"The Peeing Post"

Newsletter for dog lovers who respect the dog's nature

Chief Editor: Mogens Eliasen

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Dear Dog Friend,

It's training time!

I got a bunch of e-mails about training problems. All of them relate to the dogs not being mentally activated. Dogs get bored when there are no serious and interesting problems to solve, just like kids. They then start all kinds of obnoxious behavior - chewing furniture, barking, begging for food, whatever - simply to "get something going" that can fill the empty space in their brains....

Watch it - I am going to terminate your excuse for not doing anything about it...


Searching for treats indoors - part I

This is simple to teach, if the dog is hungry. And since you do not feed an adult dog during the daytime or in the morning anyway, it will always be hungry - until you serve it dinner after the last training you do in the evening just before bed time.

So, with this hungry dog, we now prepare half a dozen treats. Nice dried meat will do. Baked liver is fine also. Or small dry anchovies you can get from the Chinese store. It could also be the cartilage from the chicken you got from that fast food outlet last night...

If you have enough control over the dog to be able to make it sit or lie down on your command (and stay!), you won't need a leash. But if you have any doubts as to your control with your dog, you should use the leash. Yes - indoors. A leash is an acceptable way of getting that control for this exercise.

You now tie the dog to something that won't move. Then you move and let the dog stay. You move right out in front of it, letting it watch what you do. You have one of your treats in the hand, and you are happy to let your dog know that you have it. A little teasing is OK - not too much though as that can backfire. (In dog training, it is also called "motivating" - but it is the same, so don't let the terminology confuse you.)

While you are standing in front of the dog with your tempting treat in the hand (out of reach for the dog), you drop the treat on the floor, just 2-3 meters away from the dog. Make sure the dog knows that the treat is there! Put all other treats you might have in your hand away. Go back to the dog. Praise it for having been so good to stay there waiting for you. (Don't mention the leash - that would be embarassing - just praise.)

You continue praising the dog until it forgets about the treat you laid out on the floor... If that takes that you untie it and start doing a few obedience exercises with it, fine! Just get its mind off that treat - but do not move the dog anywhere close to it!

When you figure that the dog has forgotten about the treat, your "smartypants" will probably prove you wrong... but that's OK. It is enough that the dog pretends to have forgotten about the treat, just to please you.

Now is the time for the culmination of the training - the nosework! You bring the dog back to the spot where it was tied up. This time, you don't tie it. Instead you demand a nice SIT - and the dog's full and undivided attention. Not just a one-tenth-of-a-second glance. No, we talk about some serious attention here. A full second of staring love! (If you simply cannot get that much attention, you are in trouble - but go what what you can get then - we can build on nothing more than a quick glance of eye contact! As you develop this exercise, you will increase the dog's motivation for paying attention, but you have some work to do on your leadership also in other areas...)

In the moment you get that attention, you point with your entire arm + hand in direction to the treat, speaking the command you want the dog to understand as its "Go-and-find-the-treat-it-is-out-in-this-direction" command. ("In the moment" means: within 0.01 second - and I am not kidding you! If you wait till the dog has taken its eyes away from your eyes again, you blew your chance and must wait for teh next opportunity.)

You will be amazed to see that the dog knows very well which treat you are talking about...

Let the dog have the treat. Help it with some memory support (hand signals), if it seriously has difficulties. The point, for now, is not that you make it search, but that you let it find. Searching will come automatically later when you make the exercise more difficult, but only if the dog understands your command.

That reminds me: Do not use any common English word to replace that much-too-long command I mentioned - that was for you, not the dog. For the dog, you keep it simple. A codeword that is impossible for anyone else to understand will be the best. Like SMOOLEY - whatever it means in English, it doesn't matter. It is not in the dictionary - and that is what matters...

When the dog gets the treat, you add some praise. Not because it matters a lot for the dog (compared to the treat), but mostly to let the dog know that you know it got it, so there is no point in begging for another one...

Then you start over with another treat.

Do a total of 5 or 6 treats before you take a break. You can vary the location of the treat, and you can also vary the spot that you leave the dog on.

Then you take a break of at least 20 minutes. At a time when the dog does not expect it, you then get the leash and start another sequence - this time, for sure from another spot.

You can do a total of ten or twenty such sequences over the day. As long as you do at least 3, the learning process will kick in and make the dog understand what SMOOLEY means. (And you will learn it too, because you use it this often!)

You will soon realize that it gets more and more difficult to get the dog's attention away from the treat before you send it out with your arm-hand signal to get it. Well, that just gives you a perfect opportunity to do some regular obedience exercises or other trick exercises, which you do not reward with treat, only with praise. The main thing is that you, under no circumstances whatsoever, let the dog start going for the treat until you get a full second (or more) of loving eye contact! You want that dog to beg with its eyes to get permission to work! And no "jumping the gun" here. Keep that bum (the dog's, not yours...) on the floor until you give permission to start working.

Is it difficult? YES! Not for the dog - but for you... However, you have your entire pack leadership reputation at stake here, so don't fool around with any sloppy management procedures!

That should keep you busy for a few weeks. Next time, we will return to how you progress from this. Your objective is to have the dog bolt out for the treat, eagerly sniffing for it, in the very moment you mention your word "SMOOLEY" and just indicate the direction with your hand.


Food protection - and the "Grab-Release" game

I got this problem from three puppy owners who just don't know what to do... The puppies are from 14 weeks to 6 months of age - and they all simply "vacuum" up all kinds of things that potentially could be food - including lego pieces, wooden baby toys, handkerchiefs, paper towels, cardboard boxes, jewelry etc.

Not particularly healthy - and not easy to deal with either when you try to correct the symptom instead of looking for the reason. The real problem, of course, is that this can easily develop into a game where the puppy now quickly inhales whatever it has its attention on, when someone approaches it... it won't run the risk of this great toy being taken away from it!

There are two problems buried here:

  1. The dog is bored

  2. The dog has no trust in the people

Point one is simple - we already started it. So go back and get started on that little treat search exercise - you obviously cheated on your homework first time around... J

The second point is a powerful little exercise everyone should be able to do with their dogs. "Should be" - please take notice of that....

In reality, if you never started this when the dog was just a young puppy, you need to exercise extreme care when you introduce this exercise. With a young puppy, it is simple, but with an adult dog that has learned some bad attitudes, it calls for great caution.

You get a solid toy for start. Not a toy the dog will think of as a it can do with whatever it wants because it has been it its own possession for a long time. It must be so big that you can easily hold on to it while you let the dog grab the other end and play with it - without your letting go of your grip.

You have a need for two commands here. One that means "You-may-hold-on-to-this-great-toy-and-play-with-it-as-long-as-you-let-me-hold-on-to-it-too". The specific code word you use for the dog must be much shorter, though, but means the same thing. Let's just assume you find the word TILLUT. What it means? It means "You-may-hold-on-to-this-great-toy-and-play-with-it-as-long-as-you-let-me-hold-on-to-it-too" - I told you that... (I looked it up in the dictionary, and it wasn't there - so it is OK to use...)

The other command you need is RAPPA - which means "Whatever-you-hold-in-your-mouth-now,-give-it-to-me-immediately". (Yes, PHILOOF would also be OK - as would MOTTA. But "let go" is totally unacceptable, as is "release" or "mine" or any other words you can find in the dictionary. I have discussed this before in The Peeing Post, so I will not go into too much detail about it here. Please check the back issues about Crate training, 2002JULY14 and 2002JULY18 - they have more details.)

You need to train these two words, TILLUT and RAPPA together. The thing is that you cannot teach what RAPPA means without first getting the toy in the mouth of the dog... and that's where you naturally will train TILLUT.

You now take the toy (unbeknownst to the dog - it has never had that toy before) and a treat. The treat is your "rescue treat" and it must be very attractive to the dog. (I will explain later why I call it a "rescue treat"....) You place the treat and the toy out of reach for the dog. Now you test your tools. Tease the dog a little bit with the toy, while you hold on to it. All you want is to make sure you can indeed get the dog to grab it. If you can't, you pick another toy that will give some better success. (You might have to go through a little arsenal of toys, but your ultimate choice is a yucky bone...)

When you get the dog to play with the toy, you encourage it to do so. Use your voice in more-of an excited, high pitched, growling-kind-of sound - like when you are excited.

The real trick is to get the toy back....

For this to happen, for sure, you request the return at a time when the dog has not yet gotten itself too deeply into the play. With a very playful dog, this might be after just 2 seconds! With a dog that is hesitant about the whole game, it might take more - and you should wait until the dog actually gets to enjoy the game, at least a little bit.

You announce the return of the toy to your exclusive, immediate possession by holding it still while you speak RAPPA. No yelling - but make sure you speak clearly.

And then the toy returns into your hand - out of the dog's mouth.

Simple, right? You bet! You make it that simple! But what if the dog won't let go? Then you make it happen. And learn the lesson that you let the dog enjoy this toy for too long of a time - you let your own control slip away...

OK: YOU DO NOT HAVE ANY EXCUSES FOR NOT GETTING THAT TOY BACK! And there is no way you can repeat your command word RAPPA. Only mediocre packleaders that plan on abdicating soon anyway and leave the dog in charge can do that - because that is what the result will be... (Yes, I am saying that you cannot say any command words twice - it is a horrible habit that does not increase the dog's understanding, and it certainly does not earn you any stripes as pack leader...)

OK - you got it: you can save face by resorting to your "rescue treat". The rules of the game say nothing about how you get the dog to let go of the toy when you say RAPPA - so why not cheat and use a treat? I tell you, it's much better than violence...

You may replenish with another "rescue treat" for the next session.

Now you introduce the command TILLUT, just as you did earlier with the SMOOLEY command. First of all: ATTENTION. ("Attention" means that the dog shows you that it has nothing else on its mind but you and what you are up to doing. There is not way of getting that without the dog at least looking at you... ) Then quickly speak the command, followed by letting the dog grab the toy. (Notice the sequence: first speak the command, then start the action. Just like you do whan driving a car: you flash first, then turn. If you turn first and then flash, I seriously hope the police will stop you and get you off the road...)

You learned your lesson now about a timely conclusion of this game, so you do not let that play go on one quarter of a second past the time when you can get that toy back on your RAPPA command.

The dog might jump for the toy, but you do not approve of that. Just make it sit and, again, pay attention to you! Then use TILLUT again and start another play session, ending it with RAPPA.

Five or six sessions in total will do. Then conclude with a treat as reward for the last RAPPA. The toy now goes into a cupboard or some other place where it is plain impossible for the dog to get it. And it stays there till next time you feel like playing this game. You can choose to do so 20 minutes later - but only if the dog is not inviting you to play or begging or doing something else you do not appreciate.

If you want some promotions in the pack hierarchy, this exercise is one of the most powerful supports you can get.

As you gain confidence, you can develop the game, and you can also shift to more tough objects, like bones and other food.... But that will be in a month or two.

For a young puppy, this game is easy - you do not need to worry about competition for the packleadership. So, you can go straight to a bone or another food item, once you have tried for a couple of weeks with toys and got yourself used to the procedure! However, with food for a puppy that is protective, you end the game, not with the RAPPA command, but with a SMOOLEY exercise.... This way, you build trust and power. The puppy will learn that your RAPPA does not mean that you will take the food away - you will only inspect it for a while and then give it back. And that's exactly what you do.

 

Cheers and woof,

Mogens Eliasen

 

If you have any suggestions to contributions or contents of The Peeing Post, I will be happy to know about them. (Please no anonymous contacts, though...)

If you have any comments or questions pertaining to this issue or in general pertaining to dogs, please respond - if I can find an answer for you, I will!

 

Even if your question is a "My dog..." question of a personal nature, I will be happy to give you as much advice as I can per e-mail, provided you will give me feedback on how you used my advice and what results you got - and allow me to publish the story. (If I don't get feedback, you get an invoice for my time...)

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P.S. I have an invitation to you - it's free:

I am setting up a conference call about food and feeding - a 1 hour seminar.

Title: "Natural Food - why it is important".

Length of call: 1+ hour

Time of call: Wednesday, November 19, 6 PM Pacific time (9 PM Eastern).

Topics to be covered:

  1. The biology behind the feeding - the main differences between a monkey stomach and a carnivore stomach.

  2. What is in the food - comparing the nutrients of common dog food with what we know a dog needs.

  3. Simple rules of thumb to get started - the do's and dont's - converting - killing some myths - what to expect.

You are welcome to invite guests also - as long as they sign up individually (simply forward this Peeing Post to them and let them do it themselves).

The number of participants on the call is limited to 9. Small class! If I get more sign-ups, we will do more calls.

Yes - you need to sign up. I am paying for the call and for the lines, so I cannot just do this without knowing who's in and who's not. So, if you are interested, or know someone else who is (or should be...), please register at

http://k9joy.com/teleconferences/NaturalFoodSignupForm.html

This is pure experiment from my side - so if you like the idea and want me to do this kind of thing also on other topics, then I need to know....

Mogens