Thursday, February 19, 2009

How to Keep Puppy Out of the Dishwasher - Training an Alternate Behavior

I can't tell you how many times my Picture Perfect Pets dog training students have asked me how to keep the dog out of the dishwasher while they are loading or unloading it, how to keep the dog out of the fridge while they are trying to get things from it themselves, how to keep dogs from jumping on them while they make dinner...and so on.

My answer, as ever, is use management when you don't have time to train your dog and use dog training to teach your dog an incompatible behavior over time--some busy work for your dog to do while you get real work done. If you repeat the same pattern every time your dog is in a certain situation, the pattern will just develop into a habit. All we have to do is prevent opportunities for your dog to learn the habit of climbing into the dishwasher and build the habit of lying down patiently nearby.

In this video clip, you'll see part of Tatsuya's dog training for our "Dishwasher Down." I have to admit that my title for this activity was inspired by Jen Shryock (creator of the Dogs & Storks program). She was the first person I had heard use the phrase, "Diaper Down," for keeping dogs on hold while human baby's diaper is being changed to prevent, well--to prevent he obvious! By the way, Dogs & Storks™ is the first national program that prepares families with dogs for life with baby!

Back to Dishwasher Down...What dog training work came before this video? Lots of practice with the basic down cue the way we teach the steps in our Level 1 dog training courses (Puppy Perfect and Doggy DoRight) at Picture Perfect Pets. We practice often in various locations and situations, including in the kitchen during a variety of daily activities. Multi-tasking is an invaluable skill when training a new dog!

Then, we began to practice down/wait (or other on-hold cues) with the distraction of the dishwasher being opened and shut, and dishes being added or removed. We gradually built up to longer sessions from a few seconds to a few minutes.

Tatsu's only lived here for 2 weeks, and is now 14 weeks old, so we haven't had a great deal of time to practice, and already, we've seen good progress. Oh, and might I mention that borzois are notoriously difficult to train?!) From Wikipedia: "The Borzoi ranks 75th out of 78 in Stanley Coren's The Intelligence of Dogs, being of the lowest breeds in degree of working/obedience intelligence. It took Borzois at least 80-100 repetitions to understand a new command and obeyed the first command less than 25% of the time." I would argue that the borzoi's training challenge isn't lack of intelligence, but lack of motivation. Convincing a borzoi that what you want happens to be what they want as well is the big challenge.

In the video clip above, I'm practicing Dishwasher Down during Tatsu's breakfast to accomplish several goals at once:

Tatsu is learning to eat more slowly--if given his whole meal at once, he swallows it down so quickly he makes himself sick. That's a bad, bad habit for dogs prone to bloat and gastric torsion!

Tatsu is learning to like it when I take his food dish away during his meals. This should help prevent him from developing a food-dish-guarding habit that some dogs are likely to develop without preventative training.

Tatsu is learning to stay in one place, out from under my clumsy feet, while I do dishes. This also prevents him from chasing the dishes and trying to help me clean up by licking the dishes.

Soon, we'll build up to fewer rewards during a session--eventually just one reward at the end (remember that rewards need not always be food), and then random rewards for Dishwasher Downs.

We can even make this long, potentially boring time easier for our dogs by also providing them fantastic chew toys during longer sessions. Click here to read my puzzle toys article for more ideas.

Here are some other situational practice suggestions for stay put and out of my way (a good "down" goes a long way--practice during role plays before trying to actually use the cue when you really need to get something done). Practice whilst:

  • getting things our of the refridgerator

  • cooking dinner

  • feeding the baby

  • changing the baby

  • baby is swinging, using walker or playing with toys

  • reading the newspaper

  • working on the computer

  • talking on the phone

  • entertaining visitors around the coffee table

  • talking to a friend you've met on a walk

Happy training!

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Pet Harmony - Introducing Puppy to Resident Dog & Cat

Virtually everyone who congratulates me on the homecoming of young Tatsuya then asks, "How's Toffee taking it?"

Toffee is my 8-year-old borzoi and has been the love-of-my life since she was the size of our cat. Heeky Peeky is the orange cat Toffee found in a park as a puppy. Heeky was a tiny, frail, abanodoned kitten, and we took her home to make her last hours on earth comfortable--but she decided to stick around, and came home with us from Japan.

So, just a couple weeks ago, Tatsuya came into a home with an older dog and cat used to having the place to themselves. In the spirit of being proactive rather than waiting for problems to begin, I made sure to keep Tatsuya on leash around Toffee & Heeky, to prevent him from being able to continue pushing their buttons if they wanted to get away. I made sure to give them all the things they love (favorite treats, ear rubs and bum scritches) every time Tatsu was near. And I made sure to give them both individual attention without the baby around as well.

Toffee made the "I'm going to throw up," face for a few days. There were lots of heavy dog sighs as if to say, "Did you keep the receipt? Can you take it back?" Although she made her disapproval clear, she politely tolerated Tatsu's presence except when he tried to climb on the sofa with her. In a very appropriate display of older-dog-in-the-house status, she barked at Tatsu without touching him--a short and sharp message. Tatsu understood immediately and politely backed off. I love seeing natural canine social skills at work!

In less than a week, Toffee had decided Tatsu might be ok. She started trying to initiate play with him--but being 97 pounds to his 25 pounds, she ended up frightening him! Luckily, Tatsu is growing like a weed, and last night, Toffee and Tatsu both ran around in our yard and played with the Wheaten Terrier, Bally, from upstairs. Now, Toffee also allows Tatsu on her sofa as long as he obeys her limits.

Heeky (the cat), surprisingly, fell in love with Tatsu in no time. Within a couple days, they had learned to lie on the carpet head to head and taunt one another playfully. It helps that Tatsu is a real natural at adapting his play style to his playmate. I'm sure all the turkey Heeky got when Tatsu came near helped a great deal, too. I almost wonder if she visualizes a plump Thanksgiving turkey when she looks at Tatsu. :) His snout is a bit beak-like.

Remembering back to Toffee's puppy-hood around cats--that took quite a bit more work! She was cat crazy! Borzoi are sighthounds, after all, and naturally prone to wanting to give chase to other creatures. We used careful management to keep Toffee away from the cats when we weren't prepared to train, and we practiced "sit," "down," "stay," "watch me," "leave it," and "get your toy" a great deal when around kitties. If Toffee elected not to follow instructions around kitties, she got time out. The cats, of course, got to dine on their favorite goodies while Toffee worked. The result of all our efforts, you'll witness in the video clip above.

With the right dog training work as well as supervision and management, even dogs with an inclination to be frantic around felines can learn to co-exist in Pet Harmony.

Tatsu Learns "Come When Called" - Pup, Pup, Pup Method

Students of Picture Perfect Pets have sometimes told me the story of how they met one another out at a park one day while doing their homework for teaching their dogs "Come When Called" the Bette Yip way.

"We heard this other person saying 'pup, pup, pup, pup, pup' and asked if they attended dog training classes at Picture Perfect Pets."

In the clip below, Tatsu performs step three of what we've come to call the "Pup, Pup, Pup/Happy Sounds" method for teaching recalls (as opposed to the "DoggyTouch" method, for those of who've been in classes over the past year. We now teach both methods in our group dog training courses.)

As for young Tatsu's progress: with very basic distractions around, I'd give him an A- for this morning's work. Around the chaos of all dogs off leash at once during playtime, he gets a C+. That's not bad for a 14-week-old borzoi who's been home for about 2.5 weeks. There's much work to be done, but we're on our way!

Tatsu's Shoe Chew Experiment

Chewing shoes--that's a favorite experiment for virtually every puppy I've known. The trick is being so vigilant with supervision and management that you can be there to catch the first puppy-shoe-chew attempts to give well-timed feedback, and to notice the good dog every time a puppy is near a shoe-chew temptation, but resists and makes a better choice.

In this video clip, you'll see that I chose to allow Tatsu to play with his toy near the shoe pile so that I might have an opportunity to reinforce this lesson for him. This wasn't his first shoe-chew attempt, but he really hasn't tried again since I shot this video a few days ago. Still--I know the behavior of chewing only one's chew toys and nothing else will undergo much, much more testing before Tatsuya is behaviorally mature (that was at nearly three years old in Toffee's case!)

Note how I used "happy chatter" as a "keep going" signal and how my "AhAh" sound is short and sharp by contrast. In this clip, you will not hear an actual "click" which is our formal reward marker. "Good boy" is not a reward marker for us, but rather a part of our "happy chatter" routine. Tatsuya has learned the meaning of his no reward marker, "AhAh," in various other contexts prior to the moment captured here, and has been "clicked and rewarded" many times prior to this for simply chewing on his own toys.

To learn more of the "How To" of dog training, contact Bette Yip to learn about the various group and private dog training services available from Picture Perfect Pets in the Boston area.

Happy training!

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Why practice every day?

Today I was so happy to see that yesterday's training with Tatsuya on loose leash walking and heel really stuck today (granted, he still gets distracted easily--but he is puppy AND borzoi, so he's doing very well overall with his dog training, considering!)

However, the "Down" I had been so proud of just a couple of days ago was a bit of a lackluster performance in our dog training class tonight. "Why," I wondered. Is it that a puppy brain can only handle so much new information at once? Then I thought back to the previous day's practice. We focused so much on dog training for "Let's Go," "Heel" and "sit at a distance" that we neglected any practice with our down cue--and tonight, it really showed!

Tomorrow's goal: to spend a little time on integrating practice with all known dog training cues into our daily routine, and to work hard at our attention cue which we have shamefully not practiced at all! That is the first cue I teach my dog training students, and I still haven't done sufficient work with Tatsuya after having him home for over a week! Tomorrow, we'll catch up.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Teething Troubles

Poor Tatsuya! Tonight I wondered why he was being much mouthier than usual, and trying to chew on the oddest of things including the wires of his crate, and part of my car! My first inclination was to wonder if my seemingly perfect puppy was starting to settle in a little too much--maybe he wasn't going to be so easy after all.

Then it dawned on me--Little One is teething! He seems to be looking for cold, hard items to chew on for relief. So, for a bit, he gets gum massages, frozen toys and stepped-up supervision and management to get us through this round of teething.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Happy Valentine's Day!!!

May your day be filled with fun, laughter and lots of love!

And today, it's okay to hoard the chocolate, so long as it stays out of reach from our canine & feline friends. I can't imagine life without chocolate! Good thing I'm not a dog!