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Moose | Rottweiler/St Bernard mix | La Habra | In Training




Moose is a nearly two year old Rottweiler/St Bernard mix who has come to OffLeash SoCal's Two-Week Board and Train Program to address his manners and excitability. Moose knows a few commands already but isn't particularly motivated to work for the handler yet. We will teach him how to focus on the handler and be patient for his rewards so that he doesnt end up knocking anyone over or nipping at hands, the leash etc. Moose is destructive around the home and needs to learn how to relax and not seek out unhealthy means of venting his energy. Moose doesn't like to get in a crate and I will be taking extra care in making him comfortable and compliant in his crate manners. He is a young dog who has a lot of puppy energy still and with some guidance and boundaries he will flourish. Stay tuned for Moose's two week transformation!


 

Today I spent some time with Moose to figure out what we need to work on in particular while he completes his Two-Week Board and Train. He has some prior training with basic obedience but tends to blow off the handler. He is just a young dog who is trying to rebel against perceived unfairness so the goal for him is to establish a fair line of communication so that further training can be smooth and more fun for Moose and the handler together.


He has some interest in passersby but for the most part is able to keep to himself. His biggest hurdles will be in learning the self policing necessary to maintain good obedience. The owners will need to remain consistent with reinforcing the lessons he will learn during his training otherwise his natural tendency will continue to be to walk all over everyone. He has a stubborn streak but is otherwise a very sweet boy and I am confident we will have good results. Remember that dogs are opportunistic animals and he will look to take advantage of any lapse in the routine. The rules going forward need to be maintained so he has the structure to know his boundaries and thrive with the benefit of knowing how to turn off pressure in a healthy way.



 

Today I wanted to establish a baseline of leash pressure so that Moose has a clear understanding of the position he needs to be in. His reactivity to the leash has been an issue for him at times and he will try to avoid going forward by rolling over onto his back, sitting down and leaning away, grabbing the leash with his paws etc. In order to keep Moose honest and consistent I have just kept the pressure up little by little until he relents and continues walking. He is throwing the dog equivalent of a temper tantrum because for so long his large size has made it difficult to hold him accountable.


Going forward with Moose it is most important to hold him accountable when he refuses to proceed. This doesn't mean yell or get angry....in fact yelling or adding energy to your voice will only make him more stressed out if he is already at a point of having a tantrum. He needs the right answer to be easy and the wrong answer to be hard. Making something wrong become hard is as simple as not taking the leash pressure away the entire time he is resistant. This way he learns that pressure comes on when he is wrong and his own behavior takes the pressure away. This concept is partially understood by him already....this is the reason he makes the various attempts to avoid by grabbing the leash or laying down. Perhaps these spontaneous behaviors have helped him to avoid his responsibility in the past...so to make the right thing easy I simply ignore the fussing and dont let him "win" by resisting. "Winning" comes from listening and working together with me.


In this early stage for him it is apparent to me that he has a good idea of what is expected already but actively resists to avoid. This is an important distinction from simply not understanding the concepts because it shows me he can be held accountable and make good decisions on his own. In the clip for today I show a few quick examples of this.


His understanding of "Sit" is already strong enough to ask him for it reliably with little reinforcement from the leash. However when he is presented with a mild stressor in the form of a worker using a leaf blower in the distance he decides to stand up and leave. I was able to get him to stay despite his displeasure by adding leash pressure whenever he stood up and asking for the sit again. Dogs will make mistakes frequently during training and its something to be embraced. These moments where they want to escape or avoid or refuse provide us opportunities to redirect them into the right behavior. By showing them the correct place to "escape" to they no longer run away from stress but learn to cope with it.


We are creating an island of peace and comfort at our side in a "heel", when we ask for a "sit", "down" or "place" we are saying this spot will be the safest most stress free spot available to you and instead of seeking anything else out they will instead go back to these safe places. Moose has a good sense of where he wants to be and what he wants to do so it is my goal to continue making our relationship so valuable that he not only avoids the wrong answers because they are hard but also seeks out my validation and praise for doing the right thing. The win-win comes by showing him we want the same things! A stress free place for him to relax. The idea is we pick these places for him and he trusts our leadership. Which is exactly why his resistance and arguing is important to eliminate early and replace with trust. As he trusts my judgement more and more it gets easier to find the easy/right answer because he knows he can go there to get paid with some affection and comfort again and again.



 

Today I worked on transitioning from leash pressure to primarily stimulation from the e collar to reinforce the things I am asking Moose. He was having some issues throwing tantrums with the leash pressure alone and something interesting I have found is that generally dogs with leash reactivity like him will respond better to the stimulation. We can stimulate the dog at such low levels he doesn't feel as frustrated as he does by the leash but it is still enough to make the wrong answers wrong.


We combine this signal with our voice and praise to make the right answer right. The idea is to make the communication as clear as possible so that Moose is able to turn off pressure on his own and without any drama trying to avoid the command before he listens. When he does have any dramatic moments it is important not to give in to him or we will only teach him to misbehave in order to get what he wants. To make sure we arent overwhelming Moose we want to give him a lot of praise and be considerate of his hard work. When he is making an effort and listening without fuss, make a really big deal about it and praise the dog! He will really enjoy it and it helps him to know how to get attention in the future.


The goal is to produce behavior that he offers freely when we ask so if it is purely "you did something wrong so I will add the e collar" we arent effectively communicating. The idea is consistency. The e collar is a signal to reinforce what he should be doing already. It's best when it is used like the classic board game Operation. Where if he touches the sides of the holes he gets a buzzer to tell him he is right. But if he does his job correctly, he wins the game! Remember this is supposed to be fun so limit sessions to 10 or 15 minutes at a time to keep his interest up. Of course manners and obedience are expected all the time but actively working on it should be set at shorter intervals to make the most of his growing attention span. Good luck!



 

Today I took Moose to meet up with some other trainers and work on his "Place" command. The goal with Moose is to build up his neutrality around other dogs and people. His history of rough play doesn't mean he can't have any dog friends but it does mean he has to prove he has manners and can be controlled before we introduce him to new dogs. Moose needs to reliably ignore dogs in a "place", "extended sit" or "extended down" before being allowed to play. His "come" command needs to be solid and he must wear his e collar so in the event the command isnt enough we can reinforce our voice with stimulation. If he can come back when called then it is safe enough to attempt an introduction with another dog that enjoys playing as much as Moose. If we introduce him to sensitive dogs it is likely he will hurt their feelings or upset them and an argument could develop. So going forward the game plan for Moose is having manners equals access to rewards.


I have been working on the crate manners this week and every time he comes in or out is a massive improvement. He is struggling with holding his bladder despite being let out frequently and going on long walks with plenty of opportunities. His appetite is a little low as well and I will begin adding extras to his food to get him eating more. This is all normal for dogs to be away from home and feel a bit nervous and shy away from food. Holding it and waiting for a walk is also more difficult because in new environments there is a bit more stress than at my home in the crate where he can relax. My entire goal in crate training is to make it a safe space but of course when dogs are away from home and don't want to potty outside it sometimes becomes a safe space for that as well. Unfortunately there isn't an immediate fix for potty training. I will of course be diligent in taking him outside and giving him time to go but when he returns home he needs to be given opportunities to go outside for a few minutes every hour or two (under supervision so he doesnt take these times to mess around). His endurance for holding it will increase and the ability to predict when he will need to go will also develop.


Moose is growing a strong sense of what is being asked of him but the true challenge will be in remaining consistent when he goes home. If the consistent rewards for good behavior disappear too quickly he will lose interest and if there is no reinforcement for poor behavior it will come back. So keep in mind we are modifying the behavior that comes naturally to him and he will find it naturally again if we let our guard down. That being said the goal of the training is to make him so reliable and the owners so well prepared that when he eventually does make mistakes it is far easier and more mundane to get him to comply and seek out the proper outlets.



 

Today was about showing Moose he needs to be personally accountable for his actions. No more extra guidance from the leash...he must utilize the information I have shown him when prompted by my voice and then reinforced with e collar stimulation. The progress we make in low stress situations needs to be kept in context for that lower stress when we do apply tougher distractions. Don't expect the same level of execution when presented with particularly challenging elements of the environment. As we introduce the skills he is perfecting to new places we will see the dog make more mistakes and this can be confusing and frustrating. Don't feel set back! It is all part of the process.

When we increase the difficulty and he does make mistakes we first ask him to be accountable to himself but then of course if the dog is struggling and unable to connect the dots we do step in and provide more help for a few repetitions before returning to having him work it out.

Dogs are pattern oriented and will eventually reach a point that they have enough experience executing their behaviors in different environments that the pattern is familiar in and of itself.....when presented with environmental stress they will WANT to behave! The familiar amidst the unfamiliar becomes an area of tranquil understanding and calm. There are no worries when we are working as a team! Remember to praise your dog for his good choices but also keep in mind there are times he will want to give up or be lazy and stubborn. When he is lazy or stubborn and not working as hard as he can the answer may feel like raising your voice or being "angry". The reality is this often only adds stress. We are human beings and can't always be perfect robots ourselves but try to keep a neutral and even reassuring tone when you are reinforcing your commands with e collar stimulation so he understands this is all still the same obedience game he knows and he doesnt slip into a defensive or shut down mind.

The continued practice of immersing him into new environments but asking him to remain neutral and behaved will only make him stronger in his behaviors if the owner/handlers are also neutral and not sending him mixed signals. Remember to be calm and just go through the process and he will get over his temper tantrum and carry on beautifully. We are rewarding his positive attitude as much as we are reinforcing good behavior. The real secret to dog training is in consistently asking the dog for things we know he can do and making him feel like a million bucks for doing it. The strength of the reinforcement comes not from "punishment" of unwanted behaviors but rather reminding the dog to perform the job that gets rewarded. Over time this positive association with the stimulation makes the signal one of urgency and encouragement rather than shutting the dog down. So if he ever tries to lay down and ignore the stimulation we just slowly increase until he listens and then lower it back down after that so we dont accidentally reinforce at a higher level than necessary going forward. The level of stimulation will fluctuate depending on the stress of the environment so dont be allergic to changing and reading the dogs reaction. If it is too high the dog will be distressed and if it is too low they won't listen to the command and instead choose whatever they are interested in. Finding the right level comes from reading the dog. You will certainly make mistakes from time to time as well but keep in mind despite a surprising high level startling the dog the goal of associating the stimulation with a chain of events that leads to reward helps them to not only tolerate but actually prefer stimulation to leash pressure. In Moose's case he reacts far less to the e collar than he does to even a slip lead over his neck. Be patient and stick with it! You will only see the results you want by insisting that the dog make better choices on their own.



 

Today we met up with other OffLeash SoCal trainers at the Santa Monica Pier and worked on all of our obedience that we have trained thus far. Moose was able to perform everything splendidly but did feel nervous with crowds walking so close to him. I have mentioned before about how the environment dictates the pace we need to work at sometimes and with the addition of so much else going on I left a leash dragging on Moose to help reinforce with pressure if he really needed it.


Moose was a star student today and behaved very well! What we did not capture in the video however is he still does struggle with nipping and some reactivity. You have to be consistent with his routine and he will gradually continue to do better with reacting with his mouth. He has had a lot more practice making people do what he wants by behaving like a bully than he has practice being a gentleman. So be patient but remember there is a zero tolerance policy for biting, jumping on people and using his weight to get what he wants. I will show in tomorrow's pupdate the progress he has made with going in the crate but I will say in advance I am very pleased with how well he is doing. At this point in his training it is about quality repetitions and practice as he knows all the skills necessary to succeed.



 

Today we worked with another trainer to see how well Moose understands the concepts and see if he can generalize these ideas in the context of a new handler issuing the commands. Much like most dogs there was an initial hesitation while he figured out the commands don't always mean to listen to me but rather the person who told him (sometimes they get fixated on the trainer because they were the first person to hold them accountable in so many ways). Working with other trainers while he is here in training and after going home the whole family is helpful for keeping him self aware and holding him accountable. He cannot rely on someone else to do the work of comforting him or correcting him all the time but instead learns to relax in the repetitions and sameness of the training and is always searching for the right answers so when we do reinforce with stimulation it is automatic to return to an approved and previously rewarded position instead of having to guess or be confused, even with a new handler.


The grounding effect of obedience will be balanced by a memory of getting away with bad behaviors at home so the owners need to help him stay calm and honest by reinforcing the rules whenever he breaks them. This is good practice for him in advance of going home so he doesn't just revert back to the old Moose in my absence.

Moose did well maintaining his obedience but if he experiences any difficulty remember to go slowly and be patient with yourself as you can be doing everything right and he is still an animal capable of thinking on his own. This is the unique challenge in dog training of making the dog want to do the work...which is why your praise is so important! The whole family should take turns working Moose so that he is a gentleman with everyone and doesn't decide he can ignore someone specifically.

We have also taken a lot of time getting him used to going in and out of the crate. He will sometimes hesitate or want to back away but so long as we maintain our presence and just don't let him back away he will go in on his own. That being said he has been doing well going in when I tell him. He has been eating better and no accidents for a while in the crate but he still will need quite a bit of practice so take him out as frequently as once an hour initially for a few minutes at a time.

Going forward this week we will address house manners and the finishing touches before he comes home.



 


Today we practiced being calm and holding an extended down/place in the home. It's important that we practice in all the environments that we expect the dog to behave. If the home is a place he never has to rehearse his behaviors he will take the initiative and make poor choices. It is important to heel the dog directly to and from the crate. If he is allowed on furniture or a specific bed, make the place command your means of communicating it is time to relax. The yard, the home, the world at large...everything in his life needs to be consistent for the training to stay strong in his mind.

If the dog gets up from his place or otherwise breaks his obedience we simply reset them and try again. If you can notice the dog just as he is making the mistake of course we may use the e collar and add some stimulation and repeat the command "place" or "down" or "sit" whatever he was asked to do originally. The ideal is for the dog to return to the command in that instant but if your timing is a little off the moment to reinforce can slip away and we dont want to add stimulation in a confusing context.

If the dog is already broken from the behavior we may make our command again and then add stimulation until the command is complied with. The difference being: stimulation to stop the behavior from breaking needs to be added as a quick single button press on the remote and a reinforcing of your command precisely as the dog is breaking...if the dog has already broken we communicate urgency by REPEATED button pressing-- think the clicking of a pen over and over--and repeating the command with the added help of a hand gesture to give the dog the idea that the stimulation continues until they return to the "safe place". It is a lot like the childhood game of "the floor is lava". We want the places that aren't "place" to be lava. Practice while watching tv or relaxing in the house and show Moose that downtime in his obedience is relaxing and worth seeking out. The eventual result being the dog will WANT to behave at home because he views it as the best way to access affection and praise AND relaxation.



 

Moose and I worked on his Door Manners today. His self control around doorways isn't the strongest yet. We have been working on maintaining a sit where he is most tempted to run out the doorway. He either wants to get up and leave or laydown and ignore his obedience behavior. In any case when we practice these kinds of exercises at home the best plan of action is to get to where we can see the dog if they lay down or break but they can't see us if they remain sitting. It's a bit of an experiment to find a good angle or even hide behind an object but it keeps the dog honest and intrinsically motivated to remain out of the picture while we practice. That being said while we practice we use our voice to encourage and praise the dog for the good job they are doing. Every time Moose breaks position I am asking him either to sit again or if he is away from where he should be I heel him around and back into position before asking for the sit. The idea is to reset and keep the challenge in having to try and be perfect rather than adding any frustration or worry to the situation. Moose responds well to gentle encouragement while I reinforce my commands with the e collar stimulation. He likes to be reminded what to do and it helps him to remain calm when his natural state of chaos sends him spiraling out of control. The routine of obedience needs to be consistent and the consequence for breaking obedience are as simple as having to keep working and trying again until we get that perfect repetition and can say "break!" And let him know what a good job he did. Remember to lavish the dog with praise but save "break" for the best repetition or to bonus the dog for holding a position for an extended period.

Moose had an accident in the crate and needed a bath last night and his new obedience helped him to remain totally calm and also relax enough to enjoy being groomed and taken care of. His normal attitude of frustration at being handled by his collar or being held still has been replaced by an improved understanding of his relationship with others. He isn't perfect and can still react but keeping calm and gentle with my voice and consistent with my reinforcement have shown him what is good and easy and preferable as well as bad and worth avoiding. Teamwork requires good communication and he was communicating poorly in part because he didn't understand what was expected of him. Now that he does he can continue to improve for as much as he works on it at home. Good job Moose!



 

Today Moose and I worked on his obedience at a Home Depot. The added stress of the slippery floors, loud echoing noises and new distracting smells makes this environment more challenging than a busy street in some ways. Many dogs struggle with maintaining obedience under these conditions but Moose was a rock star! His big weakness has been wanting to say hello to people as they pass or wanting to get up and follow me when I ask him for a sit or a down but the consistent practice is paying off and he managed to do quite well. I did have to remind him here and there with stimulation or even my voice alone to maintain a sit or to keep heeling but the majority of the time spent was him working without my input after a command was given. He has managed to turn himself around quite splendidly and I couldn't be more proud. In many ways he was like a "bad kid" at the back of the class not wanting to pay attention but now that he knows how fun and engaging learning can be we have discovered he has quite a talent and aptitude.

Continue to challenge Moose with distractions and practice all of the obedience in small easy to digest sessions so that he remains sharp and as invested in doing well. He works very hard to receive praise and affection and while of course it is good to spend quality time with your dog I encourage people to always crate the dog at least part of the day and before training time it helps a lot to channel their energy into the work when they go out. He has done well relaxing in his crate in my home and I know he can learn to settle down at home as well by following the steps and skills I will teach at Drop Off (Turnover). The concepts to follow are simple but the trick with Moose will be in following through and not letting him bully, whine or otherwise manipulate a situation in any fashion aside from the obedience and commands. He knows what is expected of him and he enthusiastically works for me now because we have worked together to replace his previous habits of inappropriate behavior to get his rewards and desired outcomes with motivated compliance with my commands in order to access his rewards. If he is able to get these rewards in another fashion aside from working he won't work as hard as frustrating as that may be. So keep that in mind when you pay him for not working...meaning if you like to cuddle up on the couch go ahead! But do it AFTER he has worked hard in his obedience on a nice walk first. Good luck!



 

Today I went out and about with Moose and did the obedience routine of asking for "Sit", "Down" and "Place" at different intervals to make sure he understands the concepts fluently and isn't guessing what the next position is. We practiced "Come", "Heel" and when it naturally came up I was able to use "Off" to discourage unwanted behavior. All of the commands the dog has been taught need to be practiced and reinforced once they go home and it really can be as simple as mixing them around during a walk and getting the repetitions in that way. When we ask the dog to perform a specific command we are setting them up ultimately to receive a reward when the behavior is completed properly. It is the anticipation for this reward that channels their normally undesirable behavior into a specific productive outlet. If the dog is struggling to maintain his behaviors for longer durations or at a greater distance be sure to jackpot him so that he understands what he is working for. I like to look for a perfect repetition of a command and then "Break" the dog right as they execute. This way they connect their current behavior with a huge reward. The next time we ask for that behavior they will be more motivated and satisfied as they can accurately predict where the excitement is going to come from. I will sometimes "Break" a dog as a particularly enticing distraction seems to be getting their attention. As the dog is still focusing on myself, I then tell them "Break" in the presence of the distraction to mark the attention on me as desirable and to encourage them to come to me for the reward despite whatever else is going on. This routine can be mixed up by asking for a "come" or other obedience and making the praise when they arrive properly quite joyful and high enough energy to really reward but without so much energy they leave the position. We want to make the engagement with us the most valuable reward and sometimes that means being more excited in our voice, with our body language and eventually as the dog is in a close proximity using physical affection to show them our reward is that much more exciting and fun than a distraction. Make obedience a daily game to play during a walk and you will find the skills stay strong all the time.



 


Today I took Moose to work around other trainers and their dogs at a park. We are adding duration to behaviors that he is already fluent in. We are looking for a minimum of 2 minutes in a sit today and going forward it is fair to ask for longer increments of time and varying degrees of challenge. Today there was the noise of lawn mowers and other work as well as the presence and close proximity of other dogs. Moose will need continued refinement of his impulse control but he is on the right track to lasting success if the maintenance of his existing behaviors is met. When we are asking for an extended sit it helps to be encouraging throughout the process. It is beneficial to check in with the dog and reassure them that you are happy with their performance. The behaviors we are teaching are not natural to dogs in a genetic sense....obedience being strictly learned from humans requires us to inform the dog when they are doing the right thing. If we can mess around with the variables of Distance, Duration and Distractions when we practice our obedience we can challenge the dog in a scalable and consistent way. Remember to make changes gradually but to challenge the dog so that he can grow. If he never gets opportunities to fail he can't practice making the good decisions he has been making! If he does make a mistake we just have a new opportunity for him to learn. Happy training!



 


I took Moose to the Santa Monica Pier to film his Final video today. He was able to show off his new obedience skills and received a lot of praise and compliments from the crowd. Places like this can be overwhelming for dogs and handler alike so remember to take it slow and work up to more challenging outings as you feel comfortable. The whole point of training the dog is to make life easier and our relationship less stressful, so keep that in mind when working him out in public. There is no need to rush yourself before you are ready but also as you practice your new skills that we will go over together at Drop Off (Turnover) you will find that your confidence and comfort level will rise significantly. Familiarize yourself with the e collar and all of the concepts that we will share and you will find that what previously made you anxious to do with your dog feels exciting and fun. To see him work so hard and nail his obedience is a very proud moment to be shared between you both and it is always good to tell him how happy you are. The more you both associate the training with the joy and self satisfaction of success the more the confidence of knowing you can avoid conflict will replace previous anxiety and trepidation. When we rush we make mistakes and when we go at our own pace we can build a strong foundation of positive experiences to encourage our continued growth. Good luck! Go steady and at your own pace and you will find success as fast as possible!



 

Today for a final lesson I worked on the value of "Break" over saying "Good". Remember that good is intended to continue a behavior and maintain the current position where break is meant as a larger more meaningful reward that simultaneously discontinues the behavior. When you are determining which of them to use in a given moment keep in mind the meaning of the word "bonus". We are intending to condition the dog to work toward a reward that may or may not come every repetition. Consider a slot machine in Las Vegas giving out jackpots every time we pull a lever. Eventually the special allure of winning such a prize vanishes because it has become too common. We want to utilize our break command in much the same fashion. Make sure that you are especially rewarding and affectionate when you break to differentiate between the two experiences. Good being the more mundane maintenance word and Break being this exceptional jackpot experience that they are working toward. If we never got a jackpot we wouldnt gamble.....and if we always got a jackpot the appeal is gone. This is another example of the continuous pursuit of balance in dog training. Good luck and happy training!



 

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