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Leash manners, food theft, and the boogeyman.

March 1st, 2007, 11:30 AM
I have 3 seperate problems, if someone can offer advice to one or all.

(Little information to help:)

* My household is a very quiet one. There's not much going on, and so at home, he's on his best behavior.

* He comes to work with me (holistic pet food store / rescues / etc). Excellent behavior at work, but he will bark with excitement (sometimes) if someone he knows comes in with their dog. Barking at work is bad.

* For 10 days, I am staying at a friends house, taking care of her 3 young children while the parents are on vacation. This means toys everywhere, food/snacks left on coffee tables, typical little people messes (lots of things for him to get into!). He was never a problem here, until just a few days ago. I babysit these kids several times a month and he's been coming here since he was about 3 months old, so he knows the rules (and is usually really great), but since we've been sleeping here, it's all gone out the window. He's 14 months now, so the teenage years are no doubt showing their ugly heads.

1. He plays with the leash. He doesn't tug... he jumps to catch it, shakes it, let's go and does it again. This is a problem I've had since he was first introduced to the leash, and although I can stop it within the first few minutes of attaching the leash, every day, I have to make the same corrections.

2. He never EVER used to steal food here, but over the last few days, I've had to watch him constantly to prevent it from happening. If he knows I'm watching, he won't steal. But if I'm distracted (ie. dealing with the kids), he'll often put his paws on the table (something he's NEVER done), and sniff (he doesn't always steal it). Since this problem just started, I'm not too sure how to deal with it. Is this just a matter of setting him up and retraining? There's a reason he's doing it now (and not before), but I'm not too sure what is it (though I know the kids are part of the problem).

3. That boogeyman has GOT TO GO. Occasionally at home, he'll hear something and growl (alert mode), which is sometimes followed by a howl. It's rare, and I can control it. Here, he sees a shadow in the window (sometimes even his own reflection, or the reflection of the tv), and he'll start the growling. This quickly escellates into barking and howling, especially if someone walks by (or a car, maybe). I THINK it's a protective thing, but I'm not sure... he's GREAT with the kids (doesn't jump, listens to them when they say sit, etc), and the kids are great with him. They know the rules, but they sometimes do or say something wrong (that confuses him) so I have to explain to them what they did wrong, and why they need to do it differently.

So obviously, being in this house (that's not home), with these kids, something has gotten mixed up and I need help in trying to figure out what, so I can stop these behaviors from happening. We went back to my house yesterday to get a change of clothes, and as soon as he ran up the stairs, he started the barking/howling, and his ears went RIGHT back. There was some construction outside so I'm sure he was just afraid of that, but it really surprised me how he reacted... we were at home, and he's heard these noises before. I immediately calmly (no words) walked over to him and sort of nudged him with my leg, then walked away. He barked again, I did it again, and then he was fine. He followed me around the house and within 30 seconds, he was running around playing (glad to be home). But this boogeyman chicken thing has got to stop... Maybe it's the age?

Help? lol :confused:

Can someone shed some light?

March 1st, 2007, 12:15 PM
honestly, I'd wait until you're done babysitting, and back home, in your regular daily routine. no doubt the babysitting change has disrupted things.

but to try to help....

1. put him in a sit/WAIT. attach leash and start walking briskly right away. do not give him the opportunity to get hold of the leash. if he does, firmly snatch it out of his mouth. you could also try spraying the leash w/ something like bitter apple.

2. LEAVE IT needs to be re-learned. I would re-train leave it and be vigilant about not leaving food in his reach for now. I would also try to designate a spot - i.e. when I eat dinner (at the coffee table in the livingroom), I tell my dog "on your blanket". this means he is to lay on his spot and not get up until released... which I do when I am DONE eating.

3. I think having a spot for the dog helps here too - if the dog is up and barking at every little thing, get the dog's attention (watch me), and ask for a down/stay on the spot (mat, towel, blanket, dog bed, crate... etc.) You could also teach QUIET.

March 1st, 2007, 01:30 PM
Thanks for your reply. In response (I won't bother quoting since you're the only reply so far)...

1: When he was little, I used to get SO frustrated at the leash playing that I would yank it out of his mouth (gently but sternly) and put him into a sit (and wait). My rule is if something doesn't work within a few corrections (a few corrections a day for a few days to a week), it's not going to work. While this worked for the moment, the next time I put the leash on him, he would start again. As a puppy, I was afraid of ripping those little teeth out (the loose ones, of course... I wasn't yanking that hard!), and since I HATED the yank, and it wasn't working anyway, I stopped. My new technique is when he goes to grab it, I block him with my leg and wait until he's focussed on me. If he's really persistant, I will move my position so I'm standing in front of him to give him "the look". This works every time, but again, the next time I put the leash on, the process repeats. I need a technique that will work permanantly. I've tried several (even bitter apple), and he really, REALLY seems to want to play with the leash. The kids of course don't know how to stop it, so handing them the leash (they used to take him out to pee all the time) has to stop until he learns to knock it off.

2. He's great with "Leave it" with food, in any environment, except outdoors. I've set food down and left for several minutes at a time at home, and he will leave the food alone. Leave it with anything that's NOT food however (toy, leaf, pile of something unknown), has been a problem. "Leave it" outside, is also an issue (too many interesting things to sniff). He doesn't get into trouble, but he doesn't listen when I say leave it either (he'll continue to sniff). We're working on it, but something has gotten severely disrupted here over the last few days, so I need a little help in retraining this one. We're working on it.

3. He doesn't bark a lot, but when he does get started, he really goes at it. I've tried teaching both "speak" and "quiet", with no success. This is MY problem, because as soon as the barking starts, my immediate reaction is to yell "HEY!" (to startle him for his attention) before asking him to be quiet. It takes a very conscious effort on my part to not join in on the barking (my bad!) and quietly walk over to tell him to be quiet. When I do this, he stops barking IMMEDIATELY. It's when I'm out of the room, that it's a problem. He'll walk over to the window (usually the front door) and I don't get there quickly enough. He's alerting me to something, so when he sees me coming, his job is done. I've tried sitting beside him (or in front of him) and watching out the window with him (so he sees that I don't feel the need to be alarmed), and this helps GREATLY... but if I'm not there, he'll alert me until I come. I need to stop the barking before it starts (not stop it after it starts). When he sees me, he will automatically back off, sit, and be quiet.

There's definitely something going on here with the kids (disruption), but at 14months, he should know that the same behaviors won't be tollerated anywhere. And he's been really great here since he was 3 months old, so this is all new behavior. He's older (14 months), the kids are older (4, 7, and 11), and we've been here for almost a week.

We were almost attacked by a neighbors dog a couple months ago (rottie/cross) that broke through the fence. I handled it instinctively (blocked the kids and my dog with my body and firmly told the dog to go back home - stood my ground, didn't show fear, etc), but I'm sure that also has something to do with it (he's alerting me to possible danger). The dog is behind a fence that's blocked by a hedge so I can't see it, but I can still hear it bark when we're getting in the car. It doesn't scare me, so I'm always aware to remain calm so my dog doesn't think he has to protect us, but I know this might be a contributing factor.

March 2nd, 2007, 12:39 PM
1. I know you don't like to rely on tricks or tools...But since this seems to have become a habit (and you want to stop him from self-rewarding), I would try using a chain leash with a nylon handle. Another option may be to have your dog hold something, like a toy so he cannot be playing with the leash.
If Dodger was doing that I'd be using a clicker:p but it can be done without it... My goal would be to make his leash a BORING object - so I'd carry it around and show it to him all day when I have no intention of taking him for a walk. Any attempts to mouth the leash would be discouraged by putting him in a sit or down or even by me turning my back on him and getting the leash out of his sight until he was calm.
When its time for a walk, I'd want him in a sit-stay before even attempting to get his leash on. I know I wouldn't get perfection right away but I wouldn't be walking out that door until he gave me at least a moment of calm - I'd reward it and then go for a walk (each time increasing how long I expect him to remain calm).
I'd also break my "getting ready for a walk routine" - so if I usually leave by the front door, I'd get Dodger leashed up in the bedroom for instance and then go out the garage... I'd want to break the whole pattern of excitement that ultimately leads to mouthing the leash.

2. For putting paws on the table, the best thing you can do right now is keep him away - otherwise he will continue to self-reward and that is that last thing you want. You can't supervise him all the time when you have children to worry about so he needs to be removed completely until you can devote 100% attention to him in that situation.
For the "leave it" part, obviously food isn't as high value to him as other things. You need to figure out what non-food items are high value and low value... Start proofing "leave it" indoors with a low value item (other than food) and you will be on your way to making "leave it" apply to everything/anything. It might help to use another word but the 2 most important things is to have a very clear meaning of "leave it" and never make exceptions and to never let him self-reward (which is easier said than done).
Another exercise that might help is to teach a "trade" command. When you start, you always have the highest-value reward that you give to your dog when he offers you whatever he has... I did this with Dodger and it really proofed his leave it (and his retrieving LOL) - he realized that giving was much more rewarding than having... I think this is especially useful for a dog that's around children because if a child snatches a toy away, its not a huge deal because they've been conditioned to expect something better in return (and won't start guarding their things - not that I think your dog would ever do that, its just a beneficial plus to the command).

3. Barking is a tough one because its totally self-rewarding and most dogs think of it as their job! The problem is your dog doesn't realize that "quiet" needs to happen no matter how far away you are from him. While I think shouting at your dog to stop is counter-productive like you say, I also think that by having always physically enforcing a command, the dog never learns that they need to listen, regardless of how close you are to them. They learn that your touch or being close to them is the "quiet" command - which means they don't fully grasp it (they are relying on us to show them what to do). So you probably need to go back and re-train an "enough" that means, stop whatever you are doing. Of course you will have to nearby at first to enforce it but you quickly need to start training the distance (voice only) part of the command.
Will your dog come to you if you call him away from the window, instead of saying "quiet"? If not, then it may also help to work on distraction training in general - which is basically teaching the dog self-control.
Unfortunately, I think the only way to stop the barking before it starts is to get a blind/curtain:D or not allow unsupervised access to the window... You could experiment with setting him up if your friends are willing to volunteer - the problem is will he generalize that seeing a person, car or dog and not barking is the same as seeing a child, truck or bike and not barking? Probably not... I'd break out the clicker on this one too LOL Would putting him on a long-line and giving him a tug or reeling him in when he starts barking help?

I think the problems you are having right now our down to adolescents and self-control. On top of the age factor, the change in environment and routine has been confusing - I'm positive once you get back to his comfort zone, things will improve!

March 2nd, 2007, 08:15 PM
As for the walks, I should clarify. He's GREAT when we actually go for walks.(around the block, at the park, etc). It's the shorter trips, or when we get home, that's the problem. For example, I'll sometimes leash him up from the car to the front door to make the trip inside quicker. If he's not calm or tired, he'll run around to burn off some energy, and since running around is more fun then coming when called, it's just easier to use the leash. Or we're at work and he needs to pee, we'll walk offleash to the potty area (he will heal nicely the whole way there), but after he pee's he'll run back to me and since he won't heel nicely on the way back, I leash him (releasing his bladder must feel great because he always wants to play after). We just went for a walk now (our first in over a week) and he was fantastic... but as soon as we hit the driveway on the way home, the leash playing started.

I've tried offering a toy, stopping and doing the "sit/wait" until he's calm, I've even tried blocking him with my knee and changing directions so he CAN'T grab the leash. "AH-AH!" works, but doesn't stick, so it works for the one time, then needs to be corrected again the next time (and so on and so on). Since I have to constantly correct, it's obviously not working. I have not tried a chain leash (because I don't need it on regular walks... only in areas on high excitement). Make sense?

For the food respect, it definitely has something to do with "easy access" here with the kids. I thought about this quite hard last night and decided to retrain him the way I did when he was 2 months old. So far so good. We also did some "AH-AH!" retraining with the clicker (instead of saying "leave it", I'd make the sound) and it's worked MIRACLES for the paws on the table problem (which he seems to only do when the table is empty -oddly). I've decided to simply not allow him anywhere near the table (period!), and keep food out of reach when I'm out of the room. So far he's only stolen one food item, but it's the "looking to see what he can steal" that's bothersome. Hopefully, with some persistance and consistancy, I can put a stop to it completely.

I would like some tips on re-training "leave it" though, if you have any. Like I said, he knows the command well with food (which seems to be his "high reward" item), but he's always been rewarded WITH food. And since "leave it" outdoors has a completely different set of rules (can't seem to find a higher value reward), help would be appreciated.

We had a breakthrough with the barking today. I've been putting him in situations I know would set him off, and stopping it before it begins. Again I'm using the "AH-AH!" noise, and since we've been working on what that really means, I've been able to stop it before it starts. When he really seems to be focussed on whatever it is that's causing him to bark (this morning it was a strange noise outside that he couldn't identify), I stopped the barking (before it started) with the "ah ah" sound, and went to see what he was looking at... then I calmly praised him for alerting me to the boogeyman, and walked away (leaving him where he was). Much to my surprise, he let out one more grumble, and walked away from the window. He didn't just do this once though, he did it with every "boogeyman" he thought he saw. Hopefully, this'll stick.

I'm not against using a clicker for clarification (I've used it for certain behaviors I can't quite get, like in agility), so I might incoorperate that if I can figure out a way to use it for these specific problems. Even though teenagedom and disruption of schedule are no doubt a major contributing factor.

March 3rd, 2007, 01:45 PM
I just wanted to add, for the barking, if it comes back, because you're in a new environment, I would tend to rationalize the barking rather than correcting it. There are all new sights and sounds, and he has to be told that they're normal and not an invasion or intrusion. With my big doggies, it's easier.. They'll be looking out the window, and I come up directly beside them (head to head), look where they're looking and say, "There's nothing there. It's ok," and then take them away from the window with me. :shrug: Just what I do...

For the paws on the table, IMO, the only way to really get at that is to leash him in the house for a bit so you can correct him when he does it, if you can't always be there to catch him in the act. Otherwise, every time he gets something off the table, that's a reward into itself. :o

But I think Lissa's got a good thing going too.:) ;)

March 3rd, 2007, 08:02 PM
...because you're in a new environment...

But I'm not in a new envirnment. That's the problem. We're not at home, but he's known this house well since he was little. We come here several times a week, and this isn't the first time I've taken care of the kids while the parents are out of town. This house is sort of like his second home, and he knows the rules here (speaking of the stealing), and there's no reason whatsoever why he would be afraid (barking) or feel the need to alert me to possible danger... which tells me it has something to do with the dog next door (the one who tried twice to attack us).

We have made HUGE progress with the barking though. Everytime he started the growling (which always turned into a long drawn out howling type bark), and he did start a lot, I was right on top of it and made a conscious effort to go over and see what he was about to bark at (and not once did I ask him to be quiet). So far today, he's made several quiet growls (at different times), but he seems to stop himself there. He looks at me, I say "Good boy. There's nothing there... quiet now", and he'll stop.

The food theft is a nightmare with the kids. They're used to helping themselves to juice or snacks (usually fruit or veggies), and since kids will be kids, trying to get them to remember to keep it out of reach is a nightmare. They take a bite, put it down, walk away, come back, take another bite, walk away, etc. Today he decided a glass of milk was worth stealing, but we did have a breakthrough with a chicken nugget he stole. The kids put their dishes away, but there was half of one nugget on the table. The dog went over, sniffed it, ignored my leave it command, but when he took it and I made my "AH AH!" noise (I did it much louder than usual), he froze. He held the nugget in his mouth (didn't chew) but refused to drop it. However, when I put my hand under his mouth (with the other one ready to pry it out of his mouth the second he tried to chew or swallow), he actually dropped it in my hand! The milk incident came after... if I catch him in the act, he'll stop immediately. But it's preventing it from happening in the first place that's the challenge. Funny thing though. If food is left on the COFFEE table (much lower), he'll hesitate to steal it. But if it's on the table, or falls on the floor, he's quite quick (and sneaky) about it.

(Back to the chicken nugget) Needless to say, he got a huge physical/verbal praise for giving it up willingly, followed by a trip to the fridge for some various cup up veggies, and a small meatball (lol). I'm not sure if that was the right thing to do or not, but since he actually gave up food, you're damn right I was going to reward that with a bunch of other foods (not the one he dropped, of course). There's hope yet!!! :fingerscr

March 3rd, 2007, 09:57 PM
Oh, sorry, I thought you were staying over more than usual (i.e. overnight) and that was stirring him up... :o The doggy next door might make him insecure, that's for sure.

Good for you for catching him in the act with the nugget and going on a throat expedition to retrieve it. :) I hope he gets better soon. :o Adolescence... :rolleyes:

March 3rd, 2007, 10:28 PM
This is the 4th or 5th time I've stayed here for more than one night. The shortest was 4 days, this time I'm here for 13 days. Usually we're only here for about 8 hours, a couple nights per week, or the occasional overnight.

As for the throat expedition I've had to do that before, but this time he actually just let it go, and dropped it right in my hand! No taking required!! He's been a bit grabby too, but that's because the kids have been giving him treats (kibble or veggies) way more than I should be allowing (my fault). This also contributes to the counter surfing, so after a long talk with the kids tonight, they understand a little better why training is so important. So from tonight on, and until he learns manners, they're not allowed to treat him unsupervised... no matter how good they are (they always make him sit, down, kiss, shake a paw, etc, before giving him the treat, but too many leads to bad manners, I guess). We also discussed food respect, in that when there's food around (ANYWHERE), he is to remain in a down position away from the food. So long as he stays down, they can occasionally reward him with a treat so he knows that staying away from the food gets rewarded. This worked wonders with me when he was younger, so let's hope that he learns this with the kids. "Stealing food gets me punished, but if I stay away I get rewarded with food". Win.

I'm still in shock that he just held the nugget in his mouth and dropped it on command. He's never, EVER done that before (it's always "OMG, SWALLOW BEFORE SHE TAKES IT!"). Breakthrough. LOL!!

(Sorry. Broken record mode on... just can't believe it! Of course it won't last, so I'm relishing while it's still fresh. ;) )

We're still working on the leash thing... :frustrated:

March 3rd, 2007, 10:31 PM
lol congrats on the non-swallow! :highfive: :D

March 12th, 2007, 05:49 PM
I can't really add much except that it sounds like teenage experimentation combined with a new place and lots of energy. I know you say you've stayed there before, but now he's a teen and he's trying you. He's testing to see if the rules apply, if they apply where ever he goes, etc. Be patient and persistent, it sounds like you are doing all the right things.

I too have been known to look out the window, at eye level with my little dog to see where the boogey man is... :D But all the neighbours think I'm nuts anyway so it doesn't matter :crazy:

March 13th, 2007, 05:22 PM
I couldn't believe what a difference praising made regarding barking at the boogeyman. And since we've been back home, the counter surfing has stopped completely, but I know it's going to take a few more corrections at their house to eliminate it there as well. But I did set him up while we were there, so it should be easy to fix the next time. I hid so he couldn't see me, and when his nose went up (RIGHT before the paws went up), I yanked a chair out. The chair moved, he jumped back (startled) and accidentally knocked it over. Well he wouldn't go near that chair, but he'd try from the other side (smart little bastage). lol

We're still working on the leash thing. I often walk dogs with one of our walkers to help her out (she's also a trainer), and since she's never seen him do it on our walks (he's GREAT on actual walks), I had to show her at my work. I took him out for a pee, and on the way back, he went for the leash (his usual routine). When she stopped laughing (his determination is downright cute) she gave me some tips... all of which I already do, and they work every time... until the next time. LOL! I still think I need to somehow motivate him to carry something (not the leash) in his mouth, during this time. I just hate the idea of having to do this every time we walk from the bushes back to work (it's 40 feet away, for crying out loud). A stick, maybe.