Sunday, 4 March 2012

One Way To Help Improve Impulse Control

How do we improve Impulse Control? 
Ask the dog to do things to recieve rewards

One way we can increase impulse control by asking our dogs to work harder for things they value. We give our requests meaning and consequences that our dogs can easily relate to and understand. We do this by asking them toearnall those daily rewards we so often provide for free.

This is a very important part of your behaviour modification program as it will provide a solid foundation for training. The idea of this is to change your relationship with your dog. It promotes you as a provider of resources and gains your dogs respect and trust without using any force or aggression on your part.

To implement this you need to be in control of all the things that are important to the dog, such as food, toys and your attention. Your attention is very important and valuable – dogs are social animals, and soon learn what works to get your attention. If done correctly you should find yourself giving your dog just as much attention (if not alot more) than you do now.

To get started with you should first make a list of rewards you provide your dog with a regular basis. Rewards can be anything your dog enjoys. Once this list is complete all you need to do is require that your dog do something for you beforeyou provide those Rewards – examples are provided below.
Note: When starting this new way of life it is easy to miss opportunities to use, I always suggest posting the Rewards list up on the fridge or some other convenient location where it can serve as a reminder and easy reference guide. It’s also a good idea to get everyone in your home to change how they do things so your dog gets lots of practice while learning that everyone’s requests are relevant.
Examples of Rewards:

Food and Meals
Before you put the bowl down, have your dog follow a few simple obedience commands. Ask your dog to wait before giving the "ok" to eat. If your dog tries to dive on the bowl before you give the release, simply pick up the bowl and start over. When your dog stops eating and walks away from the bowl, pick up any remaining food and dispose of it. Establish set meal times, where he eats and how much he gets. Dogs that aren't given the opportunity to work to earn their living (their food) may see no reason to work for food at any time because they have access to what they want without any conditions at all. If your dog fails to sit when asked before you put his dinner down wait until he does before the dinner is presented or if he walks away without eating, quietly put his food away until the next regularly scheduled meal.  It's completely up to him whether he eats or not--don't try to convince him. Let him discover where his own best interests lie! Of couse you do need to check that your dog is in good health and likes the food you are presenting him with too.

Remember that all your dog’s food including treats actually belong to you. So, as you would for a child, ask the dog to say “please” before he is given his food, or indeed any treats. You can do this by asking him to “sit”, “down”, “stay”, “shake paws”, or any other command that he knows, or you want to teach him. The important thing is that your dog learns to earn all rewards. It’s amazing how quickly dogs learn a whole repertoire of tricks when their access to treats depends on it! It is of course very important that the rewards are not provided totally for free at anytime, giving you eye contact and other attention based behaviours are all suitable.

Toys and Games
The games you play can install control, build confidence and establish strong bonds, or un-do much of the hard work you've done in training. Dogs that push toys at you, demanding that you play now or all the time are learning to attention seek on their own terms and are often learning and being rewarded for inappropriate behaviours. Chose which behaviours you are going to reward the dog for and which behaviours you are going to ignore.

Just by being in control of a vital“resource”, like the toys, will increase your value in the eyes of your dog. You can select toys to give to the dog when you wish (i.e. for performing a good behaviour), and put them away again when you want to (i.e. for performing an unwanted behaviour). You will probably find that your dog will actually be more enthusiastic about his toys when you start this rule. As you know yourself, things that you can’t have all the time are more exciting than things that are available all the time. A holiday in Barbados wouldn’t be so exciting if you went there every month.

Put favourite toys away and bring them out when you want to play or use them as a reward for the performance of a good behaviour, especially if you have asked your dog to earn it.

You’re Attention, Petting and Playing
This is the resource that most people forget to control, and it is also often the resource that the dogs want most! Dogs are social animals, and your attention is very important to them. It is important to remember that your attention, along with all other important resources such as food and toys, also belongs to you. It should be you who decides when to give it, and when to take it away. There are no restrictions at all as to how many times you interact with your dog during the day – in fact the more times the better, but, it is important that you have chosen the behaviours you are going to give attention for and which ones you will withdraw your attendtion because of or simply ignore
If your dog comes to you to ask for attention at other times and his methods are inappropriate (i.e. jumping up), he must be ignored. This includes eye contact. Although it is sometimes nice that your dog comes up to say“hello”, for those dogs that are chronically attention seeking or value their owners very little, it is important that such behaviour is ignored in order for the dog to learn the new “you need to earn that” rule. To start with when you ignore his or her advances, you will find that your dog’s response may be to try harder! Your dog has always had a response from you, and now doesn’t get it. This is rather frustrating for the dog, who will do its particular “attention seeking” behaviour more, or even new behaviours in order to try to get your attention. This can be very, very difficult to ignore, but it must be ignored for the message to get through! Once he or she has given up, and left you alone, or offered a more appropriate behaviour call him or her back, and give your dog lots of attention and cuddles. It is important to remember that this is not a ‘no attention’ way of life, but an ‘owner in control of attention’ way of life.

It is also important that the dog does not feel punished or scorned, thus we must offer the dog lots of opportunities to earn our attention – should your dog decide not to take up your offer by earning it then of course the offer is withdrawn for a later time but must be re offered i.e. The dog walks up to you in hope of attention you ask for a sit and if the dog does you play and cuddle the dog – if the dog does not you walk off, later you try the ‘sit’ again and reward if the dog succeeds.

The Golden Rule –Your dog should have a basic understanding of a command BEFORE you use these rewards for training. If, after three tries, your dog fails to successfully complete the exercise you should lower your criteria or ask for a different behaviour.

Rights of access.
These can include walks, car rides, providing a spot on the sofa or bed, going in or out of the house, greeting dogs or people, off-leash exercise off your property, going in to your office or place of work with you etc.

You get to decide who comes and goes at your property, who's accepted and who isn't at your property. Who you will allow your dog to greet and who you will not allow your dog to greet. What behaviours your dog has to perform to achieve some of these rewards. For safety as well as control, establish the habit of sitting and waiting for permission and being rewarded by the privilege of going in or out of the house or car. Your dog should learn to ask for permission for these privileges, this again in turn will make your bond stronger but also increase the value of your permission or requests to your dog.

Add anything else your dog enjoys to the list of rewards – make a list keep it somewhere everyone will regularly see it. You may also wish to have a reminder note stating that almost everything must be earned by the dog.

Examples of how you could incorporate this program in to everyday life:

Call your dog to ‘come’ before providing play, walks or meals. If your dog doesn’t comply go much nearer your dog, gently and kindly guide your dog to you even if it is using a lead at first to enable your dog to succeed but also not ignore you, then release (this means give the dog permission to leave). Do not act angry or disappointed as you approach your dog, this will only build negative associations with the command and reduce the likelihood of your dog coming to you in the future. Now try the exercise again. Do your best to set your dog up for success this time by ensuring he is not too distracted or too far away and be sure to say ‘come’ in an upbeat manner. If you associate the word ‘come’ with wonderful rewards on a regular basis you will be well on your way to developing a strong recall.

While preparing your dogs meal and before setting the food bowl down ask for a‘sit-stay’. If your dog breaks the stay put the food up on the counter for a minute and try again. He should not be allowed to go for the bowl till you give the release command ‘okay’ and/or tell him to ‘take it’.

Ask your dog to ‘sit-stay’ while putting the leash on. If your dog doesn’t hold the‘stay’ as you put the leash on, put the leash back up for a minute and try again.

Before taking your dog through doors (or gates) ask for a ‘wait’ a few feet from the door. Slowly open the door and take a step out before releasing your dog. If your dog breaks the ‘wait’ at any point in this process close the door, making sure all your dogs body parts are clear of the door and start over. Make sure a leash is on your dog when doing this exercise if there is any chance they could escape your property.

Show your dog you have a toy and ask for a ‘down’ before initiating play. If your dog goes into the ‘down’ let the games begin! If your dog does not lie down put the toy away for a minute then try again. Take breaks often during play time and ask for other behaviours before continuing play.

Ask your dog to ‘heel’ then provide loose leash or off-leash (depending on recall) time as reward for a job well done.

Ask your dog for any behaviour while out walking. If your dog fails to comply, say the command again ensuring that you have your dog’s attention and stand perfectly still until he complies, then start the walk again.

Ask your dog for a ‘watch me’ before providing access to the garden or greeting a dog. Walk away for failure to comply, then re-approach and try again.

Here’s some good practice for those avid jumpers - ask your dog to ‘sit-stay’ when greeting new people. Ask people not to pet your dog until he does so. You may also want to hold the leash or collar to ensure your dog can’t jump and make contact, thus self rewarding with your or others reactions. Practice this enough and your dog will start to automatically ‘sit’ when people approach. Make sure the sit is rewarded with attention or other reward.

If your dog politely requests attention ask for a ‘sit’ before providing that attention. If your dog demands attention - ignore it. Demanding attention = regular and/or persistent solicitation for your attention.

Call him and do a short training session, feed him his daily rations in small instalments for work sessions many times a day. The goal is to have a dog that comes running and is willing and compliant to your requests!

If your dog has learned other obedience commands or tricks be sure to incorporate those as well.

Rules for everyday life

· Your dog should have a basic understanding of a command BEFORE you use these rewards for training. If, after three tries, your dog fails to successfully complete the exercise you should lower your criteria or ask for a different behaviour.

· The other rule that we mentioned, which is also useful to remember when teaching your dog new commands or tricks, is to “reward behaviours that you want, and ignore behaviours that you don’t want”. Following this rule will mean that behaviours that you want will become more frequent, and other behaviours will decrease in frequency.

· Be consistent.

· The whole family must agree and enforce all rules. Don't make exceptions to your rules; your dog needs a clear and consistent message, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Eventually, your dog will be eagerly awaiting your requests because they have come to predict good things; this will make all other behavioural or obedience training much easier. This also balances many unhealthy dog / handler relationships.

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