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Discussion Starter #1
How do YOU teach calm and self-control in your young dog? Do you give lots of eye contact, g-e-n-t-l-e petting and soft, warm praise when the dog settles and relaxes? Do wait to provide his foodbowl, wait to let him go out the door, or have him wait to be released to greet guests-- untill he is calm, thus strengthening his self-control muscles? Do you give a good work-out, exersise session daily for your dog? Do you work him with a few sits and downs and some heeling in strange places, on new surfaces-- to tire his mind as well as his body... to set him up for success when you get back home, for
him to learn to be calm in the house? Do you gently, gradually bring him into new places and situations-- and practice long down-stays? Do you work hard to remain calm yourself, and lend your Zen to your dog? If so, how do you center and calm yourSELF in frustrating situations when the dog needs many corrections, so you can re-direct and lessen the amount of corrections/conflict that may excite the dog.. and possibly you? Do you work to be sure the dog has a comfy, secure place in the hierarchy at home.. do some NILIF, so they feel secure and calm having a strong packleader? Do you brush your dog into a cuddle-coma regularly, letting his neuro pathways in his brain become accustomed to relaxation response?

I'd love to hear other people's methods of creating a calm adult dog, with good self-control (for a dog).

How do you teach calm, or build calm into a growing young dog?

Self-control is like a muscle.. it needs to be flexed, or it'll be flabby... what do you do for instilling self-control in your dog?
 

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Re: Calm & self-control

Basically everything you mention. I just got a 3.5 year old male working line bundle of muscle and energy two months ago. He is not aggressive towards anything (handler, dogs, strangers), but is VERY exciteable and has no manners because he spent most of his time in a kennel prior to coming to my home. Only giving attention for showing proper calm behavior in the house along with showing him he gets to blow all that energy out on the field has worked well so far. And yes, soothing and calming petting along with a calm voice and calm energy is everything with a dog like that. The attitude of "This is not a struggle, and you being a little butthead does not even warrant a response from me let alone affection or attention. You WILL behave properly and you WILL follow my lead". Attitude translates to body language which is 10 times more powerful to a dog - ESPECIALLY ONE WITH DOMINANT TENDENCIES - than anything verbal.
 

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Re: Calm & self-control

Risa is pretty good at self-control. Probably why she's so good at stays.


I've taught her self-control many ways. The main ones are food bowl manners, waiting at doors, doggie zen, and leashing up to go outside.

Food bowl manners:

Basically, she can't eat her dinner until I give her permission. At this point in time, I can set her dinner down in her kennel with her and leave the room without her diving in and eating it. Because I didn't give her permission to do so.


To start training this, you get a bowl and fill it with some yummy food (treats, kibble, raw meat). Hold the bowl over your dogs head in a sort of 'sit' gesture (you don't have to use a sit, you can use a down instead). When his butt hits the floor, start slowly lowering the bowl to the ground. If he lifts his butt, the food ascends rapidly. Wait for a sit again then slowly lower it again. If he stands up again, the food goes up. This part takes a LOT of patience! Once you can finally get the bowl onto the ground, wait 1-2 seconds. If he can hold his sit, give him a command to tell him it's okay to eat the food. If he breaks the sit once the food it on the ground, the bowl is lifted back into the air and you start again. As time goes on, you can gradually increase the time you wait before releasing him to eat his goodies. This teaches him that if he wants something, he has to control himself and wait to get it.

Waiting at doors:

Ris isn't usually allowed to go through a door without permission. This includes the doors to my car too. She can't get in or out without me saying it's okay.

It's easiest to start this with a door to your house. Later you can apply it to other doors and your car. It's also easier to do if you have another person. Have someone hold your dog's leash just as a preventative. Ask him to wait/stay (whichever command you prefer) and then walk towards the door. Don't open it just yet. Turn around (remember to keep upright, bending over will invite your dog to break his position and come towards you) and walk back to your dog and give him a treat. Repeat (always repeat in odd numbers so your dog doesn't figure out when you'll be releasing him). On the final time, return to him and give him a release command that will let him know it's okay to break his position and go with you. As he gets better, start opening the door before you turn around. He has to learn that just because the door is open doesn't mean he can go blasting through it (this is great when you are bringing in groceries). You also don't want him rushing the door ahead of you (again, control!). So if when you have released him and are ready to go out the door he tries to rush out, either body block him (step in front of him) or shut the door on him (nicely).

Doggie Zen:

Basically, the best way to get what you want is to control yourself and look to me for instruction/permission.

There are a couple ways to do this. I'm just going to address two (since this post is already getting long and I've still got one other step to discuss). The first is on-lead. You set out a small pile of treats on the floor just out of your dog's reach (hence why he's on leash). Oh, and if you have a dog like Risa who likes to use her feet, you might want to make the treats farther away than you think they need to be. She has a tendancy to reach out and grab the treats with her paws and pull them to within reach of her mouth.
Obviously, your dog wants those treats but he can't get to them. You get to play the waiting game. The millisecond he takes his attention off the treats and looks at you click (or use a marker word/praise) and give him a reward. It's up to you whether you want to give him a treat from your hand or allow him to eat the pile of treats on the ground. Repeat. As he gets better at this, require longer looks at you. This also can work with other dogs while he's on leash. He can bounce and pull all he wants but the only way to get something good is to turn and look to you for permission. It's up to you whether or not to reward with food/praise and continue on or if he gets to go and see the other dog.

The other doggie zen exercise involves you, him, and a treat. Grab a treat and slowly move it towards his mouth. If he tries to get it, pull it away from him quickly. Move it slowly towards his mouth again. If he tries for it, take it away again. The second he shows no interest in it, tell him he can have it. It'll be very brief at first so be ready. Try again. Eventually he will learn that if he shows no interest in the treat, he's likely to get it. This is also good for keeping other people from giving him treats you might not want him to have. Since he will learn he can't have a treat unless you say it's okay. . .no matter how good it smells.

Leashing up:

Going outside is fun! And leash=outside for Risa. However, I don't want to have to try and put a leash and collar on a dog who's bouncing around the kitchen and doing laps around me. It's much easier to put them on a dog who is sitting nicely. . .no matter how excited she is.

To started teaching this, I'd just grab his leash and wait. He can do whatever he wants. Bounce off you, run laps, pounce on his toys, nose the leash. It doesn't matter. But as soon as he puts his butt on the floor I would put the leash on him. If he breaks his sit when you approach him with the leash, you get right back into the position you were in before and wait for him to sit again. Once he sits and sits long enough for you to put the leash on him, he will get what he wants. Outside! Again he learns that remaining calm and being patient gets him what he wants.
 

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Re: Calm & self-control

I think calmness is something that you can train, like any other obedience command.

Just like teaching "sit" requires "butt on floor" before you acknowledge the action with reward. You can require a state of calm before the dog gets whatever it is the dog wants. For me, calm simply means that they are still and attentive.

The two most powerful times for me are when we come home (to release the dogs to be greeted and then go outside), and before eating. Those are the two times when they are naturally most excited, so this is when I want calmness anyway.

Both of these instances, the dogs have been trained to sit, calmly, and look at me. I no longer give any command for this. This is something they have to do themselves--the equivalent of them asking "please."

I taught it by teaching sit-stay, and "watch me," (using commands) and doing these commands every time I wanted them to be calm (every time I returned home, and before every feeding.) Pretty quickly, they anticipate what will be asked of them, and they just do it. I simply wait for them to calm themselves before I greet them, or feed them.

There are still times when for whatever reason they dogs get excited (say I come home with a bag from the store that they want to explore) so I may have to wait longer for them to get calm...but they quickly figure out that I'm not budging until they "assume the position" of sitting silently and looking in my eyes. THEN they are released.

By not ASKING for the calm posture with a command word, I think they dogs make the connection that THEY are in charge of their own destiny--they are calming themselves, rather than following an order. (hope that makes sense.)
 

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Re: Calm & self-control

Everything that Murphy-Elperroguapo and Tracy talk about. My dog doesn't get to go anywhere, do anything or receive anything unless he's under control. (Yes, sometimes that means I go home without accomplishing what I needed to.)

The only thing I don't do that you (Patti) mention is "gently, gradually bring him into new places and situations."

"Gentle and gradual" don't seem to accomplish as much as "confident and at a reasonable pace." I mean, on one hand, we don't want to overload our dogs with new scary stimuli. On the other hand, if they constantly experience new things and see that those new things and new places don't hurt them, then they gain confidence quickly.

The best example I can give is when I first got Camper, I got him on a Monday. He was 7 weeks old. His puppy class was on a Tuesday (we had attended class for two weeks before we got him). One of the two instructors said, so we'll see your pup next week? And I hesitated, because the pup was coming home Monday and going to class Tuesday? That seemed like a lot to handle. The trainer's thoughts were that the pup should learn as early as possible that the world changes quickly and he needs to 'go with the flow,' that we will keep him safe, but he needs to be able to assimilate quickly. A dog that can do this is a dog that will be flexible and confident.

This is, BTW, a lesson I've heard other trainers give to other owners (people who have recently obtained older pups and rescues). In other words, life is busy. It moves fast. I'll keep you safe, but I expect you to keep up. OUR expectations are key. If we're being gentle and gradual, that means that we have lower expectations. (I think that Gradual and gentle can often look like hesitating and fearful from a dog's perspective.)

As a handler, we need to exude calm ourselves. And we need to expect calm (if we expect our dogs to weird out, they will). Which I think is what Tracy just said.

Did that make any sense whatsoever?
 

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Re: Calm & self-control

made sense to me! I would agree that "gentle and gradual" isn't the right approach to new things. I'd go with "calm and confident."

Example--in the park that Luca and I hike in most Sundays, there is a suspension-type footbridge. The floor of the bridge is a metal grate that you can see through, and when you walk on the bridge, it sways. So it's a little offputting to walk across, especially for a dog. The first several times we went across, I could tell that Luca was pretty leery of it. But instead of coddling him across, we just kept walking and never broke stride. We got to the other side, and kept going. No stopping to tell him what a brave boy he was. Just calm, confident, head forward--as if there were no expectation that he would do anything less. A few times across the bridge in this manner, and now it is nothing.
 

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Discussion Starter #9
Re: Calm & self-control

Guess it shows that I am anxious myself in bringing him into new situations like crowds and stuff., and he also must pick up on that. I think if him freaking didn't put me in any danger, things would be easier. But, I have the situation I have, and we will just need to worth through things. I need to really work on my own calm when we do new things in chaotic places, especially in places he has been a handfull in before. I need to set the tone as you guys suggest... calm, no big deal. Not easy, huh!
 

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Re: Calm & self-control

You can do it, Patti--you and the pig boy are a great team! ;-)

Being confident doesn't mean being foolhardy though. I wouldn't ever recommend doing anything with Grimm that you suspect he will fail at. It's dangerous to him and you. If you don't think he's ready to walk nicely through a crowd, then don't set him up to fail. Instead, walk confidently past one person...or walk confidently past a crowd that's a block away. Only push him a tiny bit past where you already know he will succeed.

"Gradual" could definitely describe the pace of things that you attempt with him. But once you're committed to the attempt, you have to just go for it. So imagine if you say to yourself "Grimm's not ready to walk through the crowded train station--that's a goal that we'll work toward, but he's not there yet. But walking to the train station is something I'm pretty sure we can do, if both of us have our act together." When you head out for the walk to the train station, that trip is not "gentle and gradual" which sounds like you're plodding and antsy the whole way. If you're committed to walking to the train station, you have to set out with confidence that you and Grimm will succeed. If you do--great! Repeat that success several times, then plan your next (slightly more daring) adventure. If not, back up to where you know he can succeed.

that's how we did it.
 

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Re: Calm & self-control

its important to practice self control from an early age, especially when you have super-reactive dogs, which i do, so i can relate!

practicing self control in everything that happens on a daily basis, from feeding time, to going outside, to car rides, to meeting new dogs and people, etc. both my dogs could be hysterical fools when it comes to any of those things. as said above, none of these exciting things will happen for them until they are calm.
its just a matter of getting into the habit of it. i hear alot of people say its embarrassing taking their dogs anywhere in the car because they are so wound up and vocal. i could be in those same shoes if i didn't make my dogs sit/down before we even get into the car. we stay that way for as long as it takes. same thing when we get to a destination if i see any signs that they break the calmness, i turn off the engine and sit as long as it takes. i stay calm and say nothing.

debbie
 

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Re: Calm & self-control

You are The Zen Goddess, Debbie.
That is what I am working on with Grimm. Calm = what you want. It's a process. Grimm is 1 year old now, and soooo much better, but still needs ongoing work at his very excitable age. It'll get better. (i hope!)
 

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Re: Calm & self-control

Excellent advice, Tracy!! Thank you! Lucas is so lucky to have such a well-informed, thoughtful Dad! Have you any training books you reccomend?
 

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Re: Calm & self-control

Aw, thanks! A book I really like is: HOW TO BEHAVE SO YOUR DOG BEHAVES by Sophia Yin. For me, it really helped explain basic behavior modification theory in dispassionate terms. It helps you dissect every training opportunity into it's simplest form:

--am I trying to get the dog to do something or to stop doing something?

--then figuring out which one of three possible things you can do(because there are only three choices):

--application of a positive reinforcement (i.e. give a treat)
--withholding of a positive reinforcement (i.e. deny attention)
--application of a negative reinforcement (i.e. leash correction)

All three forms work, and you need all three in the training arsenal. It's figuring out which one works best for each situation, and delivering the reinforcement in a way that the dog understands the transaction. If the dog doesn't understand what's happening, no training is happening--they're just getting free treats, or getting thier leash yanked by an unpredictable person.
 

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Re: Calm & self-control

That's a super way of explaining it, Tracy. I'll see if I can find that book-- is it a fairly easy read as far as explaining things goes? Is it a bit of 'how to' or mainly theory behind the steps taken?
 

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Re: Calm & self-control

It's a book written for dog owners, so it's aimed at a general readership level. It's not really a how-to (how to get you dog to shake hands)... It's more of an explanation of how to change one's own behavior to get the dog to do something different.
 
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