Helping Amy Teach Her Dog To Come When Called
When Amy called me she was desperate.
¨Hey Gabe, Daisy loves going to the park, but the minute I take her off leash she runs to the water, which as you know is pretty far¨ She told me.
“What do you do when that happens?” I asked her.
“Well, I call her, but she doesn’t come. Then she takes off, so I have to go all the way to the water. She doesn’t listen to me.¨
¨Where are you when you call her? – I asked again
“What do you mean? I’m at the park¨
“Are you between her and the water, or is she between you and the water?” I replied
“I don’t really know, I guess she is between me and the water because I usually end up chasing her”
When I went to the park with Amy and her pup Daisy I saw exactly what was happening. Because I already new the deal I stood between Daisy and the way to the water. Then I told Amy:
¨When a I say come please drop the leash”
As soon as I said come, Amy dropped the leash and Daisy rushed to me. Well she didn´t rushed to me, she was rushing to the water, but I happened to be in the way.
We repeated this several times. Every time Daisy came to me I gave her some pads, and cuddles, I played with her a little bit and then took her back to Amy to repeat the process.
In very little time Daisy was coming to me when I was calling her. But even more important she was not rushing to the water anymore. She was staying around with us.
Amy was astonished, she couldn’t believe it.
How did the dog learn to come when called so fast?
It happened fast because I didn’t impose a method to Daisy. I simply saw where gravity was and I used it in my favor instead of against me.
Amy was calling Daisy after taking off and from behind her. She was at the wrong place at the wrong time.
I was calling Daisy before she was taking off and I was on the way where she was heading. Gravity was in my favor not against me.
Note: I never got into the WHY Daisy was going crazy about rushing to the water. I just noticed that she was fixated into rushing towards the water. We humans love to get into the WHY of things and create science fiction stories around it. Dogs don’t really care about our stories.
The really important thing here is not the WHY but the HOW. How Daisy was performing this behavior, what state of mind was she in? If Daisy would’ve been in panic mode this would´ve never worked. I would’ve taken a completely different approach.
Dasiy was not afraid, she was fixated or obsessed with the water. That’s why she was running. Typical Bulldog behavior. Daisy is a bulldog.
Fixations or obsessions have a clear straight line direction towards something. They are easy to spot.
Anyways, by standing between Daisy and the water I broke that cycle where she was getting stuck. By calling her name and knowing that she was going to come to me I created an association between the word “come” and the action Daisy coming to me. Once you know what’s going to happen it´s a matter of repetition.
According to Einstein, and I quote: ¨definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.¨
I would suggest to inverse this quote and use it for training : ¨do the same thing over and over again and expect the same results.¨
Make sure you use it wisely! 😉
© Gabriel Riesco, Fairfield CT, March 5th, 2018
Read Part 1 of How To Teach Your Dog Come When Called, Gravity.
There are two approaches which you can use to teach your dog to ¨come¨ when called. You can also combine them.
The first one is Conditioning and Training and the second one is Gravity.
Let’s talk about the first one.
Conditioning and training means to condition your dog to associate the word ¨come¨ with the action ¨coming to you¨.
It´s really that simple.
This might seem obvious to you. Nonetheless I keep seeing more often than not dog owners calling their dogs while they are going towards them.
This usually happens when your dog is getting into trouble. You call his or her name, your pup doesn´t listen and you end up going there. It doesn’t take long for your dog to learn that the word ¨come¨ means that you go to him or her.
I can’t repeat this enough: ¨YOUR DOG DOESN´T UNDERSTAND ENGLISH¨. Now, I don’t wanna bust your bubble. You are more than welcome to talk to your dog. I do it all the time. Just don’t expect him or her to understand what you’re saying. If you think your dog understands you please let me know and email me! I LOVE those stories!!!
Anyways, going back to business. When you say the word ¨come¨ make sure that you know your dog is going to come to you. If not don’t say it, especially at the beginning. You want to create a solid and very consistent association with the word ¨come¨ and the action of coming to you. Successful repetitions is the key in the first stage.
How do you do this?
Well, it´s easier than what you think.
Choose a place with no or little distractions. Get something your dog really wants or likes. It could be you. Move away from your dog. Ignore him or her for a while. As soon as he or she walks away, call him or her name and say ¨come!¨ You can use a treat, a toy, a ball or whatever you dog really likes. It could be just your attention.
Make some noise and create some excitement if your pup doesn’t come to you right away. Kneeling down also helps. So you can try that too.
When your dog comes, reward him or her with enthusiasm. Then repeat it three to five times. Don’t over do it, because your dog will get bored. Do this several times during the day. Soon your dog will come to you like lightening.
As you are more and more successful add distractions and distance.
Always reward your dog for coming. Never punish or get angry at your dog for coming to you. Even if they just misbehaved, because if you do, your pup will think that he or she is being punished for coming to you. And guess what, next time they wont come to you. They learn pretty fast.
PS: In the next blog I´ll talk about the fascinating second approach: Gravity!
© Gabriel Riesco, Fairfield CT, March 13th, 2018
There are different ways to teach your dog commands. My preferred method is positive reinforcement or reward based techniques. Usually using food or toys.
This technique is under what I refer as conditioning and training. As I explained in previous blogs this is different from communicating and bonding. Conditioning and training is very effective at teaching your dog commands, but not so effective at teaching your dog not to do things or changing behaviors, such as excesive barking, aggression, anxiety, fear etc. For more information on this please check out my previous blog : The Secret
Anyways, this is a simple but very effective formula of teaching your dog from simple commands like come, sit, down to more complex ones such as go and grab me a drink from the refrigerator.
Reward Based Training or Positive Reinforcement is divided into five steps: the craving, the command, he cue, the marker and the reward. This is the CCC Mr. formula (Craving, Command, Cue, Marker, Reward ) or the triple ¨C ¨Mr. formula
Let’s talk about each of these steps:
The craving: this is basically finding out what motivates your dog or what does your dog want. Most dogs want food or treats, some dogs want a ball, a toy, a moving object or a tug of war. Whatever it is, you’re going to use that craving to get your pups attention and teach him/her certain commands such as sit down, high five etc. If your dog does what you want he or she gets the reward. With repetition it becomes automatic.
The command: This is the word you want to use to teach a command. For example: ¨sit¨ or ¨sienta¨ if you want to do it in Spanish. The word or command should go before the cue, but only once you’re good with the cue and you are getting the behavior you’re trying to teach. This way your pup will associate the word with the behavior. Say the command no more than once or maybe twice.
The cue: this is the action or movement that you are going to do in order to get the behavior that you are trying to teach your dog. In this part you need to get creative in order to get the behavior you want. Here is an example: if you want your dog to sit down, move your hand with a treat a little bit over his or her head and wait until he or she sits down. Usually that makes the trick. The cue in this case is moving your hand with the treat over your pups head.
For different behaviors you’ll have to learn different cues. This is the part where you can either use the help of a professional trainer or learn by trial and error to see what works for your pup. In this step you’re still silent, you don’t have to say the word or command again, you just have to make it happen.
The marker: as soon as your pup does what you want him or her to do you say ¨yes¨. You can also use a clicker instead if you are into clicker training. The marker is telling your pup that he or she did what you wanted and the reward is coming. Which is different from the reward is here. What I mean by this is that when you say yes or you click the clicker wait one second and then give the treat. Don’t give it immediately. The marker is not the reward. The marker always comes before the reward. This is important.
The reward: Once your dog has done the behavior and you’ve used a marker by saying yes or clicked your clicker simply give him or her the reward. You can also say ¨good boy¨ or ¨good girl¨.
Now, be careful using good boy or good girl. The reason why is because in my experience we use ¨good boy¨ or ¨good girl for¨ everything and it becomes completely meaningless to your dog.
As a matter of fact good boy or good girl most of the times means excitement. I see more often than not the following sequence: the owner asks for a command. The dog does a beautiful performance. The owner after the dog did the command gets all excited and says GOOD GIRL! And the dog immediately misbehaves by jumping. Why? Because excitement creates excitement and excitement creates jumping. So be mindful with how you reward.
With this simple five step formula you can teach your pup pretty much anything.
Go and have fun with it!
© Gabriel Riesco, Fairfield CT, Feb 28th 2018
Today is all about how to communicate with the leash and how to prevent and fix leash aggression.
How you grab and communicate with your pup through the leash is very important. Before you even touch the leash you should be aware and in control of your body and mental state of mind.
Acknowledge that a leash should mean relaxation not excitement. If your dog has this wrong you need to fix it. When you put the leash on your dog you are restraining his or her movements. Getting your pup all excited and then restraining him/her with the leash it doesn’t make any sense, yet a lot of people do it.
When you grab the leash you should be relaxed, confident and looking forward to a calm and pleasant activity with your dog. Here is how you can achieve this:
Call your dog. Make sure your pup comes to you instead of you going to him/her. Use a treat or a toy if you need to. Once he/she comes ask him or her to relax. Depends in the pup this might take a little bit of time.
When your dog is relaxed put the leash on.
Make sure there is never tension on the leash. Keep the leash loose at all times and if your dog decides to pull, do a tug to the side to break his or her balance.
When you do this use your dog´s energy not your´s. This way you will be able to do it with your wrist or even with fingers instead of yanking him/her using your whole arm. You achieve this by pulling a little bit to the side.
Do not yank or be forceful. Remember this has nothing to do with strength. Don´t pull him/her backwards and never maintain tension. Every time you do a gentle tug you have to relax when he/she stops. Is a tension-release move, not a tension-tension restrain. Your dog will not listen to you just because you are stronger.
NEVER REWARD FOR PULLING!
Ex: Don´t let your pup sniff something because he/she pulled. Or don’t let your pup greet another dog because he/she is pulling.
If you do, you will be teaching your pup that pulling gets them what they want. This kind of inconsistency creates a lot of confusion and stress in your pup, because sometimes you reward pulling and sometimes you get mad for doing so.
This type of human behavior is what creates leash aggression. And Leash aggression is always created by humans.
Remember that Leash Communication is a skill on you not on your dog. If you are not in control of yourself you won´t be able to control your dog.
As Plato said: “The first and greatest victory is to conquer self. To be conquered by self is of all things the most shameful and vile”
© Gabriel Riesco, Fairfield CT, October 2017
Myth: If you let your dog free off leash in the park, “they´ll figure it out”.
Running, playing or fetching around an off leash dog area in an ¨out of control state of mind¨ DOES NOT get your dog tired, it gets your dog restless and crazier. The more your pup practices this kind of activity the worse he/she will get.
This is when I get this kind of questions: ¨I take my dog to run every day for 3 hours and she never gets tired. HELP!! I don’t know what else to do!!!!¨
I like to think of “Off Leah Park Time” as a sport or a game. If there´s no rules there´s no game, it´s chaos. Imagine a playground of toddlers without parents, meaning without rules or boundaries. As a parent myself I know how that´s gonna to turn out. Lots of crying, fighting, pushing, yelling:´¨it´s mine!! no it´s mine!!.¨ NOOOT pretty!! I´ll guarantee you that your kid is not going to get tired, is going to get restless and stressed. And get ready for a lot of ¨tantrums¨ back home and/or destructive behavior. The same happens with dogs.
An off leash dog Park (not enclosed area) or a dog Run (enclosed area) is not the woods. What I mean is that a park is not the wilderness where animals, in this case dogs, will figure out their own structure and rules.
Dogs that go to parks are constantly changing, so it makes it very difficult for them to figure out any kind of structure. When they actually do figure out something it takes just one new dog to challenge that structure to create chaos. And this is why we can’t leave it up to them.
A Park is created by humans and with a lot of human rules. So your pup still has to listen to you. The reason why is because you are the human. You know the rules and your pup needs you in order to respect those rules. A little note here: your job is not to control other people´s dogs, your job is to control your dog no matter what other people´s dogs do. And this can be challenging.
¨Going to the park¨ usually creates a lot of excitement for dogs.( Note: excitement is not happiness. Excitement is excitement and happinees is happiness). If you can’t´tell the difference, that´s fine, that´s why I´ve created this Blog. Click here to learn about state of mind in dogs and how important it is. The point here is that excitement without limits or rules turns into “out of control” behavior and this is when we get into trouble. Wether is humping, playing too rough, excessive barking, fixations, aggression, being protective of a ball, barking to new people …. you name it. It´s all a result of not setting boundaries and rules from the very beginning.
A dog run, park or any off leash experience does not mean take the leash off your dog and see what happens. Even if your pup is well socialized and has a good temperament, off leash should not mean ¨do whatever you want¨. Because they will, and you´ll probably won’t like it. There should still be structure, boundaries and rules. Your pup should still have to listen to you, What I mean by this is that you can still have control of your dog even off leash. The question is How? There are several steps that will help you to achieve this:
1. How you get to the park.
If you are walking to the park make sure you are in control of the walk. Your pup should be walking with no tension on the leash (not pulling, stopping or dragging) and at your side or behind you. If your dog is already pulling the leash in front of you or not listening to you while getting to the park, don´t expect him/her to listen to you after you take the leash off.
Remember that the walk starts inside your house when you put the leash on not when you are already outside (Click here to read blog about how to walk your pup). If you are driving to the park obviously this doesn’´t apply.
2. How you enter the park and when to take the leash off.
Your dog should enter the Park in a controlled or calm state of mind and you should take the leash off when they are not pulling. Not while they are trying to get rid of you to ¨see you later¨. If you do that acknowledge that you are sending a torpedo to the battlefield.
3. Move around so he/she follows you.
It´s a good idea, if the area is big enough, to change locations from one place to another versus staying stationary. This keeps your pup focused on what you are doing and following you instead of forgetting about your existence.
4. Set up limits and boundaries while your pup is playing or interacting with other animals, including humans.
There are a lot of different things you can do to achieve this: You can ask your go to come to you for a break and let him/her go back again to play. You can block or stop your pup when there´s too much excitement or things are about to get out of control. You can put your pup on leash for a while until he/she calms down a bit. These are just some suggestions, but there´s many different things you can do depending on the situation or unwanted behavior.
Every dog is different and every situation is different. There are no set up rules written on stone for this. It´s up to your awareness and your communication skills with your pup to create and keep harmony in your environment.
© Gabriel Riesco, NYC 2017
Babies and Dogs
Charles (Beagle) has mostly been great with the baby-he mostly leaves her alone, will just lick her face a little if we’ve been gone and come home. He’s definitely never gone after her aggressively, but he gets really aggressive when our dog walker comes in to walk him (barking, jumping, snapping). “Could we get some help with techniques to get him more comfortable with other people coming into the apartment.
I get this type of question a lot. The problem with this question is that is focusing on the outcome of the problem not on the problem itself. What I mean by this is that asking for a technique without having the foundation right is kind of useless. So first things first:
Step #1 is knowing why Charles is reacting like that. Is he acting out of fear, insecurity, overexcitement, anxiety, dominance, guarding/protecting? or a combination of some of this.
In this case I actually know Charles, and he is being protective of the house, the humans and the baby.
The question you have to ask yourself is: when big decisions have to be made who is the decision maker? In other words who is responsible of the house hold?, who is the parent? and who decides who is welcome and who is not? Is it you or is it Charles? If the answer is Charles that’s why he is acting out. He is just doing his job. The problem is that this is a very bad job and its also dangerous. The solution is to let Charles know that this is not his job. It´s yours. You decide who is welcome and who is not not welcome. Once you take over that responsibility Charles will calm down.
This question has to do with the relationship you have with Charles. You need to establish yourself as the parent. Once you have Charles’ trust and respect you can teach him and guide him in how you want him to behave. There are several techniques you can use, but they will not be effective if you don’t have the foundation right.
The first thing I would recommend is to be able to tell Charles to give space to the door and to calm down when a guest comes to your house. Once he is paying attention to you and he is relaxed let him greet and sniff your guest/s. Setting up a boundary and putting Charles in the right state of mind will not only teach Charles how to greet humans in a polite manner but will also send him a clear message that there is nothing to be worried about.
Probably your next question is: how do I get the foundation right? That´s a whole new subject on itself that I will be addressing in future posts.