The theme for this month’s Positive Pet Training blog hop is “Calming & Impulse Control – How do you get your dog to settle down?“ Is your dog sometimes over-stimulated by fear or excitement? How do you get them to relax?
We struggle with this every day. Luke gets over-excited about a lot of things, including watching TV. If an animal shows up on TV, or even people acting obnoxiously, he barks and jumps around at the TV.
If a car goes by the house, or heaven forbid, pulls in our driveway, he is at the window barking. There are certain vehicles that set him off, including any delivery truck. He knows if they stop that someone will be coming up to the door.
We’ve been working on getting him to calm down for a while, but I’m trying to get more serious and consistent with it. I am OK if he sees someone pull in the yard and barks. Cricket often joins him in the barking, but the difference is that Cricket will stop when I tell her to. He won’t; and he’ll run back and forth window to window as long as anyone is out there. He’s fairly used to the workers we’ve had cutting trees and removing logs and brush recently. If they stay a good distance from the house he’s fine, his motivation in this situation is fear of strangers coming into the house.
This is one of the main reasons I decided to take the online Reactive Dog Management class at Fenzi Dog Sports Academy. I was hoping to learn some new tools for this situation as well as being able to have him under control if we go for walks and encounter other people.
I’ve enjoyed this class because it’s utilized a lot of the tools and tricks I had already been working on, but showed me different ways to use those tools to distract Luke from whatever is bothering him. Distraction is key to settling him down.
I’d already been working on getting Luke to go to his “bed” when he’s seen something outside that he’s reacted to. I have Cricket doing it with him as well now. Cricket won’t stay in her bed very well, but Luke will lie right down. I grab treats and reward them for staying there (or in Cricket’s case, the general vicinity).
We’re making progress but we have far to go. I am still waiting for that breakthrough, where he comes to me or goes directly to his bed after seeing someone outside. We’re not there yet, but we are to the point where I can call him to me and direct him to his bed. He will stay there most times. I have him to the point where he will stay on his bed while I walk away and go to the window to see if whoever was out there is gone. That’s even with Cricket following me much of the time!
I did realize that if I sent him to his bed at another time, he’d go running to the window because he thought someone was here. He was making that connection, so I had to start sending him to his bed at other times too, like any time I’m giving them a treat for another reason. Now if he can just make the connection I need him to!
The class has taught me some ways to continue to reinforce this “go to your bed (and stay)” command. Those include: working with Cricket while he stays in his bed, having him perform other tasks or tricks then going to his bed, and having food in my hand right in front of him, but not giving it to him until he goes to his bed. I’m starting to try this some now too when he reacts to the TV.
Luke’s focus is very strong. He can often miss something right in front of him if he’s focused on smelling something. Once I have him focused on me, most times he will not run back to the window when someone is still out there. The key we’re still working on is breaking the focus and redirecting it to me when he sees someone outside (or on the TV). Sometimes I can get him but others I can’t. It’s the same way when we work out in the yard on distracting him. Some days he’s great, some days I just can’t get him off what he’s reacting to.
I try to work on this every time there is someone outside; but there are times when I’m in the middle of something and I can’t get right to him, or I’m on the couch when one of those commercials comes on. Those are usually the times I can’t get him – I need to grab his attention before he gets overly excited; and that seems to be our biggest challenge.
We’ve had some successes lately though. One day last week one of the workers was right up to the dog fence talking to the Dadz outside. Luke was out there right at the fence barking at him. It took me a minute, but I did finally get him to come to me in the house.
When practicing the other day, I put Cricket in the bedroom for a bit. Before we finished, I put Luke in a stay on his bed, walked down the hallway (which is fairly long), opened the gate (which makes noise) to let Cricket out, and when Cricket and I walked back we found him still in his bed. The truth is I’ve never had a dog that stayed that well. I just hope we can reinforce and use that good behavior in all of the ways we need to.
We are pleased to be co-hosting the Positive Pet Training blog hop with Tenacious Little Terrier and Travels with Barley. Please join us in this hop by posting your positive pet training stories, the hop remains open through Sunday. You may share any positive pet training story, whether it’s on our theme or not! Please enjoy the posts below as well.
2 Brown Dawgs says
It sounds like Luke’s training is really completely no along.
Dolly the Doxie says
You are such a good dog mom. Reading this is why mom is glad that we can’t see out the windows. But what’s worse when I hear noises outside or at the front door I go barking crazy, sometimes scaring mom half to death. Not only that I’ll get the woofs where I lay in my bed and just woof under my breath for awhile. Mom just yells at me. Love Dolly
Thank you, Dolly. That’s a good point about not being able to see out the windows….Cricket can’t, so I think that keeps her calmer at least. We get that “sudden barking out of nowhere” because of sound the humans can’t even hear, and I jump about a mile every time! Cricket does that under the breath woofing thing too! 🙂
Monika & Sam says
Sometimes that enthusiasm is welcome, but mostly it would be nice to contain it. My trainer was a big proponent on the down-stay. Hard for a dog to be crazed when they are laying down. ‘Course when the mail lady drops the mail, all bets are off. ???? *Sigh* Back to the drawing board!
What is it with the mail lady, anyway? You’d think they’d get used to her, and appreciate the fact that she always just drops the mail and leaves! 🙂
Monika & Sam says
We love our mail lady; she stops and pets all the many dogs and their owners throughout her route. Once the door opens and she hands me the mail, both dogs can’t enough of her but behind the glass door, they think she’s a serial killer. Too funny. Sam’s tails goes into hyper drive when he realizes who it is. ????
Bren Pace | Pibbles & Me says
Oh my gosh, your Luke sounds like my Zue when there are dogs, cats, or other things outside. She’ll run window to window barking which sometimes entails a collision or two with Titan, which can turn reactive and ugly. Titan will listen but Zue is still learning that her actions are not acceptable. I might try your technique of trying to put her in her “safe” spot.
Good luck with Luke! Sounds like you’re on the right path! 😉
Thank you, Bren! Yes, we get the same thing around here with Luke getting too wound up and then directing it towards Cricket. That’s another reason we want to work to get it under control.
As soon as I go towards the kitchen where the treats are, Cricket always follows me anyway, so at least that gets her out of his way! 🙂
It sounds as though you’re making great progress! It’s always too easy to focus on the bits that don’t go right and lose sight of the big picture. You’re winning more of the time and that’s what counts.
Thank you, Clowie, that is a very good point. We need to focus more on the successes and the fact that we’re at least moving in the right direction. ♥
Tenacious Little Terrier says
I’m hoping to work our way up to when there’s someone at the door, he will run to his mat. Still working on it but I did manage to call him away from the door when there was a delivery person so that’s progress!
That is definitely great progress! Every step forward is worth celebrating!
Callie, Shadow, and Ducky's Mom says
Sounds like all the work is paying off, my friend! I tend to get frustrated, too, when things aren’t going well. Especially when Ducky “goes after” Shadow like she did last week.
I’m thinking about the “Luke vs the TV” issue. Is there a way you can block his view of the screen? Perhaps if he can’t see what’s building up, he won’t react to it as quickly thereby giving you a better chance to avert his attention back to you before he escalates. Just something to think about.
Callie used to react to animals – especially other dogs – on the TV, too. But with her I think it was more curiosity. Except when Dog Whisperer was on…then she would try to help Cesar and Daddy calm the client’s dog. Silly girl. 🙂 Meanwhile, Shadow snoozed right through it all. And as soon as the show was over, or the animals were out of the picture, she was back to her fairly mellow self.
It is definitely frustrating when you’ve moved forward, only to go back again. I guess all we can do is just keep plugging away at it.
Our whole living/dining/kitchen area is open concept and we have a big TV on the wall so it’s hard to keep Luke from seeing it. Especially when his favorite place to lie is on the couch right in front of the TV. What we try to do remember to do now is keep the remote right next to us so we can grab it as soon as he starts to react to something.
He really watches TV, it’s crazy! Our Lab mix Maggie used to watch it too, but she didn’t react quite as strongly as Luke does. All the dogs used to bark when a doorbell went off on TV though, which seems odd to me since we never had a doorbell. And Luke is so smart if we even say the word “hello”, he thinks someone is here!
It certainly sounds encouraging, especially how Luke has become so good at staying. Thanks for putting in the hard work — and having the love and patience — to help Luke be an even more awesome dog! 🙂
Thank YOU for the encouragement!
Sand spring Chesapeake says
Sounds like your doing a great job. I enjoyed reading about crickets help in this training.
Cricket is so hard to train herself, I guess she’s just a bit more suited to being my “assistant”!
It sounds as if you’re making some real progress. It is so hard to anticipate something that will make a dog react. But, it sounds as if you’re getting the foundation in place for things to eventually come together.
We live rurally so I actually don’t mind if my dogs go nutso when someone comes down our driveway. I’d prefer that they are somewhat protective (or at least sound that way) because we’re isolated.
I know exactly what you mean. We are not as remote as you, but we are a little isolated with no other houses in sight from ours. I like that protective factor with the dogs too. So I’m trying to find the balance of calming Luke down, but I still want strangers to know he is here! (I just want him to accept the people I need him to though!)
Sounds like Luke is making great progress with this training! I know the struggle of timing well–if I can get Barley’s attention before the dogs next door do, I can keep her with me on the porch or get her back inside–but if they get her attention first, there is no getting her away from the fence without taking her collar and physically turning her away from them. I’ve also been struggling to get Rye’s attention before other dogs get her attention on walks. With Barley if she’s too focused on something on a walk, I stick a treat in front of her nose and turn her head back towards me and she’s back to focused on me. Rye doesn’t even notice the treats if I don’t get her attention quickly enough!
Luke is the same as Rye. Once I’ve lost him – he’s gone, even as much as he loves treats. I think some of my frustration is what do you do to get their attention once you’ve lost them – within positive training methods? I’m afraid I do sometimes raise my voice with Luke, because sometimes that’s the ONLY way I can get his attention (it doesn’t seem to upset him, but I still don’t like doing it).
Groovy Goldendoodles says
Jaxson is reactive but easy to control. Harley has taken to barking at other dogs lately, so I need to work on him looking at me when we’re out and about at the park. I think I will start with treat reinforcement. Very well written post my friend.
Thank you, Cathy. I think you have the right idea with Harley. Luke is so stuck on treats when we’re walking, that all I have to do is put my hand in my pocket and he’ll come look at me! (I do need to rustle the bag sometimes to get his attention too though). Jaxson and Cricket sound similar. Cricket is reactive too, but so much easier to get back to calm than Luke is.
The Island Cats says
What a struggle. We think consistency in training is key.
You are so right. And that’s where the Momz might need the most work! 🙂
Mrs Lorna J Griffith says
Luke and Cricket are doing really well! I am super impressed with Luke’s stay. I enjoy these posts as I do many of the things you do with Tu-Lei and enjoy learning new things. She does not have an off button. We have a piece of vet bed in different rooms for our stay.
Thank you, Lorna! I’m so glad you enjoy and can relate to our posts. I need to start working with Luke in other rooms too, and that might also help to reinforce it.
M. K. Clinton says
We have been working with Pierre to get on the couch during squirrel:thirty each day. It is so hard for his little Terrier butt to stay calm when the squirrels are taunting him! LOL!
Squirrels are even more challenging than delivery drivers and mailmen! 🙂
Wow, sounds like you and Luke are doing great!
I first learned the power of “go to bed” when our trainer suggested I train our fearful foster pup, Cherie, to go to bed on a towel. The great thing about the towel was that I could fling it over my shoulders and take it on a walk.
On the walk, when I spotted something that would frighten her (like that trash truck five blocks away), I’d put the towel on the ground and tell her to go to bed. We gradually decreased the distance between the scary object and us getting as close as two blocks away from that trash truck!
Thank you, Pamela! I appreciate your words and encouragement, because the times I can’t get Luke to listen, I get frustrated and feel like we’re getting nowhere.
That towel idea is great. Our class has taught us some other techniques when walking, but that might work well too. We’re just waiting for our weather to improve so we can start working on things outside!
Brian Frum says
The stay part was darn good! We used to have lots of calm around our place!
Two French Bulldogs says
If I hear something I will scream and that’s that
Lily (& Edward)
That’s all that’s needed, right? Just send out the warning and let the humans deal with it from there. 🙂
Around here, our problem is usually trying to get excited. We are all real mellow and a lot of our sports instructors have told mom to try to get us more “unrelaxed”. About the only time we go wild is on walks when we see a rabbit or squirrel. Mom is happy she has calm pups, but a bit more excitement would be nice too. Glad your training is working pretty well with Luke and Cricket. Mom has never had a dog who needed to be calmed down, and she can’t imagine what that would be like.
This made me chuckle a little bit – talk about total opposites! I think Kobi was our only dog that was really like you girls – totally mellow and calm (other than the same exceptions as you).
Whenever we get our next dog, I will definitely have to consider your breed – I’m sure I’ll be ready for a calm dog by then!