Doggy Manners

August 12, 2010 (PRESS RELEASE)

Certified dog trainer Jamie Migdal of Animal Sense has some tips on teaching your dog manners, including the proper way to say hello.

Jamie also teachers these behaviors in her "Meet and Greet" classes in Oak Park. For more information, visit or call 312-564-4570.

How to Meet and Greet (If you're a dog): Tips from Jamie Migdal of Animal Sense

Dogs love to jump up on people, and why shouldn't they? Many people unintentionally teach this behavior when their dogs are young puppies, by encouraging pups to put their paws on our legs and then petting, talking or otherwise paying attention to them. This behavior becomes less endearing as our pups get older; large dogs can inadvertently knock a person over with an exuberant greeting, and even smaller dogs can scratch up a person's legs or clothing by jumping up to say hello. Here are some simple ways to help your dog meet and greet AND still make a good impression!

The old saying, "An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure," applies to most aspects of dog training, but it's particularly applicable when it comes to greetings and preventing jumping. Your first line of defense is to teach your dog to sit automatically in order to have access to people and other good stuff. If your dog des not know how to sit on cue, you can easily teach this by holding a small, pea-sized treat in your hand at your dog's nose. Keeping your hand close to your dog's nose, move your hand over your dog's head and towards his rump. and say "sit." Following your hand movement will cause your dog to sit, without any need to push on his rump or pull on his collar. When your dog's butt hits the floor, say "good!" or "yes!" and give the treat. To add the hand signal for sit, hold your arm straight down, then bend at the elbow and bring your hand up towards your shoulder.

Ask your dog to sit -- and wait for that butt to hit the floor -- before everyday activities such as putting on the leash, opening the door to the fenced-in back yard, or putting the food bowl down. Think of this as your dog's way of saying "please." It's simply a polite way for your dog to ask for the things he likes. The next step is to practice "automatic sits," where your dog sits without being given a cue first. Try waiting for your dog to offer a sit in the above situations -- just stand still and let your dog try to figure out what he should do next. Another option is to ask for a "watch me" -- a sit will usually follow.

While your dog is learning, sometimes she will make a mistake and jump up. When that happens, try turning your back to your dog and walking away, without saying a word. Your dog quickly will learn that jumping up does not get her the things she wants, including your attention. If the "cold shoulder" routine does not work, or your dog finds jumping extremely rewarding, you can use a verbal correction to interrupt the jumping and then immediately ask for a sit and reward. You can help your dog learn by putting her on a leash or in a crate in situations where she is likely to be, shall we say, over exuberant. After the initial excitement has diminished, allow your dog to meet your guests on leash. Give your guests a few pieces of kibble or treats and ask them to ignore your dog unless she is sitting and to reward her with treats and praise when she sits. Soon your dog will know that the best things in life happen when there are four paws on the floor.

14 tips for Dog Training Success!
By Jamie Damato Migdal, CPDT-KA

Training your dog should be an enjoyable experience for you both. The more you understand about how your dog thinks and learns, the more effectively you can communicate. Clear communication means successful training and good behavior -- with no need for force or coercion!

1. Behavior that is rewarded is more likely to reoccur. This powerful principle is a key component of reward-based training. Dogs do what works. If your dog receives praise and a treat for sitting, he is more likely to sit the next time you ask. If he knows that jumping on you will earn your attention, he will keep jumping, because attention is rewarding to him. 2. Dogs learn by association. When training, it is important that the reward closely follow the desired behavior. For example, when teaching your dog to sit, the praise and treat should be given when his rear touches the floor, not after he's stood up again. On the other side of the coin, reprimanding your dog for something he may have done hours ago (e.g., you come home to find your slippers shredded) is pointless. Your dog won't associate your yelling with what he has done, and if it happens enough, he may begin to fear your arrival home, as you are always angry for no reason he can fathom.

3. Reward behaviors you want, rather than punishing behaviors you don't want. Most of us are so accustomed to noticing "mistakes" our dogs make that it seems strange to begin noticing and rewarding "good" behavior. For example, your dog barks, so you yell at him to be quiet. Sure, a barking dog is hard not to notice. But what about when he's lying calmly? Most of never consider rewarding calm behavior, so the dog only gets rewarded with our attention (even yelling is attention) when he is doing something inappropriate. Having been rewarded, of course he keeps doing these things! Make a habit of noticing and rewarding your dog for good behavior.

4. Extinction. If a behavior is ignored, it will eventually extinguish on its own. Imagine you are trying to buy a soda from a vending machine. You drop in your change, press the button, and wait. Nothing happens. You press the button more forcefully, and try a few others as well. Still nothing. You jangle the change lever. No soda, no change. You might even, at that point, shake or kick the machine. Finally, grumbling to yourself, you give up and leave. In this example, the soda-seeking behavior extinguished because there was no payoff, no reward. Kicking or shaking the machine is an example of an extinction burst. What that means with your dog is that if you ignore an unwanted behavior, it will eventually stop (unless it is something that is inherently self-rewarding to the dog, such as digging). But before your dog gives up, the behavior may actually escalate. Recognize the extinction burst for what it is, and wait it out -- the behavior will eventually stop, and will stop even sooner the next time around.

5. Positive reinforcement is something the dog wants. Just because you think those expensive new treats are a great reward doesn't mean they are. If your dog turns his nose up at them, they're not much of a reward in his mind. A reward can be petting, verbal praise, a throw of a ball, a quick game with a favorite toy, sniffing grass, saying hello to another dog, etc. The sky's the limit. Consider what your dog finds rewarding, and use it!

6. Jackpot! The jackpot is something really special, head and shoulders above the usual reward. Your dog can earn this amazing prize by doing something especially wonderful. While it is always important to use training treats your dog likes, save the Super-Yummy, Best-Treat-In-The-World as a jackpot. For example, a dog knows what Sit means, but doesn't sit very quickly. When you give the Sit cue, he watches you for a moment, and then languidly lowers his butt to the floor. You almost hear him sigh, "Okay, if I must". But on the fourth repetition, he responds immediately; butt hits the floor in record time. Jackpot! You immediately give him one piece after another of the special treat, along with effusive praise (and petting, if he enjoys it). You can also give a mega-jackpot by tossing a shower of treats. Jackpotting makes an impression -- it calls the dog's attention to the fact that he's done something wonderful. He is therefore more likely to perform the behavior better than usual the next time around. A jackpot doesn't have to be food, either. if your dog lives for a toss of the ball or a game of tug, use that as your jackpot. Know your dog and use what works for him.

7. Find an alternate behavior. When you want your dog to stop doing something, give him something else to do that is incompatible with the behavior you don't want. For example: if your dog jumps on you, have him sit instead; he can't sit and jump at the same time. If he chews on furniture, give him an appropriate chew toy instead. Try this: On a piece of paper, draw a vertical line down the center. On the left side, list all the things your dog does that you'd like him to stop doing. On the right, next to each behavior, write down something he could do instead. It's easy!

8. Raise criteria gradually in small increments, building on each success. Simply put, that means don't expect too much too soon. Instead, build small steps to get from Point A to Point B. For example: when teaching your dog to down-stay, start with a three-second down-stay. If that is successful, add two seconds, and so forth. Any time your dog does not perform an exercise correctly, consider whether you have proceeded to quickly. Go back to the point at which your dog was last successful, then build gradually. Setting your dog up to succeed eliminates the need for corrections.

9. If trained correctly, behavior is not contingent on food being present. This is something that many people who are opposed to food-rewarding training don't understand. If you phase treats out gradually and use lots of real-life rewards (petting, games, etc.) as well, your dog will do as asked even when no treats are present. Use lots of treats at first to teach and then practice new behaviors. Eventually, rewards should come fewer and farther between -- but they should not stop altogether. You wouldn't want to stop getting paid once you got better at your job, so don't forget to reward at times for a job well done!

10. Training should be fun! 11. Keep training sessions short. 3-5 minutes a few times daily is fine.

12. Focus on one behavior in each session.

13. Keep an upbeat attitude when training. Don't train when you're cranky.

14. End each training session on a successful note. Did your dog do seven good sits, with the last one being really great? End the session there.

For more information, contact:

AnimalSense Canine Training and Behavior
651 W. Washington Blvd, Suite 103
Chicago, IL 60661

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