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Renee PremazaPhone: 609-280-9338Email: renee@JerseyDogTrainer.com

Critical Periods of Socialization

dogsAges 3 weeks to 12-14 weeks are THE most critical developmental stages of life for puppies – This is the SOCIALIZATION PERIOD. Dogs MUST BE EXPOSED to other dogs from ages 4 to 6 weeks. Dogs MUST BE EXPOSED to people from ages 6 to 12 weeks. Experts used to think we had until the dog was 16 weeks to socialize him to people, but they’ve discovered this to be inaccurate. If we fail to sufficiently socialize our puppies at this age to all sorts of dogs and all sorts of people, we will wind up having a dog that is always scared of other dogs and people. Now you can see why it’s so important for breeders to do what they’re supposed to do during these critical ages. I’ve gone into homes to train puppies where they didn’t get the puppy from the breeder until he was 12 weeks old. This happens a lot with the toy dogs. But if the breeder didn’t expose the dog to enough people, guess what happens? The dog becomes shy and fearful, which can lead to aggressive behavior. Irresponsible breeders set the dogs up to fail if they keep them too long and don’t socialize them.

During the socialization period, puppies need to be exposed to all situations that it’s likely to encounter during its life. THIS is the time to take your puppies to puppy kindergarten classes. Don’t let your vet talk you out of going to classes at 9 weeks. Although there is SOME risk of health problems, the risk of your dog developing fear and defensive behaviors due to lack of socialization is much too risky. MORE DOGS DIE TODAY, NOT FROM DISEASE, BUT FROM BEHAVIORAL PROBLEMS DUE TO LACK OF SOCIALIZATION.

If we miss the opportunities to socialize our puppies and to teach them certain things at this age, we can retard their development and ability to learn in the future. Much of the aggression we see in dogs is the result of insufficient socialization to other dogs and humans by the time the dog is 12 weeks old. Socializing your puppies doesn’t mean just casually introducing them to your family and friends. You need to get these dogs out and about and in as many public settings as you can. However, don’t do this all in one day, PLEASE. You should be introducing your new puppies to 5 new people every week, and then 5 more, and so on as he goes through the socialization period.

Researchers, Drs. Scott and Fuller state that puppies should never be adopted before 6 weeks of age, and best not before 7 weeks. The puppies need to be interacting with their littermates prior to those weeks is very important in their development.

At around 8 to 10 weeks, puppies go through a fear period where it’s very susceptible to physical and psychological trauma, and if something bad happens during that 2 week period, the effects could be permanent and irreversible. That’s why it’s best to get your puppy around the 8th or 9th week, so that YOU can control what’s going on in his life. Dog’s who experience abuse at this age, or if they have bad experiences with vets or other dogs, or ANYTHING that causes them emotional or physical harm, this poor dog will be traumatized for life by those scary events. Maybe now you’ll realize that punishing your puppies for housetraining accidents when they’re going through this fear period can cause terrible problems with your relationship. If you scare him by punishing him now, he will never fully trust you.

Here is a list of ALL of the things you need to expose your puppies to during that socialization period of 8 to 12 week period:

Textures, like pavement, rugs, cement, metal, sand, grass, gravel, vinyl flooring and dirt.

Sights would include trees, insects, other animals, men with beards, women in hats, people in wheel chairs, people with canes, and many children. Sounds like traffic, airplanes and trains, railroad crossing signals, construction and the sounds of children playing. Various recordings of sounds are commercially available and very useful for this. Especially important is to get your puppies used to the sound of rain and thunderstorms. CD sound effects are great for this. You can purchase these CD’s at: http://www.dogwise.com/ItemDetails.cfm?ID=DTB653

If your 8 to 12 week old puppy is kept in his kennel most of the time, he’ll become fearful and hard to rehabilitate!! This would equate to the infant who is given little or no mental stimulation. They become mentally disabled for life.

Now we come to the time that will try men’s souls – the canine period of adolescence – YIKES! This is when you want to go on a cruise around the world and not come home until your dog is at least 2 years old! When your puppy becomes 4-5 months old, you’ll notice that he becomes VERY independent. The puppy that wouldn’t leave your side now won’t come to you anytime you call him. When he was a bit younger, he was so easy to train, but from 4 to 10 months, he may become fearful and cautious even to people and novel things he was fine with before (this is the 2nd fear period that dogs go through). If you were training him early on, that will pay off now because he will trust you to guide and protect him through this.

NEVER¬† PUNISH YOUR DOG FOR BEING AFRAID OR YOU CAN TOTALLY RUIN THE DOG!¬† Your dog is always looking to you for guidance and encouragement, especially if he’s fearful. If you scold him because he isn’t comfortable meeting Uncle Joe, you will only convince him that Uncle Joe is not a good thing!

So…there you have it. If you can get through your puppies first 18 months you can get through ANYTHING. Now, if you’ve got kids that are growing up with your dog, and THEY’RE going through their adolescent periods, I don’t envy you one bit!

Getting Dogs Off of Food Rewards

A common complaint that people make when training their dogs using food rewards is, “my dog won’t do anything that I ask him to unless I have food in my hand.” Well, first you have to ask yourself if you’ve trained your dog to follow a command while you are showing him a piece of food while you’re asking him to do something. If you have that food right in front of the dog’s face, your dog will see that food as being part of the entire cue for doing that particular behavior. That’s why he isn’t following your request when you omit that cue.

You may be at a point in your training where your dog is doing a particular behavior very well every time you ask him for it. Figure out what behavior(s) your dog is excelling at, and begin putting that behavior on a “Random Reinforcement Schedule.”

Have you ever sat in front of a slot machine? If you have, you know that sometimes the machine pays you, and sometimes it doesn’t. Sometimes we might win 50 cents and sometimes we might win 50 dollars. A random reinforcement schedule is based on the “Slot Machine Principle” which states, “sometimes you get paid and sometimes you don’t!”

I’m going to give you a random reinforcement schedule below to help get you started. You can then develop your own random schedules as your dog gets further along with other types of rewards. These subsequent RR Schedules should use less and less food treats and more of other types of rewards.

Ideas for other types of rewards could be:

  • Belly Rubs.
  • Praise
  • A short game of Tug
  • A short chase game (he chases you)
  • A short game of fetch
  • A chance to chase a squirrel
  • Chasing a squeaky toy

Make a list of all the things your dog loves and use them in your reward schedules. Here is your sample of a Random Reinforcement Schedule. The numbers listed are those times that a dog does a behavior in which he is rewarded with food. All other times are rewarded with alternatives.

1, 3, 6, 8, 9, 10, 13, 15, 18, 21, 22, 23, 26.

Here’s one more to follow:
2, 4, 7, 10, 12, 13, 15, 18, 19, 20, 22, 25, 26.

By: Renee Premaza

toy dog

Toy Dogs

Do you live with a toy dog? Toy dogs are classified as being 20 pounds or less. I have some helpful hints for you if you’re raising a little dog and you want to have a happy and healthy, well adjusted companion.

First, keep in mind that a little dog views the world much differently. EVERYTHING looks huge to a little dog. This is why they seem so much more reactive to their environment. Some of these little dogs don’t know they’re little, based on their behaviors. Many of the small breeds seem like they’re very big dogs in small bodies. Movement also creates a lot of excitement to them – they’re always afraid that they’re going to get stepped on.

Begin socializing your puppy as soon as you get him home. Each week introduce your new puppy to all sorts of different people, but not all at the same time. Introduce him to people coming into your home. Introduce him to your neighbors. Take him for walks in a park and teach him to sit politely for a greeting from a stranger. Hand the stranger a treat, and tell this person to wait for the dog to sit first, and then they can kneel down and offer the dog the treat reward. Try to find other friendly puppies or dogs of the same size or similar sizes to play with your dog. Put your dog in the car and take him with you on your errands. Take him to get gas in your car so that he gets used to someone reaching inside the car to give you change. Introduce your little dog to people in uniforms, like the mailman or a police officer.

THE WINDOW OF SOCIALIZATION CLOSES AT 12-14 WEEKS. If you do not give your dog sufficient socialization, your dog will never reach his full potential of being a friendly dog.

Little dogs seldom like it when people lean over them, or pet them over top of their heads. The best way for someone to greet your dog is to kneel down along their side, and pet them along that same side where they’re standing. If your dog shows any shyness or fearfulness, tell people NOT to make eye contact with your dog. Dogs consider staring as a threatening behavior.

When you’re housetraining a small breed puppy, don’t lose your patience, because it may be more of a challenge to housetrain him than it would be with a German Shepherd, or a Golden Retriever. First, they have very little bladders, so don’t expect your toy dog puppy to hold it in for long periods. As soon as he’s finished a meal, take him out to relieve himself. If you’ve been training him with treats, take him out immediately following your training sessions because he’ll have to go for sure. Take extra special care in getting your puppy out very often to go to avoid accidents.

So many people think that their little dogs don’t have feet! Put your dog down on all 4’s so that he can exercise. Sometimes, when you carry a little dog around all the time, you can give him a Napoleon Complex. Did you ever try to pet a Chihuahua or Pomeranian when their owners were carrying them around? You just might get bitten! Be very cautious about what dogs you introduce your little dog to. Big dogs sometimes see little dogs as DINNER!

One thing you should consider before bringing a toy dog home. Toy dogs and little children don’t make the best combination. Children can accidentally injure little dogs, and some dogs have been killed because a small child has picked up the dog and dropped it. Many of the small dogs, as mentioned before, are more reactive to things, and they can be a little nippy and growly. Teach your children to respect your dog by not pulling tails, ears or jumping on the dog. Teach children that not all dogs like to be hugged or kissed on the face! Many times, children will get nipped or bitten on the face because of this very same thing. Teach children not to chase the dog, nor allow the dog to chase the children. All dogs have, what is referred to as, PREY DRIVE. Little children often behave like wounded prey! Running, screaming, arms flailing get dogs all excited, and will create inappropriate behavior in the dog because of that instinctual prey drive. Remember to supervise ALL interactions between the dog and your children. NO MATTER WHAT BREED OF DOG, ALWAYS SUPERVISE THE CHILDREN AND THE DOG WHEN THEY ARE TOGETHER. If you can’t supervise, please crate your dog or put him behind a baby gate until you can watch everybody. Once your dog matures to adulthood, you will have a perpetual 2 year old living with you!

When walking your little dog, use a harness instead of a collar. I get very upset anytime I see a tiny dog being walked with a choker collar. Little dogs are prone to having a collapsed trachea, so putting any pressure on that area should always be avoided, especially with any of the toy dogs.

Teach your toy dog obedience. Obedience is the way to let your dog know that you’re his leader. When dogs don’t have confidence in their people, they will assume the role of pack leader themselves. If your dog is growling at you, biting you or your children, OR, if he is demanding your attention and pretty much, ruling your house, your dog is telling you that he is in charge. Become his leader by making him earn his privileges. Do this by making him sit before being fed treats, playing with toys, going for walks and rides, and being petted, and generally before he gets any attention.

Little dogs are also prone to dental disease because their mouths are crowded by their teeth. Learn to brush your dog’s teeth to avoid dental disease, which can also cause other problems.

If you own a toy dog, I would urge you to purchase a book called, “The Irrepressible Toy Dog, by Darlene Arden. This book is available at www.dogwise.com

Enjoy your toy dog and good luck!

 

Dealing with Separation Anxiety

SOME SIGNS OF SEVERE SEPARATION ANXIETY

  • Scratch marks or actual digging by the entrances of any doors leading out of the house.
  • Scratch marks at windows or on window sills.
  • Drooling in the front of the dog’s crate by the gate.
  • Drooling by the doorways or windows.
  • Destruction of blinds, draperies and woodwork indicates the dog may want to escape the house to look for you.
  • Destruction of household furnishings (e.g., torn sofa cushions).
  • Bowel excrement and urine anywhere in the house, including inside the crate. Sometimes dogs that are so severe might eliminate on walls and/or on furniture.
  • Crates that have openings where the dog has tried to get out of it.
  • Injuries that the dog might have inflicted upon himself, including wounds on his paws or other parts of his body done to reduce his own anxiety (akin to someone biting his nails).
  • Neighbors that complain about the dog barking for hours anytime he’s left alone.
  • Dog will not leave you alone for even a minute when you are home (aka Velcro Dog).

SOME SUGGESTED SOLUTIONS FOR REDUCING CANINE SEPARATION ANXIETY

  1. Avoid making any fuss over your dog when greeting him after coming home from work or anytime you re-enter the home.
  2. If the dog is able to remain safely in his crate during the time he’s left alone, give him a filled Kong toy or other high-value chewy to keep him occupied during your absence.
  3. If your dog cannot stay safely in his crate without trying to escape it, or injure himself, try confining him to an area, such as the kitchen, using well-constructed baby gates or decorative metal gates high enough to prevent him from jumping out of it.
  4. Put a radio or TV on to provide background noise so your dog won’t feel quite so alone and isolated during your absence.
  5. If at all possible, ask a neighbor or a trustworthy teenager or professional pet sitter to stop by your house once or twice/day to give your dog a potty break and to take him for a walk or have a 1/2-hour play session with him.
  6. Consider taking your dog to a doggy daycare center for one or two days/week, if that’s a possibility. Even though it may be a bit costly for just one or two days, it might actually save you money in repairing damages done by the dog, and it will save you some grief and aggravation because the dog will become happier and more self-confident.
  7. Put your dog on a “Say Please” program This is a benevolent program where structure and non-physical discipline provides predictability in the dog’s life. Check out the article I’ve written on the website about this.
  8. AVOID PUNISHING THE DOG FOR ANY OF THESE BEHAVIORS! Your dog is already anxious. If you punish him, you will only increase the amount of anxiety he’s already experiencing, and his behaviors will only worsen. Please do not attribute his behavior to spitefulness or willfulness! Even though his behavior doesn’t make sense to you, dog behavior doesn’t have to make sense!
  9. Make your routine of leaving the house varied so the dog cannot ever really know the exact time that you’ll be exiting the house.
  10. Work hard on doing obedience training in a very positive manner (e.g., clicker training or any reward-based training method that avoids any and all corrections or punishments). Obedience training will motivate your dog to do behaviors that please you. This will strengthen your leadership role with him, and it will also help him become more confident that he can survive until you return to him.

If your dog is showing severe SA behaviors, please discuss this at length with your veterinarian. There are pharmaceuticals he or she might recommend to help alleviate your dog’s feelings of stress and anxiety. .

An over-the-counter product that you can use without any prescription is called “Dog Appeasement Pheromones.” It looks like a Glade air freshener, and it also plugs into a wall outlet. Here is an article that talks about a scientific study that was done on the “DAP” product. You can get it on the net here at a reasonable price.

Many separation-anxious dogs that I’ve worked with improved greatly when the DAP diffuser was plugged in. But of course, it depends on how severe the situation is.

Purchase one or both of the following books: (a) The Canine Separation Anxiety Workbook, by James O’Heare or (b) I’ll be Home Soon, by Dr. Patricia McConnell. Both of these books are available at www.dogwise.com

There are a few Yahoo group discussion lists on the web that deal with Separation Anxiety. You might benefit from subscribing to one or all of these lists to discuss your own issues and get advice from other owners who have experienced similar situations with their own dogs.

Getting Your Dog Accustomed to Having A New Baby in the House

dog and babyOne of the biggest mistakes that young couples make is failing to get their dog used to having a new baby live in the house, when the dog has been an ”only child.” Sometimes the ”new arrival” is seen as an intruder into the pack, and this can have disastrous effects. Here are some very important steps you should follow when you are expecting a baby. Keep in mind that you should do these training steps well before the baby comes into your lives.

  1. Purchase as life-sized a baby-doll as you can find, preferably one that cries. If you can’t find a doll that comes with sound effects, you can purchase a CD that has baby sounds, which include crying.
  2. Wrap the doll in a clean diaper or blanket, preferably one that already has the scent of a baby on it. If you can’t get one that has a baby’s scent on it, sprinkle the diaper or blanket with some baby powder, and add a few drops of baby lotion too.
  3. Get into a routine where you’re carrying the ”baby” around the house with you. Talk to the baby much like you would if your real baby were in your arms. Pretend to feed the baby, and talk to the baby. Put the baby on your lap and watch TV. Try to make a daily routine with your new ”baby” and follow it so that your dog gets used to your new behavior.
  4. Allow your dog to sniff the new ”baby.” Praise him to the skies for calm and friendly behavior toward the doll.
  5. Put the doll into a stroller and start taking walks with baby and dog. Never forget to praise your dog for accepting the presence of the baby and for being well-behaved while you’re following your new routine as new mother.
  6. If your dog has been allowed on the sofa, you may want to re-think his having this privilege. Keep in mind that you may have your child in your lap, and your dog may now be wanting to jump up on the sofa when you now don’t want him up there while you’re holding your baby. Suppose you want to nurse your baby while sitting on the sofa? How will you react to the dog when he’s jumping up to sit with you? Plan ahead for situations like this, because if you need to change any of your dogs habits that you’ve accepted before, you need the time to do this now, not after the arrival of the baby.
  7. Another item you may want to have in your house during this desensitization period is the baby swing. Put the doll in the swing and turn the swing on. Watch your dog’s reaction to the swing. He may need to get used to this piece of equipment. He might start barking at it, or he may feel afraid of it.
  8. Play your CD with the babies crying everyday. Start out by playing the tape with a very low volume. Gradually accustom the dog to hearing the loud volume of crying babies and watch for any negative reactions. If the dog doesn’t tolerate high-pitched crying, turn the volume down to the level where he’s okay with it. Then begin to turn the volume up again until he’s completely okay with the sounds.
  9. Do not forget that you’ll still need to keep a normal routine with your dog. If you can keep a routine with the dog throughout this early period, the dog will be more inclined to accept everything else that’s going on in the house. Continue taking the dog for his regular exercise. Don’t slack up on this. If your dog isn’t able to expend his own excess energies, his behavior will deteriorate from boredom and loneliness.
  10. Teach your dog to keep all 4 on the floor. If you haven’t devoted too much time to obedience training, NOW is the time to really work on this. If you don’t know how to train the dog not to jump, please visit the Obedience Course at K9U.com and get help in this area. The last thing you want is your dog jumping when baby is in your arms.
  11. Remember that when you first bring your baby home, you may not feel like going out jogging with the dog everyday. You may want to start asking some dog-savvy kids in the neighborhood to begin walking the dog, or playing frisbee or fetch games with him. Get the dog used to new things like this early on instead of waiting until last minute.
  12. Keep in mind that you’re going to have times after the baby arrives when baby is screaming for his meal, and your dog has to go potty. Things can get pretty chaotic for awhile after the baby arrives.

Just as you are planning ahead for the arrival of your new child, please plan ahead and think how you’re going to help your dog become comfortable with the baby. If, during these early days of getting the dog used to the doll, you see any signs that your dog is experiencing severe stress, or he’s showing any indications of wanting to bite the doll, PLEASE enlist the help of a professional trainer who can come to your home and create a program for you to follow with the dog. It’s better to find these things out now rather than have a disaster occur when the baby comes. If you think you need a trainer, you may want to visit http://www.apdt.com to get a list of trainers in your area. If you live in the south Jersey area, I’d be more than happy to get you started on your dog’s training program.

Don’t wait until the last minute!

Good luck!

Renee