Learning: Rally-O and Agility.
Teaching: Rally-O and Pet Obedience.
BSc in Animal Behaviour and Apprenticing in Toronto.
Science-based, force-free training and behaviour modification.
Maulkin was extremely reactive to other hikers during our hike yesterday. He didn’t seem fearful or frantic (he was eager to greet the one person who passed us closely and otherwise just seemed excited), but I was only able to redirect him during one of four reactive episodes. The strangest part was that he alert barked at a couple as they approached, politely greeted the woman when she spoke to him, and then alert barked when the couple moved away. I could see that if he were being fearful (“I’m afraid, so I’ll bark to scare you off. I’m too afraid to bark when you’re right here. I’m still afraid but brave enough to bark and drive you off when you turn your back.”), but I really don’t think that’s the case. I asked my mentor about it, and she says she’ll have to see what’s going on to offer a diagnosis.
Maulkin’s also been alert barking at people passing our apartment when we’re out on potty breaks but otherwise is great passing people during walks. I’m pretty sure he’s barking in our yard because he thinks it’s his job. I’ve been trying to play LAT as soon as people appear before Maulkin can react, and then redirect him without rewarding him if he does react. I think it’s helping. My mentor recommended just letting Maulkin bark and ignoring him, and rewarding him when he’s quiet so he learns I’m not paying him for barking. I haven’t tried it, because I don’t really like the idea of him barking. Maulkin’s naturally very verbal, so I feel barking will be incredibly self-reinforcing if I just ignore it (certainly more reinforcing than food, at least). I may try setting up a crate outside so I can send him to bed when he barks but let him out to play LAT when he’s quiet. All I need is more free time and for the neighbour’s kids to not harass us when we’re outside….
It’s a completely different experience walking with little Viola compared to Maulkin. Even though Maulkin is well-trained and ignores people when we walk, there are always people (especially kids and teens) who jump out of our way or even scream when they see us. With Viola, people run up and try to kiss her and make a fuss even when she’s barking and lunging at them. Viola happens to be overwhelmingly friendly and was never taught self-control around strangers, so she’s not a danger. But her behaviour looks like any other type of reactivity, and it amazes me people find it endearing just because she’s small.
I’m thinking about adding ribbons to Maulkin’s ears when we walk to make him look less intimidating. While I don’t want people running up to him, I don’t want them running away screaming, either. He takes it all in stride, but I find it really frustrating.
Maulkin holds his breath when I ask him to freeze. That’s a little more frozen than I wanted….
oodsandpoodles/all-kinds-of-dogs, sorry it took so long, but I finally got the video made! The idea is to turn parallel to the dog when they see a distraction so the dog knows you’re changing direction, and then reward them for choosing to move away from the distraction and towards you.
In the video, I teased Maulkin with one of his favourite toys before tossing it under the camera to use as our distraction. You can see how he disconnects from me as we approach and keeps moving forward after I’ve stopped. After I stop, I pivot on my left foot (you should pivot on whichever side you walk your dog) and step behind the dog so my shoulder is aligned with his spine. When Maulkin’s leash goes taunt, I can step back and feed out the slack so I’m getting farther from him but he’s not getting closer to the distraction. (There’s a pretty decent example of that at 0:25.) When the dog turns towards me even the slightest, I mark (Using “Yes!” in the video.) and then offer him a reward at my side so he has to walk away from the distraction to get it.
Maulkin’s obviously already trained for this task, so I actually kept signalling him to get the toy so he’d walk ahead. If he were untrained, he’d probably lunge at the toy for a while, then stand at the end of his leash staring, and maybe try to go for the toy again before eventually glancing back at me. That’s pretty normal behaviour for an untrained dog, especially if they’re used to getting ahead by pulling, so expect that the first few times you try this exercise. If your dog seems fixated on the distraction and doesn’t glance back at you after 30 seconds to a minute, call him away (you can apply gentle, constant leash pressure if necessary, but try not to tug or jerk on the leash), and try again but stop at a much farther distance from the distraction. You can also make this exercise easier on the dog by rewarding with something better than your distraction (so if you’re using a few pieces of kibble as a distraction, try rewarding with chicken). After a few approaches and retreats, Watson should start glancing at the distraction and then back at you for a reward. When you reach that stage, you can try switching up the distraction, moving to a different room, or approaching the distraction a bit closer (though always keep outside of leash range, so your dog doesn’t lunge out and grab whatever you’re using before you can stop him). If you find yourself telling your dog to “leave it” or you just feel nervous, you’re too close to the distraction and need to progress a bit more slowly.
If you find a treat or toy Watson will take outside, you can start using that as a distraction for set-ups outside. Once he’s had a little practice, you can start using this technique on anything Watson’s finds distracting. Keep an eye on his ears and tail especially during your walks, and you should be able to tell exactly when he’s focused on a new distraction. When that happens, you can switch into this activity until you’ve regained Watson’s focus so he won’t be able to pull you forward. You might also find it helpful to have a walking cue and a release cue so you can use environmental rewards. So for walking, you might tell Watson, “Let’s walk!” and then when you see something you think he might want to approach, stop and wait for him to look at you, and then say your release word (mine is “go sniff!”) and indicate to Watson he can go check out the interesting spot. If he’s not interested in treats outside, using a release word will allow you to reward Watson for walking with you.
Anyway, I hope that helps. Please, let me know if you have any questions or if this exercise is still unclear. I might be able to get a video with an untrained puppy on Wednesday if necessary.
If anybody can help with transition from prong to flat, it would be greatly appreciated. Watson was trained on a prong and while that’s fine, I prefer more positive methods. For the year and a half I’ve had him, he’s spent about 6 months total at a B&T with a good friend of mine who uses prong collars and he walks perfectly on it. But when he’s been with me, I’ve been trying to use a flat. We’ve been stuck in the same rut for about a year and can’t seem to get past it. He does perfect in the house, but as soon as we get outside, he will not focus on me or treats, or even toys sometimes, which are his favorite things in the world. It’s incredibly frustrating.
We tried pivots and they didn’t work AT ALL. Right now, I’m just working on saying “YES!” (I have trouble handling leash/clicker/treats) when he makes eye contact while walking with me. At this point in the house, he knows what heel position means when on or off leash with a hand signal, and will stay in that position.
Would you be able to get a brief video of you both walking? What have you tried for treats, and how does Watson react to them in the house and in the yard?
I have two thoughts based on what you’ve said so far: 1. Watson might be incredibly sensitive to pressure, so when he feels pressure on the leash, he gets trapped pulling against it, and 2. Watson is highly motivated by the environment. For the first problem, I highly recommend switching from a collar to a front-clip harness (i.e., a sense-ation or freedom harness, not an easy-walk). That will prevent Watson from getting caught in a tug-of-war with his leash that he can’t escape while also giving you more control. To deal with the second issue, you’d need to dial back the level of distraction (like working just in your driveway or even inside with the front door open) and find a better reward or use environmental rewards.
It sounds like you’ve done a lot of great foundation work already. Just remember that dogs are terrible at generalizing, so you’ll probably need to go back to square one when working outside. If you’re not doing so already, it may be worthwhile to do some basic obedience in the yard on leash (especially focus work), reintroduce heel position as a new concept outside, or whatever else you can to get Watson comfortable thinking and working with you outside.
I don’t know of any resources for working with toys beyond building toy drive. I’ll publish this in case anyone else has any suggestions.
Yeah, that lag time is a huge problem with rewarding with toys, especially fetch. You also tend to disconnect from the dog when using fetch as a reward (because the dog looks and moves away from you), and it’s more difficult than tugging for rewarding in position. You could try rewarding with a ball on a rope, or you could use treats for several repetitions and jackpot with the ball (this is generally what I do, and I’ve had good luck with it). Using the ball as a jackpot will also help keep your dog from tiring out too quickly.
marceline-the-vegan—queen can’t reply to this post for whatever reason, but she says she tosses the ball directly at her dog to reward him. If your dog finds catching or holding the ball rewarding enough to keep working happily, that’s a pretty fast and controlled way of using it.
I’m seriously so psyched to be studying dog training now, like oh my God.
Soon I’ll have the ability to do something I actually enjoy for a living, long-term, in a business that’s insanely lucrative despite the current situation.
I can finally move out of my mother’s house. I can finally get a place on my own (or with some cute babes) and just do me.
I can’t wait to start up my business. But, studying comes first.
Who told you dog training is lucrative? None of the professional trainers I know would describe the industry as “lucrative”, much less “insanely lucrative”! (Maybe, “Somewhat profitable if you’re lucky,” or “Better than McDonald’s.”) If your primary motivation for going into dog training is making lots of money, you should probably reconsider. It’s a very emotionally draining and physically demanding career that, in general, does not pay all that well. There are definitely some huge bright spots (being able to learn constantly, helping dogs, helping people, always facing new challenges, etc.), but it’s not an easy career.
The Thundershirt demo dog helped out and was my model for the harnesses.
Please note that the fit is as close to ideal as I could get - but it isn’t perfect. Most real dogs aren’t as awkwardly proportioned like Mr. Thunder here.
Pros: custom fit - many places to adjust sizing. Fits high on the shoulders to keep from interfering with shoulder movement, variety of colors, durable - they last a long time, company offers a great warranty that includes chewing!, comfortable, easy to put on, great for dogs with sensitive skin, multi purpose.
Cons: can be difficult for first time users to fit, expensive (retails usually around $38 for the harness + leash combo), hard to find (only smaller stores carry although also available online), some dogs don’t like things going over their head, some dogs find the tightening action of the back clip aversive.
The second harness is the Easy Walk. Definitely the most popular no-pull harness on the market. Seen here in the standard black & silver - it does come in a few different colors and in reflective options. Only one leash attachment option - a tightening attachment in the front.
Pros: very easy to access one - carried at all big box pet stores and at many small retail stores as well. Affordable - usually retails around $25 - $30. Does not go over the head.
Cons: does not fit most dogs very well and has a tendency to chafe, Houdini dogs have an easy time escaping this harness due to its design, many dogs find the tightening action aversive, fits lower on the shoulders and can interfere with shoulder movement, no warranty, company that owns it also makes ecollars.
I obviously prefer the Freedom Harness for many reasons. There are other front clipping harnesses available - the Senseation, the Walk Your Dog with Love, the Hello Bully harness - and I believe the Freedom Harness out performs all of them.
2Hounds Design (the company that makes the Freedom Harness) also makes the same harness with a non-tightening back clip for Victoria Stilwell that I would love to get my hands on.
I do not like or recommend anti-pull harnesses such as the Holt harness or Sporn harness - these work by squeezing the sensitive armpit area and are aversive tools.
Hope this helped! Remember - no product can replace training. No-pull harnesses are management devices to help reduce the pulling until the dog is trained.
(wow, when did this come in? i’ve never seen this ask before and i have no idea how long it’s been in my inbox D:)
Thank you! His impulse control is incredible, but he does still lose it every so often, and with small animals, all bets are off. ;) With food and toys, though, he’s wonderful!
It sounds like she’s doing great already if she’ll leave food alone on her paws! That’s a pretty big step, especially for a pup. For getting her to balance it on her nose, though, I’d say start with something other than food, and something fairly large — for Grem, I used a ball, but since she isn’t terribly still, a tug rope might work better. I started off by putting the toy near Grem and c/t when he didn’t move to get it, then on his nose while holding it. If she’s having trouble, you can hold a treat in front of her nose so she has something else to focus on. What you want is for her to understand that the thing on her face needs to stay on her face to get a reward, which isn’t exactly an easy concept to grasp.
After you get the basic idea down, it’s a matter of slowly letting the dog fully support the object (ball, rope, whatever) on their own, then letting them do it without you hovering over them. Adjust those at separate times since it’s confusing to make it harder on every level at once.
And, after you’ve gotten the duration down, you can begin to use food. If she’s got a solid “leave it!” that will help a lot, since you can tell her to “leave it” and then put it near/on her nose. Grem’s cue (he doesn’t have an official one) for the trick is “leave it” since it tells him he isn’t allowed to get the treat yet. If you want, you can also work up to her being able to flip it into her mouth. After the balancing is down, release her to get the treat, but only let her have the reward if she catches it. If it falls off her face, pick it up and try again. Grem gets his regardless of whether he catches it or not, but it looks a lot cooler when he does.
An alternative method (that works especially well for fidgety and shy dogs) is to teach the dog to rest their head on your hand, and teach that head position as a duration behaviour. (In this case, your hand is a target you use to set up the dog but then fade out.) You can teach it by shaping, capturing, or luring depending on how your dog learns best. To lure, hold out your hand and move a treat over, behind, then slightly behind-and-below your hand so your dog is applying pressure with their muzzle. Most dogs can work without the lure in a few repetitions. For capturing, gently cup your dog’s muzzle in your hand, and c/t presenting the treat low. You should be capturing the dog tolerating pressure under their muzzle; do that a few times and then start just presenting your hand under their muzzle, and your dog should start applying pressure themselves.
Once your dog has a good understanding of head position, you can start adding a stay cue (or introduce it as an implicit stay) and fading your hand pressure until you can move your hand entirely away with your dog keeping their head in position. (If you teach your dog to focus on you during this; it makes eye, mouth, and ear exams super easy for your vet.) You’d still have to go through your method for adding food, but having a strong foundation behaviour should help learning go more smoothly.
I wanted to add for catching the treat: You can make it easier on your dog by using a low-value food item or a toy for balancing and then jackpotting (with a high-value food item) any progress towards catching the falling item. That will maintain a high rate of reinforcement for the dog while adding more instruction (via shaping). It’s also less aversive/confrontational than trying to snatch a fallen treat before your dog.
I never thought to do foundation work with balancing toys? That’s a great idea, and I’m going to use your method to rework some foundation behaviour with Maulkin.
From the 4Paws University Facebook page.