MUR Adoptables – Fia “Leave It”

Hello again!

Last week I talked about Manitoba Underdogs’ Adoptable, Fia. In addition to her separation anxiety, Fia was also having issues of counter surfing and garbage can diving. These are common behaviors found in any dog.

Leave it

The first step in fixing this behavior was for Fia’s foster mom to take away all of the temptations. Move the garbage outside, closed off in a cupboard, or under the sink, and keep the counter and sink clear of all food, wrappers, and dirty dishes. Anytime she gets to eat garbage, or something off of the counter she is self rewarding and reinforcing the behavior.

To change this habit, we are going to use the “leave it” technique. Once your dog has mastered “leave it” with food and objects inside the house, you can start applying it on a larger scale outside with other dogs, critters, people, or even when barking at something out the window or fence. “Leave it” is also handy for health reasons, choking and disease, when you see your dog eyeing that dead bird on the side of the road, or a bone that fell out of the garbage.

Remember to set your dog up for success; work in an area where your dog will be completely focused on you. If you own other dogs, you will want to keep them in a separate room or space where they can’t distract from your training. Begin without using the term “leave it” at all, once the dog starts to automatically do the behavior you will add in the verbal cue. You never want to use the word more than once, because then the dog won’t understand it, or learn that they do not have to listen to it the first time, they know it will come again.

Teaching Your Dog “Leave It”

  1. Start with some treats. Put a treat in a closed fist, once the dog stops sniffing and trying to get the treat out, use your verbal marker, “YES” and reward FROM YOUR OTHER HAND. You will never be giving your dog the “leave it” treat. If you are using a clicker, once they stop sniffing and licking, click and treat. Remember to do this as soon as they, even for a second, back off.
  2. Once the dog is consistently leaving the treat alone, start to add the verbal cue “leave it”
  3. Once the dog understands the term “leave it”, you can up the criteria using an open hand
  4. Does your dog have that down pat? Now move onto putting food or toys on the floor, “leave it” and then releasing them with the command “OK” or “Break” or whatever you choose to use to release them.

If you are feeding your dog off of the counter while cooking dinner, or off of your plate while eating, it is making your dog to think that there are treats for him on there, therefore causing him to beg or counter surf. Giving your dog treats from your dinner is OK as long as you wait until you are done eating, and give it to them in their dish or away from the eating situation. Remember that your dog is always learning and you are always training!

Fia has found her “Furever” home but if you are interested in adopting check out the other dogs available at Manitoba Underdogs Rescue!

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Have a dog who counter surfs? What did you do change the behavior? Let me know in the comments below!

Clicker Training!

Hey there!

So, I’ve just started experimenting with the clicker. I am doing some behavior shaping with Kali and Nanu and thought I would try it out. So far they seem to be really responding to it!

Clicker training is a method used to mark a desired behavior, an alternative to a verbal marker like “YES.” Many trainers use the clicker, especially if teaching a dog agility exercises or other activities that require a quick response. It has been said that because the clicker is a quicker sound than a verbal cue, that it is more effective when training. I believe that this is true, however I also think a verbal cue is just fine when teaching the most basic commands such as sit and down.

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The first step to clicker training is to amp up the clicker! You want your dog to know that sound and know that as soon as he hears it, he gets a reward. For the first few days you will focus on getting him to know the sound and respond to it immediately.

Introduction to Clicker Exercise

  1. Start off in an area where your dog will be completely focused on you and the treats, I use a high value treat for this exercise, whatever is your dog’s favorite.
  2. You will do this 3 times in a row with a small break between each session. Get 20ish pieces of food in your hand, and within about half a second (this needs to happen fast) click and treat, between each click and treat leave about one second.
  3. Do that until the pieces of food are done, wait a minute or two and start again!
  4. Take a longer break after the 3 sessions are finished, a couple hours, and do it again!

I would do this 2-3 times per day for about 3 days or whenever you see a consistent response from your dog. Remember only to click for the exact behavior you want and right after it happens or else your dog will become confused and not totally understand what you are asking. If you miss a click, don’t try to make it up a bit late, just start again.

You can also get a few clickers, they are fairly inexpensive, and put them all over the house. Then whenever your dog offers you a good behavior you can click and treat!

Clicker

Once this step is complete, you are ready to start training behaviors with the clicker! Make sure to click as soon as your dog does the desired behavior and treat. As time goes on you can start leaving a longer break between clicking and treating and then eventually take the treats away altogether!

Remember that whenever you are doing a lot of training and treating with your dog, you need to adjust his food level, you do not want your dog gaining any extra weight! My dog’s favorite treats are hot dogs and cheese, which I like to limit in their diet. I put their regular everyday kibble in a ziploc, cut up the (low fat) cheese and hot dogs, mix it in and keep it in the fridge. That way, the flavors of the cheese and hotdogs mixes into their kibble so it is like a special treat when really it is just their everyday food.

Interested in learning more? Karen Pryor is an author and clicker expert, you can find her books on the subject in your local bookstore or online!

Have any questions? Do you use a clicker? Are you a fan or not? Let me know in the comments below!