Greetings readers, and thank you for all your great questions!
We are pleased to announce the WINNER of a FREE 30-minute training consult in our Stump the Trainer Challenge is Connie D.! Congratulations, Connie! We look forward to working with you and your pooch. (Please email me – Renee@CanineCraze.com – to arrange a time.)
Now, due to space constraints we’re going to address several issues with similar themes collectively, and touch on specific details individually. Please note that common solutions for many problems involve managing the environment to prevent the behavior from happening and teaching incompatible behaviors.
In all situations, not only is it important that dogs get plenty of regular exercise and vet checked for any underlying health conditions, it’s also important to have some training history and foundation of basic behaviors – recall, sit, down, stay, etc. Positive reinforcement training teaches a shared language and fosters the essential connection that makes your dog WANT to respond and engage with you! :)
Q: I have a 3-year-old Cocker Spaniel that goes crazy whenever he hears our guinea pigs. Then he will stand beside their cage, and whimper, and bark. Is there something I can do so he knows they are family, and not food?
A: Is it possible to keep the dog out of their room? They probably don’t enjoy him either! To your cocker, those guinea pigs ARE food – or at least tempting squeaky toys. If you want him to simply sit quietly and enjoy the view, imagine being a chocolate-lover forced to sit next to a plate of brownies that you could never touch or eat? Might you whimper or drool a little? For many hunting and herding breeds, small, noisy, fast-moving objects are triggers; desensitizing and over-riding instinct takes careful, consistent counter-conditioning.
That said, how close can he get before he “goes crazy”? That’s where you’ll want to start - calmly reinforce moments when he’s not whining, and redirect his attention (ask for a sit, down, shake, etc.) before his arousal level gets to a point that he does. Gradually, you should be able to reduce the distance between your dog and the guinea pigs. However, in fairness to both species, I would suggest keeping them separated!
Q: I have a 1 year-old Corgi/Jack Russell mix who is always jumping on people - even ones she knows. How do we get her to keep all four paws on the floor?
A: Dogs generally jump up for attention, and when they get it, the behavior is reinforced (even telling her “no” and pushing her off is interaction that can be rewarding for a dog). Since your pup has likely been practicing the behavior awhile, I would start by throwing her small bits of her favorite treats or dry kibble on the floor before she has a chance to jump on you – just to get a new routine started in her mind.
Step two – assuming you’ve done a little training – would be to ask her for an incompatible behavior, such as a sit, down, shake. Reinforcing positions that don’t involve jumping should increase their reoccurrence. Early on, consistently reward with high frequency and high value treats. Soon she’ll catch on that jumping up doesn’t “pay.” It’s important to practice with other people too. Be prepared with training treats at all times so you’re ready for guests. Keep her focus on you, the floor and other behaviors; ask others not to acknowledge her in any way if she gets excited and “slips.” When she is calm (as much as possible for a Jack Russell!), that’s when she gets attention.
Q: I have a boxer pup named Indy... she chews up and eats anything soft we put in her kennel so has to lay on the hard plastic. Is there a way to correct this behavior? She goes in her kennel without a problem, but if there is something inside, it is getting destroyed and eaten.
A: If you’re feeling bad that your dog doesn’t have a nice fluffy pillow to sleep on, let yourself off the hook! While it’s unfortunate that she destroys your attempts to give her a cushy life, it’s not the end of the world. She may grow out of it; even if she doesn’t, managing the environment and not giving her things to destroy is the right approach.
Have you explored WHY she is chewing? Teething? Bored? Perhaps she just really enjoys shredding soft, fluffy things! Have you tried hard Nylabones or stuffed frozen Kongs in her crate? Otherwise, continue with training classes and daycare for behavior development, socialization and positive energy outlets!
Well, that's all we have room for today. Thank you all for contributing! We will continue to answer your questions in upcoming posts. In the meantime, don’t hesitate to contact us if you are “stumped” by your dog’s behavior!
Ask the Trainer: Renee Jetter, ABCTC, CPCT
* Professional dog trainer; co-owner of Canine Craze Performance Center in Urbandale – an 18,000 sq-ft. dog training, daycare, boarding and events facility. Animal Behavior College, 2006 graduate.
* Expertise: puppy development; positive reinforcement training; obedience; competition; agility; tricks; freestyle; scent detection; canine good citizen/therapy dog testing; Paws & Effect volunteer service dog trainer.