Day 71 Chasing

Welcome to Day 71 of #100daysofenrichment and thank you for joining us on this journey!

Although our challenges are directed mainly at dogs, we want all species to enjoy and benefit from #100daysofenrichment so, please join in, adjust and adapt to help your pet or companion live a more enriched life.

Don’t forget to review all the information leading up to #100daysofenrichment and more here on playing safe. Know your dog!

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Chasing

At a glance:

  • normal, natural, necessary dog behaviour
  • food based, cognitive and sensory based enrichment
  • different dogs have different motivations for chasing, with some chasing any time, any thing, at any opportunity, while some show less interest in chasing as a past-time
  • There are some challenges here that may cause a little too much excitement for getting the children involved.
    Remember, supervise children in all enrichment activities and interactions with pets.
  • some of these games will require some crafty prep, while some are quick to set up and you and your pet can engage in them for varying durations

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Many normal natural necessary dog behaviours are an annoyance for dog owners, such as chewing and digging. Chasing is an interesting one because in some contexts many dog owners delight in their dog engaging in it, and in some contexts it truly worries the humans. To chasing dogs, of course, the distinction is often arbitrary; it’s hard for dogs, living in the human world, to win!

People often presume that some chasing is fun and beneficial for their pet, for example,:

  • chasing after a ball
  • chasing after other dogs when ‘ playing’
  • chasing animals like squirrels or birds

People often find some chasing inappropriate and dangerous, for example,:

  • chasing people and children
  • chasing livestock or larger animals
  • chasing cars or other vehicles

To me though, chasing is inappropriate when it contributes to such raised levels of arousal (stress), that the dog loses control, some what, which can be damaging to behavioural and physical health.

To the dog, regardless of what he’s chasing and regardless of human rules, his chasing behaviour seems appropriate.

That will mean that chasing behaviour and tendencies require careful management to prevent chasing becoming a human and dog problem.

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What do you need?

  • toys for fetching, tugging etc.
  • kibble and food rewards
  • dog lead, cord, rope or similar
  • flirt pole or the tools to make one
    Home-made flirt pole: use a horse lunge whip with a toy tied to it (you may require extra cord so that the flirt is long enough – I use blind cord and it works well)

 

Enrichment Goals:

  • to facilitate appropriate chasing behaviour, while maintaining behavioural health and safety
  • to encourage a wide range of normal, natural, necessary dog behaviours
  • to broaden the dog’s behavioural repertoire
  • to help build responsiveness and arousal control in chasing contexts

Why do dogs chase?

Dogs have evolved from predatory animals and on top of that, humans have exaggerated and inhibited different parts of the canid predatory sequence, through selective breeding, to develop breeds of dog that can carry out different jobs.

Chasing features heavily in many dog-jobs so there may be some types who are more into chasing than others, but, note that chasing, to some degree, is part of ALL dogs.

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The predatory sequence, above, shows the complete sequence of behaviour intact in animals who are killing to eat. It is likely that the intact predatory sequence is present in some groups and types of dogs, given the jobs they have been selected for over centuries. But, just because a dog chases, doesn’t mean that he necessarily bites, kills, or consumes.

All of our enrichment endeavours, especially those challenges that are food based, should take into account these behaviour sets. Considerations for type and individual tendencies must be taken into account too to ensure that the dog is provided with outlets for behaviour he needs to do.

But, as soon as we start talking about chasing, pet owners get worried; will this make the dog more predatory, they query. I’m not sure what more predatory means, because, truth be told, your dog is already a predator.

By facilitating appropriate outlets for chasing, we are contributing to giving your pet an enriched life.

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How can we achieve these goals?

Ascertaining appropriate from inappropriate is important here. There are tons of  behaviours that dogs can do, love to do, and will do, given the slightest chance, but that can be harmful to them.

How did that happen? How did such harmful behaviours evolve?

While domestication certainly provides animals with skills (behaviours) that make it easier to live with humans, selective breeding can cause the exaggeration or inhibition of behaviours that require specific environmental, rearing and care conditions. Without responsible humans implementing this care, some behaviours can become harmful for pets and their people.

And to come full circle, this is why structured and intentional enrichment programs are so so so important for pet dogs. Safe and appropriate outlets for dog behaviour, along with careful management to prevent inappropriate behaviour, should be central to our caring for our pets.
Not to harp on about it, but that’s what #100daysofenrichment is all about and why our challenges are so far ranging in scope and detail. Providing a complete picture for pet owners, and subsequently their pets, will be vital in ensuring that pets’ welfare is maintained and improved.

What adjustments will you make for your pets?

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Applications of Chasing:

Chasing may be food related and social, sensory related behaviour. Dogs may chase prey items to eat as part of predatory behaviour and may engage in chasing behaviour as part of play in social, sensory and cognitive enrichment contexts.

Remembering what we have talked about in relation to selective breeding, not all chasing dogs do is for food. Some are chasing because that’s what they have been bred to do, and they don’t appear that interested in going any further.

But, where that arousal increases and increases, any and all dogs can demonstrate inappropriate and dangerous chasing behaviour.

Because of the many functions of chasing, and the risk of it all going pear-shaped, we must provide dogs with appropriate outlets for chasing behaviour so that they get their jollies while remaining helpful.

Young dogs will invariably be enticed to chase easily and as they age they may become less interested. Predatory type chasing really develops and becomes more coordinated at about 5-7 months, with these young adolescents suddenly showing intentional stalking behaviour, pouncing and chasing with great enthusiasm.

Adolescent dogs will also have more difficulty controlling arousal and thinking through behavioural choices, so chasing will often become a big part of their social experience. This can easily get out of control, especially during this developmental stage, and must be monitored carefully.

Short stints of bitey face, wrestling play should be emphasised and facilitated, especially for young dogs; along with monitoring for appropriate play in relation to lots of other criteria. Chasing play should be minimised.
Dog-dog play is not really going to be discussed throughout the #100days and will certainly not feature as a main approach to canine enrichment.

Your dog’s brain on chasing

Chasing requires the body and brain to work hard; physical exertion including increased demands for oxygen leading to increased respiration, heart rates and blood pressure. While that demands lots of brain input, so does the behavioural aspects of chasing. Chasing is neurologically expensive, requiring lots of cognitive input.

Chasing requires the body to rise to some serious challenge. Another way of describing this, is as stress. In dog training, we sometimes refer to the amount of stress the dog is experiencing and how they’re coping, as arousal. Neither stress nor arousal are necessarily bad.
Indeed, just the right amounts of stress and arousal are good and are definitely rewarding, triggering the dog’s reward systems in their brain. Dogs chase for chasing’s sake.

So far, chasing is pretty fun.

But, the longer your dog is chasing and in this state of increasing arousal, the closer it can become to chasing becoming more harmful.

As arousal increases, less input comes from higher, thinking parts of the brain as the more reactionary, emotional parts direct the action.

This means that chasing can start out appropriate, with the dog able to make thoughtful choices (well, as thoughtful as dogs ever are) about how he participates in chasing behaviour.
As that arousal increases, he is less well able to choose and more likely to react. This means that intense chasing can become inappropriate, leading to dangerous and harmful behaviour, directed at inappropriate triggers and associated with moving through predatory and aggressive behaviours quickly and possibly uninhibited.

The reward and protective systems in the brain, that produce all sorts of pleasant neurochemicals, can even lead to the dog essentially becoming addicted to high octane chasing, and the situations that allow it.

Intense chasing in social situations and exerting repetitive fetch games may not be the sort of fun we want for our dogs at all.

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Play Safe!

Only play chasing, active games with your dog when they are well warmed up. Ideally, you should run through a warm up routine with your dog which will include activities and stretches. At the end of each chasing game, there should also be a corresponding warm down once chasing games are over.

Bring the excitement down, after all that, with lots of sniffing and then some lapping and chewing on stuffables or similar. Remember, think rollercoasters!

Chasing must be functional

Chasing must be functional for it to be beneficial, in that, there must be some pay-off to chasing; the dog shouldn’t be chasing and not actually catch something, eat something or have some social interaction.

This is why I do not consider chasing a light enriching and instead frustrating and arousing, not in a good way. Not to mention, the risks such games may pose where a dog is predisposed to reflection/shadow chasing.

Make sure the dog gets to catch their ‘prey’, easily and without frustration in every chase.

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Enrichment Options

Chasing is something most dogs will want to do in some capacity, and it’s up to us to make sure they get to do it carefully, while still having fun.

Don’t get hooked on allowing your dog to chase inappropriately, even if you think they’re having fun. A tired dog is not necessarily well behaved, they might just be tired! And if your dog is doing a lot of chasing to the point of physical exhaustion, I think we might need to find other, more rounded-out outlets for both you and your pet.

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Option 1 Chasing Toy Games

Chasing toy games, like fetch, can still be part of your dog’s day to day life and activity, but, play in Rollercoaster Games.

This will help your dog get his chasing jollies, while avoiding the pitfalls of exertion and increasing arousal.

Stop now and go back to Day 57; starting living and playing Rollercoaster Games today!

When you play, mix it up. Lots of breaks and, just as importantly, lots of variety to the game…never just fetch, fetch, fetch, fetch…

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Add in lots of toy searches to encourage sniffing, which will help the fetcher recover from some over arousal; more on Day 62.

Option 2 Flirt Poling

Flirt poles are like cat fishing rod toys, but for dogs, so bigger and sturdier. You can buy commercially produced flirt poles (for example, here) or you can make your own.

Use a horse lunge whip, which are available from many pet and equine outlets, and tie a toy to it – simples!
Depending on the type of whip, you might need to add some cord to the whip. I use the big lunge whip when out and about in lots of space and a smaller crop, with cord to tie to the toy.

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Take care to use a soft, light toy so that it won’t do too much damage if it hits you or your dog, or won’t hurt them when they chase and grab it.

Flirt pole with care

Flirt pole fun requires care because it’s likely to cause big spikes in arousal and the subsequent loss of control, leading to problems all over the place. As such, flirt poling should be introduced carefully with rules in place.

This is an old video with a baby-Decker but outlines the rules to keep the fun in flirt pole!

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Introduce the flirt pole carefully, not just to establish the rules and appropriate behaviour, but also to prevent the dog becoming overwhelmed or scared. And if that’s the case, there are particular guidelines that should be followed to help the dog deal with something potentially scary:

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Option 3 Chaser-toy

If you don’t have the tools or inclination to make a flirtpole, don’t worry, we’ve still got you covered!

Take your dog’s favourite soft toy and tie to a dog lead or cord (you can buy chaser toys too, like this one!). Make sure that there’s no metal parts of the lead in contact with the dog’s mouth or body when he chases or grabs the toy.

Present and play with the Chaser in exactly the same way you would a flirt pole.

Option 4 Food Chasing

Chasing must be functional for it to be beneficial, in that, there must be some pay-off to chasing; the dog shouldn’t be chasing and not actually catch something, eat something or have some social interaction.

That makes chasing games versatile and perfect for food and toys.

Kibble Chasing

Food that rolls along the floor makes for a great chasing target! Don’t worry, it doesn’t have to be kibble but works best if it’s a drier, harder food, especially if on hard flooring rather than carpet or grass.

Elastic Recalls games can be a great way of having a dog work for their meal, while improving responsiveness and engagement; more on Day 43 

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I play a couple of games with Decker: kibble chasing where I just fire kibble around the space and Goal Keeping, where I try to get the kibble through his legs, along the floor. Try out which ones your dog enjoys!

Kibble chasing, with care, can be nice for a pair of suitable dogs to play too:

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Stalking & Chasing Dinner

You can go all in on this chasing challenge with the next one!

Tie some food on a string or cord and attach to the back of a remote controlled car – switch it on and let the fun begin!

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You will need plenty of space for this one and probably food that is easily visible for your dog too. Because we want chasing behaviour to be functional, and to prevent the car being damaged or your dog being injured by it, always use food tied on a long cord so that they dog can easily catch it.

Raw feeders, with whom I have worked, have loved using this game to feed wings, legs, and bones. A good chew is an excellent way to wind down after a hunt!

Option 5 Chasing, at rest

Doesn’t sound like it makes a whole lot of sense, right?
We can provide dogs with some chasing jollies, even when they are lying down or even on rest or restricted exercise.

Pouncing and eye stalking

Play with your dog, on the floor. Have them lie down or sit and sit on the floor or on a low stool, opposite them.

Move a toy, ideally longer, softer and wiggly, from your left to your right, along the floor in darting movements.

Allow your dog to eye stalk it, following it intensely with their eyes. Suddenly stop the movement and allow them to pounce, paw or jump on it.

When they do, have a little game or allow them to chomp and chew it.

 

Handball

Teach your dog to roll or drop the ball in a stationary position. This is no different than teaching fetch, except your dog is lying down or sitting throughout.

Check out one of our wonderful CBTT trainers, Noreen, and her awesome dog, Billie playing:

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Chasing at rest games offer fun chasing games when perhaps exertion is not possible or appropriate. They offer a ball-fix for the addict, without causing too much out of control exertion and arousal.

Option 6 Chasing Over Sized Balls

Lots of dogs, Decker included, LOVE chasing, biting, chasing, biting over sized balls – balls they can’t quite pick up and carry, like Jolly Balls, Boomer Balls or Running Eggs.

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Just like with flirt poling, dogs can get super wound up when chasing these toys so the same care is required, with a very clear end-of-game cue established.

Check out Decker’s level of nuttiness when playing Boomer Ball, with a clear “take a break” and “finished” cue at the end.

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This is established by playing very short games, so the dog has access to the ball for very brief play, and then swapping it out (establish a release cue first) for a really tantalising stuffable.

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Option 7 Keep away

Your dog might already play this game with you, whether you like it or not!

Play Keep-Away games using a particular signal, such as a phrase or action; I say “I’m gonna getcha” and make grabby hands.
And make sure to play only where you have established a solid release cue.

Don’t chase your dog if they get some ‘forbidden’ item! Instead move in the opposite direction and pretend to be very interested in some other activity or, for more urgent situations, create a diversion by, for example, tossing food rewards, pretending to get ready for a walk or to leave, or rustle packaging in the fridge. Continue all evasive action until the dog approaches to check out what you’re up to!

In this clip, I ask Decker which games he would like to play. A couple of times, he asks me to play the Keep-Away-Monster:

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Incorporate two-way chasing – let the dog chase you, while they have the toy in their mouth, as well as you chasing him. In play, the dog should have the toy more than they don’t!

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Inappropriate Chasing

Chasing can be fun and provide a range of behavioural outlets for your pet, once we take care and manage inappropriate chasing behaviour and potentially damaging effects of chasing behaviour.

Dogs likely direct chasing behaviour inappropriately due to some arousal spike, and of course, reinforcement history.

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Chasing in ‘play’

Dogs might have had a lot of practice chasing in ‘play’ with other dogs, especially during adolescence, and/or exposed to high-arousal environments, especially during this developmental period, in association with other dogs. This is largely why I am not at all a fan of daycares, dog parks, play groups or “social events”. This is not socialisation.

These dogs likely become ‘addicted’ to the highs of chasing and their behaviour may become increasingly difficult in anticipation of interacting with other dogs. Their chasing behaviour may involve effectively bullying other dogs, and their approach to dealing with arousal may impact other parts of their life and behaviour in general.

If high arousal play and social interactions are likely among dogs, especially where there are size or age differences, and especially when chasing features or has featured, we may have increased risk of a phenomenon known as ‘predatory drift’ occurring. When arousal is so high, it’s easy for some dogs to slip into more reactionary, ‘primitive’ behaviour resulting in predatory type behaviour being directed at non-prey items like other dogs or even children; triggers which may behave in a manner that triggers predatory behaviour (e.g. running around, squealing and so on).

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Predatory chasing

Chasing may occur in appropriate contexts too, even though we find the behaviour inappropriate. This may include livestock chasing. At this time of year, lambing makes sheep more vulnerable, but pet dogs chasing sheep and other livestock is becoming a considerable problem for farmers. And, it will become a more serious problem for pet owners unless we can improve responsibility and accountability.

Sheep may become distressed at just the appearance of an unfamiliar dog close to them, so it won’t take much to cause these largely helpless animals to panic. Although some may be injured or killed by the dogs attacking them, many more die and become terribly distressed as they crush at gates and exits, over heating and suffering at death.
I am sure we can agree that this is not acceptable on any level, and unfortunately will continue to establish the poor tolerance of dogs in society, even further.

Any dog can and will chase livestock so all dogs must be confined securely and managed carefully where access to livestock is possible.

We must also look at wildlife chasing as possibly being inappropriate in a lot of cases, for many of the same reasons.
A dog, chasing wildlife such as squirrels or birds (or livestock), may develop a strong reinforcement history for this behaviour and even more so should they catch their quarry, catch and kill it or catch, kill and consume it. The more wildlife chasing the dog does, whether they are successful or not, the more difficult the behaviour becomes to manage.

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Chasing & Fear

Lots of dogs will develop inappropriate chasing behaviours because chasing ‘makes’ the scary trigger go away. The dog, of course, doesn’t understand that the trigger is going on its way anyway, but as they practice this behaviour, it is reinforced and becomes more and more established.

This is regularly associated with dogs who lunge, vocalise and chase vehicles, cyclists or joggers.

This behaviour often crops up during adolescence so may be founded in higher arousal or poorer arousal control. These spikes in arousal may be associated with being out and about, in anticipation of some social interaction and fear or worry.

Tips for dealing with inappropriate chasing:

  • prevent inappropriate chasing with suitable confinement or restraint
  • exercise the dog in other areas to reduce triggering
  • provide the dog with tons of appropriate outlets for chasing behaviour and normal, natural, necessary dog behaviour
  • carefully play Rollercoaster Games and supervise dog-dog play closely, where relevant
  • establish below threshold conditions – where can you hang out, where the dog is  not intensely focused on them. The dog should be able to choose engagement with you, take food rewards and carry out simple behaviours. If they can’t, the subject dog needs more distance and less intensity.
  • have short counterconditioning sessions at that safe working distance (example here)

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Your challenge

Now it’s your turn. Show us what you and your pets, of any species, can do with these challenges!

Post to your social media accounts, using the #100daysofenrichment so that we can find you and join our Facebook group to share your experiences, ideas and fun!
You can comment right here too 🙂

We look forward to hearing from you and your pets – have fun & brain games!

 

 

Day 70 Sunday fun day!

Welcome to Day 70 of #100daysofenrichment and thank you for joining us on this journey!

Although our challenges are directed mainly at dogs, we want all species to enjoy and benefit from #100daysofenrichment so, please join in, adjust and adapt to help your pet or companion live a more enriched life.

Don’t forget to review all the information leading up to #100daysofenrichment and more here on playing safe. Know your dog!

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Every Sunday during #100daysofenrichment is Sunday Funday! This means you and your pet repeat your favourite challenge or challenges from the week.

You can do it exactly as you did first time round, you can try a different option, build on your progress already established, reinvent and rejig it…what ever you want to do with the last week of challenges!

Day 64 DIY Nail Care

Day 65 Loose leash walking doesn’t have to be boring!

Day 66 Transferring Cues

Day 67 Suspended Puzzles Pt. 2

Day 68 Freestyle Friday

Day 69 Sniffing Saturday: Drag Hunts

Your challenge

Now it’s your turn. Show us what you and your pets, of any species, can do with these challenges!

Post to your social media accounts, using the #100daysofenrichment so that we can find you and join our Facebook group to share your experiences, ideas and fun!
You can comment right here too 🙂

We look forward to hearing from you and your pets – have fun & brain games!

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Day 69 Sniffing Saturday

Welcome to Day 69 of #100daysofenrichment and thank you for joining us on this journey!

Although our challenges are directed mainly at dogs, we want all species to enjoy and benefit from #100daysofenrichment so, please join in, adjust and adapt to help your pet or companion live a more enriched life.

Don’t forget to review all the information leading up to #100daysofenrichment and more here on playing safe. Know your dog!

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Drag Hunts

Saturdays during #100daysofenrichment are all about emphasising the dog in all our dogs; all about sniffing and doing dog things.

Last week, Day 62, we had lots of fun with searches and scavenger hunts…this week, we are going to build on that, get our dog tracking following a trail we lay for them.

Your dog is already really good at this but now we are going to ask him to search for something we know is hidden, along a particular trail.

This adds new skills to his repertoire and gets them working through the scent-puzzle systematically.

Safety First

When choosing a search area, check it carefully before bringing the dog in and beginning the search.

Check for cables, sockets, glass, sharp objects or corners, machinery or moving parts, nails or staples, hot surfaces, slippery surfaces, hazardous substances, distractions from scents; even things like doors or steps can cause the dog to bring their head up suddenly, striking it.

Always play safe!

Hunting…

Today we are going to hide food and toys, laced with scents. If you don’t have hunting scents, don’t worry, you can do the food drag hunts with your pet, or practice some of last week’s toy searches.

Keep it simple, and think of how the air might flow through a space to understand how your dog will detect and narrow in on odour. We talk a lot about this on Day 55 too!

Today’s challenge is about teaching your dog how to track, rather than air scent. They’re about helping your dog learn to keep their nose to the ground and follow a trail.

Treat Hunts

Use softer, smellier treats for this challenge.

Beginners:

Stage 1

  • set up when your dog is out of sight
  • walk in a straight line and drop a treat in each step
  • have a little jackpot pile of treats, out of sight, at the end of the trail

Let your dog practice this set-up a few times, until he is working his way down the trail to the jackpot.

Stage 2: reduce the number of treats in the trail to every second or third (or even fourth) step toward the jackot

Stage 3: 

  • instead of dropping treats along the trail, smear a treat into the ground so that their are only traces of the treat every couple steps
  • lay a straight trail, in the same manner as Stages 1 & 2
  • let your dog track to the jackpot

Stage 4:

  • set up as you did for Stage 3
  • tie your smelly treat to the end of a dog lead, shoe lace, cord or similar
  • drag it along the ground and smear it a little at regular intervals
  • have the whole treat at the end, just out of sight, as the jackpot

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Advanced:

Work through the stages exactly as above, except for more advanced challenges, add in a turn to the trail.

Prey Hunts

Hunting a scented toy can really be a big thrill for lots of dogs! Use hunting scents, that can be purchased from hunt supply outlets, and come in a range of different options, from fowl to  mammals, to cater to your dog’s likes.

Add just a few drops to each side of a plush or soft toy. This will absorb the scent and each time the dog bites the toy or manipulates it, more scent will be released, increasing the sensory experience.

Tie the toy to the end of a dog lead or cord and drag it slowly along the ground, in a straight line. Hide the toy just out of sight and allow the dog to have a game with it or carry it around once he has found it.

It’s best to have one or two special toys that you use like this and that you put them away in a tin or plastic container, with a lead, when not being played with.

Sniffing on cue

We don’t need to teach our dogs to sniff; they got that down. But, we can teach them the meaning of a specific signal: see this set up…sniffing for food.

Cues (or antecedents) are the things that tell an animal to do a behaviour because it results in reinforcement (or tells them to avoid a behaviour that results in punishment). All behaviours are naturally cued by things that happen around the animal and teaching is about helping the animal learn the meaning of cues we introduce.

Cues can be sounds, words, hand signals, gestures or other environmental signals, like our sniffing course set-up; anything that the dog can perceive.
Different types of cues work better in different environments, for different dogs, and for different behaviours.

Sniffing for food

Ideally, we would like our dogs to be sniffing out their regular meals, as much as possible. But, some dogs will need a little help to get them going and we can have our dog sniffing for treats too!

Kibble is a pretty versatile food type for enrichment type feeding, and works well for this exercise.

You can add kibble in with other yummier treats and toss those. Or you can make a Training Mix so that kibble smells and tastes yummier, but without having to add extra calories or other foods, should the dog be sensitive or restricted.

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You can improve the smell/taste of kibble by grilling it a little, so that it becomes crunchier and oilier. You might also soak it in stock or other flavouring.

Wet and fresh foods can be a little more challenging:

  • Fresh meats and meat mixes (e.g. raw and home prepared diets) – cut up into small pieces, boiled or baked, frozen in small ice cube trays or pyramid baking mats for small individual treats.
    Alternatively, you could use dried or semi-moist meats and cut them into small pieces for tossing. (Note that you feed a smaller volume of dried or dehydrated foods as they are more concentrated.)

 

  • Wet feeds (e.g. canned foods) – frozen in small ice cube trays or pyramid baking mats for small, individual treats.

Don’t forget fruit and vegetables too, if you’re dog likes them. Frozen peas are one of Decker’s favourite for sniffing!

Your challenge

Now it’s your turn. Show us what you and your pets, of any species, can do with these challenges!

Post to your social media accounts, using the #100daysofenrichment so that we can find you and join our Facebook group to share your experiences, ideas and fun!
You can comment right here too 🙂

We look forward to hearing from you and your pets – have fun & brain games!

 

 

Day 68 Freestyle Friday!

Welcome to Day 68 of #100daysofenrichment and thank you for joining us on this journey!

Although our challenges are directed mainly at dogs, we want all species to enjoy and benefit from #100daysofenrichment so, please join in, adjust and adapt to help your pet or companion live a more enriched life.

Don’t forget to review all the information leading up to #100daysofenrichment and more here on playing safe. Know your dog!

Freestyle Friday

Now it’s your turn to get creative! Every Friday is Freestyle Friday. We’ll give you the ingredients for a puzzle or enrichment device and you build it.

Rules:

  • you must use all the ingredients
  • you can add anything else you like, or nothing at all
  • whatever you come up with must be enriching

Day 68 Ingredients

You must use the following:

  • Pringles tubes or similar

You can add food or toys or anything else appropriate, if you like. Or you can use this as it is.

We can’t wait to see what fun and brain games you and your pet get up to with this one!

Your challenge

Now it’s your turn. Show us what you and your pets, of any species, can do with these challenges!

Post to your social media accounts, using the #100daysofenrichment so that we can find you and join our Facebook group to share your experiences, ideas and fun!
You can comment right here too 🙂

We look forward to hearing from you and your pets – have fun & brain games!

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Week 11 Equipment List

After Week 11, there are really only about four more weeks left of this project! Still here? Thank you and well done!

Keep up with all the resources and challenges relating to #100daysofenrichment here
and join our Facebook group too!

All challenges are presented with multiple options so you won’t lose out if you don’t have one or two of the items.

For Week 11 you will need:

  • a variety of different treats & toys
  • Stuffables
  • dog lead, cord, rope or similar
  • cloths, e.g. face cloths, towels, blankets
  • favourite toys
  • balls or toys with holes
  • flirtpole (you can easily make one from a lunge-whip from horse training or using a dowel and cord)
  • Pringles tube or similar
  • old toys such as old tennis balls, soft toys
  • old shoes, socks
  • laundry basket or similar with holes and gaps
  • commercially available treat dispensers such as activity balls (like this one), Kong Wobbler or similar, Busy Buddy range or similar
  • next Sniffing Saturday, we are all going on sniffari – for that, this week collect at least one item from every place you go. Bring it home and store it in a bag or box away from your dog – keep it hidden in an area to which your dog doesn’t have access.

And for Freestyle Friday you will design your own enrichment device with the following ingredients:

  • face cloths, blankets, towels and similar

We have lots more fun and brain games for you for next week. Start getting ready…

Subscribe to this blog so that each day’s plan is delivered right into your inbox each morning.

 

 

Day 67 Suspended Puzzles Pt. 2

Welcome to Day 67 of #100daysofenrichment and thank you for joining us on this journey!

Although our challenges are directed mainly at dogs, we want all species to enjoy and benefit from #100daysofenrichment so, please join in, adjust and adapt to help your pet or companion live a more enriched life.

Don’t forget to review all the information leading up to #100daysofenrichment and more here on playing safe. Know your dog!

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Suspended Puzzles

At a glance:

  • taking puzzles to a new height, literally, changes the challenge greatly
  • you really can suspend any puzzle, and today, we are going to build on the puzzling abilities developed on Day 53 in Part 1 – you can start there, if you like, to help our dogs gain the skills
  • food and cognitive based enrichment
  • get the family involved in this one – kids love making puzzles for pets and these challenges offer lots of opportunities for children to use their imagination to come up with the best puzzle for their pets.
    Remember, supervise children in all enrichment activities and interactions with pets.
  • Suspended puzzle prep will probably take you about 5-10 minutes – having a collection of puzzle stuff is a good idea…it will resemble a pile of rubbish or recycling!

What do you need?

  • a range of food rewards
  • a toy or toys that your dog loves
  • dog lead, cord, show lace, rope or similar (you could even use a bamboo stick, pole, broom or similar)
  • Stuffables
  • balls or toys with holes – the more holes the better!
  • plastic playing cones, with holes
  • plastic milk cartons, with handle
  • cardboard wine bottle carriers
  • fabric shopping bags (make sure that the bag is fabric only and not coated in or made of plastic)

Enrichment Goals:

  • to encourage a wide range of foraging and exploratory behaviours
  • to do more feeding related behaviour than eating
  • to encourage the development of strategies (behaviours) for getting the food out of  the suspended devices
  • by varying the design of suspended bottles we will facilitate carrying out a range of different behaviours, broadening the dog’s repertoire

While this challenge is certainly food based, they are also experiencing cognitive, sensory and environmental enrichment, with lots of crossover between categories.

Working out how to get to the food and developing dexterous skills in manipulating the suspended puzzles are examples of cognitive challenge.

Sniffing out, tasting and chewing food all offer sensory pay off, but so does finding their way through each food puzzle, determining its value,  and engaging in the puzzle of getting to the good stuff.

Suspended puzzles encourage pets to interact with their environment – just the very interaction with the bottle is encouraging the pet to manipulate their surroundings, to get the things they like.

By carefully layering the challenge, so that they don’t give, we want to help the dog expand their range of puzzle-busting behaviours and facilitate your pet applying strategies from other puzzles to new ones; that’s a true cognitive gift and is growing your dog’s brain!

What goals can you add to this list for your pets?

How can we achieve these goals?

  • give your pet plenty of space for working on suspended puzzles and bear in mind there will be mess, so think about spaces that are easier for clean up
  • the more difficult you have made the challenge, the higher the value the reward must be so use HIGH value foods to motivate exploration and experimentation and make it VERY easy to get the food (no frustration!)
  • if your dog just dives in, in full on destruction mode, that might also be an indicator that they need an easier challenge so they get to experiment with a broader range of behaviours

What adjustments will you make for your pets?

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Applications of Suspended Puzzles:

Suspended puzzles are a great to expand your puzzling-arsenal and carefully increasing the challenge will really stretch the dog’s puzzling abilities.

These puzzles offer lots of different possibilities for expanding the dog’s behavioural range, truly engaging them cognitively.

Suspended puzzles are truly adaptable – there really is no limit to how they can be adapted to suit different puzzling levels.

What I tend to see, though, when puzzles are given to dogs, is that well-meaning owners go waaaaay over board, coming up with the most elaborate designs to really challenge their pet.

Suspending puzzles can be quite a change for many dogs so taking it easy and increasing challenge very gradually is more worthwhile.

While it’s great to go for challenge, it’s important that enrichment remain enriching. That means that the challenge must be made appropriate and doable for the individual puzzler.

Our job is to adjust the puzzle difficulty so that our dog uses a range of behaviour and gets to the goal pretty quickly.

This is the true way to improve the dog’s confidence in puzzling (and in life) and help them expand their behavioural repertoire.

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Because of the home made nature and variable materials used in suspended puzzles, it’s best to supervise your pet carefully when they have access to this puzzle.
Know your dog! If you have an ingester, these may not work.

If you are concerned about your dog ingesting non-food items during puzzling, have a pocketful of HIGH value treats in your pocket and be ready to toss a couple toward your dog, across their eyeline, if you think they are thinking about eating the bottle.
Making sure the challenge is very doable and they can get to the hidden food rewards quickly is key to modifying their behaviour and expectations during puzzling.

Check all your equipment for this challenge carefully and make sure to remove tape, staples, other fastners, small pieces and plastic pieces. With bottles, remove the lid and plastic ring before giving to your pet. Play safe!

Enrichment Options

Suspending puzzles increases challenge suddenly and drastically. It’s important to work incrementally to help your dog develop skills (behaviours) to solve these puzzles.

Increase or decrease difficulty by lowering and loosening the line, and by working against a wall or surface or have the puzzles freestanding.

Beginners: 

  • puzzle is suspended at or lower than your pet’s chin height
  • the line is looser
  • puzzle is suspended against a wall or surface

Intermediate:

  • puzzle is suspended at or slightly above your pet’s chin height
  • the line is tighter
  • puzzle is suspended against a walk or surface

Advanced:

  • puzzle is suspended at or slightly above your pet’s chin height
  • the line is tighter
  • puzzle is freestanding

Option 1 Holey Balls

Balls or toys with holes are great for suspended puzzles as they allow treats to fall out the more the dog manipulates them.

Easier:

Suspend the puzzle against a wall, piece of furniture or other surface. This makes it a little easier for the dog to spin and win!

Make sure to use treats or food rewards that easily fit out the holes in the toy used otherwise your dog will try to bite and tug at the ball or toy.

Work through the beginners, intermediate and advanced levels.

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More challenging:

Suspend your puzzle freestanding!

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Option 2 Suspended Cones

Be on the look out for anything with holes, grids or gaps in, as they can make great props for suspended puzzles. These kids sports cones are a great addition to your puzzle equipment and are available in toy and sports stores.

Easier:

Suspend the puzzle against a wall, piece of furniture or other surface. This makes it a little easier for the dog to spin and win!

Make sure to use treats or food rewards that easily fit out the holes in the cone or item used otherwise your dog will try to bite and tug at it. Frustration isn’t enriching!

Work through the beginners, intermediate and advanced levels.

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More challenging:

Suspend your puzzle freestanding!

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Option 3 Suspended Milk Cartons

Plastic milk cartons make really challenging puzzles, especially when suspended by their handle.

The smaller cartons are easier for dogs to solve, especially when full or almost full. A larger carton is more difficult and will require more skill and problem solving.

Easier:

Suspend the puzzle against a wall, piece of furniture or other surface. This makes it a little easier for the dog to spin and win!

Use a smaller carton with more food that fits easily out of the opening to prevent your dog biting and tugging at the carton too much. Frustration isn’t enriching!

Work through the beginners, intermediate and advanced levels.

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We have added various challenges to this puzzle here by suspending multiple cartons, of different sizes and suspended in different ways with one hanging from a dog collar.

More challenging:

Suspend your puzzle freestanding or from the back of a chair for a little extra challenge.

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Option 4 Suspended Winebox

Wine bottle carriers make great puzzles and we will be using them again, later over the #100days. Today, we are going to suspend ’em!

This puzzle is best left hanging and freestanding. Here, I’ve hung it using a dog lead from a table.

You can add food, toys or stuffables to the winebox and the different partitions make it trickier to reach the goal. I have added a silicone muffin pan, upside down, with treats on top. Puzzle in a puzzle!

Lots of challenge with this one!

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Option 5 Suspended Bag

Using a fabric shopping bag can really add to the challenge of suspended puzzles. Because they are floppier, unlike the winebox, they are little more difficult to manipulate and get their head in and out of.

Like our suspended basket puzzle on Day 53, this is a great one for dogs who have a favourite toy that they really like to work for; using a fabric bag is trickier. But you can add a stuffable or another puzzle with food rewards – versatile and challenging!

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Your challenge

Now it’s your turn. Show us what you and your pets, of any species, can do with these challenges!

Post to your social media accounts, using the #100daysofenrichment so that we can find you and join our Facebook group to share your experiences, ideas and fun!
You can comment right here too 🙂

We look forward to hearing from you and your pets – have fun & brain games!

 

Day 66 Transferring Cues

Welcome to Day 66 of #100daysofenrichment and thank you for joining us on this journey!

Although our challenges are directed mainly at dogs, we want all species to enjoy and benefit from #100daysofenrichment so, please join in, adjust and adapt to help your pet or companion live a more enriched life.

Don’t forget to review all the information leading up to #100daysofenrichment and more here on playing safe. Know your dog!

Transferring Cues

At a glance:

  • understand how learning and behaviour work so that you can teach new behaviours responsive to environmental cues
  • the key to teaching is not in training new behaviours (the dog can already do and is already doing them) but to get behaviour under stimulus control, so that we can ask for behaviour
  • stimulus control is hard to achieve, even though everyone believes their dog knows sit or down etc.
  • cognitive based enrichment
  • while children might be able to participate with some of these exercises, there will be lots of canine excitement and activity with some of these games so they might not be safe for kids
    Remember, supervise children in all enrichment activities and interactions with pets.
  • training exercises can be practiced in individual sessions of 1-2 minutes at a time; have as many sessions as you can!

Today we are going to look at what teaching and training dogs is really all about, while giving them new skills to navigate their world.

Your dog can already do most of the behaviours you want to train – dogs can lie down, they can walk, they can return to you. We want them to do behaviours under certain conditions, mainly when we ask them.
We are teaching dog to carry out specific behaviours at specific times.

While most people behave as if their dog’s behaviour is reliable on verbal cues, this is least likely to be the case. Dogs are much better at learning about environmental, context, body language cues than they are about words so words are likely the last thing they will learn about.

Good thing too as today’s games are all about context and environmental cues!

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What do you need?

  • food rewards – you can use your dog’s regular food, a training mix, commercial treats, home prepared treats such as cut up meats, cheese, vegetables or homemade treats such as liver or tuna cake
  • favourite toys
  • stuffables and lappable/lickables
  • depending on which training games you work on, you will need your dog’s lead, his bed or mat, and even your doorbell!

 

Enrichment Goals:

  • to teach the dog the meaning of stimuli around him, improving clarity and predictability
  • to teach alternative, more appropriate behaviours without the need for punishers or aversives
  • to teach the dog that their human won’t nag or coerce
  • to build that bond between dog and human
  • to have a fun and rewarding experience in social situations, between dogs and humans
  • to learn about learning – this is just another puzzle to your dog…”how do I train the human to make rewards available?!“…it’s all human training, for dogs!

While training exercises certainly fall into the cognitive enrichment category, they can provide so much more.

Improving clarity helps to boost your relationship with your pet, enhances your ability to communicate with one another and builds trust. This is a level of social enrichment that’s tricky to replicate.

When we talk about enrichment being enriching, this is never more clear than when we start to teach behaviours intentionally. It’s the human’s job to set the dog up for success by making sure the behaviour is doable and that rewards are fast-flowing.

There’s no test at the end of this and you and your pet are not under any pressure. Learn to enjoy the time together, whether you achieve the goal behaviour or not. That’s what’s enriching here…the social and cognitive outlets such exercises provide (for both species).

What goals can you add to this list for your pets?

How can we achieve these goals?

  • although you can use any reward that your dog will work for, using small food rewards that are quick to eat are best for some of these exercises so we can have lots of fast repetitions
  • keep it simple and split behaviour – reward approximations toward the final behaviour, rather than hoping that your dog will offer the goal behaviour quickly
  • take your time and work in many short sessions
  • try for a couple of minutes at a time, 5-10 rewards each session, and then take a break
  • plan each session – what behaviours are you looking for and rewarding?
  • watch the clips and try out the exercise
  • portion out your dog’s daily food and allot some for training exercises

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  • make a training mix by adding in something yummier and leaving it all to ‘cook’ together in the fridge; the smells will mingle, harder foods will soften a little, and everything will become more valuable

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  • remember to adjust your pet’s diet accordingly to accommodate the extra calories from treats added, where relevant
  • split your food rewards into little bowls with just the right number of rewards in each bowl so that you are ready to go; stick bowls of rewards in places where you may need to teach and reward behaviours so that you have rewards ready to go

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What adjustments will you make for your pets?

Applications of Transferring Cues:

You say “sit!”, your dog sits, and you give him a treat…that’s the way this is supposed to work, right? Let’s look at what really happens when behaviour happens.

Traditionally, dog training was approached with a “better do as I say, or else…” and we believed that our function, as trainer, was to bark ‘commands’ at the dog.  But, now, thankfully, we have a much better understanding of how behaviour works.

First lesson, behaviour is not in the dog, behaviour happens in the environment.
What we mean by this is, is that the dog is not bold, difficult, untrainable, dominant, aggressive, dangerous…
But, the dog might exhibit x behaviour in certain environmental conditions. Basically, even when you feel that behaviour is inappropriate, the dog is responding in an appropriate manner according to the environmental conditions you have set up for him.

Wait, what?

You, the human, are responsible for the environmental conditions to which your dog is exposed. The buck stops with you. If the dog is carrying out behaviour you don’t like, or not carrying out behaviour you would like,  this is down to you.

In dog training, we would refer to A-B-C or antecedent – behaviour – consequence.
The antecedent or A (might also be referred to as a cue, conditioned stimulus, discriminitive stimulus) happens before behaviour and it tells the animal to do that behaviour because that makes a particular consequence available.
The consequence or C, might be a reinforcer (something that strengthens behaviour) or a punisher (something that weakens behaviour).

You control, for the most part, which As your dog is exposed to and which Cs your dog has access to – As and Cs are in the environment, not in the dog.
To ‘fix’ problem behaviour, you need to know what’s happening before, the A, and what’s happening after, the C and then prevent access and exposure.

When we are teaching a dog to do a behaviour when we ask, we are really just setting up the antecedent, that triggers the behaviour, and transferring the meaning to the antecedent to the one you want to use.

With that in mind, think of how you can rearrange your dog’s environment to prevent unwanted behaviour, making it less efficient and less rewarding.
This also opens you to think in terms of the desired behaviour; instead of thinking about stopping behaviour, instead, think what would you prefer the dog to do?
By preventing unwanted behaviour, you can fill that gap with a new reinforceable and desired behaviour.

Your dog is behaving all the time, and is responding to antecedents (or cues) all around him. For training to be efficient and effective, we want to choose to teach the antecedents the dog is most likely to learn. Words don’t feature high on that list.

Today’s challenges look at teaching the dog new antecedents: when <something> happens in the environment, do this <behaviour>. This greatly speeds up teaching and makes it easier to apply learning.

Enrichment Options

All our games today will help your dog transfer one set of antecedents for another, that makes carrying out the behaviour more efficient and appropriate.

Option 1 Polite Greetings

Dogs get pretty excited about greeting new people; they want to greet face to face,  but we make that difficult by standing up and being tall.
To dogs, greeting calmly and with all four paws on the floor are pretty arbitrary rules.

Jumping up tends to be taken very seriously by pet owners. It’s important to remember that from about 3 weeks of age your dog has been practicing jumping up, so it’s well rehearsed long before you bring puppy home.

The simplest approach is to greet the dog; hook the dog’s collar (so you don’t get a bloody nose) and greet the dog. The jumping dog may just need to greet.

Jumping up can be associated with being over-aroused and not quite able to handle the situation; this clip looks at that:

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Rearrange the environment:

We can prevent the dog jumping up by carefully slotting in a new antecedent arrangement before the old, established one. This prevents the dog being exposed to the established triggers for behaviour.

Use a sniffing station inside the door:

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Throw food rewards just before jumping is likely:

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You could just as easily have the dog behind a baby gate before greeting, or have the dog on lead to prevent jumping.

Stop access to rewards:

Prevent the dog being rewarded for jumping up behaviour by withdrawing attention for jumping up behaviour.

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What would you prefer the dog to do?

We are also asking, what would we prefer the human to do?!

In greetings, you might have two problems: the dog jumping up and the human rewarding that behaviour with lots of attention and interaction.

By giving both the greeter and greetee a job to do, more desired behaviour, what we would like them to do, makes it easier to train both dogs and humans.

Transferring the dog’s usual cue for jumping up, the arrival of a person, to a sit behaviour or other four-on-the-floor behaviour sorts one side of the equitation. But let’s train the human too.
We can teach the dog to sit when faced with a person with their arms folded across their chest.

To add a new cue, add it before the old one. In this case, fold your arms and say “sit”, reward when the dog sits. After a few repetitions, your dog will be sitting when you fold your arms.

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Option 2 Lead on!

Just like greetings, getting ready for walkies can be a pretty exciting time for dogs, resulting in excitable behaviour.

This building and building excitement can pave the way for excitable and difficult to control behaviour out and about.

As always think, what would I prefer the dog to do?

Rearrange the environment:

Use food rewards or a stuffed toy to redirect your dog’s excitable behaviour while fitting his lead:

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If you need help helping your dog to become more comfortable and handleable when fitting walking gear, see Day 17.

Stop access to rewards:

Truth be told, I am not a big fan of just ignoring unwanted behaviour. It’s likely that, for many dogs who are very excitable when they see their lead, that bringing the lead out, putting it away over and over in response to their behaviour, will likely cause their frustration to increase.

So, for that dog, I want to just get their lead on and go!

What would you prefer the dog to do?

Sit for lead on:

Show the dog the lead, ask for a sit. When the dog sits, toss the reward so that it’s easier to attach the lead, while he’s eating it.

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Down on mat for lead on:

Step by step training plan here.

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Option 3 Doorbell Games

Probably my favourite application of cue transfers is playing doorbell games. Teach your dog that the sound of the door is a cue to do some behaviour, such as go lie on your mat.

To rearrange the environment, you might try disabling or covering your door bell so that the dog doesn’t have reactions to the bell, further rehearsing that behaviour and slowing training.

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Your dog, at this stage, probably has a strong emotional response to the sound of the doorbell.

We want to break that association, while helping him form a more positive association with the doorbell sound, and teach him a more appropriate alternative behaviour to do when he hears the doorbell.

This must be built very gradually and carefully, because his current response is so strong and distressing for him.

Start with a recording of a neutral doorbell – one that he won’t have heard before and doesn’t associate with his door or guests coming in. There are a variety of doorbell sounds available on YouTube, for example: https://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=doorbell+sounds
During training, use one of these consistently.

Level 1:

  • use a neutral doorbell recording
  • reward with high value rewards
  • play these training games in lots of different rooms

Stage 1:

  • play the doorbell recording
  • immediately feed a high value food reward to the dog
  • repeat 5-10 times per session

You must get your timing right for this to work. Don’t move toward the treat until after the doorbell sound has played.

When the dog predicts that the doorbell sound makes a treat happen you are ready for Stage 2. You might be able to tell that the dog has developed this association by testing him; play the doorbell sound when he is not looking or is in another room. He should come looking for his treat!

Stage 2:

  • play the door bell sound
  • cue the dog to “go to bed!
  • reward him when he is in the bed

Practice in short sessions of 5-10 repetitions. When he will go to his bed upon hearing the doorbell recording you are ready for level 2.

This clip shows the basic work required for this training exercise:

Level 2:

  • work exactly as you did for Level 1, except use a recording of your own door bell
  • use at a lowered volume if the dog has an aroused response to it

When the dog will go to his bed upon hearing the doorbell recording, move onto Level 3.

Level 3:

  • work exactly as you did for Level 2, except have a familiar person ring the door bell
  • practice with the door open and in a spot that allows the dog see what’s going on; have the dog on lead

As your dog improves, you can close the door and have the familiar person outside and once happy with that you might be ready to add an unfamiliar person knocking or ringing!

Option 3 Go to bed!

Sometimes, it’s important that our dogs are safe and confined during certain activities. Maybe you are injured and cant have your dog jumping up or getting under your feet; my favourite application of this is in baby prep. We can teach your dog to go to their bed or crate when you are carrying an infant (which starts out as a doll wrapped in a blanket).

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Option 4 Taking Turns

Living with more than one dog can be tricky, especially when all the dogs are adults. Adult dogs are more likely to be competitive with one another, and squabbles among dogs who live together are often to do with access to resources.

We often tell off one dog if they aggress when another dog approaches. But, all we end up teaching that dog is, that unpleasant things happen when the other dog approaches.

Instead we can teach them that good things happen when the other dog is around.

We teach the dog that if their buddy gets a treat, they are about to get a treat too. This helps them feel better about proximity with the other dog and teaches them that they don’t need to compete…yummies are coming!

Contrary to popular belief, dogs don’t need to fight it out and you don’t have to ‘support the hierarchy’ (whatever that means!).

We will teach them that the presence of the other dog makes good things happen and that they will get a treat after their pal. No need to barge in, cause a squabble or lose out!

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It’s more straight forward when the dogs are friendly with one another and haven’t had the opportunity to rehearse a lot of competitiveness.

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This is especially useful in groups of dogs:

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If the dogs have a history of squabbling or competition, work with the dogs on either side of a barrier, for everyone’s safety.

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Your challenge

Now it’s your turn. Show us what you and your pets, of any species, can do with these challenges!

Post to your social media accounts, using the #100daysofenrichment so that we can find you and join our Facebook group to share your experiences, ideas and fun!
You can comment right here too 🙂

We look forward to hearing from you and your pets – have fun & brain games!

 

 

Developing the next generation of animal care, training and beahviour specialists in Ireland.