Posts Tagged ‘behavior’

Managing Undesirable Dog Behaviors

March 6, 2015
Bad Poetry Day - Roses Aren't Edible

Pierson likes poop so I need to manage his behavior.

Dogs will be dogs, but some of the things they want to do are annoying, unpleasant, or possibly not safe. If someone is not familiar with dog training, their first instinct might be to try to correct the issue with punishment. Those who are familiar with better ways to stop an undesirable behavior will try behavioral modification techniques such as redirection and positive reinforcement. But sometimes, we don’t have to go through all this work. Sometimes we can eliminate an undesirable behavior by managing it.

Let me give you an example. My dog Pierson loves to eat my other dog Maya’s poop. I’ve considered training him not to eat it. But let’s be honest, even if I did teach him not to eat it, he will probably still try whenever I’m not looking. I’ve also considered giving Maya something like NaturVet Coprophagia Stool Eating Deterrent to make her poop taste bad. But I’d have to buy this stuff all the time or risk Pierson realizing the poop wasn’t tainted and eating it. So what did I do instead? I simply decided to always pick up Maya’s poop right after she poops. Yes, it is a bit inconvenient, especially in colder weather. But it’s more sanitary and it has completely stopped Pierson from eating her poop. No training, no expensive supplements.

Another example is with Pierson’s barking. As you may know from previous posts, I gave in and got him a no bark collar. It worked well much of the time. But sometimes he really couldn’t help himself from barking and I felt terrible about the collar shocking him. It finally occurred to me that I should try managing his barking instead. This is what I did:

Determine the Cause of the Behavior

Pierson barks at surprising noises and he barks at squirrels, rabbits, and birds. I decided that barking at noises isn’t such a bad thing. I want to know if someone is creeping around my house. Even though most of the noises Pierson barks at are nothing to be concerned about, I can live with that. But the barking at squirrels, rabbits, and birds when he can see them out the back door window was too much.

Eliminate the Cause of the Behavior

Like how I eliminated Pierson’s desire for eating Maya’s poop by picking up her poop, I managed Pierson’s barking at animals he sees through the window by blocking the view from the window. It worked like magic! By simply putting a large piece of paper over the bottom half of the door window, I eliminated Pierson’s barking by at least 70%.

Dog Pierson in Front of Blocked Window 1

See how I blocked the door window so that Pierson can’t bark at squirrels?

Dog Pierson in Front of Blocked Window 2

“How am I going to talk to the squirrels now?”

Other Ways to Eliminate Undesirable Behaviors

If your dog tends to get in the trash, eliminate the behavior by getting a trash can with a secure lid or by putting the trash can in the pantry. If you don’t have a pantry, use a smaller trash can and put it under the kitchen sink. You may have to throw out trash more often, but isn’t that better than picking up trash from the floor and worrying about whether your dog ate something harmful?

Eliminate digging behaviors by filling his favorite digging spots with rocks or even his own poop. Keep your dog out of your garden by putting decorative fencing around your garden. Keep your dog from trying to bolt out the door by putting his leash on him before you open the door. Stop counter surfing by making sure food is always put away and/or out of reach. Keep your dog off the furniture by laying a sheet of foil over it when you’re not around.

Managing your dog’s undesirable behaviors isn’t always feasible and doesn’t always work. But if you think outside the box, you might just come up with a simpler way to stop your dog from doing things you don’t like. You can save time and even money by not having to hire a dog trainer.

Does your dog have an annoying behavior that you’d like to stop? Comment below and let’s see if we can come up with some creative ways to manage your dog’s behavior.

Challenges of a Leash Reactive Dog

February 13, 2014

Progress
Pierson has made a lot of progress with being better on his leash when he sees another dog. Two things helped. First, we cross the street when we see another dog. I have Pierson sit and I use the “look” command to distract him. He gets rewarded with lots of treats every time he pays attention to me and not the other dog. Second, I was fortunate enough to find a group of people who were willing to get together once a week or so to help work with our dog’s leash reactive behaviors. We walked our dogs at a distance from each other and the distance depended on our dogs’ own individual thresholds. Pierson was always last in line and furthest away. But by the end of fall, he was able to get within a few feet of those other dogs without reacting.

Pierson Group Walk Group Photo

Everyone is proud of Pierson’s progress.

There have been four major challenges in trying to overcome Pierson’s leash reactive behavior:

Challenge – Walking Two Dogs
Pierson’s leash reactive behavior is due to his high prey drive. He could even be called aggressive, although it is difficult to imagine such a cute ball of fuzz with a girly bark as aggressive. But that is what it is. He whines, he barks, and he lunges. Maya’s leash reactive behavior, on the other hand, is due to excitement. She loves other dogs and really wants to go say hi. She barks and lunges too, but only because she is so happy.

Needless to say, I can’t walk Maya and Pierson together. Maya’s happy bark makes Pierson’s aggressive bark more intense, and vice versa. So in order to properly work on their behaviors separately, I need to walk them one at a time. By the way, the “look” command does not work on Maya when she is excited. I need to find a different training technique for her.

Pull No More dog harness

First I walk Pierson, then I walk Maya.

Challenge – Loose Dogs
One day when I was walking with this group down a nature trail, someone coming up from the other direction had two dogs not on a leash. When the dogs saw us, they ran towards us. Their mom called them but they didn’t listen. They ran straight for Pierson. In order to keep something terrible from happening, I quickly picked Pierson up out of the way. Luckily the two dogs were small. That would not have worked if the dogs had been bigger. The lady was apologetic but she didn’t really grasp what had almost happened. Luckily, the group of people I was with explained to her just how close her dogs had come to being injured. Having a good recall is extremely important, and this trail was not an off-leash trail. I think the reality of the situation sunk in and I hope she learned her lesson.

A similar situation happened in my own neighborhood. A Lhasa named Barkley is often allowed off leash in his front yard when his mom is out with him. I have met Barkley a number of times and know that he usually has a great recall. But one day, there was just something about Pierson that he had to investigate head on. I picked Pierson up out of the way. Barkley’s mom kept saying that Barkley was friendly. I told her I knew that, but my Pierson was not. She finally understood. And the next time I met her while we were both walking our dogs, she called Barkley back and put his leash on while I went across the street. She complemented me on being so responsible.

Challenge – Other Leash Reactive Dogs
Pierson is very good about paying attention to me when we cross the street and I use the “look” command. It works most of the time. The only time it doesn’t work is when the other dog is also leash reactive. If the other dog reacts, Pierson does to and no amount of bribing with treats will distract him.

Pierson on a Leash with Look Command

The “look” command helps me to distract Pierson whenever we see someone else walking their dog.

Challenge – Winter, Fewer Dogs
We are getting a little out of practice this winter. Even though I still try to walk Maya and Pierson every day, we seldom see other dogs. In fact, we have gone over an entire week without running into any other dogs. I fear Pierson will be greatly out of practice when spring arrives.

Do you have a leash reactive dog? If so, what are your challenges?

See what other people with leash reactive dogs are doing to manage the behavior in the WOOF blog hop below.

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