Not sure what to do with your new pup? Once you are able to resist the cuteness of your new family member, it is time to start training. Dogs can be trained from an early age, so begin teaching your puppy about your expectations and the world around them as soon as he or she arrives in your home. The sooner you begin teaching them good manners and social skills, the easier it will be for you when they hit the difficult period of adolescence.
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.
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.
You may have heard that you are not supposed to look a dog directly in the eyes as it can be dangerous and provokes aggression. Indeed, dogs tend to avoid direct eye contact, when signaling peaceful intention. A dog staring in the eyes of another dog is most likely trying to challenge it. So, it is true: direct eye contact can be a sign of not so friendly mood. However, I am sure that your dog(s) often look you in the eyes for the same purpose people do: questioning, demanding attention or just keeping in contact. I think they learn it from us and are not as uncomfortable with eye contact as some sources lead you to believe.
So, why is eye contact important? First, it is the primary way for us, humans, to know that we have the dog’s attention. Some dog’s are good listeners, but Milo appears to only be able to use one sense at a time, and hearing is not his favourite. Second, it allows your dog to improve its concentration abilities. Finally, teaching the dog to make eye contact, when it sees a distraction (i.e., other dogs) or when in doubt, ensures that you will have your dog’s attention at critical moments. Today I will share one of the exercises that teach your dog to make eye contact.
Exercise #3: “Eye contact”
This exercise will teach your dog to focus on you instead of a distraction. If your dog is food motivated, use treats. If a ball is more tempting, then use a ball or a toy as a distraction.
1. Have a clicker in one hand and a few treats (or a ball) in another.
2. Show the treats to the dog. You can let it smell it or move your hand in front of the dog’s nose, teasing.
3. Move your hand slightly away from the dog, so the dog can’t reach it, but can still see and smell the treats.
4. Look at the dog and wait until it looks at you. Click and treat. Initially, you can reward the dog for just looking away from the distraction. The goal is to gradually bring the dog to make eye contact with you, when the distraction is present.
5. Once your dog starts making eye contact consistently, you can increase difficulty by changing hands, moving the distraction, bringing treats closer to the dog etc.
This exercise serves as a foundation for work with certain behavioral problems in dogs. For example, the same idea can be applied to treating reactive dogs (dogs who overreact to certain stimuli). In that case, you can teach your dog to look at you, when it sees other dogs, people or other things to which the dog may overreact.
One of the common problems in dog trainings is over-excitement. A dog gets too excited by treats or by desire to please and training becomes impossible. For instance, Milo can get so excited by treats, that he would start randomly offering all his tricks. Milo is extremely food motivated, and an opportunity to earn treats is a big deal for him. Some dogs can get too excited during training, because they are too eager to please their owners. Although I am not a fan of submissive and dominant dogs theory, I admit that some dogs are more submissive than others. Submissiveness is demonstrated by body language (lying down, ears down, hiding tail, rolling over etc.) and behaviour (urinating, licking, whining). I will not get into details about treating submissiveness now: it is a complicated and sensitive issue. If you recognise your dog in this description, please, consult a dog trainer in person.
Regardless of the underlying cause of over-excitement, there is one thing you can do: do not reward it. Attention is a reward, hence it reinforces behaviour. If your dog becomes too excited, do the following: