Tag Archives: management

Barking (driving you) Mad

Pretty much all dogs bark but demand or attention seeking barking has the potential to drive you mad, and we have had a run of cases involving demand barking , driving owners mad.

There are lots of different reasons for a dog barking, and certainly excessive barking or changes to barking behaviour (increases or decreases, for example) may even indicate an underlying medical causes so a vet visit is a good idea.

To solve problem behaviours, we need to know what the behaviour is, when the behaviour happens and why the dog does it. (you can apply this to any behaviour, not just demand barking)

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What is demand barking?

Demand barking is usually directed at you or the thing the dog wants e.g. the ball that’s rolled under the sofa.

The demand barker may make direct eye contact with you, may bounce toward you, may throw their head back and may even follow you to get their point across.

Balto shows you how it’s done:

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In that clip, we were coming to the end of our session and he had worked hard at self-control, so he’s a little depleted. We have also just started to work on some lead handling and this has raised his excitement level.

By taking a break in the constant stream of opportunities to earn rewards to talk, Balto becomes frustrated and wants the game to continue.

When does your dog do it?

Look carefully at what’s happening just before and while your dog barks at you.

Whens often include:

  • you have food, whether you are eating or it’s food for the dog
  • you have a dog toy
  • there is a toy available or the dog knows where it is
  • you are preparing food, for you or your dog
  • you are on the phone or having a conversation
  • you are busy and otherwise engaged
  • you are relaxing

Sound familiar?

Why does your dog do it?

Dogs do what works – they are very efficient at learning how to get things they like, and avoid things they don’t like.

There’s a hint in the label for this barking…attention-seeking…

Your dog has trained you – they bark and you give them what they want. Don’t take it personally – dogs do what works and there’s no more significance than that.

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These barkers become the centre of attention when they bark, whether they get good things or are told off, it’s all rewarding for this barker.

Whys might include:

  • eye contact
  • smiling
  • talking to the dog, even telling them off
  • giving the dog the food or toy they want
  • allowing the dog gain access to the thing they want

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Why does your dog still do it?

Even though you might have tried ignoring your demand barking dog, he still shouts at you.
Attention seeking behaviour will often present like this, as very resistant to efforts at withdrawing the reward. This is likely because this behaviour works best in extinction burst.

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Extinction is not just for dinosaurs

Extinction happens when we break the associations between the when and why and demand barking. Extinction means preventing the dog barking at the when and stopping him gaining access to the why.

When extinguishing barking the dog learns that there is no point barking at the when, because the why is no longer available.

So this sounds easy, right? Just ignore the barking, don’t give in, extinguish that behaviour…

But, and this is what’s driving you crazy, before we get extinction we get extinction bursts.

Extinction bursts are not just for dogs; this clip shows some examples of behaviours you might recognise:

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Problems with extinction: extinction bursts

If you have been rewarding demand barking behaviour and one day decide no more, your dog may bark a little more persistently to gain your attention (hey, what’s wrong?! this usually works!) and when this doesn’t work he barks a little more, maybe louder, maybe he jumps a little bit more too.
All in all, the behaviour gets bigger, just in case you missed it…

The problem is that you are only human and this burst of activity may push you to the edge and you give in. Now, your dog has a whole new bigger and better barking behaviour to get what he wants.

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Problems with extinction: intermittent reinforcement

If you have been rewarding barking now and then your dog may not notice at first that you have decided that today is the day for ending this behaviour.

This dog will try even harder and be a more persistent extinction burst-er.

Problems with extinction: spontaneous recovery 

Extinction bursts may lead to eventual extinction of the demand barking behaviour but before that the behaviour will go through cycles of bursts and recovery…yep, the behaviour comes back before going through another burst and another recovery, over and over.

This is really difficult to maintain and live with, so we give in and we get even bigger bursts of demand barking.

Problems with extinction bursts: frustration

Not getting the reward he expects may cause your dog to experience high levels of frustration. This can be especially relevant when we are talking about behaviour that is often arousing (exciting) so your dog may be too wound up and lose some control.

Frustration is experienced as an aversive, so may cause the dog distress. This can be associated with other things in the situation too, further damaging relationships.

And frustration can drive aggressive responses, causing the dog to redirect his frustration onto you, other people or animals present or even things around him.

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Extinction doesn’t sound so hot anymore, huh..? 

Just ignoring unwanted behaviour (as is often recommended) is not good enough, easy, safe or effective so for peace and quiet we need to develop a better program.

Achieving Peace & Quiet

Once we know the whens and the whys, we can being to build a program to reduce demand barking and bring back some peace and quiet.

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1. An ounce of prevention…

List the whens in which demand barking is likely.

Prevent your dog practicing attention-seeking barking – practice makes perfect and your dog is already pretty good at demand barking!

Before they start, give your dog something else to do, ideally something that makes demand barking at you difficult.

Ideas might include:

  • move to another room
  • set the dog up with a yummy stuffed, frozen food dispensing toy
  • park your dog with a yummy Kong toy
  • throw the ball before they bark
  • use two balls so he almost always has one ball in his mouth
  • set up some sniffing challenges in another room or in the garden
  • move toys to areas that dogs don’t have access e.g. the bathroom
  • don’t give the dog toys at source, where you store them

2. Remove rewards

List the whys that drives your dog’s demand barking behaviour.

Prevention might not work every time, especially early on when you are trying to establish the program.

No more eye contact, no more talking to him, no more giving him the ball…turn your back, step away, sing a little song to yourself, put the ball away.

A little bit of extinction can be applied, where we are working hard on all the other areas too.

3. Redirection

Barking is still going to happen. You are human. Your dog is a dog.

When it happens, stop the interaction, go still and don’t reward. Step or turn away if you need to. Wait for the silence…

When they stop, count to three before redirecting their behaviour. This might mean that you resume the interaction, or you ask for another behaviour.

Reward with attention, food rewards, toys or access to good things.

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4. Make quiet MORE rewarding

Make a training mix with your dog’s regular food:

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Have a little bowl/s of your dog’s training mix in places that you and your hang out – there should be at least ten rewards available.

Your dog isn’t barking all the time.

Reward your dog at least ten times for quiet over the day. Use all those food rewards, and restock if you need to.

5. Change the motivation

An attention seeking dog wants and needs something from you, as annoying as their chosen method of communicating that need is.

Teach your dog how to train you to give him access to things he wants without having to bark or be obnoxious.

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Work on default sits:

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You can work on default downs too, any behaviour that makes barking a little more difficult and giving attention easier.

By practicing throughout the day your dog is being rewarded more and more for quiet too.

6. Interrupt barking

We don’t really want to stop our dogs barking altogether but do want to be able to control it a little better.

You can teach an interruption cue, that may be applied to different unwanted behaviours including barking.

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Or we can teach a Shush! cue that is eventually applied to barking behaviour, after some practice:

Sssshhh! means search the floor for yummies:

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7. Work on underlying factors too

Demand barking can be a sign telling us that the dog doesn’t have enough to occupy himself, that he doens’t tolerate frustration well and that he doesn’t calm himself too well either.

 

And then bask in the peace and quiet…

This week, at AniEd

Another week almost over, and we are not even back to full service yet!! 2016 is going to be our biggest year yet 🙂

Puppy Party!

We work with the dog-rescue charity, A Dog’s Life (check out their Facebook page and website) to help support their work in making sure their dogs get the best training and behaviour support.

Unusually, A Dog’s Life has a lot of puppies in their care at the moment so that’s a great excuse for us to hold a puppy party in our new place #puppybreath !!

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Holly, Rudi, Gertie, Hope, Macy and Toby, along with their awesome fosters came along for fun and brain games.

Hope, Macy and Toby are from the same litter so it’s good for them to be exposed to other puppies and to spend some time apart from one another too.

Check out Rudi meeting all the black & white puppies:

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In good news, Rudi has found his new awesome forever home!And home checks are in process for Macy and Gertie so fingers and paws crossed!

We set up a confidence course behind a barrier so that the puppies couldn’t get into any mischief.

Confidence courses help to expose puppies to odd, novel and out of context items and situations in a safe environment so that we can help them learn to cope with stress and develop resilience.

Puppies learn that they can investigate new, weird and even scary things without any pressure, in their own time and they can direct the interaction, with the choice to move away built in. This is confidence building and essential for puppies.

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Weird items, things out of context, new substrates, different textures and surfaces, new noises and moving things – all make for a great puppy confidence course!

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And after some playtime, exploration & investigation, we had some downtime – because learning to settle is one of the most important skills we can teach puppies and dogs.

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Looking after puppies, to make sure to give them the best start requires lots of knowledge, so while we parked our puppies the grown-ups discussed all things puppy:

  • puppy development – what’s happening to puppies of different ages and what we can do to support their behavioural development
  • management – how we prevent all that puppy behaviour from ever becoming problem behaviour
    We looked at toilet training, chewing & destruction, biting & nipping, resource guarding, handling and self-settling.
    One of the best ways to manage puppy behaviour and to set puppy (and pet owner) up for success is crate training, so we had some crate manners practice too:

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  • lots of enrichment & entertainment – NO food bowls here!!
  • small challenges, everyday – cognitive, physical, sensory
  • well controlled social contact with other dogs, people of different types and even other species
  • confinement and alone training
  • careful exposure to novel and varied experiences
  • lots and lots of passive training – catch your puppy doing the right thing!

What we do now with puppies is having an impact on their behaviour over the remainder of their life; and these fosters have the added challenge of making sure that their puppies become adoptable, successful companions – no pressure then!

We practiced lots of exercises too:

  • supervising and managing puppy play and interactions
  • how to provide physical, cognitive and sensory challenges easily at home
  • how to park your puppy and teach settling
  • handling exercises:

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Sometimes puppies will need a little extra help in developing comfort with handling, so we take our time and build the challenge a little more gradually:

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  • use your hand like a Kong toy – helps with nipping, self-control and polite greetings:

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  • Follow Me! – teach puppy to follow you and love it, without a leash on first so that when you put the leash on puppy has no reason to pull!

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It’s no wonder all the puppies were pooped after all that!

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Awesome Pets & their People

This week we mainly had follow-up appointments with dogs and their families already working through programs, coming back to adjust the plan we have built together, to build on progress and to keep motivation up!

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Harley came for a second follow-up as his people work through the program we have built together to help improve this little chap’s self-control, focus and coping abilities. He’s a super smart fella!

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We were out and about with Shiloh for a third follow-up in the wind and rain (normal Irish weather!) to help her learn how to better cope with some specific fearful responses. Despite us all getting a bit bedraggled, Shiloh and her mum make an awesome team!

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Shy girl Roxy came for her first follow-up – she and her people are rocking our program to help her confidence develop. She is becoming a cheeky little one!

Despite being scared of the mat at first, soon she was able to lie on it comfortably. Her dad helped by giving some support (sitting beside it neutrally) but Roxy was soon able to interact and lie on the mat with shaping, lots of choice and salami!

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Lottie came for a visit too and we did some dog-dog comfort work. Lottie and her person did some awesome training, never allowing Lottie to become uncomfortable, always able to work and really closing the gap with our stooge dog (Decker)!

After we did some training work, Lottie worked on a puzzle – getting her dinner out of a plastic milk jug.
This will help her deal with any stress experienced during our training, get her brain working in a different way and keep her busy:

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And Lucy Basset popped into say Hi!, check the place out, have a game with Decker and pick up a crate for her new foster brother Mason, who she will be helping to become a great adoptable pet!

People Training

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We are celebrating because our CBTT3 group all completed their full course successfully! Yay!!!

They have completed 15 units at first-year degree level, battled with an enormous workload and still love dogs, training and behaviour at the end of it all.

Now the really hard work starts as they build their careers as fully fledged Canine Training & Behaviour Technicians, with our continued support.

We are beyond proud of all that they have achieved as they embark on becoming excellent dog pros!

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And our trusty pack of Labs, Bassets, Rotties, Yorkies, JRTs and Beagles (don’t worry, they are all well-behaved teddies!) are very tolerant models helping lots of learners become Canine First Responders.

AniEd Dogs

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Zack wrapped up – t’was cold this week!
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Boomer poses with honourary AniEd dog, Dilis

And Decker…

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Lots more to come with a busy weekend ahead and another week of doggy adventures!

Training Game 4.4

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Environmental cues for focus

Teaching your dog that him seeing certain stimuli (might be other dogs, people, distractions or specific situations) mean to focus on you is a real training shortcut – that means that as soon as your dog sees one of these things he immediately looks at you, gets into focus mode, and all you need to do is to reward him!

Today’s Games

Time Allowance:
Practice for 1-2 minute sessions and then take a break. Have a few  sessions today and tomorrow.

Family Participation:
Kids are often great dog trainers. Teach each child how to play this game safely – have your child sit in a chair to practice.

If your dog is mouthy,  jumpy or likely to get over-excited it might be best for you to get the behaviours established and then bring in the kids to help with practice.
Always supervise child-dog interactions and make sure children learn to leave the dog alone when eating his rewards.

Top Tip for Today’s Training Game:
Start working on these games in really low distraction situations. What really gets your dog distracted or excited?
Might be other dogs, passing people, squirrels or interesting smells.
Well, don’t start working around those until you can ace these games in other situations first.

You will need:

  • Training Mix
  • stuff for walkies i.e. leash, collar and so on

Beginner Level Games

Passive Focus

Start this exercise by practicing some Find My Face! in a low distraction situation – this might be on a quieter street area, in a quiet spot out on your walk or in the garden.

Allow your dog to pick out things in the environment and just let them observe…

Wait for your dog to choose to find your face; YES! and reward. Repeat.

Practice this game of passive focus in mildly distracting situations.

Check out Bailey practicing some passive focus in a mildly distracting carpark, with people, vehicles, noises and sniffing to distract her:

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Note that we don’t ask her to check back in, instead just wait – lazy dog training!

Advanced Level Games

Door manners – focus at doors

Getting to, through and out doors is generally met with lots of excitement and enthusiasm in dogs – it’s just so rewarding on the other side!

Teaching your dog to be calm, patient and focused on you at doorways will not only make life easier but potentially safer too.

Without even asking him, we can teach your dog to automatically find your face inside, through and outside each door!

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Another tough plan done!

TYDM 2016 Week 4

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Week 4 – Fine-tune Focus

Calm, happy, focus is so often our training-dream; a dog who will respond even when there are distractions and who enjoys working in partnership with his person, in all sorts of situations.

We can achieve calm, happy focus in distracting situations with careful training.

By teaching your dog to focus in lower distraction situations we can continue to build on this success by carefully introducing slightly greater distraction levels in increments.

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Disclaimer:  this video was made for demonstration purposes only; Decker or any dog did not suffer any distress during or after this work – please don’t worry!
In response to trainers who show similar scenes with their dogs wearing training collars, shock collars or training equipment, this is a dog who has been worked and trained with rewards-based training – there are no training tools or treats or toys used here at all showing that dogs trained this way can work in very distracting situations, without ‘cookies’ and through choice.

What do I need for week 4?

  • Training Mix, toys or other reward
  • your dog’s collar and leash
  • Kong toys or similar for pacifying

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Week 4 Training Games

  • Find my Face
  • LOOK!
  • Go be a dog!
  • Environmental cues for focus
  • Adding and building distractions

What’s my dog learning?

  • focusing on my person is very rewarding
  • I learn that to access distractions, I can check in with my person first
  • I can check in with my person even though I would really like to sniff, run around and explore and I can wait to access the things I want.
  • My self-control is developing – I can’t have all the things I want, when I want them.
  • Passing in or out of a door is a cue to check in with my person and wait patiently.
  • Learning to stop and check in with my person will keep me safer.

Of course calm, happy focus doesn’t need to be a training dream – it can be a training reality.

You can download a more printer friendly, but abbreviated version of this week’s exercises here.

Pay the Dog

 

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So you’ve seen how much your dog wants to, needs to and enjoys working for his food with last week’s games – think of all the behaviours he has had to carry out to earn his keep…

Just like people, dogs don’t work for free and if we want them to do behaviours for us, we gotta make it worth their while.

Because some behaviours can be trickier than others, the rate we pay will also need to vary appropriately.

Here Jean Donaldson discusses motivation in dog training:

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Lower value rewards work best for easier behaviours and higher value rewards work best for harder behaviours.

Is it just about food rewards?

Nope, it’s about motivation!

We want our dogs to want to carry out the behaviours we want them to do – to achieve that we need to work out what motivates them, and then teach them how to get those things.

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By teaching our dog to be a good human-trainer, they will learn to carry out behaviours that cause us to release motivators.

Dogs do what works!

Food rewards are handy because…
  • your dog has to eat – that’s why teaching your dog to work for his regular food is so valuable
  • animals will readily carry out behaviour that earns them food – all animals are biologically motivated by food (if a dog isn’t eating there may be something else going on…)
  • food rewards that are small enough are quick rewards allowing you to practice another repetition quickly – this allows dogs to learn most effectively
  • anticipation of food rewards causes the release of pleasant feelings in the brain
  • seeking out food is incompatible with feelings of fear, anxiety or panic

Following our program will help you to use food rewards in training most effectively; more here too:

How to train a dog with food rewards

Training dogs with food

Beyond food rewards

Motivators come in all shapes and sizes, and are often individual to each dog and sometimes to breeds or types of dog.

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Anything your dog likes access to or likes to escape from can reward their behaviour.
Out of these things, ones that you can control are most useful in training.

Make a list of the things that your dog likes.
This might include certain foods, toys, activities, praise & attention, other individuals or places such as:

  • eating
  • playing
  • tugging
  • fetching
  • sniffing
  • swimming
  • splashing
  • rolling
  • meeting
  • greeting
  • humping
  • barking
  • chasing

Grade the value of the rewards in your list. This way you will have a better idea of higher or lower value rewards that your dog will work for.

It’s often best to use the lowest value rewards that your dog will work for in a given scenario – keep your big guns for when the going really gets tough!

Think of rewarding your dog as a quid-pro-quo deal – “you do this behaviour for me, and I will give you access to the things you like!”

Competition

I am sure you have noticed that sometimes your dog isn’t interested in the things you have to offer…distractions will compete for your dog’s behaviour, making training harder.

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Distractions might include:

  • eating
  • playing
  • tugging
  • fetching
  • sniffing
  • swimming
  • splashing
  • rolling
  • meeting
  • greeting
  • humping
  • barking
  • chasing

Notice anything…?

Distractions are just rewards that your dog wants more than whatever you have to offer, right now.

Make another list:

  • what is your dog distracted by?
  • what would your dog rather be doing when you would like him to do something else?

Just as you did with your rewards list, grade these distractions – just how distracting are they?

Now you have lists that allow you to balance rewards and distractions. Something high on the distraction end of the list will require rewards high on the rewarding end too!

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What do your dog’s lists look like?