The Peeing Post

Newsletter for dog lovers who respect the dog's nature

Chief Editor: Mogens Eliasen

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Dear Dog Friend,

First a little message from the summer camp grounds: I am doing another camp week: August 24-31. Still a few spots available. The mosquitoes are almost gone by now, so at this time, there will be very few left - we are doing a great job killing them... Please check the web site at http://k9joy.com/dogtraining/campcourses.html for details. I would love to see you!

I also noticed that NEBKIN is selling out on leather collars from her eBay store. Less than half price! Closing. I foudn an alternative supplier, though, so if you want a good deal on some high quality leashes and collars, you should check out http://k9joy.com/education/leatherwork.html.


Mental activation

Margrethe got a puppy that is 11 weeks old. She's had it for two weeks, and things went quite fine, for start. But now this little piece of energy does not want to be left alone in the dog run any more. She barks her head off for hours! (The dog - not Margrethe...:)

Well, after some correspondance, I get the hint.... "it is hard to keep up with the puppy"!

Ooooops... Someting tells me that we have the standard problem for an under-stimulated dog. A bored dog that has far more brain capacity than what is currently being challenged. A puppy that has come to a home that isn't really geared to have the family members spend as much time on "dog stuff" as a puppy needs...

Now, Margrethe is recovering from some serious surgical work on her body and is married to a very busy husband who is not particularly interested in dogs. So, we have a standard problem that gets way too many puppies sent to the SPCA...

It is a big mistake to think that it is a matter of exercise. Margrethe has tried, but that little shit won't even walk more than 100 m (300 feet) before it goes on "sit strike". She tried all kinds of toys, but they quickly bored the dog too.

Here is the solution I gave Margrethe (and everyone else with a similar problem - they number into thousands...): Give that puppy some serious brainwork to do!

There is only one problem with stimulating a dog's brain: it won't work until the dog has first learned that its effort pays handsomely off! So, you are looking at a training task before you can enjoy the results. Training takes time - and time (or lack of it) was the reason for the problem in the first place. Catch-22!

There are basically three options:

  1. You ignore the problem and hope that the neighbors will forgive you for the next 14-15 years...

  2. You get rid of the dog and get a fish instead...

  3. You take the time you need for solving the problem.

Pick your "poison"! There are no other choices... The problem will most definitely not go away by itself - right to the contrary: it gets worse and worse, the longer you wait!

But I am kind, so I will give you some very simple ways of solving this problem - for almost all dogs... ;-) Here is the first one:


The Chinese Treat Box

You make some delicious treats. Any kind of meat, cut into small pieces and dried at low temperature in the oven. Beef liver is a big favorite for many dogs, but experiment a bit with it, so you can create a strong motivation in the the dog for working.

You then take a small cardboard box. Fist-size is fine. Shoe box is fine too. With a sharp knife, you cut 4-6 holes in the box. Each hole about twice the diameter of a treat (one of those you already prepared). You put 10-12 treats into the box and test it on the kitchen counter to see if those treats actually do come out when you move the box around, rolling it or pushing it. The first treat should come out in 10-15 seconds by randomly moving the box. If not, you must make the holes bigger! If it takes less time, you cover one or two of the holes with some duct tape, both from the inside and on the outside. (You can't have the treats glue to the sticky side of the tape inside the box...)

Show the box to the pup. Let him sniff it and get excited by the smell of the treats. Then rattle the box, so a treat comes out. Let the dog get the treat. Give the box to the dog and help it move it around so it delivers the next treat. Carry on with this (2-3 treats more should do it), till the dog starts actively pushing the box around with the nose and the paws to get it to "spit out" more treats.

Here are the 4 boxes for this training:

Command

"CHIN-BOX"

-->

Incitement

You help roll
the box around

-->

Reaction

The dog works on the box

-->

Reward

The box delivers a treat

My choice of command ("CHIN-BOX") can be changed to something you like better. As long as you don't use any normal English words. Remember, no talking English to that dog, except when it does not matter whether or not it understands what you say!

In this case, the sight of the box (combined with your general body posture and suggestive excitement) will be sufficiently recognizable for the dog to constitute an effective command. But, for later purposes, you should choose a verbal command to start the dog's "box work" on. I will explain in a later issue why this is a great advantage.

Example of simple treatbox

An example of a simple treat box, showing the holes on one side.

My 18-year old Bettemuir working on getting that box to spit out those treats! You can see on her that this is a darn important problem to solve....

Bettemuir working on her treatbox

You can see more pictures of Bettemuir working on this box at http://k9joy.com/dogtraining/treatbox.html.

This box was fairly new to her - it has only been used twice before, but she has experience with treatballs and other similar toys from the past, so her motivation is high. Just one treat every five minutes will keep her going for half an hour - and then she will be completely exhausted.


When you start this training, you have to watch the dog's performance very carefully. You must ensure that the treats come out fast enough. It is OK if they are "too fast". But if they are too difficult to get for the dog, it will soon lose interest, and you blow the whole thing for yourself... The point is to build the dog's motivation for continuing doing all kinds of things with the box to make it deliver its treats. You do not do that by trying to harvest before you are done sowing and nurturing!

You want to build the motivation, so you can make the job successively more difficult for the dog. Smaller holes, larger treats. You must always have excess motivation, so don't be too "greedy" for fast results! If you are careful, you can, in a matter of a couple of weeks, get the dog so hyped up around such a Chinese Treat Box, that it will gladly spend half an hour trying to get the treats out!

Most dogs will, at some point, start to destroy the box. A tooth in one of the holes will quite likely trigger it. When you reach that point, you don't give up. You created a strong motivation, so you want to capitalize on it. You then put the small box inside a bigger box, also with a few holes in for the smell to get out an tease the dog. When that becomes too easy, you add more boxes, layer after layer. You can build it into a complete "Chinese box" set, with one box inside a box inside a box inside a box etc. - hence the name "Chinese Treat Box".

You can also enforce the box with duct tape - it actually makes it very hard for the dog to destroy the box... 4-5 duct tape enforced boxes will keep any dog busy for enough time to exhaust it mentally. You can also use balls. Tennis balls are fine, but bigger balls are also good. Boxes are just easier to make...

When the dog is mentally exhausted, you can put it in the dog run for a quiet time - and you will get it!

The trick is that you, at all times, keep the challenge for the dog below what it has motivation for, so you constantly increase the motivation through its successes. In the beginning, you must watch the dog's performance, so you can help as soon as it loses interest. Your help can be tangible - you can quickly make a bigger hole in the box. Or you can "help" the box deliver a treat that actually comes from your hand (provided you can trick the dog to believe that the treat came from the box....)

Yeah, I know, you can spend good money of buying "automatic toys" that will do this. But believe me, they are far less effective than a simple cardboard box or a tennis ball...


Next time, you will get another activation exercise. If you can't wait, you will have to come to camp August 24-31... :-)

 

Cheers and woof,

Mogens Eliasen

 

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By the way, I think I should declare officially that I like to take up those issues that come directly from the problems some of the subscribers share with me. The price you pay for my free advice is that I might bring the story here in The Peeing Post! I will, however, never reveal your full identity, unless you specifically have given me permission. Your first name should make it possible for you to recognize your own problem (and hopefully understand your solution a bit better), yet still allow you to remain almost anonymous.