Cura and I have been together since 2009. We want to thank all of you who followed the early days as well as those who popped back on occasion during the long hiatus. Training was done, the days passed, and we were settling into our life together.
Fast forward: Cura is slowing down and a new member of the family is in training. On top of that, we are all busy with our new calling . . . Running the Training Department for Paws and Stripes. Join us on our journey!

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Top Tips Tuesday: Manners

Most times, when people think about dog training, they think of obedience.  Things like sit and stay.  But there is more to dog training than just getting the dog to perform "tricks" (even if they are practical "tricks, like sit).  After all, your dog is not always going to have someone around to tell it what to do.  Even if you are with your dog, you are not telling it what to do every second of the time you are together.  But you DO expect a certain level of behavior from your dog even if you are not expecting it to follow a particular cue.  Here are some things that help your dog to learn basic manners.

1) Know what proper manners are to you
Just like with training obedience/skills, having a clear idea of what manners you want from your dog is the first step. What are the "house rules" and how will everyone know what is to be rewarded?  It helps if you put this in writing.  Even if it is not a problem behavior in need of fixing, be prepared!  Just because you do not have small children in the home does not mean that you don't have to teach your dog the proper way to interact with a child-what happens when the nieces and nephews come to visit in the holidays?  Make sure your "rules" provide clear guidelines. For example, when greeting a person, my dog must stay in a sit. Not: when greeting a person, my dog must be friendly. (My friendly and your friendly could be very different, so we might reward different behavior and confuse the dog.). Every adult in the household needs to agree with the house rules and be willing to reward appropriate behavior and discourage inappropriate behavior. V

2) Reward calm behavior
If the only time you engage with your dog is when they are excited or behaving badly, you are teaching your dog that excitement and bad behavior is what gets your attention. Naturally, your dog will resort to these things when he wants your attention, because you are (unintentionally) encouraging it. Don't just ignore your pup when he is calmly laying by your side this is a time to reinforce calm behavior. Be careful that your reward does not cause the dog's excitement to rise. If your praise causes your dog to jump up and bounce around the room (or on you) you are defeating the purpose!

3) Reward small improvements
Just like you would reward small successes in behavior training, it is important to reward small improvements in behavior. If your dog loves to chase the cat, only rewarding him for completely ignoring the fluffy moving object will result in a lot of frustration on your part and a looooong learning process for your pups. If your dog stops straining at the end of the leash, but still jumps up and lunges toward the cat when it angers the room, this is an improvement and must be rewarded. Gradually increase the reward criteria and your dog's behavior will improve quickly.

4) Keep your dog BELOW threashhold
Ok, so this is a technical training term for controlling the dog's environment and exposure to manageable levels. If your dog is so wound up that it can't think and is only running on instincts and adrenaline-she is over threashhold. Learning can not take place if the dog is running solely on instincts. They need to be able to think in order to learn. That is why using distance in socialization is so successful-the dog gradually learns proper behavior around a trigger and the trigger is slowly brought closer while always keeping a distance that the dog can handle without losing it. Understanding a dog's boy language is key to this step so either become fluent yourself or contact a good behaviorist in your area to help you. 

5) Be patient
This requires understanding. It will take time to teach your dog proper manners. Even if they come from a home where they were well behaved, you will need to teach him the rules of your household. Remember, you have to set your dog up for success so you MUST fulfill his needs.  A dog can not be clam if you do not provide an outlet for his energy. Nor can he be calm if you do not teach him to be.  Reinforce the behavior you want and you will find spending time with your dog is one if the most pleasant things on earth!