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post #1 of 5 (permalink) Old 01-01-2009, 09:43 AM Thread Starter
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clicker trainers - breakthru? what next?

I've been working with Riley using clicker training on his "overexuberance" at people and dogs walking by our house. I started by standing next to him at the window and as long as he was calm he got clicked/treated. There is probably some confusion in his mind (and I know there is in mine) as to what we REALLY want from this as we have tried a number of different things with unsuccessful results. I need to clear up the confusion and find the next best step to take.

Most recently we had been going to the window and looking when he alerted, I guess that's like validating his alert? But he's still way over the top when someone and particularly someone w/a dog passes directly in front of our house so we do need to get him to tone down his alert. I would prefer if he didn't alert at all unless an unwanted someone was actually trying to enter our house, but I'm guessing that's a lot to ask. He's got a very loud bark that startles the heck out of me and his reaction though toned down considerably from his original reactions some months ago is still excessive. This is the one thing that he does that does not allow me to leave him out of the crate when no one is at home. One day he will surely give some little old lady a heart attack in front of our house.

The clicker training book has me confused in that one area says to ignore all unwanted behavior but in another section of the book it mentions to determine what alternative step you want the dog to take and somewhere in the book I do believe I read something about going to the window like I mentioned but that could have been read elsewhere, too.

Yesterday, I was standing in the kitchen and he alerted at the front window. He can't see me from that window and I can't see him unless I move. I didn't move or acknowldge his alert and shortly thereafter he ran to the doorway where he could see me and stopped dead and looked at me like "aren't you coming?" I proceeded to click/treat Nissa who was standing quietly beside me. Riley came over, sat down in front of me, got a click/treat and then ran off to the living room window again. I considered that somewhat of a small break-through but not sure if that's what it really is.

When I ignore his window antics they do seem just a tad bit less excessive and he does normally look to me to make sure I'm paying attention or something.

What would be your suggestion to follow thru with the window thing? Please keep in mind that the less reactive he is at the window (and door) the happier I'll be. One of our main goals is to build his self-confidence.

Deb • Riley & Nissa
Rainbow Bridge • Damien Katy Crocket Kayla Gypsy Toby

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post #2 of 5 (permalink) Old 01-01-2009, 12:21 PM
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Re: clicker trainers - breakthru? what next?

There are many different ways you can alter the behavior. One is to ignore unwanted behavior and only click/treat when they do the behavior you want. If they are not rewarded for the behavior they are less likely to repeat it. Another way to stop unwanted behavior is to teach another behavior which is incompatible with the unwanted one-- for example if a dog jumps on you, teach them to lay down in the situation instead because they can't do both at the same time.

From your description it sounds like your attention may be rewarding his behavior. When he barks and you go to the window, this may be to him as if you are rewarding the barking behavior. I know people say that it can help if you let the dog know that you are aware of the thing they are trying to alert about but that doesn't always help to tone them down.

Some ways you can go about reducing the barking are teaching him to do another behavior where he would normally bark, such as teach him to come to you and when he sees a stranger outside instead, or something like that. Another thing which may help is to train him to bark on cue and then only reward him for barking when you have given him the cue to bark. This can help decrease unwanted barking because the barking is not as rewarding when you haven't given the cue. A different method that is a possibility is when he barks, you wait until he is quiet and then click/treat for the quiet (wait a little after the last bark or he will think the click is for the bark.) If you can predict when he will bark it may also help, if you can click/treat him after he sees a person walking by but *before* he begins to bark. This may help to distract him from barking and also it is rewarding him for being quiet when he first sees the person.


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post #3 of 5 (permalink) Old 01-01-2009, 01:26 PM Thread Starter
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Re: clicker trainers - breakthru? what next?

Thanks, Ginger, your explanation helped clear up the confusion. I didn't click/treat for the barking, I just went to see what he was barking at while saying something like "what is it?" or "let's go see." He definitely got the idea that I was paying attention to what he was barking at. Yeah, I agree, I do feel my attention was rewarding the barking so we're going to switch to ignoring and then he comes to me and I will click/treat him at that time because he's quiet then. Once I started clicking/treating Nissa who was standing calmly next to me, he could hear that from the living room and he was with us in a flash sitting down for HIS goodie

I might add in the bark on cue but I'll see how this goes first. He's been with us almost 2 years now and I still cannot get used to his strong alert. It's lessened, but it's still strong for me. So often he starts up when I am deep in thought working on the computer or something and so it's totally unexpected and you almost have to peel me off the ceiling it's so startling.

Deb • Riley & Nissa
Rainbow Bridge • Damien Katy Crocket Kayla Gypsy Toby

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post #4 of 5 (permalink) Old 01-01-2009, 03:10 PM
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Re: clicker trainers - breakthru? what next?

Good for you for trying to use the clicker for this, and it can be done.

There's an excellent book I've heard raves about called Click to Calm by Karen Pryor that would be a huge help in your situation. A book is really able to go into details that I bet you'll immediately be able to use with your dog.

Click to Calm (click here for info)

http://www.clickertraining.com/node/343




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post #5 of 5 (permalink) Old 01-02-2009, 01:40 AM Thread Starter
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Re: clicker trainers - breakthru? what next?

Thanks for the link, I have that book. Haven't read the whole thing yet but working on it. I'm doing the book a little bit at a time and adding things to the training as I progress in the book.

Thought of something else I can do to re-program. Instead of doing the verbal validation when he's alerting, why not instead of just click/treat when he's calm and just watching out the window, verbally validate "what is it" etc? That way he should get the idea that he just needs to be watching.

I also have the book "When Pigs Fly! Training Success with Impossible Dogs" by Jane Killion. I do not by any stretch of the imagination consider my dog impossible in the overall. They're both actually VERY well behaved under 99% of circumstances. I get compliments on their good behavior quite often, so that's not just me talking. I got this book because we've had some aggressive incidents that after dissecting them - turned out to be him protecting me and himself. These are my biggest concerns - aggressive at the door (very scary, high end alert at the door), the window, with other dogs and with people if HE thinks I need protection even though I actually don't.

I can get nervous at the drop of a hat and that is probably what's at the bottom of aggressive reactions from him. He senses me being nervous and he reacts accordingly. Because of the previous incidents, (I am having a hard time forgetting and letting them go) and so I get nervous under similar circumstances which is dangerous.

My question here is, anyone familiar with this book, do you feel it will be helpful or not? I haven't started reading it yet and can return it if it isn't something that will help. I know I need to find a way that works and stick with it because there has been to much training attempts confusion already. I'd like to stick w/clicker type training and I think this book is based on it.

I'm starting to think books to help me learn to be less nervous and let go of these past incidents might be more appropriate than dog training books, because I seem to be the trigger in some instances. If anyone has any book recommendations that deal with helping nervous owners interact more calmly with their dogs, I would love to hear about them.

Deb • Riley & Nissa
Rainbow Bridge • Damien Katy Crocket Kayla Gypsy Toby

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