Ask Inger: How Do You Re-Train A Dog Who’s Developed Selective Hearing?

Hi Inger,

I rescued my dog, Milo, 4 1/2 years ago when he was about 8 months old.  We immediately signed up for puppy obedience school.  He passed with flying colors.  He is a mix of border collie/lab and I think pit, but our first vet said no.  Anyway, as he entered his “teen” years (1 year 6 mos to 2 1/2) he became a terror on leash.  VERY protective.  I hired a private trainer and we did a lot of one on one to help him stay relaxed. 

Fast forward and he’s now 5 1/2.  He knows all his commands–knows them even better when I have treats.  He knows the click and treat perfectly.  He’ll come on command in our yard. Click, treat.  He’ll sit, stay and come, click treat.  When I throw the ball with our Chuck It, he gets the ball and runs to the top of the deck and completely ignores any command I give him.  I can’t get him to just come back to me with the ball let alone drop it.

He’ll only drop a toy in his mouth if you have a treat.  He loves to play, but he likes to play keep away and then tug of war.
What do we do?!  I tried going back to simple commands again and he knows them, but the second that ball comes into play or another toy inside…all commands go out the window!
HELP!!
Thanks,
Rachel from Massachusetts
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Hi Rachel,
Great question, I have to say that Milo is a beautiful boy! Wonderful that you rescued him and good job on training him plus working through his kinks for the first 5 years! After reading your question I think for now, chuck the “chuck it.” A new pattern needs to be established.  I’ll give you a few tips to regain Milo’s selective hearing.Okay, first, I’ll explain the some issue’s that stuck out for me and then give you a few exercises to try.
Clicker training is great for certain breeds and for sure creates “the special effect” of a learned trick. What I mean by effect is that it’s reward based, reward meaning treat for the trick. Lifestyle type issues like stay at the front door with guests requires a different on leash approach in creating the trust and bond between a dog and owner. Once learned “off leash commands hold with distractions a bit better then with clicker training. But that’s another topic.
Eye contact and a personal bond gets formed by leash training and verbal rewards, than with treat exclusive methods. Remember, you can show love and “positive” reinforcement  in many different ways.. voice, touch, eye contact, and oh, yes food. I’m babbling on about this because one thing is missing in clicker training and that’s eye contact and voice inflection. The focus goes on the reward of the treat not the eye contact, gestures or the owners praise. The dog is looking at the treat not the person or any hand signal. I’m not saying clicker training is bad, only that sometimes it’s limited and in your case not working.
Change the focus
The leash and the game follow the leader around the house helps to create eye contact and enables your voice to become task and the praise, not just a treat.
The leash helps create eye contact between the two of you. Isolating this process in your house helps you both succeed. Try the simple exercise of walking around the house while on a leash and occasionally stop and gently lift up on the leash and say sit. You’ll see he will glance up at you. Dogs are pack animals and LOVE follow the leader. I know it may sound stupid and boring but try it for 5 minutes a few times a week.  Use a flat nylon 6 ft nylon or leather leash not the retractable kind.
No more tricks
Tug of war and chase are never good games. Even if you’re just trying to get the ball, toy or shoe from your dog, luring or begging just creates more of a keep-a-way game going.
Prey drive is what makes a dog fetch. That translates to chase and catch and you want that instinct to be ball exclusive. So create a drive to bring the ball back! Use only one ball. That ball is a special fetch ball. It ONLY comes out during fetch! When the game is over it goes into a special drawer.
Use a treat more effectively
Start over, re-teach the game of fetch. Use that “fetch only” ball and begin the re-teach with following a few new steps. Get a treat but put it into your back pocket. Create a structure with a beginning, middle and end theme. Begin slowly, the first day of re-doing this game do so indoors. Begin with bouncing the ball to get him interested and say sit. No treat or clicker, use the ball as the focus. Say the word o.k and toss the ball, as soon as you do, crouch down and clap your hands and praise! As Milo begins to come towards you reach into your back pocket get the treat in your right hand, suddenly stand up and gesture the letter “J” with your hand (holding the treat under your thunb) and say sit. Gesturing the letter “J” is the hand signal to sit. Then say “watch me” holding the treat near your eye for a second,  he’ll spit out the ball as you give him the treat. Remember hand him the treat with your right hand and pick up the ball with your left. This pattern will get a new flow going with the game of fetch.
Dogs are smart and stimulated by motion. So be a little smarter. Use the movement of suddenly standing up combined with  the motion of the hand signal for the command sit. This will capture his attention. Eventually the hand signal (alone) will take the place of the treat and you wont have to crouch down.
Now the key to success is to toss the ball once, the first day. Only once then put the ball away. The next day, toss it twice, third day and so on. This process will build drive and interest, once he’s in the groove of fetching you can take the game outdoors. Before long you’ll have a ball-o-holic that LOVES to bring back the ball.

Paws For A Minute® Mutt-rimony

Sure, you can try to teach me the first year, but I got you trained for the the next 16…

Is Your Dog Friendly With Strangers?

I thought I’d right about this topic in honor of the up coming holiday of Halloween. The scary surprise of a “Boo” in the form of a sudden snap may come from your dog being unpredictable, if you’re not prepared or take precautions. By the way, during Halloween I think the best tip is to exercise your dog in advance  and gate your dog in a bedroom or a safe area with music, way before the tricker treaters start ringing. It’s not worth anyone getting scared or hurt.

Costumes or not,  people wanting to say hello to a shy dog can make some dog owners nervous. Often people who are unsure look to their dog to indicate friendliness. Don’t. Many people leave too much up to the dog. They think, oh, he likes that person, phew! Many owners who’s dog may indicate territorial behavior like barking excessively or growling at a guest can over time become really insecure and hold their breath but never make attempts to resolve the growing issue. Crossing your fingers that a bite won’t happen, isn’t the answer. This blog is really about prevention and dog owner awareness.

Dogs wag their tails right? Well sometimes an (at home) friendly dog can feel insecure when a new person approaches. Especially if that dog has not been socialized in puppyhood to sounds, people, streets or trained.  The problem can slowly begin to escalate. Some dogs can learn to be plain bossy about who comes into THEIR home. Often these bossy barks can go uncorrected or redirected by the owner and the problem escalates even more over the years. When in truth, your dog is always looking to you to redirect and show him how to say hello. People can give off subtle misunderstandings to  by tightening up the leash or not correcting their dog who’s apprehensive about the person approaching. In general, if you’re unsure of your dogs behavior this insecurity from you can create a tension and body language that can lead to actually creating a fearful dog. This subtle reaction of insecurity (about how your dog will react) is a projection that can often mirror the same potential fear back at your dog. Making the unpredictability worse.

The “unsure” dog owner end’s up freezing up and hoping that their dog (albeit loving to them) doesn’t snap at the person approaching. Body language can sometimes become a self fulfilling prophecy in dog training.

Tensing up sends a signal (down the to the other end of the leash) that there’s apprehension on your part which certainly doesn’t help an already nervous dog to feel self assured. In dog training, body language and voice inflection matter a lot! Sending the right signals to your dog will help socialize him to greet new people with joy.

If you own a small toy breed dog who’s shy with new people don’t introduce your dog when holding it. Put your pup on the ground. Having your dog on a leash helps create eye contact from your dog to you and not the person approaching, then redirect your dog to sit. The same goes for larger dogs.

Here are some helpful tips. The following advice is only intended for pups  learning to greet strangers and guests that have no prior behavioral issues or aggression.

1. Have a treat in your pocket to give to the person wanting to greet your dog. As your dog to sit and hand the person the treat.

2. If you feel your dog is NOT going to do well with the person approaching then simply say to the person approaching that  you and your dog are in training and pass on the interaction all together.

3. It’s best to have your dog on a leash and ask your dog to sit, always use a happy voice. Talk to the person approaching. Often apprehension creates silents and your dog senses something strange.

4. Crouch down next to your dog holding his collar and the leash. Most dogs without severe issue’s feel more relaxed with you crouching next to them, even scratching their chest. Your dog should be on your left with your left hand on their collar and right hand rubbing your dogs chest. This helps indicate assurance. Also your right there in control if something where to happen. Most dogs just want to smell the person’s hand and the treat helps socialize the interaction into a positive thing. Talking to the person approaching in a happy voice helps everyone relax too. If you just stand next to your dog and don’t speak holding the leash tightly it sends an odd signal that may created a sudden reaction.

5. Teach your dog  basic commands on a leash. Training creates a great foundation for you and your dog as to how you communicate and about what. It also replaces the nervous babble that sometimes happens because you can replace it with praise of doing a command. Many times people start repeating good boy nervously trying to indicate to their dog to be good (when they’re actually not sure what’s going to happen) as a the strange person is running at them to  hello to their dog. Guiding your dog to sit, giving the person a treat to hand to the dog first, then guiding your dog to sit gives you steps to assure your dog you have it all under control and a person saying hello is a good thing!

6. Varying your dogs routine, upping the amount of regular walks, leash training and again the more exercise the better! All will  help get you and your pup on the road to being well socialized and create trust.

If your dog has ever displayed severe aggression or fear towards any person or has bitten anyone, you must seek an in-home professional trainer immediately. Do not attempt to resolve such issues on your own.  Ask your local vet for referrals. 

Coolest Dog Sweaters

The latest Fall Collection of Chilly Dog sweaters are in and not just for the little pup.

This fashion forward fido wear is happening in many colors, argyles, and animal hoodies and scarfs.

Available all over the web and in many stores. To check out their complete collection before googling your favorite go to: www.chillydogsweaters.com to view their wholesale collection. 

 

 

 

Their sizing ranges to fit a tea cup dog to a Great Dane.

Fantastic for short haired breeds and senior pups too! Gotta love it.

 

 

Dog Nipping, Biting And Gnawing On Your Last Nerve

My boyfriend and I just got a Siberian Husky puppy named Frye. He’s almost 9 months old and we’ve had him for 2 months prior. Up until now, he has been well-behaved, but recently he has started biting when he gets excited. At first, the bites were far a part and soft, but lately they’ve become more frequent and have started to hurt. We have tried various ways to discourage this behavior, such as giving him more toys to focus his attention on or giving him chew toys whenever he starts to bite, to channel the behavior. So far, nothing seems to work. It’s getting to the point where we’re afraid that he might hurt others. Frye is very well socialized when it comes to other dogs, but we live in a residential area where there are a lot of children. Our main concern is that when others try to play with him, he might get over excited and bite them. We love our dog and we want to improve for his sake. What can we do to nip this behavior completely?

Danni and George.

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Hi Danni and George,

Thanks for the great question! Okay, I totally understand. Many people with teenage pup’s often feel the urge to pass out body gear with helmets to all guests wanting to say hello to their now BIG puppy. The behavior you’re describing is obnoxious for sure and yet solvable! Redirecting such behavior means creating a little structure within your daily routine, reassessing chew toys, re-organizing how your dog gets exercise, and where,when and how you play with him.

The solution to this issue lies more with you understanding how to redirect this behavior, where to apply structure and when to initiate play and how to still make things fun.

Here are some my Paws For A Minute® Dog Training Tips

1. Apply structured exercise times and separate them from walks.

Lots of people walk their dogs and play with them without intent. They can often mix up concepts of play while walking for exercise that in turn accelerate hyper behaviors. Where, how and when you play with your dog create reactions and sets triggers.

Example: Try isolating extreme exercise prior to socialization with people and guests. In other words,  play turbo fetch first, then go on a walk.  Teaching your dog to play fetch is an awesome way to keep hyper activity targeted on the movement of a ball. The key to keeping a dogs interest is only use on special ball that comes out ONLY for fetch. Build slowly to the amount of throws daily.

2. Do a re-check of his chew toys.

Example: 90% of the time puppy parents have zillions of toys for their dogs but have a distinction between play toys and actually chew bones. If a toy is lying on the ground or in the yard, overtime it becomes boring. Dogs of a certain age need to chew, not just play. Mouthy behaviors can come from frustration and ill-timed activities. Play is often induced by movement and voice inflection and a chew toy may be tossed, but the activity of your dog actually chewing on it gets lost. Many people end up playing with their dogs with chew toys and boredom of the toy sets in quickly. The act of chewing on something needs to be isolated for your puppy by creating a “chew your chew bone” time! Perhaps in a baby gated area, while you are home. This creates an activity for a young teenage dog. Chewing a bully stick, for example, will also help tire him out and give him something to focus on that’s not a toy.

3. Redirect a positive obedience command to greet new people. 

Example: Redirection can mean introducing your dog to new people while on a leash, only as an exercise for a few weeks. The leash helps you guide your dog into a sit and then a stay while being introduced to new people. If he breaks the stay command to jump up the leash can act as a boundary and allow you to say No then quickly reinforce a sit and the positive in what you want out of his behavior. Or practice with people approaching him to do so with a treat. Have them direct your dog to sit and then give him the cookie!

Change will happen overtime. Try all three tips for a few weeks and keep us posted!