Problem Solving Progress

Since it has been a month since RangerBlog was birthed, I’m going to check in on Ranger’s problem behaviors and make some notes on how I have been addressing them and how they have improved. It would take a lot more than one post a day to truly dig into the “whys” behind each of these, but a little overview may help prod others in the right direction, and show the progression of Ranger from Naughty to Nice.

1) The Grasshopper

  • Every time I let Ranger inside, I have been giving him attention and petting for keeping his feet on the floor, while turning and ignoring excited attention-seeking behavior. This is an un-cued behavior I want to reinforce so that it will increase over time without me having to say a specific cue like Off.
  • I have been clicking and treating Ranger for sitting politely when I put his halter or leash on.
  • I have been using our Sit and Blanket cues to help control Ranger’s enthusiasm with something specific he can do instead.  This goes hand-in-hand with the general reinforcement for “paws on the floor” so that I have an alternative I can use while that behavior is being trained.
  • We have been having Ranger Drop and Stay for his dinner. He no longer jumps around and all over when it is dinner time.
  • We have not yet progressed to practicing his self-control behaviors around his big bugaboo stimulus, which is other dogs. I want to get these behaviors stronger before we need them in a more stimulating environment.  Plus, it’s cold outside.

2) Stealing Food

  • This one I was suspicious about, but I added it to the list to respect the small human who mentioned it. After some test situations it turns out that Ranger really does not steal food off the table. He will nab it off the floor or from the hand of a little person.
  • We have been working on Wait (for a treat on the floor, while he is lying down and not moving) and teaching Ranger “eyes on me” when I hold a treat out. These are all intended to start teaching him that I am the access point to good stuff.
  • Soon we will begin working on Leave It, which is a bit more complicated, but with the same message.
  • I have been teaching the small people not to hold food out in front of Ranger because HE WILL EAT IT.  Not all dog training is dog training.  Eventually, they will be able to wave food in front of his face safely, and this will help when there is a toddler running around flailing with Melba toast in her hand. But we aren’t there yet, so it is very sensible just to reinforce for them that they don’t NEED to be waving food in front of his face at all.  Keep it over your plate!!

3) “Slobber and whacking me with his tail”

  • Surprise, surprise, this one was not just a dog issue, either!
  • We instituted clearer rules for doggy and child interactions:
    • You may only play with toys, not hands or roughhousing
    • If Ranger is too excited for your comfort, put your hands behind your back and go sit on a couch or chair (he won’t jump up there).
  • I’m also recognizing this as a concern and proactively planning logistics. If Ranger is going to be excited (training time, leash time, when he comes indoors, dinner time) then I’ll make sure all relevant children are in safe places so they do not get trompled.  This means baby off the floor/bouncy and in arms or in the crib, and older children somewhere they feel safe.
  • Ranger’s Blanket cue is getting strong enough that I can send him out of an interaction that looks like too much, and to his bed to chill out.

4) Mouthing during play or dinner time

  • The new logistics for dinner time and the new rules previously mentioned have eliminated this problem.

5) Excitedness around other dogs

  • We have not addressed this directly, but are still building these foundation behaviors:
    • Accepting the halter
    • Loose leash walking
      • Walk without pulling
      • Turn and follow
    • Look at me
    • Wait & asking permission to get something (so far, just a treat)
    • Sit and Sit Stay
  • We will start working on this specifically once I feel like these behaviors are strong enough to still work under greater stress and in a more challenging environment

6) Peeing downstairs

  • I have been keeping Ranger upstairs with us and sending him back up if he goes downstairs
  • When Ranger comes downstairs for a short time, he is highly supervised
  • This behavior has not recurred yet during his month of active training

7) Collar tag shaking

  • Duct tape. No, on the TAGS, not the dog, you odd people.
  • This is a great example of fixing the actual *problem* instead of trying to fix the dog.

8) Leash manners

  • As noted, we are actively training this, but have not worked on it much since it got super cold. We’ll pick it back up when it isn’t traumatizing… to me.

9) More trompling

  • Again, the management and new household rules are helping with this
  • We also drug out his old kennel and a tether to give him some safe places he can be inside without being in the middle of the action

10) Barking

  • This one has been curious.
  • First, I’ve intentionally been keeping Ranger inside as much as possible during the daytime. He really doesn’t bark at things from inside the house.
  • Second, for barking to come inside, I am trying to teach Ranger a discriminative stimulus.  This means his behavior will work when there is some sort of environmental cue but not when it is absent. What I have chosen is whether or not the back curtains are pulled closed or open. If the curtains are open, then I will let him in if he barks. If the curtains are closed, I will not. I am hoping that once he figures this out, it will cut down on the endless “maybe she’ll let me in THIS bark” that happens sometimes when he wants to be inside and I’d prefer him to remain out (like if I don’t feel like de-mudding his paws this second). On top of that it’s a fun little experiment.
  • When he is barking at the neighbor or someone on the street I yell at him to quit and he usually quits. I know, this is really lame, but…it’s what we’ve got right now.  Just being honest.

Ta da!  There’s the laundry list.

Of course, as you may have noticed, we have been making some other “good dog parent” choices too, like getting him interactive toys, trying to more actively integrate him with the family with games and directed attention, and trying to focus on and reward things he does that we DO like instead of just griping at him when he is naughty.

All of these are really starting to gel with the specific training techniques and Ranger is doing so well. It is a lot of change at once, but in a good way! We have quite a path ahead of us to make him a truly perfect family dog, but this is a great start and I think it is safe to say we are all happier so far.

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