Dog Training & Wellness Services

DogRelations™ NYC dog training is really about positive reinforcement training in an enjoyable and life enriching way. This means giving your dog a clear understanding of behaviors you want to encourage while having fun and developing a close relationship. Dogs thrive on honest, direct and consistent communication, just like friends who completely trust and rely on one another.

Friday, 22 December 2017

A Little Food for Thought When It Comes to Treats

NYC Dog Trainer | Dog Relations | Holiday dog treats

Let me just say that the word “treat’ implies that there is something particularly special about the quality or the palatability or the salience. Remember that “treat” also can be an experience that is pleasurable. In the life of your dog that could be a great game, a cuddle or a belly scratch, a ride in the car or going to the pet store.

Food rewards are a very obvious way of marking a behavior because it’s practically impossible for the dog to misunderstand that it is a reward or pleasurable consequence for something they have just done. It also registers in a non- intellectual and instinctive way. The scientific label is that it is a “primal” reward. Primal meaning: it is necessary for sustaining life.

I will discuss “edible” treats here.

  • Food rewards do not have to be “special” treats in a smaller bag that is labeled “treats”
  • Your dog will not get fat if you use food intelligently.
  • Treats can be food that is already in your fridge or your pantry:
    1. Diced fruit (apple, pear, water melon, strawberry)
    2. Cheese bits (creamy cheese licks, string cheese)
    3. Meat bits (chicken, turkey, hamburger, hot dogs, fish (sardines, bits of salmon, and little freeze dried fish)

If you buy training treats: please read ingredients!!!

Most commercial small and soft treats have glycerin and undesirable preservatives in them even though the front of the package says ALL NATURAL or HEALTHY. Freeze dried raw meat or food patties are a much better option.

It is also a very good idea to notice which foods the dog adores and which ones are only moderately interesting to him.

Your dog will always appreciate food rewards but because the value of the food transfers into the activity that the food was associated with you will not depend on food. You only need it once in a while to keep the behavior alive, but that is food for thought for another post.

Elisabeth Weiss is a highly certified, experienced dog trainer in Manhattan, NYC. To learn more about dog training services, contact us by phone at (917) 783-1473 or our contact form.

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Thursday, 30 November 2017

How To Teach Your Dog To Greet Humans

NYC Dog Trainer | Dog Relations | Happy dog waiting to greet visitors

Jumping and barking are both highly self-reinforcing behaviors. In plain English that means that the activity is something a dog really enjoys, it feels good and hence the dog will be happy to bark and jump again and again. Correcting such a behavior is very difficult, mostly because it so easily turns into a game. From the dog’s point of view:

  1. I see someone approach or the doorbell rings!
  2. I bark and leap to get access.
  3. My human says: “NO JUMPING!” “QUIET!” “BE GOOD!”
  4. The leash gets tight or I get yanked and held by the collar.
  5. I finally sit…maybe
  6. Human says: “Good boy”…or something along those lines or even gives me a treat.
  7. Next time we do the same thing

If you don’t want your dog to jump and/or bark for greetings, prevent it by being proactive:

  1. Don’t allow the dog to dash ahead of you to get access; drop treats on the ground or feed at nose level so that all four paws stay on the ground.
  2. Once the dog is calm, allow an approach while continuing to reward calm behaviors.
  3. Ensure that you, the handler of the dog, is the feeder so you can guide the dog’s behavior effectively.
  4. If your dog cannot be calm move further away from the action.
  5. Keep all greetings calm, including your own comings and goings and discourage excited behaviors.

This subject is likely top of mind for many people as the festive season approaches and we have more guests coming and going than usual. Practicing these steps with your dog will not only ensure polite holiday greetings but also a calm canine throughout the year!

Elisabeth Weiss is a highly certified, experienced dog trainer in Manhattan, NYC. To learn more about dog training services, contact us by phone at (917) 783-1473 or our contact form.

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Friday, 27 October 2017

Dog Training Tips: Timing Your Rewards and the Pitfalls of Bribing

NYC Dog Trainer | Dog Relations | Happy dog waiting for cookie


In my mind, the definition of a reward would be a pleasant consequence for a behavior that one would like to teach or reinforce. Ok, so rewarded behaviors increase in frequency, I get it, I get it, there is no need to think any further. I hold a cookie for the dog and tell the dog to sit. The dog sits, I feed the cookie…end of story.

Well, not so fast! There are quite a few things that deserve consideration here.

The most common misunderstanding is the lure vs bribe scenario. Let me give you an example: When first teaching a puppy a basic behavior such as “sit” you might hold a cookie or a toy over his nose. As the puppy looks up to see what’s there he will most likely end up with his butt on the ground which is the behavior you wanted to elicit. You then feed the cookie or play with the toy. Perfect.

However, if in the process you don’t fade the cookie out once the dog begins to understand your hand motion and ping pong your rate of feeding, then the dog will ONLY sit if you have a cookie in your hand. You and the dog become dependent on the cookie and the cookie is a bribe. Your dog will expect the cookie or mistake the cookie as a signal to sit and will only sit when the cookie is present.

The second scenario and the more subtle but worse scenario is: You wave your cookie and call the dog. The dog runs to you and you lock the dog into the kitchen or end some other fun game he was just engaged in. Or you wave the cookie, the dog comes and you start clipping his nails. All of a sudden the cookie turns into a predictor of “something bad is about to happen” and devalues the “wow” effect the cookie had before.

It is therefore important to consider the consequences as well as the value of the reward. If you want to habituate a puppy to something the puppy is scared of or feels uncomfortable about, consider very carefully the order in which the reward appears. Be sure to present the “scary thing” (the harness, collar, the brush, the stairs, the injection needle) first and then give the reward for tolerating the object of discomfort for a fleeting moment or at a closer distance without recoiling. Only then can the dog be classically conditioned to understand injection needle = YAY roast beef!!!

Elisabeth Weiss is a highly certified, experienced dog trainer in Manhattan, NYC. To learn more about dog training services, contact us by phone at (917) 783-1473 or our contact form.

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Thursday, 14 September 2017

Changing Your Frame of Mind When Training Your Puppy

NYC Dog Trainer | Dog Relations | Training Your Puppy

In your mind you paint a picture of your dog’s desired behaviors. The things you’d like to do with your dog, the way your dog is going to interact with you and the wonderful relationship you will enjoy.

When you paint a mental picture you don’t really think about all the other behaviors.

But culturally we seem to be tempted to only react when the behaviors go “outside the lines”. We concentrate on reigning in behaviors that go “over the line” instead of cultivating the many offered behaviors already present within our framework.

When people talk about their pup’s active behaviors they report the jumping, the nipping the chewing, the peeing in the house. Never do they elaborate on the playfulness, how the puppy likes the crate, loves his toys and likes to rest gently touching the humans’ feet.

If you were painting an image, would you constantly concentrate on the times your paintbrush slipped outside the frame? No! Well, only if you are neurotically counting mistakes!

When creating a painting you would want to concentrate on making the colors stronger, adding more and more layers of paint, making the image inside the frame more expressive, adding more details and variety. You would practically ignore the brush strokes going “outside the lines” because you will eventually use a frame and or a mat to frame the entire picture and those missteps will be hidden.

That is in my mind an exact parallel to shaping a behavior canvas for your dog. Strengthening behaviors you would like your dog to practice more and with more frequency and enthusiasm, as opposed to constantly correcting the dog. Unlike a pencil line that can be erased, behaviors are more like oil paint. Once the behavior has happened there is a permanent mark on the canvas. A practiced repetition represents a reinforcement embedded in the memory.

So please notice and reward your puppy highly when he offers calm behavior or plays nicely with one of his toys.

Elisabeth Weiss is a highly certified, experienced dog trainer in Manhattan, NYC. To learn more about dog training services, contact us by phone at (917) 783-1473 or our contact form.

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Tuesday, 8 August 2017

Treating Obesity: Diet & Your Dog’s Overall Health

NYC Dog Trainer | Dog Relations | Healthy eating to reduce obesity

More than half of pet dogs in the United States are overweight or obese, according to the most recent annual survey by the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention. A comparison of that data with previous surveys suggests that obesity in dogs, as in people, is getting worse.

“We do believe dogs have become heavier over the last decade, and that it’s an epidemic,” says Johnny Li, a computational biologist at Nestle Purina, in St. Louis, Missouri, who led the new study. Li says he launched the study because only a handful of previous studies have explored the gut microbiome of canines, and the effect of diet on gut microbes hasn’t been well documented.

(source: How a dog’s diet shapes its gut microbiomes)

When convenience foods became popular for humans the pet food industry picked up on that trend and started producing instant and so-called “complete extruded and processed” foods for animals because they saw a huge business opportunity. Then we heard the myth propagated that “human food” is not good for our dogs. While I agree that feeding a dog McDonald’s is a very bad idea I do believe that living beings should be fed real food. Also the idea that every meal needs to contain every nutritional requirement is absurd. The need for that happens over time. I am sure that even if you are on a very healthy diet yourself you are not getting every amino acid, every vitamin and exact amount of minerals in each and every meal.

Why are processed foods inferior?

Even though some companies have attempted to improve the quality of ingredients and managed processing procedures to leave more of the important nutrients intact, the result is still a food product as opposed to a fresh meal such as muscle meat, organ meat, bones or bone meal, cartilage and some seeds, fruits and/or vegetables.

Just like in humans, starchy carbohydrates (corn, rice and soy) produce gas and sugar imbalances that affect not only dogs’ weight but also their behavior.

In the last couple of years we have heard a lot about the “gut” brain and the “microbiome” – the universe of bacteria that we are all made of. There is a strong argument that the increase of disease and inflammation as well as well balanced behavior is greatly influenced by how we nourish ourselves and makes me think of the old adage: You are what you eat.

This is true for our canine companions as well.

If your dog seems less than vibrant, is having behavior issues, or is getting a bit chubby please look at what you are feeding your dog. Read the labels. You will be surprised how cleverly some foods insert cheap filler ingredients just to be able to put the buzzword “grain free” on the label. Your dog does not need to eat food colorings, preservatives, chickpea or pea meal, glycerin or maltodextrin to name a few.

Getting results

If you need help with portion control, help upgrading the diet and implementing a healthier exercise routine please do not hesitate to contact DogRelations NYC for a brief health improvement consultation.

Elisabeth Weiss is a highly certified, experienced dog trainer in Manhattan, NYC. To learn more about dog training, rehabilitation & wellness services, contact us by phone at (917) 783-1473 or our contact form.

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Tuesday, 11 July 2017

House training tips for your dog

NYC Dog Trainer | Dog Relations | House trained pug relieves himself outside

Learning is much more efficient if you can avoid mistakes.

When applied to house training your puppy or even an older dog, drawing very clear distinctions is important. We know that peeing and pooping are necessary vital functions and to reprimand a dog for doing that is simply inhumane. The old fashioned ways are simply unacceptable. In addition to being unnecessarily cruel they also can produce fallout behaviors. The dog or puppy might learn not to pee when you are close by. Then people wonder why they find “secret” pee spots behind the couch or poop behind the potted plant. Clearly the reprimanded dog realizes that when you are not there he can pee and poop in peace and nothing bad happens. When the human finds the dried up poop days later and leads the dog to it and screams “NO!” I am not really sure what the dog is supposed to learn other than that the owner has temper tantrums.

So the question really is: how do I show the dog where to eliminate?

The key to housetraining is to teach the dog where to go and reward the dog for performing there! In order to accomplish this it is important to manipulate the environment in such a way that the dog practically only has the opportunity to eliminate where it is appropriate.

That means: Do not let your puppy roam the entire house but keep him close, possibly tethered to you as you walk around the house. If that is impractical: keep the dog in a small containment area like a crate. Dogs naturally do not like to pee or poop where they sleep, so if the area is small enough they will keep that small area clean. I am purposely not using the word crate too much because so many people find crates aversive and prefer not to use them. Granted there are many reasons why acclimating a dog to a crate is practical or necessary for certain dogs, but not all dogs need to be crated. There are other options such as gating and tethering, for example.

The other important idea is to take the puppy outside to the same spot often but not to stay out there for hours. I cannot tell you how often I hear: “I was out there for 2 hours…nothing! But as soon as we came home he peed on the floor.” Make the trip to pee/poop short: 10-15 minutes tops. If the pup does not perform within that timeframe, go back inside and contain him/supervise/tether him and try again.

At some point the puppy will decide to pee or poop in the destination spot because it is quite obvious that he does not have any other opportunity. When that happens is when you celebrate him like crazy! Wait until he is done and then shower him with a bunch of treats, lots of praise and maybe a short game with a special toy. That way it will become very obvious to the puppy where you’d like him to “go”.

If the dog has peed and pooped then you can take him for a walk, stroll or romp. This will pay off greatly in bad weather conditions because your dog will learn that the first thing to think about when going outside is “bathroom” and he will perform quickly so you can go inside again to seek shelter from the inclement weather.

Also do make sure you don’t give your puppy access to water all the time! Many puppies will run and play, then drink and then pee out of excitement. Be mindful that your pup’s bladder control is not yet fully developed. If he has an accident, ignore and clean it up. Or better: think ahead! When you see your puppy lapping up water get ready to take him out.

Elisabeth Weiss is a highly certified, experienced dog trainer in Manhattan, NYC. To learn more about dog training services, contact us by phone at (917) 783-1473 or our contact form.

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Friday, 9 June 2017

Rethinking Reward Based Training

NYC Dog Trainer | Dog Relations | Reward Based Training

When I walk around the city I see all these dogs trained with different approaches. Putting aside the sad fact that there are way too many pinch collars and choke chains around there is an encouraging number of dogs who are taught with reward based training… or let’s say: a version of reward based training.

Here is where I still see that there is a missing link of understanding at least in the way I see reward based training really working.

The easiest to explain this is by using the famous example of “sit”.

When I ask a dog owner if it is okay to give their dog a treat after a polite encounter with Zeldi so I can reward both dogs, the answer often is: Sure! But “HE HAS TO SIT FIRST. MAKE HIM SIT!”

That tells me that this human feels that the dog “must” earn the treat. Which is what they were told. Fair enough.

What they do not see is that if a dog has truly learned that sitting will get him the treat they will offer that behavior voluntarily and automatically as soon as they realize a reward is in play.

The dog understands that he can control his life with the “sit” behavior. So rather than understanding it as a compulsory exercise from the dog’s point of view it would be so much clearer if both human and dog could experience it as yet another opportunity to get access to something fun, rewarding and satisfying.

Instead of barking or pawing or jumping your dog will offer the behaviors that he knows will pay off. That works both ways: From the human point of view: a polite dog. From the dog’s point of view: knowing how to earn the things he craves!

It’s really that simple.

Elisabeth Weiss is a highly certified, experienced dog trainer in Manhattan, NYC. To learn more about dog training services, contact us by phone at (917) 783-1473 or our contact form.

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Tuesday, 23 May 2017

Protected: Forced Socialization and Bite Inhibition

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Tuesday, 2 May 2017

Training your dog with positive reinforcement

NYC Dog Trainer | Dog Relations | Training your dog with positive reinforcement

Just because you say it, doesn’t mean it’s going to happen

I think one of the biggest misconceptions people have about a dog’s learning process is that they think the dog can conceptualize new verbal input.

Let’s take the famous “sit” example.

What actually makes the dog understand “sit” and perform the “sit” reliably is the fact that the behavior is being rewarded. Not the fact that you say the word, not the fact that you might try to get the position by various means; it is the fact that the correct result is being rewarded!

It is the pay-off. The more, the better.

I just came across this excellent recap from Clicker Expo and Dr. Susan Friedman‘s presentation: Ideas that should die: Outdated, outmoded and misunderstood behavior science. Here specifically I am referring to the blogpost by Mary Hunter of Stale Cheerios “Misconceptions all around us“. Hunter sums up Dr. Friedman’s talk with this:

“So remember – cues don’t cause behaviors. Animals (and humans) do certain behaviors because of past consequences. If a behavior is happening consistently in response to a certain cue, this is because in the past, when the animal did this behavior when this cue was given, the animal received reinforcement.”

Another event that caused me to write this.

Just yesterday I got an e-mail from a client who recently adopted a Schnauzer-Terrier mix who has been displaying resource guarding behaviors. We had discussed how to deal with this in the one lesson we had after the initial consultation. What the client, a first time dog guardian, has trouble understanding is that all practiced behaviors are self-reinforcing, so thinking that “it will go away as the dog matures” is an ill conceived thought process. But what I found more alarming is that instead of “confessing” to me that the behavior was escalating they talked to people who suggested things like shaking a can filled with pennies when the puppy growls to protect her space or worse: pinning the puppy in an alpha roll and screaming at her “no growling!” which makes my hair stand up on end (and my hair is quite thin) and just makes me want to throw up.

Now in terms of genetic predisposition: I don’t know why the shelter thought it was a good idea to let a first time dog guardian walk home with such a mix. See the genetics part of Dr Friedman’s lecture. But the idea that generally people have such trouble wrapping their heads around shaping a behavior only in terms of reigning in the unwanted is troubling me greatly.

Many unwanted behaviors happen because the human has inadvertently provided reinforcement for those behaviors. As part of our private training we teach you how to become aware of how you interact with your puppy or dog and give you guidelines that will help you avoid pitfalls while having a loving, caring and fun relationship with your dog.

Looking for a highly certified, experienced dog trainer that will teach with effective positive reinforcement techniques? To learn more about our dog training services, contact us by phone at (917) 783-1473 or our contact form.

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Thursday, 13 April 2017

Practical Manners Training for Puppies

NYC Dog Trainer | Dog Relations | Teaching your puppy practical manners

At DogRelations in New York City, we focus on training polite manners within a practical context. This enables clients to elicit “good behavior” from their dogs instead of correcting them verbally. We show your puppy how to “settle, sit and wait” automatically making the specific circumstance the cue. It will focus the dog on your actions and make the dog quite “busy and attentive” to opportunities to earn your rewards, affection or an opportunity to play with a favorite toy. Rewards will entice your dog to repeat those actions and before you know it your dog “knows” what to do! It will also minimize nuisance behaviors because those behaviors will become less and less interesting because they simply do not pay off.

Focusing on the Positive Behaviors You Wish To See

Dogs generally do what works in their favor. You can therefore manipulate the behaviors they perform most often by simply rewarding those behaviors and ignoring behaviors you don’t like. This will give the dog a clear path to what will and what won’t work, benefiting both dog and human. The process is an encouraging and warm environment that is constantly interesting and fun.

Dog Cognition

Research has shown us that dogs respond very well to human gestures such as pointing and eye movements. Using hand signals, head tilts and eye movements allow your dog to take cues from your body language and their surrounding environment. You’d be surprised how effective this kind of non-verbal communication is. Learning is best done in a calm and communicative atmosphere allowing the dog to think things through and also allowing the dog to experiment. Yelling, nagging and corrections are not helpful in the learning process because it does not provide the dog with any specific information. Dog cognition is a fascinating world to tap into and will definitely improve your communication levels with your favorite four-legged friend.

Incorporating Training Throughout Your Day

Because “Sit” Is NOT a Trick

Want to teach your dog a “sit” with distractions? Ask for a sit and put on your coat! Ask for a settle and tie your shoelaces! Walk around dusting or vacuuming the apartment. Ask the dog for a leave it, load the dishwasher and allow the dog to lick the dirty dishes as a reward when you release him!

A well-educated dog knows that what you say or do is full of opportunities to earn great stuff.

“Sit” is not a trick that your dog performs out of context but is an offered behavior. Instill confidence in your dog by allowing your puppy to figure out on his or her own what you are suggesting. The other advantage of using physical cues along with verbal cues is that once the skill is fluent the cues are interchangeable. That means when you don’t want to say something you can just point. That comes in very handy when you are having a conversation on the phone or you are working on your laptop and you want your dog to settle on the bed.

We’d Love To Help You Out!

If you have a new puppy or you feel like what you have been taught in puppy kindergarten does not help you have a well-behaved pup, we would love to work with you both! DogRelationsNYC offers practical dog training for Manhattan dogs and their owners. I am proud to have worked with many clients and helped establish positive, trusting communication in a respectful and safe atmosphere. If you have suddenly found yourself nagging your dog and feel like there is more negative behavior than positive; don’t become alarmed or frustrated! We can help you have the relationship that both you and your dog deserve together!

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Tuesday, 7 March 2017

Protected: What Is the Most Valuable Treat for Your Dog?

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Monday, 20 February 2017

Crate Training 101

Manhattan Dog Trainer | Dog Relations NYC | Puppy relaxing in his crate

Patience, kindness and persistence go a long way when teaching any new skill in life. This is of course also true when it comes to introducing a crate to your favourite four-legged friend. When done correctly, this experience is rewarding and positive for you and your dog. Simply throwing a treat into the “cage” and locking the door behind is not what we are talking about here. A happily crate trained dog will enter their crate voluntarily and enjoy the rest and relaxation this safe haven provides. Even though some dogs take naturally to the crate don’t expect your dog or puppy to automatically like being in there. DogRelations NYC offers the following tips to help you think about this as a process to make both you and the dog happy and successful. Alternatively, we offer private crate-training sessions if you need a little support or inspiration. Susan Garret has her “Crate Games” on YouTube that are excellent to check out as well.

But… It Looks Like a Prison!

Sometimes looking at a crate and thinking of locking a dog or puppy in can cause some to react negatively to crate training. Yes, crates look like prisons; however, they offer safety and security. Realize that a crate is just a temporary means or safe containment that allows puppies and dogs to feel they are an integral part of the family even during bedtime and nap time etc.

Starting As a Puppy Is Ideal

Incorporating new habits while young is the perfect scenario. Building lasting, lifelong, healthy habits is always a positive thing. However, it IS possible to teach an old dog new tricks. Many loving homes adopt elderly dogs or adult rescue dogs and are able to teach them to love their crate later in life. The idea is to convey to the dog that this is going to be a wonderful new game that will make the experience fun and rewarding. By all means never rush your dog into a crate and leave the house. Just as you give them plenty of time to teach them a new behavior be sure you are allowing adequate time for them to get comfortable being in the new crate.

Desensitizing the Crate

Whenever you are teaching your dog something new and possibly scary make “training time = game time = mealtime”. Toss treats or bits of food into the crate and see if your dog enters to follow the treat. While you are luring the dog into the crate always move the crate door at the same time and reward the dog at the back of the crate. Open the door, and deliver a treat at the back of the crate to make the back area of the crate “hot” and appealing and associate the door opening with a treat appearing at the back of the crate. Once the dog learns that they will not care about the door closing. Remember that one hugely important role of crate training is helping with house training. Dogs do not pee or poop where they eat and sleep.

When you are not crate “training” leave the door open and leave super high value presents/treats inside the crate for your dog to find as pleasant surprises. Put something familiar such as their dog bed or one of your worn T-shirts inside the crate before inviting them in.

This brings me to the point of the size of the crate. Make sure the crate is small enough that the dog can lie down, turn around and stand up but no larger than that. Otherwise your learner might be tempted to sleep on one side and pee/poop on the other. The crate is not a crate unless the door is closed. It basically turns into a bed. It will not contain the dog which means that the dog can pee on the rug and chew your furniture.

Benefits of Crate Training

How great will it be to know your dog can easily and safely travel in your vehicle or in an airplane? Or that they are not getting into anything while you are out of the house? No more worrying that you will find your favorite pair of shoes eaten or your couch cushions torn apart or your computer cords chewed. Protect your belongings and your home while establishing a healthy sleep/travel/safety routine at the same time. A truly crate trained dog will experience crate time as a reward and look forward to relaxing and munching on favorite treats in there. If DogRelations NYC can help you in your crate training endeavors, please don’t hesitate to call! (917) 783-1473

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Tuesday, 31 January 2017

Protected: Exercising Rover When Its’ Cold Outside

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Monday, 30 January 2017

consequences for nuisance behaviors

One of the first things I taught my puppy Zeldi is to settle on the floor during food preparations, human and canine.

She knows that very well. as soon as I pull out the bowls and fill them with their food she knows to settle. She also knows to settle while the humans are having their food.

As a reward both dogs get either table scraps or their favorite yogurt cheese after the humans eat…and yes, sometimes while we eat. As long as there is no jumping and begging. I admit to enjoy feeding my dogs treats.

Sometimes we just have a yogurt cheese party, as I call it. I am at the counter and the dogs get tiny pieces of yogurt cheese.

Zeldi who is going into an adolescent phase and is “testing” boundaries started to bark and moan to get treats. Of course my partner reacts by saying stuff like; this is unacceptable, stop, AHEM..etc etc. I say: please, don’t give her attention for that. So he stopped ( which I appreciate a lot).

But that was not clear enough of a sign for Zeldinchen.

So, just as I taught her to settle, by slowing down or stopping food preparation when Zeldi broke her “settle” I decided to present her with a consequence that really would bring the message home to her that the vocal complaining, demanding to be given morsels of food would not work in her favor.

This is what I did: I gave Petzi a treat when she yowled. I will say that it felt a tad cruel.

However after one repetition she figured it out!

She stopped!

So again: don’t take the “ignore” the behavior literally if the behavior you are trying to extinguish is self reinforcing.  Yes, it might be seen as “negative” punishment (removing something desirable) but the dog can earn what they want very quickly by offering a highly rewarded replacement behavior.

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Thursday, 26 January 2017

“Greed” in the context of dog training

When talking about greed in the context of teaching dogs I think of three things:


1) The lack of generosity in rewarding behaviors you want to promote

2) Asking for too much too soon.

3) Taking offered behaviors for granted


Let me explain what I mean.


It seems to be part of human nature to blame dogs for their “mistakes” or “mis-behaviors”. Humans also tend to feel that there is a certain preconceived limit on how often they will or will not reward behaviors. Some kind of judgment like: “She should know this by now”.


Well frankly, you cannot predict a dog’s leaning curve nor can you really know in advance how often a behavior needs to be rewarded for that behavior to truly become the first offered behavior replacing the nuisance behavior or even just establishing the behavior as an automatic polite behavior or a taught trick behavior.

What one should be thinking if the dog reverts to an old behavior or does not understand what is expected of him next is: “Oh, I need to reward the desired behavior more, I have not made it clear to the dog.”

In other words: the dog does not really fully understand what he should be doing, the reward delivery was not clearly marking the part of the behavior that needs reinforcing. And who’s “fault” is that?


A good example for “asking too much too soon” is when you make an exercise much harder right away or you ask for a different version of the behavior (in a different context, in a more distracting environment, with less of a cue or even too many repetitions without rewarding). All of a sudden the teacher will be disappointed when the dog gets confused or gets stressed out.


Sometimes a dog will offer a wonderful behavior on their own. As teacher you are thrilled that you can add that to the repertoire of behaviors your dog will offer. So you think: “Oh, we have that down! I don’t need to practice and reward that!” Wrong. If you don’t reward on a good schedule the behavior will begin to weaken whereas other behaviors that had to be taught carefully and rewarded on a regular basis will be offered with more enthusiasm.

Those actions can be described as “greedy” from the human point of view in the context of teaching a dog.

What should we keep in mind?

It is best to train “in the moment” without putting pressure on the dog or oneself in terms of a time limit or a lofty goal.

Don’t ask for a better, faster or bigger response before the previous step is not totally secure and cemented. That is true for the teacher and the dog.

If you see that a behavior is difficult for a dog physically, stop and teach something different or a different version of that behavior.

Be flexible!

Reinvent the exercise.

Take a break and give the dog a break.

Good teachers tend to blame themselves since it is their job to be able to estimate correctly what the learner needs to be successful.

So next time you are angry because your dog failed to understand something, take a deep breath and ask yourself if you have been acting in a “greedy” fashion.




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