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Working with the Ultimate Companion
Remember the true goals for proper socialization...
Socialization is about building confidence, optimism and calmness in your dog. The confident dog has the coping skills to handle things well. The optimistic dog can see the good in new things and not panic or worry. The calm dog stays in control, makes appropriate decisions, has good manners, and behaves well in any situation.
When you teach something new, the ideal place to do that is at home with little to no distractions. But there comes a time where you have to take the next step forward and practice elsewhere. Dogs think in pictures. So your dog has to go through the learning process of being able to do behaviors with different images. That is called Generalization.
Make sure that you take this next step with your games and cues. Practice outside, on walks, at the park in between Frisbee and ball throws. Practice during real-life situations, so your dog learns to do the behavior and understands yourexpectations. Practice during meal prep, dining, working, watching TV, going out the door, etc. The more you generalize the behavior, the better the reliability. Why do dogs have such a hard time focusing when outside? Because we allow free, self-employed behavior to happen there. That becomes the picture the dog expects. Start with the expectation of focusing on you first. Listening to you and making good behavioral choices should be first on the list. Then Premack is the gateway to the doggie stuff. You then need to "reel your dog back in" again to listen to focus on you again or your dog will learn that once self-employed it is vacation time and won't be ableto listen even when doing fun doggie stuff.
Don't inordinately seek out the distractions your dog needs to work through. You must be careful and not overload your dog's emotions or you risk sensitization instead of desensitization. Instead, work the necessary concepts outside of the situation to build coping skills. Then work through those games when you come across that distraction in your normal life. Work from greater distances. Keep it short and sweet. Leave when needed. Elevate your value so that you can "out-do" the distraction. Pay well and utilize as many things as possible that are rewarding for your dog. Know what is high-value for your dog!
Practicing and playing in simpler situations allows you to be able to stack rewards and ensure the outcomesof following a cue or playing a game are all positive. Plus, you set up your dog for success so the proper lessons are absorbed. Real-life situations aren't as easily controlled. So make practicing the norm and do it often, then take the skills out and about.
Your top priority for socialization is confidence, optimism and calmness. Indulging in excitement, only leads to more excitement. Constantly making a dog face fears, only confirms the fear. It is a tough balancing act with a tumultuous teenager. That is why sometimes it is wise to just go home or have a quiet day at home and play your games. There is no law that says you have to walk your dog everyday. Walks can sometimes be too much. Exercise is necessary, both physical and mental exercise, but that can beaccomplished in a multitude of ways.
- Observation - seeing, hearing, and smelling the world around them. Puppies who do not get adequate socialization during the critical period (by 16 weeks) tend to be fearful of unfamiliar people, dogs, sounds, or objects or new environments. Get your puppy out and about.
- Build Concepts - Play Your Games - use your Sniff It Out game and Noise Box game with different objects in different places.That is socialization at home. Play Paws On out and about to create calm and confident "conversation starters" in new and busy environments. Play your games at home and out and about to build the pertinent concepts to strengthen coping skills.
- Experience New Objects and Textures - walking on different surfaces, every day but strange human objects at home, in the neighborhood, out and about. (Sniff It Out, Paws On, and Noise Box address this at home)
- Interaction (if your puppy is comfortable with it) only if your dog can display a level of calmness first. Use appropriate games and strategies to ensure proper behavior. Keep it short and sweet to maintain lower arousal levels.
- Challenges In Moderation - Continue working on situations that need work, but take it slow! Don't shy away from distractions. Work through them as they come. But choose your challenges wisely and practice where you can control the distraction levels. Parks, playgrounds, friends, or family - you will need to work through situations that pertain to your world, now and for the foressen future. which could inlcude children, bikes, skateboards, dogs, etc. Wisely choose where you go so that you can have the space you need to work successful distances and thresholds. Provide plenty of time in between to allow your dog to effectively empty the bucket! Games at home are pivitol to success out and about.
- Punt When Needed If a situation arises that is too much or too difficult for your dog, leave. Get out of that environment and make a recovery when your dog has calmed down. There is no sense in fighting with your dog when he is over-threshold. It's just frustrating for both of you.
Your puppy will now be ready for different levels of DMT, depending on the situation. You will have a pretty good idea as to what your puppy can handle well and what is more challenging. Keep in mind your puppy's bucket. That will be a factor in how your dog handles situations and distractions. During adolescence, your dog can go through "sensitive days." Adolescent dogs experience fear days that throw them off, and you will notice that something that was easily ignored yesterday, now prompts a reaction. In cases like this, your "Treat" in DMT won't necessaily be food but also space - getting distance between your dog and the distraction.
- Level 1 - Pairing: When you notice the distraction but your dog has not. You willimmediately begin DMT to get your dogs attention before the distraction. Mark and reward calm behavior and maintain focus on you. You might need to mark and reward multiple times in a fiarly rapid succession to maintain your dog's focus on you while the distraction is present. If you feel you are losing your dogs abiity to handle the situation well, also get more distance away from the distraction until it is gone. This is the level your will choose for distractions that are difficult for your dog to ignore and for "triggers." Triggers are things that elicit a strong emotional response in your dog that then causes a behavioral response to help the dog feel better.
- Level 2 - Classic (classical conditioning): When your dog notices the distraction and you immediately begin DMT. Say your Calming Reward Marker and reward while your dog isstill in a level of calmness. When you see your dog show "alert" behaviors, that is the time to begin DMT. Influence your dog in making the correct decision to prevent a negative reaction. Teach your dog to react to you, not the distraction. By responding quickly, you will be able to reward "no reaction is a good reaction."
- Level 3 - Transitioning (shifting from classical to operant): Your dog sees a distraction and you say your Calming Reward Marker “Niiiiiice…” and that prompts your dog to look at you or turn to you. You are still taking the initiative, but your dog is no longer responding in an inappropriate way and the marker is a little reminder to disengage from the distraction and engage with you.
- Level 4 - Behavior (operant conditioning): When your dog sees a distraction, your dog automatically turns and looks at you. You are certain that your dog can handle that distraction well so you have the luxury of waiting and marking the appropriate behavior when it happens. You wait for your dog to respond with an appropriate behavior - looking at you, turning to you, or returning to you. You then mark and reward your dog for the perfect reaction; focusing on you!
- Level 5 - Mastery (no reaction is a good reaction): the distraction is no longer a distraction and your dog shows no change in behavior. Your dog can completely ignore it and stay on task or remain focused on you. You still mark and reward your dog because that was the best decision ever and you want that to be maintained through adulthood.
DMT is not just for when you are out and about. It is also for at home. It is your first go-to game for things in your world, no matter wherethey happen. It is for creatingand maintaining positive associations for everything, whether it is seen, heard, felt, or smelled. DMT can also be paired with other games to boost the concepts you need your dog to build - confidence, optimism, calmness, and now focus. Games that pair great with DMT include:
- Boundary Games
- Noise Work
- Reward Nothing
- Calming Touch
- Paws On
And remember that you can also utilize the "occupied" and "unoccupied" strategies to help your dog though tougher situations. These can be helpful for situations at home such as guests coming over, the gardener, pool cleaner, or workers at the house or backyard. When out and about like eating out, spending time at a park, or a sporting event, combining your games helps your dog to practice appropriate behavior and handle the situation better.
- Occupied: your dog is on a boundary and has something high-value to chew on during the situation. You then add in DMT for when something changes That could be an increase in noise, something gets closer, movement, or something new enters the picture.
- Unoccupied: your dog in on a boundary and you DMT for changes in the situation. This is a more difficult level than occupied and is utilized for things that your dog can handle better.
DMT is not a puppy thing. It is for the life of your dog. You will not be able to get your puppy used to everything inthe world. Life can change. You can go to new places and see new things at any point in time. This is why building concepts is critical. And that is why DMT is valid just as much during puppihood as it is during adulthood.
Noise Work 2: Advanced
CONFIDENCE, OPTIMISM, CALMNESS, FOCUS (SOCIALIZATION)
This is where the noise work game gets really interesting and exciting. Most people can easily think of the basic household noises and noises out on walks by playing the first part of the noise work game, but it doesn’t end there…
As before, the aim of this protocol is to reduce arousal (excitement) and/or anxiety in the face of sound distractions. Certain environments, sport competitions, dog show, dog parks, parks and outdoor concerts, classes… can be exciting situations. And even if you do not compete with your dog, remaining calm in high arousal environments is such a valuable skill to develop.
- Record sounds specific to your dogs. This protocol aims to build general optimism and calmness in the face of noise distractions, so these don’t need to (and, in fact, mostly should not) be triggers of fear responses in your dog, BUT, this time, record the sounds of a training class, competition environment, the sounds of the dog park or other complex situation-based sounds...
- Play the sounds back at low volume at home and give a kong filled with something tasty. The best way to ensure you are not starting too loud is to start at a volume you yourself cannot hear. Make sure to turn the sound off and remove the kong before the kong is finished and return in the following session.
- Increase the volume slowly over sessions, ensuring that your dog does not show any behavioral response to the noises with each volume increment.
- Repeat this protocol where, instead of a kong, you play these during play or training sessions - crucial for advanced noise work! Make sure these are low arousal sessions and, when transitioning to training and play sessions, make sure to lower the volume again and then slowly increase over future sessions. Increase arousal over time!
Top Tip - This learning is especially useful to take on the road. Prep your dog ahead of time with practice at home. Then take it on the road. If you plan to compete in agility or other sport, take your dog to a park, café (or similar), or work, practice this game there. What you will prepare your dog for it things that are part of your life that you want your dog to handle well. This ensures that your dog has arousal balance and optimism when needed most!
SITUATION-SPECIFIC NOISES: PARK/SPORTING EVENT
- Dogs barking
- People talking, hollering, cheering, clapping
- Children playing
- Basketballs bouncing or soccer balls being kicked
- Cheering, people praising their dogs
- Clickers and others cuing their dogs
- Clicking of dogs feet on floor, tags jingling
- Doors opening and closing, people walking
- Car engines, honking, traffic noise
- Crowds of people talking, laughing, yelling
- Children crying, screaming
- Dishes clanking, announcements over loud speaker
SPECIFIC (TO YOUR WORLD) ENVIRONMENTAL SOUNDS
- Vacuum, lawnmower, leaf blower
- Garbage truck, snowplow
- Thunder, fireworks
- Neighborhood dogs barking
CONFIDENCE, OPTIMISM, FOCUS, AROUSAL UP/DOWN, TOLERANCE OF FRUSTRATION, INDEPENDENCE, GRIT (SOCIALIZATION)
A socialization and confidence and optimism building game with novelty. This is just like the Sniff It Out Game but you use cardboard boxes.
Use a bunch of cardboard boxes and pile them in an area. Depending on your pup's confidence levels, the boxes may need to have space between them, or you can pile them up on top of each other and create unstable layers. You can even mix in more things like tin foil or bubble wrap for added novelty. Scatter food in the area and allow your puppy to sniff out the food.
- Let your pup explore at her own pace.
- Set up the area within your puppy's confidence level
- This is a pressure free , fun game
LEVELS - COMBINING GAMES FOR FOCUS AND RELIABILITY WITH CERTAIN BEHAVIORS
For pups that are super confident with this game...
- Use your Premack to release your pup into the area
- Just like with Sniff It Out, you can toss treats into the area, then toss treats out to teach your pup to disengage. This might also be helpful for puppies and dogs that are more hesitant.
- Call your pup to you from time to time using your Attention Sound or your pup's name or the Touch cue, mark and reward the correct behavior and then Premack your pup back into the searching zone, tossing more treats into the area (see below).
GAME OPTIONS THAT YOU CAN PLAY...
For Young Pups - wait until all the pieces of kibble you have tossed into the area have been found, or when your pup is searching but not finding kibble...
- Stage 1 - Use your Attention Sound to get eye-contact (at least), mark and then release your dog to continue searching and toss more kibble into the area.
- Stage 2 - Use your Attention Sound to get your pup's attention, mark the eye contact, and toss treats outside of the area near you for your pup to get. You can also reward from your hand. Toss treats in the search area and release your dog to search again.
- Stage 3 - Use your Attention Sound to get your pup's attention, cue a proximity cue your pup knows well (Middle, Finish, Front, Touch), mark and reward when completed. Toss treatsinto the area and Premack to search again.
- Stage 4 - Use your Attention Sound to get your pup's attention, cue a Come cue (but only if your pup knows it well inside), mark and reward when completed. Do a harness or collar grab and reward. Toss treats into the area and Premack to search again.
For Older Pups/Dogs (who are proficient with the stages above) - while your dogis still searching out the food in the area and food is still there...
- Stage 5 - Use your Attention Sound to get eye-contact (at least), mark and then releaseyour dog to continue searching.
- Stage 6 - Use your Attention Sound to get eye-contact, cue a proximity cue (Middle, Finish, Front, Touch), mark and reward when the dog does it, then toss treats into the area and Premack your dog to search again.
- Stage 7 - Use a recall cue, mark and reward when your dog comes to you, then toss treats into the area and Premack your dog to search again.
Find It Fort
CONFIDENCE, FOCUS, AROUSAL DOWN, INDEPENDENCE, GRIT (SOCIALIZATION)
This is a wonderful game to play for socialization with household items, like brooms, mops, shovels, and rakes, and vacuums at a low-threshold level.
With the vacuum, play with it off first. Make sure that your dog is good at playing the game and sniffing out the food, as per your assignment in the first week. Next, you will bring the vacuum into the search area and work there. Then you will progress to moving the vacuum and turning it on, all while your pup plays a game that creates positiveassociatioins, calmness and confidence around the appliance. This can also be done with brooms and mops, which can also be items that dogs can have negative emotions or undesireable behavior around (Chasing, biting, stress, over-excitement).
This game can also be used as an intervention game for calming strategies. It's a great game to play when the gardener or pool cleaner comes into the backyard. It provides a positive activity for your dog to focus on so your pup learns to ignore the "intruder" and handle the sound of the blowers and mowers.
CONFIDENCE, OPTIMISM, FOCUS, AROUSAL UP/DOWN, DISENGAGEMENT, ENGAGEMENT, TOLERANCE OF FRUSTRATION, INDEPENDENCE, GRIT (SOCIALIZATION)
This game also teaches a pup to use his nose, sniff out the good stuff, ignore the rest. Scent games are great for teaching a dog to pay attention to not just what they see, but also what they smell so they can get good, accurate information about their surroundings. It can also be a good intervention game and help a dog transition form a higher state of arousal to a lower one.
Adjust the game to fit your pup. Begin with just a few items. They may have to be "softer" so they don't make as much noise.Over time, and within your individual pup's comfort level, include other items - things that make more noise, or more items in the box so your pup has to rummage around more to find the kibble at the bottom.
This game is not just about dogs with sound sensitivity. It builds focus and tolerance of frustration depending on howmuch stuff you put in the box! It's also a fun and easy "rainy day" activity.
Paws On Game
CONFIDENCE, OPTIMISM, FOCUS, AROUSAL UP/DOWN, ENGAGEMENT, PROXIMITY (SOCIALIZATION, RELATIONSHIP)
This is a confidence, but also so much more!
This is useful for a number of reasons:
- Value of proximity
- Optimism with the environment
- Content with novelty and new things
This game is also the foundation for crucial concept-building extension games for this later in this level and level 3 packages. It can be a great conversation starter game for dogs that are nervous in new environments. It is also a game that we will use to teach necessary skills for complex cues in the future. This game is also great for practicing your Premack cue!
Paws On Next Steps
CONFIDENCE, OPTIMISM, FOCUS, AROUSAL UP/DOWN, ENGAGEMENT, PROXIMITY, IMPULSE CONTROL, FLEXIBILITY (SOCIALIZATION, RELATIONSHIP)
This is the next step in the game. You will put the behavior on cue, and then fine tune visual cues as well.
Continue to build more confidence with different objects and focus as well.
You will also generalize the behavior so that your dog will put his paws on a variety of objects, building further optimism and confidence, as well as flexibility.
Harness Shaping Game
CONFIDENCE, OPTIMISM, FOCUS, ENGAGEMENT
Typically most dogs will take to a harness fairly easily. But, as I am always proactive in my training and want to ensure good associations with any tools I use with my dogs, here is a fun game to get your dog used to a new harness.
Sniff It Out Games
CONFIDENCE, OPTIMISM, FOCUS, AROUSAL UP/DOWN, DISENGAGEMENT, ENGAGEMENT, TOLERANCE OF FRUSTRATION, INDEPENDENCE, GRIT (RECALL, SOCIALIZATION)
This is a great game to play for socialization skills with objects and novelty. It builds optimism, body awareness, the ability to navigate through obstacles, and focus. Depending on what you use, you can also help to promote back-end awareness.
This game is a great introductory socialization game to play at home. Start simple, but over time you can get very elaborate and create a variety of experiences for your dog and build confidence. It also helps with flexibility, getting your puppy used to new items in new places, and the novelty of that type of situation.
Create obstacles that your puppy has to go over, under, through, between, across, and around.
Use things with different textures to walk on. Include items that will roll or move. Things that might make noise when your puppy moves it. Things that your pup can climb inside that might be dark or a tight fit that she has to back out.
This game can be used as a transition game for calming strategies. Keep the obstacles less stimulating (so little movement and noise). Sniffing and searching help the canine brain to become more centered and focused. It is also a good "rainy day" game for inside mental stimulation.
Muzzle or Cone Game
CONFIDENCE, OPTIMISM, FOCUS, ENGAGEMENT, FLEXIBILITY, THINKING IN AROUSAL (SOCIALIZATION)
A fun game to play with your puppy or dog to aid with socialization (to objects), build confidence and trust, and desensitize a dog to things that cover the face. This can be just a fun game, and can also help for future training and generalization and with other tools like head collars, elizabethan collars and muzzles - because you just never know! Even certain harnesses require your pup to put his head through, and this gamehelps with that.
You can take this a step further and require the head to go all the way in past the eyes - just make sure that the edge of the object is very smooth for safety of the eyes.
You can also build duration by delaying your marker, a little bit at a time.
Build confidence with novelty and things coming to and over the face. Use different items each time you play and be random and creative with your choices.
I am always about "prepare for the worst, hope for the best." I am very protectiveof my dogs, for they depend on me to keep them safe and take care of them. They don't necessarily know what is best or what consequences might be, but I can do my best to know what life might bring and be prepared. I recently saw a video on Facebook where a St. Bernard puppy had passed out, choking on a ball. The pup was brought into the police department, and they rushed to help the pup. They were able to clear the airway and revived the pup, thankfully. But what stuck out the most for me was when they tried to give the pup oxygen through a mask and the pup kept turning his head away. Seeing this just reiterated how important this game could really be. So don't skip this one!