Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Teach Your Dog to Fetch

“The ball, the ball, the ball! Throw the ball, the ball, the ball!”

So says your dog. And you throw the ball, and she chases it down and grabs it, and then she … doesn’t bring it back for you to throw again. Instead she prances around for a few seconds and then drops the ball in favor of shrubbery investigation, or maybe she just hangs on to it basically forever. There goes your dream of a long, relaxing game of fetch.

Today, how to make your dream real. I warn you, there will be some training slog involved.

The method you’ll use to teach your dog to fetch instead of keep-away is called “backchaining.” That’s trainer-speak for taking all the steps in a series of behaviors and teaching the last one first, then the next-to-last-one, and so on till you get to the first behavior in the “chain.” (Backchaining is used to help people learn complex sequences, too.) For a fetch, the backward series might look like this:

5. Dog drops ball into your hand (or on the ground right in front of you).

4. Dog approaches you, carrying the ball.

3. Dog picks up the ball from where it landed when you threw it.

2. Dog chases the thrown ball.

1. Dog waits for you to throw the ball.

You’ll teach #5 first, then #4, and so on. Every step is taught with rewards – this is essential. When your dog is performing the whole sequence from 1 to 5, start to finish, every step in the sequence is rewarded by the chance to perform the next step. The reason each step functions as a reward in itself is that it has been heavily rewarded during your teaching, and the dog has good associations with it. The reason Step 5 is the most rewarding of all is that it’s had the most practice and the most rewards. Your dog’s reward for giving you the ball is a chance to get hold of it again – just what she wants the most.

Step 5: Teach Your Dog to Give You the Ball
Since our whole premise here is that your dog hangs on to the ball, Step 5 is probably the one you’ll need to practice most patiently.

Stand on Dogalini’s leash but make sure she has room to move a couple of steps. Now hand her the ball. Once she’s got it in her mouth, put your cupped hand under it. Don’t ask her to do anything and don’t try to get the ball away from her; just wait her out. The instant she drops the ball (even if she doesn’t drop it into your hand), give it back to her. Better yet, toss it right into her mouth if she’s a good catch.

The last step – giving you the ball – is the most rewarding.With some dogs, you’ll have quite a little wait for that first drop of the ball. You can grease the skids by offering a treat in exchange for the ball during the first few reps, but you may want to phase the treat out quickly; usually, a ball-loving dog’s big reward for giving back the ball in a game of fetch is the chance to get hold of the ball again. On the other hand, the Training Police will not come get you if you stick with treats forever. The real point is for you and your dog to have fun and to succeed. How you work that is your call.
Every step in teaching fetch is rewarded by the chance to perform the next step.

Break up the training into a couple of sessions if your dog seems frustrated or bored, or if you are! End each session by giving Dogalini the ball and letting her hold it as long as she wants. You’re ready for Step 4 when your dog is spitting the ball out as soon as your hand is ready to catch it.

Step 4: Teach Your Dog to Approach You While Carrying the Ball
You already know that if you toss the ball any distance, your dog will pick it up and keep it. Now she’s learned how to drop it when she’s right in front of you, but she still doesn’t know to bring it to you first. She needs to learn that a little at a time, as well. So begin Step 4 by standing on her leash again. Toss the ball lightly to the ground just one pace away from her. When she picks it up, hold your hand out for it and encourage her in a happy voice to come closer. Again, the distance between you should be only what she can cover in a pace or two.

If you practiced Step 5 enough, your dog should happily bring you the ball and drop it for you. Immediately toss it for her just as you did the first time. You can change the direction you toss the ball in, but keep at that same tiny distance for at least a dozen reps. As with Step 5, you can break up the training into as many sessions as you need to keep Dogalini interested and in the game. End each session by giving her the ball.

Take your time building up the distance you toss the ball for Dogalini to pick up and bring to you. The longer your dog has had the habit of chasing the ball and not bringing it back, the more reps you should do at each distance and the smaller each increase in distance should be. It’s reasonable to spend a dozen training sessions or more to teach your dog to bring you the ball over gradually longer distances.

When you’re tossing the ball far enough that Dogalini can’t reach it with you standing on her leash, let the leash hang loose for a few sessions. The reason not to take the leash off entirely right away is that each change in the training situation has the potential to change the picture enough for your dog that she’ll start making mistakes. Take the leash off completely once Dogalini has done a few dozen successful reps with the leash dragging free.

If your training falls apart at any stage and your dog hangs onto the ball instead of bringing it to you and dropping it, go back to a point where Dogalini was getting it right every time. Work your way back up from that point, but progress more slowly than you did before.

Steps 3 and 2: The Easiest Part!
Chasing the ball and picking it up are the steps your dog was so good at in the first place. Now that you’ve got her fetching, the pitfall to look out for isn’t underpracticing but overpracticing. Some dogs will play fetch forever – they’ll play through injury, or in hot weather they’ll play themselves right into heatstroke. Other dogs enjoy a few rounds of fetch but then get bored or distracted.

Either way, match the length of your game to what’s fun and safe for your dog. If she’ll fetch the ball a dozen times and then bail out, limit your fetch games to 10 throws and leave her wanting more. If she’ll play till she drops, end the game when she’s pleasantly tired and relaxed.

Step 1: Teach Your Dog to Wait for You to Throw the Ball
If you find you’ve created one of those fetch maniacs who barks and leaps impatiently until you throw the ball, lower the temperature! Ask her to sit, or wait for an instant of quiet, and only deliver the goods when you get that sit or quiet. It’s worth your while to reward polite behavior in this context, as in any other.

Friday, September 26, 2014

How to Stop Your Dog From Barking

Here's a list of six techniques that can help stop your dog from barking. While all of them can be very successful, you shouldn't expect miraculous results overnight. The longer your dog has been practicing the barking behavior, the longer it will take for him to change his ways.

Some of these training techniques require you to have an idea as to why your dog barks. We can help you get some insight into what is behind the bark.

Always remember to keep these tips in mind while training:

Don't yell at your dog to be quiet—it just sounds like you're barking along with him.
Keep your training sessions positive and upbeat.
Be consistent so you don't confuse your dog. Everyone in your family must apply the training methods every time your dog barks inappropriately. You can't let your dog get away with inappropriate barking some times and not others.
1. Remove the motivation

Your dog gets some kind of reward when he barks. Otherwise, he wouldn't do it. Figure out what he gets out of barking and remove it. Don't give your dog the opportunity to continue the barking behavior.

Example: barking at passersby
    If he barks at people or animals passing by the living room window, manage his behavior by closing the curtains or putting your dog in another room.
    If he barks at passersby when he's in the yard, bring him into the house. Never leave your dog outside unsupervised all day and night.

2. Ignore the barking

Ignore your dog's barking for as long as it takes him to stop. That means don't give him any attention at all while he's barking. Your attention only rewards him for being noisy. Don't talk to him, don't touch him, and don't even look at him. When he finally quiets, even to take a breath, reward him with a treat.

To be successful with this method, you must wait as long as it takes for him to stop barking. If he barks for an hour and you finally get so frustrated that you yell at him to be quiet, the next time he'll probably bark for an hour and a half. He learns that if he just barks long enough you'll give him attention.

Example: barking when confined
    When you put your dog in his crate or in a gated room, turn your back and ignore him.
    Once he stops barking, turn around, praise him, and give him a treat.
    As he catches on that being quiet gets him a treat, lengthen the amount of time he must remain quiet before being rewarded.
    Remember to start small by rewarding him for being quiet for just a few seconds, then working up to longer periods of quiet.
    Keep it fun by varying the amount of time. Sometimes reward him after 5 seconds, then 12 seconds, then 3 seconds, then 20 seconds, and so on.

3. Desensitize your dog to the stimulus

Gradually get your dog accustomed to whatever is causing him to bark. Start with the stimulus (the thing that makes him bark) at a distance. It must be far enough away that he doesn't bark when he sees it. Feed him lots of good treats. Move the stimulus a little closer (perhaps as little as a few inches or a few feet to start) and feed treats. If the stimulus moves out of sight, stop giving your dog treats. You want your dog to learn that the appearance of the stimulus leads to good things (treats!).

Example: barking at dogs
    Have a friend with a dog stand out of sight or far enough away so your dog won't bark at the other dog.
    As your friend and her dog come into view, start feeding your dog lots of very yummy treats.
    Stop feeding treats as soon as your friend and her dog disappear from view.
    Repeat the process multiple times
    Remember not to try to progress too quickly as it may take days or weeks before your dog can pay attention to you and the treats without barking at the other dog.

4. Teach your dog the "quiet" command

It may sound nonsensical, but the first step of this technique is to teach your dog to bark on command. Give your dog the command to "speak," wait for him to bark two or three times, and then stick a tasty treat in front of his nose. When he stops barking to sniff the treat, praise him and give him the treat. Repeat until he starts barking as soon as you say "speak."

Once your dog can reliably bark on command, teach him the "quiet" command. In a calm environment with no distractions, tell him to "speak." When he starts barking, say "quiet" and stick a treat in front of his nose. Praise him for being quiet and give him the treat.

Example: someone at the door
    When the doorbell rings, your dog alerts you to the presence of an "intruder" by barking wildly.
    Once you've taught your dog the "quiet" command in a calm environment, practice in increasingly distracting situations until your dog can immediately stop barking when asked to, even when that "intruder" arrives at the door.

5. Ask your dog for an incompatible behavior

When your dog starts barking, ask him to do something that's incompatible with barking. Teaching your dog to react to barking stimuli with something that inhibits him from barking, such as lying down in his bed.

Example: someone at the door
    Toss a treat on his mat and tell him to "go to your place."
    When he's reliably going to his mat to earn a treat, up the ante by opening the door while he's on his mat. If he gets up, close the door immediately.
    Repeat until he stays on his mat while the door opens.
    Then increase the difficulty by having someone ring the doorbell while your dog is on his mat. Reward him if he stays in place.

6. Keep your dog tired

Make sure your dog is getting sufficient physical and mental exercise every day. A tired dog is a good dog and one who is less likely to bark from boredom or frustration. Depending on his breed, age, and health, your dog may require several long walks as well as a good game of chasing the ball and playing with some interactive toys.


Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Puppy Training Schedule: What To Teach Puppies, and When

We always anticipate the joys of all-that's-good about owning a puppy. But often it doesn't work out as well as we'd hoped. Because puppies are delightful bundles of energy and curiosity....but they can also be exasperating and frustrating.

If you respond properly to the challenges of bringing a new puppy into your home, the adjustment period will be shorter and less stressful for both of you.

If you do not respond properly.....well, that's why there are so many adolescent dogs turned over to rescue groups and animal shelters.

What must you get right?
Training a puppy by teaching feeding routines
Routines are reassuring to puppies. For example, his food and water bowls should stay in one place.

First and foremost, teach your new puppy his daily routines. Where his food and water dishes are located. What times of day he will eat. Where his bed is. What time he goes to bed. What time he gets up. Where he goes to the bathroom. Where his toys are kept.

Don't make the mistake of thinking that it doesn't matter HOW you teach each of these routines. It definitely does matter. If you do it the right way, your puppy will be better-behaved and pleased to let you decide how you want him to fit into your family.

If you use the wrong teaching method, your puppy will begin making decisions about how he wants YOU to fit into his life, and that's a recipe for conflict and behavior problems.

Teach your puppy words.
Which commands and words to teach a puppy
These words are taught AFTER your puppy has learned the two most important words: "No" and "Good."

You must teach your puppy words, as well as routines. The most important words are "No" (which means "Stop whatever you're doing") and "Good" (which means "I like what you're doing"). These correction and praise words should be started at 2-3 months of age.

Praise and correction words will be used to teach many other words that Puppy needs to know. You must teach them properly, with the right tone of voice and the right body language, or they won't be of any help in teaching other words. If your puppy is older than 2-3 months and hasn't learned "No" and "Good" flawlessly, you must start with those words before you can expect success with other word training.

Avoid biscuit training.
Training a puppy by teaching feeding routines
Most puppies love treats, but don't RELY on them to teach good behavior.

It would be a big mistake to rely on food treats to teach your puppy – or a dog of any age. What's wrong with "biscuit training"? It's based on your puppy deciding when he's hungry enough to do what you want.

Imagine your puppy running out the front door. You call him to offer a treat. But he'd rather chase a squirrel into the road than stop to munch a treat. In addition to the obvious danger of Puppy getting hit by a car, he learns that he doesn't have to listen to you. He learns that he's in charge of what he decides to do and what he decides not to do. Very bad!

Now, I'm not saying you shouldn't give ANY treats to your puppy. Treats can be great motivators. But if your training method consists of giving your puppy a treat when he does what you say....while doing nothing if he DOESN'T do what you say.....then you're going to find yourself in serious trouble whenever you want him to do something and he's not hungry....or whenever you want him to STOP doing something and he'd rather go on doing it, regardless of the treats you're desperately flinging at him.
Training a puppy to respect you
A puppy who is taught to respect you will pay close attention to you.

This sad scenario happens a lot with biscuit training. It doesn't happen at all with "Respect Training."

Respect training is a must
You must teach your puppy to respect you as the leader in your home. Without proper respect, your training schedule doesn't matter much – because he may learn words and routines but choose not to do them. I'm sure you've heard stories from dog owners who say their dog "understands" them just fine – he just doesn't DO what they say. They might even try to laugh it off by saying, "He's so smart he has ME trained!" This isn't intelligence – it's disrespect. And it can be traced to improper training right from the time the puppy was first brought home.
Respectful dogs understand and do what you say
Chihuahua and Papillon, listening carefully for words they know

Respect training is not something you can get "almost" right. You must get it completely, consistently right – in a way that dogs understand. I can help you with this.

Dogs are capable of learning many words, and there is no better way to get your dog to understand what you want and what you don't want than to teach him carefully chosen vocabulary words. Of course, knowing which words to teach isn't much help unless you also know HOW to teach them. I can help you with this, too. Keep reading.

← First, I'll give you a hint. Don't expect your dog to want to listen to children's stories.

But do expect him to listen carefully to your words, waiting for one he understands. Expect him to be eager to follow your directions.

Puppy training schedule....more training at 2-3 months

Crate training (2-3 months)
Your puppy's crate is his safe and secure den. Some people mistakenly refer to a crate as "doggie jail." That is not the way Puppy will view his crate. Oh, at first he might be unhappy to have his movements curtailed, but it won't be long at all before he goes into the crate on his own, to take a nap or just to get away from household activity.

For a new puppy, a crate is an invaluable aid in housebreaking. When your puppy is used to his crate, it will be easy to take him visiting, for trips in the car, or to the vet. My book details eight applications for crate training. When we watch TV, we sit in our favorite chairs and our dog Buffy chooses to lie down in her crate, watching the same shows we watch (well, sort of!).

Housebreaking (2-3 months)
At 2-3 months old, puppies are infants and won't have reliable control of their bladder for many months. Some breeds are notoriously difficult to housebreak and take even longer. Still, housebreaking begins the day you bring your puppy home. Establish the right pattern from the beginning and Puppy will be housebroken as soon as his little organs can cooperate.

But if you establish the wrong pattern, housebreaking will become a nightmare.

There are several methods of housebreaking, including using a crate, an exercise pen (commonly called an "ex-pen"), a doggy door leading into a small potty yard, or a litter box (for tiny breeds). You'll find detailed housebreaking directions in my training book – and yes, I cover each and every one of those housebreaking methods so you can choose which one works best for your dog.

Acceptance of being handled (2-3 months)
Your puppy must accept YOU as the leader in your family. You are the one who decides what is OK and what isn't. Grooming, clipping nails, giving medicine, removing a tick or a splinter, putting on a collar or harness. These are all examples of times when YOU – not Puppy – have to be the one to decide what is necessary.

The best way to do this is to include it in your vocabulary lessons and your respect lessons. If you teach words and respect properly, acceptance of being handled will come naturally – they go "hand-in-hand"!

Gentleness (2-3 months)
Like acceptance of being handled, gentleness is taught along with vocabulary and respect training.

Puppies who have been taken away from their mothers too soon (before 7 weeks old) tend to be more nippy and to play more roughly. You will have to take over from wherever his mother left off and teach your puppy how to restrain himself, and what is OK to do when living with humans.

Remember, you must be the who sets the limits of ALL good and bad behavior.

Household rules (2-3 months)
Start early teaching Puppy which behaviors are allowed in your house and which behaviors aren't. Is he allowed to shred the toilet paper? jump up on the furniture? jump into the lap of a seated person? Is he allowed in the kitchen when meals are being prepared? Can he take a toy away from another dog in the family? Is he allowed to eat your son's homework? Can he take socks out of the laundry basket? Is it OK to sleep on your bed with you? What about barking at strangers he sees through the window?

YOU decide on the household rules. Then be completely consistent about enforcing what you have decided. "No!" and "Good!" will serve you well for these puppy lessons, but only if you have taught those words properly.

Is your puppy older than 2-3 months?
You might think a training schedule would be different for an older puppy....but it isn't. Whether your puppy is 3 months old, 6 months old, or 9 months old, the order of training must start with the same vocabulary words and respect training I've been talking about. Namely, routines, correction and praise words, crate training, housebreaking, acceptance of being handled, gentleness, and household rules.

If your puppy is still mouthing on your hands, or barking back at you when you tell him to do something, or if he doesn't stop whatever he's doing when you say, "No", you mustn't rush on to "heel" or "sit-stay". Respect needs to come first, no matter how many months it takes. Then you can move on to....
    Walk on the leash without pulling.
    Come when called. Every time.
    Lie down – and STAY lying down for up to 30 minutes.
    Wait inside the door or gate, even when it's open, until you tell him he can go through.
    Stop barking when you say "Quiet."
    "Give" or "Drop" whatever is in his mouth when told.
    and much, much more

All of these skills involve Puppy learning new words, but remember, simply knowing what a word "means" won't automatically lead to Puppy DOING it. No, you need to teach all these new words in a specific way that encourages Puppy to view you as a leader. Popping treats into his mouth won't accomplish that.

Now, leadership doesn't mean hitting Puppy, either. Or yelling at him. No choke collars or shock collars. Just sensible leadership – little things you need to say and do, on a daily basis, every time you interact with Puppy.

All puppies misbehave from time to time. How you respond when Puppy misbehaves is very, very important.

    If you respond the wrong way, he will keep misbehaving.
    Respond the right way and he will view you as a leader and listen to you.

It is so important to get this right the first time around, because Puppy won't ever be the same age again. You only get one chance to teach all the right habits to a "clean slate" puppy. If you try to train your puppy without help, you will probably have to re-do the lessons, only this time with an older puppy with bad habits.

You don't need to sign up for an obedience class to get help training your puppy. I've taught hundreds of those classes and they can be overwhelming for a puppy. Timid puppies can get overrun by bullies, and excitable puppies just get more excited.

You can teach your puppy at home. I'll help you. In my dog training book, Teach Your Dog 100 English Words, I'll show you a step-by-step training schedule for teaching your puppy all the vocabulary words he needs, plus consistent household rules and routines, housebreaking, crate training, acceptance of being handled, gentleness, and obedience training. Most importantly, I'll show you how to teach your puppy to respect you so that he actually does what you say. You can download the book immediately, or have a printed book sent to you in the mail.