Dog Gone Jumping Dogs!

Dogs jump! It's what they do. In fact, I've almost never met one that doesn't. When dogs are puppies and then as young healthy adults, dogs jump because they get excited and it's fun to jump on their people and onto things that are readily accessible to them.

Face it folks. Many dogs are simply jumping machines. They are built to jump. To get your dog to stop jumping is at first, a daily task that, if not undertaken, will lead you to a life of yelling and correcting the action over and over - until you are sick of it or, even worse, embarrassed it when your dog knocks someone down.

If you deal with this in the beginning, it's much, much easier. I tell people that puppies are like soft pieces of clay. As they get older (like clay left out) they get harder to train. Dogs behave based on their history of reinforcement and if a dog learns it's okay to jump from years of doing it, that becomes the "reinforced" behavior. 

So, what do you do? Give the dog an alternative or "redirected" behavior to perform instead of jumping and reward that consistently. So, as the puppy or dog approaches you, tell it to "sit" before it has a chance to jump on you. Do this over and over and over until you're sick of doing it, and then do it some more. Repetition is critical in training. 

Get the redirected "sitting" behavior 100% inside your home before you start to ask the dog to do it outside. Remember, the more distractions, the more difficult it is for the dog to behave. They are so easily distracted.

Now, get started teaching your puppy or adult dog to sit instead of jumping. If the dog is older and has be eliciting this behavior for a much longer time - be patient! It will take more time to learn a new behavior, but you can teach older dogs new and better tricks!

In a few days I'll talk about how to get them to stop jumping when you are sitting down in the chair or a sofa.

Hand Shyness in Dogs

Hi folks!

It's been a while since I've blogged and part of the reason is because I was podcasting instead. Sometimes, the written word is even better, so here goes.

Many dogs have a natural shyness or fear of hands. And, I'm not talking about dogs that suffered some type of abuse. These dogs are going to be much more than hand shy. I'm talking about dogs that are simply afraid of hands - they haven't been hurt by anyone.

I believe strongly that dogs with hand shyness are suffering from a specific kind of proximity sensitivity that occurs when a person they either know or (more typically) someone they don't know approaches them with their hands extended. In general, dogs that have fear-based anxiety around humans suffer from "proximity sensitivity". These are dogs that are okay with people unless or until one gets a little too close and then they will show various signs of discomfort.

I have a dog that I'm working with right now - a West Highland Terrier that is continuously playing "keep away" and will run the other way when approached to put on a leash or harness or to simply secure from running out the door. Every time someone approaches her by bending down or walking toward her, she darts away in the opposite direction. She's fast and determined (typical of this breed) and very hard-wired, meaning it's apparently very difficult to change. The good and bad news is that this particular dog (she's about 10 months old) is still a puppy and very smart. So, there is hope that we can change the behavior. The bad news is that while I'm fighting the good fight to reverse or re-pattern the behaviors using sound counter-conditioning techniques, I'm fairly certain these techniques are not being reinforced at home. 

So, what are the techniques. Without giving away all of our tricks, there is a simple classical conditioning exercise (Pavlov, folks!) where you turn sideways and simply squat and open your hand and let the dog approach take a treat from you. You do this without looking at the dog until he or she is approaching without hesitation. Keep moving around and do this same exercise over and over from different angles and in different parts of the room. Switch rooms and start again. This is what it means to "generalize" an activity or behavior. The dog has to be able to apply what it has learned from one place and situation to another.  Skip the gym and do your squats that day by getting the dog to do this 100 times. It is said by experts who have done the research that for every time your dog has done something you want to change, you have to do 100 "trials" or have 100 opportunities to reinforce the desired behavior. So, if my Westie has run away from her owner 50 times, I have to perform 5,000 of these squatting exercises. Holy crap! That's a lot of work. Yes, it is! But it's worth it if you can get a dog that runs towards you and not away from you.

Helping dogs get over hand shyness is a labor of love and incredibly important. Before I became a trainer, I had a hand-shy, small dog (a Papillon/Chihuahua mix) that ran away from a human and right into traffic. It was heart breaking and tragic and something I want no one to go through. The lesson is to put in the time and get your dog comfortable with coming toward you and is not afraid of being touched. The end of that story is you get to have a more confident and secure dog that lives to a ripe old age.

Stop Contributing to your Dog's Bad Behavior (Part 4)

Hello Suncoast! For the last several weeks we have been discussing human behaviors that actually contribute to some of the bad behaviors we see in our dogs. We have discussed the first two human behaviors that cause us issues, and this week we wrap up the series with the third and final human behavior causing us our own grief.

Human behavior #3:  Expecting too much from your dog without doing your part.
Just as a child benefits from increasing levels of education; preschool to high school and college, dogs can also benefit from increasing levels of training and practice. . . .

Stop Contributing to your Dog's Bad Behavior (Part 3)

Hello everyone. It’s time for the Suncoast Dog Blog once again. We have been discussing human behaviors that actually contribute to, rather than stop, bad behavior in our dogs. Last week we discussed human behavior number one, which is focusing on eliminating bad behavior, rather than reinforcing the desired behavior. This week we move on to the second human behavior that is causing us problems.

Human Behavior #2: Lack of consistency and clear expectations.
Dogs, much like children, need consistent guidance from the people in their lives. Dogs thrive when there is routine and consistent patterns of behavior. . . .

Stop Contributing to your Dog's Bad Behavior (Part 2)

Hello Suncoast! Last week we began the series “Stop Contributing to Your Dog’s Bad Behavior.” I promised to uncover three human behaviors that greatly contribute to seeing undesirable behavior from our dogs, or that hinder us from getting the results we covet. This week we will discuss the first human behavior that causes us problems.

Human Behavior #1: Focusing on eliminating bad behaviors, rather than reinforcing the desired ones.
Punishment based interactions, or force based corrections tend to be harmful to your relationship with your dog. Over time these types of interactions will begin to create fear in your dog. Research has long proven forceful or coercive techniques induce fear, and in turn, fear is likely to produce aggression. . . .