Follow-up on our January training goals

How did we do on our training goals for January?

Kitchen pups

Oh, these little weirdos. They make our lives so crazy, and yet, what would we do without them?

January Goals for Pyrrha

Omg let me in
  1. Curbing jealousy directed at Eden. I am very happy to report that this is going a lot better. Pyrrha seems a lot calmer about Eden’s presence and a lot more tolerant of her adolescent antics.
  2. Crate-exiting calmness. This is also going better, although she seems to have good days and bad days with this. The turning point has been that I’m finally figuring out what helps her here. She gets amped up when I let them out of the crates, and she then redirects that energy onto Eden. Our helpful practice now has been to let Pyrrha out of her crate, and I spend some time stroking her and speaking to her until she calms down, and then Eden can come out. This has been working so far, and it’s something we practice daily.
  3. Avoiding leash reactivity on our walks. Lately, I’ve been walking them by myself, so I just avoid areas that I know tend to be populated with dogs. If Guion is with us, however, we practice our strategy of letting the confident baby (Edie) go first and Pyrrha follows behind, with me doing our classical conditioning protocol for when she perceives dogs. I think we’ll always be doing this with Pyrrha, to some degree, and it can feel disheartening, because the progress is SO incremental, but I’m glad that we at least have a plan in place now for her leash reactivity.
  4. Classical conditioning protocol for seeing small children. We’ve been practicing this on walks and particularly at the mini-park/playground that’s near our house. On pleasant days, there is usually an assortment of kids at the park, so I keep Pyr at a fair distance away and treat her for every time she is looking at or perceiving a child, especially small children. She doesn’t seem to notice/be bothered by kids older than the age of 7 or 8, so we’re focusing the most on the smallest ones.

And now for the crazy baby:

January Goals for Eden

Gourd girl
Gourd girl.
  1. Sitting to greet people. This is sort of going well… she at least seems to know now what we want her to do: sit on the ground and wait for pets. But she just has so much love in her heart that it is difficult to contain! And we need to be more consistent. The hard part is when we have visitors (which we normally do). We need to have a strategy in place for telling guests what to do — before they walk in the door! — if Eden tries to jump on them.
  2. Crate-exiting calmness. Super! She is now showing a lot of self-control in this area, because we’ve been clicking and treating for calmness (sitting quietly until the crate door opens). This is also helping Pyrrha’s crate-exiting craziness (above).
  3. Not feeling the need to bark to announce herself in the backyard. I can’t say that her feeling this need has decreased, but our new strategy is kind of working: If I call her to come while she’s barking, and she comes, she gets treats. This plan has greatly improved her recall, which is a side bonus, but it hasn’t decreased her need to bark. I have a feeling this need may always be here, but we can keep working on the recall.
  4. “Leave it.” Totally forgot this was one of our training goals. Whoops. Yeah, need to work on this one.
  5. “Come!” She’s getting this down in a yard-to-house recall, but we need to generalize this to the home and to other areas.
  6. Not counter-surfing. I also have no idea what to do here. How do you get your dogs to stop counter-surfing? (Pyrrha has never tried this, not even once, so we’re kind of at a loss.) Yelling “off” isn’t really helpful.

Coming soon: Goals for February!


10 thoughts on “Follow-up on our January training goals

  1. Working with reactivity can feel incredibly disheartening! The progress is typically so slow. In fact, there have been times when I’ve sudden realized Bea has had a huge breakthrough – but it wasn’t sudden for her.

    Counter-surfing makes me think of Bea jumping the fence. The reward for doing it is immediate and huge, and one feels rather helpless. The only thing I can think of is to put aluminum foil along the edges. Who knows if it would bother Eden or not, but I’ve known a few dog owners that have been successful using it on the furniture to keep dogs off of it.

  2. To curb the counter surfing, I stood up some cardboard along the edges of the counter and left them there for awhile and the dogs finally left the counter alone. Having the cardboard at the edge gave the presence that the counter was higher than what it was, so they stopped jumping up. It worked for us.

  3. I would just like to tell you how much I ADORE and LOVE reading about your doggies. I don’t have dogs myself – I’m a cat mom, but I love all animals. 🙂 I look forward to seeing new updates and all the progress that Pyrhha is making. She is a doll. And Edie, well she makes me smile when reading about her.

    Thanks for sharing a small part of your life with us out here in the big wide world. I sure enjoy the doggies. Can’t wait to see where they go to next.

  4. Good progress! Zoey barks a lot in the yard and I don’t honestly know how to fix it at her age, I wish I did! Kaya & Norman used to but I would really get on their case and call them to me for treats like you do and now they never bark. Maybe if Eden only barks when she first goes out you could bring her out on a leash or even use a long line to teach her she can go outside without announcing herself. It would be tedious for a while, but maybe worthwhile in the long run?

  5. My solution for counter surfing is to be a neat freak. Silas isn’t tall enough to reach things that are neatly put away on the back of the counter. Which is not helpful, probably.

  6. We rescued my Lab as an adult, and she was a confirmed counter surfer – she had a variety of huge successes prior to coming to our house! I tend to stay away from putting things on the counter to discourage counter surfing, because dogs are fairly adept at figuring out when the blocks are there and when they aren’t, or how to maneuver around them if possible. Here’s what worked for us (and for several service dogs I train with):

    1. Management is key, especially for the first 6 months or so of working on this behavior.
    – Counters were absolutely clear of everything but a toaster and a coffee pot when the dogs had free access to the kitchen. They were free to explore the counters and discover over and over and over again that NOTHING was up there for them. Engery-expensive behaviors like jumping up on counters will extinguish if there is never any payoff (behavior economics!)
    – Dogs were blocked out of the kitchen when there was any kind of food on the counters or stovetop.

    2. To do a bit of operant conditioning, we started prepping the dog’s meals on our kitchen counters. I added extra food-prep steps at times to make it take a bit longer (like adding some warm water to kibble, stirring raw food around or cutting it into chunks, etc.) Dogs who were sitting got food rewards in the kitchen (as they progressed, the reward was just dinner as usual). If anyone put paws up on the counter at any point, ALL food and bowls went back into the cabinet, and we left the room with counters bare. We spent 30 seconds outside the kitchen, then went back in to resume prep. A few reps of this made a BIG impression. (Paws on counter = food disappears – HORRORS.)

    Both of my dogs are very reliable now – no counter surfing incidents in over a year.

    Good luck! Sounds like you are making lots of progress; keep up the good work!

  7. Counter surfing hasn’t been a big issue for us. I know that PetSafe makes a mat that you can put on things you don’t want them to be on and it makes a noise only the dog can hear when they put their feet on it. It’s consistent, and even if you aren’t there to see her and say “uh uh” she will still hear that sound if she puts her feet on there. I’ve heard that putting tape upside down on the counter can work, too.

  8. My solution for counter surfing was to never leave anything unattended on the bench. It took him about a week to learn that there was nothing left on the bench and stop counter surfing. He would occasionally air sniff in the direction of the counter, but stayed off the counter. Of course, we have since moved in with someone who is a terror for leaving things out, so he has regressed.

  9. A friend had success with counter surfing by putting bitter apple on some things strategically placed on the counter and from what I heard it solved the problem with her Great Dane after he figured out stuff on the counter tastes gross! Sounds like you are doing great with most of your other training goals – I think it is great to have solid goals. And I know I’ve mentioned this before, but don’t give up on the reactivity! It can be so tough and disheartening but it will pay off. I will say – my Icie girls both do the “I am here hello world!!” bark when they get out in the yard but I haven’t bothered to try to stop it because they are Icies, that is what they do! Lol but they do shut up after about half a minute. Our Pyr mix alert barks in the yard a lot and he gets called in when he does – it generally works and it had the added benefit of him barking at the door now when he wants to come in.

  10. It’s funny I just read this today because I am writing a project for my dog training class about counter surfing. You really want the DOG to be able to make the CHOICE not to counter surf. You can empower your dog by using operant conditioning training to do this.

    Start out with a juicy piece of meat (or whatever it is that gets the dog drooling). Have a clicker on your wrist ready to go. Initially, you will stand there and whenever the dog takes it’s attention off the meat, click and give a high value treat (because he wants meat & if you give it kibble as a reward, the dog is going to feel like it’s getting the short end of the stick!) So, start off with some small pieces of hot dog or something really yummy that your dog loves. Continue doing this as many times as the dog looks away from the meat/counter. Gradually, move further away from the dog and continue this, but if it looks like he’s going to go for it, hurry back and put your hand over the meat (I would keep it towards the back of the counter so he can’t get to it too fast.)

    What you are doing is getting the dog to THINK…”Hmmmm, every time I take my focus off the meat, I get a really yummy treat”. You’re making it a fun, positive experience for him.

    Start faking the fact that you are watching him and turn away or make believe you are on the phone or have a fake conversation with someone else in the room. Continue clicking and treating for your dog’s good behavior of looking away from the meat/counter. Once you start feeling comfortable enough with his focus off the meat, go outside of the kitchen (but keep your eye on him!)

    Wash, rinse & repeat! It is going to be a process, but your dog will “get it”. Once you start going outside of the kitchen and he is behaving, go back in and tear off a piece of that meat and give that to him as his reward. He needs to know he is getting awesome rewards for his behavior!

    Lastly, you NEVER want to use a verbal cue for this! Do NOT say “Get Down” or “No” or “Leave It”….none of that! WHY? Because the counter surfing/food stealing generally happens when no one is watching, so you will rarely be in the room to give the dog the verbal cue not to steal the food. You are setting the dog up for success on his own terms and that’s the best behavior you could get.

    Good luck & keep us posted!
    Pamela (website under construction)

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