Practice handling the Puppy around food and toys.
To reduce the risk of resource guarding food:
Sit with the puppy’s food bowl in your lap. Let the puppy eat, and occasionally hand feed.
Occasionally walk up and drop something delicious in the puppy’s bowl as he is eating. The puppy should have positive, not anxious, associations with people being near the bowl. Adults should practice first with the puppy, and children next- only under supervision. Make sure that the puppy is relaxed and enjoying the practice.
To reduce the risk of resource guarding objects:
Starting with a boring toy, practice having the puppy release a toy to you in return for a food treat. Pick up the toy, clicking as the puppy releases the item, and deliver a treat from your pocket. If you wish, make the toy better by dabbing it with Cheeze Whiz or peanut butter, before giving it back.
Do not tug to get the toy.
Repeat 5 times, then move to a new location, and still using the “boring” toy, repeat 5 more time, then move to a 3rd location in the house for 5 more repeats.
Repeat the above with a moderately interesting toy.
Repeat the sequence again with a toy the puppy loves.
Have the adults in the family practice this with the puppy first, then the kids. Do not let kids get carried away and inadvertently make the puppy anxious by grabbing the toy again and again and again.
Continue to practice anti-aggression exercises with your puppy throughout his life.
Teach Give on Cue ( in addition to the above “It’s Fun When I Grab Your Toys”)
Encourage the puppy to play with a toy (ideally one he likes, but isn’t crazy about– we want him to be relaxed about giving it up, so we need to start with an easy item, not a tough one!) Four times in a row we are going to blatantly “trade” with the puppy — getting him used to the cue word, and getting him excited about spitting out his toy.
With the puppy hanging on to his toy, say “Give” (or whatever you choose as your cue word) just once. Hold a yummy treat to your puppy’s nose, click as he spits out the toy (letting him know that is the behavior you’re paying for) and then hand him the treat. Repeat 3 times. Time number 5, instead of showing the treat up front, keep the treat hidden, give the cue “drop”. The puppy will most likely drop the toy (indeed, you may be having a tough time getting him to engage with the toy at all, since he reeeely wants the treat. ) Click when he drops, then present the treat from your pocket or from behind your back. Practice in many different locations, and with all family members. Start with easy toys, them work your way up to harder items, such as food items. Whenever possible, in addition to the food treat and your praise, give the puppy his item back. If you see any aggression or anxiety, stop, and check with your instructor.
While (inhibited) biting in play with one another is normal puppy behavior, we need our puppies to learn when and whom to bite.
Puppies who are isolated or under-exercised tend to be more frustrated, and therefore have difficulty with inhibition. They may bite more, and respond to teaching less well. Make sure that you are meeting your puppy’s needs for company, exercise and stimulation.
Your greatest need for management of playbiting is likely to be during the puppies “Windows of Terror” (AKA Activity Peaks) at dawn and dusk. So, every morning and every afternoon ensure that the puppy gets physical, mental and cognitive exercise.
· Physical exercise might be: walking, fetch, play with another puppy, etc.
· Mental exercise: time to practice training!
· Cognitive exercise: Puppy plays problem solving games:
· Puppy eats breakfast from one or more stuffed Kongs and or the Buster Cube or Busy Buddy toy, rather than from his bowl.
· Puppy plays Hide-n-Seek with owner or Find It with Toys.
Also, during the Activity Peak:
· Do Not Touch the Puppy. Do interact, lots. (See above.) but no cuddling or patting in this time window.
· Do Not Sit on the Floor. Lowered body postures invite play in dog body language. He will not be able to resist tackling you if you are on the floor!
Do not scold, push, handle or otherwise interact with the puppy when he is mouthy.
· Playbiting is an attention-seeking behavior. Acknowledging the puppy, especially interacting with him physically generally makes this behavior worse!
· Especially, do NOT “alpha-roll” the puppy, nor strike him, nor jerk on his collar.
DO, immediately stand up and turn your back to the puppy, with your hands under your arms and your eyes to the sky.
He may persist in jumping at you for a few seconds. He may even briefly intensify his response.
(This is known as an “Extinction Burst”. When we attempt to use extinction – ceasing to reward a previously rewarded behavior- we will see a temporary increase in the rate or intensity of the behavior. An example of that in human life would be pushing the elevator button 6 times when there was no immediate response to your first push. )
Do not respond to the rowdy behavior. Wait until he moves away from you and picks an acceptable behavior, then praise quietly, or even better, mark the quiet behavior with your clicker, then treat.
If his biting is too uncomfortable to allow you to tolerate doing the above “Be A Tree” routine, modify the plan.
The puppy must still earn immediate ostracism for his biting, but you can effect that by putting yourself on the other side of a door, or, if he is wearing a tether-line, you can move him to a safe, boring “time-out” area for 30 seconds to 2 minutes.
Note: The tether is a short length of leash that acts as a “grab-handle, making it easier for you to march the puppy to his time-out without interacting with him.
Never leave a line attached to an unsupervised puppy.
When you get him from a time-out, whether you have left him, or moved him away from you, require him to perform a “sit” before he is released from confinement.
Rehearse many times.
Remember that is normal when using extinction (extinction = removal of a reward, in this case the reward of your attention and interaction) to see the behavior reappear (known as “spontaneous recovery). If you continue to “shun” the puppy when it mouths, and reinforce a competing behavior the mouthiness will end.
Especially with children and puppies, there may be some situations in which your puppy has a hard time with self-control. If the kids are going to be running and noisy, like playing ball, for example, some puppies will need to be removed from the area. Consider crating the puppy with a special toy rather than risking the overexcited puppy nipping at or tripping someone, or maybe getting hurt himself.
Or, if the kids want to play on the floor, try tethering the puppy nearby, so he can be part of the group, and give him a yummy stuffed toy to keep him busy. Tethering the puppy this way also means that if he does playbite when some pats him it is easy to effect “ostracism” simply by stepping away from the tethered puppy. Wait ‘til he sits, then try patting again.
“Predict and prevent”. Exercise your puppy and give him adequate social time. Choose appropriate toys that are safe, durable, and do not remind the puppy of human possessions. Examples are: Nylabones®, sterilized bones, antlers, Kong® toys, Buster Cube®, Busy Buddy toys, cressite rubber balls, etc.
Give the toys “social value” by putting your scent on them, playing with the puppy with his toys, and by verbally admiring the heck out him when he carries his own toys around, rather than your stuff.
Continue to practice sits, downs and stays.
You should be working without a lure on the sit, down and stand, and the puppy should occasionally perform up to 4 or 5 behaviors per reward.
Remember that using Variable Ratio Reinforcement means that your puppy can count on a reward, but he can’t tell exactly how hard he will have to work this time to get it.
Practice with your puppy in new areas.
Be consistent, think about standard setting (i.e. – what version of the exercise counts as “good” at this point in training), and raise the difficulty level of the exercises gradually, so that you and the puppy continue to succeed and enjoy training.
Add two more criteria to your “sit-stays”:
Practice taking first a single step to your left as the puppy stays. If he remains in place, reward. Then take a step to your right, reward. Then 2 steps to your left. Reward. 2 steps to your right. Reward…and so on.
Also practice posture changes. First cue the Stay, then bend slightly. Reward the puppy if he remains in place, then cue stay again, and bend further. Within a few tries you should be able to kneel down while the puppy remains in a stay. Now try sitting down in a chair and keeping the puppy in a stay.
Practice “Come” this week.
Give the cue “PuppyName, Come!” just once, then run away from the puppy and crouch down. The “pup-pup-pup-pup!!” sound will also attract the puppy to you.
Remember the rules:
i) Never say Come and punish the puppy or spoil his fun.
ii) Say Come only once
ii) Say Come when you can make it fun for the puppy
iv) Say Come when you know you can make the puppy succeed.
Continue to practice Leash-walking. Use the “Red-light/Green-light” procedure we practiced in class. Remember, if the puppy pulls, you will immediately stop dead. When he offers slack leash, click, treat and move forward.
Change leash walking equipment (for example to a Gentle Leader, or Easy Walk harness ) if recommended by your instructor.
Questions? Send Penny an email penny @ whatagoodpuppy.com (remove the spaces)