A few days ago we received a letter from the local council stating that someone has complained about dog barking. To say that we were shocked is not enough. Milo is never left alone for long periods of time except for the two days this year, when we had to leave him for the whole day. The only people who could have complained are our upstairs neighbours. When we asked them about it, they said that they were concerned for Milo’s well-being because he barked almost every day for 10-15 minutes at a time. I was quite annoyed that they failed to tell us first. After all, how are we to know that he barks, if we’re not home? Moreover, I seriously doubt that Milo actually barks that often. Next day after receiving the letter we installed a camera. I was away for a few days, and Milo was home alone while my husband was at work. We haven’t seen or heard him bark once. He was sleeping like a log on the sofa, which is pretty much his favourite pastime. Anyway, I just wanted to share a few tips on how to make your dog comfortable while you’re gone. From now on I will make sure that I use these tips myself, although being home alone had never been an issue for Milo before.
Think about a recent situation which involved you seeing another owner walking towards you and your dog. What was your reaction? Did you hold your breath for a moment? Maybe you tightened your grip on the lead? Probably, you even pulled the lead a bit or started talking to your dog. Chances are, you did all three and something else, if you were walking a dog that is reactive on lead. The behaviours are not themselves a problem. The issues arise, when your dog learns to associate them with other dogs approaching him. After that you are trapped in a vicious cycle:
In addition to your behaviour and body language, there are other possible triggers for your dog. A common trigger is a certain type of dogs. For example, your dog has been attacked by a large white dog and will display aggression towards similar looking dogs. Another possible trigger is a certain place. For example, your dog may only react to other dogs on a narrow pathway or on a certain street corner.
Lead aggression is directly related to the dog’s perception of other dogs. Whether it is a learned bad habit or a result of a traumatic experience, aggressive or overly excited behaviour is a reaction to the presence of other dogs. Hence, you will have to change your dog’s associations with other dogs and to teach him an alternative behaviour.
This is the second part from the series on lead aggression. Please read Part 1 first.
Since I’ve been writing a lot about focus, concentration and stress, I will just briefly summarize the main points. Improving concentration will involve some actual training and exercises, while stress management will be focused mostly on lifestyle adjustments. I believe, that the easiest way to deal with dog behavioural issues is to create such an environment, which will set the dog up for success.
Do you find yourself hiding from other dogs during walks? Keep reading then. One of the most common complaints among dog owners is related to the so-called “lead aggression”. If your dog is lead-aggressive or lead-reactive, your walks can become a nightmare and a source of constant embarrassment. The most frustrating thing for me is to see this on the streets, while I know, that it can be easily corrected. When I say “easily”, I don’t mean “overnight” or “by a wave of a magic wand” kind of “easily”. What I mean is that this issue is curable with some simple adjustments, re-conditioning and commitment.
Just like people dogs vary in their threshold of what kind of touch they consider appropriate. A dog’s reaction to being touched can range from joy and relaxation to growling and biting and everything else in between. Teaching your dog to be comfortable with touch will make trips to the vets, bathing time and other necessary activities less stressful. Moreover, a dog that has serious body guarding issues can be a threat to your safety. There are a couple of things that you can do to teach your dog to accept and enjoy being touched.
If I could use just one dog training technique apart from clicker training, I would choose “time-out”. It can be used to correct so many behaviours: inappropriate barking, jumping, aggression… Although it clearly shows the dog that his behaviour is not acceptable, it is quite gentle and does not involve physical force. As my readers know, I will never recommend using physical force for correction, because it leads to aggression and damages the relationship between the dog and the owner.
“Time-out” is a very simple technique that even a child can use. It is a type of negative punishment, which means that you punish behaviour by removing something. In this case, you will remove one of the things your dog values most (besides food, of course!): your attention. You will need a light 5 ft. /1.5 m leash and a designated space. The designated space should be isolated from the rest of the house, and you should be able to physically prevent your dog from leaving it. Let’s try.
Many dogs have this annoying habit. They would employ all the power of their large sad eyes to get a piece of that you’re eating. They would place their muzzles on your lap and look like they haven’t eaten for a week. They would make you feel ashamed of starving the poor animal. Dogs know how to get what they want. So, why are they begging so persistently? Even dogs that are not as crazy about food as Milo, sometimes beg. The answer is very simple. Dogs beg, because we taught them too. Remember: any behaviour that is reinforced will be repeated. Behaviours reinforced randomly are more likely to be repeated. If you give way to your dog’s begging even on rare occasions, he will continue begging.
How to stop your dog from begging?
Have you ever envied those people in the pub, whose dogs just lie under the table calmly? It can be you in just a couple of weeks. Today I would like to share an ingenious technique. I learned it from my mentor, while interning at Whole Dog Training. The exercise will teach your dog to relax and to calm down, while waiting by your side.
Let’s continue with the foundation series. We have been working on the dog training basics and tried exercises that teach dogs the basic behaviours needed for more advanced training:
1. “Touch” (also called targeting), which teaches the dog to follow owner’s hand
2. “Eye contact”, which teaches the dog to focus on the owner instead of a distraction
The last foundation exercise is “Look at me”. It comes handy, when you need to get the dog’s attention quickly and when teaching a dog to walk on a leash without pulling. Essentially, it is a proactive variation of “Eye contact”: you don’t wait till the dog looks at you, but rather teach it to turn to you on a cue. You can use any sound, that is loud enough to use outdoors. I prefer to use a kiss sound, some people whistle or click their tongue. As usual, start in a quiet environment and gradually increase the amount of distractions.