Taming Excitement through Holistic Training

Whoops, it looks like I missed a week – getting my business set up has been eating at my free time.  This post is going to be pretty good though, so maybe that will make up for it.

We’re going to talk about changing behavior. Ranger, in this example, was just getting too excited at his training class.  The week before last, he was hyperfocusing on me, throwing behaviors at me, bouncing around, and barking the second he stopped earning treats.  In fact, the entire time we practiced the Supervised Separation part of the CGC test, he spent 3 brutal minutes barking and bouncing at the end of the leash, barely restrained by the poor innocent handler with whom I had exchanged dogs.  Excitement turns to frustration quickly if a dog does not know how to handle NOT getting something he wants or has come to expect, and when I, the source of reinforcement, disappeared, he just had no idea how to cope.

What do we do? Here’s the way I see a lot of people try to tackle an over-excited dog:

“NO.  Bad dog.  :yank on dog’s collar:”


Punishment can certainly suppress behavior, but it leaves a void that can then quickly be filled by any other behavior the dog thinks might work to get attention or a treat.  In addition, it creates negative associations.  I don’t want my dog to associate training time with escaping or avoiding pain!

So what do we do?  Instead of using pain, let’s use our brain.  Step back and look at all the moving parts with me…

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Ranger the Kitchen Adventurer!

The (almost) dauntless Ranger has made some great strides in his kitchen exploration practice!  With patient counter-conditioning we have tapped into his inner confidence.  Take a look at where Ranger will comfortably go now:

2015-01-29 20.10.17

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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.

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10 Things I Hate About You, Continued

Yesterday we reviewed some of our most-disliked Ranger behaviors.

I’ve polled the family members one more time and an avalanche of complaints has ensued. Poor maligned Ranger!  But seriously, these are the kind of things that can add up over time and frustrate families into turning their dog outside permanently…

labrador retriever

Why don’t you love me any more?

…keeping him kenneled 22 hours a day, or re-homing him.

If only people knew there are good solutions than can keep their dog with the family and resolve these every day annoyances! We’ll get to those. First, the problems.

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10 Things I Hate About You

This is always the easiest part of a training consult. People KNOW what they hate about their dog. They just don’t know what to do about it.

“So.” I say, tapping pen to paper expectantly. “What are the behaviors you would like to change?”

The rational, well-reasoned, thoughtful and blandly emotionless list ok, who am I kidding.

“He won’t STOP BARKING.”

“The little [yep let’s edit this word] keeps [this one too, let’s call it “poo poo”]ing in the house.”

“She hates other dogs.”

In super sciency snootball terms what we are doing is establishing baseline measures.  This is the only way we can find out if our training actually works!  And it’s something you should do too before you set out to fix problem behaviors.   Read More