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Newborn human baby, Husband on military deployment, boxer acting out

Discussion in 'Boxers & Children' started by JethrosMom, Feb 25, 2014.

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  1. JethrosMom

    JethrosMom Boxer Pal

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    TwoDogs, that makes sense. So just to break down what you are saying (for this mind-jumbled, sleep deprived mama)... Do it with treats/food for a while and then gradually use them less and less until it's every once in a while to maintain good behavior?
     
  2. Kisaq

    Kisaq Super Boxer

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    :)

    I feel for you, I really do. My mind becomes overwhelmed from lack of sleep too.

    You can train a GREAT drop it by using treats. He has a toy in his mouth, you hold out a treat, he cant take it until he drops the toy. Start by feeding him the treat "while" you are picking up the toy. But build it into being able to pick up the toy before giving him the treat.

    Same goes for "trading up" with valuable items like the kong or a bone ... just be sure that whatever IT is that you are handing over after the command of "drop it," is BETTER than what you are taking away. Pretty soon, when you repeat it often enough without error, he will automatically drop because he is expecting something BETTER to happen right after!

    What you are doing is building good habits. Rewards are their to develop and maintain the habit and sometimes to lure them into understanding what you want. But once a habit is strong, the reward can be phased out. Your being happy with him, is reward enough.

    Leave it, works the same. Only at first you have to control the situation a bit more.
    You place something out of his reach while he's on a leash. Tell him to leave it, have him turn to face you and give him a treat. Then walk closer to it. "Leave it" - when he looks at you, treat. Eventually, you will be able to put a piece of steak on the ground in front of him and say leave it. and he will. But you have to be ready to reward with a bit of hot dog, or something equally yummy!! lol. At least at first.

    I taught a stronger leave it, by having him lay down and placed treats on my dogs nose and/or paws and made him wait or "leave it". Then after a few seconds, I picked off each of the treats and gave them to him by hand. :)
    If he moved while the treats were there or tried to eat them, I interrupted before he got to them and we'd start over from scratch.

    I also have three commands:

    1/ drop it - for something he already has in his mouth (a toy or unknown found object)
    2/ leave it - for something he shouldn't take right now, but is sometimes given to him (food on the ground, toys, etc)
    3/ don't touch it - I only use this for things he should NEVER get (hot stove, moose, porcupines, busy roads, etc)

    You could use "don't touch it" for all baby items. But I would use "gentle" for your baby as you don't want him to think he can NEVER touch the baby. Only when you allow it and it should be "gentle". I have one toy that I reserve for "gentle" play. He's not allowed to throw, shake or rip at this particular toy. He can squeak it and cuddle with it. But that's all. It has become quite a prize for him. :)
    It's amazing what they will learn when they want to do whats right.

    As for earlier training being lost during the teen years... LOL... yeah. That's standard ops.

    You have to do refresher courses throughout their lives, but especially during the teen years.

    Goood luck. Let us know how it goes.
    You may want to google "Nothing In Life is Free" or "Learn to Earn" type training too. Very helpful to implement as a lifestyle - not just a training technique. :)
     
  3. TwoDogs

    TwoDogs Boxer Insane

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    This is pretty common. After 1 or 2 trials they get the "why would I want that thing when you have FOOD in your hand" look on their face. That is why most of my training for "leave it" or "drop it" takes place as single trials. Here's an overview of my typical "leave it" training progression.

    When he isn't looking, put a really tasty treat in your pocket and place an item in the middle of the floor. Not something super high-value, just something that he is going to want to investigate. Wait for him to notice it and move toward it. As he does, cue "leave it" and step between him and the item. If he tries to go around just step into his space and herd him back. This is easier to do the farther away he is from the item so make sure you catch him early in his approach. It is easier to stop and correct the intent to engage with the item than if he's actually engaged with the item. Switch around the items that you use so you don't accidentally teach him that "leave it" means only leave one particular item.

    The minute he yields to you and stops attempting to get the item, mark the behavior with a happy "Yes!", tell him "good boy", give him the food from your pocket and some physical praise and petting. Then go over and pick up the item and put it away. Do a couple of these trials throughout the day. For the first couple of days you will be rewarding with the food every time. You should need less and less of the body blocking and see him starting to break away from the item as soon as you say the cue. Then start occasionally leaving out the food reward--like maybe once out of every 3 times for a few days. Then once out of every 5 times then once out of every 7 times, then once out of every 10 times.

    Once you've got great reliability to the initial "leave it" cue, you can start working on duration--leaving an item alone that sits there for a while. For this one go back to basics and start rewarding every successful trial. For these trials though, you aren't going to remove the item after you reward. Let it sit there and give him the opportunity to make a choice--"do I go for the item again or do I continue to leave it?"

    If he attempts to go toward it again, cue "leave it" and block again. If he stops, don't reward with food, just reward with praise and petting then go pick up the item. If however, he doesn't go for the item a second time, mark that behavior with your happy "Yes!" and reward him with verbal praise, physical praise and a second food reward. Once you've got him not going for the item even if it sits there for a little while after he's left it, then you can start fading the rewards to once out of every 3 times, then out of every 5 times, then out of every 7 times, etc.

    You can use the same method with an item that you "accidentally" drop. Dropped items are usually more interesting and if you drop it near him it will be harder for him to resist so make sure you are quick with the cue and the body block. Again, in the beginning go back to using an easy item and rewarding every trial with verbal and physical praise and food. Then once you've got it reliable, start to taper off the use of the food in your reward.

    Same goes for "drop it". Just look for chances to do single trials when he's already got something in his mouth. It shouldn't always be a forbidden or stolen item either. If he's carrying around his own toy, just walk up and cue "drop it" then show him a treat. When he drops the toy, give your happy "Yes!" with verbal and physical praise and feed him the treat, then pick up his toy and give it back to him--you can even play with him with it as a bonus reward.

    After a lot of repetitions of that, he'll likely start dropping the toy in anticipation of the reward but before you actually have a chance to show the food to him. If so, continue to reward every one of those trials with verbal and physical praise and food for a good long while to build up a great value in dropping things when you ask. Then, when you've got the behavior reliable, start tapering off the use of food in your rewards.

    One of the keys to using food wisely is to fade the lure pretty quickly so you are truly rewarding your dog, not bribing it. Additionally, present food rewards immediately after verbal and physical praise. If you do this then you are classically conditioning your dog to like verbal and physical praise even more. That way when it comes time to taper off the food element you have a dog that enjoys the verbal and physical praise almost just as much as when it was accompanied by food.

    All too often people don't realize this and they either reward with praise OR food. The dog learns this and they check out or start to ignore you because, after all, your gums are flapping so you must not have food otherwise they'd have seen it by now. This makes it easy for dogs to realize when the owner intends to reward with food and the dog starts holding out for the presence of food.

    Another mistake in training with food is that people present the food first and the praise comes second and only half-heartedly. This means that the classical conditioning is never taking place. If that happens, it nearly impossible to get to the stage where the dog continues to work through non-food-rewarded trials.

    The last common error in training with food is going from rewarding every trial with food to suddenly rewarding none or almost none with food. Imagine if every day you put money in a soda machine, pushed the button and got a soda. Then one day you put money in and no soda came out. You'd think the machine was broken or empty and you wouldn't bother performing the behavior of putting money in anymore. Well, that's what dogs feel like when we stop using food rewards cold turkey.

    Now, think of a slot machine. It's kind of the same thing really, we put money in and push a button. Sure we aren't hoping for a soda. Instead we're hoping for a payout. What happens to those machines that never seem to pay out? People stop the putting-in-money behavior, move away from them and try their luck elsewhere. But if the payout comes often enough--not every time, heck, sometimes not even very frequently at all. And if sometimes it's a little and sometimes it's a lot, people stay at those machines all day long just repeating the putting-in-money behavior over and over and over and over again.

    Our job is to convince our dogs that we are slot machines. That a great payout is coming--they just have to work for it. And if we intersperse verbal praise, physical praise, access to real-life rewards, and play from you with great food rewards, you will condition your dog to see all of those as great payouts.
     
    Last edited: Feb 27, 2014
  4. JethrosMom

    JethrosMom Boxer Pal

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    Thank you guys so much for taking the time to help me. It means A LOT! I'm still exhausted and I still have a lot of work to do with Jethro but I feel so much better about it now and I think having a positive attitude about it is going to go a long way here. Thanks for spending your precious time writing out such long messages back. I can't thank you all enough. I'll let you know how it goes.
     
  5. JethrosMom

    JethrosMom Boxer Pal

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    While things seemed to be improving inside the house, we missed our walk yesterday because of the rain, and when we came back from our walk today I felt like having a breakdown and crying because Jethro is frustrating me so much! First he played tug a war with the leash while jumping on me and I was able to eventually control it, (I haven't bought a harness yet to be able to do two leashes), then we kept walking and about ten minutes later Jethro got ahold of the leash and was tugging so hard while jumping on me harder than before, growling (which is rare with him except during rough play with my husband or with a stuffed animal that I finally took away from him) and shaking his head with the leash in his mouth, as I would assuming he would do if he got ahold of a rabbit or some other little creature like that. It actually made me very nervous that he would bite me. Only one other time have I been afraid of him like this. Once he settled down he was listening to my sit down and stay again but I do not know what to do during the time when he goes crazy like that. Please help.
     
  6. Jan

    Jan Reasonable Moderator Staff Member

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    When Jethro is going crazy tugging on the leash, try and let the tension off it. Step toward him, so the leash go slack. He will soon find out that it is not any fun if there is nothing to tug on. You also might want to try a Head Halter. It will give you control of his head and it will be more difficult for him to grab the leash. You could also try the Easy Walk Harness, where the leash attaches in from of the chest.

    Here are a couple of sites on using them.

    How to Use a Head Halter on Your Dog : The Humane Society of the United States

    Easy Walk Harness Product Description - Premier Pet

    By the way, your dog will not shrink in the rain and neither will you. :D just make your walk a little shorter. You could always get him a rain coat. :) Unless it blowing a gale, my dogs go out rain, or shine.

    Good luck!
     
  7. JethrosMom

    JethrosMom Boxer Pal

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    Jan, thanks for your help! Haha no I am not afraid of the rain but I don't want my 3 month old daughter getting wet and sick. With that said, it thunderstorms a lot here and it was thunder a lightening the other day. I won't go out to walk in that.

    I've used the gentle leader head halter for a while and he was on that when he started this biting tugging on the leash thing, which was about 2 or 3 weeks ago now. It's great for normal walking but once we get around people or dogs he goes crazy with the gentle leader and uses his paws to try to get it off his nose. He would also do flips in it! I've found better control with a normal collar, actually. I might try the other one though that goes around chest and stops his legs when walking.
     
  8. Jan

    Jan Reasonable Moderator Staff Member

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    You definitely don't want to walk in a thunderstorm. :( Do you walk you daughter in a stroller or in a back pack? You can always get a rain cover for a stroller.

    Because the harness attaches in front, it tends to turn your dog towards when he pulls.

    When you can't get out for exercise, work his brain instead. Do some obedience training, teach him some tricks. That can wear him out just as much as a walk. Afterwards give him a good bone or chew to keep him busy for a while.

    Good luck!
     
  9. TwoDogs

    TwoDogs Boxer Insane

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    This is where having a good trainer would help you. Not only would you get instruction on how to train obedience behavior to good reliability, you'd also get instruction on some management techniques that will help you in the meantime.

    For now, any time you are walking both the dog and the baby, just adopt a management strategy. You cannot wrangle a dog with no impulse control and a stroller at the same time. When you first see a dog or person approaching turn around and walk the opposite direction. If you can't do that then walk off the side of the road as far as you can and start dropping the best treats you have on the ground and tell Jethro to "find it". A single treat offered from the hand might not be enough to keep his attention, but a fistful of goodies scattered around might.

    Depending on how the situation plays out, combine the two--walk off to the side AND turn around while you are scattering treats to keep him busy. If you can't turn around, walk off to the side and scatter treats ahead of you so that you keep him moving but he's so focused on the treats that he doesn't notice the approach. Use the best treats you've got--shredded chicken, leftover meatball bits, dehydrated liver, cheese chunks, whatever floats his boat. Do this plenty of times when there is NO person/dog so that he doesn't start to anticipate that there is something out there every time you do it.

    As far as things you can train to help you on your walks. Of course you can work on good leash walking skills and a nice close "heel" behavior but the key is going to be making engaging in the behavior so highly rewarding that the dog prefers to do it over anything else OR that the dog has learned that the only way it gets to the things that it prefers more is by doing the behavior that it prefers less. This is called the Premack Principle of behavior and is the basis for training with "real-life rewards".

    Remember when your mom said "you can go out and play if you clean your room first"? She was using the Premack Principle. Until you take the time to teach your dog that he needs to give you something in exchange for getting what he wants (AND THEN PRACTICE IT OVER AND OVER AND OVER SO THAT IT BECOMES THE ONLY WAY YOUR DOG HAS EVER GOTTEN THE THINGS THAT HE WANTS) you will need to rely on some form of management to get you through situations.

    The problem is that most dogs have had tons of practice doing things another way--usually a way we don't like. It's going to take ALOT of work to convince them to abandon their other way and adopt our way. The fastest way to do this is by limiting the chance that they even get to think about doing it the old way--this is where your old friend "management" comes in again. For now, don't put Jethro in a situation he is likely to fail otherwise he just gets more practice trying to do it his old way. Change your walking route so that you don't meet as many people or dogs. Walk at a different time of day (or night). Perhaps eliminate walks in favor of games of fetch in the yard. Tire him with mental games so that walks can be shorter. Practice walking laps in your back yard or right in front of your home. When I had my little one I'd put him in the playpen in the front yard and walk my dog for 20 minutes straight, back and forth between the two telephone poles in front of my house. It wasn't the most exciting walk in the world, but it was about a mile's worth of walking and I'd change it up by doing turns and figure 8s and weaves and stuff and practicing sits and stays.

    Another thing I would suggest is periodically giving Jethro time to sniff during his walk. For an energetic young dog what we think of as a walk is a really boring exercise. If you watch how dogs walk from place to place, they rarely travel in a straight line. Usually they tack back and forth, stopping and starting. They almost always stop to sniff stuff and usually travel at a trot not a walk. By comparison, our walks must be excruciatingly boring for them. In a young dog this can cause a HUGE amount of frustration and the dog will act out.

    If Jethro can walk nicely for about 10 minutes before he grabs the leash and tugs and gets riled up, then walk him for 8 minutes then stop and tell him to "go sniff". Give him a little slack and let him explore the immediate area. Don't let him pull you around, but let him have some time to just be a dog. After a minute, call him in close, gather up the slack in the leash and walk for another 8 minutes before you let him "go sniff" again. For dogs with a low tolerance for frustration who are easily frustrated by being made to walk at our pace on leash this can be a lovely trade off. It's that Premack Principle at it's finest--walk nicely with me for a bit and I'll let you sniff that tree, fire hydrant, or mailbox. Then just like any good training method, you start varying where you stop, how long he has to walk before you stop, and the length of time he gets to spend sniffing before walking again.
     
  10. johann

    johann Boxer Insane

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    One immediate fix for this would be a chain leash (not choke collar, the actual leash)- he will (most likely) not want to play tug with a chain. You could even use 2 leashes that way you aren't trying to wrangle/hold onto a chain leash and hurt yourself- but immediately drop the cloth one and just hold onto chain if he starts tugging on it.

    I had a newborn in winter in Maine, and we used a lot of nosework/find it in the house to tire out my boxer.

    Also- I have my dog heel on the opposite side when I'm walking/jogging him with the stroller. I find it easier to have the stroller between him and other dogs- that way it will break his line of sight/staring.

    Hang in there, it will get better. And I hope it already has. :)
     
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