eileenanddogs
Puppy New Year!

Puppy New Year!

Meet Lewis, the newest member of my family. He arrived Tuesday, December 28, 2021.

I wish I had time to write about all the things I am learning about this sweet boy, but—adolescent puppy in da house! I barely have time to take a shower!

Lewis’ History

Lewis is eight months old, a mixed breed who obviously has plenty of hound in him. I got him from Out of the Woods Rescue here in Arkansas.

I know nothing about his early life except that when he was six months old, he was surrendered to a kind veterinarian. Lewis spent the next two months—from six months old to eight months old—boarded at the vet. He then got sponsored by the rescue, went briefly into a foster home, and I applied for and got him.

What Lewis Is Showing Us Right Now

Lewis is exploding with energy. Some of it is likely normal adolescent puppy energy. Some of it is certainly a result of being released from the confined environment he was in for a crucial two months of his development. He lacks some of the normal behavioral palette for a dog his age. And plenty of it must be stress in a new situation. He gets overstimulated easily. Again, see reasons above.

Even with some severe strikes against him during crucial developmental periods, he has a lovely temperament: friendly and affable. He likes people and dogs. He likes novelty, he is curious, and he doesn’t startle easily. He’s fine with noises. I tried to make a demo video of introducing him to a robot vacuum, but it wasn’t very interesting. He didn’t care. Beeps, meh. Motor noise, fine. Even motion: who cares!

Clara, now ten years old, is very nice to him. She even seems to like him part of the time! (Hey, he’s a teenager! I wouldn’t expect her to like him all the time!) They have played chase in the yard, and are even working on bitey-face, although she is having to teach him to tone it down. Choo Choo, my friend’s dog, likes him less, and is already teaching him to leave her (and her toys) alone. She’s less of a pushover than Clara.

What It’s Like at My House

The house is now baby gate and ex pen and crate city, although Lewis has issues with confinement (no surprise!). So we are taking that part slowly. When Clara needs a break, sometimes she and I get in the ex pen rather than the other way around! But Lewis is already charging into the ex pen for his meals and happily eats in there while I come and go, and last night ate a whole frozen food toy in the pen.

He wants it all. I want to give it all to him, including the ability to relax and get more comfortable in his skin. We have a wonderful journey ahead. I’m eager to learn who this guy is.

Lewis in Photos

Videos

I haven’t had time to make a proper introduction video. (Surprise!) Here are two short, unedited clips. The first is simply puppy shredding. He chews a ton and has many options but had a great time shredding some paper. As far as I can tell so far, he doesn’t eat much or any of what he shreds (yay!). Clara had to go to the vet when she was about a year old because she not only shreds but likes to eat cardboard. And if you noticed that the coffee table is not puppy proofed at the time of the video, you are correct! It takes a while to cover all the bases.

The following clip shows a new behavior he has learned. The day he came, his default behavior when I was sitting down was to walk up and grab my arm or sleeve with his teeth and hold on. There’s still some grabbing when he gets aroused, but he has learned some calmer things to do. And I have subsequently learned not to wear my terrycloth robe with the loose hanging sleeves. Too much of a temptation for a grabby boy!

Stay tuned for lots more about Lewis, the New Year Puppy! (If I ever have time to write in the next year!)

Copyright 2022 Eileen Anderson

6 Ways To Prepare Your Dog for Fireworks Starting NOW

6 Ways To Prepare Your Dog for Fireworks Starting NOW

firecracker exploding in the air with lots of orange sparks

Is your dog scared of fireworks? Don’t wait until New Year’s Eve to start worrying about it! You can make a plan and take action now to help your dog be a bit less afraid of the unpredictable scary sounds of fireworks, firecrackers, whistles, and even guns.

Get Ready

Here are some things you can do today.

1. Check with your vet about medications
If your dog gets very anxious about noises and you have never talked to your vet about it, do so now. He or she may be able to prescribe something to help. And if you can’t get in before the holiday, do your best with some of the other ideas here to get through it and call your vet as soon as you can. This is a long-term problem. Sound phobias tend to get worse and are not something to be taken lightly.

2. Countercondition to noises
Get some great treats and start carrying them around at home. Whenever there is any kind of sudden or startling noise, but especially stray bangs and booms as people start to test their noisemakers, rain treats down on your dog. Use those special treats only for noises. Don’t pass them out for nice behavior (use something else for that!), and don’t ask for any particular behavior from your dog when the noise occurs. Just give the special treats. This is sometimes referred to as ad-hoc counterconditioning, and here is an excellent article about a survey that indicated its efficacy.

You may wonder why I am not recommending buying an app, CD, or YouTube video with fireworks sounds to “practice” with. Performing desensitization/counterconditioning with sounds is tricky.  People who haven’t done DS/CC before run a real risk of scaring their dogs further instead of helping them, and many of the sound collections are poorly designed for DS/CC anyway. This is why I am suggesting straightforward counterconditioning, which uses environmental noises that are happening anyway. Save the formal training for well after the holiday, when scary noises are less likely to happen.

3. Create a safe place
Make (or adapt) a safe place for your dog. Keep in mind: the flashes of light that come with big fireworks displays can be scary too. Consider a method to darken any windows nearby or shield the safe place with a cover if necessary. Be aware that the low-frequency sounds of thunder are physically impossible to mute with the amount of absorbent material we can use at home. But being underground can usually help a bit, so basements are a good option for some dogs. Get the best protection you can in a basement or your most internal room. Despite the marketing claims, dog crates with walls a few inches thick can’t dampen low-frequency sounds significantly. Putting a soft cover on a crate does nothing to prevent the sounds of thunder from entering, although it may cause an auditorily cozy feeling because it deadens some of the reverberant sound in the space.

4. Play sound or music
Experiment with sound masking or music to find out what is most helpful for your situation. Try some kind of recorded white noise, natural noise, or music to mask the pops and booms. (Even a noisy food toy can be helpful.) This approach is evidence-based and called sound masking. Start working on it today.

And here’s a tip: the lower the frequencies included in the masking or music, the better it can hide those low-pitched booms (Kinsler, Frey, Coppens, & Sanders, 1999, p. 318–320). So if your dogs are already habituated to pounding rock music or some other music with a lot of bass or percussion, play it! It can mask some of the scary noises from outside your house more effectively. Taiko drumming is great if your dogs are accustomed to it. You can buy a few songs and loop them or find some on YouTube. But first, be absolutely certain the music itself doesn’t scare your dogs. If they are already sensitive to booms, it probably will.

Household appliances can help. Some floor fans hit fairly low frequencies and can be helpful. You can run the dryer (no heat) with a pair of sports shoes inside for some booms that will probably be familiar and not scary. You’ll need to find the line of best fit for your dogs.

You can also try the Bang-Dog Playlist from Triplet Noir Studios. These are heavy metal selections (be aware that some of the language is not family-friendly). Before anyone mentions it: heavy metal has not ranked well in the dogs and music studies, tending to make shelter dogs more agitated. That’s not surprising. People might find it almost sacrilegious that I am suggesting heavy metal. But if you play it already and your dogs are fine with it, they are habituated. In that case, these playlists could be the perfect thing for you.

5. Practice going out
Make a plan for taking your dog out to potty. Do you know when the noise is usually at its worst and can you work around it? Are your fences and/or leash and harness secure? Dogs who are usually sedate have been known to panic and run off on noisy holidays. Don’t let that happen.  Keep your gates locked, your dogs’ ID tags on, and put some redundancy into your safety system.

6. Comfort your dog if that helps
LOSE the idea that there’s something wrong with comforting your dog if that’s what your dog wants. Helping a dog through a tough time is not “coddling.” Assess what is most helpful to your dog: a cuddle, food after every thunderclap, some lap time, sweet talk, being in their crate with a food toy, or hiding by themselves in a secluded place. Then help them do it.

The best part of thunderstorms: spray cheese!
The best part of noisy holidays for Summer was spray cheese!

Check out lots more resources and tips on my page “You Can’t Reinforce Fear.

Another good resource is this article by Val Hughes: My Dog Fears Fireworks and Thunderstorms—What Should I Do To Help?

Thanks for reading!

Reference

Kinsler, L. E., Frey, A. R., Coppens, A. B., & Sanders, J. V. (1999). Fundamentals of Acoustics (4th ed.). Wiley.

© Eileen Anderson 2015 

If Your Dog Is Afraid of Fireworks, Contact Your Vet Now

If Your Dog Is Afraid of Fireworks, Contact Your Vet Now

“What are we here for this time?”

Every year I post an article that lists last-minute things you can do to help your dog who is afraid of fireworks. We are coming up on New Year’s Day, and that means bangs and booms. Over the years, I have tweaked my list. I’ll be posting it tomorrow.

But here is an earlier reminder with the most important tip of all.

See your vet about medications (or speak to clinic staff by text or phone if that is an option).

There are new products on the market, as well as several options that have been around for years. Here is what Dr. Lynn Honeckman, veterinary behavior resident, says about the benefits of medications.

Now is the perfect time to add an anti-anxiety medication to your firework-preparation kit. The right medication will help your pet remain calm while not causing significant sedation. It is important to practice trials of medication before the actual holiday so the effect can be properly tested.

There are a variety of medications or combinations that your veterinarian might prescribe. Medications such as Sileo, clonidine, alprazolam, gabapentin, or trazodone are the best to try due to their quick onset of action (typically within an hour) and short duration of effect (4–6 hours).

Medications such as acepromazine should be avoided as they provide sedation without the anti-anxiety effect, and could potentially cause an increase in fear.

Pets who suffer severe fear may need a combination of medications to achieve the appropriate effect, and doses may need to be increased or decreased during the trial phase. Ultimately, there is no reason to allow a pet to suffer from noise phobia. Now is the perfect time to talk with your veterinarian.

Dr. Lynn Honeckman

Sound phobia is a serious medical condition that usually gets worse. Nothing else comes close to the efficacy of medications. The research on music, pressure garments, and supplements shows weak effects at best. The best way to help your dog get through the coming holidays in the U.S. and Canada is to contact your vet for help. Call now.

Copyright 2019 Eileen Anderson

Related Post

Clara’s Intermediate Trick Dog Title: Three-Minute & Three-Month Behaviors

Clara’s Intermediate Trick Dog Title: Three-Minute & Three-Month Behaviors

Hurray for Clara: we got her Intermediate Trick title from Do More With Your Dog this week. It got me thinking (surprise!). We had the beginnings of a lot of the tricks already from previous work. Am I achieving my goal of widening her palette of behaviors?

Foundations

Even if you are a sloppy trainer like me, if you’ve done a lot of training over the years and built some foundations, you can often sit down and train something new quickly. Sue Ailsby calls this training “three-minute behaviors.” And truly, a couple of the new tricks took only a few minutes.

Jumping a baton was one of those. Clara knows a hand target, and she knows a 3/4-inch diameter PVC pipe means jump. (If I had used a piece of dowel, she would have bitten it instead!) The hand target is allowed, so I sat down and targeted her over the bar and gave my “jump” verbal. I mentioned in a previous post that she, alone among my dogs, responds to the verbal. My agility dogs never needed to learn it. She probably didn’t need it either, in this situation. But I included it because I’m a word-oriented human.

Anyway, I could have fancied up the trick. I could have taught Clara to jump the bar back and forth without a hand target, as a chain, or with repeated verbals. But that would have taken a long time for very little gain. Plus, she’s 10 years old and doesn’t need to do a lot of repetitive activity.

I’ll come back to the “How solid do I want to get the trick?” question in the ethics section below. I’ll just say here that getting behavior is by far the easiest part of training for me.

This isn’t from the clip I submitted, but she is so cute holding the orange donut!

The hardest trick in this batch was the hold of an object. Luckily, I struggled through teaching a hold first with Summer. God knows how long it took, since teaching the hold was new to me, and it’s difficult. Hint: if you’ve never done this, the hard part is teaching them not to drop it when you reach your hands toward it. Oh no, wait, it’s getting that first duration hold out of a grab. Or maybe getting them not to chew it. And, and.

Clara and I progressed faster, but we still took some months. That was years ago, and I have kept the hold alive as a foundation for other behaviors. So that was easy to perform and record even though it’s a hard behavior.

“Directional casting” was another three-minute behavior with months of invisible work behind it. The trick instructions are:

Dog will be sent by handler to one of 2 or more platforms or low marks. Handler should show dog being sent to at least two platforms in a row. Platforms should be spaced 3–4 feet (~1–1.2m) apart. This trick is about showing the dog understanding and responding to directional cues and not as focused on the platforms.

Practicing a directed retrieve

This is probably easy to train with only two platforms. I say “probably” because I didn’t have to train it. I have worked on a directed retrieve with Clara on and off for years and more seriously this year. She started to “get it” in the spring and I have been generalizing and proofing.

The directed retrieve generalized beautifully to the directed “go to place.”

Finally, Clara had never done jump wraps before, but that was a three-minute behavior too. A benefit of growing up in an agility household.

Matching Law

You expected this section, right?

I don’t like how we performed one of the tricks, but I let it go. It’s the figure 8s around my legs. I don’t like our rendition because I must cue with both my hands and my legs. I feel like a squirming mess to get her to do the behavior. But the person on the demo video for the trick uses both, so I figured my excessive body English would be OK.

We used to have the figure 8s with leg cues only. I messed around with that trick years ago. But leg movement now means something else for Clara: peekaboo. These days, if I move my legs apart, she will get between them and stay. Matching law! I have a verbal cue for peekaboo but not for the figure 8s. So I added the hand cues to the figure 8s for clarity. But I find it inelegant. I love seeing the freestyle dogs do that behavior with no repeated physical cues (that I can see) from the handler.

In another life, maybe. I sat on my trick submission video for about two weeks because I didn’t like how that behavior looked. But I can’t get it clean until I get peekaboo completely on verbal cue. Right now she still cues off my legs for that, with the verbal cue at the probable level of “lady says something when I’m behind her and she’s holding her legs in a certain way.” So squirmy figure 8s it is!

So here is our trick title video. The behaviors are peekaboo (while walking), directional casting, shake hands, fetch-to-hand, figure 8s around the legs, barrel racing (“fly”), baton jumping, target mark (run to a flat target and lie down on it), hold an object five seconds, stay out of sight 20 seconds, jump wraps, and close the door (drawer).

Ethics

My goals with the trick training are 1) enrichment for Clara; 2) get out of a rut and train some new behaviors; and 3) improve my skills.

I noticed that even though I made a goal to train new stuff, I chose mostly behaviors related to things we already knew. It is so easy to focus on numbers: do enough tricks to get the title! But I’ve pushed back. I’ve also picked new things: rolling out the carpet, biscuit on the nose, and peekaboo in its different versions. Also, opening a drawer, although it didn’t make it into the video because of an execution detail.

With a video submission, if all you want is the title, you can take shortcuts. Do as many takes as you want and use the one out of 20 or more that meets criteria. People do that in public competitions as well, of course. In my agility days, I remember seeing trainers whose dogs were not solidly trained, but they had advanced to the excellent level because the people had the means to go to trial after trial until they had lucked into enough qualifying runs. They were competing above their level.

Closing a drawer was easy because of the targeting exercises we did in the Training Levels

I had this in the back of my mind as I chose, worked on, and recorded tricks. The rules state only that the dog has to do the trick and meet criteria, not that it has to be proofed or even put on cue solidly. This is not a public activity; videoing tricks allows you to curate what you show of your training and your results. I wanted to be fair. But many of these tricks were not things I needed to put on cue and get solid.

I submitted clips that were a little above our actual skill level for only a couple of tricks. One was target stick, believe it or not, but only because I used a stick she wanted to bite. A fit of perfectionism on my part that didn’t work out. So even though I turned in a fairly lucky clip of this novice trick where she bopped the end of the stick correctly several times and didn’t bite the ball at the end, I felt the clip fairly represented her ability to touch a target stick. She has been targeting all her life. I picked a hard target stick, then decided the discrimination (don’t bite the enticing ball instead) wasn’t worth the time. I could have switched to an easier stick and gotten a billion targets, but I went with a recording in which she was just learning not to bite the tricky stick.

Another trick I kind of rushed through was “shaking hands.” She had this behavior from husbandry tasks, but I had never alternated feet. I trained enough that she could do this, recorded it, and will probably never ask her to do that again. She changes feet fluently enough when we do nail trims and that’s enough for me.

On the other hand, we worked methodically on the peekaboo/walking trick because it’s important to me. I want to train her to get in that position out in the world when we encounter something challenging for her. And I’ve only started to get three puppy pushups, though the time when that trick would count has passed. We still work on them!

I’ve let my conscience be my guide. I’ve taken the challenges that interest me and only pushed through “for the camera” a couple times, with reasons I hope are decent enough.

Next Time

I’ve realized it’s more interesting for people if I show my method and our progress, warts and all, rather than presenting a finished video and discussing it. So I think that’s what I will do next.

And regarding “warts and all,” here’s a video of two bloopers. The tricks are to run around a tree (our cue for counterclockwise is “away”), and go lie on a flat target. I’ve sent Clara around things forever, but I had never done it from that angle with the tree, and I didn’t have her complete attention. The lying on the flat target problem is self-evident and cute. Clara is delightful.

Related Posts

Copyright 2021 Eileen Anderson

Articles on Puppy Socialization

Articles on Puppy Socialization

We never planned to stop with the book. Marge Rogers and I want more materials on puppy socialization out there, so now we are writing some in bite-sized pieces.

I am pleased to link to the first four (free access) educational articles on the Puppy Socialization Project site!

What is Puppy Socialization?


Dog Body Language Is Crucial to Puppy Socialization


Intensity and Thresholds in Puppy Socialization


6 Dos and 6 Don’ts for Puppy Socialization


Enjoy!

Eileen & Marge

Related Post

Puppy Socialization Book is Now Available

Copyright 2021 Eileen Anderson

The Day I Got Paid for Crying

The Day I Got Paid for Crying

Lately I’ve been thinking about something that happened to me in my early 20s, a pivotal day when I had an emotional reaction unlike any before or since. The experience has remained vivid to me all these years, but only recently has it snapped into place among my thoughts about behavior. It’s a human corollary to “you don’t need to worry about reinforcing your dog’s fear.” I underwent an intense, long period of extended respondent behavior followed by something that would be a huge reinforcer for operant behavior. Did my respondent behavior get reinforced?

Here’s the story.

i finished my master’s in music when I was 21 and was already working professionally. I played the harpsichord,

Continue reading “The Day I Got Paid for Crying”
Clara’s Novice Masters Trick Dog Title: More Tricks, More Lessons Learned

Clara’s Novice Masters Trick Dog Title: More Tricks, More Lessons Learned

It’s an oxymoron, as my friend Carol pointed out, but Clara and I earned her Novice Masters Trick Dog title recently. I haven’t had time to post about it until now.

Things We Learned

As usual, the balance between stuff she already knew (get in a crate), tricks we could adapt quickly from stuff she already knew (get in a cardboard box), and completely new stuff (roll out the carpet) was…interesting.

Practicing the cookie balancing trick by starting with kibble on the top of Clara’s head

Here are some highlights.

Stand: We finally have a nice stand on cue after our long running debacle. Her stance is a bit crouchy (no idea where that came from), but it’s fixable. What I’ve got is a moderately calm dog with four on the floor and I’m happy! I’m using a hand signal and have no plans for a verbal one. No, no, no way!

Continue reading “Clara’s Novice Masters Trick Dog Title: More Tricks, More Lessons Learned”
That Damn “Roll Out the Carpet” Trick

That Damn “Roll Out the Carpet” Trick

Tan dog with black muzzle sits next to a tightly rolled up maroon carpet. She is sitting on the tiny part of it that is not unrolled.
Clara dutifully sitting on her sliver of mat

I picked the “Roll out the carpet” trick from the novice trick list from Do More with Your Dog because it looked fun and more trick-like than a lot of the other behaviors. We had been doing things like sits and downs and walking on leash and targeting. This was more like a real trick. It would be new, but still looked like a fairly straightforward one because Clara knows how to push things with her nose.

The definition of the trick is:

Dog will use his nose to unroll a rolled-up carpet. Carpet can be a yoga mat, rug or towel and should be roughly 5 feet/~2 meters in length.

DMWYD Novice Trick List

I have rolled food up in towels for Clara before as enrichment, so that seemed like an obvious way to practice. So I took a 5-foot rubber-backed rug

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Questions to Ask About That Bizarre Prong Collar Diagram

Questions to Ask About That Bizarre Prong Collar Diagram

Dear Dog Owner,

I’m writing to let you know of some really dreadful misinformation going around.

But first, here’s the truth.

It’s very simple. Prong collars hurt dogs. They can hurt a lot, depending on how tightly they are fastened and the handler’s behavior. Sometimes the sensation may be as low as mild discomfort. But make no mistake: if wearing a prong collar gets your dog to stop pulling on the leash, it’s because it becomes uncomfortable to do so.

If you take a good look at a prong collar, your intuition will be correct. Ouch! Even though those prongs are blunt,

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Clara’s Stand Disaster and Why She Still Hops

Clara’s Stand Disaster and Why She Still Hops

tan dog with black muzzle stands on all four feet on a mat
This calm stand happened during a time when we weren’t working on it, of course

I considered titling this post “Eileen’s Stand Disaster,” but I thought that might be too confusing. Clara was the one standing, but the disaster part was definitely on me.

Thousands of people worldwide have used Susan’ Garrett’s fun method for teaching the stand and gotten fabulous results. I wasn’t one of them, but I blame myself, not the method.

The method is to have the dog in heel position in a sit, and to use a hand target above the dog’s head

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