Miracle in half a day?

In English so that the owners of the dog can understand.

Today I have the privilege to be working with Shila, a malinois/GSD mix, who seems to have all the good aspects of both, but is a little unguided.

She loooves to play, so much so it’s almost manic. First step is to stop throwing things and start to do mental exercises instead. Second step is to teach her manners in a positive way, so that she thinks she controls the reward. Now when shes jumping and everything EVERYONE turns their attention to her. So she jumps. And gets attention.

To get her to stop jumping they throw something (this is my personal guess), so that the behavior gets extra rewarded.

She digs up a rock of approved size and wants to play fetch. This is bad for so many reasons, 1 – the play is done when she is very stressed, and does not lower the stress. 2 – rocks can damage the teeth. 3 – you might hurt someone/something when throwing rocks.

I recommend buying an approved toy, durable, that she can have outside and carry around, and you can have someone hold the dog, then hide the toy, then she has to concentrate and cannot be stressed. Dont give her (all) the food in a bowl, use it to teach her what you want, watch kikopups videos on youtube. She is very smart, but a little unguided. When you are very clear about what you want, she does it exactly. The reson she does what you say only sometimes is because only sometimes you control the rewards. And also because when she’s too stressed she can’t think and then forgets the meaning of words. You dont have to scream, she can hear you. Surely.

I did a short play, I taught her to play tug, and i’m sure she loved it, but it was too stressful to start with, so then I changed to hand target (google it) and then that in combination with ”put your harness on”.

She was still a little stressed and a little ”i want the food now” so I did a little self control/premack principle. ”If you leave it, you will get it”. So, to explain shortly, have a really good treat in your hand, show it to her (dont speak) and when she looks away/stop trying to get it – say ”ok” and give it. Make sure you are quick in the beginning and then you can wait longer and longer.

After that try to open your hand – if she tries to get it – close your hand and try again. When she doesnt ttry to get it, say ”OK” and she can have it, or better – a different one from the other hand.

She is very good at this game, but its a good game to practice when the stress goes up.

When the stress goes up the interest for food/candy is lower, so its important to have a really good piece of food. Ham is almost good enough. Something better than ham would be prefered. If she tries to steal it, just be patient, dont speak. She knows this game. A look away, a look at you, a sit down, anything is ok.

When she is an expert at this game with food you can try with a low-value toy (is there one?).

She doesnt like the harness on her body, but its just a habit, she thinks it feels strange because she’s not used to it, so do the ”put on your harness game regularly and make sure only good things happen in/around it.

There are many youtube-videos on the subject.

She’s very very smart, but not used to having to think, so she gets tired really fast and when she’s tired she takes a rock or jumps. Just ignore the jumping and go inside for the time (finish training), if she takes a rock, bring it inside and finish the training. Both these things = no more training. She likes training so she will learn.

When she showes she was tired by sitting down or just standing I gave her the rest of the candy (like a shower) and then the training was finished.

I dont know if this is the perfect way, but its my way and it seems to work with her.

Now she really needs to sleep, after 4 hours of training. I have also, through Gian-Luca, conveyed some dog-language skills. She is very very clear with her signals, but they werent listened too, its only lucky she hasnt started growling. I think I arrived in the right moment.

First thing is to reduce stress, I think most of it is just under-stimulation (today maybe over-stimulation).

Second thing is to create and maintain a framework. No violence or hard words needed, only proper guidance trough rewarding what’s right. Like I have said many times, its a very smart dog. It only needs to do something with its big brain. I think I bought the right book for them.

Third thing is to learn to read/understand and respect the dog. If she says leave me alone ever so subtly, respect that and leave her alone.

This is enough to start with. When the stress is lower and the play works better its possible to develop other aspects, if I come back, we do this in august. The dog wants to do something/anything, but its important that its with you, and with your guidelines, then it is cooperation. Otherwise its just a confusion. Shila has no idea what to do, so she does the things that gets her attention, jumping and bringing rocks.

Throwing has to be completely stopped. She loves chasing so when rewarding with candy you can throw it, but not even that should be done every day. Its like a drug, and no drug is good, only destructive.

I’ll get back to this with another entry on how the walk went…