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Dog Training 411

posted July 15th, 2012 by
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by Mary Green

Q Is there any way I can stop my dog from barking at everyone and ev­erything that goes down my street? I like to leave my solid door open and the storm door closed, but Lacey spends the day barking. She doesn’t charge the door, thank goodness, but the barking needs to stop.

A It’s hard to completely extinguish barking, and perhaps that’s not what we want to do. One benefit of hav­ing dogs, even small ones, is that they can sound the alarm to warn you of a threat. It is possible, though, to teach a dog to stop barking when you tell her and maybe help her discriminate be­tween what is and isn’t bark-worthy.

You might start by covering the storm door with a decorative window film available at home improvement stores. There are lots of patterns avail­able, and you could select one that is opaque enough that she can’t see out, but the light comes through. Of course, you may only need to apply it to the lower portion of the door.

The most effective training option may be to teach Lacey the meaning of “that’s enough” or a similar signal. To do this, sit with her at the door, and when she barks, tell her, “That’s enough,” and give her a treat. It may feel like you’re rewarding her for barking—that’s OK, because at least for the second she is eating the treat, she isn’t barking. You can continue to give her treats until the person (distraction) is out of her sight. Pretty soon, she is barking one time and coming to you for her treat!

Teaching an alternate behavior is an­other option. When Lacey starts to bark at the door, call her to you and give her a toy, preferably something that squeaks and have her hold or carry it. When Parker, my Boxer, was a little guy, he would be so excited that he would grab whatever was handy, which often was a sock. We could say, “Parker, put a sock in it!” and he would grab a toy, bone or sock. To this day, nine years later, Parker still greets everyone with something in his mouth. At least the barking was muffled!

You might teach Lacey to go away from the door. At K9 Manners & More, we teach a “go to mat” skill that comes in very handy for this type of problem. By having Lacey go and lie down on her mat or dog bed, she is removing herself from the excitement of the door and us­ing self-control.

Q Are little dogs harder to train than regular size dogs?

A I’m not sure what you consider “regular size dogs” to be, since dogs come in all sizes! From toy and small dogs, such as Yorkshire Terriers or Chihuahuas to giant breeds like the Newfoundland and the Irish Wolfhound, the size of the dog’s brain will change, but the manner in which they learn is the same. There are perhaps notable differences in trainability.

In 1994, Stanley Coren, a professor of psychology at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, wrote a book on dog intelligence, “The Intelligence of Dogs.” The book explains Coren’s theories about the differences in intel­ligence between different breeds of dogs. Coren published a second edition in 2006. He defines three aspects of dog intelligence in the book. Instinctive intelligence refers to a dog’s ability to perform the tasks it was bred for, such as herding, pointing, retrieving, guard­ing or supplying companionship. Adap­tive intelligence refers to a dog’s ability to solve problems on his own. Working and obedience intelligence refers to a dog’s ability to learn from humans.

There are reasons why one might think little dogs are harder to train. Training little dogs may be physically hard on a person because of the need to bend over more than with a me­dium or large dog. A small dog’s tum­my fills up quickly on treats, making a training session very brief. Small dogs often are afraid of being stepped on or picked up, so they may stay out of arms’ reach. They also have a compara­tively small bladder, and housetraining may be more challenging than with a larger dog.

One thing is for certain in dogs… One size does not fit all!

Training 411

posted September 15th, 2011 by
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by Mary Green

Q I’m fostering a dog right now that really needs some socialization. She is usually really timid around people she doesn’t know. I’ve had her a month now, and it took her a couple of weeks to get used to me. My mom came over the other day and Daisy urinated twice like she was scared. But another time, when we were on a walk, she acted like she wanted to make friends with a lady and then growled at her. I want to help her. What should I do?

A Kudos to you for fostering Daisy and helping her get some skills to be more adoptable! I think it’s a plus that she has bonded with you. Hopefully, by bonding with you, Daisy will show that she can bond with a forever owner. Socializing an adult dog is a bit tricky. Make greeting a new person a very lowkey event for her. You should remove the social pressure she may feel about a person coming too close, or touching her. In your home, have Daisy on leash when people come over. Have some very yummy treats available or a favorite ball or tug toy that she only gets when there is company. She does not have to interact with the company! It’s important that she just make a happy association between company and a really special treat. Let Daisy determine whether or not she wants to approach people, but instruct them not to reach out to her or pet her. Those first meetings should be very brief and not too stressful.
It could be that Daisy urinated when your mom came over because she was unsure about mom. The greeting between the two of you could have been too energetic for her. Maybe you were excited to see mom, and show off Daisy. Or, Mom could have been over solicitous with Daisy (in a loving manner) and it was just too much pressure. Dogs may urinate out of submission, over stimulation, or stress. Daisy may have growled at the lady on her walk because she was getting a little too close. Daisy may have been comfortable enough to reach forward to catch a sniff or two, but if the lady reached toward her, or moved closer, it signaled danger. If a greeting lasts a bit too long (by dog standards) a dog may become stressed. A dog will growl to increase the distance between herself and the stranger. As you meet people on a walk, and you stop to chat, just have Daisy sit politely beside you – or behind you if she’s insecure. If she moves toward the person, just instruct her to sit. You can use the same positive association that you use at home – people equal food! The treats don’t have to come from the stranger, and they should not come from the stranger. You should begin to see Daisy look at you expectantly for a treat when she sees a stranger on a walk. Once that’s happening, you know her perception is changing. Well intentioned people often speculate that a rescued or found dog may have been mistreated, or abused. We can’t ask them about their history with people, but it may just be that she never learned that people are a valuable resource. If Daisy is threatening visitors in your home, or menacing people on walks, you should consult with a professional.

Q We have a little dog that humps our toddler every chance he gets. He doesn’t do this to my husband or me, but he sure tries to go to town with the baby! Help!!

AYikes – no one likes to be the recipient of the dog’s unwelcomed advances. Poor baby! I assume he is grabbing the toddler around his waist. Humping, or mounting behavior, is when a dog clasps his forelegs around something (or someone) and moves his hips forward and backward. Your dog isn’t necessarily trying to “dominate” the baby. Sometimes mounting behavior is for a show of strength or prowess, but it can also be an invitation to play, or just something to do that feels good. Altered male dogs still do mounting behavior, as do many females. Adolescent males are probably the most notorious “humpers,” often choosing a favorite stuffed animal or pillow as his object d’amour. So how do you stop it? You might have to keep your dog on leash when the baby is mobile. Just leave the leash attached and let the dog drag it around. If he makes a beeline to the baby, just interrupt him – step on the leash and call him to you. Teach the toddler how to throw a toy for the dog. If he is running after a toy, he’s not close enough to hump! Please don’t punish the dog. Instead, redirect him to something else to do. If you punish him for humping, he could just decide that the presence of the baby, not his own behavior, is what angers you. Encourage great interactions with baby and dog so they can build a great relationship. When my son was a toddler, our dogs thought he was a Cheerios dispenser. They followed him everywhere, as he dropped Cheerios like the Pied Piper. As he grew, they developed a very strong, lifelong bond.

Mary Green, CPDT-KA (Certified Professional Dog Trainer Knowledge Assessed), owns K9 Manners
& More in Broken Arrow. She is a professional member of the Association of Pet Dog Trainers, an associate of the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants, and an AKC CGC (Canine Good Citizen) evaluator.