Remote dog Training is Good

Is remote here to “Stay”

We adapted during the pandemic, and some of those adaptations turned out to be a good thing, like remote dog training.

“How is that good?” you might ask.

There are certain situations where my being in-person for an initial session would interfere with the process…

For example a dog who is afraid of strangers or aggressive with new people would not be well served by my walking into their home. In these cases, my presence only causes your dog more stress (and probably you, too).

If your dog spends the majority of an in-person session barking at me, it limits what we can do. However if we meet remotely first, I can craft management strategies and training techniques for you to begin working on so that when I do arrive in-person for the follow-up session, you and your dog will be less stressed, ready to work and I will be able to see how the process is progressing.

For all behavioral issues, the use of videos on zoom allows us to watch together as I identify and show you your dog’s body language. This is indescribably enlightening and usually very difficult to see in real life.

I can also watch how you work with your dog without my presence getting in the way.

It doesn’t matter if your dog wants to eat me or play with me, my presence changes their behavior dramatically.

Many of my clients started with a remote session and happily continued that way. Some have done a blended series of sessions, starting with remote and following up with in-person and remote as needed.

During the pandemic, separation anxiety issues floated to the top of the list of behavioral issues for a lot of households.

I have worked fully remotely with some separation anxiety clients, and some have done the blended approach which allows us to check in frequently for very short sessions that are not practical in-person.

Some of the most fun I’ve ever had with clients is remotely walking them through a skill they thought they couldn’t teach their dog. By the end, we are all cheering and laughing because it’s like playing remote twister. And the dog not knowing what just happened is still thrilled by the treats and laughter.

Some more logistical reasons remote is good:
  • As a working mother of a child with special needs, remote sessions allow me to meet with more clients, offering easier scheduling than in-person.
  • Because I don’t have to travel for remote sessions, the cost of a remote session is less than in-person.
  • No matter where you live, we can set up remote sessions. I’ve been able to work with clients from Paris, to Chicagoland, Connecticut, Texas, California, and even Australia.
  • And because there are so many pandemic dogs and families who need help, remote sessions help us all manage the larger demand.

And if you are looking for a Subject Matter Expert on kids and dogs and/or special needs kids and dogs, you may need to reach beyond local trainers. I can now offer that speciality to anyone anywhere.

What To Expect During A Dog Behavior Consultation?

I offer both Remote or In-person sessions

For either remote or in-person sessions:

You will fill out a behavioral questionnaire prior to any scheduled appointment.  

I will also need some video which usually shows me more than what I can see in person. 

If a situation is dangerous, I do not need dangerous video. I just need to see your dog in action vis-a-vis family, other dogs, etc. to the best of your ability, safely.

I work with you and your family to set goals and teach you how to implement a plan to modify and/or manage your dog’s behavior. Depending on your family’s needs.

Both Remote and In-person Sessions offer great instruction and sometimes one is more effective than the other.

There are times when a remote session is a great alternative to in-person either because of

  • Covid restrictions
  • Distance
  • Scheduling difficulties
  • Need for expediency
  • Less expensive

And often in remote sessions we can dive deeply into the videos which allows you a better understanding of your dog’s signals, needs, and triggers.

Here is a video that demonstrates how sometimes when we observe in real time, we miss a lot of signals that can help us help our dogs.

In-person sessions allow me to physically interact and demonstrate with your dog and if necessary work with you and your dog in an environment specific to your dog’s issues.

Regardless of remote or in-person sessions, I send notes to help you follow the stratagies we go over in our session.

To set up a private session or get more information, email me.

What Can A Certified Behavior Consultant Do For You?

An IAABC Certified Dog Behavior Consultant – CDBC

is a uniquely qualified clinician with expertise in evaluating, managing and modifying a wide range of challenging canine behaviors. They build and strengthen relationships between the human and canine members of a household by minimizing stress in training and creating an atmosphere where all members of the household learn positive training techniques.

“If you want me to drop these scissors, maybe you should call a specialist.”

Dog Behavior Consultants emphasize preventing behavior problems and when issues already exist, working protocols in the LIMA principal (Least Invasive, Minimally Aversive) to fix and/or manage behavioral obstacles getting in the way of a happy human-dog household.

Find more information on private training here.

Or if you are interested in pursuing private training, please contact us.

The Anxious Greyhound, or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Leash

Leash anxiety can be a common behavioral problem in dogs. Here are some great positive reinforcement tips on how to overcome it.

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Ask Professor Boo is our recurring, positive reinforcement dog training and behavior question and answer column. If you have a question that you would like to ask Professor Boo, please feel free to contact him.

Question: We have two Italian Greyhounds, a seven year old male and a four year old female. The female has not allowed us to leash or harness her since she was about six months old. She is extremely nervous and skittish and generally difficult to deal with. She can run in circles for hours. As you can imagine, getting her to the vet or anywhere in general is a nightmare. Have you ever heard of this, and can this be corrected? We have had no problems like this with the older dog. Thanks.
Answer: While it might seem as if you’ve got one single issue with your younger greyhound, from what you’re saying it seems as if there are smaller, individual problems that are snowballing together.

On the one hand, she seems as if she’s leash-phobic, which isn’t entirely uncommon, and on the other she seems to be exhibiting the signs of a more general type of anxiety.

Let’s address the leash sensitivity first since it presents a pressing safety concern for her.

Almost no dog is born liking their leash. It’s something they eventually learn to love, tolerate, or even hate depending on the rewards associated with them putting it on.  Going for walks, play, and general fun will make the leash much more attractive for a dog who likes those things.

Stepping back for a moment and putting it in human terms, in many ways on a behavioral level a leash to a dog is the same as a tie is for a man.

No man, young or old, likes wearing a tie the first couple times, but if they’re consistently told they look handsome in it – or if they get paid a million dollars to wear it – they’re going to learn to really like it.

Alternatively, if someone has to wear a tie to a job that they only kind of like but they get paid pretty well to do it, then they’ll tolerate the tie but – more often than not – will look forward to pulling it off the second they’re out of the office.

Finally, if the only time someone wears a tie is to go to funerals then the powerful negative associations they’ve made to the tie will essentially guarantee they’ll hate every second of wearing one.

Bringing it back to your anxious greyhound, for whatever reason she’s put herself in the “funeral” associative camp and your job is to get her from there to tolerating and then loving her leashes or harnesses.

Here’s my advice for how to deal with the leash issue:
  • Since her anxiety levels likely spike if she even sees the leash or harness, in the very beginning just bring it out so she can see it and give her jackpot handfuls of her favorite dog treats (or a tidbit of something super-yummy like cheese, hotdogs, etc.).
  • Do this once or twice a day for the first couple days to allow her to begin to associate the presence of the leash or harness with something really, really good.
    • Please remember that if you are using the jackpot method, you will need to cut down on her regular meals – she does not need extra weight.
  • When she begins to display excitement as you bring the leash out – even if it’s just excitement for the treats – bring the leash or harness over to her, put it on the ground next to her, and give her the same jackpots or cheesy tidbits as before.
  • At this point we’re trying to build comfort with proximity to the leash or harness and repeat this process once or twice a day for a couple of days.
  • Now that she’s displaying excitement with having the leash next to her on the ground, hold the leash in one hand while feeding her the jackpot or other yummy goodies with the other.
    • Like before, this is about building comfort with both proximity and having the leash or harness near her head and face so you’ll want to do this for a couple days as well.
  • Finally it’s time to move on to putting the leash on her collar or harness on her body – and like before it’s going to be jackpots or other super-yummy snacks while you clip her up and walk her around wearing the leash.
    • Like the man in the example above learning to love his tie because he gets paid a million dollars to do it, your jackpots are her million dollars.

Once you’ve gotten to the point where she’s happy to wear her leash or harness, you are going to go very slowly as she builds up her confidence while she’s wearing it.

Dogs feel at a disadvantage when they’re leashed so you must be very careful so you do not undo all the work you’ve done.

(As an aside, I’ve written before on the topic of how best to handle leashes – Leashes, The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly and Mad About Leashes, or How to Manage Leash Aggression.)

My advice for the anxiety is…

Check with your veterinarian to be sure that she is healthy and find a Certified Dog Behavior Consultant who has experience with anxiety in dogs. That person will need to help you set up a protocol for desensitizing and counterconditioning your dog so you can change how she feels about the the scary things in her life.

There are a number of over-the-counter approaches that are worth exploring:
  • D.A.P. – Dog Appeasing Pheromone – is something that I’ve used with both my private and shelter clients. I’ve seen encouraging anecdotal evidence that suggests it does help the dog to reduce their anxiety levels. D.A.P. is nice because it comes in a wide variety of forms from house diffusers to collars to pocket-sized sprays, and I’ve noted no negative side effects from its use.  (I’ve written about D.A.P. A Little DAP’ll Do Ya, which you might find useful to read.)
  • Thundershirts – like D.A.P., the Thundershirt is something used to address dog anxiety.  Essentially, the Thundershirt is a body wrap that cinches snugly around the dog and functions in very much the same way that similar deep touch pressure calms patients with autism or ADHD. In short, the pressure exerted on the body causes the wearer to relax.  Some dogs to not take to the Thundershirt if they are not the kind of dog happy wearing ‘clothes.”
  • ProQuiet help the dog produce more serotonin and is very useful for moderate anxiety re: car rides, some thunder or firework issues, mild stranger anxiety, etc. It is great for right-before an anxiety producing situation.
  • Rescue Remedy is for very mild anxiety situations, but it is worth a try to see if it supports your work.

Ideally you will need to address both the leash sensitivity and anxiety in parallel because the confidence she builds from the leash training might lessen the anxiety while the lessened anxiety from the over-the-counter approaches might allow her to better focus on the training.

All of this will take time and patience on your part, but desensitization and counterconditioning through positive reinforcement does – and can – work wonders.

And don’t forget while you are working on these items please seek out professional help to assist you with the root cause of your greyhound’s anxiety.

Good luck and let us know how it goes! Stay positive!

Things Your Dog Will Love: MannersMinder

The MannersMinder is a wonderful positive reinforcement tool that allows us to reward good dog behavior at a distance but is a bit pricey.

Do these scenarios sound at all familiar:
  • There’s a knock on your door and it’s a race between you and your dog to see who can get there first?
  • Is the first thing company hears when they come for a visit the sound of barking and you on the other side of the door trying to get your dog to sit quietly?
  • How often do your guests have to greet your dogs before they can say hi to you?

These are all incredibly common behaviors in dogs and ones that I’m consulted on frequently, but they can also be extremely difficult for owners with less-than-stellar compliance to deal with because the things in play – a knock at the door, the commotion of guests coming, and the possibility of someone new entering the house – all can combine to push a dog’s buttons for good or bad.

Luckily, there’s a great tool out there for situations just like this that I’ve been using since it came out: the MannersMinder.

In short, the MannersMinder is way to dispense treats remotely for times when you just physically can’t give them to the dog or when you want to redirect the dog into a different location.

At its heart, the MannersMinder is a base unit that sits on the floor, filled with rewards, and a remote control. When the remote is clicked, the base unit makes a distinctive beeping noise and the treat is dispensed into a small tray on the side.

In addition to the manual remote control, the MannersMinder incorporates into the base unit volume control for the beeping and a good selection of automated timing controls that allow you to manually set the variable reward schedule. Similar to how it works remotely, when the automated timer goes off the base unit makes the same beeping noise and the treat comes out.

When you first start using the MannersMinder you’ll need to show your dog what it does the first time or two, but you’ll be amazed by how quickly they realize that it pays out and before long they’ll camp in front of it like seniors at a bank of slot machines.

Don’t just take my word for it, though.  Here are photos of two of my students, Boomer and Stella, demonstrating the awesome power of the variable reward schedule:

Now that you know what the MannersMinder is and what it does, why would you want it?

Let’s go back to the scenario above: someone knocking on your front door.

Rather than the mad dash to the front door to corral the dog with all the barking and jumping, when the doorbell rings just grab the MannersMinder remote, give it a click, and your dog will go running to the base unit rather then to see the company. Keep it in-hand and give it a click every now and then and your dog will be too distracted by yummy snacks that you’ll be able to greet your guests on your own terms and let them get comfortable before their furry friend comes to say hello.

Another great use for the MannersMinder is when you simply can’t physically get to your dog in order to be able to treat them for good behavior.

For example: we have very high ceilings and walls in our house and we’re frequently up on tall ladders painting.

If you’ve ever house painted you know that there’s a million different things that you don’t want your dog getting a hold of – wet mixing sticks, damp cleanup rags, paint lids, etc. – so if you’re up on a high ladder and you notice your dog going for something it shouldn’t have, how do reward them to leaving it alone when told to?

Simply click the MannersMinder remote that you’ve taken up with you.

Now this isn’t to say that the MannersMinder isn’t without a couple of areas for improvement:

  • The MannersMinder is on the pricey side. Most positive reinforcement tools are very economically priced, but this one comes in on the high side of things.
  • The MannersMinder only ships with one single remote control. If your dogs are like ours they may very well learn that it’s the remote that causes the yummy beeping, so the remote can become a valued resource they will want to get a hold of. A second one in the box would be great.
  • The batteries the MannersMinder remote control uses isn’t one of the normal type that you’re used to – AA, AAA, C, D, etc. – but is one of the kinds that you’ll need to look around for or order online. Stocking up is necessary.

Those minor quibbles aside, the MannersMinder is a great positive reinforcement tool that allows us to maintain our reward schedules without needing to be within close physical proximity to our dogs.

I find the MannersMinder to be an invaluable tool in my positive reinforcement bag of tricks and, if you choose to make the investment in one, I’m sure you will, too.