eileenanddogs

Month: March 2016

Canine Cognitive Dysfunction Print Book Released

Canine Cognitive Dysfunction Print Book Released

Summer, a sable colored mixed breed dog, holds a book: Remember Me? Loving and Caring for a Dog with Canine Cognitive Dysfunction by Eileen Anderson

I’ve reached another milestone in this process. My book is out in paperback!

Remember Me? Loving and Caring for a Dog with Canine Cognitive Dysfunction,            by Eileen Anderson

 

Canine cognitive dysfunction is extremely under-diagnosed, and most of us will eventually have a dog affected by it. In my book you will learn:

  • the symptoms of CCD and how it differs from normal aging;
  • the treatments;
  • how best to help your dog, including safe setups and use of special products;
  • how to help yourself, both practically and emotionally;
  • about the difficulties of concurrent diagnoses; and
  • about making the hardest decision of all if you must.

The book does not offer or take the place of veterinary advice. In fact, I recommend more than 20 times in the book, at every different juncture, that you talk to your vet.

What People Are Saying About Remember Me?

“Meticulously researched, accurate information presented with real empathy.” —Jean Donaldson, author of The Culture Clash, founder of the Academy for Dog Trainers

“Eileen approaches this complex disease with a combination of scientific rigor and deep empathy for the animals and people who suffer from it.”—E’Lise Christensen, board certified veterinary behaviorist

“Personal, easy to read, and full of useful information, Remember Me? is a must-have for everyone living with a dog. Once you have read this book, and I recommend you read it now, you’ll want to keep it accessible as a reference for when you need it most.” —Lori Stevens, CPDT-KA, SAMP, owner, Seattle TTouch

“Two years ago, my Sheltie Skye exhibited unusual behaviours. At first, we thought it was hearing loss. He would go into a deeper sleep mode, and he wouldn’t respond when we called him. I tried hand signals, but things didn’t improve. He would get lost in the house. I’d often find him stranded at the bottom of the stairs. This book helped me to understand how to give Skye back quality of life—how to recognize his good days and how to help him manage the bad ones. One day I will have to make the difficult decision to let Skye go. But it won’t be out of frustration from not knowing how to deal with CCD.” —Dog owner Ruth Wojcik

“My dog Bear and I have been together since I was 13. I’m 26 now. In those years, I have become a training buff, and Bear had until recently been my star pupil. But his behavior this past year had frustrated me to tears. Someone told me about CCD, and recommended a vet appointment and your book. I bought the Kindle edition right away, and started crying when I read about your dog going to the hinged side of the door to be let out. This behavior of Bear’s had puzzled and frustrated me for weeks. It is such a relief knowing there are others out there with the same issues—and that there is help for managing them.” —Dog owner Teegra Miller

Book: Remember Me? Loving and Caring for a Dog with Canine Cognitive DysfunctionFor those who prefer other vendors and formats: they are coming. The paperback will be orderable through other bookstores soon, and other digital versions, including Apple iBooks and Barnes and Noble, will be released.

Interviews

I’m available for radio and print interviews, Skype, and podcasts.

News and press kit

Introducing a Puppy and an Adult Dog: Take it Slow

Introducing a Puppy and an Adult Dog: Take it Slow

Tinker
Marge’s guest puppy Tinker Belle

Remember “Lessons for My Puppy,” my collaboration with Marge Rogers? She made some videos that I loved so much that I wrote blog posts to go with them.

Marge is still out there working with dogs and making great videos, and I’m featuring another one today. Although there is a lesson for a puppy in this video, and also a lesson for the adult dog, the biggest lesson here is for puppy owners. (Isn’t that usually the case, when you come to think of it?) In the video she shows how she gradually introduced Tinker, a fox terrier puppy she was boarding, to her own dog, young male Portuguese Water Dog Zip.

How many of you, when adding a new dog to your household, follow the “stick ’em together, stay close by, and pray” method? I have certainly done that in the past, though I don’t recommend it. I was more prudent and conservative by the time I got Clara, but even then, my situation was so unplanned and complex that I basically made digital decisions: this dog can hopefully be with the puppy, and these dogs definitely can’t.

Clara and Zani
Thank goodness for Zani!

When Clara came into my household, I kept her permanently separated from Cricket, my small, elderly and frail rat terrier. Clara could easily have knocked over Cricket with her wagging tail alone. I also kept Clara separated from Summer for a good while. Summer has a history of moderate dog aggression and I wasn’t sure she would grant Clara a “puppy license.” But I immediately turned Zani loose with Clara, since Zani is incredibly friendly, likes puppies, and was well matched in size. Zani lived up to my expectations and became Clara’s buddy and babysitter.

But what I didn’t do was any controlled introductions and gradual exposures. If and when I get another puppy, I certainly will do that. All the dogs in a household, both the residents and the newbie, can benefit from good planning and making acquaintance with each other gradually with good associations.

A common and effective method that pro trainers often use when introducing a puppy into their household is classical conditioning of the adult dogs: whenever the puppy is brought into proximity, fabulous food rains down on the adult dog. This can help build pleasant associations and prevent jealousy, since puppies can be obnoxious and can take up a lot of the owner’s time. That method was not necessary in Marge’s case.  Her dog Zip is naturally friendly and gregarious and was likely to enjoy the pup; he just needed some time to calm down and learn to be gentle.

This is not really a how-to post. All of our individual situations are different, and it would take much more than a standard-size blog post to cover even the basics of doing introductions.

What I want people to see is the visual of the dog and the pup getting to know each other safely and gradually, through a barrier and with good associations.

The Timing

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Tinker play bowing to a wagging Zip

One of the things I love most about Marge’s approach is that she didn’t have any sort of time schedule mapped out for “releasing” Zip and Tinker to play together. In fact, it would be great if we could even stop thinking about it in those terms. At the time the video was filmed, the puppy Tinker was a baby, and at an age where a scary experience could potentially have negative residual effects for the rest of her life. Zip, although a friendly dog as Marge points out, had zero experience playing with a puppy now that he was a (very) young adult. He was much larger than Tinker and had a history of exuberant play with dogs around his size (i.e., not tiny and breakable) as a youngster. So before even considering putting them together, Marge had to be sure of two things: Tinker wasn’t scared of Zip, and Zip wouldn’t be too rough for Tinker.

I love the visuals in this movie. It’s something that we rarely see, and it is so incredibly valuable. You can watch as Tinker gets acclimated to Zip with the fence of the exercise pen between them. Marge reinforced Zip for calm behavior in Tinker’s presence, and built good associations with Tinker for being near Zip. After a few days, Marge allowed them together, but kept Zip on leash as a safety precaution. Tinker was comfortable enough to climb on him!

Tinker was there for a week. If she and Zip hadn’t indicated that they were getting comfortable with each other, Marge would simply have kept them separated, using the ex-pen and other means. And if Tinker had indicated that even the ex-pen barrier put Zip too close for comfort, Marge would have kept them separated even further. The paramount concern with a puppy this age is providing positive experiences.

When Not To Do The Ex-Pen Setup

Putting the two dogs adjacent with a fence in between was a good method for this friendly adult dog and confident puppy. But there are many situations in which it would not be appropriate. Here are three of them.

  • If you have a grumpy, snarly mature dog, the last thing in the world you want to do is park him next to a puppy with only a wire fence between them.
  • You also wouldn’t do this if you had a large breed, exuberant puppy (who would enjoy bouncing on that fence) and a tiny, fearful, or frail adult.
  • And you wouldn’t do it with any two stranger dogs unsupervised, no matter how well they were apparently matched.

But take a look at how well it worked out for Zip and Tinker.

Link to the movie for email subscribers.

Patience and Barriers

Whatever method you use to integrate a new dog into your household, patience and barriers are your friends. Even if you are a gregarious person, you probably don’t want to spend 24/7 with an acquaintance you met yesterday. Most dogs probably don’t either. Take the introductions slow and easy. For instance, I didn’t let my dog Summer interact directly with the new puppy Clara until Clara was about 5 or 6 months old. That was more than 2 months. Some people wait a lot longer than that, depending on the situation.

If I had it to do over, I would probably do some classical conditioning with Summer: associate the appearance of the puppy with great food falling from the sky. I didn’t have it together to do that at the time. But when I did finally let them into the same space, I supervised closely and kept the sessions short. Summer in particular needs her “down time” so I made sure she had it. Clara needed to learn, without getting hurt, that Summer would probably never want to play with her and that it was not wise to pester her.

Back to Marge and Zip. As it happened, Zip never did get to play with Tinker off-leash during that week. He was too clumsy and goofy (did you see the paw to her head?). He did learn a lot though, including a softer approach and play style. Marge may have an “uncle dog” in the making! (That’s a term for a good-natured male dog who is good with puppies and good in general at putting other dogs at ease.) But she knew better than to rush things. This is another situation where “slow is fast” though. Zip earned off-leash time in two days with the next puppy who came to visit!

Being gentle with a puppy is not something a human can directly teach a dog, but Marge facilitated it with carefully controlled exposures and lots of breaks in the play. I know she is counting her blessings that between her efforts and the fact that Zip is friendly and socially savvy, he is learning gentleness through direct experience with the puppies themselves.

You can view Zip’s lovely interactions with his next puppy guest here: Off Leash Puppy Play.

Related Posts & Pages

Copyright 2016 Eileen Anderson

Yelling at My Dogs

Yelling at My Dogs

The “yelling” question comes up regularly for positive reinforcement-based trainers. “Do you NEVER yell at your dogs? Of course you do! And that’s punishment, so you aren’t a ‘positive’ trainer after all. Gotcha!”

Or the converse. The people who insist that speaking “sternly” to their dogs carries no unpleasant associations and that’s it’s “just a cue.” Granted, speaking sternly to dogs doesn’t usually do much in the way of decreasing behavior. But it’s still not pleasant in the moment.

But you can make it pleasant and non-threatening—and effective for getting a dog’s attention. Here’s what I do.

Have I been yelling at these two dogs?
Don’t they look pathetic? Did I yell at them? See the bottom of the post for what this photo is really about.

Yelling

I’m human. Even if I don’t intend to, sometimes I yell. I won’t argue that I can’t help it, but it would be very hard to change the behavior of yelling as a response to being startled. And it is a functional response, so one that I might not want to try to get rid of (as difficult as that would be).

I have certainly done the “startled yell” at my dogs. If a dog is sitting right next to me and suddenly leaps up and barks in my ear, I am going to be startled and likely yell. Likewise, if I am tired and strung out (trigger stacking) and one of them does something that provokes me, let’s just say that I may not speak in my nicest voice.

Knowing that about myself, I took a simple action.

“Hey!”

The word that generally comes out of my mouth when I’m startled or annoyed is, “Hey!” Given that, when any new dog comes into the household I classically condition that word to predict great things. I pair my saying the word with a great treat.

Once the dog is learning that my saying “Hey!” predicts a treat, I raise the volume gradually, then raise the stress in my voice. The end result is that I can yell, “Hey!” in the meanest voice I can muster and my dogs turn to me or come running happily.

I do the same thing with each dog’s name. I say it in all different tones of voice, pairing it with something great.

I’m not a big yeller, but conditioning “Hey!” and the dog’s name seems to spread nicely to other things I might yell as well.

Total Recall

Thorough readers of my blog will have noticed by now that I have classically conditioned a fair number of things.

And yelling.

All of these things started off as pure classical conditioning, but, as is typical, the operant behaviors started piling on and getting reinforced. And they are good behaviors! Reorienting to me, even running to me when the event happens if the dog is a distance away. All these things that are classically conditioned potentially turn into recall cues/positive interrupters.

But we always need to think these things through. All these recall cues presuppose that the triggers will happen in situations where it is both desirable and safe for my dogs to come running to me. Frankly, I am rarely in situations where that would not be safe. Areas where my dogs might be off leash, however large, are generally enclosed or not in a busy area. However, there’s always that horrifying possibility that my dog might get loose and see me from across a busy street or a similar hazard. That’s the one type of situation when I don’t want my dog to come running to me. For that reason, I also teach my dogs a distance down by hand signal and vocal cue. It means to drop right where they are.

Here’s a post with a video where you can see us practicing: Safety behaviors: Down at a Distance and Recalls.

Positive Interrupter

Lots of people defend yelling at their dogs in a disciplinary way. They feel they need their dogs’ respect or need to convey to their dogs that what they are doing at times is “unacceptable.” But we need to be honest. If those methods reliably work to interrupt and lessen (punish) behavior, it’s because there is a threat. Yelling by itself, beyond the startle effect, is not that potent of a punisher to an adult dog. That’s why people who yell in an attempt to interrupt or change their dogs’ behavior tend to keep yelling and yelling.

What dog wants to come to someone who is mad and grumbly, or worse, likely to hurt them? What you typically get from “disciplinary” yelling is ambivalent behavior.  If you call them when angry they may come, but they will likely come creeping, or perhaps even grovel in place. (How many YouTube videos have we seen of that?)

How much better is it to have cue that dogs respond to with delight? I’ll take a joyful reorientation anytime. Plus if I am actually mad, it gives me a moment to get ahold of myself as they run to me eagerly. And it’s pretty hard to stay mad at those happy little faces. (Here is Emily Larlham’s tutorial on teaching a positive interrupter.)

Some people call this kind of cue a “positive interrupter.”(Here is Emily Larlham’s tutorial on teaching it.) But just FYI, “positive interrupter” is not a behavior science term. A “positive interrupter” is just another cue that causes your dogs to reorient to you. No different from any other cue. Some people use their recall or “watch me” cue, some train a cue specific for interruption, and some let a cue develop out of classical conditioning, as I did.

If we let go of the idea of trying to prove to our dogs that they are being “bad” and look at how to interrupt the behavior, a positive interrupter is a great way to go.

Want to see what happens when I yell, “Hey!” at my dogs?

Link to the movie for email subscribers.

Matching Law

But won’t interrupting my dogs when they are doing an undesired behavior, then giving them a treat, indirectly reward those behaviors they are performing when interrupted? Won’t I get more obnoxious behavior? If that were the only time I reinforced my dogs’ behavior, I might have something to worry about. But my dogs earn reinforcers all day long doing things I like. And I catch them being good far more than I interrupt them doing stuff I don’t like. The Matching Law is on my side. I’m not going to have a huge upsurge of barking in my ear or fence running or bullying another dog. My dogs can get my attention and earn a treat a lot more easily than that!

Bottom Line

I can truly say that yelling is not a punishment, or even particularly unpleasant, for my dogs. If you condition yelling, it can be just another strange noise in their life that predicts good things.

Explanation of the Photo Above

Here’s the unedited original. I hadn’t yelled. I had given them broccoli, and they were extremely disappointed. I’m so mean!

Copyright 2016 Eileen Anderson

 

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