Using ‘timeout’ as a last resort

Well socialised dogs have confident, relaxed attitudes, reflected in exemplary behaviour. They are also easy to train. On the other hand, dogs with behavioural issues can cause us angst, embarrassment and even become the subject of complaints, with serious consequences. They may bark at passing people or their dogs, jump on visitors, they may become over-excited or even behave aggressively when meeting new doggie friends.
In other tip sheets, we have discussed the essential use of positive reinforcement to shape the behaviour of our dogs. Positive training methods are extremely effective and require only small time-bytes, a leash and some treats. It is not difficult to understand, or to achieve great results, but it does require a dedicated commitment in time for the first few weeks. Training can be enjoyed as part of your dogs’ daily outdoor physical recreation, or performed in the confines of your home on rainy days.
Dogs with entrenched unwanted behaviours or complex behavioural problems, however, can remain impossibly excitable, or continue to jump, bark, dig or snap, despite positive reinforcement training. Sometimes a problem needs to be fixed quickly – such as when barking prompts complaints from neighbours, or when dogs jump on vulnerable people, like toddlers or the elderly. In these cases, we may need to act more decisively. This is when that extra tool in our training box – the ‘timeout’ pattern – becomes invaluable.
Just as we reinforce desirable behaviour with positive consequences by giving the dog something he wants (treats, games or affection), we can discourage undesirable behaviour with negative consequences, by taking away something the dog wants (our company).
Important: physical punishment is intolerable and must never be used in animal training. It creates fear and anxiety, so is cruel and totally unproductive. On the other hand, using ‘timeout’ as a negative consequence is harmless and very effective when implemented correctly, because it simply takes away our companionship – it does not inflict pain, fear or force.
Timeout training can be used for any undesirable/dangerous behaviour: jumping, barking, some types of aggression, digging, chewing, door-bell reactivity, boisterous play or over-excited behaviour etc.
Let’s use the unwanted behaviour of jumping-up for our timeout training example:
1. Prepare a timeout zone – a small isolated place, free of stimulation and well away from you or your routine activity. This could be the toilet, the laundry or a bare, covered crate in a back room – somewhere the dog does not usually spend time. Important: never use the dog’s familiar sleeping crate as a timeout zone, because Fido’s cosy ‘den’ must always have positive associations.
2. Clip a lead on Fido and let it drop, to drag around behind him as you go about your routine (never leave it on him when unattended).
3. When Fido jumps up persistently and our ignoring his behaviour is not working (e.g. if the vulnerability of his ‘victim’ makes it particularly inappropriate and the dangerous behaviour must be stopped quickly), instead of ignoring the behaviour, give Fido a short, sharp warning sound, such as “arhh!” delivered without emotion, in a low-pitched voice. The “arhh!” must be perfectly timed to occur the split-second Fido’s paws touch his victim (you, the toddler or granny). Note: anger and frustration must never be in play during training, so do not let yourself fall onto this state of mind. Be patient, calm and neutral.
4. If he jumps up again within 10-15 seconds, say “arhh!” again, in a slightly more aversive manner – a little gruffer (but never in anger), and add a clap of your hands to startle/distract him. This will make the consequence of jumping up again so soon slightly more negative. Important: in the anxious dog, leave out this step. His anxiety makes it unnecessary, and we must never let the timeout pattern cause stress or increase anxiety. Try to distract Fido again by giving him commands to follow, using positive reinforcement for effort and success.
5. If Fido jumps for a third time within 10-15 seconds of the second “arhh!”, say “arhh” again but this time immediately pick up the leash and calmly lead the dog to the designated timeout zone (without anger or any other negative emotion). Close the door and step away.
6. Important: in conjunction with this last step, we must link Fido’s undesirable action (jumping up) with the negative consequence of being placed into confinement, deprived of company. To achieve this, we must make a unique noise as we lead him all the way to the isolation zone (e.g. a low siren noise or “oooooooh” or “uhh-u-uhh-u-uhh”). You may feel silly doing this, but for the timeout pattern to work, Fido must connect his undesirable behaviour with being deprived of your company. Without this link he will not ‘get it’.
7. Wait quietly away from the isolation zone door for 30-60 seconds to create a brief period of isolation, then open the door and walk away without a word. The dog must never be left in isolation for more than one minute, lest he becomes anxious – timeout must never inflict this level of stress on the dog. Also, if left in isolation too long, he will start to scratch, whine or bark to be let out. If you respond to these behaviours by opening the door, they will be reinforced and repeated. If your dog is an anxious dog, only leave him there for 20 seconds, because his anxiety could make him whine sooner than most dogs, and this sign of anxiety is counter-productive. If there is any sign that even this brief period of isolation is upsetting the very anxious dog, do not persist with timeout training. You are best to go back to ignoring the behaviour.
8. If, after his release from the timeout zone, Fido immediately repeats the unwanted behaviour by jumping up again within 10-15 seconds of his release, repeat the timeout pattern from Step 5: i.e. don’t give the warning sounds, just lead him straight back into isolation using your link sound.
9. Should Fido jump up again more than 10-15 seconds after his release, start again from Step 3: i.e. give one or two warning sounds before carrying through with the isolation process.
Remember: it is imperative to link Fido’s unwanted behaviour to his isolation, so always immediately make a link sound and keep it up all the way to the isolation zone. Also, keep the timeout short. Long isolation periods are detrimental, because dogs learn from repetition. Many short timeout sessions will quickly achieve the goal of diminishing/stopping the unwanted behaviour. One or two long timeout periods will achieve nothing more than boredom, frustration or anxiety, which is likely to lead to additional undesired behaviour!
With perfect timing, repetition, consistency and persistence, and while working with a calm, firm, neutral demeanour, we can quickly help the dog understand that his dangerous behaviour, such as jumping up on vulnerable people, results in being taken away to a lonely place. This is the last thing he wants! The timeout procedure is effective for all unwanted behaviours: jumping up, barking, digging, over-excited greetings and some types of aggression (such as precious resource protection), etc. When Fido connects a negative consequence (brief isolation) with a certain behaviour, that behaviour will quickly become extinct if it delivers the harmless-but-meaningful negative consequence of briefly being deprived of your company. Timeout is particularly effective when your training incorporates the benefits of positive training: providing good consequences when Fido shows restraint.
Once Fido learns that your warning sounds of “arhh,” followed by “arhh” with a startle-clap (only in robust dogs) applied to his undesired behaviour can lead to brief confinement, he will start to correct his own behaviour whenever he hears the warning/s, so timeout becomes unnecessary. Similarly, the “arhh” with the startle-clap quickly becomes unnecessary, as Fido moderates his behaviour to avoid this sound, and its possible implications.
It is extremely important to always work primarily with positive reinforcement throughout your training, and never rely – initially or purely – on the timeout pattern. The timeout pattern is your LAST RESORT. Positive reinforcement of desirable behaviour will increase Fido’s understanding of what you are trying to communicate triple-fold. The timeout pattern can help in an emergency situation, and with particularly robust canine personalities who resist the ignoring of unwanted behaviours. Timeout helps these dogs discern which behaviours are welcome from those that are not, and is a better alternative than the dog being surrendered or euthanased for being ‘incorrigible.’
Success will be achieved much sooner and easier, if positive reinforcement of desired behaviours far exceeds Fido’s brief banishment from your company for unwanted/dangerous behaviours.

POSITIVE TRAINING: Developing the Positive Reinforcer

POSITIVE TRAINING
Developing the Positive Reinforcer

Have you heard of the term ‘positive training’ and wondered what it means? Positive training has evolved over the last 25 years, through extensive behavioural research, to become the most powerful training tool ever seen.

Positive training has completely replaced the old school ‘yell and yank’ method – where dogs had commands yelled them, and if compliance was a split-second late, the choker chain was given a vicious yank. Thankfully, this cruel and ineffective style of training, which used punishment to achieve submissive and obedient dogs, has been fully discredited and discontinued.

Decades of animal psychology research has moved training styles forward, from negative punishment-based methods, to positive rewards-based training. We now use treats instead of choker chains. Our pets are rewarded for doing the right thing, rather than being yelled at, and yanked around, for doing the wrong thing.

Have you heard of a ‘positive reinforcer’? No, not many people have. Have you heard of a ‘negative reinforcer’? No? Yet, all dog owners use a negative reinforcer. The most common negative reinforcer is heard when a dog does something undesirable: it is told: “NO!” Other common negative reinforcers are “Arhh!” or “Hey!” Sometimes owners yell the dog’s name in anger: “FIDO!”, so the dog’s identifier also becomes a negative reinforcer.

A negative reinforcer is the short, sharp, gruff sound we make to stop our pet in its tracks, to prevent Fido from committing an undesirable action, or to protect him from danger. For example: chewing your favourite shoes, stealing the cat’s dinner, licking the baby’s face, jumping up at the bench when food is being prepared, or running out onto the road when traffic is coming… there are countless occasions when we say, or yell: “NO!” to Fido, or snap or growl his name in anger, fear or frustration. This is, effectively, a punishment.
A much more productive way to teach animals, however, is to use a rewards-based system: using a ‘positive reinforcer’ to signal the dog’s desirable behaviour – as soon as it happens – followed by treats to reward the dog. This makes Fido want to repeat the behaviour, in order to win more treats. Everyone is happy – everyone wins – with positive training.

So, if our negative reinforcer is “No!” what would be a good positive reinforcer? The obvious word is: “Yes!” This positive word is ideal, especially if said in an excited, happy and light-hearted, high-pitched tone. In other words, say “Yes!” as if you’re celebrating a good occasion, like a verbal ‘high-five’, as if saying “well done, Fido!”. That is exactly why we use a positive reinforcer: we are celebrating the animal getting something right!

This means that when the dog heads over towards the cat’s bowl, or the baby’s face, or your favourite shoes, or out the gate, but then stops to reconsider his actions, we pounce on this wonderful opportunity to reward his fantastic behaviour. We say “YES!” the split-second he turns away – to help him pin-point which action is being rewarded – and then we immediately follow up with a reward: such as a treat, game of tug, or special tummy rub.

With positive training, we are rewarding his desirable behaviour, rather than punishing bad behaviour. Animals (and children, by the way!) learn much more quickly through reinforcement of desirable behaviour, than through the punishment of undesirable behaviour. Let’s look at that scenario again from another angle. If we yell “NO!” as Fido heads towards the bowl/baby/shoes/gate, we are actually punishing his intent, rather than his actions, and this is not a good thing. We can either wait to see what he does, and then ‘punish’ him with a “NO!”, or we can intervene. If we allow him to continue with his action, only then should we say ‘no’ – once he is actually performing the undesirable behaviour. What is far better, however, is to intervene and help him make the right decision – not with a punisher, but by simply calling him away, using a very neutral tone, and distracting him from his intent to steal/lick/chew/escape. We simply prevent the undesirable behaviour from occurring through a term I call ‘distractive intervention’. Once he turns away without having committed any crime, we pounce on this positive situation with a “Yes!”, followed by rewards and really wonderful interaction. Distractive intervention, therefore, is an excellent positive training tool!

Positive training allows for a much more pleasant and productive relationship with your dog: not only will he be more obedient, but everyone stays positive and happy!

IMPORTANT: remember that every minute your dog is awake presents you with a positive training opportunity. Have treats with you at all times and whenever your dog performs any action which pleases you – whether requested or not – immediately pin-point it with the “Yes!” word, then reward lavishly. Positive rewards-based training provides constant, effective and continuous training opportunities, to create happy, confident and obedient four-legged friends for life!

The 15 Secrets to Success in Dog Training

The 15 Secrets to Success in Dog Training

1. Dog training is not about ‘dominance and obedience’. It is all about providing consequences: using positive reinforcement to shape behaviour. The principle role of an effective dog trainer is to encourage compliance through positive outcomes, as opposed to delivering punishment (negative consequences). For this reason, think of commands as cues to prompt desired behaviour, then reinforce compliance. Cues don’t drive behaviour, consequences do.

2. Keep your dog calm and free of distractions so he remains focused and attentive. Get his attention first, then teach him what you want him to do, using small, progressive steps. Teaching him to be calm and to ‘settle’ is a fundamental step in early training. Increase the level of distractions only once he has got the basic idea.

3. Dogs don’t speak English! Understand that you are communicating with a dog, so develop an effective ‘human to dog’ language using simple, consistent cues, both visual and verbal. Don’t expect immediate understanding and compliance until he learns the language – a process called ‘word association’ – through the positive reinforcement of desired behaviours (compliance).

4. Establish a positive reinforcer word/sound, such as “Yes!” (or the click of a clicker), as your first step in training a young puppy or dog. Once this positive reinforcer is imprinted into the dog’s psyche, it is used to pinpoint the dog’s correct responses to your cues, at the split second he performs the desired action. This will dramatically improve his level of understanding and rate of progress. To imprint the positive reinforcer, it must initially be repeatedly sounded, then immediately followed by a reward. Do this ten times in a minute, then take a break for a minute. The dog does not need to be in any particular position for this exercise. Repeat this cycle six times, at least four times a day, for a week. Gradually increase the level of distractions and say “Yes!” when he is not paying attention. You should see his head snap around to face you as imprinting is achieved, looking for his treat, which must always follow the “Yes!”. This process establishes a positive association with the positive reinforcer sound – “Yes!” – so that a high level of anticipation is created in the dog. He will begin to perform – to strive – to hear the positive reinforcer sound, knowing that good things are about to follow. The importance of this process cannot be emphasised enough.

5. Timing is everything in dog training! It is critical to provide split-second-accurate positive reinforcers and timely rewards when the dog performs an exercise correctly. This not only tells him he’s got it right – but when he gets it right – which greatly improves the chance that he’ll perform the desired action again the next time you ask for it. Reward both effort and improvement initially, not just perfect results. Ideally, reinforcement should be within two seconds of the simultaneous action/positive reinforcer, but can eventually become more intermittent.

6. Establish a release word early in a dog’s training to indicate when he is allowed to move from a static position in which you have placed him (such as a sit, drop, heel or recall etc). A release word can be “Free!” or “Okay!” for example. The release word is also used to indicate when he is allowed to approach his bowl, leave his mat, or that the training session has ended and playtime begins. Establishing a release word is essential and dramatically increases the dog’s understanding of the training progress

7. Ignore unwanted behaviour, but be quick to provide positive reinforcement for desired behaviour. Never punish the dog for undesirable behaviour or for doing it ‘incorrectly’ – there is no ‘bad’ or ‘wrong’ behaviour – he simply doesn’t understand, and punishment will confuse him and create fear. He will learn much faster if you focus on rewarding him for doing what you want, not punishing him for doing it wrong, or being ‘bad’.

8. Increase the degree of difficulty gradually. Training for each individual action must begin in a quiet environment and progression to a more difficult environment must not occur until the action has been ‘proofed’ (become reliably compliant) at the previous level. E.g: Train ‘sit’ in a small quiet room, then move out to the hallway, then in the quiet lounge room, then a busier lounge room, then the quiet back yard, then the front yard, then the street, then the park (on-lead) and finally, way down the track, train for ‘sit’ at the off-leash park. This process could take months of training. Jumping from the lounge room straight to the off-leash park will result in failure, yet most trainers think this is a reasonable expectation to make in a puppy or young dog!

9. Have patience! If you lose your temper, you will do more harm than good, so put your leash away until tomorrow if you become frustrated or if you are in a bad mood.

10. Be consistent! Your dog will not easily learn what you want him to do if the rules change from one day (or one person) to the next. Make sure all trainers in the family use the same methods and cues and that they have a solid understanding of how to reinforce desired behaviour.

11. Be a benevolent leader – well-mannered dogs understand boundaries, so set parameters and teach him kindly, calmly, confidently and firmly. A dog will remain calm and understand better when he respects, rather than fears, his trainer.

12. “Fido Come! BAD DOG”! Never, EVER punish or scold your dog after calling him to you, no matter what he has done to require the recall or make you angry. He will only remember that he was punished for coming to you, not because he was chasing the chooks immediately before-hand. This is the fastest way to teach a dog NOT to come! And we don’t want that!

13. Practice, practice, practice! Do your homework! A dog learns through repetition and positive consequences, so it is essential to practice what is being learned, and it is essential to ensure you cannot fail by holding all lessons on a leash. Practice every day in many short lessons, rather than one long session. Learning needs to be reinforced through daily lessons as a puppy, regular lessons as a young dog, and then occasional lessons as an adult – for the rest of his life. Success in dog training is 99% practice to help the dog learn that “good things happen if I do this, when my trainer says that”.

14. Make it fun! Training should be the highlight of your day, for both you and your dog, not a chore or a fight. Obedience training should never be “DRILL”. Keep lessons short and frequent. Make them fun and full of variety – he will learn much more quickly if he remains tuned in and happy.

15. Teach tricks! This is a great way to stimulate the dog’s brain. Fifteen minutes of mental gymnastics through trick training can be equivalent to an hour-long walk/run, so tricks are an extremely valuable training tool. Trick training provides opportunities for additional positive reinforcement and can be an excellent focus exercise when distraction from another situation is required. It also keeps your reinforcement timing accurate, which is the making of a great trainer.

 

For more information, please don’t hesitate to contact us!

Good luck,

Trina and Ray

Structuring the relationship with your pet

STRUCTURING THE RELATIONSHIP WITH YOUR PET – everything must be on your terms and rewards are earned!

Why: Structure and predictability can be a very important for animals, especially for those that suffer from anxiety. By providing boundaries to your pet during all interactions, and by rewarding calm and quiet behavior, you will establish a new way of relating to your pet that rewards desirable behavior. Positive reinforcement provides structure and predictability for the pet. To put it another way, this concept goes along the lines of ‘gaining respect’ from your pet, although this is a crude description, because a dog’s mind does not think like this! Some trainers refer to it as ‘being the alpha dog in the pack’, but this outdated theory tends to promote a ‘punishment’ mentality and has been superseded by far superior animal psychology. Just think of it as structuring a healthy relationship with your pet, just as a wise teacher does when instructing a less experienced pupil, and you will get it!

An added benefit is that you will also be constantly practicing having your pet respond to your cues or commands, initially when there are relatively few distractions. This increases the ability of your pet to focus on you when there are distractions present, and to receive support or guidance when emotions of fear, anger, over-excitement or aggression are in play. This can be one of the most valuable tools you can have as a pet owner.

DSC06296c

Shoving a slobbery ball into my lap in an attempt to make me play fetch is definitely

unwanted behaviour and should not be rewarded!

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Drummer is so irresistible, Ray can barely stop himself from

looking at Drum and smiling at his naughty behaviour. He should know better!

When: This program should be integrated into everyday life – during all interactions with your pet. It should not be practiced merely as a ‘special’ daily training session, but adopted as a fundamental, long-term change in the way you interact with your pet. Every time you interact with your pet, you should first cue him to complete an action, so he learns that nothing in life is free. For example: if he wants to go outside, make him sit before you open the door, then invite him to exit as his reward (since this is what he wanted in the first place). He wanted out: so he had to sit to get what he wanted. You are not his door slave!
Who: All family members should abide by these guidelines for pet interaction. All dogs in the home should participate. Everybody. Every time. Forever.

How: It is important that all trainers involved in pet interactions remain calm, in control, and patient. These exercises are not about forcing a dog to respond: it is about making a simple request and, if accomplished within a reasonable timeframe, compliance is rewarded with something the pet most wants (a pat, a treat, a game of tug, access to the yard, access into the house). Establish what the pet most wants – at that moment in time – and reward him with it upon compliance. Cues/commands should be given in a firm, quiet, calm voice—once! Do not shout or repeat commands. If there are two pets in the home, say the pet’s name first, then give the command, pause, and allow the pet an appropriate amount of time to respond. If he doesn’t, walk away or ignore him – remove/refrain from any possible form of reinforcement – then try again, after an appropriate amount of time.

Use cues that your pet knows: some trainers simply use the sit command, others may have a larger repertoire of commands to select from, such as sit, down/drop, shake, watch/look, etc. Non-compliance is not rewarded, but nor is it punished – essentially, the dog is ignored for non-compliance. However, you can try again in a few minutes, giving either the same cue or a different one. Once the dog ‘learns’ the new system, they are become very compliant and eager for positive reinforcement, to the point they anticipate great things.

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Positive reinforcement should be calm and gentle to keep the dog focused on the task, not revved up!

(Note: The tug toy tucked into my belt is ready for the ‘end of lesson’ reward

a full-on game of tug which is this puppy’s favourite thing!

Giving attention to your pet: Attention should never be given on demand, but only upon invitation when the pet is calm, quiet and behaving in a way that you want to reinforce her, or on compliance to a command, as described above. Attention-seeking behaviors, such as pawing, barking, meowing, jumping up, etc., should be ignored—no attention should be given. This includes eye contact, touching, or speaking to the pet, including reprimands. If the pet seeks attention by standing or sitting quietly, reward him. The goal is not to ignore the pet, but rather to ignore the attention-seeking behaviors. Try a signaled ‘non-attention’ period: for a set amount of time ignore the pet’s antics completely, and gradually increase the amount of time you don’t respond to your pet’s demands for attention.

Introducing word association: To help the difficult attention-seeking pet understand what is happening, introduce a signal, such as placing a towel or other object on your lap when attention is unwelcome/not ‘scheduled’. Think of it as a ‘my space’ period, so say this phrase firmly and calmly as you place the object onto your lap, then ignore the pet, no matter how hard she tries to win you over. When the ‘my space’ period has ended, remove the object. For the rest of the time, you must still ignore all attention-seeking behaviours and make your pet earn everything s/he wants. As your pet learns what the signal/cue means, they will start to lay down when they see the towel come out. Be sure to make this ‘no-attention’ period shorter and shorter as the pet learns to leave you alone and lie quietly on their mat.

Structured interactive time: All pets need regular social interaction, mental stimulation, affection, play, exercise, and grooming. Do this as often as you can – but always on your terms. Be sure to incorporate these interactive sessions into your regular routine on a predictable basis. If the anxious pet knows that play time, a walk, or affection are forthcoming, they will learn to be more relaxed and calm at other times. This produces a beautifully behaved, independent, and confident pet.

What: As a general rule, your pet should be given a command to which he must respond before engaging in an interactions, including social interactions such as affection or a game. This also includes giving any attention, food, access to new areas, etc. While many people are taught to give a command to their dog before giving a treat or their meal, most people give away any attention for free. This devalues the training reward, and is counter-productive to establishing a structured relationship with your pet.

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I have no problems with giving Drummer a cuddle like this, but he is never allowed to jump up without being invited! The three steps are clearly illustrated here: Drummer must sit first and wait to be cued, upon which he lifts himself up gently and puts his paws into my hands, and then the cuddle is full on! He is always asked to get back down again, to indicate to him the ‘jump-up cuddle’ is over. This is a perfect example of setting consistent boundaries – giving your dog certain parameters in which to behave, and using positive reinforcement all the way!

For more information, don’t hesitate to contact us.

Happy training – and remember: LOVE YOUR DOG!!

Trina, Ray and Drummer.

They lied!

Well, they lied!

Mum and dad didn’t give me a ride on the big red and white boat for my birthday (27th of March) after all, so our big trip around Australia still hasn’t happened yet. They said something about the house not selling, or some other silly excuse, so I’m feeling a bit pooed off. They had to cancel their tickets and we’re not going until July. Ripped off!

We went away for a little holiday to the big island north of Tasmania (while dad learned about selling the best caravans in the whole world). The Runt and I went too, so we have done some travelling, thank goodness, ’cause it was almost getting boring living here, by the beach all the time. I had a great time.  We stayed in a caravan park and went to some really exciting shows. One had lots of cows and plows, the other one had lots and lots of caravans. Dad was selling caravans like the one we are buying (when the house is sold… that is), and loads of people said they were the nicest caravans at the whole show! They are called Cell Caravans, and if you want a caravan, you really should buy one of these… from my dad, ’cause if you do, he gets some pocket money from a nice man with a beard like my dad’s.

Something else has happened to me that I was really sad about for just a little while, but now I am really happy again. Mum and dad decided that The Runt – I suppose I should call her Izzy for one last time – got stressed again on our little holiday. When she gets stressed, she gets all nasty and wants to bite everyone. She was doing it on our big trip to WA last year, but she got much better again once we came home and lived in our own house. But when we went away last month, she started getting all stupid about being near strangers and she didn’t want to play with other dogs, and stuff (what an idiot! I reckon that’s the best bit about travelling!). Mum says that some dogs, just like some humans, don’t like to travel alot. She was getting really crabby and unpredictable – with me, with human children, and just about everyone, really. Mum reckons Izzy was not coping with all the changes in her life that come with being on the road, so they decided she would be happier living with some friends of ours who don’t travel around Australia like we do.

Her new humans have a small farm near Hobart and a house on the beach near Swansea. We haven’t visited her, but our mums talk on the phone and apparently The Runt is being perfect! Ha! I doubt it!!! But her new humans say she is ‘faultlessly obedient’ (whatever that means), and ‘she entertains the whole family with her ball antics’… phooey, they weren’t that good, were they? They sent a photo of The Runt playing on their beach at Easter and even I have to admit she looked super happy. Mum and dad reckon she is enjoying being an only child, and, I have to say, so am I!!!!

I miss her a bit, but don’t tell anyone.

Anyway, now that dad will be selling caravans during our travels, we will have lots of our costs paid by the nice man with the beard that owns the Cell Caravans company. This means we can stay in posh caravan parks and have our fuel paid while we explore Queensland. Yay! That means mum and dad will be able to buy me more toys and biscuits!!

The first caravan show we have to be ready for is on The Gold Coast in late July, so if the house doesn’t sell soon… well, life could get awkward. If the house doesn’t sell, we can’t buy our fancy new caravan, and if we don’t have the fancy new caravan, we won’t have a little house to tow up to Queensland to sell other fancy caravans.  Mum and dad have their fingers and toes crossed and I have tied pretend knots in my tail (my fingers and toes aren’t long enough to cross, so we puppies tie knots in out tails, instead), hoping to make a nice person come and visit and ask us if they can buy our house.

We spent some time at our block of land in Stanley last month and it was fantastic fun. Mum and dad had coffee with their new  friends and I played with Max, who keeps those people safe. He is a large, fat Rottweiler and although we were a bit cautious of each other at first, mum made sure we took our time getting to know each other, so it was all good. He’s ancient, and isn’t much fun – he won’t run fast enough to chase me – but at least he is a dog! Next time we visit Stanley, we are all going to go for a romp together on the beach and that’s really cool!

On the block, we met a man who rides in a massive metal monster that digs up the ground. He is going to make a driveway and take out some old tree stumps. Then another man is coming with a big, round truck that wees cement and he’s going to make a slab (why dad wants a case of beer made at Stanley I don’t know, but that’s what the man is going to do). Then another man is coming with lots of little machines and tin to build us a big shed – much bigger than the one in my back yard in Hobart.

Mum and dad are very excited about all these men visiting with their machines. They say all our toys are going to be stored there while we sell caravans in Queensland. I hope they let me take some toys with me. I always need lots of toys to play with on the road, to keep me happy when I am imprisoned while they go off touring and visiting the bushy places, where small critters live, so I am not allowed to go there.

The huge red and white boat, that will take us across the water to the big island that has Queensland in it, is booked for early July, now. So this means I still have 57 sleeps! It’s ridiculous, because this is what I told you last time!

I wish someone would buy our house.

Only 57 sleeps to go…… (I can’t wait, I can’t wait, I can’t wait)….

Until next time, be sure to eat your biscuits and pee on as many shrubs as possible to spread the word!

Drummer

(woof!)

 

 

 

The Role of Socialisation in Preventing Anxiety in Dogs (Part Four): The importance of socialisation & finding a bombproof puppy

The Role of Socialisation in Preventing Anxiety in Dogs

 

 

Part Four:

 

A reminder on the importance of socialisation

 

I cannot place enough emphasis on the importance to adequately expose all young puppies to as many experiences of the human world as possible, before the socialisation period closes. It is absolutely critical in avoiding anxiety-based aggressive behaviour problems later in life.

 

The window of socialisation of a young puppy closes at around four months of age, so an intensive program of controlled exposure to absolutely everything we can think of up to this age is essential, if we are going to ensure a confident adult dog that has developed good coping strategies when confronted with anything new and, therefore, a potential cause for fear or anxiety. As well-meaning as adoring, devoted owners are in keeping their eight week-old puppy protected at home, and not exposing it to the world when it is young and relatively fearless, this almost always causes anxiety later in life. Anxiety is a nasty beast and has a habit of multiplying – before you know it, you have a dog that barks aggressively at people or objects when it feels threatened, and you are calling in the dog behaviourist.

 

This situation is made much worse if the puppy remains with its breeder for more than four months of its life, tucked away in the back yard, or worse, a back shed, far away from the world until after the window of socialisation has closed. When these poor mites are suddenly brought out into society by a new owner, they are swamped with encounters at an age where fearlessness has passed and the sudden onslaught of new experiences can be absolutely overwhelming. Anxiety is highly likely to result, and is often compounded by continued high intensity but very infrequent exposures, leading to a permanent state of anxiety. If left untreated, this generally leads to defensive-aggression – an extremely common cause for young dogs to be surrendered to shelters for rehoming. The older the dog is when it begins to see the world, the greater the potential for fear, and this is when anxiety takes hold of the dog’s psyche.

 

The critical period of socialisation does not slam shut at four months – it eases closed, so there is still potential for some months, up to around a year of age (and slightly longer in the large and giant breeds) to ease the puppy into the world through an intensive program of controlled exposure. To successfully introduce a young dog of six to twelve months to new things can certainly be done, but it does require greater care, and it can take longer for the natural fear of the dog to morph into a confident inquisitiveness that we so love in our dogs. Professional help is recommended in these cases.

 

 

Where do I find a bombproof puppy?

 

Is there one? Probably not, but the best way to avoid anxiety or aggressive behaviours in a family pet is to buy a puppy from a reputable breeder, and begin your socialisation process from the day you bring him home, at eight weeks of age.

 

Choose your breeder wisely: the best breeders undertake socialisation programs of their puppies before they release them to new owners, because the period of socialisation actually begins at three days of age! An experienced and knowledgeable breeder, well versed in dog psychology and behaviour, will not closet puppies in the back whelping shed until they are sold to new owners. They will expose them to an appropriate level of socialisation commensurate with their age and development, and with the pup’s vulnerability to contagious diseases in mind.

 

Interestingly, the best puppies and most well-adjusted dogs I encounter come from an unlikely source: the backyard (and lounge rooms) of large families! Breeders with loads of kids produce beautifully socialised, bombproof puppies! Every day of their lives, these dogs have encountered children, bikes, toys, balls, sudden loud noises, skateboards, rides in the car (and billycart), raised voices, kids screaming, loads of visitors, being handled constantly, and all manner of other normal family activities. By the age of eight weeks, they have already become resilient, experienced, confident puppies! When you arrive to take your little friend home at eight weeks of age, they are truly ready for the world, and for your ramping up of their socialisation program into the public sphere is just a natural step for them.

 

 

When acquiring a dog, do your homework and take time to consider what you are getting, where he comes from, what history and experiences he has had. While I commend anyone who is prepared to rescue a homeless shelter dog, this can be fraught with problems. These dogs have not been surrendered because they were the perfect family pet – they have either lived a tough existence, probably with little or no socialisation, and may already have developed problem behaviours. Sometimes these are very serious, requiring considerable behaviour modification work. Quiz the shelter staff on the background of their dogs, and chose one on the basis of its individual history, not its breed, sweet face or shy demeanour. Remember, shy and cowering personality traits often indicate that anxiety has already taken hold… if in doubt, take a dog behaviourist with you to the shelter to help you chose the right dog for your needs and situation.

 

Sadly, it is not always possible to undo the damage done to the psyche of a dog with severe anxiety-based aggression, so ask lots of questions about the dog’s history. If the source does not know the answers to your questions, think again about the risks of taking on an unknown quantity, or be fully prepared to put in a great deal of training and behaviour management if behaviour problems begin to appear once the dog has settled in. If you are not an experienced dog owner or feel you do not have the time or the home environment to take on a potential ‘time bomb’ shelter dog, get a puppy from a reputable breeder (with a dozen kids!) and socialise it yourself.

 

 

If you need further information on this topic or have specific questions, please don’t hesitate to leave a comment at www.GoodDogTips.com and ask us for help.

 

There are also many related topics to this, so look on our website for more great Good Dog Tips!

 

© Trina Morris – GoodDogTips.com – 2014

The Role of Socialisation in Preventing Anxiety in Dogs (Part Three): How to socialise a puppy to a potentially fearful object

The Role of Socialisation in Preventing Anxiety in Dogs

 

 

Part Three:

 

How to socialise a puppy to a potentially fearful object

 

Here’s the process in full, using the lawn mower to provide an excellent example of the entire socialisation procedure:

 

The best example of a socialisation – or desensitisation – process involves the lawn mower, because it can be broken down into many different levels of intensity. This process, however, can be applied to anything that is a potential (or existing) source of fear:

 

Approach the mower from a reasonable distance while it is silent and still. Your starting point may be only a few metres away in a confident dog, or it could be twice that, or more, in an anxious dog. Take a step towards the machine and encourage your puppy to approach the mower, watching your puppy very closely to see how he is responding to the presence of the mower. Don’t march him right up to the mower. Just take one step and then stop approaching before any signs of anxiety or fear become evident. Reward him for a confident approach, even if he only takes several steps toward the mower, then turn around and retreat back to your starting point (to take any pressure off). Wait a moment and assess how your puppy is coping. If all is well, approach again, this time taking one or two additional steps closer to the mower. Reinforce a confident approach, then take the puppy well back again.

 

If you go too far too soon, and the puppy shows signs of fear (avoidance, shying away, barking, reluctance to approach etc) go right back to the beginning, or start from further away. Take your approaches much more slowly and increase the level of your encouragement for the puppy to approach. Maintain your positive reinforcement for confident approaches. Repeatedly approaching and retreat in gradual steps, getting closer and going away, getting closer and going away again, just like the waves of an incoming tide, rising further and further up the beach, and receding between each incoming wave. Please take a moment to picture these waves – it is the perfect analogy to describe how you should be approaching and retreating from a fearful object with your puppy. Just remember the ‘high tide’ routine.

 

When the puppy is close enough to touch the machine with his nose or paw, jackpot the dog with several extra special treats and a favourite game or an extra affectionate rumble – whatever the dog most loves. Allow the puppy to investigate the mower, praising and reinforcing confident, inquisitive behaviour. Remember to always finish on a good note, so end the lesson there!

 

If the puppy has an anxious nature, you may not be able to approach close enough for him to touch and sniff the mower for several sessions, spread across the day or a few days – but that’s okay. Just be sure to keep reinforcing confident approaches, or preventing (and ignoring) fearful behaviour by watching how the dog is coping, and taking smaller steps in the intensity of the exposure, if necessary.

 

Once the puppy is behaving happily and normally around the silent, motionless mower, and shows confident approaches from many different directions of varying distances, only then can you step up to the next level of intensity.

 

Repeat the entire process, but this time have an assistant gently moving the still silent mower backwards and forwards on a one metre line. Since the mower has now become a much greater potential threat (it is now moving and could be a predator), your once-confident puppy could now be feeling anxious, so don’t be tempted to rush the process by starting your approaches too close, or by approaching too far at once. Don’t undo all your good work – observe your puppy and be careful.

 

Once your puppy has mastered that, you can repeat the whole process with the mower running at very low revs, but stationary. The next step is to repeat the process with the mower at higher revs (more noise) but still stationary. Then start again with the mower running on low revs but with an assistant gently moving it backwards and forwards on a one metre line again. The final step is to repeat the process with the mower running at normal working revs, initially moving more than the one metre line, and finally moving around the yard as if mowing the lawn, with the puppy showing little interest in it while you distract the dog with games and treats. The puppy definitely must not bark at it or want to chase it. If this happens, you went wrong at some stage, because these are usually signs of anxiety and fear.

 

This entire process may take many sessions with an anxious dog, especially one that has previously exhibited fear behaviours when the mower was in action, and is therefore undergoing a process of desensitisation (see desensitisation and counter conditioning tip sheet). In a fearless young puppy, however, still within the critical period of socialisation, you may be able to complete this entire process in only one or two sessions. Please, please, please remember to keep your human ego out of the equation and think first of your very vulnerable puppy! There is no shame in taking six sessions instead of just one to achieve contact. We are introducing an extremely common cause of fear in dogs – the family lawnmower – to your puppy or anxious dog, so get it right by taking small steps, observe, and reinforce confident approaches.

 

This process applies when socialising puppies, or desensitising fearful dogs, to anything which causes fear. Whether the eliciting stimulus is a lawn mower, a vacuum cleaner, riding in the car, children, large dogs, or anything at all that needs to be desensitised, the same process is applied. This is one of the most valuable behaviour modification tools a dog owner can learn!

 

 

Look out for the next part of this series on The Role of Socialisation in Preventing Anxiety in Dogs.

 

There are also many related topics to this, so look on our website for more great Good Dog Tips!

 

© Trina Morris – GoodDogTips.com – 2014

The Role of Socialisation in Preventing Anxiety in Dogs (Part Two): The Vaccination v’s Socialisation Debate & Reinforcement

The Role of Socialisation in Preventing Anxiety in Dogs

 

 

Part Two:

 

 

The vaccination V’s socialisation debate

 

This recommendation to socialise puppies from the age of eight weeks raises another common question: “You want me to expose my puppy to the world, but my vet says not to take my puppy out until his vaccination program is finished. What gives? Who should I listen to?”

 

The vast majority of vets now understand the critical importance of socialisation, so it is rare to hear this, nowadays. As the worldwide movement of experts in dog behaviour raised the awareness of socialisation over the past two decades, the veterinary industry faced a dilemma in the advice they provided: Do we risk puppies contracting parvovirus by recommending intensive socialisation before their vaccination program is completed at ten weeks of age, or do we risk the development of anxiety-related behaviours by recommending puppies be protected from exposure to viral spores in public places until after their vaccination program is completed? In other words, do we risk possible physical health or likely psychological health?

 

The solution is actually surprisingly simple. Firstly, ensure your puppy comes from a bitch that was fully vaccinated prior to giving birth, then ensure the puppy’s vaccinations are given on time, at 4-6 weeks and again at 8-10 weeks. [Note: I recommend vaccines be given at six weeks and then a day or two over ten weeks of age – the medical reasons for this are too complicated to go into here, so see my vaccination tip sheets for detailed explanations of how the immune system works in relation to puppy vaccines].

 

Secondly, take your young puppy out with you as often as possible from the day you get him home, which is, preferably, right on eight weeks of age. Carefully expose him to the human environment, but don’t let the puppy have direct contact with anything or anyone. This means you must carry the puppy in your arms (or in a crate) to let him smell, see and hear the world, but don’t put him down on the ground, or let him touch, sniff or taste anything. This includes being handled by other people or being allowed close to any other dogs, because they could all be contaminated with parvovirus spores which are very common in the environment. Similarly, the person carrying the puppy must not handle any public surfaces.

 

Save all physical encounters until after the final puppy vaccination has kicked in, two weeks after it was given at 10 weeks of age. On this basis, you are already four weeks ahead on your puppy’s socialisation, than if you’d waited for his vaccination program to be completed, yet he has remained safe from the risk of the two most common contagious diseases – parvovirus and canine cough. (Note: distemper and hepatitis are not common these days).

 

Ideally, therefore, your intensive program of puppy socialisation begins at eight weeks of age when you can provide four extra weeks of careful exposure to smells, sights and sounds. Then, at twelve weeks (if the last vaccination was given just a few days over ten weeks of age), ramp up the exposure so that your puppy begins to experience the human environment from the ground. This is important for two reasons: a puppy must explore the world from its own level, not from the soft, warm protection of its owners’ arms. He needs to start feeling surfaces under his feet, be able to sniff places where other dogs have been, taste new and interesting things (within reason!), and be handled by as many different people as possible. If you see someone with a huge fuzzy beard, ask him to give your puppy some treats and pat him. Take the puppy to the skate park and ask kids of all ages to come and see your puppy and hand out treats for them to give.

 

A wise socialisation program ensures that all encounters are regular, controlled and gradual. The puppy should not be bombarded with new experiences, just once or twice over the critical period. In other words, the puppy should not spend Monday to Friday locked in a pen at home, when everyone is busy working, then taken out all weekend and overwhelmed by confrontations with the human world. A special effort must be made to deliberately take the puppy out every day, to a different place, to experience something new during the critical socialisation period. You only have eight weeks to get this done (or four if you have waited for the final vaccination to kick in). I can’t emphasise enough that if you put a lot of effort into those eight weeks of the critical socialisation period, when the puppy is between eight and sixteen weeks of age, you will save an enormous amount of stress, training problems, and be unlikely to need to the services of a canine behaviourist!

 

The intensity of these experiences should be gradually increased over the duration of the socialisation program. It should not begin with a trip to the landfill facility to see, smell, feel and hear huge trucks and other noisy machinery in action, nor with a trip to the off-leash dog park, to be mobbed by enormous, over-friendly dogs. Be assured, though, these definitely are essential elements on your ‘to do’ list of socialisation, but they are just further down the track!

 

 

The most important aspect of socialisation

 

The most important aspect of socialisation, as with any training, is the correct use of reinforcement. It is imperative to apply a consistent program of positive reinforcement when the dog exhibits confident behaviour when facing new encounters. Like children, dogs need to learn, from a very early age, that there are consequences to their actions. Learning that there are good consequences for offering wanted (good) behaviours, through the application of positive reinforcement, is absolutely essential. Sometimes there are bad consequences, too, such as being ignored, when unwanted behaviours are exhibited.

 

If the puppy shows a confident inquisitiveness towards an unfamiliar object or person, or during a new experience, or even if the puppy demonstrates a neutral acceptance, he should be rewarded with praise and given something he most wants – a treat, a tug game, or a tummy rub, for example. These good consequences, for showing the correct response, will reinforce the behaviour and make it more likely to happen again.

 

If the puppy shows any signs of fearful or anxious behaviour when faced with a new situation, he should be ignored – not molly-coddled or reassured! Simply remove the puppy from the fearful situation, or take him away a little until he no longer shows fear. Don’t say or do anything else. Just mark it down as a loss and learn from it. Did you take him too close to the fear-object, was the stimulus too intense, or was it too sudden? Analyse the situation, identify where you went wrong, take a big step back and try it again with a reduced level of exposure. By not reinforcing the unwanted behaviour, we are making it less likely to happen again.

 

With consistency and repetition, the puppy will start to realise there is a pattern to the process: “If I am confident, I am given a delicious treat, kind words and a rub – I think I’ll try that again”. Or: “If I show fear, I get nothing, so maybe I should try something different.” Of course this is not how your puppy thinks (they do not have such powers of deductive reasoning!), but with repetition and consistency, this is the pattern that will eventually form in the puppy’s mind.

 

Ignoring a puppies’ fearful response to exposure goes against our instincts as loving carers – our first reaction to seeing an anxious, stressed puppy is to comfort him and offer protection. But it is very important not to reinforce fear with these forms of reinforcement. A fearful puppy must not be given reassurance with pats, stroking and words of encouragement. Never molly-coddle the puppy for showing fear or try to calm him down by giving him soothing comfort: “Good boy, there, there, calm down, good dog, good dog, it’s okay, good dog, don’t be afraid”. These responses, while trying to calm the puppy and give him confidence, are actually reinforcing the wrong behaviour – you are telling the dog it is good to show fear!  You are actually teaching him to react in this way. Instead, we must remain strong, brave and resilient – ignore the fear, but learn from it and do not make the same mistake again of exposing him to the eliciting stimulus again at such a high intensity!

 

Remember that our socialisation program must be controlled and gradual. Be careful how you expose your puppy to new things – take tiny steps and increase the intensity gradually. If the puppy begins to show anxiety or fear, you have taken the process too far too soon, so take a big step back to get the pressure off the puppy. Reduce the intensity of exposure (e.g. by starting from further away, turning off a motor, or slowing an object down), and try again. Don’t respond to any fear behaviours, but be sure to strongly reinforce confident behaviour.

 

It is very important to always finish on a good note, even if you have regressed during the session. If a puppy is showing fear because you approached a noisy machine, such as a lawn mower, too closely, take the puppy well back and start again, but think how you can reduce the intensity even further. When you get a good response to a lowered intensity, quit while you are ahead so that you have finished the lesson on a really positive note, with high praise, treats and a game.

 

 

Look out for the next part of this series on The Role of Socialisation in Preventing Anxiety in Dogs. There are also many related topics to this, so look on our website for more great Good Dog Tips!

 

© Trina Morris – GoodDogTips.com – 2014

The Role of Socialisation in Preventing Anxiety in Dogs (Part One): Common Causes and How Socialisation Works

The Role of Socialisation in Preventing Anxiety in Dogs

 

This four part series investigates a fascinating and very important aspect of dog psychology, which is presented as the solution to, arguably, the most avoidable problem behaviour seen commonly in dogs today – anxiety-based defensive aggression.

 

 

Part One describes the common causes, and explains how an intensive socialisation program of puppies, at the right age, works in preventing the onset of this debilitating – and dangerous – condition.

 

Part Two delves into the vaccination v’s socialisation debate and provides a simple solution to manage both aspects together, for the ultimate benefit of our vulnerable puppies. It also analyses the most important aspect of the socialisation process – the correct use of reinforcement.

 

Part Three illustrates in great detail, using one of the most common causes of anxiety and fear in dogs, how to socialise a young puppy to a potentially fearful stimulus, or an adult dog requiring desensitisation to a feared object.

 

Part Four reiterates the importance of socialisation and provides advice on how to go about sourcing a puppy or dog. It gives guidance on what situations to avoid and describes an unlikely situation which can be of great benefit in finding the best puppy for your circumstances.

 

 

We sincerely hope you find this four part tip sheet informative and thought provoking.

 

 

The Role of Socialisation in Preventing Anxiety in Dogs

 

 

Part One:

 

The most common cause of anxiety

 

A surprising number of well-adjusted, happy dogs have deep-seeded anxiety which only shows itself when the dog is placed into an unfamiliar (fearful) situation. Just like people, some dogs are naturally anxious – they are genetically predisposed to stress. This can run in the breed or in the individual family line. If present, it can contribute to the dogs’ susceptibility to the much more common cause of anxiety: the experienced environment, or, in other words, lack of socialisation to the human world.

 

There is a common misconception regarding dogs with anxiety and defensive-aggression behaviour problems: owners often say: “He must have been abused as a puppy, because he’s really (this)”, or “he’s really (that).” Their dog is far more likely to have been unsocialised as a puppy, than abused as a puppy! There is no doubt that a puppy that has been abused will be fearful, but fortunately this is extremely rare in our society. In fact, it’s quite the opposite! Anxiety is much more frequently the result of puppies being over-protected by their owners, by being deliberately kept away from sources of fear and by not undertaking a high enough level of puppy socialisation – exposure to the human environment – during the critical period.

 

By this, I do not mean merely attending a four week puppy training class inside a room where puppies are taught to sit and drop on command. If this is all a puppy class offers, find a different trainer! Sure, these ‘puppy preschool’ classes are definitely better than nothing, because at least the dog meets other puppies, different people, and has a car ride once a week for a month. Unfortunately, however, this level of exposure is often the only socialisation a puppy receives, whereas it should constitute only the very beginning of a socialisation program, starting at eight weeks of age. These puppy classes often come too late in the dog’s life to be of much benefit, because many puppies are not taken to puppy classes until after four months of age, and by then, the critical period of socialisation has closed.

 

 

How does ‘socialisation’ work?

 

A correct and thorough socialisation program of a young puppy involves exposing the dog to as many elements of the human environment as possible, between the age of eight and sixteen weeks. This is because, at this age, the puppy is old enough to process what is happening, but is still basically fearless when experiencing something unknown.

 

Very young children have no concept of what constitutes danger, which is why parents must be so vigilant. They will put their hand into a flame, run onto the street after a ball, stand behind a reversing car, climb into a pool before they can swim, crawl right off a high platform – they are fearless! As we age, we become more aware of danger and we experience anxiety when under stress, or fear when in peril.

 

It’s the same with dogs. Young puppies are also fearless at a certain age, and we can use this to our advantage! Exposure to all manner of experiences during this period of relative fearlessness is extremely effective at preventing anxiety later in life. Those same encounters, if experienced for the first time as an older dog, after the awareness of danger has kicked in, can induce responses ranging from mild anxiety to extreme fear, leading to aggression if the experience is bad enough, or recurs.

 

This means we need to expose young puppies to absolutely everything we can: riding in the car, bicycles, prams, skateboards, slippery surfaces, trucks, large dogs, bangs and flashes, people with beards, toddlers, postmen, flapping banners, looming café umbrellas, stairs made of mesh, people on crutches, Harley Davidson motorbikes etc. The list is endless, but these examples indicate how everyday things in the human world can be a source of anxiety and/or fear in an unsocialised dog.

 

The signs of anxiety and fear include: a reticence to approach, cowering, retreating, hiding, looking away from the object, licking the lips, yawning, flattening the ears, head lowering, tail tucking, lowering the tail and wagging it a little, raising one foot, rolling onto the back, urinating, barking, growing, snapping, staring, crouching with the head and body close to the ground. Get to know these signs and be observant in watching for them. We never want to place a puppy in a position where he feels anxious of fearful.

 

“I took my puppy to preschool classes, but he is still anxious,” you might be thinking. Ah, yes! But there are puppy classes and there are puppy classes! A well-run puppy training program will not merely teach you how to make your puppy sit on command, but will spend more time doing everything it can to expose the puppies to as many simulated and real life-experiences as possible. They will use props, costumes, mixed-surface obstacle courses, and encourage class members to bring in scooters, their toddlers, umbrellas, wigs, even granny in her wheelchair. They will play DVDs with sounds of thunder and fireworks, even have a vehicle for the puppies to sit in while running, while slamming its doors and tooting its horn.

 

The really good puppy programs will take the class out and about, to see trucks, crowds of people, traffic, activity on bicycle paths and skate parks, city streets, have coffee at a cafe etc. Most of all, a good trainer will provide their class participants with homework – a comprehensive list of things puppies should be exposed to. They will  expect their students to keep up this intense level of socialisation all the way through the six-week puppy program on a daily basis, and beyond, to four months of age… and beyond, perhaps on a weekly basis, moderating at around a year of age, but continuing with a minimum of monthly (preferably weekly) exposure… for life.

 

Puppies that receive such an intensive level of controlled socialisation usually remain confident for life, because not only are they familiar with the human environment, but they learn to generalise these experiences. This means they develop confidence – coping strategies – which will come into play when they experience something new later in life, even if they didn’t encounter that particular situation when a fearless youngster.

 

So the critical period of socialisation, between eight and sixteen weeks of age, is fundamental to the preparation of a puppy for an enriched life, relatively free of fear and anxiety… free of problems!

 

 

 

Look out for the next part of this series on The Role of Socialisation in Preventing Anxiety. There are many related topics to this, so look on our website for more great Good Dog Tips!

 

© Trina Morris – GoodDogTips.com – 2014

 

 


 

Welcome

Welcome to Good Dog Tips!

Our family, Drummer, the big one, and Izzy, the cute one.

Our family: Drummer, the big one, and Izzy, the clever one.

This brand new website is under construction. Our business has been providing practical and effective advice on training and modifying the behaviour of dogs for many years, and we are now adding a range of online services. As computer technicians, we make great dog trainers (!!), so please be patient while it all comes together.

We’ll be posting fantastic dog behaviour and training tips right here on this site soon, so keep in touch.

We’re looking forward to talking to you when we get it up and running, but if you need help in the meantime, post a question or don’t hesitate to call us on 0402 486 460 (if calling from outside Australia, dial 61 first). We’re always happy to help!

Trina and Ray Morris