Thomas E. Catanzaro, DVM, MHA, FACHE, Diplomate American College of Healthcare Executives
Dogs and men are blessed with the gift of being "Best Friends." This did not come about by accident. We both belong to the group of animals known as "pack animals." As pack animals we share certain things in common which are dictated by our need for social interaction. We must have order and routine in our lives or we become "cranky." Out of our basic understanding of a hierarchical structure comes the need to have an authority figure in our lives or we become the "boss." We not only want, but need discipline in our lives. The success or failure of our ability to attain these things lies in the success of our communication skills.
Both humans and dogs use the same two elements to have successful communication skills: Body Language - what you do, often unconsciously, with your facial expressions, posture, arms, and legs; and Paralanguage - the "sounds" that come out of your throat; that make words; that have meaning.
Common Body Language
Self-confidence: Standing erect and using direct eye-contact
"I'm More Important Than You Are;" Standing erect with hands at hips or arms crossed, often with the neck arched tall and "looking down the nose" at the other party. We even seem to take a deep breath to "puff" ourselves up to be "more." (In addition to this, dogs will tip their ears forward and when they feel especially threatened; they will bristle their fur and sometimes show their teeth.)
Insecurity / Uneasiness: Slumping and looking away
Fear or Contrition: Bowing down, pulling head into shoulders, looking down (In addition, dogs roll their ears back and tuck their tails under their belly.)
Extreme Fear: Dropping to the ground or rolling over on their back. Body will remain stiff. (In contrast to a request for a belly rub, when the body is very relaxed) Possible urination or anal gland release (to expose scent)
"Let's Play": Head cocks sideways or head bows and eyes shift to the top of the head; the whole body may squirm with anticipation
Nurturing or Soft Controlling Sounds: Cooing or "baby talk."
"Let's Play" / We're 'equal' / We're Just Having Fun: High pitched "yip, yip, yip" sound. Palaver (Idle chatter or beguiling talk between persons of different levels; often used to cajole or persuade with deliberate flattery.) For example: "Good dog!", "Atta boy! ", "Good job! ", "Better!", "That's the way!"
Warning: Low guttural "growl" sound. For example: "No-o-o!", "Sha-a-me!", "Ba-a-ad Dog!", "Mi-i-ine!, "Leave it!"
Alert / Danger! Sharp "bark" sound. For example: "Out! ", "Off! ", "No! ", "Quiet! ", "Stop!" Please note: these are all one-word, one-syllable, one-time sounds. To repeat the sound as in "No, no, no!" or "Stop it, stop it!" will sound more like "Yip, yip, yip!" This is Faulty Paralanguage because the dog will interpret this as the "Let's play" sound. Along this same line, all commands should be given only once (i.e. "Sit! "). "Sit ... Sit ... Sit" sounds more like "Get up and play, play, play!"
Breed Specific Paralanguage
I brought a 20 kg Maremma home in May 2006 to break my son's syndrome of "I only need to live as long as Tara dad, then I can die (Tara was a 13 year old Alaskan Malamute, and my son was severely brain damaged from a car accident three years previous). Tara had been his companion from day one of her life, he selected her when this white puppy was born and the breeder said "What am I going to do with a white female?" and he socialized her as well as learned dog training with her, 13 year before; she was his reality anchor.
The Maremma was a male, selected after I watched the parents and grandparents in the paddocks of New South Wales, and I spent 5 week socializing the puppy before I brought him back to the USA. When I took him into my son's duplex, I said he needed to name him and help me train him, since my travels did not allow for the consistency needed for effective puppy training (20 minute intervals, multiple times a day). Michael accepted the challenge, and two weeks later, came to me and said, "Dad, remember when I said I only need to live as long as Tara, well with Gavino, I am going to have to live 15 to 17 years before I can die." I had achieved my goal...... when people ask, 'what kind of dog is that', he shines with pride as he replies.
Paralanguage for a Maremma, after they get a bit of size on them, is simply, "I am a paddock protector, I am bred to kill wolves and anything else threatening my flock, so I will charge the back yard fence and warn them off at the top of my lungs!"
Maremmas are premier sheep guardian dogs, smaller than an Akbash, but not much. Gavino is 100 pounds, 27 inches at the withers, white feathered coat and tail, with a "polar bear" head, and his "greeting grin" looks like a snarl. A perfect dog for my son, a challenge for the neighbors when someone approaches the fence with a dog (Gavino also does not seem to be comfortable with the snow plow on the green space sidewalks behind our back yard, so he warns them off also.
Bottom line, know the breed behavior characteristics before you select the companion animal of your choice.........in my case, I needed a dog that would keep my son occupied, proud, and looking toward the future, for 15 to 17 years.
Canine Behavior Management Begins with the A - B - C's
"Best Friend" relationships need not be difficult or complicated if you simply stick to the basics, play fair, and stay consistent. It's easy to build a relationship with your dog if you, the more intelligent part of the team, will consider what is "natural" for the dog:
Dogs (like humans) are pack animals by nature and must have another warm being in their lives. They adapt well to the recognized social order of the pack, and when the leader is clear, are satisfied with being a pack member.
(A) Dogs understand and respect the authority figure in their lives. If no one else is perceived as the "boss," and since all dogs want to run for President, in the absence of a pack leader, the dog will appoint himself as alpha (or head of the pack).
(B) The two most basic survival needs for dogs are not the people in their lives. These are simply food and shelter. Because of their importance, it is quite easy to apply "rules" to these things to help establish yourself as head of the pack.
(C) As members of a pack, dogs understand and use communication skills that are very similar to our human form of communication. Dog and man are more alike in this regard than any other species. Perhaps this is why we are so naturally suited to be best friends.
(D) Dogs can live well within the system of the pack because they respect the "pecking order" within the pack. Each member knows his order within the chain of command and all members expect and accept some form of discipline if they step out of line.
(E) Dogs understand boundary lines or "turf." (They mark theirs with urine, we mark ours with walls, doors, fences, gates, and invisible property lines.) Proper environment control is basic to teaching your dog the rules within the pack.
(F) Dogs want to be friendly, within the structure of the pack. They will naturally protect their den (your home) until the alpha leader tells them to be friendly. It takes a cruel leader to teach a dog not to be friendly, or a caring alpha leader to teach them when to be protective of the pack and den.
(G) Dogs need grooming to live in a home. They do not have a bathing gene, they will roll in most anything with a great smell, nor have their parents taught them to brush their teeth after meals. Grooming must come from the members of the pack, on a regular basis, to live within the home environment with family harmony.
In addition, best friends never embarrass or take advantage of each other. The Golden Rule seems to say it best for most all dogs.
The Ground Rules of Pet Training
"Prevention" is easier than a "cure." If an animal is exposed to the right things at the right stages in his life, it does make a difference!
Pets learn by trial and error. They work in real time, so delayed correction or long diatribes after you chase them down, does not make much sense to them.
We use the same methods to teach an animal to do something as we do to teach him not to do other things.
There is more than one way to train an animal. If the method we choose does not seem to be working, we simply go back to the drawing board until we find the animal's "hot button."
Not all animals respond to food rewards
Most animals respond to positive reinforcement
Animals generally respond best to immediate correction and reinforcement
There are no "Quick Fixes." Trying new methods only one time will not solve a problem, but they may very well confuse the pet.
Animals establish new "habit patterns" by repetitions of behavior. In most cases, it takes 6 weeks to undo a naughty behavior! (that is, 6 weeks of never letting the behavior occur!) If the pet slips up and successfully carries out the behavior during the modification time frame, the behavior actually becomes "intermittent reward" and will make the behavior worse than it was before!
Use methods that involve both positive and negative rewards, but always try to return to the positive, non-negative, reinforcement.
The 3 phases of training are:
Place - Place the animal in a position where he can't make a mistake. Limit his choices.
Practice -By using repetition to our advantage, the pet will establish new habit patterns of behavior.
Test - Does the pet clearly understand what his proper behavior should be? You won't know unless you "set up" a few "controlled distractions." Test his knowledge skills and be prepared to communicate with some well-timed discipline.
Animal training is not difficult if a person knows how to effectively use the tools of consistency, environment control, and good communication and disciplinary skills.
Teaching Your Puppy To "Come & Sit" at Your Feet
The three most important things you will ever teach your puppy is (a) to Trust you, (b) to Come when you call, and (c) to Sit quietly at your feet. The sooner you begin to make these exercises a natural part of your relationship, the better. Make use of your puppy's instinctive desire to win your approval and make use of his natural curiosity. Use your puppy's name frequently. Always associate his name with praise and reward. If you call him by name and then punish him it won't be long before he's running away from you rather than coming to you. Make his name and "Come" the two most rewarding words he'll ever know.
Begin by carrying your puppy to a new (distraction free) area. Place him on the ground, call his name and say "Come" as you walk away. Being a pack animal, your puppy will most likely choose not to be left behind. After he follows a few steps, drop down to his level and let him catch up with you. When he comes all the way to you, lift his head and scoop his bottom into a sit. (Do not get into the habit of reaching for your puppy before he comes all the way to you! He will think this is a game and will learn to play "Keep Away" by staying just out of range.)
Continue to pet and praise your puppy as you look him in the eye. A puppy who learns there is reward for sitting at a person's feet when he's called will not jump on people later! If your puppy begins to lose interest in this new game, run away from him. This will usually activate the "chase instinct." Reward him with a food treat before you help him into a sit position. Make the reward something your puppy really likes (i.e. cheese, liver treats, hot dogs).
It may be necessary to become a "good actor." Touch and talk to the grass and imaginary bugs in a very excited voice. Curiosity will usually win out and your puppy will come to see what excitement he's missing.
After a few days of enthusiastic responses to "Come," begin to play Come Games with your puppy. Hide-and-Seek games are fun as long as you hide in relatively simple places. Don't try to trick your puppy. The object of this game is to build your puppy's confidence. You become the prize for a job well done. Always reward your puppy on his level as you help him into a sit.
Another good way to practice "Come" and exercise a puppy at the same time is to teach him to come back and forth between two or more people. Practice this exercise on leash "just in case" you need a check cord. You will let the leash drag behind your puppy. Take your puppy and a friend to a safe open field. Have your friend squat down to visit with your puppy. Then turn the puppy so he can watch you leave. Turn your back on your puppy and run several steps away. Turn around to face your puppy, squat down and call him to you. Use his name followed by the command, "Come." When he arrives at your feet, gently lift his head and scoop his bottom into a "sit." After praising profusely, turn the puppy around so he can see his new friend jump up, run straight away, turn, squat and invite him to "Come." Have your friend reward your puppy with a treat, lift his head, and tuck him into a sit. Repeat. Your puppy will be running back and forth as the distance increases. In the event that your puppy is hesitant to leave your side to go to your friend, take the leash and run with your puppy. Once your puppy understands what is expected and has focused his attention on your friend, drop the leash and allow him complete the trip on his own.
Head Collar Training Augmentation
There are many types of head collars, the original going back to the University of Minnesota patent used on the Gentle Leader head collar (early 1980s). The traditionalists seem to prefer to choke animals, and a few, use prong choke collars so they can inflict more harm (they have other descriptions, but choke collars are used for negative training systems), seem to carry fear training to an extreme.
Head collars use instinctive canine control pressures: bridge of nose is an alpha control pressure, back of head/neck is a maternal control pressure, and a front of neck pressure is a fear point, based on the killing pressures of a neck bite (ergo, never use the choke in positive reinforcement training). The Gentle Leader "Double D-ring" provides a balanced set of pressures, and the release of pressure is the reward (the Double D-ring also prevents the head collar from falling off when pressure is released). Most other head collars, without the Double D-ring, the release of pressure allows the head collar to fall off, so they remain as a negative training/disciple system since pressure must be continually maintained.
Initial Gentle Leader training works best walking in a wide circle, steady pace, allowing the dog to buck and pull as they fight the instinctive pressures (remember, all dogs want to run for president). They soon learn that if they come to the heel position, the pressure is released. When they do come to the heel position, continue only a few more paces on your circle, stop, and give the SIT command. The first couple times, you may have to use a gentle up pressure on the head collar (which causes the butt to go down); in rare resistant cases, a small tail head downward pressure reminder may be needed for what the word sit means. At the sit, praise the actions, and in about 15 seconds, state heel and start waking the circle again. Continue this process, rewarding the appropriate SIT, and in about eight to ten minutes, 95% of the dogs will have learned to heel and sit.
The "come" portion of training with a head collar comes with the use of a longer lead, light parachute cord or heavy fishing line, and an unobstructed training field area. Allow the puppy to explore the fringes, and when there is not a major distraction, give the command 'come'. If the pup does not respond, and most won't early in the training, only then a pressure is applied on the lead attached to the head collar, as the command come is repeated. Please do not change the tenor of your voice, this is training, not discipline. Again, when come (with the lead pressure) gets the pup to come and sit at the heel position, reward them with praise.
Remember, 20 minute sessions, a few times a day, is best for developing the new habits and pack knowledge for the pup to be a good family member.
Teaching Your Puppy To "Sit" and "Wait"
Teaching your puppy to "Sit" on command is as easy as getting his attention and getting him to look up. You'll understand what I mean if you will get down on your hands and knees. Try to drink out of a paper cup without spilling a drop. Keep your hands on the floor. After you have lifted your chin as high as you can go, you'll find yourself "sitting" to avoid getting wet. A young puppy is very clumsy and can not look up without sitting down. It's that simple!
Use treats that are sure to get your puppy's attention (i.e. liver treats, cheese bits, hot dog slices). Show the treat to your puppy at his nose level. When he has fixed his attention on the treat, walk backwards a few steps and encourage him to follow the treat.While his nose is still glued to the treat, say his name and the command, "Sit." Take a step toward your puppy and lift the treat slightly above his head. This should cause him to flop into a sit. Reward him immediately! If he tries to jump up, you are probably holding the treat too high up. Lower the treat to nose level and take another step into your puppy as you repeat the command to "Sit." You may find it helpful to practice this on leash the first few tries. Let the reward come from your right hand. Obedience trained dogs respond to a right-hand signal which moves from the handler's hip to his shoulder in a "palm up" fashion.
After a few successful responses on the first command to "Sit," begin to teach your puppy to "Wait" or "Stay" for a few seconds before receiving his reward. Rotate your hand over and spread your fingers wide to form a "wall" directly in front of your puppy's eyes. Use the leash to keep a mild upward pull on the back of your puppy's head. This will encourage him to keep his head up and his bottom down. Two seconds is long enough to wait in the beginning. As your puppy grows steadier, begin to stand taller and add distance between the hand holding the treat and the tip of your dog's nose. If your puppy starts to jump for the treat, you are probably progressing too fast. Repeat the "Sit... Wait" command and move the wall back to nose level. A gentle upward snap with the collar and leash will serve as a reminder to keep his head up. Just for fun, watch your dog get up from a sit position. Balance requires him to lower his head and shift his weight forward before standing. If he keeps his head up, his bottom will stay down.
Head Collar Training Augmentation
Many puppies want to stay with you, so sit and wait, as you walk away, is not "acceptable" in their mind.
For the survival of your puppy, come, down, and stay are critical commands when they are near roads, and must have immediate and unwavering response.
If you use the longer lead, light parachute cord or heavy fishing line, and thread it around a post or other fixed object behind the puppy, when you start to walk away and the puppy stands up to follow, you can easily put pressure on the lead, and give the hand signal for sit - wait - stay, while clearly stating the single word command wait or stay.
Please note the need for consistency in your commands. Sit is when they are close to you, while WAIT means don't stand/move. Stay is a command for when you are walking away, and want the puppy to stay behind. Only train one command at a time, and do not do them all in the same week during initial training.
There is an old wives tale circulating from the Lassie days, and that is puppies cannot learn the basic commands until after 6 months of age (adolescence). This is not true, it just means you must be a little more patient with the pre-adolescent puppy.
The Gentle Leader kit comes with a 65 page booklet, or CD equivalent, for providing training assistance in most all the basic behavior needs of a new puppy. Take it slow and steady, ensure all the family members are aligned with the commands being used and the state of training success. Since a dog wants to please, when they know what the alpha leader wants, they become a very happy family member, and the family becomes very proud of the exemplary behavior.
Clicker training is designed to help your dog learn how to learn. It quickly teaches him to listen for a sound, to look to you for directions, to respond in an appropriate manner, and to receive a reward for a job well done.
When you make the "click" sound, it is very important to make the sound only once. The same is true when you give commands later on. To issue the command more than once will encourage your dog to "stall" or to learn to tune a deaf ear to your commands. Don't get in the habit of training him to use bad habits. When you begin, be sure to stand an arm' s distance away so the sound is not so loud that it frightens your dog. Hold the clicker in your left hand and the treat in your right hand. Since obedience hand signals are given with the right hand, this naturally encourages your dog to look for your right hand.
"Treats" should be really special and should be broken into small pieces. Be sure to offer the treat at the level of the dog's nose to prevent him from jumping. If he does not already take treats gently from your hand, teach him to do so before you start clicker training. (Wrap your fingers completely around the treat. If your dog snaps for the treat, give him what he wanted, but give him more than he bargained for. Push your entire hand into his mouth as you bark "no!" He will probably gag slightly. Offer the treat again and command, "easy." If he licks for the treat, gently slide it toward the end of your fingertips and place it into his mouth. Praise him lavishly with "good dog!")
Let's Get Started
Stage 1: Click - Reward
Click the clicker once. Reward him with a treat immediately. Timing is very important. If you wait for a response, you have waited too long. After about three click-reward sequences, your dog will begin to respond to the sound. Wait five minutes and begin again. This time, click and pause. The instant the dog indicates he heard something (he does not have to look at you, he only has to flick an ear or an eyebrow to indicate he "heard"), place the treat in his mouth and praise. (Do not call him to you.) Go to his other side and repeat the process. When he starts to turn in the direction of your hand, stand behind him. If he will turn completely around to find the sound, you are ready to move on to Stage 2. Note: The key to this stage is "surprise." It may be hard to get your dog to ignore you once he realizes you have a pocketful of treats. Be patient. Wait until he is not watching before clicking the clicker again.
Stage 2: "Name" - Click - Reward
You should now be 4 - 6 feet away from your dog. Quietly say his name, click the clicker, and squat down to meet him on his level. Place the food directly into your dog's mouth. He should only have to move a few feet in your direction before getting his treat. When he consistently comes running across the room, go to Stage 3.
Stage 3: "Name" - Click - "Come" - Reward
You should spend three days at stage 3. At this stage, gradually add distance and be creative! Work indoors and outside. Play Hide 'N Seek as you duck behind a door or behind a bush. This simple exercise teaches your dog to use reasoning skills to find you. Notice that your dog is now doing a series of things before he receives his reward. You should still squat down to meet him on his level. Be generous with verbal and physical rewards! "Come" will soon become his favorite game.
Stage 4: "Name" - Click - "Come" - "Sit" - Reward
This stage begins the same as stage 3 with two exceptions: When your dog gets within two feet of you, stand and go to meet him. As you greet your dog, tell him to "Sit".
Lift his head by "gluing" the treat to his nose and raising your hand slightly as you step into him. (Keep your palm up. In the future, this gesture will become the hand signal to "Sit.") This should cause him to lift his head. If his chin goes up, his center of gravity shifts and his bottom should go down. (You may need to assist by pulling the leash up with your left hand.) If he jumps up, you are probably holding the treat too high. Tap him lightly on the nose with the back of your hand. At the same time, bark, "no!" Step into him and repeat the "sit" command. If necessary, help him into a sit and praise to be sure he understands that "sit" is the desired behavior.
After a full week at Stage 4, begin to alternate between food rewards and praise-only rewards in an attempt to wean your dog off food rewards altogether. After another week, begin to alternate the use of the clicker with just the "come" command. In time, your dog should be very eager to respond to the command to "come" by spinning on a dime and running to sit at your feet.
Clicker training may also be an effective tool to use to defuse a potentially stressful situation for your dog. (i.e. thunderstorms, fear of the leash, or signs of impending aggression. Note: This will not stop aggression that has already begun, but it may redirect your dog's attention and therefore prevent a situation from ever starting.)
To teach a show dog to "bait" for the conformation ring the easy way, Clicker Train him.