Dog Aggression Towards Humans

Posted on Dec 11, 2015 in Aggression, Barking, Dog Training, Pets, Positive Association, Rescue Dog, Training | 0 comments

Working at the fence only when you dog is calm.

Working at the fence only when you dog is calm.

In my last blog, I mentioned that changing your dogs behavior begins with good management which prevents him from practicing the unwanted behavior.

I will now explain how to change your dog’s response when meeting a stranger, using the processes of counter-conditioning and desensitization.  Counter-conditioning means changing the negative association the dog has formed about people, and replacing it with a positive, happy association using something the dog loves. Desensitization means exposing the dog to the “stimulus” (in this case, a person) at a distance, far enough away that it does not provoke a fear response from your dog, and gradually reducing the distance to the person until the dog is relaxed with the person nearby. Subsequent training can continue as your dog remains calm, and is able to accept treats or play with toys.

Repeat this process for several weeks in neutral environments, like your street, rewarding your dog when a stranger appears as long as your dog is in a thinking frame of mind and not barking and lunging.   

Pablo looks at me with dogs in the distance

Pablo looks at me with dogs in the distance

Over time, your dog sees a stranger and begins to feel less stressed and can offer a behavior like looking at you for something rewarding, like food or a game of tug.  Changing your dogs emotional state will change his behavior.

Friends who want to help you can participate in this desensitization process but should be coached to not approach your dog, but rather wait for the dog to approach them.  Then they can toss a treat at his feet, then toss one farther away behind the dog to help the dog feel safer.  The friend can continue to walk down the street while leaving a trail of treats behind them for the dog to enjoy. Hence, people = yummy food! 

I suggest you introduce new friends outside your home or down the street, as your dog needs to be calm for desensitization to work.  If your dog is on a leash, be sure the leash is slack and the handler follows the dog, rather than directing the dog’s movements. This gives your dog a choice in how close he wants to be to the stranger which allows desensitization to be effective, and it allows you to constantly see how your dog is feeling. Pay attention to your dog: if they become stiff, intense, begin breathing fast, or barking, slow down as desensitization needs to happen to change your dogs behavior.

I rescued my scottie with a 5 bite history, she can now greet strangers in neutral environments with a relaxed happy state of mind.

Avoid trying to “make your dog like guest right inside your front door” as this is often where your dog is barking and growling, therefore he is not calm enough to learn.  Sure, he may gobble up the treats, but if he is still highly aroused such that you need to hold him tight, then he may be over threshold which slows your progress. 

In Summary, to desensitize your dog to strangers effectively, you MUST start in a location where your dog is calm.  If your dog acts aggressively towards strangers at your front door, then start outside in the yard or on your street.  If your dog acts aggressively at the gate or fence, then you need to take your dog to a neutral environment down the street so he can be calm enough to think and learn. If a dog is acting aggressively when you approach his kennel, then start with him outside where he is calm and can think. Many dog owners fail to change how their dogs feel about strangers because they start in locations that are over their dogs threshold so no learning can happen.

This process of counter-conditioning and desensitization may take 6 week, or 6 years! It simply depends on your dog’s current associations.  So be a good dog owner, and if you see your dog acting anxious or skittish around people, begin the process of counter-conditioning and desensitization so you can reduce your dogs stress when around strangers and therefore reduce a potential bite.

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How to Stop Aggressive Dog Barking at People

Posted on Dec 3, 2015 in Aggression, Barking, Dog Training, Leash Frustration, Leash Training, Positive Reinforcement, Reactive | 0 comments

This is the first of a five part segment, to help dog owners with dogs that act aggressively  to strangers.  A practical guide to helping owners with dogs who rush and bark at people through windows, fences, at the front door and on leash.  If your dog displays these behaviors, at guests when they enter, your dog may be shy or fearful of strangers. Reducing his fear is essential to changing his behavior. Keep in mind this behavior can simply be frustration as well, determining the difference is another topic!

Now, Steps in helping the dog who is barking and lunging at people.

Step 1. Management; prevent him from practicing the unwanted behavior.

Step 2. Desensitization and counter condition; change how your dog feels.

Step 3.  Understanding your dogs Distance Cues.

Step 4. Emotional Control Exercises; help your dog have better impulse control.

Step 5. Adding Criteria and Generalization

 

Let’s start by understanding how to effectively manage the adolescent dog so he is not becoming worse during your training.  The key is to prevent your dog from practicing this barking behavior when in the home, car, yard, or anywhere.

Management: means changing the environment so your dog is not being put in a situation that triggers his fear or pushes him over threshold to this barking behavior.   These negative experiences will slow your training process and are often practiced as they are rewarding to your dog.  Behaviors that are practiced will not fade or change, so management is essential during your training.

I wish all my dogs were this relaxed while riding in a car.

For example, if your dog barks at people when in the car, you can put your dog in a comfortable crate with chew toys and a light sheet over it so your dog cannot see people. Before putting your dog in any crate, you want to condition this crate as a safe and comfortable place to be.  Feeding your dog in the crate for several days can help your dog feel safe in this crate.  Another option is to tape some wax paper up to the inside of the car windows, while not a fashion statement, it can be effective.

For the dog that runs the fence line barking daily, this behavior should not be allowed to occur.  Fences can often cause frustration, so spending time with you dog outside is essential to prevent unwanted chasing and barking. You might consider moving the fence to the back yard only so your dog can not see people passing. 

Windows in the home can easily be covered with wax paper to block the view as this can be a trigger for barking.  Moving the furniture so your dog cannot sit high enough to see out, or using baby gates to block access to these environments is also recommended as effective management.

IMG_1742While out for a walk on a leash, I suggest you have a plan to avoid people within the distance that makes your dog become aroused or stressed until you have a chance to desensitize and counter condition this behavior.  If your dog can pass a person 40 feet away without showing signs of stress or arousal, then this is where you should keep your dog so he is having a successful walk with little stress. 

My next blog in this series will complement the management techniques discussed here. It will detail exactly how to change this type of behavior using the scientific approach IMG_3126.JPGof desensitization and counter conditioning.  This is how I helped many clients dogs and changed my Scotty’s behavior after adopting her at 5 years of age.  The complete timeframe for this process can be from 6-months to 2-years, depending on the dog. For my Scotty this process took 18 months, and it was well worth the effort as she is now living a much calmer and happier life!  See you soon for more practical training for dogs who bark at humans.

 

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3 Tips for Changing Your Dogs Behavior

Posted on Oct 20, 2015 in Barking, Dog Training, Positive Reinforcement, Puppy, Rescue Dog, Socialization, Training |

There are many ways to get behavior from an animal, for example you can hold your dog down when he jumps up on you, this may work for you, but the negative is that your dog may start barking more when guest arrive.   Some dogs will become really wiggly and jumpy with strangers as a way of showing appeasement to the guest to ward off that scary punishment of being held down.  This can also make your recall much more difficult as science shows that harsh reprimands can make your dog afraid and avoid you.

Science also shows us that using rewards will get the desired behavior with no negative possible outcome.  While it may take a few extra days of training, it is so worth it!

Tip 1: Reward an alternative Behavior

If you do not want your dog to jump on your guest, then teach him a sit stay at your side.  Simply walk him forward on a leash while holding a Moore_Judy081treat to his nose.  When you stop walking move the treat up over his head until he sits, then reward.  Repeat this exercise until he automatically sits when you stop walking, then reward for sitting, continue to reward with food then release him.  Repeat each morning with his breakfast until he learns to sit/stay next to you while there is no one around.  Once he will sit at your side until you release him, then add some guests at a distance.  Then practice this behavior outside in the yard, park or vets office.  Training a new behavior is best done in a quiet environment, then practiced with low distractions.  Remember your dog is most likely an adolescent, so be patient, you were an adolescent once too!

ask for a sit

Ask for a sit before she jumps up.   In one cup of food, I bet you can call your dog and reward her for sitting 25 times!

Tip 2: Ignore the unwanted behavior

Here is the secret and it is easy!  When your puppy jumps up on you, you look away, immediately walk a few steps away from your dog,  remember eye contact is rewarding.  Call your dog to you and ask for a sit, when he gets it right, reward.  If he does an unwanted behavior like jump on you, then walk away with no attention at all.  Always give your dog a second chance to earn the reward, otherwise he will not know the wanted behavior.

Tip 3: Put the unwanted behavior on Stimulus Control (for the dog enthusiast)

This can be a little tricky if you do not use a marker in your training, but the idea is that your dog only performs the unwanted behavior when you ask for it.  Lets Try it!

If you know your dog is going to jump up on you when you open the door, then you can cue him by B0000914raising both your arms up in the air mark his jump with a “yes” or clicker then reward him.  Repeat this around the house until the dog jumps up when you cue him with both your arms in the air.  Then add a verbal cue like “up” which you say just before you throw your arms up in the air, always click or use a verbal “yes” when he  jumps and reward.   This process will take several days, but be patient.  Now practice leaving, and re-enter your doorway, cue your dog “up” click and reward for your dog jumping.

Over time, cue your dog when you enter the door to “up” then no more cue, as you enter farther in the home, then go out and enter and do not ask for an “up”.   If your dog jumps when you do not ask for it, simply walk away with no attention at all. Your dog will learn to only perform the behavior when you ask for it,  known as stimulus control training. This is great fun and I recommend you do it for the dog that barks often as well.  

Another example: ring your doorbell and say “speak” while looking at your dog, click the second your dog barks and reward.  Repeat several times until your dog will offer a bark when you say “speak” without ringing the door bell.  Now ring the door bell and after your dog barks, you can say “enough” click and reward when your dog looks at you.  I recommend you use a yummy food reward when teaching a new behavior, as the behavior becomes more reliable, you can switch to randomly offering food or affection over time.  I have used this same technique on both of my dogs and it works very well!

Send me a video of your success!

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My Dog Barks and Jumps on Me!

Posted on Aug 28, 2015 in Barking, Dog Training, Pets, Positive Association, Puppy, Rescue Dog, Training |

Moore_Judy035Dog training is a process of shaping behaviors that are wanted by the human.  With that in mind, why do so many of us reward unwanted behaviors?  I have met many dogs who are still offering bad behaviors even at 2 or 3 years of age.   I believe it is because many humans do not understand what is rewarding to their dog.

IMG_4136

Clear Message to all these dogs!

For example:  Is your dog a problem jumper?   Consider if your dog ever jumps and you say “off” or push his feet off of you, then he sits and you reward with a “good boy” or affection or a treat. Well, then, your dog will always jump and sit.  

Here is another example:  Is your dog a problem barker?

I once had a client who’s sweet doodle was a problem barker, especially when dad picked up the phone.  I asked him what he had tried to stop her from barking, here is what he said:  “I have tried yelling at her, walking in the other room, ignoring her and now I get some relief when I toss her a large dog biscuit as it takes her a while to eat it, but sometimes she starts right back up again.”  So this smart dog learned that when she barked at her owner he spoke to her, which was rewarding as she was able to get his attention.  Even negative attention is better than no attention for a bored dog. Then some day she just happened to bark while dad was on the phone and because he needed her quiet he tossed her a large biscuit.  Smart girl has now learned that when dad puts that box to his ear and she barks, she gets a Big Reward.  This behavior will surely be repeated, by this smart dog!

This pup has a strong leave it, so no chasing happens.

This pup enjoys tug with his owner so he bring her toys to play with.

Another example: Does your dog grab tissues or clothing and run around the house?  If you said “yes” then I am going to guess that you or your  children have taught your dog that this is a great game enjoyed by all!  Pups learn quickly how to get attention, they know exactly how to get their humans to chase them. Play is very rewarding to a young pup! Instead, when your dog picks up his toys, give him excited attention and get him to bring you the toy for a fun game of tug!  He will learn that bringing you his toys is highly rewarding.  When he picks up a tissue, or sock you can turn away from him, grab an appropriate dog toy and begin to play with it, he will surely want to join you!

In summary, think about what behavior your dog just did and if that behavior is something you want him to repeat.  If so, then reward with food, affection or play.  If not, then do not offer your dog any reward in the form of attention, food or play.  

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Bite Prevention – Warning signs

Posted on Feb 13, 2015 in Aggression, Barking, Dog Training, Dominance, Pets, Positive Reinforcement, Puppy, Reactive, Training | 0 comments

Clients often say their dog bit without warning, however if you understood dogs body language, you would have seen signs that your dog was worried prior to the bite.

Signs of Stress:

  1. Head lowered 
    This large tounge flick is an obvious stress signal in a dog.

    This large tounge flick is an obvious stress signal in a dog.

  2. Tail tucked 
  3. Lip licking
  4. Panting and Pacing
  5. barking
  6. Excessive salivation
  7. Ears pulled to the side or way back
  8. Hiding behind the owners or under the furniture, it is not cute, it is a sign of distress.   Recognizing when a dog is needing space would  be beneficial in preventing a dog bite.   

Level One Distance Cue (asking for distance):

The springer is pressing forward and the chow is looking away, closing mouth, eyes round and becoming hard.

The springer is pressing forward and the chow is looking away, closing mouth, eyes round and becoming hard.

 

  1. Overt eyes away
  2. Turning head away
  3. Turning head and neck
  4. Getting up and moving away
  5. offering only his back to be petted These are Level One Behaviors that a dog is not interested in being pressured by the stimuli present, we refer to these as Distance Cues or request for space.

If these behaviors do not work, then Level Two Distance Cues may be used to obtain distance: 

  1. Growl
  2. stiffening of the body
  3. Brief direct eye contact
  4. Hard eyed stare with closed mouth
  5. Closing of the mouth
  6. Lip Curl or show of teeth
  7. Air Snap

When these Level 2 warnings are corrected, punished or avoided, the dog will not use them but when pressured to the point of fight or flight, the dog may use a Level 3 Distance cue:

  1. Nip
  2. Bite and release
  3. Bite and hold
  4. Bite multiple times
    This spits mix gives the young girl a hard eyed stare just after petting. To avoid conflict the girl looks away and draws her hands away to relieve stress.

    This spits mix gives the young girl a hard eyed stare just after petting. To avoid conflict the girl looks away and draws her hands away to relieve stress.

When a dog bites, they most often run and hide knowing they will be reprimanded.  So, why do they bite?  I do not believe dogs enjoy punishment.  Then how can we explain a dog that bites?  Is it rewarding?  Is it necessary to feel safe?  There are always warning signs

 

For Guarding Behavior Modification I suggest you read Mine! A Practical Guide to Resource Guarding in Dogs by Jean Donaldson. If your dog is shy, skittish, insecure, barks or growls at most strangers, then understand canine body language would be a must for you.  You will enjoy reading: Canine Body Language a Photographic Guide by Brenda Aloff. 

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Dog Training vs Management

Posted on Jan 3, 2015 in Aggression, Barking, Certified Dog Trainer, Child, Clicker, Crate Training, Dog Training, Leash Training, Pets, Positive Association, Positive Reinforcement, Puppy, Rescue Dog, Safety, Socialization, Training | 0 comments

Management, as it relates to dog training  keeps everyone safe.  Management,  does not teach your dog a behavior, in fact it often creates frustration and increases arousal.  Using forms of management are useful when you need to prevent conflict, such as putting your dog in the bedroom when guests come over.  Using effective management tools, often buy’s you some time, as you teach and reward an alternative  behavior.  

Moore_Judy030

I will fade the food lure quickly and simply reward when he offers a sit.

For example:  A leash is a management tool used to prevent a dog from jumping on someone.  In this photo, Gambits leash is a form of management, however I am luring this handsome 5 month old pup into a sit and rewarding him.  With some repetition, a person approaching becomes the cue for Gambit to sit if he wants affection or food wether he has a leash on or not.

Another example:  Grabbing your dogs collar when people enter the doorway is a form of management to prevent him from jumping or running out the door.  However, if you teach him an alternative behavior like a sit/stay then you will no longer have to manage.

One more:  Using a crate to potty train your puppy  is a form of management that keeps the puppy safe and prevents him from practicing the unwanted behavior of peeing on the floor.  Immediately rewarding your puppy with a piece of dried liver after each of the 6 or so times he pees in the grass will certainly be reinforcing, so he will repeat the correct behavior to get the same yummy reward!

IMG_1267

3 of these pups are under 1 yr and learning to stay.

 In Summary:  If your dog seems overly aroused, barks often, chases anything that moves, is displaying frustration or poor impulse control behavior, is it possible you are simply frustrating your dog through the over use of managment?  

Consider teaching him what to do in each situation and reward him with anything he loves to reinforce positive behavior.  This will make you a proud parent and keep him from getting frustrated, all while building a better relationship!  

 

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