for successful leashed dog interactions.

1. Control.

Before on-leash introductions take place, there should be slack in the leashes of both dogs. This means that each dog displays a level of control and training that allows them to walk on a loose leash when faced with distractions, especially the distraction of other dogs. Convey to your client the importance of approaching with slack in the leash. Many clients understand that the leash should be loose while the dogs greet. Demonstrating self-control in the face of distraction, keeping arousal levels low, and maintaining good (fluid and relaxed) body language on the approach can set the scene for a much better interaction. 

2. Dog-friendly.

Both dogs should be friendly with strange dog. What if the dog is unknown to your client? Then certainly they can ask if that dog is friendly to other dogs. First, it is important to ask before the dogs begin to approach one another. Second, it is not uncommon that owners misrepresent or simply don’t fully understand how strange-dog friendly their own dog is. So, explain that there is some risk inherent to any interaction with a strange dog. That risk is multiplied when the owner is unable to read body language indicating increasing arousal levels, or even aggression.

3. Keep it fluid and brief.

Keep slack in the leash, and be sure to keep the leases untangled. That can involve a bit of a dance on the part of the owners. Also, interactions should be brief and at any sign of escalation, concluded. Escalation can include feet bouncing off the ground in excitement, hackles rising as arousal increases, or a stiffening of posture indicating increased stress or aggression.

Read more tips for creating successful greetings in our Greetings series: “Greetings Meeting the Friendly Stranger,” Greetings: Mom, You’re Home!8 Tips For Introducing New Dogs To Your Household” and “Greetings: Choosing Not To Meet Leashed Dogs.”

Socialization: Tips For Success

There is a great deal of confusion surrounding the concept of socialization. It is generally accepted by most professional dog trainers’ clients that socialization is good and they should be doing it. But how, where, and when create a good bit of confusion. Most importantly, the human’s responsibility is to provide the opportunity for interaction with new and different things, people, dogs, and smells. These opportunities should be low pressure and pleasant. A little stress goes a long way when dogs are interacting with new and different stimuli.

Here are some helpful hints for your clients.

DO…

  • Provide opportunities that present new and different stimuli for your puppy or dog. This includes exposure to friendly dogs, friendly strangers, new objects, and unique smells.
  • Reward bravery. Important to note, the reward happens after the dog has shown interest in something new, which is very different from luring that interest.
  • Allow ease of movement and provide a clear avenue for escape.
  • Use food, toys, praise, and play to reward your puppy or dog for investigating new things.
  • Allow plenty of time for new interactions. Allow your puppy or dog to engage in age appropriate and safe ways. Young puppies may use their mouths, puppies and dogs may sniff quite a bit. 
  • Increase distance when your puppy or dog shows signs of being more than lightly stressed by his new experience. For example, if you see signs like lip licking, yawning and scratching when meeting someone new, walk a little further away from that person and give your puppy or dog a break.
  • Keep sessions short.

DO NOT…

  • Push your puppy or dog to be braver than he is ready to be. Even well-intentioned luring can add too much stress in some situations.
  • Hold your puppy or dog’s leash to remove the slack, or propel your puppy forward by means of his leash.
  • Rush your puppy when he’s investigating new things, people and dogs. If you’re on a tight time table, it’s not the best time for socialization.
  • Correct your puppy or dog for inquisitiveness. Sniffing is a natural way for dogs to interact with their environment. If sniffing is excessive or inappropriate, then redirect rather than correcting with punishment.
  • Arrange socialization opportunities when your puppy or dog is over-tired, or allow the sessions to last over-long.

Read our blog post “Socialization Versus Behavior Modification: Making The Correct Recommendation” to read about which dogs may not be good candidates for socialization. Socialization is a topic that you’ll encounter repeatedly as a certified professional dog trainer. If you’re feeling underprepared to discuss socialization with your clients, visit Raising Canine for topic specific continuing education on socialization, including the telecourse “Puppy Professors – Socialisation Science.

Socialization Vs. Behavior Modification: Making the Correct Recommendation

One of the most common statements you’ll hear as a certified professional trainer is “I want to socialize my dog.” Clients express an interest in socialization in a variety of contexts: when bringing home a new puppy or adopting a new (to them) dog of any age; when their dogs don’t spend much time away from home; and when their dogs are exhibiting less than social behaviors. You face several challenges in handling socialization requests, primary among them helping your clients to understand when socialization is appropriate and when behavior modification with a canine behavior specialist is recommended.

When clients mention socialization in their pre-registration discussions with you, be sure to ask clarifying questions. (Review our blog post “Who Are Your Clients? Creating a Dog Training Intake Form” for help in creating an intake form.) The most important piece of information that you can collect is how appropriate are the dog’s current responses to environmental stimuli. Socialization is simply providing an opportunity for one’s dog to interact in a low pressure way with new stimuli: people, dogs, other animals, and objects. If your client’s dog is displaying inappropriate behaviors when encountering new stimuli – for example, cowering when encountering new dogs even at a distance or lunging at strangers on walks – then it’s time to recommend behavior modification.

Dogs that are cautiously curious, dogs that startle when encountering new stimuli but recover quickly, or dogs that show some mild concern over new things but when given time, warm up and begin interacting in a positive way, are likely good candidates for appropriate socialization. Dogs that are bold and curious should certainly be involved in socialization to maintain these healthy responses.

In summary, socialization is very important for dogs who have healthy responses to new stimuli. Appropriate socialization allows these dogs to maintain their healthy responses. Dogs displaying undesirable responses to new stimuli should be routed toward behavior modification with a canine behavior specialist.

Don’t miss our upcoming blog post,“Socialization: Tips for Success,” which discusses what constitutes appropriate socialization! 

VIDEO: What Is Good Play?

Our blog posts “VIDEO: Change the Dog Toy, Change the Dog Play” and “VIDEO: Inappropriate Play – What Is The Certified Dog Trainer's Responsibility? discuss some aspects of good and inappropriate play. Recognizing appropriate play is an important skill certified professional trainers should develop and maintain. The best methods? Practice! It’s also important to be able to pinpoint and vocalize very specific behaviors that are appropriate. like and to help clients to understand 

What do you see?

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vBtu09la96Y[/youtube]

Here are some points indicating that this play session was appropriate:

1. Play is reciprocal. 

Both dogs are engaged in play. Neither is retreating into closed space or hiding. The Doodle is always chased, but when there is a pause the Doodle immediately turns around and re-engages the Black Lab.

2. Breaks.

Both dogs take very brief breaks from their play. These mini-breaks are brief moments of non-motion.

3. Body Language.

The Black Lab is loose and curvy, which is evidence that she is comfortable and relaxed. The Doodle is a little stiffer and quicker with her movement, evidencing slightly less comfort, but interested in engaging with the Lab.

4. Type of Play.

Primarily chase. The Doodle entices the lab to chase, but continues to check back in and re-engage the Lab rather than running flat out. The Lab appears comfortable following the Doodle's lead on play style.

What do you see?

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f3u9YtifOtI[/youtube]

A few points:

1. Play is reciprocal. 

Both dogs are engaged in play. Neither is retreating into closed space or hiding. Each dog elicits play at some point in the clip.

2. Breaks.

Both dogs take very brief breaks from their play, as well as a few lengthier breaks. At one point, the smaller Lab mix lies down.

3. Body Language.

Lots of open mouths while wrestling, but not biting down. Facial muscles are relaxed. Both dogs bow or half-bow frequently and are relatively loose with their bodies – no rigid, tall stances.

4. Type of Play.

Primarily wrestling, with both dogs actively soliciting wrestling as a play form.

Remember, interpreting play is contextual. Observing only 1 dog or observing a particular behavior in isolation from the preceding and following behaviors can be misleading. Look at the whole picture. Practice by observing group play often, videoing when you have the opportunity. Finally, help your clients to understand what constitutes appropriate play by describing specific desirable behaviors. Improving your ability to pinpoint and describe to your clients what constitutes good play is another way to make yourself a great dog training resource for your clients. 

VIDEO: Inappropriate Play – What Is The Certified Dog Trainer’s Responsibility?

Daycare, play dates, and puppy class. There are a number of opportunities for certified professional dog trainers to observe off leash play between client dogs. We’ve discussed what an important skill reading K9 body language is in the post “VIDEO: Change the Dog Toy, Change the Dog Play.” Observing play and educating yourself regarding good play can help you to become more comfortable identifying and encouraging good play, as we discussed in our previous post. But what do you do when you observe socially awkward, inappropriate or aggressive behavior? The following tips are for socially awkward and inappropriate behaviors. Aggression is its own blog topic!

1. Control the Situation.

If you observe play that is inappropriate in an off-leash activity that you’re supervising, it’s very important that you control the situation. Interrupt the behavior or redirect the dog that is displaying inappropriate behavior. If you observe anything unsafe, immediately remove the problematic dog from group play.

2. Inform the Owner

Explain to clients what constitutes good play, and help them to recognize in their own dog what is inappropriate. This can be a difficult conversation to have. Clients have a strong connection to their dogs, and factual accounts of behavior can be perceived as criticism. I have found it helpful to describe very specific behaviors and discuss how the continuation of such behaviors may place their dog at a disadvantage when playing with other dogs or possibly even be unsafe for their dog.

3. Educate the Owner to Manage and Alter Target Behaviors

Once you’ve educated the owner so that he can distinguish which behaviors shouldn’t be allowed to continue, be sure to explain in detail how your client can interrupt or redirect his dog. Depending on the behavior and the dog, toys, food, body blocking, and reliably trained cues can be used to interrupt and redirect. Pick the best tools for your client’s dog, and ensure your client is comfortable employing them. 

Watch the following clip for an example of mildly inappropriate play. Pick out the behaviors that you as a professional dog trainer would target to interrupt and alter.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5hdb4qXOwtE&feature=youtube[/youtube]

The behaviors I would target for this dog include: vocalization, rigid body posture, over the shoulder pawing, and muzzle punching. Context is all important in analyzing body language. These dogs are clearly engaging in play. Some of the poodle’s behaviors could be perceived as aggressive in some situations, but here they are simply making the shepherd uncomfortable. But not so uncomfortable that she is refuses to engage in play!

Welcome to the World! Preparing Your Dog for Public Outings

You’ve decided your dog is ready to venture out into the world as your companion. If you’re uncertain if your dog is a good candidate for public excursions, read our blog post “Wallflower or Social Butterfly.

1. Pick your venue.

Starbuck’s or Home Depot? Petsmart or the local boutique pet store? Choose a venue that has an amount of traffic, people and dogs, that you can expect your dog to tolerate well. Starbuck’s is high volume within a small space. Home Depot is a very large space with a thinner spread of people. Similarly, compare the traffic between Petsmart and a local boutique pet store. You can also expect to see more dogs at Petsmart than a Home Depot.

2. Refresh cues.

If I had to pick three cues to focus on in preparation of public outings, I would work on left side loose leash walking (LLW), place, and one of the following: recall, hand targeting, or leave-it. LLW allows me to get to where I’m going without interfering with others’ enjoyment of the space. Place allows my dog to relax in a place of my choosing while my attention is not completely focused on him. Recall, hand targeting, and leave-it can all be used to redirect and quickly maneuver your dog in a low stress manner.

3. Improve reliability.

Your dog is likely to be under some stress in a new environment. And there will be a number of distractions for which you may or may not have specifically trained. Working on the reliability of your dog’s cues is an important preparation step. You can begin to do this at home by adding in controllable distractions to your training.

4. Be prepared.

Poop bags, water and dish, a place mat, a stuffed kong, a chew – brainstorm what equipment you’ll need and pack it up! Bring plenty of training rewards with you. If your dog is a food reward dog, bring a few different varieties of high value treats and some lower value goodies. If your dog is a toy reward dog, bring several different toys. This will help if you need to do some refresher training on the fly.

5. Be a good neighbor.

Wherever you are, someone has made the decision to allow your dog to accompany you into that space. Thank them with courteous behavior and a well-mannered dog. Scoop your poop, only allow elimination in designated areas, keep your dog under control so as not to disturb other guests, and either don’t inconvenience the staff or tip accordingly if you do.

Whenever you venture out into the public arena, you’ll encounter a number of dog lovers, people who dislike or are afraid of dogs, and people who just don’t want to be bothered. A good outing leaves all of the above groups undisturbed, your dog confident and ready for another outing, and you looking forward to the next trip. With a little planning and preparation, you can make your next trip a good outing. And there is no better advertisement for a certified professional trainer, than clients whose dogs successfully navigate public venues.