You’ll stop this (as with most dog issues) by thinking like a dog. All she knows is what she knows, and in her world, barking and scratching at the screen door result in you opening the door. I know what you’re thinking – it’s something along the lines of “But when I open the door I fuss at her and she knows she’s done something wrong!” Well, maybe, maybe not. In this case, I think that the reward of you opening the door for her to come in is so reinforcing, she’s willing to withstand a bit of fussing to achieve her (not your!) desired result. Before I give you a suggestion on how to fix this problem, I’m going to assume that your dog is emotionally healthy and receives enough attention, exercise, and toys to keep her entertained, and that there’s nothing in the yard that is frightening her (I know someone whose dog was terrified of being in the yard; the owners later realized that hummingbirds were attacking her!). If you’ve got those bases covered, here’s one (of many) tricks I use for screen door “scratchers”: purchase a dog exercise pen and place it around the outside of your screen door. This way, your dog can’t access the screen at all. You can also go to your local office supply store and purchase a clear, plastic office chair mat (it’s smooth on one side, bumpy on the other). Using Velcro, fasten it to the screen door, bumpy side out, at the right height for your dog. Take into consideration the size of your dog and the type of screen scratching he does – if your dog stands on it’s hind legs to scratch, you’ll need to place it higher. Then, the next time your dog attempts to carve up the screen, she will be met with a very unpleasant sensation and give up her hobby. Best of all, she won’t associate you with the correction, just your new, bumpy door, thereby saving your screen and your relationship all at the same time!
Dogs bark for many reasons, but when you’re gone, loneliness and boredom are usually at the heart of it. Separation anxiety occurs in a very small number of dogs, but if that were the case here, you’d normally see other symptoms (having accidents, destructiveness, being very clingy when you try to leave).
There’s the group of people who’ve reinforced barking, because whenever they hear a noise outside they ask urgently “Who’s there? Who’s there?” inciting the dog into a barking frenzy and rewarding them with either laughter or praise. A cool game until you’re dog barks at everything he hears without you having to say a word.
But more often than not, dogs who bark while their owners aren’t home have learned that barking gets them what they want, just as a trained dog learns that doing a “sit” earns them a treat or praise. It’s worth taking note of what your reaction is when you’re home and your dog barks at you – do you produce a treat, play with him, or run to open the door so he can go outside and play? Housebreaking issues are exempt from that last example. Teaching your dog that barking doesn’t cause you to spring into action will go a long way in extinguishing the behavior.
For the times when you do leave, make sure that your dog is suitably exercised and has a few cool toys to play with while you’re away. Don’t allow him access to windows where he might see people or dogs pass by, because that kind of “TV” viewing encourages barking every time someone passes by your home.
And speaking of being away, make sure that your goodbye is brief and unemotional. Avoid cue words that trip off the behavior you don’t want; for example, if your last words before leaving are always “Mommy misses you”, simply stop saying it. Fifteen minutes before leaving, turn on the or radio for white noise, and give your dog a dog “pacifier” in the form of a stuffed hard rubber toy, and skip the long goodbyes. Eventually, your dog should look forward to leaving so he can have his reward.
Yesterday we adopted a very hyper, 8-month old puppy from the shelter and were wondering how to integrate him into our dinner party next month. We’re expecting a hundred people, and the guests range from toddlers to the very elderly, so we want him to be well behaved when he’s wandering around. Any tips?
What you’re saying is that you have a new, hyper, adolescent puppy, and are wondering how to train him to accept not only the new home and new family that he’s with but also a hundred people that he’s never met before? I’m sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but there’s a slim to none chance that you’ll be able to quick train this dog into the party ambassador that you so desire. Not only that, but I think that it’s asking far too much of a puppy to have to deal with that kind of excitement and potential stress. Probable disasters range from him jumping on and injuring a guest, stealing food (or having a guest feed him!) resulting in an upset stomach, or, the ever popular, failing to alert someone of his need to use the “facilities” and leaving an unwelcome surprise on the floor. In my opinion your dog – and you – would be happier if he were upstairs in a bedroom, preferably under the watchful eye of a neighborhood teen you hired for the evening whose sole purpose is to meet the puppy’s needs. After the party, dedicate yourself to obedience training him, and he can make his debut at next year’s event!
This is a classic example of “All dogs love their travel bags – unless they don’t”. Here’s my tried and true T.R.I.P. method for training dogs how to happily travel in their bag:
- Teach them to love their bag! Make sure lots of cool toys and snacks appear randomly in it – initially, keep it will on the floor so they can hop in and out of it at will.
- Recreation inside the bag is key! New toys that the dog has never played with before will make the dog look forward to going into his bag.
- Introduce them to travel with short trips – ex: kitchen to the living room
- Please Release Me! Dogs shouldn’t live in their bags. Especially in the beginning, give them frequent opportunities to get out and walk around. They’ll like the bag more when they realize it isn’t a prison.
Give a consistent command, such as “Get in your bag!”, or “Hop In!” whenever placing a dog inside. Eventually, your dog will happily jump into the bag whenever she hears the command. In the case of a dog who jumps in the bag but keeps their head poking out, gently press on their head and tell them “Head Down” as you zipper it closed. Catching your dog’s fur in the zipper can set your training back.
Interior decorating – mats, blankets etc. should honor the climate. No matter how much you love the idea of a faux mink blanket, your dog will be miserable with that in her bag while she’s being carried around South Beach in August! Dogs overheat quickly and can die from heatstroke, so be extra alert to high temperatures in warm climates and during the summer.
Bags should be belted into car seats (back seat, away from the airbags).
Fireworks can be very traumatic to some dogs, but the good news is that this particular fear can respond well to sound desensitization techniques. By playing a high-quality CD of fireworks very quietly at first and gradually increasing the volume over a period of time, your dog can potentially become desensitized to the sound.
However, increasing the volume too quickly (before the dog is behaving in a calm and relaxed manner while the CD was playing at a lower volume), or exposing the dog to the sound of real fireworks before the desensitization program is complete will almost guarantee a relapse. Luckily for you, this is an easier “sound fear” to desensitize than a thunderstorm phobia. Unlike fireworks, thunderstorms occur with a combination of environmental changes (such as static electricity) that are impossible to recreate.
In the meantime, if there’s a chance your dog will be exposed to fireworks before you complete the desensitization program (or if you notice that it’s not helping), your best choice is to stay indoors with him until the fireworks are over. If you must leave the house, keep him safely confined with some white noise in the background and his favorite comfort toys. Be sure that his I.D. tags are on and up to date – a microchip and an ID collar embroidered with the word REWARD and your cell number is even better. Some dogs become so fearful that they’ve managed to escape from their homes. And if you miss the fireworks this year – take heart. You can always watch them on t.v……with the Mute button on!
11 GOOD REASONS
TO PLAY TUG!
1. Because when your dog is tugging, distractions become insignificant while training! Here’s why: In a low state of arousal, dogs can notice more insignificant things in the environment and become nervous or fearful. But a dog who’s tugging is in a high state of ‘crank’ and doesn’t tend to notice these things as much. I always used this game/engagement to introduce my puppy to potential scary things and situations.
2. Your Dog Learns How To Work Through “Don’t Wanna Don’t Have To” Moments. From the very beginning, I teach my dogs that when I say “Get it”, they must tug no matter what else they may want to do. I teach them to change from tugging one toy to another, and I teach them to tug even when I have a handful of cookies in front of their nose. That lesson transfers to “Come when I call you even though you’d rather be chasing that squirrel.”
3. Dogs “Not Into” Food, Or With Special Diets/Sensitive Tummies can still have a great reward.
4. It helps with body handling. When your dog is focused on the tugging, you can touch his shoulders, face, flanks, feet – anywhere. It really decreases the anxiety some dogs feel about being touched.
5. It teaches your dog to go from Cranked to Calm. And you need that skill every day all day! Have you seen people trying to get a super excited dog to “SIT SIT SIT SIT!!” and fail? That’s because their dog never learned this concept.
6. Your dog learns that you control the game. An important leadership concept.
7. This is how your dog learns “Drop It” or “Out.”
8. With this game, a dog learns to control their teeth and jaw pressure. If they accidentally grab your hand, the game ends.
9. This teaches your dog LOTS of self-control. They quickly learn to tug only when invited.
10. You can use it as a reward during training! A good alternative to a COOKIE.
11. It builds a fun working relationship with the dog. A treat can be eaten in 2 seconds, but a game of tug requires you to participate, so you become the reward!
BEHAVIORS THAT ARE HELPED BY TUG:
- Biting and pulling on leash
- Jumping (greetings) and biting
- “Sit,” “Down” and “Stay” (in exciting situations: guests, parks, events)
- Biting or Mouthy Pup
- Stealing toys & more …
TUGGING Q & A
“I’ve seen two dogs playing tug & having a great time, but will playing games of tug cause aggression?”
NO. Properly taught and managed, “Tug” will NOT teach your dog to be aggressive.
“Can people play tug with dogs too?”
YES. People CAN & SHOULD play tug with their dogs.
HOW TO TEACH TUGGING:
1. Select a sturdy tug toy that your dog will enjoy. ‘Audition’ the toy before playing the game, and DO NOT allow your dog to have access to the dog during the day. It’s only to be used for tugging/training, and if the dog has access to it all the time, it won’t be special. Also, if your dog doesn’t find a toy he likes, don’t be afraid to use a ‘non-toy’ tug. When my puppy, Never, was 10 weeks old, I used a knotted sock because the toys were too big for her wee mouth!
2. Stand or sit on the floor, show your dog the toy, and then hide it behind your back. Get your dog excited. I say things like “Readyyyyy…are you readddddddyyy?”
3. Present the toy to your dog and say “Get It”!
4. If your dog grabs the toy, GENTLY pull on it. Your goal is not to pop the tug out of his mouth; your goal is to have him enjoy the game. If he shows no interest, you can drag it ‘snake-like’ on the floor, throw it in the air and catch it, etc.
5. TUG for a few seconds (less time when first learning) with your dog. Use your ‘game on position” and be verbally exciting. Eventually, you can gently pat his body to work on body handling, but if your dog is a tentative tugger, hold off on that.
6. THE RELEASE: Version 1. Grab a tasty morsel from your treat pouch (I use soft, high-value dog treats for the first few lessons) and put it on your dog’s nose, saying, “OUT” or “DROP” or whatever you like. When he releases the toy, pop the treat in his mouth, and after he finishes eating it, offer him the game again by presenting the toy and saying “Get It!”.
Version 2. Switch from being in “game on’ position and tugging to becoming still and quiet. If you were tugging in a kneeling position, now that you’ve stopped your upper body should be ramrod straight, not giving the impression that you’re still playing. Hold the toy firmly against your body at the level of the dog’s mouth. Don’t pull it up and away from him. You can slowly reel in the toy with your fingers so that there’s a lot less surface area for the dog to hold on to. Don’t stare at the dog, just look at the floor. You can breathe, too! Basically, just stop the fun. There’s a chance – a very good chance – that he’ll keep tugging. Just stay still. Be calm. Wait him out. He will release the toy, and the second his mouth comes off the toy, say “Yes! Get It!” and give him the toy again. Instantly put it right back in his mouth and get on with the tugging again. The cue “Out” (or “drop it” or “enough”) will be given later – after multiple reps when you see that he understands the concept of when you stop, he should let go, and then he gets more game. On the very last rep of the session, when the dog releases the toy, say “Out” and then give a cookie as a reward. The toy is the returned to wherever it’s stored. Far away from your dog’s reach.
1. If your dog’s teeth touch your skin intentionally (not accidentally), the game ends. A time-out is earned, and then you may try again later.
2. If your dog grabs or re-takes the toy before an invite, use collar grab and hold them away from you, calmly saying something along the lines of “I don’t think so” for a few seconds, then try again. If that escalates your dog’s behavior, it may be time for a time out.
3. If your dog doesn’t drop the toy when asked (NOT applicable to dogs who are just learning the game), see #2.
4. When using Tug as a reward during training, if your dog doesn’t do what you’ve asked (sit, down, stay) make sure you enforce the command you’ve asked for, then release, and then ask again. Only your dog’s successful response will result in you offering a game of tug.
TUGGING CODE OF CONDUCT
Tug etiquette means that you always keep your eye on the environment to make sure that your dog’s game of tug with you isn’t causing dogs nearby to become excited. Your dog is vulnerable when he’s tugging, so you need to be his eyes and ears and watch out for other dogs that may break away from their owners (or run off their property) to ‘discipline’ your dog for having too much fun.
This means: don’t spin, shake, bounce or whip your dog at the end of the toy! Dogs have tremendous neck power from side to side, but not up and down. Shaking a dog that way while tugging hyper-extends the dog’s neck. Instead, tug as if you have a bungee between you, and alternate holding and giving pressure. My primary game is patting the dog’s body while they’re tugging! Using bungee toys helps to get that “give and take” action while safely playing with your dog.
- TUG is NOT about Possession! It’s about relationship building.
- It’s also teaching the dog that you are in control: You start the game. You end the game.
- “Game On” position – for me – is a crouch. If I say their name and when they look at me go into that position, they get excited in anticipation of a game with me.
- GROWLING is an ACCEPTABLE behavior during tug!
During the summer, my friend is coming to my house for a week with her dog. Although she and I are best friends, our dogs are worst enemies. What can I do?
You can’t force children to be best friends even when their parents are, and the same rules apply to our canine “kids.” Actually, it’s even more difficult with dogs, because pleading your case with them – “But Quincy, Jack is such a sweet dog. Please share your toys with him, honey.” – usually yields nothing but a wagging tail at the sound of your incomprehensible, but pleasant- sounding words. The possible reasons for their cantankerous relationship are too many to list here, and unless you live near each other and can take both dogs through some sort of training that would impact their personal relationship, your best plan for the upcoming holiday is to keep the dogs separate at all times. Be aware that food, toys and being possessive about their “person” can set off a quarrel between even the best of dog friends, so you need to keep your eyes open and your mind sharp to avoid potential problems. If you’ve done training with your dog, I would recommend that you put in some extra practice a week before the visit, and double your efforts during their stay. A dog that is constantly being given commands (and being rewarded for doing them) is also being reminded who is running the show, so to speak. The most plausible remedy for harmony this trip is to ditch the idea of them becoming Disney-esque dog pals and keep your eyes on them at all times during the visit. Maybe next year you’ll both have trained and socialized your dogs to the point where they’re able to set their differences aside and be civilized to each other. If not, perhaps you’ll decide on a visit without the dogs being together, ensuring a lovely vacation for all!
The short answer is: You can’t. At least not reliably.
The main problem with boundary training is that even though you probably could teach your dog (while he is on a leash and you are attached to the other end of it) where your property line is, the minute you weren’t outside with him and he saw something that he wanted (think squirrels, people, cars, rapidly moving air molecules), he would more than likely run straight over that line, to infinity and beyond.
Your dog doesn’t have the ability to see something he wants to chase (a moving car, for example) and then reason it out (“but if I run in front of it I’ll be seriously injured”) to avoid a bad outcome. The dog never thinks “Well……my owner was very clear about not wanting me to leave the yard, so I’d better not.” Maybe (big emphasis on “maybe”) he wouldn’t leave if you were standing next to him while he was on leash, but if you’re inside the house, or not home at all, your dog can and will leave the property.
Does that mean an invisible or hard fence is invincible? Not at all. Is it a safer option then nothing but wide open space and a prayer? You better believe it.