Adding a New Member to your existing K9 Family
Bringing a new dog into your home can be stressful. Below I have outlined a few steps that should help you keep everything smooth and pleasant. First, it is important to create the proper introduction. The best way to do this is a parallel walk in a large, neutral space. You will need to find someone that understands the body language of dogs to assist you.
It's important to keep both dogs out of reach of each other in the beginning making sure they never approach each other head on. Walking parallel to each other, slowly start to reduce the space between you and the other dog. Make sure the two of you are walking shoulder to shoulder with both dogs on the outer side. When both dogs are relaxed, slowly let them get a little closer to each other. It's important to keep a loose leash the entire walk. Dogs can feel vulnerable on a leash when first meeting other dogs. They have four options when confronted with new situations called the four F's, Freeze ( major decision making time) Flight, Fight or beFriend. When a dog is on a leash the option to take flight is taken away so they default to fighting out of fear. When you keep a tight leash and act anxious your dog will pick up on it effecting their decision when meeting the new member.
Make sure to bring treats with you and create a strong positive association for both dogs. When you get the green light ( both dogs are giving relaxed body language) then let the doggy hand shake (butt sniffing) start. You may drop the leashes if in a enclosed area or make sure the leashes stay loose. Make sure to keep things moving about, static situations create tension and keep the excitement levels low. If the play seems to be bothering either dog separate them and give them time to calm down. Healthy play should be like a well balanced danced. They should take turns chasing each other and allow their play mate to be on top and on bottom when they wrestle. If they don't take turns and you're not sure if the play is appropriate or not, seperate them and if the submissive dog returns to play then they are fine.
When the parallel walk is successful make sure the next time they meet you take your current dog or dogs for a walk to rid them of excess energy. Bring the new dog into the backyard alone and allow them to sniff around and get comfortable. If you don't have a backyard bring them to the area your dogs relieve themselves. Doing this allows the new comer to get vital information about the other dogs. They can tell the gender, age, health and size of the other dogs. Then reintroduce your current dogs to the new comer in the backyard one by one if you have multiple dogs. You will want to make sure you reintroduce them in a large area so that the dogs can flee any uncomfortable situations. This will reduce the chances of conflict between them.
After they are both comfortable go ahead and bring the new comer into the house with out the others. Let the new comer adjust to the inside environment before allowing the others inside. Once inside be sure to keep the excitement levels low. Again, if you have more then one dog be sure to let each dog in one at a time. You don't want to overwhelm the new comer and make them feel cornered. Remember dogs love consistency and when their environment is suddenly changed it can be traumatic. Keep in mind it takes about seven days for them to adjust. After two weeks you should have a settled routine and start to see the new comer bonding and warming up to their new environment.
Written by Angie Neal and Allison Walker © 2011 – All Rights Reserved
Is your dog afraid of thunderstorms, fireworks and other loud noises? How difficult is it to watch your dog panic, sometimes to the point of physical injury? There are things that you can do to help cure your dog’s fear of noise phobias. Below are recommendations that will help with the issue of noise phobias. However, first it is important to realize the possible down fall. The down fall comes when owners lose patience and want to see results right away. Impatient owners go way too fast too soon or, when results are not seen quickly, they tend to give up too soon. It is the owners who take their time to go slowly who see results.
Changing the Conditioned Emotional Response that your dog has toward loud noises is a process and it can be a very slow process. Those owners wanting a quick fix will not have the patience to complete the process. Quick fixes mean a visit to your vet for tranquilizers. As a result, they usually end up with a comatose dog that still may exhibit fear responses to loud noises. Tranquilizers only mask the problem as long as the dog is medicated. Keeping a dog medicated for life is not a solution.
Desensitizing and Counter-Conditioning:
In basic terms Desensitizing and Counter-Conditioning will change your dogs Conditioned Emotional Response from a negative to a positive. For example, your dog is not fond of men but loves tennis balls or treats. If you have a man toss treats or tennis balls, you will find over a period of time that your dog will associate playing with tennis balls or getting treats with that particular man. The man now equals play or treats. That creates a positive association with that man and your dog will eventually warm up to that man. This is an example of Ivan Pavlov’s classical conditioning work with his dog and the bell. Pavlov repeatedly rang the bell and gave his dog a treat. Eventually, when the dog heard the bell it salivated because it associated the sound of the bell with getting a treat. You are using classical conditioning to change your dog’s association to noise. With enough conditioning, your dog will associate noise with good things instead of bad.
For dogs that have more intense negative responses to loud noises and are too stressed to eat high motivating treats or play with favorite toys, CD’s can be recorded or purchased to recreate the loud noise. These CD’s will allow you to introduce the noise at a low level so your dog can hear it but does not react fearful. Starting at a low volume is the most important piece to this method. If you turn the volume up to where the dog is too stressed the process will not be productive. As your gets used to the low sound, gradually adjust the volume with time. The goal is to adjust the volume every two weeks as long as your dog is not exhibiting stress signals and is able to take treats and play while playing CD. This allows you to work on the process way before thunderstorm season or the 4th of July.
If your dog is crate-trained, then leaving your dog in its crate during thunderstorms or fireworks with a very special treat will help you manage your dog’s fearful behavior. Do not use the same-old dry biscuits in the crate. Purchase special treats such as a frozen raw Buffalo Bone (found at local stores such as Wag-N-Wash). You can also stuff a Kong with extra special treats that will keep your dog busy and happy. Freezing a stuffed Kong will make it more challenging for your dog, so the treat lasts longer.
It is also beneficial to move your dog’s crate into a room with a fan, television or radio. Play calming music at a moderate level to drown out the majority of scary noises.
You can also spray the inside of your dogs crate with DAP Comfort Zone, a calming pheromone found at most pet stores. DAP comes in a diffuser and a spray. The spray is great for concentrated areas like a crate or car. The Comfort Zone Diffuser w/DAP, which is a plug in for the home and can last for a month, is great for storm season.
Avoid taking your dog with you in thunderstorms or fireworks displays. A frightened dog in a panic is difficult to control and more likely to bite in fear. It is also important not to coddle your dog when it is scared. You will be reinforcing being frightened. It is better to avoid loud noises when you are not working on Desensitizing and Counter-Conditioning. These processes take time but results will happen!
Written by LDU Trainers/Apprentices © 2012
Is Your Dog Possessive, Jealous, Protective, Dominant?
Resource Guarding means a dog responds aggressively to another animal or a person when they think that something they perceive as being 'valuable' is going to be taken away from them. It could result in a fight, for example 2 dogs over a tennis ball, or it could just be a freeze, snarl, a soft growl, a turn away, or pick up and move. With a person, it could be the same, a freeze, a snarl or growl escalating to a bite in some cases.** Resource guarding is a natural behavior for all dogs but there are varying degrees. The wide range reaches from mild (will hoard items) to severe (will snap or bite). Typically when you hear that a dog is a resource guarder it means that the dog has progressed to growling, baring teeth, snapping or attacking when his valuables are threatened. A dog might choose to guard his resources only from other dogs and animals or from people as well. Valuables can be food, toys, bones, beds, space and even companions (owners).
2- What words do people use to describe RG behaviors??
Many people do not understand what is actually causing their dog to guard resources. Therefore, they may use words to describe the behavior that are not truly correct. Words that you may hear are: aggressive, possessive, jealous, dominant, alpha, and spoiled, among others. With dogs that guard their owners, you may hear "He's just protecting me" or "he's just very loyal." Those descriptions are especially common with owners of small dogs that guard them as a resource. Ultimately it has nothing to do with how much the dog "loves" its owner. The dog is protecting itself from losing possession of the owner, not showing how much the owner means to him.
3- Why is RG termed “resource guarding” and not jealousy, possessiveness, not sharing, dominance?
There are several different camps of behaviorist and dog training. The difference is between trainers who don't use any aversive and those who insist that "old school" techniques are the only way to get results. The latter insist on calling resource guarding a “dominance issue.” The less discussed difference between the applied behavior analysis and other approaches is that the applied behavior analysis is based on verifiable and practical measures of behavior. Rather than wasting time trying to figure out why or what the animal is thinking we concentrate on fixing it. When humans presume they know what the dog is feeling - which is impossible - we tend to assign human thoughts and emotions to their behavior. This is called anthropomorphism and can cause serious misconceptions and miscommunication between humans and pets. Therefore, it makes sense to call it what it is - "Resource Guarding" - and not something it's not.
Again, when people apply human characteristics to non-human animals, it causes a huge misunderstanding of the dog's behavior and motivations. Dogs do not have the complex feelings and emotions that humans experience. Assuming that canine behavior is driven by human emotions means that we do not understand the true motivations of the dog. Without that understanding, no training protocol will be successful.
It is a natural and instinctive behavior for dogs or other predators to guard the resources they need to survive. RG is a term derived from innate canine behavior. Other terms like "jealousy" are based on human emotions that dogs do not feel and are, therefore, not a correct description of the behavior. Other terms like "dominance" or "alpha" are based on out-dated training methods that focus on getting the dog to comply through force, and not on understanding why the dog is behaving the way he does. Also, it is too simplistic to say a dog is being "dominant" when he is guarding a bone from his owner. The dog is not punishing the owner or playing out a power struggle. He is simply guarding a resource he does not want to lose. Hence "Resource Guarding".**
**References 1.) APDT Newsletter, Nov/Dec 2002, Jean Donaldson, Assessment and Treatment of Resource Guarding. 2.) O'Heare J. Companion Animal Science Institute, Principles of Behavior, pg.4. 3.) Donaldson J. The Culture Clash (Second Edition), 2005, James & Kenneth Publishers. (p.77-85)
4- How does Resource Guarding develop??
RG is a naturally occurring behavior. Dogs, as predators, are programmed to guard the resources that are crucial to their survival. Every dog has some degree of resource guarding. However, more severe cases of resource guarding can develop because of temperament tendencies genetically predisposed to guarding, or it is a learned behavior. Resource Guarding is an expression to a perceived threat. In other words, the threat is that the dog could lose control of that resource and must protect it. This can develop at a young age in a litter of puppies where a resource, food for example, was not evenly distributed throughout all the puppies. Smaller puppies may have a harder time competing for food with larger puppies if the food is in one large bowl. Therefore they learn they must fight harder to get what they need to survive. When this behavior is not regulated by a mother or an owner, it can develop into resource guarding. The same could be said for stray dogs that have learned they must protect food and resources from other dogs in order to keep them.
Resource guarding can also be a learned behavior. This happens when a dog has a resource that is taken away improperly. For example, when a dog has a bone, growls at the owner and the owner then takes the bone away as a punishment for growling, the dog has learned that the owner is going to take the bone. Next time the growl may turn into a snap to better guard the resource. Or when the dog drops the bone and then the owner takes the bone away without rewarding the drop, the dog learns that letting the bone go will only result in losing it. Next time the dog may not drop the bone. For dogs that may already have a stronger tendency to guard their resources, these actions can develop into resource guarding.
5- Behavior Modification Protocols- Help for RG
The wrong thing to do when your dog is resource guarding is to repeatedly take the item away. The only thing this teaches your dog is that you will take the item he is guarding so next time he has to guard it better. This will increase the behavior and escalate. Never punish a dog for resource guarding. Instead listen to his warning signals and work on counter conditioning instead of punishing or driving him over threshold. The more he practices RGbehavior the worse it will get.
One thing you can do for RG is trading the guarded object for a very high value treat, and then give the guarded object back. You might have to practice first with something that isn't highly valued, so the dog figures out the game. Trade the dog whatever he is resource guarding for a treat or another toy. You are rewarding him for giving up the object with something he also enjoys. Therefore, giving up the object is positive instead of negative. He will be more willing to give up his resources if he is rewarded for it. Another protocol is teaching a "Give" or "Out" cue. It is a cue to teach the dog to drop an item and be rewarded. Once the dog has an item in his possession, it is too late to teach him not to take it. But you can teach him it is a positive thing to drop or give up the item.
6- Food Bowl Guarding
For a dog that guards his food bowl, it is important to teach him that a human approaching his food is positive. When a dog that guards the bowl is eating, let him eat in peace. If you do approach, it is to toss a treat into or near the bowl.
On non-feeding times use an empty bowl and - starting at a close distance - go to the bowl and throw in some treats. Move away and do it again, and again, etc. You will need to do it a little farther away and from many different angles, so that the dog becomes accustomed to someone approaching the bowl from different angles and feeling non-threatened, since it results in a treat.
With food bowl guarding, this will teach him that a human approaching his food bowl is a positive experience, like getting a special treat added to his meal. This is an example of classical conditioning. It is also important to provide consistent meal times and to pick up the bowl when it is not mealtime. That way food is provided by you and there is no need to defend the bowl. When you do take the bowl away, be sure to send the dog away from the bowl with a treat (throw the treat in the opposite direction) so that the experience is positive.
7- For Dogs That RG Humans
Dogs may guard their owners against other dogs or people. This is not "protective" behavior and should not be encouraged. Instead, treat this behavior with the same protocols you would if your dog was guarding a resource such as food. Use counter conditioning to change your dog's emotional response to another dog or person approaching you. Begin with your dog sub-threshold and aim to maintain that emotional level.
If there is only one handler this protocol can be practiced by tethering the dog at a distance, where the dog is sub threshold. Have the second person approach the person who is being resource guarded, and counter condition the dog using treats, in order to change the conditioned emotional response. Your dog should learn that when another person or dog approaches and he stays calm, good things will happen. Do not push your dog over threshold by going too fast. If your dog begins to growl when another person is 3 feet away, then that person should stay further away than 3 feet. All the while your dog should be receiving high motivating treats. Your dog will soon associate treats with a person in close proximity. As your dog gets good at accepting a certain distance, you can slowly decrease the distance.
The same technique can be used for other dogs in close proximity as well. If your dog does not allow you to give attention to other dogs, you can use counter conditioning. For example, when you are petting the other dog, you should feed high motivating treats or give attention in a special way, like rub his ears. When the other dog goes away, the treats or ear rubbing stops. Soon, your dog will associate that high motivating behavior with the other dog being close by. There is no reason to guard you if he enjoys having another dog nearby.
You can also apply operant conditioning, if the dog is guarding the human from another dog. You can cue the dog to do another behavior, such as down, in the presence of the other dog. With counter conditioning, the other person/dog makes great things happen for the dog that is Resource Guarding.
It is important that all these interactions are positive. If you punish your dog for growling while another person approaches, your dog will learn to associate that punishment with the approaching person. That does not make itmenjoyable to have that person nearby. Do not push your dog over threshold either. The more he gets to practice RG behavior, the more it will happen.
If you have a mild case of RG it would be a good thing, to treat/reward good behaviors before it becomes an issue. Management and prevention (preferably as puppies) - is to reward all appropriate behaviors while a 'possible competitor' (person or animal) is present. Meaning - good things happen when 'competition' is around. For RG items, place those items out of dogs reach to prevent the dog from practicing the behavior when you’re not prepared to apply BM protocols.
9- Time-Outs for Consequences
For safety purposes, use a short leash/drag line attached to your dogs collar, that way you can calmly grab the short leash instead of grabbing the collar and possibly getting bit. If you have applied the above protocols and your dog is still exhibiting RG behaviors, you can use “separation” as a consequence. You want to choose a place that your dog does not willingly go as a time out location. A common place is a dark bathroom with the lights off. Time outs are meant to be short and sweet, lasting three seconds, so that the dog remembers what the consequence is for. However, the three seconds your dog is in time out must be quiet. If you place your dog into time out and he begins to bark or whine, you must wait until he is quiet for three seconds before he can come back out. It is important to be calm when you are putting your dog into time out and taking him out. Do not make a big deal about him coming out of time out; he simply gets to come out and try again.
10- Implementing Time-Outs for persistent RG:
The time out has to be within seconds of the action(s) you do not want in order to be an accurate consequence. If not your dog will not know what he/she is getting timed out for. As soon as your dog displays RG behaviors, calmly tell him "wrong" and walk him to a time out spot. Once your dog is in time out wait three full seconds. If your dog barks or scratches while counting you have to start over. When the dog has waited three seconds bring him out and do not give him attention. You do not want to leave your dog in there for long amounts of time or he will not remember why he is in there and it will not be successful. Keep repeating this for every action(s) not wanted and eventually your dog will catch on. Stay consistent and short. Seek Professional Help-These recommendations are standard protocols and seeking help from a professional trainer is always the best policy.
Written by LDU Apprentice program © 2010 – All Rights Reserved
Separation Anxiety (SA) is when dogs are distressed or exhibit problem behaviors when "separated" from their owner(s). That can be when they are left home alone, if they are confined to a crate with no crate training preparation, or if the owner simply goes into a different room.
Symptoms include (not limited to) barking, howling, whining, digging, scratching at doors/windows (some dogs will even jump through closed windows), destructive chewing, and inappropriate urination or defecation. These symptoms occur mainly when they are left alone and usually start right after the owner leaves. When the owner returns the dog is often frantic and excitedly greets the owner. Other signs that a dog could have Separation Anxiety are that a dog follows his owner wherever he goes (velcro dogs) or the dog gets depressed or anxious when he realizes preparations are made for the owner to leave the house.
Causes and How SA Develops:
There are many scenarios that that could cause Separation Anxiety in dogs. Dogs who are insecure due to lack of socialization often exhibit Separation Anxiety. This is frequently seen in rescue dogs insecure from re-homing. Dogs that are not exercised or trained (physically and mentally stimulated) are more likely to develop Separation Anxiety. Also, dogs who have owners that work at home or owners that are able to spend the majority of their time with their dog may develop Separation Anxiety when life changes and dog is left alone. Dogs with phobias such as thunder may associate their fear with being left alone. When dogs are not taught how to be alone Separation Anxiety builds over time. Also, owners who make a big fuss over leaving home or returning add to their dog’s Separation Anxiety.
When leaving your dog home alone put the T.V. or radio with calm music on to simulate noises in the home, especially if you have the T.V. on when you ARE home. Do not make a big deal out of your comings and going. Exercise your dog before leaving if possible to help ease anxiety. Give your dog a special bone that he only gets when alone or a stuffed Kong with extra special treat in it. It is also important to try to prevent your dog from following you around the house. Close doors behind you when you go into the bedroom, office, etc. so the dog cannot follow every time. If your dog stresses about you being on the other side of a door in the home, how will he be able to accept you actually leaving out the front door? Easing anxiety when you are in the home will help the Separation Anxiety when you leave. Allow the dog to spend time alone with each family member to prevent the dog from 'over bonding' to one person. You can also have other family members feed the dog its meals. Teaching your dog basic obedience will also build confidence.
Dogs will not eat when stressed, and the best way to check stress levels is food! When practicing the recommendation below use a stuffed Kong filled with great treats or a high motivating bone. If your dog will eat and focus on the Kong/bone while your working the exercises below, your dogs stress level is very low. If your dog will not eat the Kong/bone, stress levels are too high. The more you practice, the lower the stress, and faster your dog will engage. When the dog is able to engage in the Kong/bone, you know you’re making progress. Only use these Kong/bones for the exercises because soon they will become 'good-bye' gifts' for your dog.
Help For Dogs with SA And Owners Who Are Home Most Of The Time:
Practice all of the above 'Prevention' exercises. Purchase a DAP collar or DAP diffuser for the house . This product is available at PetSmart, or PETCO. This product takes about 2 weeks to reach full effect, and I usually recommend it for 3 months. Crate train properly so the dog has a safe place to go when left alone and actually enjoys being in the crate. Exercising the dog physically before he is left alone Practice shutting yourself in bathroom, office, bedrooms for a few seconds and returning while slowly increasing the time that you and your dog are separated. Lengthen the separation time slowly as to not overly stress the dog. Practice leaving the house and the dog for a few seconds and returning. Slowly increase the time that you and your dog are separated. Again, go slowly as to not stress out the dog. Leave the dog lots of activities when he is left alone (puzzle feeders, stuffed Kongs, bones, toys etc.). Desensitize the dog to the owner’s routine by going through routine of leaving without actually leaving. Desensitize Triggers. Triggers are actions that predict an owner leaving the home such as showers, getting a coat, shoes, purse, keys etc. Practice going through the 'act' of leaving, but don't leave, sit down and watch T.V. or read a book, emails, clean the house etc.
Help For SA Dogs With Owners That Work Full Time Jobs:
Practice the recommendations above for 'Owners Who Are Home Most Of The Time'. With owners who work full time jobs, you will need to practice as much as possible in the evening, weekend, and/or days off. Practicing leaving your dog alone is the best policy to avoid Separation Anxiety from raising its ugly head. Avoid back sliding in order for new behaviors to be conditioned and not compromised. Your goal is to practice the above exercises/protocols combined with management (management meaning, taking your dog with you or, as a last resort, possibly leaving your dog with family/pet sitter/boarding/daycare for periods of time) to combat Separation Anxiety.
For A Dog That Cannot Be Left Alone
Daycare would be a good management tool until the dog’s stress levels come down. At least that way you know the dog will not harm himself or be destructive to the home when he has to be left alone. When the dog becomes more comfortable with being at home alone, he could move to half day daycare with one pet sitter or friend/family member visit. Eventually it will be possible to have just two pet sitting visits, and then just to one. Obviously, this is if the owner is financially capable and is prepared to invest a large amount of time.
What About Medication?
Sometimes medication prescribed from your vet can benefit dogs and
help ease stress levels while applying the exercises/protocols discussed above. It is important to NOT leave your dog home alone while practicing the protocols and training, as each 'back-sliding' event will compromise progress. Remember your dog is a 'creature of habit' and it will take awhile to condition new habits. The owner needs to be aware that with dogs exhibiting true Separation Anxiety it will take a long time, and a lot of consistency before the dog will start to show improvement. These recommendations are standard protocols and seeking help from a professional trainer is always the best policy.
So you want to be a Pack Leader?
Written by ©2015 Astrid Tryon, CPDT-KSA
What kind of relationship do you want with your dog? Do you want to be the benevolent leader that your dog looks up to and respects, or do you want to be a leader that your dog obeys because he is afraid of you? Think back to your school days. Did you respect and look up to the teacher that was strict yet fair or to the teacher that threatened you with detention and gave you extra homework for passing a note in class?
You have probably heard the phrases “you need to be the leader of your pack” or “nothing in life is free”. Those two concepts in recent years have become almost taboo in the dog training world. At the very least they are becoming very outdated. Why? They are tainted by a faulty pack and dominance theory, but that is a whole other article.
In a nutshell: Today we know that “A wolf pack is a cohesive family unit consisting of the adult parents and their offspring …” (wolf.org) the terms alpha male and alpha female have been replaced with ‘breeding pair’ or simply ‘parents’. Furthermore dogs are not directly descendent from wolves just as humans do not directly descent from chimpanzees. Therefore comparisons between wolf behavior and dog behavior will always be flawed. Studies of ‘wild’ or feral dogs in Romania have shown that they do not form packs, but only brief relationships (Jean Donaldson 2009). Dr. Ian Dunbar describes them as “loose, transitory associations”. “Since even wolves organize themselves into family units, we can aspire to be not dominant pack members but good parents instead. Loving caretakers and dedicated teachers of our dependent dogs”. (Sdao)
Does this mean that there are no rules and no consequences when using positive reinforcement? No – quite the opposite. Contrary to popular belief, dogs want rules and want somebody to tell them what to do. If they don’t have that – especially if it is an insecure dog already – they start making their own decisions and usually those are bad, because they don’t know any better. It is all about establishing boundaries for your dog. Ken Ramirez defines dog training as “teaching a dog to live as a dog in a human world and learning the rules”. Really it is just communicating effectively with your dog. After all, they come from a world where it is ok to say hello by sniffing somebody’s butt or to scavenge for food. How are they supposed to know that humans frown upon such behavior and do not like it when the trashcan is dumped and its contents are littered all over the house. Imagine yourself being dropped into a culture that is entirely foreign to you, where you don’t speak the language, and you don’t know the customs. How do you find out what is appropriate behavior when you can’t communicate?
What does that mean for our relationship with dogs? “Good leaders spend their energy thoughtfully arranging the learner’s environment to promote good behavior, proactively planning to avoid problems and steering clear of interventions that create fear and avoidance.” (Sdao) That means we reinforce behaviors we like and would like to see again and ignore and/or prevent reinforcement of behaviors we don’t like and would like to be extinguished.
One way of achieving this is the use of the Premack Principles. In the 1960s Dr. David Premack came up with the principle that a “high probablility behavior reinforces a low probability behavior”. For example: For a dog that loves walks, going for a walk (highly probable) would reinforce the behavior of sitting to clip the leash on (less probable). “Dr. Premack’s pioneering insight is that an animal’s behavior is reinforced whenever the consequence of that behavior [sitting] is that that the animal gets to engage in an activity he would freely choose to do at that moment. [walk]” (Sdao). The beauty of positive reinforcement training is that reinforcement does not have to be a thing (treat) but can also be access to a preferred activity. And the Premack Principle is so amazing, because it “is like gravity, it’s in effect all the time.” (Sdao)
I know what you’re thinking – that sounds like we are back to “nothing in life is free”. The dog should do something every time he wants something. I myself like chocolate way too much to only have it as a dessert. Sometimes I want to eat a piece ‘just because’. So I am opting for a ‘limited NILF’ – I call it “pick your battles”. Remember you are teaching your dog the rules appropriate for living with a human. You come up with your rules and enforce them. While jumping up at your friends’ faces to greet them may not be appropriate, you may be ok with Buffy jumping up to ‘dance’ with you. You might enjoy snuggling on the couch, but Buffy can’t just jump up, you have to invite her (yet another family may not allow their dogs on the couch at all). Buffy paws and claws you for attention while you are watching a movie; while you don’t mind petting her ‘just because’, the scratching is not ok, so she’ll have to have all feet on the floor, or stop pawing you for at least 3 seconds, before you touch her. “NILF is to control. In the long run communication trumps control.” (Sdao)
The easiest way to communicate with your dog is to allow them to make choices without coercion. “Our role is to notice more of those choices, inform the dog when he’s chosen correctly and reward the dog so he’ll be more likely to choose that way in the future.” (Sdao). Our Reward Toolbox contains the Premack Principles, toys, food (after his basic physical needs are met) and, of course, treats. In addition you can designate some foods (or other reinforces) that are never free and ‘earned only’. “They are the heavy hitters on the reinforcement line-up.” (Sdao)
Give your dog the credit he deserves. They are very capable of figuring things out. Set your rules and give your dog the opportunity to figure them out by offering you behaviors. Be a loving leader who teaches your dog right from wrong (by human standards) by offering guidance not force. Be that teacher you admired and respected in school and become the person your dog already thinks you are.
Ken Ramirez – Keynote address APDT Conference 2013
Kathy Sdao – Plenty in Life is Free
Dr. Ian Dunbar
Dr. David Premack