Dear Miss Behavior: How Can I Get My Dog to Control His Tail?

Dear Miss Behavior, Our 90 lb. black lab is a gentle soul who loves children. Unfortunately his tail is wicked and can
knock them off their feet. It’s also very good at clearing off the coffee table. How can we get him to control his tail?

missbehavior

Oh my, that’s a tough one! That’s one of the reasons most of my friends are Aussies! Since I doubt you want to dock his tail, here’s some information about why dogs wag their tail and what we can do about it.

Dogs wag their tails when they’re happy, undecided, or angry. The position of the tail and the way the dog wags it tells a lot about their mood. I’m sure that Ebony’s tail is held in a natural position and wags freely, a case of the tail wagging the dog even. I’m also guessing that when he clears the coffee table it’s because he’s greeting people sitting on the couch?

Unfortunately we can’t control Ebony’s tail, and we don’t want to discourage his friendliness, but we can control his butt. Teach him to do a sit-stay when greeting people!

Use family members and friends to train your dog at first, then move on to strangers on the street, etc. Just ask Ebony to sit and stay while the helper pets them. If he breaks, the helper will back off and you will put him back into a sit-stay. This is a behavior to work on with all people who meet him. Be sure to let the helper (and any new person) know they can’t pet Ebony until he’s in a sit-stay.

marcygraybillAfter Marcy adopted her first dog in 1988, she began to research about dog care. Research took the form of checking out books and videos to learn how to train Lady. Eventually, Marcy and her sister began taking their dogs to the dog run and taking formal dog classes. For about six years, Marcy volunteered for the Capital Humane Society, where she performed a variety of jobs, and took time to watch the dogs and learn about their behaviors. Currently, she’s an obedience instructor at GLOC. “I think the most important is to keep up to date on what’s going on in the field.  I try to read articles, blogs and  new books that come out, and watch any DVDs that are available.”

Dear Miss Behavior: How Can I Become the Pack Leader?

Dear Miss Behavior, I have read that in our relationship with our dogs we are to be the Pack Leader. Can you suggest some things I can do to establish a leadership role with my dog?

missbehavior

For some trainers the concept of Pack Leadership is in question. There are people studying this
paradigm and some are starting to report that this may not be reality.* Others feel that it’s one of the most important tenets of dog training. Either way, we can use some simple steps to ensure that a dog respects his owner and is well behaved.

Be sure Timber has plenty of exercise and give him training sessions everyday. It doesn’t have to take a lot of time; you can practice heeling and recalls on walks. Sit and down stays can be practiced throughout the day.

Tell Timber to do a simple command to earn what he wants. If your dog wants to go outside, ask him to
sit and stay until the door is open. Be sure to enforce the command, and his reward will be being released to go outside.

When it’s time to feed Timber don’t free feed; instead divide his daily food in half, give one half in the morning and the other half in the evening. When you feed him ask him to down and stay while the food is being prepped and placed on the floor. Again enforce the command and release him to eat.

In the evening when Timber nudges your knee asking to play fetch or a game of tug, tell him to do a down or a sit stay before releasing him to a rousing tug session. In each case you’re reinforcing the idea that Timber must work for what he wants. He won’t be allowed to train you or be given things for free. And whether he understands pack hierarchies or not, he understands that you are very important to him.

For more information, read: “Dominance in Domestic Dogs—Useful Construct or Bad Habit?” Journal
of Veterinary Behavior: Clinical Applications and Research (May/June 2009), 135-14. or try Dog Sense: How the new science of dog behavior can make you a better friend to your pet by John Bradshaw.

marcygraybillAfter Marcy adopted her first dog in 1988, she began to research about dog care. Research took the form of checking out books and videos to learn how to train Lady. Eventually, Marcy and her sister began taking their dogs to the dog run and taking formal dog classes. For about six years, Marcy volunteered for the Capital Humane Society, where she performed a variety of jobs, and took time to watch the dogs and learn about their behaviors. Currently, she’s an obedience instructor at GLOC. “I think the most important is to keep up to date on what’s going on in the field.  I try to read articles, blogs and  new books that come out, and watch any DVDs that are available.”

Dear Miss Behavior: How Can I Teach My Dog to Retrieve?

Dear Miss Behavior, We adopted a Labrador Retriever from rescue. He’s three-years-old and has great house manners. The only problem is he doesn’t retrieve! We toss a toy but he grabs it and runs off. Someone said try two toys and trade one toy for another, but he just hides the first toy and then runs and gets the second. We really love the idea of playing fetch in the back yard. How do we teach him how to retrieve?

missbehavior

Some dogs never learn the idea of playing fetch when they’re a puppy. They don’t realize the game lasts
much longer if you bring the toy back to the human.

It’s not difficult to train dogs to retrieve. They have the instinct to chase and pick up; They just need to be taught that giving the toy back is more important that hiding it.

Start with him on leash in the house and have handy a toy that doesn’t roll away too easily and a small dish of tasty treats. Offer him the toy and let him grab it out of your hand and then present him with a treat. Most likely he’ll drop the toy for the treat.

Pick up the toy and repeat several times. Then hand him the toy and say “Give” or “Drop”. If he drops the toy, tell him what a good dog he is and give him a treat. If he doesn’t drop it, put the food on his nose so he does drop it and go back to step one for a few more repetitions.

Once he’s giving up the toy on command, gently toss the toy away from you. Remember he’s on a leash so only toss it a foot or so.

Allow him to run out and get the toy, and call him back. Use the leash to gently guide him back to you if he won’t come willingly.

Again have him give you the toy and reward him. Keep practicing this way throwing the toy a little farther and eventually dropping the leash.

If at any time he starts to run away with the toy, grab the leash and gently guide him back to you. Make sure the treats are really tasty!

Once he’s doing very well inside. Move outside. Keep him on leash until he understands he needs to
bring the toy back and get a reward. Once he’s reliably bringing the toy back for a treat, begin only
rewarding every other toss, or every third toss.

Eventually you won’t have to reward him with a treat because the game will be his reward.

marcygraybillAfter Marcy adopted her first dog in 1988, she began to research about dog care. Research took the form of checking out books and videos to learn how to train Lady. Eventually, Marcy and her sister began taking their dogs to the dog run and taking formal dog classes. For about six years, Marcy volunteered for the Capital Humane Society, where she performed a variety of jobs, and took time to watch the dogs and learn about their behaviors. Currently, she’s an obedience instructor at GLOC. “I think the most important is to keep up to date on what’s going on in the field.  I try to read articles, blogs and  new books that come out, and watch any DVDs that are available.”

Dear Miss Behavior: My Dog Bites When She Plays

Dear Miss Behavior, My Siberian Husky is a great dog. She only has one problem. Sometimes she gets really excited and starts biting my hands, my arms and even pulling on my clothes. I try telling her “NO!” but it doesn’t seem to make a difference to her. She is about a year old and we take long walks every day. Can you help?

missbehaviorI’m sorry to hear that Angel is trying to use you as a toy. This is a behavior that needs to stop. Not only is it dangerous; rips in clothes are definitely fashion faux-pas.

It sounds like Angel has had quite a bit of practice with the mouthing, so you’ll need some patience in stopping it. Whenever she starts to grab you, say “Ouch “in a loud voice with feeling. It doesn’t matter if she hurts you or not, we’re creating a word that she’ll learn means stop mouthing you and calm herself.

When you first say the word and she stops, you’ll quietly praise her. Tell her she’s a “gooood doooog” in a low and slow voice. You can give her a small treat if you have one handy but don’t pet her. Petting or touching her will encourage her to start mouthing again.

After a few times, she’s going to start testing you by trying to nip you again. When she does, you’ll move onto the next step. As soon as she grabs at you or your clothes say “Ouch,” and cross your arms and turn your back on her. When she calms down, verbally praise her as before.

Angel is quite smart, so she’ll soon figure out that mouthing you means you’ll stop interacting with her. The problem is she’s been rewarded for biting in the past. Anytime you pushed her away, grabbed her muzzle or wrestled her to the ground was probably viewed as a reward. Not only did you touch her but, in her opinion, you actually played with her.

So she’s going try to push you into ‘playing’ with her again. The next step requires her to have a flat buckle collar on and her crate nearby. You said you crate her at night so that’s great. When she begins chewing on you say “Ouch” but instead of ignoring her, you gently take hold of her collar and lead her into her crate. Close the door and leave her alone for a short time. Don’t get angry, don’t yell at her, or be mean when you put her in the crate. If her crate isn’t handy, you can take her to the laundry room or if you’re outside go inside without her. The end result is Angel spending a few minutes alone.

(I’ve been asked if that will make her hate her crate and I say no. Dogs learn to dislike their crates if they’re forced to spend too much time in them or if they’re frightened or teased while in the crate. I loved my cr—room as a child, even though I was sent there when I did something naughty.)

When you go back to her, be sure to keep it low-key when you let her out. Don’t encourage her to become excited. She needs to sit before the door opens. She’ll soon learn when you say “Ouch” to calm herself or she won’t have any playmates.

Remember, Siberian Huskies are very intelligent and have boundless energy. It sounds like you’ve got a good start with the long walks, but don’t forget to exercise her mind as well as body. Take an obedience class and train her every day, not only will she be better behaved but she’ll have less energy. Once you’ve taken her through a couple of obedience classes, the sky’s the limit. Consider agility, flyball, and/or even tracking to engage her.

Thanks to this feature goes to Greater Lincoln Obedience Club, who ran the Miss Behavior Dog Advice Column in their newsletter. Appreciation also is extended to Marcy Graybill, a trainer at GLOC and the expert behind this column. She also hosts her own blog, Dog Log, where she talks about training adventures with her dogs.

marcygraybillAfter Marcy adopted her first dog in 1988, she began to research about dog care. Research took the form of checking out books and videos to learn how to train Lady. Eventually, Marcy and her sister began taking their dogs to the dog run and taking formal dog classes. For about six years, Marcy volunteered for the Capital Humane Society, where she performed a variety of jobs, and took time to watch the dogs and learn about their behaviors. Currently, she’s an obedience instructor at GLOC. “I think the most important is to keep up to date on what’s going on in the field.  I try to read articles, blogs and  new books that come out, and watch any DVDs that are available.”

Dear Miss Behavior: My Dog Growls When I Near Her Food Dish

Dear Miss Behavior: A former neighbor told me she didn’t have time for her Westie puppy so she gave her to me. She let me have her papers and everything. I love her so much, but Princess doesn’t like me; she even growls when I go near her food dish. What can I do?

 

missbehavior

I’m glad you love Princess, but you need to remember she doesn’t know you very well. She’ll need a little time to adjust to you and your rules. Speaking of rules, as much as I prefer to be in charge, we all need rules. Princess sounds like she’s gotten a little too much freedom, too soon. Now is the time to make sure she knows all of your rules so there’s no confusion later on. You need to start training Princess, not only does she need to know how to sit, lie down, stay and walk on a loose lead, she also needs to know how to come when called. Training will also help the bigger issue of growling at you over her food dish.

Princess has learned that if she growls, she gets her way. We–I mean, Dogs are very protective over their possessions unless taught that it’s okay to share. To teach her to not growl when you approach her dish, let’s teach her that you+her dish=good things.

Use her meal times as training times. Put her empty dish on the floor. Walk towards her with another dish full of her food. Drop a piece of kibble in or near her dish, pause long enough for her to eat it and walk away. Repeat this until her food is gone or she’s eagerly waiting for you to approach with her food. Next step is to make sure you always drop the piece of food in her dish without bending over and repeat, until soon you’ll be able to bend over to drop food into the dish.

When she’s comfortable with this, start hand-feeding Princess. Keep her dish in your one hand and feed her with your other hand. Go just a piece or two of kibble at a time until her food is all gone. Once she’s very comfortable taking food from your hand, then start holding the dish while she eats out of it.

If she growls at you, don’t panic and don’t punish her. Just go back to the last training step you had success. Most likely you moved too fast for her comfort.

What doesn’t work? Punishing her for growling. Don’t snatch her food away either. All this does is increase the chances she’ll bite. We need to teach her that you are the bearer of all good things and she can trust you not to take away something you’ve given her. Eventually, you’ll start teaching her to trade for items; this will be helpful if she gets her mouth on something she’s not supposed to have.

You should also consider going to a trainer. The Greater Lincoln Obedience Club has many trainers who can help you to select a good class for Princess as well as help you with her other issues.

Thanks to this feature goes to Greater Lincoln Obedience Club, who ran the Miss Behavior Dog Advice Column in their newsletter. Appreciation also is extended to Marcy Graybill, a trainer at GLOC and the expert behind this column. She also hosts her own blog, Dog Log, where she talks about training adventures with her dogs.

marcygraybillAfter Marcy adopted her first dog in 1988, she began to research about dog care. Research took the form of checking out books and videos to learn how to train Lady. Eventually, Marcy and her sister began taking their dogs to the dog run and taking formal dog classes. For about six years, Marcy volunteered for the Capital Humane Society, where she performed a variety of jobs, and took time to watch the dogs and learn about their behaviors. Currently, she’s an obedience instructor at GLOC. “I think the most important is to keep up to date on what’s going on in the field.  I try to read articles, blogs and  new books that come out, and watch any DVDs that are available.”

Dear Miss Behavior: My Dog Bites my Ankles and Feet

Dear Miss Behavior, My dog Tika is an eight-month-old Terrier; she bites my feet when I’m on the phone or the computer. She also bites at my ankles when we’re playing outside or walking through the house. She sometimes bites hard enough to break the skin. What do I do?

missbehavior

The little ankle-biter has learned that she gets attention when she does certain behaviors. She is also entering adolescence which means she’s starting to challenge the world around her. First you need to make sure you’re consistent with your rules. Don’t allow her on the couch one day and then punish her the next day. It’s important for her to know what to expect from you.

Now to deal with the nipping and biting. Not only is the chasing, pouncing and biting very fun for her (after all that’s what Terriers do when they go after rodents), but she’s also rewarded when you yell and push at her. So you need to make a plan on what you’re going to do when she starts after your feet.

You need to begin rewarding her for what you want. Write down all the times she exhibits the behavior, then decide what you want her to do to ask for your attention. You said she often attacks your feet when you’re on the phone or computer. If you’re unable to interrupt your phone call, or stop what you’re doing on the computer to correct the behavior appropriately, put Tika in a crate with a stuffed Kong® or a good tasting chew toy so she’s unable to practice the bad behavior.

Now for the training part. At the first sign of her focusing on your feet stop moving and say “Ah-ah!” We often use “No” way too much with dogs and they learn to ignore it. Using a low sounding noise that she may not have heard before is better. Be sure to reward her if she backs off and doesn’t continue with the behavior. You could throw a toy or treat for her to go and get or just say “Good dog” in a happy voice.

It might be useful to have her drag a ribbon or small leash at first. This will allow you to get control over her physically without touching her (touching can be rewarding.) If she continues the behavior and begins pouncing on your ankles, use the long line to stop her and gently escort her to her crate. She needs to remain in her crate for a few minutes then quietly release her. She needs to learn that puppies that don’t play nice, play alone.

Make sure she’s getting plenty of physical and mental exercise. You will want to take time to walk her and teach her fun tricks. Letting her occasionally ‘hunt’ for her food is a fun game for her. Just scatter her food over the kitchen floor and let her hunt for the small pieces of kibble. When she gets good at the game, in the evening, you can shut off your kitchen light so she has to use her nose to find her food.

Finally, stop wearing your fuzzy bunny slippers, as comfortable as they are, they’re just too much temptation for a terrier.

marcygraybillThanks to this feature goes to Greater Lincoln Obedience Club, who ran the Miss Behavior Dog Advice Column in their newsletter. Appreciation also is extended to Marcy Graybill, a trainer at GLOC and the expert behind this column. She also hosts her own blog, Dog Log, where she talks about training adventures with her dogs.

Dear Miss Behavior: My Dog Cries When I Leave

Dear Miss Behavior: Our dog cries and barks all day when we’re gone. We keep her in a crate now because she tore up all the couch cushions. At first, I thought she was being spiteful because we left her, but someone says she has separation anxiety. What does that mean and how can we cure her?

missbehaviorSeparation anxiety is when a dog becomes very scared when they are left alone. They’ll often destroy things in the house and even possibly hurt themselves. Treating separation anxiety takes patience and training.

Sometimes a bored dog can be misdiagnosed as having separation anxiety. If it’s boredom, then having a long walk and a training session before you go to work should help lessen the behavior issues. Taking a Good Dog Level 1 class should help you and your dog learn some new behaviors to practice.

If it is Separation anxiety, then you need to work on ‘Counter Classical Conditioning’. CCC is pairing something very good with something that the dog perceives as bad. The idea of CCC is breaking down your routine when you leave. Do you get out your Gucci bag first? Put on your Burberry raincoat? Take the keys to your BMW off the hook by the door? Whatever the first step is, over a period of time (say a Saturday morning) do the first step, give your dog a treat and then stop. Put your purse back down or hang your keys back up. Do it again. Once your dog is no longer upset with the first step, then do step one, then step two, rewarding her with good treats before she gets upset. Keep going until you are ready to leave the house. The first time you leave, just go out the door, and come right back in. Slowly build time until she’s okay with you being gone a few minutes.

You’ll also need to take steps to make sure that while you’re training your dog to be at home, you don’t leave her alone. If you have to leave the house you might take her with you or take her to a dog-daycare.

Some dogs require medical help. You may need to start with a visit to the vet and see if an anti-anxiety medication is needed.

Since it’s hard to diagnose a serious behavior issue by email, be sure to ask the trainers at the Greater Lincoln Obedience Club for more advice. You might also find the booklet I’ll be home soon by Patricia
McConnell of help. She gives some great information that’ll help you to understand the process.

marcygraybillThanks to this feature goes to Greater Lincoln Obedience Club, who ran the Miss Behavior Dog Advice Column in their newsletter. Appreciation also is extended to Marcy Graybill, a trainer at GLOC and the expert behind this column. She also hosts her own blog, Dog Log, where she talks about training adventures with her dogs.

Dear Miss Behavior: My Dog Pulls So Hard She Chokes

My dog pulls so hard she chokes herself. She gags and coughs and her bark sounds funny. How do I teach her not to pull?

missbehaviorThat’s a problem? Hook her up to the front of your car and save yourself some gas! But seriously . . .

There are several tools that will help you teach her not to pull. The first thing to remember is that these are tools. Many people put on a training collar or harness and then think, “That’s it; it’s a miracle. I don’t have to train my dog.” The problem is the dog never learns anything; the owner just has better leverage while the training tool is on the dog.

The first tool many trainers think of when a dog pulls is the prong collar. This collar closes around the dog’s neck with dull spikes and some say mimics the bite of the dog’s mother. The collar, properly fitted, gives the dog a correction for pulling. It limits the amount of force they can use to pull. The harder she pulls the more correction she receives. Though they are shiny, they aren’t as stylish as diamonds!

The next tool is the head-halter; Halti® and Gentle Leader® are two brands of head halters. They go around the dog’s neck and over the dog’s nose to control the dog’s head. The action of pulling makes the dog’s nose go down or to the side, limiting her forward motion. Also, a limited color palette makes it difficult to find the perfect match for your dog’s coat.

No pull harnesses are newer and becoming increasingly popular. There are two main types of harnesses: one that has the leash attach to the front of the harness, when the dog pulls, the harness turns them toward the owner. The second uses loops that attach to a collar and run under each front leg. This type of harness tightens around the front legs and pulls the collar downward when the dog pulls.

Each tool has it pros and cons and I recommend you do some research on which type you’d like to try. Tools are meant to be used and then faded. Your dog shouldn’t have to be on a no-pull harness for the rest of her life. Stylish though it may be, it certainly limits one’s wardrobe! Using one of the tools might make it easier at first but, whether you use a special collar/ harness or not, you need to train your dog.

Once you pick your tool, follow the below steps to train your dog not to pull.

Put your dog on his leash and collar and stop. Don’t move forward. If you pull the leash up and keep it tight, your dog will just think he’s supposed to pull.

If the dog is on a training collar, I might give a correction (a little tug) as he hits the end of the leash. If he’s on a harness or flat buckle collar instead, I don’t recommend you correct him. On a head-halter, I’d discourage you from tugging or allowing him to hit the end of the leash with any force.

When the leash is loose, praise your dog and give him a small, high value treat. Take a step towards the door praising him as you move. If he hits the end of the lead, stop. Correct or wait out the pull. When your dog realizes that tugging will get him nowhere, he’ll most likely turn to see what the problem is. Praise and reward him and take another step forward. Continue to praise him as you move forward. Anytime he hits the end of the leash, stop. Correct or wait out the pulling behavior. Only move forward when the leash is loose.

You may not get out of your yard the first time. The goal is to never reward your dog for pulling. (Allowing your dog to go somewhere while pulling is rewarding him.) When you find you can get several steps without him pulling, start to fade the treats, but continue to him for walking with you.

Once your dog gets the idea of walking with you, don’t forget to occasionally reward him and definitely don’t reward any more pulling. If you’re using a training tool, begin to switch back and forth between the training tool and a regular collar. This way your dog will learn he can’t pull even if she’s on a flat buckle collar.

marcygraybillThanks to this feature goes to Greater Lincoln Obedience Club, who ran the Miss Behavior Dog Advice Column in their newsletter. Appreciation also is extended to Marcy Graybill, a trainer at GLOC and the expert behind this column. She also hosts her own blog, Dog Log, where she talks about training adventures with her dogs.

Dear Miss Behavior: Can You Teach An Old Dog New Tricks?

Dear Miss Behavior: We adopted an older dog from the shelter. I’ve heard you can’t teach old dog new tricks. The shelter said she was nine; is that too old to take an obedience class?

missbehaviorNo way! That old adage is wrong, wrong, wrong. Keeping a dog mentally fit is as important as keeping them physically fit. Just as a retired person can learn a new language or to play a musical instrument, a senior dog can learn to do just about anything.

Dogs don’t lose the ability to learn, but when dogs have learned a bad habit it can sometimes take a little longer to teach them what to do instead. A good rule of thumb is three weeks to forget the old behavior and three weeks to learn the new behavior. Sometimes it can take longer. Don’t expect any dog (regardless of age) to change their behavior overnight. If it was that easy then humans would easily be able to lose weight or stop smoking.

Once you take a class or two you can consider taking a Tricks class or even Agility! Just don’t push her too fast, and make sure you check with your veterinarian before starting something really active like Agility or Flyball.

marcygraybillThanks to this feature goes to Greater Lincoln Obedience Club, who ran the Miss Behavior Dog Advice Column in their newsletter. Appreciation also is extended to Marcy Graybill, a trainer at GLOC and the expert behind this column. She also hosts her own blog, Dog Log, where she talks about training adventures with her dogs.

Dear Miss Behavior: My Dog Eats Poop!

Dear Miss Behavior: My little Shih-Tzu ‘Mitzy’ was a gift from my son. She is the sweetest little girl, and I love her to death. But she has one most disgusting habit–she eats her own poo. I take her to the back yard to do her job and I clean up after her but sometimes not quickly enough. Why does she do this? What can I do to change this behavior? Scolding her has not helped.

missbehaviorDon’t be embarrassed! Some dogs eat feces. First, take Mitzy to the vet to make sure there’s not a medical reason. Then look at the food you’re feeding her; sometimes dogs eat their feces because they aren’t getting a needed nutrient. It may just be that Mitzy’s trying to help you keep the yard clean. She see’s you picking up and wants to do her part.

If she gets a clean bill of health and is eating a quality dog food, then it’s time to work on training Mitzy. Start by putting her on leash when you take her out for her ‘walkies’. As soon as she’s done her business, call her to you, tugging gently on the lead if necessary and reward her. Put her in a sit, and then clean up after her. Once she’s moved away from her feces, you can gently restrain her from going back to it. I might say “Ah-ah” or “Yuck” to let her know you don’t approve.

Teaching her a “Leave it!” command would be really useful. Check out the Good Dog Classes at GLOC to learn how!

marcygraybillThanks to this feature goes to Greater Lincoln Obedience Club, who ran the Miss Behavior Dog Advice Column in their newsletter. Appreciation also is extended to Marcy Graybill, a trainer at GLOC and the expert behind this column. She also hosts her own blog, Dog Log, where she talks about training adventures with her dogs.