Emotion drives learning, it drives action, change, and behaviors. There are some emotions that are the same behavior from the canine … these are core emotions.
Anger or Rage = snarls, bites, escape physical restraint. The lower level of this is frustration, which is sparked by mental restraint.
Fear = freeze or run away, when survival is threatened in any way.
Social attachment/panic from abandonment = separation calls, basically “come back, don’t leave me” in barking, whining and howling.
Seeking or Anticipation = animal moves forward, sniffing and exploring to make sense of the world around us. Seeking is also wanting something good, and looking forward to getting something good, and curiosity.
There are three more positive emotion systems identified: Lust – description not needed, Care – maternal love and care-taking, and Play – the roughhousing all young animals do which is a sign of good welfare, because a dog that is depressed, frightened or angry doesn’t play.
Rule of thumb: Don’t trigger anger/rage, fear and/or panic from abandonment if you can help it; do trigger – seeking and play.
Exception to the rule of thumb: Do trigger frustration as a way to train impulse control … ie., stay, wait at doors, gates, crates; and as a way to build resilience and tolerance to failures (willingness to keep trying when not understanding a training goal). So we do want dogs to understand that they need to wait to get something they like (freedom, toys, food, fun), and we also want them to keep trying to figure out what we want from them and not just give up and go find something else to do.
The risk is that frustration if too much becomes anger and rage.
I have a new puppy named Signal. He is ten weeks old, has wavy black hair, black nose and essentially black eyes. He would like to run after our cat, Smokey (10 years old, brown tabby, dog-wise). I have been preventing him, Smokey has been preventing him and sometimes his X-pen fence is preventing him.
This frustration has built up some bouncing and some barking and even a little dodging and weaving. Picture tail high, play bow with intermittent sideways puppy leaps. I am offering food when he’s quiet and looking, I’ve removed him from the scene, and I’ve distracted him, all to make sure the mental frustration doesn’t get too high. I want a pleasant relationship between the two of them.
The cat, has meowed, in an irritated way at him. No hissing or batting and I want to keep it that way, this pup seems like he’d escalate if that were to happen.
This morning when Smokey was doing his jumping routine for treats next to the X-pen. Signal got rewards timed to keep him occupied while Smokey did his thing and got rewarded for it. Soon the two will not think of each other as so novel.
Frustrating, yes. Leads to learning. Anger, no.
(To learn more about puppy training join the Puppy Kindergarten class, next one scheduled Oct 15th. See fb for more information).
It’s funny how some of us come into the world more likely to avoid the pitfalls and others seem to step into every sinkhole. Maybe there is some initial awareness or some character preference or first choice that sets us on an easier or harder path in the culture we land in.
I was working with a troubled young dog, much more troubled than he should have been, and thought if only he had matched up with different circumstances all this would be as nothing.
Doesn’t it seem like the people least able to handle the most difficulties have the most difficulties? The same with dogs … but then which part is causal? Or is something else at work here.
Here’s some of the things I’ve noticed apparently go together:
frightened people get large, guard-type dogs … creating one more thing to fear
needy people are attracted to needy dogs, increasing their load
those who fear loss and abandonment, hang on and don’t trust, so that when their dog is finally free it goes exploring instead of sticking close or coming back, abandonment verified
overweight people have overweight dogs
careless people have (if the pup survives) self-capable dogs
careful people have worried, anxious, fearful dogs
trainers have trained dogs
The dogs in our lives mirror our weaknesses and strengths. Sometimes showing us a path to improvement, an epiphany of choices.
I’ve noticed many people think they have to rough house, or go outside and hike in the wilderness, or go to a dog park, or teach their dog to retrieve something or buy a new toy to really play with their dog.
And most of the time that is too hard because the person needs to spend money or be athletically capable, which many cannot or will not or temporarily are not able to do.
The other thing is most people don’t take advantage of the food they are buying and feeding their dog, they just dump it into a dog dish … dog eats it, interaction done. That food is pretty pricey just to plop out there without any expectations.
Zoos used to do that too, just put the food in a pile for easy access/intake, ‘let’s get there when they feed the…, oops missed it.’ But the zoo behaviorists came to realize that most of the weird, trapped-in-a-cage behavior, was because of lack of things to do, lack of an enriched and interesting environment.
What does trapped in a cage-like environment look like? The animal is under-conditioned and often overweight and pacing, circling, whirling, humping stuff, eating non-food things, licking self excessively, over-reaction to stimulus (like the mailman), compulsive behaviors – barking, chasing sunlight/reflections, chewing … Basically there’s nothing much to do, so make something up to pass the time or create excitement.
So what did zoos do? They added more space and more natural features (I’m not suggesting adding an indoor dog park-although it sounds fun) and zoos started playing games with the food – hiding it, putting it in places that the animals had to work to get it out. The zoo animals have more interesting lives getting to find food, which is a major daily project in the wild.
Dogs like to find stuff and eat it. Afraid your dog doesn’t like his kibble that much that he would search for it? Cut back on the daily amount by 1/4 (so if you feed 2 cups per day, change down to 1.5 cups per day). For dogs who actually are underweight, then these games will re-energize their interest in the plain kibble.
But, I already take walks with him on a leash …. Yay, that’s good, but have you watched how a dog moves around unleashed? Our walks aren’t much of a dog work out. Face it, we’re slow and we have more dogged endurance, they’re quick and they love sniffing.
Sniffing is an incredible work out, just ask sniffer dog handlers. So keep sessions brief when they have to do a lot of sniffing to find it.
Find it! games Playing the games is amazingly entertaining for both you and your dog and even spectators are entertained. Of course, it only works if you are actually having fun.
toss kibble (the regular dry dog food you already use) one piece at a time, dog finds it, cheer, then he comes back to you to start over (the come back can include a hand touch or sit or down for a reward too). Do close at first, then vary it. Do different directions to include short sprints.
teach back up by tossing when he takes a step backwards, keep playing and he will figure it out.
hide food (one piece or many – or if you use wet food put it on a small plate or plastic lid) while dog is tethered or held, then send him to find it. Make it very easy at first, progress to more difficult.
hide food in many places and do a room search for it with encouragement but not direction from you.
separate food into several smaller dishes and put them in different places for your dog to find and eat
do mat training – put down a small rug, focus on it and when dog approaches or looks at it drop food into middle. Keep building this so the mat becomes a valued place to go to, then start waiting for your dog to lie down on it, reward. Now start adding distractions and kibble tossed away from the mat, but only reward if he’s planted himself back onto the mat. Once you’re sure he will go to and lie on the mat add ‘mat’ cue. If you’ve done this progressively enough, voila, the problem of the dog bouncing at the door may be over, because he will go to his mat instead, if he doesn’t he just needs more good practices.
hide food at different heights, use cardboard boxes as new locations, add other agility type pieces – step, cone, tunnel.
add hidden child with kibble (this starts the process of person finding)
try things, like gloves, keys, slippers… to find and get food reward
food stuffed toys, like Kongs or food Cube or Treat and Train to add eating interest when you can’t take much time or won’t be around for a while.
Even those of you who don’t like regular dog training will find scent games interesting , mainly because the sense of smell is so underdeveloped for us our dog is like a master, a sensing magician.
Do you have any find it games you play with your dog?
Movement and noise draws attention, triggers the chase, speeds the come, escalates the interaction, adds to mouthiness, springs to jumping, builds excitement and indicates frustration.
Stillness and silence creates a pause, slows all action, ends the interaction, stops the noise, starts the sniffing, leads to calmness and indicates quitting.
But a body in motion stays in motion and a body at rest stays at rest. So when trying to be a good trainer there is a challenge of inertia. Gaining the understanding of when to change and being able to change from stillness to active and back again is huge. Because our level of activity or inactivity drives the process.
When is stillness particularly valuable?
Anytime the dog/pup is pushing for unwanted/undesirable action/attention – pulling on leash, rushing door/gate, charging at visitors/kids/you, vocalizing for release, jumping up, demanding petting, playing too rough – puppy biting, pawing … and when you want the dog to be still.
Often times people meet action with action, with poor results.
The answer (if you are the keeper of reward or focus) is to freeze, stop, wait until the dog’s action stops. Start moving only as long as the prior undesirable thing doesn’t re-occur. This requires patience and a long term perspective. But the advantage is these common problems will not be problems for long.
*If a dog comes running at you, ruff up, barking or growling or overexcited, and you’re not wearing a bite suit, stand still, look to the side and be quiet. This is a very powerful pose, one of unconcern, one where movement isn’t helping the charging dog’s prey drive.
If you want to bite train and you are wearing a bite suit (or if you feel daring like many kids do), run/move and wave your arms.
*If you want to teach loose leash walking, stop walking if the leash is not loose.
If you want to teach a dog to pull, add some resistance to the leash and keep walking. Resist a little more but let them pull you to the spot they wanted to sniff or pee. Good job, you’ve accomplished teaching your dog to pull harder on the leash.
*If you want polite sit for greeting, wait for it. If your dog gets up as you start petting, stop, stand up and only resume when they sit again.
If you want more enthusiasm and jumping up, pet or push at them when they get excited. Voila, rowdy greeter.
When is stillness/silence of little use?
When the one being still/silent is not the focus or keeper of access to the reward. So if you are not important in the process you won’t be effective in changing it.
When the action desired, like come, is negatively affected by stillness. So if you want fast or more action, trying to train by being still is counterproductive (even if your final goal is being able to be still and having the dog respond).
When it’s time to move on to add the distraction of movement.
Any time you successfully used stillness? Any time it wasn’t successful? Could you figure out why?
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.
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?
The furred creatures run and chatter fast, but not faster than me.
My sometimes pleasant partner complains, drags slowly, makes angry noises and threatens me.
I see a glimpse of my quarry in the distance, I can catch it, I can chase it.
The joy of running, the joy of running.
Why would I come, why would I stay near?
Are you and your dog in the above poem?
You thinking that you need to ‘make’ your dog come or ‘make’ them stay with you. And your dog only wanting to leave because being near you is no fun and being away is lots of fun, so if they can steal the joy they will.
How did you happen to become the barrier to joy instead of the conduit. Even in puppy kindergarten the other puppies are so much fun to play with and the humans tend to want to be observers instead of actively joining in the fun. And then when it’s time to return to learning people/puppy cues, they drag the pup away from their playmates instead of offering him a choice to join up in a new fun game.
Make choices, think differently – you can join in the fun and play so it’s great together or you can go down the path of continuing to think about “making him do it” and be angry that control of other living creatures is ever out of reach. You can become the gateway, you can become an active player or you can keep on becoming angry and figure out how to punish your so-called best friend because he’s thwarted you on purpose.
The choice is yours, but either way you go it will be frustrating. It’s fun, but also hard to be proactive and reward the right choices, to see the pieces and respond to the first little piece when you want more because there is pressure to react and try to fix everything at once, Being proactive and training is totally opposite of being reactive and correcting.
How do you become the conduit to fun and joy?
Think of what your pup likes — have it, do it. Be prepared every time you’re with him. Reward early, reward fast while pup is doing the thing you want.
start with their top preferences and use these as rewards
then expand his likes – food, toys, games
Make the fun contingent on him doing something for you – and be absolute about this, no free rides, no stealing.
start with easy stuff, pup wants to go outside, wait for him to sit before you open the door – same for crate gate, food, petting (note wait means just wait – no complaining, nagging, pushing – no visits to the punitive side, just silently wait).
hand target – reward for nose touch to palm
kiss, kiss – reward for coming then release to go play
sit, tug game, sit
name game – reward for his look when saying his name
run away come – say their name, when they look, run away, reward when you’re caught
held back recall – have someone hold your dog so they have to burst after you when you call and run away
hide and seek – pup needs to find you for reward
toss food, send to find, run away, play tug when they catch you
send to crate, call and run, reward
etc … think of games, pups like movement and chase and sniffing games
No fun without you: Prevent, manage early on so they don’t just get to go have great fun without you – you need to be part of fun stuff. This means being actively involved – moving, cheering, interacting (not standing watching – that’s not active). Keep the cycles of fun balanced – control cue release, playing with another pup, then interaction with you (note that dogs really enjoy their own species so you will need to ratchet up your desirability if you let them party very much with canine friends).
Prevent things that are fun, but that won’t be allowed – chasing the cat or horses or car, ripping up things, wandering to the neighbors, eating off the counter, climbing on people or furniture, whatever your rules are start the way you mean to continue,
You are the gateway for fun and you need to have fun! Isn’t the relationship the point after all. And then being with you, coming to you will be amazing, will be easy, it will be freedom.
Warning signs that your recall training isn’t what it needs to be
having to call more than once
pup starting to come, but then finds something else to sniff
if there’s something more interesting your dog acts deaf/no response to calls
won’t come away from food, friends, or whatever that’s interesting so you know not to call then
What to do then
Prevent/manage freedom. Dog needs to get much less freedom so that rewards from the environment don’t trump your rewards. And you need to markedly increase the fun/value your dog has for you. Play fun and exciting recall games three to five minutes daily for the next 2 months. And each time your dog takes the choice to ignore you (so you have to call twice or more or go get them) you are 20 recalls in the hole and they are up 1 (if you want a tally system) – so it adds three days of practice.
Once you have a great recall, maintain it by playing recall games at least once a month … forever. It’s fun anyway, so why not.
My puppy kindergarten class members want to know what to do about biting.
Such sweet young faces filled with sharp using teeth.
He bites, she bites, puppies all bite. Some bite harder, some not as much and some seem to go into an upset growling biting frenzy (mostly when they are over-tired or over-excited or scared/anxious if someone has punished them for biting).
Blood letting often happens because those puppy teeth are really sharp and they are careless where they put their teeth. And they put everything in their mouth. It’s normal and usually fades nicely if handled reasonably well.
So first off let’s get the No’s!, the slaps, pinches, tongue pressing, face grabbing, and whatever else that’s nasty off the agenda. These mostly make things worse in one way or another. The shy/escaping puppies quit biting you but haven’t learned bite control – and may bite hard out of fear, and the assertive puppies just get faster, may move on to bite much harder and also don’t trust your hands.
It is usually OK to yelp, yip, or squeak if your pup bites you – most pups will stop, some seem to think it is interesting or funny and will retry to see if you do it again. Repeat the yip, if they stop – good, but then if the pup seems energized you know this strategy isn’t a good main one for your puppy.
Think of your ultimate goals. You want a pup who understands how to use his/her mouth around you and others. You want a pup who trusts you to handle his muzzle, mouth, teeth, and face. You want a pup who takes food gently when offered, who carries and gets things for you, who will play games and be aware of what to bite/grab and what not to. You want a pup who interacts with other puppies and dogs well. And if your pup got hurt, you want him to let you help him without biting you. Whatever you do now for this temporary problem shouldn’t interfere or prevent your ultimate goals.
But he’s biting. For the record if your puppy has a piece of your body in his mouth and is not letting go, stop moving whatever he has hold of (this is usually enough to get him to let go), but if he’s in tug mode take a hold of his collar so he can’t tug backwards – so you are holding him in place (this usually is enough to get them to let you go), and if all else has failed or it hurts too much, you may pry his mouth open. Then turn him away from you so he doesn’t re-latch on… and then think about what part of your training needs building up.
Is someone rewarding biting clothing/hands in play? Is someone dodging and weaving with their hands and encouraging ‘shark mouth?’ Is there someone in the family who needs coaching because they are afraid? People who are afraid of animals usually react in all the ways that get them into more trouble. Is someone doing those punishing things I said above – to ‘get off the agenda,’ if so they are likely making the puppy more upset, and faster to get to growl-ly frantic biting (which makes them think they have an aggressive dog in the making), and that they need to be more ‘dominant’ – aka mean. Bummer.
So what to do, my puppy is biting everyone – help!
*Be Ready. Have toys, chews, food, to put in his mouth instead of you. Only play with those, and stop playing, get up, leave if he is focused on biting you or your clothes and won’t change over to the toy or chews or food.
* Practice nice mouth. Hand feed and have your puppy do things for the food. This will give him better things to do with you than try to bite you.
*Prevention. Turn his face away from you as you pet him. Make the petting shorter if he can’t tolerate more than one or two seconds without trying to bite you, and quit before he starts biting. Conversely if he starts biting and you have him up in your arms, block him from getting you (by keeping him turned away) and wait for him to settle before you put him down … you don’t want him to learn that biting at you gets you to release him. You want him to learn that kissing you gets him down.
*Practice games. Play tug games, focus him on the moving toy, rope, stick … pups like movement and will grab movement. Stop the game if he bites you, you need to become still. When he settles try again, if he goes for you again, end the game, get up, stand still.
*Over tired means cranky. Many pups don’t get enough sleep and so are over-tired. Give them regular quiet times in their own space. They need to sleep, and if noise or kids or you are often bothering/waking them they will be more likely to get easily over-wrought.
*Bad puppy set-ups. For kids or people who keep pulling their hands up and away because the ‘puppy bites’ – have them feed by pushing the food into the pups muzzle from below the pups chin (usually they go at it from above and the pup tries to reach up or jump up to get to their hands which ends up involving teeth) or if they can’t seem to do that have them toss treats on the ground. Puppies don’t really know how to take things from your hands, they have trouble knowing where the treat is and keeping it in their mouths.
*For petting – pet below the pup’s ear on their neck, not the top of their head (petting from above encourages grabbing).
*Quiet hands. Make your hands still, slow everything down, stop moving and that will stop biting. Running children are perfect biting targets, either teach the kids to stop if puppy is grabbing or remove the puppy from their games (and you can work on short bursts of faster legs, then slow or stop before puppy gets to biting or tackling).
*Tools. Head halters, like the Gentle Leader are good things to train early. Teach the pup to put his nose through the nose loop, teach him to leave the nose loop on his nose and give him treats as long as he lets it hang there. Teach the pup to push into the nose loop to get a treat (so there’s tension on his nose) and finally put the whole thing on – give treat, repeat, repeat, repeat. The handling of his muzzle, the clarity of this game of him putting it on, balancing it on his nose, pushing into it, wearing it … all helps to get him to trust that having his face handled is OK. Then, of course, use it to turn his face from things he needn’t bark at, mouth, be aggressive towards and it works as a go for a walk tool too.
Start from here and get your pup to tolerate more and more movement without trying to put it into their mouths. Keep clarifying what they should mouth, keep increasing the excitement, increasing the touching and rewarding them when they tolerate it well … remember each time they make mistakes it is a lesson for you about your training and what needs practice in the next days and weeks to get your pup to understand how be civilized and bite inhibited.
Do you have particular questions about your pup’s biting? Want to attend a puppy kindergarten? Contact me.