Monday, August 1, 2016

"Oh, you're a dog trainer? That must be so fun!"

As most of my blog posts are, this one was inspired by a few things this past weekend after I attended a conference for dog trainers.  The first spark in my brain was fired off when I was talking to a client before I left town and said to her, "I'll call you when I get back in town, I'm leaving for a dog trainers' conference this weekend..." to which she responded by laughing and saying "A dog trainers' conference?! [insert laughter]"  I really wasn't what I'd call "offended" but it did hit a chord with me that my profession is often regarded as a fun job and one that cannot be all that serious.  I mean after all we do work with fun, fuzzy dogs, right ... how serious can it be?!
So I want to tell you lovely people of the world about dog trainers.  This is how we work. This is what we do. This is how we do it. Every day. I'm fairly certain I speak on behalf of many, if not all, dog trainers that do this as a full-time job (and even those that do it part-time!).

We care about you. 
We care about your dogs. This is why we do it.
We move our schedules around to accommodate for our lesson with you.
We read your info, we take notes and we plan on how to help.
We drive however far we plan to in order to get to you.
We work with you to the best of our ability, attempting for more than that.
We go home and think about you, about your dog.
We lay in bed at night and think "Oh man! I should have told her this!" "Oh my gosh! What about that?!"
We rub shampoo in our hair the next day while we shower and we think "Oh no, what if she didn't like that advice?!" "I totally need to email her and tell her to do this!"

If we get an email or phone call from an upset client we ramble in our brains how to help. 
We toss and turn at night trying to pin-point what went wrong.  How could we have done better?
We rush home from lunch to find a time to get back to that email or follow up on that phone call.
We thrash around things in our brains "Oh no! Fluffy I was sure was doing great. What happened? What did I do wrong? Oh I forgot that piece of advice to give! Crap! I didn't shoot that handout off to her!"
We brain storm more. We stuff that sandwich in our mouth. We re-heat the coffee cup (for the 3rd time).
We look in our brains for ways to give better help, better advice.
We look for an open spot in our schedule to get to your house quickly. 
We lay in bed that night, again, and hope that day's advice is helpful. 
We wonder if things are working out as planned.
We wonder if you'll leave a good review on Yelp or Facebook or tell your vet about us.
We wonder if you'll write a nasty email because we weren't good enough.
We wonder if you'll follow through and email us if you are struggling.
We smile at the success-in-progress emails you send us! (These are our favorites!)
We hope to receive emails with questions, if you have any. (We love these too!)
We cry when we receive the hard emails, the hard cases.
We cry when you cry. 
We cry when we can't help. (We cry a lot!)
We cry when you are unsatisfied.
We cry more when we get nasty emails.
We feel like failures, sometimes more than we should.

We love your dogs.
We look at our schedule and smile "Oh! I get to see Fluffy today!"
We like margaritas. (Ok at least I do!)
We like to laugh.
We like to make you laugh.
We love how much you love your dog.
We love that you called us!
We love that you want what is best for Fido.
We want what is best for Fido too!
We love the work you put in, and we put in, and Fido puts in, every single day.
We love the product of everyone's work!

We wake up. We do it again. And again. And again.

We go through everything you do whether your job is a mother, a painter, a lawyer, a doctor, a plumber, an engineer, an artist, a teacher, a therapist, a truck driver ... Our job is full of difficulties and successes, just like yours is.  It's full of joy and happy endings.  It's full of tears and sad endings sometimes too.  It may be full of more slobbers and hair than yours is but it's still just like your job in so many ways.

This is a dog trainer.  .... I wouldn't have it any other way!

Saturday, April 2, 2016

My dog won't stop jumping on people! Help! (Part III)

This is a 3-part blog series. This is Part III of III.
If you missed Part I and Part II it is recommended that you go back and read them first.  They have important information for you to follow in order to have these training plans be successful.  You can find Part I here and Part II here.

In Part I we discussed why dogs jump on people.  Now that we've discussed that we can move onto the beginning stages to get your dog to choose to do a more appropriate behavior when greeting people, rather than jumping.  In Part II we discuss the protocols you need to have in place and implement before starting the actual training process.  This is very important to do, if you do not do the protocols prior to training the training will not be successful. So be sure you've read Part I and Part II before continuing with this post, Part III.

If you have a puppy it's very easy to stop this behavior from growing into a real problem. I'd say this would apply if your puppy is under (4 months) 16 weeks of age. If your puppy is older than 4 months it may be a little more difficult only because the behavior has been reinforced for a while. Although it would still be easy with a young dog to work on this because they have not had months or years of reinforcement.  Working on this with puppies is a must in my book and is so very easy to do and will prevent a habit from ever forming.

So, if you have a puppy start by never ever touching your puppy or talking to him when he's jumping. Never. Read that again. This is easy to read and understand but it's often not in the front of our brains when in fact a darling little 10 week old puppy is jumping on us to say "hi". If you touch, talk to or look at a dog you could be reinforcing behavior. Instead when a puppy approaches you immediately stop petting the puppy if it starts to jump. Toss treats behind the puppy and reward the pup in any way that reinforces it for being on the floor and not jumping.

Reinforce the heck outta "sit". If a puppy sits you better be ready to reward it. Teach the puppy sit = happy and wonderful things, especially when the puppy sits before greeting or upon greeting someone.

You do the above with puppies and you'll be well on your way to a dog that doesn't jump on people!

Emily Larlham of Dogmantics Dog Training and kikopup YouTube channel has a great video on this as well. You can find that here.

If your dog just cannot contain her joy at the thought of a new person coming to greet her and seemingly loses her ever lovin' mind .... um, you've got your work cut out for you! ha! But no really, don't be too worried. You can do this, it's just going to be critical to follow the protocols in Part II to get this type of dog ready to meet people without making a scene.

First, implement protocol #4 from Part II, which is start training in a sterile environment when guests aren't around. The first thing this dog needs to learn is how to relax. I find when I talk about this people think this sounds crazy. "Exactly how is this going to help my dog learn to greet others without jumping?!" Well because these dogs are usually wound up pretty tight and even if the dog isn't jumping on those people that live with her the dog has an internal issue with relaxation, as in, it's not really all that great unless the dog is tired. Sometimes these dogs need to be super tired, sometimes just a little bit. Either way these types of jumpers need to learn to relax and by "learn" I mean it needs to be taught.

Teaching a dog to relax on a mat is not the same as telling a dog to go lie on a bed and "stay". That's not relaxing that's a dog being told what to do and for how long. Relaxing is just that, relaxing. Think of yourself on a lovely vacation where you can soak up the sun and sip a Mai Tai or cup of joe while thinking about the ocean waves around you. That's relaxed. No one is telling you what to do or how to do it or for how long. You are just out there chillin'. Your dog needs to learn to do that. You can follow this step-by-step how-to here to learn to do this. I also highly recommend Nan Arthur's book "Chill Out Fido" (who wrote the relax on a mat how-to I just referenced.) As you'll notice from the linked handout, this is an exercise you'll do daily with this dog for quite some time depending on the dog.

I would focus heavily on the relax on a mat exercises and also start this dog with training "sit" for just about anything she wants. Doing this will help her learn an automatic "sit for everything I want to get" and it will help when you want to transfer that to "oh and this also means sit for greeting others too."

Before starting I want to make note that I am assuming your dog has been taught to "sit" by being asked to do so.  They understand it to some degree even if not completely reliable.  If your dog doesn't do this, here is a great video on how to start.  If you aren't using a clicker for training you can substitute the clicker (or click) with a verbal "Yes!" followed by a treat.
(Here is an awesome video on "What is clicker training?" and also one on "How to train without a clicker")

However, with this process I like to wait for the dog to offer a sit without verbally prompting the dog to do so (again, if your dog needs help with this do it like it is done in the video linked in the previous paragraph.)  So we aren't actually teaching her to sit on [verbal] cue but rather that when the dog offers a sit as a behavior she will get what she wants.  This will create a dog that sits prior to getting something on her own.  If you verbally ask her to sit she may learn to wait to be told to sit before actually doing it.  We want her to choose to sit on her own.  You can do this by just standing there, tall (don't bend over the dog) and waiting for the dog to sit on her own.  Hold back from asking her to sit, don't say anything to her just wait for her to sit.  After she sits reward her.

I would play some games with your dog (and have everyone in the home do the same) like the following:  Have your dog sit directly in front of you, again by waiting for her to sit on her own (no verbal prompting).  You could start this by calling her over and waiting for her to sit in front of you.  Once she does, dole out 5-6 small pieces of yummy treats. Let her walk away or you walk away. Then a few minutes later do it again. Repeat this 4 times. Just simply having the dog come sit in front of you and rewarding profusely. Be sure you are verbally telling her she's good as well as handing out lots of treats after she sits. Again, have everyone in the home do this as well. Soon she'll be coming to sit in front of you on her own, and when she does you better give her whatever it is that may be rewarding to her in that moment -- yummy treats, toss a ball, hand her treats, give her dinner, pet behind her ears, whatever she likes she gets for sitting in front of you.

After she's gotten pretty good with that. Invite a friend over. If possible invite a friend that the dog has the least excited reaction to (if this is possible, some dogs react the same to everyone, some have favorites.) Prep friend for this training session, as they are about to help you with your dog's greeting skills. Put your dog away prior to the friend coming over. Have friend armed with high value treats, at least 30-40 very small ones.

Let dog into the room. As soon as your friend sees the dog have said friend toss treats away from his body (the friend's) and aiming for behind the dog or at least a distance away from the friend. The dog should stop and turn around to get the treats. When dog looks up, almost headed to greet, friend repeats tossing treats. Friend should repeat this at least 4-5 times. During all this friend needs to be standing tall (not stooping or bending over) and not speaking to the dog at all. The friend will simply toss treats behind the dog.

After about the 5th time friend has tossed treats away from himself then see what dog does. If friend is quiet and calm dog should come up to friend and sit in front of him. If she doesn't friend stands tall, doesn't engage with the dog in any way and waits. If/when dog sits, dog gets treats. Friend should remain quiet and calm throughout visit in the home. This will help immensely, especially with an over-excited greeter. After this small training session the dog should be put away to relax or if the dog is now relaxed the dog can stay out or go lie and relax on her mat.

Repeat the above exercise with same friend until dog becomes relaxed in greetings with this friend. Then add next friend, then next friend (or aunt or uncle or whatever) and so on. The dog should soon begin to generalize how to greet people in the home regardless of who it is.

It is imperative during the process that an excited greeter never gets reinforced for excited greetings. Never touch the dog (even to push the dog away!), never talk to the dog (even to say "get down!"), and do not look at the dog (turn head away or look up when dog is excited). It should be noted that if you only use these things (ignoring the dog and turning away when jumping) as your training plan it won't work.  These things alone will usually create a dog that is confused and becomes more jumpy and frustrated. So ignoring a jumping dog and waiting for the dog to just stop jumping because it realizes the jumping isn't working is not successful as a training plan. Ask me how I know this. I used to use this as the first line of defense to start to teach a dog not to jump. If you were a client of mine back in the day you likely recall me telling you this advice. However, now that I know better I do better. So, while these things should be practiced (ignoring the dog if she jumps) while training the other things (the training plan above), they must all be utilized together to actually work.

However, you must note that if you don't do the exercises above and allow the dog to become over excited and rush up to greet someone you will be setting your dog up to fail.  This is not implementing protocols in Part II, which should always be implemented.

If you have a highly excitable, over-aroused dog and you are having difficulty with working on this it could be due to a few things.
  • Are you becoming frustrated and discouraged?  If so, take a step back.  Start with the relaxation exercises. Be sure you are doing these for a few weeks prior to starting the work with guests. Also, never work with a dog while frustrated, especially an over-aroused dog as this will feed the arousal and the vicious cycle will drive you mad!
  • Are you setting your dog up for success?  If you are still in the early phase of the process the dog should never be allowed to greet guests, should be crated, in another room or put away so that they cannot become over-aroused/excited and practice this behavior.
  • Are you jumping the gun?  Is your dog ready to start these training protocols?  Have you skipped a few steps?  If yes, then be sure you haven't!  Start and go slow. It's not going to show up like magic!
I really love the following article by Laura VanArendonk Baugh, CPDT, KPACTP of Canines In Action, Inc. in Indianapolis, Indiana on how to teach proper greetings. It is broken down into very small pieces (which is great for success) and does include steps I didn't mention, but dog training has a lot of solutions, not just one! She also has an excellent book called "Fired Up, Frantic and Freaked Out".

NOTE: As you can gather, the above training program would be much more helpful if coached by a trained professional, in person. This is also not covering some other "types" of jumpers. I addressed the over-excited ones because that's the most common.
While you can do the above on your own it would be much more successful with professional guidance.  If at any point you find yourself saying "I read this blog and followed it and it didn't work"... that's because a trainer would be a better option to help you so that you can have guidance every step of the way.

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Stacy Greer of Stacy's Dog Training has trained dogs professionally in the Dallas/Ft Worth Texas metroplex for 16 years.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

My dog won't stop jumping on people! Help! (Part II)

This is a 3-part blog series. This is Part II of III.
If you missed Part I it is recommended that you go back and read it first.  You can find Part I here.
In Part I we discussed why dogs jump on people.  Now that we've discussed that we can move onto the beginning stages to get your dog to choose to do a more appropriate behavior when greeting people, rather than jumping.

I will first say that I do suggest you hire a dog training professional to help you with this, as I do with pretty much all behaviors, because they will be able to help you through the entire process. With that said, this is the internet and we all want the answers for free, quickly and right now! I understand this but I am going to stress this again -- a trainer will be able to help you and your dog and his/her specific jumping problems (or any others that s/he may have) better than reading a blog.  Ok now that is out of the way I'll give you some basic tips that you can implement yourself. For free. On the internet. Enjoy! (If you get confused please contact a trainer near you.)

1) Stop reinforcing the jumping ... and even more importantly, stop everyone else who comes in contact with your dog from reinforcing the jumping. This is the most difficult part of getting rid of jumping because you have to really be advocating for your dog's training and not allow others to reinforce the jumping. It will be the #1 reason your dog will continue to jump on others, even if/when he stops jumping on those in the home.

2) Set a plan and type it out. Share with all the world to see. Somewhat piggybacking off of the first one, but this is important. Consistency across the board. Come up with a plan of what you will be doing so that everyone in the family can see it and understand what their role is with the dog. Go over it. Discuss it. Show everyone how to do it.

3) Set the dog up to succeed. Example: If you know that your dog jumps on every guest that enters your home then don't allow your dog to be free and able to go to the door to do this when someone comes to your door until you are ready to move to this part of the training protocol. Put the dog away.  I don't care where. In a crate. In the backyard. In a bedroom. In the laundry room. Wherever the dog can be that prevents it from being able to go to the door and practice the dog's poor behaviors. This only occurs until the dog's training is advanced to the level of having friends come over to be part of this portion of the training.

4) Train the dog when guests aren't around. This somewhat goes along with #3 because it will set your dog up to be trained from a very low distraction stage to an increasingly higher distraction stage.  This is vital to training your dog in any area. You cannot expect your dog to start learning not to jump on guests during Thanksgiving holidays when you have 7 family members coming in and out of the home. It's all about slowly working your way up to the major distractions by succeeding in all the lower distractions first.

Now that your first goals are set you can get some tips on what to do that involves the dog and teaching him/her what you want him/her to do instead of jumping.
In Part III of this blog series we will layout a few different techniques you can use to get your dog to stop jumping on people.  So head on over there and read the tips in Part III.
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Stacy Greer of Stacy's Dog Training has trained dogs professionally in the Dallas/Ft Worth Texas metroplex for 16 years.

My dog won't stop jumping on people! Help! (Part I)

This is a 3-part blog series. This is Part I of III.
One of the absolute biggest complaints from dog owners and questions I get as a trainer is -- How can I get my dog to stop jumping on people?!

First there isn't a single, simple or quick answer to this. This is a multi-faceted answer because there are so many factors when it comes to jumping. Pretty much most dog training doesn't have a simple and/or single answer .... but anyway ...  We must first identify the reason and/or cause of the jumping.  There are several reasons a dog may jump and once we identify this we can move forward.

The first step is to ask yourself this -- What do you want your dog to do? Before you answer that make sure the answer doesn't include "I want him to stop/not/quit jumping!" I know what you don't like I want to know what you do in fact want your dog to do when s/he sees and/or greets other people.

It would be awesome if I had a simple answer.  If only I could say "do XYZ and it will stop your dog from jumping."  However, it's not quite that simple. Yes, you could find some punishment-style "methods" that correct a dog when it jumps however this doesn't get to the root of the problem. Punishing a dog for jumping often makes the dog stop temporarily in the moment or just stops the dog from jumping on whomever is giving the corrections.  In the end this means the dog hasn't  learned not to jump just to avoid corrections or those giving corrections. Punishments rarely work and rarely teach anything to the dog, if ever.  My goal is to teach a dog a better solution to jumping and to have the dog choose not to jump and eliminate the jumping.

So there are a few things you can do to begin your process of training.  Set a goal. The very best course of action is to set a goal of Fido being relaxed and able to greet with little to no arousal and then we can set the goal of an alternate behavior to happen when people come into the home such as lying on a mat or sitting for greetings.

I find it funny because you can Google away and find many explanations for a dog that jumps. Some dogs just jump. But the most common reason, and one that applies to the majority of jumpers, is that they have been reinforced in some way and so it creates a behavior, albeit an unwanted one.

Many dogs also jump because they are in a state of over-arousal and cannot calm themselves down, they get over-aroused when a new person is there and the cycle begins. Jumping is alternately rewarded in a very unintentional way (person pushes dog, tells dog to stop/get down, etc.) and the jumping becomes even more obnoxious.  This often intertwines with the first one, meaning that this happens and then is unknowingly reinforced and the cycle continues.

I've also seen in my years of training dogs and understanding their behavior that some dogs that are very stressed and/or anxious will jump out of nervousness, almost like a small child that wants mommy to hold him when he's uneasy. This type of jumping requires a totally different protocol as it's not really a jumping issue but a confidence issue.  If you think this applies to your dog I do recommend that you find a qualified trainer to help you.  This isn't a true jumping issue as the root of it is deeper than that, therefore this will not be discussed in this blog post.  If you are unsure if this applies to your dog contact me and I'll be glad to help (take a video of your dog jumping and send it to me for a better assessment.)

Now that you might have a better understanding to why your dog jumps let's discuss how to start a protocol to get the jumping under control and a better behavior pattern for greeting people for your dog!  Head on over to Part II for this info.
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Stacy Greer of Stacy's Dog Training has trained dogs professionally in the Dallas/Ft Worth Texas metroplex for 16 years.