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Teaching-“Enough” -by Patricia McConnell

Excellent skill for dog to learn. Useful when you want the dog to settle down. Very important Skill for dogs’ who seek constant attention. and of course we all want/need some personal (non-dog) time each day.

How to teach ANY dog to Come when called!

I have attached one of the best videos on how to train a dog to come every time.

Video train a dog to come everytime

More indepth info on training

How a change in thinking that will greatly increase your dog training success

A common way of thinking about how dog’s interact with us is based on a human viewpoint.  We wish that dog’s behave  because we tell them what to do and  motivated by love  & desire to please us they do what they are told. A good dog behaves well and bad dog’s don’t.   Hence the name obedience training, which has been used interchangeably for dog training for generations.

But, science into how learning happens shows us otherwise.  So how do dog’s learn “to come” when called?

I will break down into parts how learning  works.

First,  the word, “come’.  Dogs and most animals respond to words as just soundsHuman speech is hard for dogs to distinguish and sounds like noise to dogs, much as barking does to us.   A specific word only becomes a sound signal after the dog figures out the importance and usage of the sound.  We decide that certain words are important for training as cues for dogs. The dog does not know about that.  Not until the dog learns the use of a word in a training sequence does the word  becomes a sound signal.  We must also teach the dog, which behaviors go with the signal, the order to act out the behavior and which behaviors do not go with signal.  Next, the dog must also learn which sounds are not the one that pairs with “come when called”.

A. Make the signal easier:

1. Use short crisp, distinct sounds. Repeat the word pairing lesson 20 times in each training as one set. Only add difficultly once dog has mastered “come” in the quiet indoors and many rooms. Then practice  in different locations, start 6 inches away and increase distance slowly, different peoples voices, with background noises, distractions (fun and scary).

2. Start with an easier signal than sound.  Hand or arm signals are easier  for dogs because so much of their communication is made up of complex body language.  Dogs watch you closely every movement you make in an attempt to pick up on a signal.  Make it easier by using hand/arm signals. Keep the rest of your body still. Use one hand/arm. Add sound after the dog is beginning to do it how you want it.

B. The sequence of learning is backwards from the order of  doing the final behavior.

Let me explain further….

Dogs learn to use a set of behaviors by trial and error. So if a behavior is followed by something the dog likes, they attempt the behavior again. That is why treats work so quickly with training, especially in puppies. Timing of the reward is very important because dogs are doing behavior all the time. The closer the timing of the dog’s behavior are to the arrival of the treat the easier it is for the dog to understand what they did that resulted in treat delivery. The dog will experiment with body movements to figure out which sequence or posture or behavior gets the reward.

The first part of the video above suggests pairing the sound “come” prior to something the dog likes. He is taking advantage of a dogs natural tendency to  approach when we make any sound.  It seems simple but the thinking is a 3 step process. The trainer is ready for the dog who will approach, he will give something the dog likes, plus he adds the word “come” before the dog gets to him. This is a great way to introduce the idea of “come”  when you first get a new puppy.  Something the dog likes can be: praise, ear rubs, and treats whenever the puppy comes to you for any reason. Change up the rewards, so eventually food will not be needed. Make “come” part of everyday life.

C. Make the signal a signal.

The first time you hear a  siren it has no meaning. It is just an annoying noise.We watch our parents pull to the side of the road as the noisy vehicle goes by. Later on we learn as someone explains. The signal does not make us drive to the shoulder of the road it is the order that we have learned to do when we hear the sound signal. So it is with dogs. A signal is a good one if it clearly helps the dog predict what to do next to get the final outcome. The sequence is how mammals learn by trial and error.  Called the ABC”s of learning. Take advantage of this way of thinking to speed up your training and solve the stumbles that happen along the way to well trained dog.

The sequence is how a behavior happens in real time.

A stands  for antecedent. Which simply means whatever comes before the behavior.

B stands for the observed or goal behavior. These are not always the same.

C stands for consequence. Here in is the biggest secret to good trainers. They all know it is “C”, the consequence that determines future behavior. If the consequence is a good one, the dog will try out the behavior again to see if the same consequence will follow. The behavior is a guess at how to get the consequence again.

The A is not always a signal as we wish it to be. It can be any set of circumstances, the dog recognizes, that happened before a they behavior worked to get the big C.

But training happens backwards from execution of a already trained behavior. The sequence of thought is: planning the big C and delivering it close to the behavior.  The dog will try out behaviors, until they suceed  at getting the big C.   The dog also observes what precedes the sequence, B->C trying to figure out when doing a certain behavior gets the big C. The dog will bet on your signal,  do the behavior, in the hope of getting the big C.

So training involves manipulating these three things. We add clarity and reliability to the Antecedent which helps the dog recognize it as a signal. We are clear about which behaviors get the rewards and when. We add good quality rewards for the behaviors that we want the dog to do. The dog becomes reliable the more reliably the consequence happens when the dog gives us the asked for behavior.

Trust Accounts – how to increase trust

A trusting relationship is an essential element of teaching and learning. This playful video compares learner trust to a bank account.


A few thoughts on the role of Trust  and domestic animals.

For pets, at least one bond of trust is essential to have a relaxed, happy-go-lucky, animal living with humans. In fact this is one of the differences between wild and domestic animals. Wild animals do not trust humans, nor do they trust that the environment is safe, secure and will give them what they need to survive.  They learn to be much more alert to survive and be ready for daily challenges. Through 2000-10,000 years of husbandry, domestic animals  have changed there genetic code toward domesticity.  Animal science  defines domestic as tolerant to the presence of humans. Of course it means more in real life because they rely on us to supply food, water, shelter and daily activity.

We expect more  of our Pets than simple domesticity. We want them to live with us seamlessly, anticipate & fulfill our needs, understand the human language, entertain us, love us and leave our stuff alone.                   -If only they could do housework — better than a wife.

But there is a huge gap between what animals  tolerate at birth & our expectations that they understand the complex world of human society. We don’t even understand how to get along with others until in our middle twenties or much later.

Today we react to words like – “Dog Obedience”, and have misconceptions from family beliefs, movie & TV images which together confuse the subject of dog training more.  “Dog Obedience”it is an unfortunate, old  label and complete obedience is hard to create. Instead, think about training as teaching methods for our pets to successfully navigate life with humans. We are entrusted to teach our pets to be good civilized members of our human society.  The AKC has new program of training called Good Canine Citizen instead of the old obedience name to promote this idea. The Good News is that when Dogs understand us and succeed in getting along they form a bond of trust to their training partner.

These two capacities; 1. knowledge of how to  succeed and 2.  bond of trust, enable pets to handle frustration and recover quickly from  bad-events. This capacity is called Resiliency.

It is through helping pets to develop resiliency, that we prevent or treat the anxiety problems seen in dogs, cats, birds even horse and cattle. Good trainers preserve and increase the bond of trust with their dog(s) through consistent training that rewards the dog for learning.

Check out my article on “Kennel training: Why do dogs or puppies bark and cry when left alone” for more on resiliency.

Behavior Tool Kit by BehaviorWorks.org

Describes – how & why behavior happens.
Discusses our misconceptions about behavior
How to effectively change behavior
Make learning more rewarding for learner & teacher
Backed up by years of science of learning

Your Dog Doesn’t Listen when you don’t have treats?

Excellent, up beat video on how to get off the treat train.


Read my post for info on the Role of Rewards in training:

In the language of behavior training this is called “fading”.

Sudden stopping of a  training reward can backfire and even result in anger.

Here’s an example most can relate to. Imagine you have worked the usual 40 hour week. You like your job well enough, but it is getting routine. It’s 4:30 PM on Friday & your Boss announces that no-one will be paid for the last day (or week) of work. You’d  be mad. You’ve already worked for your pay and expect the promised rewards. This is how it works for dogs, especially, once they master a behavior and can do it well. They expect the reward to stay motivated. Suddenly, cutting off treats can reduce motivation by the dog for   past learned behaviors and even future interest in learning. Why…, because the trainer just broke an “implied promise which reduces trust”.  The promise “I do what you ask & I receive a food reward”.

Good trainers plan their training schedule from point of view of the dog. Knowing that dogs don’t do what we ask “because they love us”,  just like our Kids.  This is one of the universal “laws of learning” on the planet.  All creatures are “designed to use behavior” to get what we need and want from their environment. People are particularly good at this skill.  Even bacteria will move or grow in different directions based on what they find in the environment. Dogs need to benefit in some way to stay motivated.  We use food because it is a powerful motivator for dogs, especially under 8 months of age.  Like humans getting paid for a job, dogs will work for stuff other than food. Watch the video to see the first step to fading the food.  Other rewards for dogs include: play, tug on toy, going for a walk, getting access to a favorite thing or place, attention, ear scratches, and often over-used  phrase “Good Dog”. People love to be told “you have done a good job” so it works well for us. Not so much for dogs. Social rewards like being allowed to sniff other dogs butts is more inline with dogs value system.

Another way to replace the food treat as a reward is to immediately follow the food with something else, like an ear scratch,  these  are called secondary re-inforcers.  Creating a secondary re-inforcers is a trick of metabolism. An event, person or object, that is paired with “something we really like”, gets the overflow of positive emotions which increases it pleasure in our subconscious. Think of movies and popcorn or hanging out with Grandma and cookies.  This how the words “Good Dog” really work. But the timing must be fast and consistent for this to work well.

Here’s an example from my dog’s training. The dog is blind in one eye, so he hated the car  because he experienced severe car sickness (vomited, diarrhea and peeing at the same time) as a puppy.  After training him to sit in the car for food,  with help of my husband, he was trained to ride in the car for food treats. I drove, my husband fave him bits of cheese.  I didn’t want to have to give treats all the time while riding in the car, so I watched him to see what his favorite activity was, after leaving the car. He loved to great new people and gets lots of attention. So for one month, we went on one, short, car ride to the grocery store and asked people if willing, to pet the dog. Food treats during the car ride was replaced with food on arrival at a store. Then, slowly, I increased the time between arrival & treat to after he was out of the car, until he was out of the car and being petted by a new person.  He loved it and now he leaps into the car, when I say “lets go for an adventure”.  I replaced, food treats for riding in the car, with ,access to people/attention immediately after car rides. The dog added his own rewards to car rides when he noticed dogs or people on the side of the street. He barks, a favorite activity (which I ignore in this context), so that  looking and barking became a natural reward.  He stops barking when the dogs/people are out of site.  The car ride is now self re-inforcing; because looking out the window became  a secondary re-inforcer for barking.  Barking was a natural reward for greeting people after the car ride, which replaced the beginning reward: the food treat. Rides are now  rewarding for him whether he sees someone or not. I would have been happy to stop the training at the greeting people stage, but this is a good example of observing naturally occurring rewards and using them.

Next post I’ll talk about when naturally occurring rewards get in the way of training.

Happy training.

Kennel training: Why do dogs or puppies bark and cry when left alone…and What to do!

In this article I will answer three questions;

1. Why do puppies or dogs fuss all night or cry themselves to sleep when left in a kennel or other confined area?

2. What to do about the crying puppy in the kennel? or Why does the Kennel not work for my puppy.

3. What not to do.

Unless taught puppies/dogs do not know that the kennel is a safe place for sleeping or resting “quietly”. Like children, puppies go through a period of crying, whining, barking when first left alone for bedtime (when old enough to become aware of being left). Older dogs who have not been gradually taught how to be alone (either in a kennel or home), do not acquired the ability to “self-calm”.    They can develop anxiety symptoms that worsen as the time spent alone gets longer and more frequent, like when new owners return to work.  Other symptoms of anxiety such as urination, defecation, cage chewing, house damage, broken teeth and worse can happen. Kennel training young puppies gets them ready to feel safe when left alone.

Let me explain further. …

Puppy are born with an unfinished nervous system that continues to develop and grow rapidly through in the first year of life.  At birth, Pups do not have the nervous system areas that regulate the “ability to calm down”.  Puppies and children have to  learn the skill “to calm oneself down”. This happens when the puppy’s is stimulated by short periods on being left alone, that are gradually increased. When challenged by tolerable levels of frustration the brain & nervous system will learn new capacities. Frustration, with trial & error,  activates  growth of nerve cells that can be used by the puppy to calm itself, called “self soothing”.  It is important for survival that this is not present at birth because pups are not able to survive with body heat from either mother or other pups for very long so their cries when left alone the first 3 weeks are important. It is later that the pups must develop the skill of waiting, that is an essential part of day-to-day life.

When puppies are not stimulated by appropriate short absences from mother and owners,  the behavior problem called Abandonment Anxiety can develop.  I refer to tolerating alone time as a skill, because it is learned and not present in puppies or children or other mammals  from birth. It arises as a learned phenomenon if the environment prompts the growing brain that this ability to be needed. The ability to self-calm is thought to be stored in the nerve cell’s DNA, but does not emerge until stimulated by circumstances, as with many capacities that are developed over a life time through learning. Then the areas of the brain involved in emotions will start to produce the chemicals necessary for calming, plus stimulate growth of nerves & connections which increase the speed and ease of using the “ability to calm down”.

Human caretakers can, with the best of intentions, interfere with this necessary process. Let me go into getter detail of how this happens. For the brain to be stimulated to grow a new capacity, the puppy must go through a period of distress and frustration where the old method (crying out for mother or others) does not work. Before the brain will seek a change, the puppy will go through cycles of increasing frequency and intensity of the behavior that used to work. Fancy name is an extinction burst. A short episode of intense, extreme behavior that is the last attempt before the behavior ends.  The behavioral display will ramp up to a high peak before the animal can stop. Only if they fail will seeking a new solution take place.   We, animal lovers & owners, especially when first home with our adorable and helpless puppy, feel the urgent need to rescue when we hears their cry’s. We ar, in fact, hard-wired, to respond urgently to the sound of a crying baby, any baby. In earlier life, this reaction by us or mother is a life saving behavior, that puppies must be able to evoke so mother knows when to come to them.  As the pup get older the mother naturally learns that every cry is no longer urgent and begins to ignore her demanding maturing brood.  When the crying or fussy behavior does not work, the pup will cry, whine and bark  faster, higher & higher pitched and more intensely, sometimes to the point of frantic before it stops. Because it is an instinct driven behavior, it has more brain capacity dedicated to it  so it is stronger and more practiced, compared to the newer behavior that must emerge for pups to handle the unpredictability of life. “Calming down” in order to sleep or “learning to wait” are some of the early lessons in internal self-control necessary for a successful life. If these lessons are interrupted or missed,  the dog can have a higher risk of developing all kinds of anxiety behaviors.

What to expect in young puppies when first left alone (night or daytime while owners go to work), they will cry for 5 – 15 minutes and then fall asleep. Even though the calm before sleeps is short and came from being worn out the brain chemicals are still released.  With a few repetitions, their body will have noticed the calming  sensations before the sleep part of the cycle.  The puppy physically feels better to be calm compared to how fussing feels.  The fussing part of each session get shorter and shorter and then stops, as the more pleasant feeling of calmly waiting and falling to sleep takes the place of fussing. In young puppies 6 to 8 weeks of age this takes about a week. Some pups learn this after 1 or 2 times (lucky owners) and others take 2 weeks or longer.

The first day home with your puppy, introduce them to the kennel with a toys or food given inside the kennel several times (12-20) throughout that first day. Stay with them, leave the kennel door open episode last about 1 3 minutes . Repeat this until pup is happy to stay in and enter kennel on her own. Next add short periods with the door shut,  3- 5 seconds at first, then work up to a minute, 5 minutes, etc. I set up in the living room where I spend the day, a play pen big enough for the kennel and a large area outside it to play. see website “www.dogstardaily.com”  for photo of setup.  Play with the puppy in the pen. Leave the puppy in the pen, you are still in sight.  Leave the room for short periods throughout the day. Your new pup will play intensely for 10 -15 minutes and then rest/nap for 30 -60 minutes. Leave the room during nap times. As the day goes on the puppy will go in/out of the kennel freely. I feed in the kennel also. All serve to teach the puppy that the kennel is their personal room that is fun to be in. This gets puppy ready for the night.

What not to do.

1. Bring the puppy home at end of the day so no time is left for training.

2. Letting the puppy out when crying, fussing happens, once it is bedtime/kennel time. Expect this fussing to happen the first few nights if your puppy is normal. Especially important to ignore when the pups engages in an extinction burst (frantic crying and fussing). Remember the puppy is trying to get you to come, if you do, the behavior will continue because it worked.  It is OK to spend sometime playing with puppy in the kennel prior to shutting the door. I keep untrained pups in their kennel in my bedroom, so they can see me and wear ear plugs for the first 2 weeks.

3. Puppies less than 12 weeks of age can’t go 8 hours between voiding. Set you alarm for 6 hours and if pup is awake I take them out. If not awake leave them. Alternate way to house train is to use a doggie litter tray with sod or artificial turf, kept in the kennel or play pen, so accidents have a place to happen. The remainder of the floor should be smooth, not absorptive which dogs prefer to use to urinate.

What happens when adults have not acquired this skill. They tend to add other stress reducing behaviors (chew on legs, feet, tails, breaking teeth on the cage bars, running in tight circles, non-stop licking) with each aroused state as time goes on. Each adult is their own combination of behaviors. But studies have observed dogs that progress beyond normal puppy distress into abnormal anxiety states tend to continue to get worse until they are in a continuous state of arousal. These dogs are treatable with the help of a skilled behaviorist and in some causes the addition of anti-anxiety medications during the re-learning period.

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