Whining!! The problem that was bugging me the most — is markedly reduced, at an 8 before in a 10 point scale of bad, now we’re at a 5. The whining when I open the door 90% of the time has disappeared as has the whining while he is tethered waiting for me to feed the horses. Whining when asked to do something is mostly gone as he has faced the result of vocalizations slow the process instead of speeding it up. He’s still offering complaints (whining, barking and occasional howling when confined in his crate during the day – but this is 1-5 minute duration). So we’re still at the halfway point aiming for a minimal, complaining-type noise =1.
What did I do to get these changes? I followed the plans I set out in the earlier post. Organizing Training- making a plan for whining.
- Added remote delivered treats as I opened the door, then since this was working and he was quiet as I approached the door I started adding praise as I opened the door instead of food. He is praise motivated too, not at the same level as food though.
- Froze (stopped any movement) if he started whining and only moved if he was quiet and still. (thanks Scarlybobs for highlighting this – you helped me re-think and I decided to emphasize this since we were beyond him escalating to louder and louder in my presence, so I didn’t need to turn away or walk away)
- It was the addition of wild bunnies in the hay that distracted him from whining (he’s added some bunny droppings to his diet — whatever works) when he is tethered in the Cover-all while I feed the horses.
- Supervised the automatic feeding using the Treat and Train – to make sure he wasn’t putting in a whine just before a food delivery – accomplishing an unintentional, whining reward. I’m a speedy remote, stop-the-treat, button pusher.
- Ignored the whining with cues. It’s mostly gone. I expect this to re-occur with excitement and arousal situations, but should diminish with practice and him sure about what’s expected.
- Added some verbal praise and occasional treats to the down in entry while I’m gearing up or putting away outside clothes. It is mostly solid (other people going thru is still iffy) and no whining. I was aiming for and he is doing it automatically to get a dog who waits calmly and out-of-the-way while people get ready.
Other stuff we’re working on.
Recalls at a 4 before, now at a 6, in a 10 points is best scale. Steadily improving. Still working at low to moderate distraction levels.
- Aiming for 20 recalls three times per day – one session outside in the agility area, two sessions in various places inside daily for the next 7-10 weeks. At 200 recall practices completed. The cat remains a high level distraction as does the poor, misguided bunny who got himself stuck in stop-action mode and frozen solidly into the fence (weird I know, but not removable, except by extreme measures).
- Fave games – run to find food and return for tug or more food rewards. Hide/seek. Sit/wait/come/tug. Go play, come, chase, treat.
Settle during TV time or dinner or computer work at a low 2 before, now at a 5 out of a desirable 8-10. The busy-ness, searching for extra comfort, bugging for attention and long time to lie down and stay there has abated much. He’s on leash, so there’s a ways to go before he could be off-leash and would likely automatically settle. (Note I can tell him to down and he will – that’s not an issue, what I want is for him to just do it without micro-management.)
- Practice with treats delivered when he isn’t paying any attention to me (just calmly settled).
- Continue Treat and Train protocol on dog bed – we’re at the distraction set ups, but still fairly short duration between the treat deliveries. (I postponed some of this to get the whining under wraps).
- No attention, even for nicely bugging – like big Doberman chin rested on knee. It’s very important not to give attention if he is bugging for it, because then the likely hood of being settled and not a pest disappears.
Focus during times of distraction (dogs, new people, stuff), he’s pretty good until the distance is 20-30 feet, which then becomes less and less good the more the space collapses. Rating? 4, maybe higher as he acclimates quite rapidly, but I want less attention spent.
- Always wearing Gentle Leader head halter when out of crate or kennel. It works marvelously to turn him away from staring/fixating.
- Tug games in all situations – I need to take him to more places and play
- Use of higher value rewards (the usual kibble is not adequate) especially initially.
- Yup – so I want excellent focus when I need it and as above in the settle routine I want calm non-focus in that situation – we’re working to clarify the ‘when’.
Other stuff – tricks, balance, body awareness, agility basics and other things that make him easier or more helpful. I add these in for variety, to make him more capable, because it’s fun. And because some things don’t need to be tallied, just enjoyed.
Other, other stuff – his appetite and willingness to eat with gusto is at an 8-10 (previously3-4). He goes(poops) quickly, within 5 minutes of being outside, instead of waiting for 30 minutes and the morning walk turn-around. He’s willing to tug on anything I offer (he has preferences, but they are waning). He’s holding control cues until told ‘break,’ most of the time (I expect, if I’ve asked and especially if I’ve rewarded the control posture should be maintained until he’s released). He automatically sits for all entries/exits/gates. He runs to his crate or to his dog bed when asked if he wants to do something – he knows they are the starting points of most in-house games.
Summary – So now that the noise thing is in better balance, I feel much better. Undesirable noise is very hard on the nervous system. I think that tallying, quantifying and making clear plans results in less frustration, more acceptance and better judgments. I don’t think that everything needs to be tallied or significantly planned, but certainly the things that are upsetting do. Especially when it feels like it’s getting worse or not resolving in any way.
Managing the problem can and should be a first step (oh yah, I’ve avoided the things that cause the issues and I’ve put on headphones at times), but the process of fixing it (if it’s important or if it risks the relationship) needs to occur right away too.
Did this article help you get an idea of how much and what kinds of things to do? Were there things I need to explain better? Do you like the photos?