Good Teachers, Good Trainers
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Canine Behavior Associates
The Classes are Relocating!
Just two more modules will be taught at Humane Society Silicon Valley (only because the commute from Marin is wearing)  After that, they'll be held at Lily's Legacy, a wonderful sanctuary/rescue in Petaluma
Advanced Modules for Academy Grads at
Humane Society Silicon Valley
Working with Fearful or Anxious Dogs in Shelters and Homes will be held from 1 to 5 pm on Sundays, May 7, 14, and 21.  
This course has been approved for 12 CPDT CEU's.
Puppies to Adolescents and Aging Dogs will be held form 1 to 5 pm on Sundays, June 11, 18 and 25.  
Part I - Puppies - from birth through adolescence
Part II - Aging dogs - special needs of the aging dog and how owners can help

Training Troubles

The client – a pleasant, middle aged woman (we’ll call her Eve) – is working with her dog, Joey.  We are attempting to help the dog learn to walk on the leash without pulling.  Polite walking, we call it.   The dog is middle sized – about 45 pounds – young, full of energy and bursting with curiosity about the world.  He wants to investigate everything – every bush, tree, bird and movement.  And if he needs to pull the leash to get to the interesting stuff, so be it.  Sometimes he abruptly puts the brakes on, and shoves his nose deep into an aromatic bush.   And when he sees another dog – well, he has, in the past, yanked the leash right out of her hand as he raced to visit. 
This behavior is very frustrating to Eve, who would like to keep going, preferably in a straight line, rather than zig zagging across the sidewalk and into the street, as the muse strikes Joey.   And she would really rather not dislocate her shoulder (again). 
Eve has taken a beginning level dog training class, during which Joey excelled.  The class utilized a lot of enthusiastic high voiced praise and lots of treats.  When walking in the class, Joey stayed right beside Eve, while she popped treats into his mouth.   He was the star of the class. 
However, outside, Eve’s treats are not nearly as interesting as the aforesaid bushes – or really, anything.   And Eve doesn’t feel like enthusiastically praising Joey, especially because he isn’t doing anything right!  She would rather yell at him for being what he appears to be at this moment – a stubborn, willful, obnoxious dog.
Eve’s problems are real.  We see them over and over again with clients.  These clients adore their dogs, except when they take them for a walk, or leave them alone in the house, or have them meet good friends.  

So…how do you solve problems like this in the real world? 
Let’s look at the world from Joey’s point of view.   He’s young, excited, and curious to learn about the world.  Eve is not particularly interesting when they are out and about.   In fact, she’s an impedance.   If left off leash, he would follow scents, casting this way and that as the breeze moves them around.   He would be learning about his world, which is very different from Eve’s world.  In this state of mind, Joey is a receptor of information – he is not doing a lot of reasoned thinking.    He will also tend to check in on Eve occasionally, to share his wonder at the world and make sure she’s still somewhere in the vicinity.  But he will not walk beside her for long. 
If Joey is on the leash, however, he has to stay beside her, and frustration becomes his primary emotion.   He cannot get to all the good stuff, so he pulls harder and harder.   (Some dogs actually turn around and bite at the leash, which is preventing them from getting to anything interesting, at least in their minds).  This in turn causes Eve to get frustrated, and yank on the leash as well.  

In most cases, as the walk progresses, it’s likely Joey will lose some of that excitement and start to focus a bit more on Eve.   Often, by the time people turn around and walk back towards home, their dog is no longer pulling, and the walk becomes much more pleasant.
As the dog gets older, the second, calmer, half of the walk will come sooner.  But we’re not there yet. 
There are a few different techniques for building calmer walks, while meeting the needs of both human and dog.  (The first is to understand that dogs do have needs!).  They should all start off with a couple of key steps:
First, make sure the dog is calm before the walk begins.   This means that the process of getting dressed should be quiet and controlled, and not excited.   We humans are often to blame for this – we ask the dog “do you want to go for a walk?!!??” in an excited tone, which starts things off all wrong.  Instead, if you wait til the dog is calm before you attach the leash, you’ve already got a dog who is with you mentally.
Once you're on your way, do some quick, easy obedience – on the sidewalk, or wherever your walk begins.  This should include a 10 - 20 second stay to build some impulse control, without using it all up.    
As you walk, consider releasing Joey from your side to do some serious exploring every few minutes.  This will help fulfill some of his needs.  After that, Joey can be brought back to attention, and get ready for work.   If he is too excited to eat treats, or gulps them down too quickly, it’s likely he won’t be able to attend to his owner.  But if he can, then the same standards should apply to him on the street as applied in class.  There are many different techniques for polite walking, including passive restraint, ‘find it’ walking, the slippery leash method, and target walking.  Descriptions and instructions for all of them can be found here
However, keep in mind that it’s really hard for a dog to walk politely for a whole walk.   When he’s working, he is supposed to feel the leash to make sure it’s slack, pay attention to the owner’s direction and pace, and ignore all the interesting stuff around him.   Thus, it’s often better to alternate walking and exploring, if at all possible. 
Of critical importance to my mind is teaching a dog that he doesn’t get to meet all the other dogs he passes, even though he wants to.  If a dog is allowed to greet all other dogs, he'll come to see it as expected, and may not behave well if thwarted.  On the other hand, if a dog learns that other dogs are none of his business, he’ll stop pulling towards them (eventually), and ignore them, instead paying attention to you.    A nice way to help him learn this is to use his seeking circuit (curiosity) by tossing a treat ahead of you just as you’re passing the dog.    Now you’re actually creating a reason to pass another dog. 
It's good to remember that Joey isn’t doing anything to EveShe isn’t a factor in his behavior, she is just in the way as far as he’s concerned.  He isn't living in her world, from his point of view - she is in his.  He needs to learn that he needs her, and that might take a while.  This is especially true of dogs adopted as adults; they don't have a long behavior history with that one person.   They may be used to making their own decisions, without human help.  

It's also essential to understand that teaching anything - polite walking, sit, stay, come, down or whatever - is a process.  Not only does it take a while for the dog to learn to do what you want, it also isn't consistent.  Some days Joey will do well, other days - not so much.   A little like people.
Update on Heather
Last month, training against instincts was the topic and our newest dog, Heather, was the subject.   Thought you might like an update.  Heather has now been part of our home for about four months, and though she was already a trusting sort of dog, she is even more so now.   And the buzzard chasing is about 75 to 80 percent better than it was (we haven’t really tested the skunk chasing yet, and I’m not sure I want to… ).   Does she still chase the buzzards?  Yes, occasionally, but it doesn’t last very long and she returns quickly when called. 
Now you could say that she just got used to the big birds diving down and teasing her, and you’d be partially right.  But there’s more to it than that.   She now knows – really knows – that when she returns when called, she is reinforced, sometimes lightly, and sometimes enthusiastically.  This is enhanced by the knowledge that the other dogs will be getting reinforced (maybe even getting her treat?)  if they come.  She also knows no one is going to stick around and wait for her if she doesn’t come, and she’ll have to catch up.  Since she is now pretty convinced that she needs us for her happiness, this can be compelling.  
Perfect?  Nope.  But pretty good.   It's a process.
If you or someone you know would like a consultation, or to see a topic covered in this newsletter, or if you have expressive dog photo's you might like us to use, please email
Trish King
Tricia Breen

Art by Robin King
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