Tag Archives: patience pays

Just be

What ever happened to doing nothing?

I can’t remember what I used to do when there was any sort of lull in the action before I had a smartphone.
Anything other than constant stimulation and I am reaching for my iPhone…

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The movie Bolt struck a cord when I saw it a few years ago.

It’s about a canine star of a TV show, Bolt, who plays a dog with super-powers saving his person Penny from the Green Eyed Man, week in, week out.
Except, that nobody told Bolt it was just a work of fiction and that he isn’t really a super-dog.

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When the cameras stop rolling Bolt is kept in a permanent state of readiness, to fend off attacks by his enemies.

What about pet dogs? 

We certainly invest lots in teaching them to do lots of stuff, to increase their responsiveness, to build their love of learning and interaction.
And we put lots of energy into keeping them active, getting them moving, in the hope that a tired dog is a good dog (but is it?).

When do they get to just be?

‘Just being’ doesn’t necessarily come easily

Pretty much every type of dog was developed for some sort of job and in modern pet-dom most dogs are unemployed.

Our efforts in guiding dogs from wild to pet, whether intentional or not, selected for characteristics such as wariness, reactivity, inquisitiveness, attachment and activity.

Our pets’ lives, just like our’s, continue to become more and more sedentary with us substituting real-life pursuits for those that are easier to participate from a seated position – even sport is a less serious outlet for pretty serious behaviour.

Without outlets for our behaviour, it is channelled somewhere else – I have a Smartphone but what do our dogs have?

Would we know a dog ‘just being’ if we saw one?

It can be tricky to spot a calm, chilled out dog.

With great access to knowledge you might think we have a better handle on canine signalling, but unfortunately our awareness (or lack thereof) is affected by popular media’s interpretation of “calmness”.

Shutdown is not the same as calmness

A dog who is overwhelmed by a situation and can’t use behaviour to escape something they find unpleasant, will often show signs of ‘shutting down’.

This happens because the dog is unable to escape and his requests for relief have gone unheard/unanswered. This is typified by a very still dog – the absence of behaviour is not calmness.

Shut down dogs interact minimally with their environment, their body may be still and tense, if they are moving their posture may be low slung, they will often be frozen, you may see them yawn, lick their lips, and squint and blink (outside of normal contexts for these behaviours).

Eileen Anderson’s clip gives you a run down of some examples, mistaken for calmness:

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Calmness myths and mistakes:

  • The absence of behaviour is not calmness (nor ideal)
  • Stillness because there’s no way out, ain’t calmness
  • Stillness through restraint ain’t calmness
  • Lying down through uncomfortable handling or contact ain’t calmness
  • Compliance because they can’t escape ain’t calmness
  • Compliance due to the application of training equipment or techniques (that the individual finds aversive) ain’t calmness
  • “Settling” due to exhaustion, ain’t calmness (is a tired dog, a good dog?)
  • Less behaviour is not necessarily better than more behaviour
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If you want less behaviour, maybe the one in the middle ain’t for you…

What does a ‘just being’ dog look like?

A chilled dog is loose, breathing deeply, he may still be monitoring the environment but not really on his tip-toes, he may still be responsive but not in an overly enthusiastic way – but the biggest difference?

The chilled out, calm, ‘just being’ dog is choosing to chill, be calm and be.

Back to Eileen Anderson for her ying to the yang clip:

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Teaching a dog to just be

Start by helping your dog to learn that settling, and being calm is excellent!
Check out Week 2 training games from our Train Your Dog Month here.

From ‘excited-by-everything’ to just-be

This dog needs help coming down from the highs, and to better control his swings from up to down.

  • play games with rules:

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  • make play training and training play

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  • play jazz up/settle down

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From ‘let’s go go go’ to just-be

This dog needs help learning that they don’t need to be ‘on’ all the time – good things happen when you’re doing nothing too.

Both in training sessions, and in life, mark and reward doing nothing – even if it’s only a split second – the more you reinforce nothing, the less frantic behaviour you will see.

  • make sure to put behaviours on stimulus control – this means that the dog learns to offer behaviours when you cue them only, rather than as soon as he thinks there might be a reward or he thinks it might be time to work

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  • teach calm-focus exercises rather than laser-focus-on-the-task activities

Week 4 of our Train Your Dog Month program

  • make doing-nothing your new job

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  • take a break/breath

https://aniedireland.wordpress.com/2016/01/16/training-game-2-5/

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Hanging out

When we might only have limited time with a dog, whether that be because we are visiting, working long hours or the dog is in a rescue/kennel environment, of course we want to make the most of our time together.

But, a dog who hasn’t been getting too much human attention will be pretty wound up and anticipatory waiting for it. Sometimes, it’s better just to hang out with them – this gives them the opportunity to calm down, bond and be.

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Just be…a dog

Don’t forget, that before the dog can just be, he must have an outlet to just be a dog too.

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Training Game 4.5

This is our last challenge…make it a good one!

Adding Distractions

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To teach your dog best, keep him successful as possible. That means that if your dog can’t find your face in a particular situation, it’s just too distracting for him.

Distractions will affect your training efforts distractionsin three ways:

  • distance
  • duration
  • intensity

If your dog has trouble focusing it may be because:

  • you are too close to a distraction
  • you may be around the distraction for too long
  • the distraction may be too exciting, interesting, active, scary or conspicuous

For example, your dog may be distracted by another dog when:

  • you are too close to the other dog
  • your dog can watch the other dog for too long
  • the other dog is big, is bouncy, is barking, is making direct eye contact with your dog or maybe even approaching your dog

Keeping your dog successful means that you monitor his ability to focus and be comfortable around distractions.

Asking your dog to focus with distractions

Distance:

Start with distance from potentially distracting situations

How close can you be to a distraction, that your dog can find your face?

A good indication is that if your dog can do the Find my Face exercise, take their reward and then offer another focus, within a 5-count

If there is more of a delay or your dog has difficulty playing the
game at all, you’re too close.

Take a few steps away, and try again.

When your dog can offer 5 repetitions, with a 5-count or less between each one, take a couple of steps closer and build again.

When working on distance:distance

  • work for about 30 seconds to 1 minute
  • practice using distractions that are quiet, still, not facing your dog, not interacting with your dog in any way and are not too conspicuous
Duration:

When your dog is able to play focus games pretty close to distractions, start to build the length of each session.

Build by no more than 30 seconds at a time.

When working on duration:duration

  • practice at your starting working distance – decrease distance again gradually
  • practice using distractions that are quiet, still, not facing your dog, not interacting with your dog in any way and are not too conspicuous
Intensity

Now your dog is able to focus closer to distractions for a little longer – it’s time to increase the intensity of that distraction.

  • play Find my Face around more active distractions

When working on intensity:intensity

  • practice at your starting working distance – increase distance again gradually
  • work for about 30 seconds to 1 minute

 

Combinations

As your dog improves and is able to Find your Face in and around distractions start to decrease distance while at the same time increasing duration or build intensity while decreasing distance.

This will best help you to have your dog responsive and with you in all sorts of situations.

 

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Setting your dog (and you) up for success:

  • Adjust the distance, duration and intensity of exposure to distractions when working on focus exercises according to your dog’s abilities.
  • Use rewards that can compete with the level of distraction you are working on.
  • Keep the lead loose.
  • If your dog vocalises, lunges, jumps up on you and is too easily distracted – give your dog a break.
  • If the situation is too much for your dog, get him outta there!
  • If you haven’t trained for it, you can’t expect it!

 

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!

Week 3 Bonus Challenge

So Week 3 wasn’t tough enough? Let’s add some zen to your recalls!

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Today’s Games

Zen recalls teach your dog to choose you over all the other distractions in the environment – and if he does choose you he is rewarded with access to those very distractions.

Remember, distractions are just rewards that your dog wants but you would prefer he didn’t!

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

Really do keep sessions short on these exercises! The self-control bank account depletes fast and your dog will need some time to recuperate so make sure to give them a good break too.

Family Participation:
This exercise is for adults only!

Once your dog can ace this week’s zen exercises, you can begin to introduce children so that you dog learns some zen with them too.

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 Games:
Make sure to set up the exercise so that your dog is successful.

Remember, if your dog gets stuck, think of ways that you can make it easier for him to succeed and then build again more gradually.

Zen Recalls

Beginner Level Challenge

Use your dog’s favourite toy or rewards in a little bowl.

Practice this game in a quiet place, so indoors or in the garden at quiet times.

It’s handy to have an assistant for this game, to place our distractions, but not essential.

Get set up with your dog on lead. Have the distraction placed at the furthest end of the space in which you work.

Approach the distraction and as soon as your dog notices it, stop and call your dog.

Move backwards, but only use the lead very gently if at all, encouraging your dog to come toward you and move away from the distraction.

As soon as your dog gets to you, say YES! and excitedly bring him over to claim his distraction.

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If your dog has trouble with this, it’s important to make it easier so that we don’t do any damage to his current recall behaviour.

Try this if you dog gets stuck:

  • use a lower value distraction
  • don’t get as close to the distraction before calling
  • use a lower value reward as distraction and a higher value reward to give when your dog recalls:

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Advanced Level Challenges

As your dog progresses, start to add some of these to your training:

  • ask your dog to recall progressively further from the distraction
  • remove your dog’s lead or use a long line instead, so that you can restrain him only in an emergency
  • toss the distraction and ask the dog to recall to you

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  • toss the distraction and ask the dog to carry out obedience behaviours before getting access to the distraction

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Go for it!

Training Game 3.6

Living the Doggie-Zen Life

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Doggie zen is not just for training exercises; any time your dog wants access to something rewarding, have a close look at him…

He might want:

  • sniffing
  • greeting
  • going out
  • coming in
  • lead on
  • lead off
  • dinner
  • attention
  • anything else your dog may want at that moment

Quietly wait for your dog to choose calm & polite behaviour, and then allow him access to the reward.

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This weekend start to apply zen exercises to the situations in which your dog acts impulsively, impatiently or is a little bit demanding.

Zen for stealing from counters:

  • Set up Level 2 zen on a counter that your dog may steal from – except reward with a different, high value food reward than the one on the counter
  • With progress, set up Level 3 zen on the counter – except reward with a different, high value food reward than the one on the counter

Now let’s challenge your training…

  • set up Level 2 zen on the counter
  • take a step away and return
  • reward your zen dog with a different, high value reward than the food on the counter
  • build the number of steps you take away from the counter

To work out of sight you will need to set up a mirror so that you know that your dog is a zen-dog!

Zen for pulling on lead

  • Have your dog on his collar and lead, in the house or garden (low distraction situation)
  • Hold the lead by passing your hand through the loop and gripping below your wrist.
  • Brace yourself as your dog may pull…
  • Toss a food reward out of your dog’s reach.
  • Don’t move, don’t talk to your dog, don’t use your lead – just wait
  • As soon as your dog loosens the pressure on the lead say YES!
  • Bound forward to allow him to get to the tossed treat.

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You can apply this to walking your dog too – pressure on the lead turns the red light on and everything stops. Wait for your dog to relieve the pressure to continue your walk.

Zen for grabbing food or other dropped items off the floor

  • Play Level 2 zen on the floor.
  • After some success drop the treat from a couple of cm off the floor
  • Reward your dog with a different, high value reward than the one that you dropped.
  • With each success, drop the floor another couple of cm but build very gradually.

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Zen for stealing socks, tissues or other stolen items

  • Work through zen levels 1-4 using your dog’s favourite stealables

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It’s up to your dog to choose zen

Teaching your dog to be a zen-dog is about teaching him that he  always has choices.

Your dog can grab that treat during Level 1 or 2 games – he’s quicker and more motivated than you are – but you are showing him that there are other things he can do to get what he wants.

Zen-dogs get the things they like and it’s their choice!

 

Training Game 3.5

Doggie Zen Level 4

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You thought Level 3 was tough? You ain’t seen nothing yet!

Today’s Games

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

Try fitting  each short session into your routine; for example, while you wait for the kettle to boil, during the ad break of your TV show or while you wait for the computer to start up.

Really do keep sessions short on these exercises! The self-control bank account depletes fast and your dog will need some time to recuperate so make sure to give them a good break too.

Family Participation:
This exercise is for adults only!

Top Tip for Today’s Training Games:
Notice that we don’t ask our dog to do anything here at all – no talking!

This is about self-control – we are working on a default here so you never need to ask for polite behaviour when you have things your dog wants – he just does it!

Remember, if your dog gets stuck with any of our exercises this week, think of ways that you can make it easier for him to succeed and then build again more gradually.

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Zen Level 4

Play a little bit of Level 3 first to warm up.

  • when your dog moves back from the container, take one food reward out and place on the floor beside the container
  • (be ready to cover the container and the food on the floor if your dog approaches)
  • pick that food off the floor and put back in the container, feed one food reward from the container to your dog
  • repeat using different combinations of placing food on the floor, putting it back into the container, feeding from the floor and feeding from the container

Really short sessions for this one as it’s very tough!

Check out our compilation of some Level 4 Zen-dogs:

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Dogs of all shapes & sizes, and of all ages & stages can become zen-dogs!

Training Game 3.4

Doggie Zen Level 3

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So yesterday we achieved zen with only one or two treats on the floor, today it’s a whole bowl of treats on the floor…and you thought Level 2 was a challenge!

Today’s Games

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

Try fitting  each short session into your routine; for example, while you wait for the kettle to boil, during the ad break of your TV show or while you wait for the computer to start up.

Really do keep sessions short on these exercises! The self-control bank account depletes fast and your dog will need some time to recuperate so make sure to give them a good break too.

Family Participation:
This exercise is for adults only!

Top Tip for Today’s Training Games:
Notice that we don’t ask our dog to do anything here at all – no talking!

This is about self-control – we are working on a default here so you never need to ask for polite behaviour when you have things your dog wants – he just does it!

Remember, if your dog gets stuck with any of our exercises this week, think of ways that you can make it easier for him to succeed and then build again more gradually.

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Zen Level 3

  • add some food rewards to a small bowl or container (make sure you can cover the container with one hand)
  • begin to lower the container toward the floor, if your dog moves toward the container of food, bring the food back up to your lap or onto a chair or table
  • if your dog offers behaviours from his polite list continue to lower the container until you can get it on the floor
  • if your dog approaches the container cover it with your hand
  • if your dog paws or bites at your hand lift the container up off the floor for a couple of seconds and try to lower gradually again
  • cover the container until your dog shows at least one behaviour from your polite list
  • once uncovered, if your dog stays back from the container of food offer him a food reward

Work on this one until your dog can stay back off the container full of treats!

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