When training a dog, I find that giving SMALL treats as a reward for proper responses speeds the learning process and makes the session far more enjoyable for the dog and for myself. But what do you do when you have a dog that is so eager to get that treat that she’ll take your thumb and finger with the treat if you hold it between them? Here’s my Trick for Treats:
When a dog is gentle about taking treats, this is not an issue — like Ugg:
When giving larger treats (not training treats) presenting them sideways to the dog helps prevent the dog from taking your hand along with the treat:
When NOT to use treats in training
When I first start training a dog that has been living on the streets for a while, I don’t use treats at all. These dogs are often so food-centric that as soon as they discover I’m carrying food they will do anything — including knocking me over and tearing open the pocket or pouch — to get it. They have no idea about doing what I want them to do to get the food doled out to them a morsel at a time. They want the food, they want all of it, they want it NOW. That can be dangerous.
So instead I reward these dogs’ good behavior with head scratches and neck rubs. And that may take some work too. Dogs that have been abused or neglected for a long time are not accustomed to being touched except in violence and will be skittish about it. Be patient. Take it slow. Earn his trust.
Use a soft voice, and stay as low as possible so you are not towering over the dog. That’s intimidating to them. Also avoid staring at her eyes: her instincts tell her this is a challenge and hostility.
Once he’s adjusted to the idea that touching is pleasant, petting will serve as reward enough until you’ve gained enough respect that he will trust you to give out the food treats as they are earned.
We’ve taken in two new pack members this week, and are planning another facilities upgrade.
I picked up Low Rider on Tuesday. She went straight into a crate in my workshop for several reasons.
- She was infested with fleas. We work hard to keep fleas out of our home, so that has to be dealt with before she can come anywhere near our other dogs.
- She is fearful. She’s obviously been abused and is frightened of new people, insects, falling leaves, and the outdoors in general. But not dogs: she ran right up to Ugg and Lady and said howdy to each. She’s only comfortable in a crate and prefers a quiet environment to herself. The workshop is perfect now that it’s not so hot every day. I can run my big turbo fan in front of a window and keep it tolerable in there.
- She would not walk on a leash. If used with a collar, she’d drop and gator-roll trying to get away from it. A harness works better, but it has to be removed when she goes back into her crate or she’ll chew it up. We lost a $30 Walk-Rite harness learning that lesson. The next smallest harness I had was a poor fit, but it served the purpose while I ordered more harnesses.
Blue is a terrier mix. As such he is naturally excitable and energetic. Blue was found as a starving stray, so he most likely was deprived of attention as well as food. As a result, he can be overly enthusiastic, even demanding, in his response to people who offer to interact with him. Telling him, “No” does no good. What can we do to redirect him from accosting his handler? Try this.
Blue is still young. As he matures he will settle down some. Once he get settled into a permanent home he will become more confident about his relationship with his People. He IS a terrier, so we cannot expect him to ever be as calm and laid back as a Basset, but he will learn better behavior.
My task with him is to help him learn to restrain the urge to jump on and nip at me as a way of expressing his pleasure at seeing me. Once we get him past that, he will be adoptable and will make someone a happy, fun-filled little companion.
For more about Blue, visit his page.
Both Ugg and Blue have been here for just over a week: Ugg for 8 days today, Blue for 10 days. Both came in with behavior issues. Ugg is a 70 pound Great Dane who still thinks he’s a 10 pound puppy. Blue is excitable too, but his major issue is jealousy and possessiveness.
Blue has been exhibiting this when I had the both of them in the yard at the same time. If Blue has a toy and Ugg comes to see what he has – not even trying to take it, just curious, Blue gets snarly and snappy with him. Same if I’m petting Blue and Ugg comes over. If I’m petting Ugg, Blue will come in and try to push Ugg – who is twice his size – out of the way and take over the affection fest.
It’s interesting that when they’re in their kennels, food and toys don’t seem to cause any issues. In fact I often find Blue’s toys in Ugg’s room, and the only way they could get there is if Blue is placing or holding them within Ugg’s reach.
When Blue acts out, it earns him an immediate and swift trip back to his kennel, where he stays for the rest of the play period, watching me play with Ugg. Lately I’ve been making sure the toys are put up before every joint play time. I’ve been working on getting Blue to take turns for my affection. He’s made strides in the past two days, and nearly every play session is now a joint session. That’s good because they both get doubled time in the yard this way.
Blue had found a yard bone and brought it with him. He wasn’t chewing on it, just sort of sitting on it.
I took a picture of them being good with my phone. My Handycam is out of commission right now. The phone makes a simulated shutter noise when it snaps a picture, and Blue hopped up to come over and see what that noise was. He left his bone behind.
Ugg reached over and snatched the bone.
When Blue went back to his place, the bone was missing and he started sniffing all around, looking for it, “My bone, my bone – where did my bone go?”
“Hey! Is that MY bone you’re chewing on.”
“Nah, I found this just laying around.”
“So, where’s MY bone?”
“That IS my bone. You stole my bone!”
“Nuh-uh. I found it. You didn’t have it, it was just laying there.”
Then Blue did something that really surprised me …
WHAT A GOOD BOY!
I’m so proud of Little Boy Blue! That is a major step for him.
He got extra treats when it was time to go back to his room.
Ugg and Blue got their baths and nail trimming this afternoon. I find that right after their bath is the best time to trim nails. Having been defeated by my making them all wet, even the toughest dog knuckles under and says, “Fine, do whatever you want to me.”
Afterwards I put a lead on each and took them out in the play yard together for the first time.
I kept hold of Ugg’s lead for a while because I figured if either was going to get out of control, it would be this big rowdy boy. But Ugg did fine and eventually I dropped his lead and let them play without my being an anchor, slowing Ugg down.
Blue immediately seized on the opportunity to mess with Ugg by grabbing up the lead that was dragging along behind him and attempted to force Ugg to go with him.
What a brazen little boy! Ugg weighs three times what he does.
Blue kept insisting on playing that little prank, so eventually I took the lead off Ugg. If Blue wanted to lead someone he’d have to lead himself … and he has done that (pick up his own lead and walk around with it in his mouth) quite a few times!
The two of them wandered off together. Neither showed any interest in playing, but they enjoyed one another’s company.
Eventually Blue found a ropey toy, showed it to Ugg and ran off. Ugg accepted the challenge, but when he got near Blue, Blue turned nasty and started snarling and snapping at Ugg. Ugg was shocked.
I snagged Blue and whisked him immediately and unceremoniously back to his kennel, where he stayed while Ugg and I finished up our play session. Dogs who can’t play together can’t play at all. He will get a solo play time later, but he’s done with group play for today. Tomorrow he may try again. When he learns to control that greediness he’ll be a happier, and better behaved, boy.
When Booker arrived here he was a 70 pound puppy with no training or discipline at all. He’s friendly and happy, and playful, but had no concept of how big he is. As a result, he’d jump up on me, inadvertently leaving claw marks, and knocking me off balance. Fortunately I am still able to stand up to that.
Over the past couple of weeks I’ve been working with him to instill some basic dog/people etiquette. That is coming along well. (more…)
Many dogs are, by nature, possessive and sometimes aggressive about food. This can create problems in an otherwise peaceful home. While all dogs should have their own dish at feeding time – to control portions – treats and toys sometimes involve sharing.
If there are multiple dogs in the home, each needs to be able to accept small treats without getting grabby; trying to steal another dog’s treats. Durable treats like chew bones will last a long time, that means sharing them. People and dogs need to know who is alpha and behave accordingly.
Of course the Peoples are uber-alpha, but among us dogs we will have our social order as well. Once we all agree on that order, peace can be maintained. Problems come when more than one dog thinks it’s in charge. Being possessive about food is not so much about hunger as it is about control. Once we all agree that I’m the big dog, I can be magnanimous by sharing.
Of course, the fact that none of us is starving helps. (more…)