Cassie’s Separation Anxiety Blog

I decided it was hypocritical to have written a book about separation anxiety, yet have a dog with separation anxiety that I had not tried to fix! Cassie has the shoemaker’s children syndrome – so busy he had no time to make shoes for his own kids! Cassie had no shoes! Continue reading

Mental and Physical Winter Exercise for Your Weim

This article was written for Gray Ghost Stories, the newsletter of the Weimaraner Club of Northern Illinois. But the information applies to all dogs. Have fun playing with your dog!

Winter is tough on our Weims. Not because they don’t want to be outside, but because we don’t much of the time! So you have to get creative about how you are going to stimulate them mentally and physically so they don’t go stir crazy.

For those doing TRACKING, take time to strengthen your dog’s article indication and let your dog have fun in the process.  Put a smear of food scent on the articles, I mostly focus on the metal and plastic articles, and hide them around your house. Send your dog to find the articles and have a party when they do.

If your dog is having trouble finding articles, you can put a tiny piece of treat on top or underneath the article when you hide it.

I made my article hides easy at first, then gradually harder.

TRICK TRAINING is another wonderful way to keep your dog busy. I love trick training, because owners have fun with it instead of getting all serious like they do with obedience training. Below are a couple trick training books that I like which are available from www.dogwise.com:

MENTAL ACTIVATION – WAYS TO STIMULATE YOUR DOG’S BRAIN AND AVOID BOREDOM
By Anders Hallgren

101 DOG TRICKS – STEP-BY-STEP ACTIVITIES TO ENGAGE, CHALLENGE, AND BOND WITH YOUR DOG By Kyra Sundance

Check out Emily Larlham’s Kikopup You Tube channel for hundreds of ideas of tricks and obedience behaviors:  https://www.youtube.com/user/kikopup#g/u

K9 NOSE WORK is becoming quite popular amongst dog enthusiasts. Nose Work basically teaches your dog to become a police drug dog but without the drugs. Instead you start by having your dog search for food and eventually for three different scents, birch, clove and anise.

As a certified K9 Nose Work instructor, I have found that dogs benefit greatly from Nose Work. It gives your dog a job–let’s them use their nose for good instead of evil, builds confidence, teaches creative problem solving, helps your dog conquer their fears if they are afraid of moving things and helps build a great relationship between you and your dog. A 10 minute training session is said to be as good as a 20 minute walk!

If you are the competitive sort, you can work towards titles in Nose Work through the National Association of Canine Scent Work. There are four levels of titles. Go to their website, www.nacsw.net,  to find out where to go for classes near you.

Until you can get to some Nose Work classes, start doing FIND IT.

◆     Scatter a few treats on the ground and say FIND IT. Point to the treats if necessary. Repeat several times.
◆     Once your dog understands FIND IT means there will be a treat on the ground, toss one treat on the ground, say FIND IT, and while he is looking for the first treat toss a second treat behind the dog.
◆     Start hiding the treats in plain sight, right next to the leg of a chair or table and send dog to FIND IT.
◆     Make it more difficult by putting the dog on sit or down stay. Let the dog see where you are putting the first FIND ITS. Then gradually make it harder and harder. The dog must stay while you are hiding treats all over the house. You can also stuff and then hide food puzzle toys to make the game last longer.
◆     Begin saving taller plastic or metal lids from products you use. Hide treats under these lids and let the dogs figure out how to get the treats out. The lids can be challenging to pick up for most dogs. They will have to use their brains to figure out how to get the treat out.
•    Initially, play the shell game with two or three lids.
•    Next begin hiding these lids all over the house and let your dogs find them and work to get the treats out.

Aerobic exercise can be a challenge for your dog in the winter. One of my favorite things is to play DOG STAIRMASTER with dogs.

To play Stairmaster, I recommend that you only play on carpeted stairs and with a dog with no joint issues. Get some yummy treats and start at the bottom of the stairs. Toss a treat to the top of the stairs and let your dog run up the stairs for the treat. Call her to come back down the stairs. Don’t give your dog the treat when she comes down, just toss another treat up the stairs again. If your dog won’t come down the stairs, just walk away and stop playing. She will quickly learn that if she wants you to toss another treat, she must come down the stairs. Repeat as often as you and your dog like. It takes the edge off a wound-up dog. You can also play by tossing toys if your dog is toy motivated, although I probably wouldn’t use a ball because it would bounce around too much and I wouldn’t want my dog leaping for a ball on the stairs.

TUG is another great physical activity to play with your dog. It is a great way to burn off stress and excess energy. When played with rules, tug can be a valuable tool for teaching your dog self control.

The desire to tug is best instilled as a puppy, by awakening your dog’s prey drive. Do this by teasing her with a toy and letting her chase it. Let her win much of the time. Gradually begin to add little tugs on the toy, very gently for young dogs, keeping the tug parallel to the ground. DO NOT move the tug upwards for your puppy as you don’t want to risk hurting her neck. Basically you are just moving the dog back and forth and not tugging hard. Do NOT play tug with your pup while she is teething. You want tug to be a good experience, and not a painful one, which can occur during teething. My tug rules are:

◆     You always control the tug toy by deciding when the game starts and stops. You store it away from the dog, and bring it out when you decide to play.
◆     Let the dog win a lot to prevent her from wanting to run away and “possess” the tug.
◆     Keep sessions short, 2-4 minutes or shorter (maybe even 10 seconds for some dogs), to keep arousal low.
◆     If one tooth even accidentally touches your hand the game is over.
◆     Get her excited and tugging for 10 seconds. If she becomes overly aroused more quickly, stop sooner, even after a couple seconds.
◆     You can get the toy back in one of three ways.
1.    Ask for a DROP IT. A treat trade may be necessary initially.
2.    Freeze the tug against your body so there is no play in the tug. Don’t tug back, just hold it. It will not be fun for the dog because you are no longer playing, and she will let go. The second your dog lets go, you can immediately re-engage her in tug. This teaches your dog not to guard or play keep-away with the tug toy because she knows she will get it back right away most of the time.
3.    With one hand, gently and slowly take your dog’s collar underneath and raise her head up. Then wait until the dog opens her mouth and calmly and slowly remove the tug. If you move quickly, your dog will rebite the tug before you are ready.
◆     Wait for dog to sit spontaneously. Immediately mark the sit, pause, then praise quietly when the dog continues sitting calmly for several more seconds, then tell your dog GET IT (or something like that) and engage her in another short game of tug. Restarting the game is the reinforcement, no treats necessary.
◆     Repeat as often as you like, but if your dog’s arousal becomes too high, end the game. A little growling is OK, but not crazy over-the-top growling. That means your dog is overly aroused. If your dog growls too much, stop the game, wait for a sit, then reinforce by starting the game again. Your dog will learn that if she gets too carried away, you stop the game.
◆     Always store the tug toy out of sight.

The FLIRT POLE is another game similar to tug. It can be used to teach very good self control, give you an ON/OFF switch for your dog and give your dog a good aerobic workout in a relatively small space and in a short amount of time. Be sure to play with this on a safe surface, no slippery floors.

Here is a link to an inexpensive flirt pole which I really like:
https://goo.gl/4bhpAz

Start by teasing the dog with the toy on the ground and getting him to chase it. When she is about to catch it, make it fly away into the air, like a bird. Repeat this several times. Eventually, your dog will stop and stand still. When she does, MR and immediately let her get the toy.

Once your dog has the toy, you have to get it back after a few seconds. Use the same techniques described in TUG to get your dog to drop the toy.

You can also play the TWO TOY GAME incorporating it with Tug.
◆    Start this game with two toys of identical or equal value. Get your dog excited about the first toy and throw it. Let her run and pick it up. When she is clearly on the way back and close to you, begin to tease her them with the second toy. Tease her with the second toy until she drops the first toy. When she drops it, immediately throw the second toy. Be careful that you don’t tease her too early or she will drop the toy too far away.
◆     As she gets good at this game, you can make it harder for  her. After she drops the first toy, wait for a spontaneous sit with eye contact before throwing the second toy.
◆     The PhD level of this game is to wait for a spontaneous sit with eye contact and then require that she waits while you throw the second toy. This is tough but doable.
◆     This game teaches your dog to give up toys voluntarily to you, because she will immediately get another toy–there’s no down side for her.

If you have a human TREADMILL you can always train your dog to trot on that. You can view an old video of Maverick (R.I.P.) on the treadmill at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a-Onj8Avk-w&feature=email. If you’d like to train your dog to walk on a treadmill, contact me and I’ll tell you how to get started.

When training dogs for treadmill work, be careful not to do it too often. Using the treadmill artificially shortens their stride and they can develop muscle imbalances if you do it too much. But occasional use of treadmills is fine.

Following are several different ideas:

◆    Dogs love to shred paper and cardboard. If your dog will not actually eat the cardboard, save toilet paper or paper towel cores. Put treats inside, stuff with paper and pinch the ends shut and hide around your house. Allow dog to find and destroy!

◆    Observe your dog. Watch for a cute thing that your dog offers naturally, say YEA as the behavior occurs and then treat. This is called “capturing” behavior — catching your dog in the act of doing a behavior on her own. One of my old dogs used to do a head tilt with her ears up and perked. I loved that and put it on cue. It was great for photos. Hope, my current dog rests her head on my lap or offers her paw, both of which I like and so I say YEA and treat.

◆    Play hide-and-seek with your dog. Put your dog on a down or sit stay, or have someone else hold your dog while you go hide. Then call him and let him find you.

◆    Instead of giving your dog his food in a bowl, put all his food into interactive toys and let him work to get it out. You could also hide your dog’s food toys so he has to search for them before getting to work on emptying the toys.

◆    Divide your dog’s food into 4-5 small bowls. While your dog is eating the food in one bowl, hide the others around the house so he has to hunt for and find the bowls in order to eat them. Change the hiding places each time.

You don’t have an excuse now to not be working with your Weim this winter. Try a few of my ideas and get busy having some fun with your dog!

A State of Mind

By Sally Bushwaller, CDPT-KSA, CNWI

Separation anxiety has many “roots”. One of those roots is your dog’s inability to make rational decisions.

All separation anxiety dogs I work with are started on what I call the SPONTANEOUS BEHAVIOR PROTOCOL. This concept evolved as I worked with 100s of dogs over the years. Along the way I absorbed info from brilliant trainers, seminars and from books and videos I watched. It really started to formulate in my brain after watching video of zoo trainers doing clicker training with dangerous animals at the first The Art and Science of Animal Training Seminar hosted by ORCA at the University of North Texas – empower the animal to learn to make decisions on his own, without compulsion or commands.

The coalescence of these ideas rolling around in my head became the SPONTANEOUS BEHAVIOR PROTOCOL (wish I had decided to call it something shorter and catchier!). I then discovered that there were many other trainers around the country doing versions of this same thing. Continue reading

Good Behavior Spontaneously!

Wouldn’t it be great if your dog naturally offered you good behaviors all the time? Just think about life with a dog that you didn’t have to nag to get them to sit, down or watch you. Is that an elusive dream? NO! It’s allpossible and quite easy to achieve.

To start this process, you can do a couple of things. The first way is to capture the behavior when it occurs. This basically means catch your dog in the act of doing something good, tell him something (like the word “yes” or clicking) so he knows he did it right and reinforce him (give him a treat). I prefer to use this technique whenever possible. An example – wait for your dog to sit on his own, say yes, then give him a treat. Continue reading

Puppy Biting, Nipping, Mouthing & Chewing

Biting, nipping, mouthing or chewing is your pup’s way of telling you her needs are not being met. Try to figure out why your dog is mouthing or nipping. She may need more attention, be bored or using the behavior to try to keep you from touching her. Whatever the reason, try to be proactive. Don’t wait until your dog is acting up and then try to fix it. Instead, be sure your dog has plenty of interactive food dispensing toys that she must earn with a spontaneous sit with eye contact and give to your dog on a regular basis, and make a point of playing (and chasing) your dog when she has something she is allowed to have.

Continue reading

Love Your Crate – Crate Training

All dogs should be crate trained. Some people seem to think crate training is cruel. I think it is cruel to not crate train your dog. There will be times in your life when you may have to hospitalize your dog or kennel your dog while you go on vacation. If your dog has never been crate trained, this will be a very stressful experience for your dog. Yes, crate use can certainly be abused, but training your dog to like being in a crate a couple hours a day, and to find it a safe and secure place, is not abusive. Continue reading

Doors

Your dog must already understand that the Spontaneous Sit with Eye Contact is the way he can earn resources in order for this exercise to work.

CONTROLLING DOOR DASHING

  • It is unsafe for dogs to dash out doors. Instead, we want them to choose to wait, until they are given permission to go through the door. This is not about you being the leader and going through the door first, as there is no scientific evidence to prove that has any meaning for dogs. Instead, it is about your dog learning to have the self-control to remain sitting voluntarily until verbally freed to pass through the door. It’s all about safety. Continue reading

Food Bowl

Your dog must already understand that the Spontaneous Sit with Eye Contact is the way she can earn resources in order for this exercise to work.

 FOOD BOWL EXERCISE

◆    Before starting this exercise, the SIT W/EYE CONTACT should already be a default behavior for your dog. If it is not, practice the SIT W/EYE CONTACT for a day or two before starting this exercise.

◆    This exercise makes it black and white to your dog that only calm, polite behavior earns her dinner. It really helps your dog to understand the concept behind the SPONTANEOUS BEHAVIOR PROTOCOL and teaches her very good self control. The only thing your dog will be hearing is the MARKER and light praise, followed by a release signal (e.g. “free!”) to go eat her food. Resist the temptation to use a No Reward Marker or reprimand (e.g. No, Uh Uh, nope, oops, phooey, etc.) of any kind, as that is you telling your dog she did it wrong, rather than her figuring out for herself did it wrong.

Some dogs may choose to lay down during this exercise, which is completely fine. Old dogs with arthritis or younger dogs with any kind of joint problems may find it difficult to sit. If that is the case, this exercise can be done from a stand as well, the same rules apply no matter what position your dog is in.

◆    For this exercise, use your verbal MARKER (YEA or YEP are my favorites). I don’t recommend using the clicker here because you will have your hands full with the bowl in one hand and a treat in the other.

◆    Keep practice sessions short. Dogs learn best in short training sessions. About 3 minutes is perfect. Get as far as you can in 3 minutes and release your dog to eat her food. At each meal, and during training sessions between meals, work towards completing the whole exercise.

◆    This exercise will be easiest for your dog if she has a rug or mat to wait on. It gives her a place holder or boundary which makes it easier for her to grasp the concept of voluntarily sitting and waiting in one spot to get her food. Also, it’s hard for some dogs to maintain a sit on a slippery floor; sitting on a rug or mat fixes that problem.

◆    Wait for the sit, MARK (YEA or YEP) and REINFORCE. Stand sideways, so you are not leaning and looming toward or over the dog. Hold the bowl in the hand farthest away from the dog.

Lower the bowl 6″. If the dog remains in a sit, MARK and REINFORCE. The key here is to lower the bowl first, wait for the dog to have only one second of self control. If she can do that, MARK and REINFORCE. Do NOT keep food in your hand. The treats/food should be taken out of the bowl after the dog has shown self control. If you have food in your hand, the dog knows that and the treat in your hand sort of “glues” the dog in place, making it easier for her to maintain the sit. I want her self-control to hold her in place, not the treat in your hand. Keep lowering the bowl 6″ at a time, reinforcing with a piece of kibble or a treat each time you lower the bowl as long as your dog maintains the sit.

If at any point the dog gets up or even leans forward like she’s thinking about getting up, simply remove the bowl and stand up. Don’t say anything. Try again, making your steps easier. If the dog gets up, you made it too hard.

After the dog has made a mistake and gotten up. Simply stand there and wait for her to sit again. Don’t tell her to do anything, although you can talk sweetly to your dog to keep her attention. When she does sit, MARK but use only praise as her reinforcement, no treats!!! Once she re-sits herself, begin the process again.

Once the bowl is on the ground, immediately MARK and REINFORCE. Before you stand up remove a few pieces of food/treats from the bowl and hold in the hand farthest away from the dog. Stand up 1/4 of the way, MARK and REINFORCE. Stand up half way, MARK and REINFORCE. Stand up 3/4 of the way, MARK and REINFORCE. Stand up all the way. At this point your dog will probably be sitting but looking at the food. Give the dog very light and quiet praise. The praise will cause the dog to look up. When she gives you eye contact, MARK and release your dog with a RELEASE CUE to eat the food.

The dog may initially get “stuck” there in the sit. This is common. Just walk away after you release the dog and encourage her with your body language to get up. She will then know it’s OK to eat the food.

◆    Here is a video of my dog Cassie demonstrating the exercise:  http://youtu.be/9XATROu6WF8

◆    This video shows Penny the miniature Goldendoodle doing the FOOD BOWL EXERCISE for the first time:   http://youtu.be/rogIyCof61g.

This video is not perfect because it is several years old and I now do things as shown in Cassie’s video above. But I wanted you to see that even a dog doing this for the first time can quickly be successful. I now use many more food reinforcements when doing this exercise than I did when this video was made several years ago. Please give your dog a higher rate of reinforcement initially than indicated in this video which will help your dog be successful more quickly. Details below.

◆    Each time you do this exercise it should require 1-2 fewer pieces of food until no extra food is needed. Your dog will be getting a whole bowl of food as her reinforcement at the end of the exercise.

☛   RELEASE CUE
All static exercises should have a beginning and an end. You get to decide when that is. Choose a word, FREE, FREE DOG, BREAK, AT EASE, etc. and begin to use it each time you want to release your dog from a sit stay, down stay, stand stay, or even sustained eye contact. I recommend you stay away from OK which is too commonly used. You can accidentally release your dog from a position without meaning to.

Say your word, we’ll assume it is FREE. Wait one second. If your dog does not release, use your body language and pat your leg to encourage her to come. Initially praise, pet or treat your dog for getting up.

We want your dog to learn that only the release word frees her from the exercise you were working on.

◆    If your dog gets up during the exercise, pick up the bowl and use the bowl to lure your dog back to her original spot (on her mat, or a couple feet away from the bowl if you’re not using a mat).

◆     Make this exercise harder by working towards having your dog do a SPONTANEOUS SIT or DOWN for the entire meal preparation process. If she gets up at any point, simply stop all food prep, walk over to the spot where you would like her to sit, and then wait for a SPONTANEOUS SIT again before continuing food prep. The following video is of my girls doing the advanced version of this exercise: http://youtu.be/J1FUkFVwcNk.

 

Go Around

Mark = say YES or CLICK
Reinforce = give a treat
MR = mark and reinforce
SS = spontaneous sit(s)
EC = eye contact

Your dog must already understand that the Spontaneous Sit with Eye Contact is the way she can earn resources in order for this exercise to work.

GO AROUND: Untangling from obstacles, from around you and from around themselves.

Some dogs constantly get their leashes tangled in a variety of ways. If you constantly fix the leash when it tangles, your dog will continue to get tangled. Help your dog learn to fix tangled leashes by herself.

  • Try this very simple exercise when you are out walking. Go up to a tree or pole. Let your dog choose to go on one side of the pole. You automatically go to the other side of the pole, stop and stand still. Set your dog up for success by not letting her get past the tree/pole. Stop your dog next to the pole by removing all the slack from the leash–but don’t pull her. Just stand, wait and ignore your dog. Eventually, your dog will figure out that if she wants to continue on the walk she has to come around to your side of the pole. When she figures this out, praise her and tell her how clever she is and continue your walk. If you choose to, you can MR with a treat, but it’s not necessary as the walk is the reinforcement.
  • After you’ve done this several times, and your dog is getting the idea, you can attach a command to it. As your dog is in the process of coming around say GO AROUND. Eventually you can use the command to elicit the behavior.
  • You can use this same concept if the dog gets tangled around you. Stand still and wait for her to untangle herself, praise her, tell them how clever she is, and off you go on your walk. You may have to help her a bit initially by turning your head and looking to the side where she will have to go to get herself untangled. I don’t reinforce with a treat for this as the reinforcement is continuing the walk.
  • If the dog tangles herself in the leash, lower the leash to the ground and lean into the dog so she step back out of the tangle, praise her, tell her how clever she is and continue your walk. No need to reinforce with a treat for this as the reinforcement is continuing the walk.

Leashes

Your dog must already understand that the Spontaneous Sit with Eye Contact is the way he can earn resources in order for this exercise to work.

ATTACHING YOUR DOG’S LEASH

Many dogs get overly aroused and act silly when you get out their leashes to take them for walks. This exercise teaches dogs to calmly accept the leash before they ever get outside. If your dog is calm inside, you have a better chance of getting attention from him outside. Break this exercise down into as many parts as is necessary for your dog to be as close to 100% successful as possible.

◆    Wait for a SPONTANEOUS SIT, then MARK (click or say YEA or YEP) and REINFORCE (give a treat).
◆    Touch the leash, mark and reinforce.
◆    Jiggle the leash, mark and reinforce.
◆    Pick up the leash, 1 inch, mark and reinforce.
◆    Gradually pick up the leash farther each time, mark and reinforce each time you pick up the leash until you are holding the leash in front of you.
◆    Stretch out the leash, mark and reinforce.
◆    Stoop or sit down (no leaning and looming), mark and reinforce. If you are using a clicker DO NOT CLICK IN YOUR DOG’S FACE!
◆    Attach leash, mark and reinforce.

If your dog gets up at any point, simply put the leash down and calmly wait for the spontaneous sit before you try again. Your dog should remain sitting as you attach the lead. Then verbally release him (say FREE) after the leash is attached. Repeat as necessary.

If your dog makes a mistake, verbally mark the dog when he re-sits himself, but DO NOT give a treat. Use only praise as a reinforcement after a fixed mistake. He must be successful the first time you try a step in order to earn a treat reinforcement. If you give a treat after the dog fixes his own mistake, you can inadvertently reinforce the mistake. I always want to make sure the dog to gets positive feedback for fixing a mistake.

Spontaneous Sits and Eye Contact

Mark = say YES or CLICK
Reinforce = give a treat
MR = mark and reinforce
SS = spontaneous sit(s)
EC = eye contact

SPONTANEOUS SITS (keep treats out of sight)

  •  Ask your dog to sit a few times. When he does MR. Be sure he remains in the sit as you deliver the treat. If you deliver the treat to your dog and he starts to get up, withdraw the treat, don’t say anything, wait for the SS again, then MARK and try to deliver the treat again.
  • Change positions so your dog has to get up. Now smile at him and wait for him to sit. Don’t cue him to sit either verbally or with your body language. Many people move in towards their dogs to get them to sit. This is somewhat threatening to the dog is really just an extra cue anyway. Let your dog figure out sitting on his own pays off, then MR.
  • After MRing your dog for voluntarily sitting a couple times, make it more difficult by now requiring a sit and eye contact (see below), then MR.
  • After he’s done several reps with eye contact, attach a command to the eye contact, WATCH ME or LOOK works. You are not using the command to get the behavior, you are just attaching it to the behavior he already does. After attaching it several times, you can try using the command to elicit the behavior.

While using a command to get the behavior is obviously not “spontaneous”, it is nice to have the behavior on command as well.

SPONTANEOUS EYE CONTACT (keep treats out of sight)

I don’t like to lure eye contact as I feel the dog is only following the food lure. I start by holding the treat out to the side. This makes it black and white to your dog–“looking at this food does not pay off, but looking at me does.” You are teaching him right from the first trial to ignore the food and pay attention to you.

This can be played independently of spontaneous sits or combined with it. Be sure to practice this with the dog in a down or stand as well as a sit.

  • Hold a treat out to the side and just wait. Eventually, your dog will look away from the treat and at you. When he does, MR. You may have to accept a quick glance initially. But try to MR longer looks with each trial.
  • Now do the same thing but switch hands or try both hands. Gradually work your distracting treat hand closer and closer to your dog, until your hand is right next to your dog’s face and they can give you eye contact. Practice both on and off lead.
  • It is not necessary to hold your treat out to the side forever to get eye contact. The purpose is just to make it very clear to your dog that looking at you pays off. Once your dog will sit and look at you, you can stop holding the treat to the side. However, holding the treat out to the side and moving it closer to the dog is a good way to test how good their eye contact is.
  • Watch your dog (don’t stare). Smile and look happy but do not cue your dog to watch you in any way. Each time your dog glances in your direction, MR.
  • Each time your dog looks at your face, MR.