Archive for the ‘socialization’ Tag
Filed under: Dog training, Helping fearful dogs | Tags: animal welfare, anxious dogs, dog rehabilitation, dog training scared timid shy fearful rehabilitation counter conditioning desensitization, positive reinforcement, rehabilitating dogs, socialization, training dogs
I should start this post with a disclaimer that I am not advocating against the use of the pieces equipment I am going to mention, rather that we should take a good long look at how and why we are using them.
Routinely a post will make the rounds of the social media circuit about a dog who while playing with a dog, ended up getting tangled, one way or another, in the other dog’s collar. I was once part of an assessment of a dog whose playmate had died from strangulation from a collar entanglement. The dog being assessed had unintentionally killed his friend. Few would suggest that dogs should never wear collars, they are peerless for identification should a dog go astray. Micro chips and tattoos are helpful as well and good back-up should a collar go missing, but a tag with a contact number can get a dog home pretty darn fast.
At the risk of sounding like a whiny old person, longing for the good ol’ days I will say that when I was growing up with dogs we didn’t use crates. I am not saying that crates are not useful pieces of equipment or that we wouldn’t have been better off had we used a crate with my childhood dogs. I’m merely saying that for the majority of time dogs have co-housed with humans, they were not confined to a space which restricted their movement to the degree a crate does. And yes, one could add that there are far less humane ways to restrain dogs and that there are working dogs, who when not working, are similarly confined.
Crates are invaluable for a variety of reasons, no question. Plenty of dogs love climbing into their crate for a snooze or chew session. But crates have provided humans with the option of confining dogs, possibly for longer than is reasonable or humane. A dog who might be able to go for 6 hours without a toilet break, or before boredom sends them round the bend, can be left in a crate for 8 hours without giving owners any reason to attend to the dog sooner, because the dog was unable to cause any damage to the household. The equipment gets us what we need, at the dog’s expense. If a dog in a crate begins barking incessantly, there are more pieces of equipment we can use to deal with that, namely some kind of bark collar.
Muzzles and head halters, useful for the management of dogs, give us the opportunity to put dogs into situations where they might prove to be dangerous or annoying. They make it possible for us to ignore the information a dog is sharing with us through the intensity or duration of their behavior. Essentially they allow us to flood a dog with stimuli that they might otherwise have chosen to avoid, or bite. A skilled handler can incorporate these tools into their practice with dogs for the purpose of maintaining the safety of all involved, and in the case of head halters, to get a behavior which they then reinforce. And for a pet owner or novice handler the use of a piece of equipment which takes the element of choice away from a dog, may always be necessary. It’s not always the end of the world for a dog.
Recently I watched a service dog at an all day event being manipulated by a head halter. Not only did I assume that the dog had been professionally trained (the handler was a trainer) but that he was a well-loved animal. The dog was expected to ignore everything in his environment and focus on his handler. Should he turn his head to take note of a person or other dog walking into the room his head was pulled back toward the handler. That this was done with an apology, “sorry you’re still working,” mattered little to me, and probably less to the dog. This dog was not a service dog, he was a slave, albeit a well-cared for one. That’s just my opinion of course, and heaven knows I’ve got plenty of those.
Filed under: Dog training, Helping fearful dogs | Tags: aggressive dogs, anxious, counter conditioning, desensitization, dog rehabilitation, dog training, dog training scared timid shy fearful rehabilitation counter conditioning desensitization, fearful dogs, games for dogs, positive reinforcement, shy dogs, socialization
After years of flipping through the magazines strategically placed at the check-out in grocery stores, it was impossible not to notice that generations of young women are being schooled on how to apply mascara, bake a no-fail chocolate cake, and on what turns men off, assuming any of this matters to them. The faces on the covers have changed, but the information hasn’t since any of these topics were new to me, decades ago. I understand that while not news to me, it is news to some.
With that in mind I am going to revisit the “reinforcing fear” topic. I should explain that the idea that we reinforce fear in dogs by doing anything even remotely “nice” or pleasant to them, is a hot button subject for me. This misinformation was shared with me by a trainer, and accounts for months of mishandling my fearful dog Sunny. It was mentioned in a class I attended years before I had met Sunny, but the information stuck and shaped my interactions with him. I will never know how much this has impacted his current behavior, and I realize that hindsight is 20/20 but it continues to upset me. How much different might he be today if I had not spent months worrying about reinforcing or enabling his fear, and instead had immediately addressed his stress levels, however I needed to, to lower them? Maybe there wouldn’t be much of a difference, but I suspect there would be, hence the relevance this topic has for me.
On my Facebook page, a masseuse made brief comment that discouraged people from praising a scared dog. They didn’t explain why not to do it, but it is apparent to me why they’d say it-the reinforcing fear myth. I tried to be equally as brief in my reply and hopefully not rude but imagine if I had gone on to a page about canine massage and commented that one should not “massage old dogs.” And let’s say that there were people who thought that massage was dangerous for old dogs, that it could stop their hearts. Ridiculous you might think, but no more ridiculous than thinking you will reinforce fear in a dog by comforting them, or handing them a bit of cheese.
And why would I think that I was not qualified to comment on massage? I have after all lived with a body for decades, have had massages, my husband routinely tries to get me to massage his feet, and once I shared a house with two women in massage school. No I had not ever seen a dog’s heart stop when they were massaged, but neither has anyone seen a dog’s fear being reinforced when they are praised or comforted. A dog’s fear might have remained the same or increased when someone thought they were praising (and that praising was perceived by the dog as a reinforcer), or comforting, but that’s not evidence of anything other than that a handler didn’t understand thresholds and counter conditioning.
Not all behavior is created equal. There is behavior that is used to get something done. A dog scratches the door to get a person to open it. There is behavior that is a product of the presentation of something that creates a strong emotional response in a dog (or is part of the set of behaviors that dogs come packaged with, chasing stuff for example). This latter behavior might also produce results, a dog who is scared snarls and makes another dog move away, and dogs can get better at snarling and making dogs move away, but there is a difference between operant, the former, and respondent, the latter, behaviors. Wrap your head around this, it’s important.
If the consequence of an operant behavior is something the dog finds pleasant or beneficial, we are likely to see that behavior occur more often. If the consequence of a behavior caused by a dog being afraid of something, is something the dog finds pleasant or enjoyable, the emotional response is likely to change, from bad to good, and subsequently the behavior that it produced will change. If a kid hates going to school, we’ll probably find it difficult to get them to perform “going to school” behaviors, but if they LOVE going to school, getting them up in the morning, dressed and out the door is likely to be a different scene than for the poor kid who doesn’t enjoy it.
It isn’t easy to change emotional responses, but it is easy for someone to think they’re following the protocol to do it, and they are not. This is not evidence that desensitization and counter conditioning don’t work, just that they’re not being implemented properly.
I have not yet looked at these DVDs produced by Animal Behavior Associates, but I will be. I also will be careful about giving advice on topics I do not fully grasp, and even more careful about the advice I give when I am being paid for it.
Filed under: Dog training, Helping fearful dogs | Tags: anxious, dog training, dog training scared timid shy fearful rehabilitation counter conditioning desensitization, positive reinforcement, reinforcing fear, relationship based training, socialization, timid, training dogs
There are no secrets to dog training, or weight loss, despite the endless amount of spam trying to sell both.
Good dog trainers who understand how to train dogs are like bad poker players grinning like fools and showing their hand with all the aces to the people sitting beside them. We want people to know how to change their dog’s behavior and can’t keep this a secret no matter how hard we try.
Many of us have chosen methods to do this that use little to no force or coercion. Some choose these techniques because ethically they think it’s how we should interact with animals in our care. Others choose them because they understand how effective they are. I work with a population of dogs that offers me little choice in the matter. Using force, pain or the threat of either with these dogs is contraindicated and counter productive in the long run.
I am not saying that either dog training or losing weight are without their challenges. The professional trainers I know, spend a lot of time and money learning how to deal with the challenges that arise with dogs. They learn to look for physical or medical causes for a behavior, no sense punishing a dog for not sitting when asked if their hips ache or if they can’t hear or see well. We explore ways to motivate dogs and identify what components of a dog’s life can be changed to increase the chances that we’ll get more of the behaviors we like and less of the ones we don’t.
You don’t need to be a dog psychologist to understand why dogs do what they do. There is no need to come up with either simple or elaborate stories, as interesting and compelling as these may be, to explain why dogs do what they do. If we keep seeing a dog perform a behavior we know they are doing so because they are being reinforced for it. If they are unwilling or reluctant to perform certain behaviors we know it is because they have been punished for performing the behavior. This, if there is a secret to sell, is it. It’s not always simple to tease apart the reinforcers and punishers in a dog’s life, but if you’re going to pay for anything, find a professional who can.
Filed under: Dog training, Helping fearful dogs | Tags: aggressive dogs, anxious dogs, counter conditioning, desensitization, dog rehabilitation, dog training scared timid shy fearful rehabilitation counter conditioning desensitization, dog whispere, positive reinforcement, rescue dogs, shelter dogs, socialization, training dogs
I recently had the unfortunate, albeit educational experience of being on a radio show with three other dog trainers. When asked if we’d ever been bitten I recounted the story of being bitten when I was a kid, another trainer spoke of his experience with sharp puppy teeth and his nose, but it was the last trainer whose response was most disturbing.
This self-proclaimed dog whisperer boasted- there was no disguising how proud she was- that she has been bitten countless number of times with varying levels of damage sustained. She considered being bitten a badge of honor and her creds for working with aggressive dogs. “Unless you’re willing to get bitten you shouldn’t work with them,” she declared. This I realized was what she thought separated her from other trainers, what made her better than other trainers, but to my ears it rang out incompetence. It was teenage boy bravado.
Imagine a trainer of wild animals, most of which will display some form of aggression toward people if they feel threatened, bragging about the number of times the lion bit them. If you work with wild animals these are not the kind of stories you necessarily live to tell. Most dog trainers do survive bites but that has more to do with the dog’s intentions, not the trainer’s skill. That being bitten by a dog poses less risk to us is no excuse for shoddy training. “Why,” I wanted to ask her, “If someone can train wild animals without being bitten, can’t you do it with a dog!?”
Her cavalier attitude toward being bitten also belied either naivete or ignorance about what happens when a dog, who might otherwise not have bitten if handled properly, does bite. Anyone adopting out a dog, is obligated to share a dog’s bite history with potential adopters. To not do so sets them up for being found liable for gross negligence should the dog bite someone in the future and the dog’s bite history becomes known. Imagine you’re visiting a shelter and all things being equal you can choose from Fluffy who has never bitten anyone and Lassie who bit his previous owners and the trainer brought in to work with him. How convincing will the guarantees of Lassie’s successful rehabilitation be? I am not saying that Lassie can’t be rehabilitated or that even nice dogs don’t have good reasons for biting sometimes. There are shelters with a policy of simply not adopting out dogs with bite histories, period.
We know that all dogs have the capability to bite. Depending on either inclination or size, one dog might do more damage than another. Simply putting their teeth on a person is not necessarily the only piece of information we have to decide whether or not they’d make a good pet for someone. Early on in our relationship I grabbed Sunny’s harness and he spun around and bit me. My hand was in his mouth and his teeth were on my hand. I sustained no injury, not even a dent or bruise. I was relieved for that reason, and also because it showed me that he had a high level of bite inhibition, meaning, he could control how hard he bit. He was giving me information, not picking a fight. From his point of view, I was probably the one doing that. Some dogs don’t have good bite inhibition and this is very difficult, if not impossible to change.
This trainer’s attitude was distressing and frankly, warped. Imagining that being bitten by dogs gives you some kind of caché, that you speak about it proudly on the air, says loads about your skills and relationship with dogs. Why brag about making a dog feel so threatened that they bite you? What does this prove? That you’re tough? That you’re in charge? That you don’t take any crap from a dog, a dog who is most likely reacting out of fear? Thinking that you have to be able to accept being bitten as a part of the process of training and rehabilitation indicates a lack of understanding about that process. Expecting that bragging about it should raise people’s opinions of you is pathetic. Sometimes I can’t help wishing that instead of whispering these trainers would just stop talking.
Filed under: Dog training, Helping fearful dogs | Tags: anxious dogs, dog training, dog training scared timid shy fearful rehabilitation counter conditioning desensitization, fearful dogs, pack leader, positive reinforcement, rehabilitating dogs, shy dogs, socialization
When I was in my 20’s I worked as a guide on the Wanganui River in NZ. One day during a hike, one of the participants on the trip, a woman in her 60’s commented to me that she thought I “weighed too much for a girl my age” and went on to give me dietary advice which consisted primarily of switching from butter to margarine on my toast. She boasted about being a “straight shooter” a speaker of the truth which was suppose to absolve her of responsibility for how her comments made me feel. It was as though the value of her advice to me, far outweighed (sorry for the pun) how bad it made me feel.
We spent five days together paddling down the river and from that time the only conversation I remember having with her was this one. I can recall it, not because her dietary advice to me changed my eating habits and my life was inexplicably improved beyond measure, no, it was because it made me feel bad, really bad. There is no doubt in mind that were I to meet her again, almost 30 years later, I would remember this conversation and feel bad again. But this time my bad feelings would be directed toward her, not my thighs.
When people talk about using punishment with their dogs, the problem is not that it can’t work, though it often doesn’t, one serious concern is how the dog can end up feeling about the person doling out the punishment. Most pet owners want to have a good relationship with their dogs.
We want them to wake us up if there’s a fire and save our lives. We hope that if we were stuck in a well they’d go for help. Few mentally sound people want their dogs to be afraid of them. Maybe I could risk it and say no mentally sound person wants this.
The ease which the general population has let the nonsense of trainers like Cesar Millan slide down their gullets is a source of great interest to me. Is it because it gives people permission to be powerful, to assume the role of dictator in their private, small universe? It might be for some, but I suspect for others it’s because they do not comprehend the impact compulsion and punishment have on their relationship with their dog. They are told it will command respect, inspire their dog to follow them to the ends of the earth. That it’s the “natural order” of things. But professional trainers, animal behaviorists and real psychologists know better. Though there are pathologies that exist which cause some people to enjoy being pushed around and treated harshly, most animals will choose, at often huge cost to themselves, to avoid it.
The earlier and more often in a relationship one proves to be willing to do something that scares or makes their dog feel bad, the more difficult it will be to establish trust within that relationship. Training becomes more challenging as stress and uncertainty taint the dog’s ability to experiment with behaviors. If you for one minute believe that proving your dominance over a dog convinces them to respect you, watch your step. If you find yourself in a well, you may be there for awhile.
Filed under: Dog training, Helping fearful dogs | Tags: aggressive dogs, counter conditioning, desensitization, dog training, dog training scared timid shy fearful rehabilitation counter conditioning desensitization, socialization
Have you ever exited the highway and entered a curve that changes the direction you were heading? A well designed curve requires very little steering. Once you adjust for it there are no sharp changes that require you to make abrupt movements of the steering wheel, you hold your position and wind along with the curve.
In the industry of outdoor recreation improvements are always being made to equipment so that the energy required to use it decreases. Downhill skis are shorter and shaped so that minor shifts in weight will cause them to carve out a turn. A huge improvement compared to the cumbersome wooden skis you see mounted as decoration on old barns or straight fiberglass skis cluttering garages.
Good athletes make their sports look easy, effortless. They don’t battle with gravity, they play with it. When a level of proficiency is established, even among novices, there’s a feeling described as “being in the zone.” It’s a feeling of flow and synchronicity. It’s a feeling of exhilaration.
People can also experience these feelings in relationships. We have best friends, lovers, soul mates. There’s an ease we feel in each other’s company. And like being in the “the zone” there’s a lack of fear.
When I spent more time hiking and backpacking I enjoyed crossing boulder fields. Unlike walking on an easily identified trail, boulder fields lack a single defined route. As you hop from boulder to boulder you are constantly scanning ahead so that each choice you make regarding where to put your foot is sure to provide you with another option for moving forward. It felt like playing a game with a mountain.
Good trainers of dogs make the work they do look effortless. There’s a flow to behavior and their sight is already set on the next behavior and what they need to do to get it, what subtle shift of weight is necessary to end up at their desired destination. No missteps to send them tumbling.
It is possible when climbing up a rock face or ledges to get “bluffed.” You were able to go up or down to get to a particular location but there is no safe, next step to take, and it’s impossible to back track. It can require a rescue by professionals, if you’re lucky to have them available to help.
We can find ourselves “bluffed” by some dogs. There’s a behavior, perhaps one we’ve created, and there seems to be no turning back, and we can’t see a route forward. It is possible for some people to muscle their way to the top of a rock or through a challenging rapid. It can be tempting to try to muscle our way to behavior changes in our dogs.
The athletes who are a joy to watch are the ones who use good technique and finesse to reach their goals. The skaters who fly on the ice and the gymnasts who soar as though physical laws don’t pertain to them. Their efforts are imperceptible but the results are obvious. The time and energy they put into honing their skills is apparent.
The same is true of dog trainers. Force and coercion often mask a lack of skill. The thrill the audience gets watching these trainers is different than the thrill one gets watching an artist. When you’ve experienced performance “in the zone” you want to stay there. When you bring your dog along with you, you’re less likely to find yourself on behavioral bluffs, hoping that both of you make it out alive.
Filed under: Dog training, Helping fearful dogs | Tags: aggressive dogs, animal shelters, anxious dogs, counter conditioning, dog training, dog training scared timid shy fearful rehabilitation counter conditioning desensitization, learned helplessness, medications for dogs, pack leader, positive reinforcement, socialization, timid dogs
Motivation. Everyone talks about it. Did you make a New Year’s resolution to go to the gym? There are blogs devoted to helping you stay motivated enough to actually do it. Sometimes getting out of bed in the morning requires a level of motivation we may question whether we have or not. Some motivators are very powerful, while others lag behind, yet even if that is the case, they still manage to get us to behave. Lying in bed, snuggled warmly, comfortably and blissfully, under the blankets with a dog or two, when the temperatures are far below freezing is a huge motivator for maintaining my lying in bed behavior. But there are other motivators that will impact my behavior. The initial shock of a cold floor is tolerable because there’s morning coffee brewing and I should get to work. Sometimes I’m motivated by what I am going to get, and sometimes I’m motivated by what I’m going to avoid (caffeine or poverty as examples of the former and latter).
Fear is an important motivator. It may be the most important motivator animals, including us, have available to us to increase our life span. The chances of being killed accidentally climbs until after the age of 19 when it accounts for nearly half the number of deaths among humans aging 15-19. Young children do not have enough experience to accurately assess their environments and so behave in ways that put them at risk. Experimenting with forks and electrical outlets and toddling at the top of a flight of concrete stairs are a couple examples. Teenagers may not only be poor assessors of risk, they also may have keys to a car.
Every day I receive emails from people asking me what they should do to help their dog. It’s impossible for me to answer their question with any specificity or if I do, to not sound flippant (“My dog is scared of me, what should I do?” “Stop scaring them”). If their dog’s behavior is motivated by fear whether that means remaining shut down in a corner or lunging at anyone who walks into a room, they need to address the motivator. Options fall into two categories, decrease the motivator, i.e., the fear, and/or find a motivator that out competes the fear to get behaviors the owner prefers. How they should do this I can’t say for sure. What options are available to them for decreasing the fear and creating other motivators? The answers will vary depending on the dog (the dog has the final vote regarding what is or is not motivating) and what are the resources or environments available for creating alternate motivators.
Sometimes motivators are glaringly obvious. Fear is motivating a dog to cower or growl. Food is motivating a dog to stare and drool. Sometimes the motivators are misidentified or mislabeled, not so glaringly obvious to some. Behaviors motivated by fear are attributed instead to the motivation to move up in status in a relationship with an owner or other dog. Sometimes we can easily control the motivators, or the conditions which motivate, sometimes we can’t. We can control food, but we cannot control thunderstorms.
It’s a damn difficult thing to help many of our fearful dogs. I try to offer ideas and hope that a similar kind of brain that figured out how to create wifi can come up with ways to address a dog’s fearfulness. Those of you living or working with a fearful dog will need to assess the motivators which are driving the dog’s behavior, and don’t forget to have a look at your own while you’re at it.
Filed under: Dog training, Helping fearful dogs | Tags: aggressive dogs, desensitization, dog training scared timid shy fearful rehabilitation counter conditioning desensitization, positive reinforcement, rehabilitating dogs, reinforcing fear, relationship based training, scared dogs, socialization, training dogs
Anyone who has spent time with prepubescent or adolescent humans has had or heard a conversation that goes something like this after an adult makes a statement or request-
Adult: “It’s important.”
Adult: “I feel insulted when you talk to me that way.”
Adult: “That’s a rude thing to say.”
Adult: “I’m losing my patience when you say that.”
Adult: “I want you to stop that right now!”
An experienced adult knows that when an immature mind has latched onto the power of the word so, there’s only one reasonable response and that’s, “sew buttons on your underwear.” I learned this from my grandmother who understood that any attempt to discuss the inappropriateness of the so response would end up in a maddening loop. For a two-letter word so packs a double punch. It demeans the request and slights the person making it.
It’s a conversation style that I observe often between dogs and owners.
Dog: “I’d like to sniff that.”
Dog: “Hang on a second I think I should pee on that.”
Dog: “I’d like to get out of here.”
Many dogs give up and give in. They may have been punished for doing otherwise. There are others for whom the request is of such importance that they will keep asking until they are taken seriously. When that finally happens they may be labeled bad dogs or red zone dogs. Once that occurs their future hangs in the balance. Will they find someone who takes their requests seriously or someone even more adamant in their commitment to demean them by creating labels such as; dominant, stubborn, alpha or mean, for these requests?
No one enjoys having to take so for answer.
Filed under: Dog training, Helping fearful dogs | Tags: counter conditioning, desensitization, dog training, dog training scared timid shy fearful rehabilitation counter conditioning desensitization, positive reinforcement, relationship based training, scared dogs, socialization, training dogs
When I was a kid I had piano lessons. It was obvious I was no prodigy, and my enthusiasm at the keyboard was in seeing how fast I could play Love Story, but I don’t think the lessons were a complete waste of time and money, even though I convinced my parents that they were. Before I succeeded in ending the lessons I had a teacher who introduced me to chords and how they could be broken down and played note by note in ascending or descending order, one hand taking over for the other in a ballet dance over the keys.
When neuroscientists talk about and study the brain they often describe systems in it going from the bottom up or the top down. The bottom being primal systems that create feelings or emotions, and the top being where executive functions that include decision making occur. For a long time it was believed that humans, especially, operated mainly from the top down- conscious observation and learning creating emotional responses, which they can. What we’ve learned from the study of humans and other mammals is that in many situations it is the responses that occur at the bottom, on the emotional level, which start the process of creating behavior. If one was a gambling kind of person the safest bet would be on the bottom up usurping the top down for dominance in many situations.
Since we’re talking about an integrated system we should assume that in either case, something of both is going on at the same time. The left hand is playing an ascending chord in forte while the right is descending in pianissimo. And because life is dynamic the tune is changing all the time. When we are trying to help a dog who is afraid we are constantly observing these changes and using them to base our decisions on how to respond. Can we slow down the rush of information from the bottom to the top? Can we provide the dog with learning opportunities that help to strengthen the information flowing from the top down? Can we take an experience currently being played in tones of fear and panic and alter it enough so that the descending notes can take on a more central role?
We can, to some extent, in many dogs. The more rehearsed the responses are the more challenging it will be. We may find that the resources we have to work on this process are limited. We may discover that we always need to fall back on managing a dog appropriately so as not to provide opportunities for inappropriate responses to occur. Our ability to do this may be limited, for a variety of reasons.
If we are committed to trying we need to acknowledge the information flowing, quickly, from emotional responses to parts of the brain that form memories and motivate behavior. We need to learn to anticipate these responses so we can minimize them or prevent them from occurring, because once they do, it’s history. At the same time we take advantage of the brain’s system that seeks out rewards. We teach our dogs to do something. What that something is (or somethings are) doesn’t matter so long as it provides a reward. Teaching a dog to sit when you ask, or target your hand, make eye contact or give you their paw, strengthen the top down process.
Most importantly, whatever we do should be founded in creating feelings of what we might call joy. And it begins with us. We become the cue that lets the dog know that the following piece is to be played with light heartedness and a lack of worry.
Filed under: Dog training, Helping fearful dogs | Tags: anxious dogs, counter conditioning, dog rehabilitation, dog training, dog training scared timid shy fearful rehabilitation counter conditioning desensitization, games for dogs, learned helplessness, nervous, relationship based training, shy dogs, socialization, timid, training dogs
Dogs who come from puppy mills or who have lived on chains or confined with limited opportunity to interact with a varied environment, are lacking in many skills. I’m not sure if ‘trying’ is considered a skill or not, but it’s not unusual for a dog who suffered deprivation in their early life, to ‘give up’ easily. When faced with a challenge, a partially closed door, a ball under a chair, a treat out of reach, instead of trying to remedy the situation, they do nothing. In some cases they may be afraid of what happens when they try, the chair moves, startling them. Or they don’t appear to be inclined to try at all.
It’s easy to come to the conclusion that a dog is stupid when they behave this way, and it’s not a fair assessment of them or their potential. We need to be prepared to provide the dog with numerous opportunities to learn to be successful when faced with a challenge. When we talk about building a dog’s confidence, this is how we can do it. You can help by making sure that the solutions to problems are simple.
Instead of giving a dog a frozen stuffed food dispensing toy like a Kong, put a few bits of meat into it and spread some canned food on the rim. Make it easy for them to get a taste of the food and then let them discover how by manipulating the toy more food can be had. Hide toys and treats in easy to locate, accessible, places where they feel safe. Put food under towels or pieces of paper or cardboard if their range is limited.
Following is a video you may be see circulating on the web. It’s not just a cute puppy playing with a stick, though it is that. It’s a sophisticated animal trying to solve a problem and through her efforts, discovers a solution. Even if Maddie never tries to bring a big stick through the door again she has learned an important lesson- her behavior matters and sometimes it pays not to give up. Maybe it’s a good lesson for the rest of us as well.