How to get your dog to come back indoors

How to get your dog to come back indoors

Earl the German Shorthaired Pointer
Do you have trouble getting your dog to come back in after you let him out in the backyard?
  

If you have a dog who dashes out the door and runs whenever someone is coming or going and then blows you off when you try to get him to come back, here is a quick and painless cure for door-dashing that will leave him happily racing back into the house, or (better yet!) not even darting out to begin with.   

Never scold your pup for not coming back in fast enough or running out and playing “catch me if you can!” Instead, prevent any such activities by beginning teaching new skills using a longish leash attached to a regular buckle collar.  The dog can drag the leash while you practice this set of skills, and if for some reason he bolts the first time or two, you can always quickly step on the leash.   Practice these steps until your pup hurries back into the house every time with no leash at all.  Believe me, it won’t take long!

  1. Before you let your dog out show him an extra special treat (like a whole hot dog, if he’s a large dog!) let him watch you place it near the doorway (inside).  
  2. Then let him out and call him back as soon as he is out the door.  When he comes back, make a big deal about it and give him  the whole hot dog.  
  3. Repeat  and notice how much faster he gets each time!
  4. That’s it. Except just one little thing.  The reward has to be extra super special.  Don’t try to pass of hard biscuits as special enough.  They aren’t and it won’t work with biscuits.  Be sure to us  something moist and soft and smelly (turkey, bison or beef pepperoni, and natural hot dogs or a big chunk of Polish sausage are perfect) that he never gets at any other time.

It may be a few weeks before you can stop using the big food reward, and just have it once in a while.  Remember, if the dog thinks training is a fun game that he invented, he will obey willingly and happily every time, so make it fun!


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Hormones and dog aggression

Hormones and dog aggression

What makes some dogs calm and chill, while other

Pitbulldogs flip out when they are in the presence  of dogs, people or other perceived threats in their environment?  Scientists all over the world are unravelling more and more mysteries of dog behaviour.  As a dog nerd, I was excited to find out that  recent research  at University of Arizona led by Evan MacLean linked the presence of two different hormones in the blood to behavioural changes.

 

MacLean and his collaborators looked specifically at oxytocin and vasopressin — hormones that are also found in humans — and found that they may play an important role in shaping dogs’ social behavior.

Why is this important to us dog owners? Well, Oxytocin (the love hormone) is found in higher levels in non-reactive dogs, in this case service dogs with no history of aggression.  Aggressive reactivity is found in dogs with elevated Vasopressin levels.

 

 

Blood levels of Oxytocin can be increased through bonding, food rewards and other positive experiences. In order to help aggressive dogs get on the right track with behaviour, veterinary scientists may soon be exploring ways to suppress the vasopressin system, so it doesn’t create as much of that hormone. But for most dogs, vasopressin can reduced, and oxytocin increased, simply by positive interactions with people.

“Previous work shows dog-human friendly interactions can create a release in oxytocin in dogs, and when dogs interact with people, we see that their vasopressin levels go down over time,” MacLean said. “These are bidirectional effects. It’s not just that when we’re petting a dog, the dog is having this hormonal response — we’re having it, too.”

Combative, dominance oriented approaches to treating dog behaviour simply don’t work unless it is repeated constantly over the life of the dog.  What a miserable way to live for both dog and human.

 

Evan Maclean’s studies of Oxytocin levels in dogs with aggressive behaviour will hopefully help to dispel some common mythology surrounding dog behaviour and training.  When we get dogs to calm down by using compassionate and kind training methods that include game based, bonding exercises, we can actually affect the levels of the hormones that cause bonding and aggression.  How cool is that anyway?

5 Things you must know before you hire a dog trainer

5 Things you must know before you hire a dog trainer

I’ll admit it:  Choosing a dog trainer can be really confusing.  There is nothing to stop anyone from calling himself/herself a dog trainer, or worse yet, a behaviourist.  For dog trainers, it’s kind of like the way it was in the 1800’s before someone needed formal education to teach children. Welcome to the Wild West, abounding with both well meaning people, Certified trainers, people who say they are certified dog trainers but aren’t,  and snake oil dog trainers who say  can cure any behaviour through (insert mysterious sounding buzzword here).   Choosing the wrong person to train your dog can be hazardous for both you and the dog.  Choosing the right dog trainer can lead to a well behaved, confident dog who really listens to you.  Here are a few tips to help you navigate the minefield that is modern dogtraining.

  1. Look for  CPDT-KA or CPDT-KSA certification.  This certification means the trainer has passed extensive formal testing in dog behaviour and training, passed reference checks from a vet, a fellow dog trainer, and a client, and has at least 300 hours of practical experience.  They have to practice under professional guidelines, which are aimed at excellent customer service and humane and ethical treatment of the dogs in their care. There is no other certification that is equal to Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers Certification.  Furthermore, if a dog trainer says they are certified, ask for their number, and look them up on the certifying body’s website.
  2. A professional dog trainer who is worth your time and money will always carry insurance.  Ask to see a copy of their insurance certificate.
  3. Dog trainers with a sound knowledge of behaviour will not ever suggest or demand you drop your fearful/reactive/aggressive dog off for a board and train, or (shudder) boot camp. Dogs with these problems are best trained in the familiar surroundings of their home environment.  A dog trainer that wants you to leave your dog with him/her to train, wants to train your dog behind closed doors (who knows what they are doing back there).  Board and train of reactive/fearful/aggressive dogs is a BIG RED FLAG!!!
  4. Observe dogs with the trainer.  Do they cringe with back hunched, ears back, tails down? Or are they happy, confident, and wanting more?  Does the trainer smile and use animated body language when training?   Does he/she frown, in an exaggeratedly tall posture, like a schoolyard bully standing over a kindergarten kid? (Back slowly away until it is safe to run if you see this).
  5. Watch out for these mysterious and made up buzzwords:   “calm submissive”, “red zone”,  “whisperer“, “dominant”, “pack leader”, “alpha”, “energy” etc. Also watch out for this frequent phrase with trainers with no formal training in behaviour: “we train dogs when no one else can”.  Really?  No one else can?  Doesn’t that mean the owners have taken the dog to all other trainers who have all tried and failed?  I call B.S..  Dog trainers with a working knowledge of behaviour use these buzzwords:  “reactive”, “Reinforcement”, “reward marker”, “stimulus”, “rate of reinforcement, “behaviour modification”, “quadrants” .  They can effectively define words like “negative punishment”, “positive punishment”, correction, positive reinforcement and negative reinforcement.  Good trainers are also quiet when training dogs.

I hope this helps anyone who needs help with a badly behaved dog.  For more great tips on dog training like our Facebook page at:  http://www.facebook.com/godoggodogs

Cesar Milan's worst bite- Did he ask for it?
Click here to watch a good description of dog language.

How food bowl guarding can be dealt with safely and effectively.

Democracy in Wild Dogs

Democracy in Wild Dogs

A pack of African wild dogs shares an impala.
Credit: Megan Claase

From the “Smarter Than You Think” files:

So, what if I told you that wild dogs are democratic, taking votes on group activities?  No, don’t leave yet! There really is scientific evidence according to an international study done on wild dogs in Botswana.  The study recorded 68 social rallies from 5 different dog packs Dr Neil Jordan, who headed the study says African wild dogs exhibit highly energetic greeting ceremonies called social rallies after rest periods, before they move off together again.  During the rally, the dogs start sneezing.  If there are enough sneezes, the pack goes off hunting and exploring.  If there are not enough sneezes from the majority of dogs, the dogs go back to sleep for a while.

The dominant pair influences the way the pack votes.  If these two didn’t sneeze, then more votes will be required before the pack goes out hunting.

Study first author Reena Walker, of Brown University in the US: “We found that when the dominant male and female were involved in the rally, the pack only had to sneeze a few times before they would move off.  However, if the dominant pair were not engaged, more sneezes were needed — approximately 10 — before the pack would move off”

It gets even more complex:  Each dog’s vote appears to have a unique value in the voting process. Some dogs required more sneezes for their vote to count.  Something to think about next time your excited dog sneezes at you!

Reference:

Sneeze to leave: African wild dogs (Lycaon pictus) use variable quorum thresholds facilitated by sneezes in collective decisions;  Reena H. WalkerAndrew J. KingJ. Weldon McNuttNeil R. Jordan; .

Five dog training secrets to get your dog to listen

Five dog training secrets to get your dog to listen

Do you have an unruly dog that couldn’t care less about what you want him to do?  Do you have a pup that is embarrassing to take for a walk because he pulls on leash like he’s out to win the Yukon Quest? Or worse, on walks he freaks out with a full blown hissy fit if he sees another dog? Are you ready to have a well mannered dog you can always be proud of?  I’ve got a few tried and true tips that will get him on the right paw.   Here are 5 things you need to start doing today:

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