I started fostering Kilo the Pug when he was 2 then adopted him a few months later. He was very cute and healthy, but his behaviour was far from perfect. He arrived with quite a few issues.
Dog Behaviour Issues
I have spent at least 30 minutes a day training Kilo nearly every day for 6 years and I take him out to go potty and walk every 2-3 hours. I have had the good fortune to have had sessions with top behaviourists and trainers, as well as tips from experts in person and online.
He now does much of what I ask around the house, loves his crate, rarely has a potty accident and knows lots of tricks. However, I am embarrassed to say that we have not made much progress on basic obedience and our little prince can be a little pushy. He pulls and begs for food and his “Drop It” and “Come” are works in progress and “Drop It” usually requires a trade.
He can also still be rather reactive and anxious with certain triggers – for example the mailman or the neighbour’s dog passing can send him into a total spin.
Positive Dog Training Tips from Renee DeVilliers of All About Dogs
Yesterday I was able to take Kilo to get some Positive Dog Training Tips from ReneeDeVilliers of All About Dogs. (Renee was featured in our documentary series).
I love Renee’s calm, gentle, firm manner. Plus I wanted to hang out at her beautiful new facilities in the west end of Toronto. I had planned to let Kilo have a private agility class in the indoor Arena.
In the first 5 minutes waiting in reception, Kilo got stressed, shouted at a few strangers and ignored my commands. Renee convinced me that we’d better wait until next time to do agility and review a few basics first.
How I Failed Basic Obedience With Kilo the Pug
Kilo is now an eight, a small loving little lap dog with a very cute face. He is food motivated (make that obsessed) and he also enjoys affection/attention from people he knows and playing with toys.
It has always been very hard to resist his begging or his demands for affection and attention. I felt that if I gave him enough love and positive socialization, he would get over his anxieties, he would stop guard resources and he’d be “good”.
I redirected him from behaviours I didn’t like, or ignored them, hoping he’d eventually get the message. I rewarded the good behaviours, hoping he’d repeat them.
I have always been a teacher’s pet, but it turns out that Renee gave me a failing grade on teaching Focus, Self-Control, a Good Recall and Basic Obedience. I had not been helping Kilo as much as I thought. Not for lack of good intentions or hard work or good advice, I just needed an objective expert to check on my methods. Most of what I was doing worked well. However, I needed to make some adjustments in timing and add in a few missing elements or changes.
What’s wrong with this Picture?
Kilo is doing an excellent “wait” for the delicious cookie in the photo above. It does demonstrate Self-Control and was a huge advance for him to master that command. However, Renee pointed out that it is missing one thing, the eye contact with me, the Focus.
His obedience and control are not reliable, especially outside the house or under stress. I have been showing him food rewards (his payment) upfront to bribe him and lure him into behaviours or letting him throw tricks and winning looks at me rather than asking him to focus on me, obey and earn everything he wants. I made excuses on certain key things- “he’s not a working breed so he has trouble learning words and working at a distance”, “pugs can be stubborn”, “he had a bad experience”.
Luring can be a great way to show a new behaviour or trick, but is not an ideal long-term solution for a food obsessed Pug. Kilo is far more likely to come if I say treat or shake his treat bag, than if I call his name. I need to build up his regular training and responses in general so that he does things for me and then is rewarded…not show him the goods and then he performs.
The Power of Yes
Desensitisation to Triggers
Renee trains all her dogs using positive reinforcement training, a gentle and humane approach to training that builds a healthy and trusting relationship with your dog.
“One of the key components to understanding the use of positive reinforcement training is understanding the psychology of the dog. Many people don’t understand why a puppy is growling when they are playing tug, they don’t understand why their dog is taking things and running away. So a lot of what I try to explain to people is what is the unique nature of their dog. A lot of that can be based on their breed or mix of breed, what that dog was selected for like herding, guarding or hunting.”
By rewarding puppies and dogs when they show control and focus, they learn good things come from that.
Thanks Bullwrinkles and Barnsdale Farms, DogforDog, and Wag More Bark Less for the samples of healthy and yummy treats perfect for training – much appreciated.