A Fall Confidence Booster For Dogs
Well… the sun has finally broken through our Seattle rainclouds this morning.
And unless I like raking up Maple leaves in the rain, I needed to get my trusty leave blower and get to making some piles… because sunshine doesn’t last long this time of year where I live.
But I brought something with me that not many people raking up leaves bring with them, a puppy and lots of cheese bits.
Let me explain…
You see, one of the things I’m reminded of with having a new puppy around the house is the LACK of effort people put into building their dogs confidence.
And because I want Ginger to be super confident around loud strange things, I like to expose them to her all the time.
But there’s a trick to it.
The trick to getting a dog to handle intense stimulus to to expose the dog to the loud noise while it is having fun. That’s where the cheese comes in handy. I toss the dog a piece of cheese 15 yards away, and as she goes to eat it, I fire up the leaf blower. And I do this several times until she seems comfortable.
It only took a few minutes, and it wasn’t a big deal. But I see so many dogs scared of loud things like vacuum cleaners that I want to condition my dog to like loud things early in her life.
Then I Upped The Noise… And The Reward
Do you see what I’ve done in this picture?
For starters, I’ve decided to wow all of you with how sexy I look in those Muck boots 😉
Secondly, I’ve added two children. Now I don’t know about your dog around kids, but for mine, children are just big squeaky toys to Ginger… and squeaky toys are to be chewed on.
That’s why you see Ginger’s ‘coon toy’.
If Ginger did not have her coon toy, guess what she would be chewing on? That’s right, my children’s pant legs.
So I’ve trained my children to always bring the Coon when they play with Ginger so that if she starts to chew on their pant legs the shake the Coon in front of her face and she’ll chew that instead.
This is called a Replacement behavior and if you aren’t familiar with this strategy I have dozens and dozens of ways to use this strategy inside my Hands Off Dog Training program.
You can use replacement behaviors for lots of things like nipping, chewing furniture, not begging for food and lots more. If you aren’t currently using replacement behaviors as an everyday way of interacting with your dog, your dog is either already perfect, or will never be… they are a required tool for good behavior that you need in your toolkit.
Do You Notice Anything Else?
Ginger is not directly next to me as I blow the leaf blower.
I did not want to be too intense for her. I wanted her to have fun AWAY from the leaf blower while it was going full blast before she got up close.
If I had pushed her to quickly you could create an issue where they want to get aggressive towards the leaf blower and bite at it. I did not want that to happen, so I’m working her in slowly.
Then I added Even More Play
As I continued blowing the leaves into a big pile I noticed Ginger having a blast chasing the leaves as they flew and then diving into the pile.
At this point I had conditioned Ginger to think that this whole leaf blowing thing was wonderfully fun.
And we’d gotten a noise conditioning training session in to boot.
My kids had fun, the dog got stimulation and we built her confidence.
Many people would have just locked their puppies in the house at the first sign of them biting their kids legs, but not me, and hopefully not you anymore.
Combining this type of emotional conditioning to tolerate noises, along with replacement behavior that was MORE exciting then chewing on my children ie. chewing on her coon & leaves. We were able to have her out in the yard with us.
So many dog owners keep their dogs from experiencing stimulating activities like this because they don’t know how to manage all of the behaviors and challenges that come up. Hopefully now this has given you an idea on how to do add more stimulation to your dogs life.
I would aim to set up a situation for your dog every day where you expose something potentially scary to him while also wonderful at the same time.
Food and noise work wonderfully; and are a great place to start.
Lots of things make noises. I already mentioned a leaf blower but gun shots are another great thing to condition dogs to, especially if you ever want to hunt with them.
Ginger’s breeder intentionally was dropping pans on his garage floor at 4 and 5 weeks of age while the pups ate with their mamma (one of the most secure emotions a pup could have).
And don’t forget to think bout other intense things like moving cars, bicycles and farm animals.
One mistake I made with my Late Golden retriever Bauer was never conditioning him to Horses. I never even thought of it until he came on one one day and flipped out.
We do our dogs a disservice when we don’t condition them to accept things outside their current real of understanding.
So today work on expanding your dogs horizons, and try this method for making your dog even a little more brave.
Then come back here and leave me a comment, I’d love to hear your success stories on how this worked for you, or challenges you had implementing this idea.
And please, if you’re feeling lost, and wishing you just had a step-by-step plan to follow please consider looking into my Hands Off Dog Training program, I think it’ll take a lot of the guesswork out of training your dog for you.
Final, Final Thought
Many of my subscribers have been asking for more videos of Ginger, and I wanted to let you know that I’ve been holding off, because my film crew guys have been busy with another project and are arriving at my house to film lots of Ginger footage on the 4th of November.
So I’m holding off until then… but the good news is I will have some really good stuff to share with you, shot by a professional videographer.