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How to train calm behaviour??

Discussion in 'Dog Chat' started by SHSmith, Dec 7, 2020.


  1. SHSmith

    SHSmith PetForums Junior

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    Hi. I am looking for training games/tips that focus on teaching my dog to remain calm.

    My 3 year old Cavalier is a dream in the home: calm, loving and super sweet natured.

    On walks she has become increasingly over-excited to the point of looking stressed (yapping and squealing, panting etc) and I can no longer walk both my dogs together as they both them become over-excited

    She has been checked by the vet and she is physically very healthy.

    I've been advised to use training to calm her down but I'm stuck for ideas on how to teach this.

    I'd really appreciate some ideas as I'd like to put a training plan together so we have something firm to work on.
     
  2. Torin.

    Torin. PetForums VIP

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    Hi @SHSmith, is it particular things on your walks that stresses her out, or is it just the concept of walking full stop?
     
  3. SHSmith

    SHSmith PetForums Junior

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    It is mostly the prospect of seeing a fox (or if we go to the coast, the smell of the sea).

    We live on a road that seems to have a lot of fox traffic, so she anticipates seeing one immediately as we walk out of our front door.

    And if we don't see one, the road must smell of them as I've seen her anticipate one popping out of a bush by scent alone.

    There are also roads in our village that are difficult for us to walk down as there is something that sets her off - I'm assuming they smell of foxes too? Or maybe she remembers previous fox sightings?

    Other times it is woodland or coastal areas when on lead - she must want to run to chase the squirrels, follow a fox scent, or play in the sea (which she loves). But she can't always be off lead in these areas (some woodlands forbid it due to deer, or on coastal cliffs etc) so she gets frustrated and stressed, lots of yapping, squeaking and stress lip licking etc.

    On one of our trips to the coast, to walk the Seven Sisters, she didn't stop for 5 hours, until we came home. It was not a fun day out.

    All suggestions greatly appreciated!
     
  4. tabelmabel

    tabelmabel Banned

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    I think i would forget about taking her for walks as such and try to see if you can get her engaged with you whilst static in one location.

    Can you drive her to the beach, or an area where she hasnt previously had a squirrel sighting?

    And then just remain in one area on the sand and wait there til she calms down, attach a trailing long line.

    See if she can do a 2 minute sit stay. A 5 min one?

    A 2 min down stay. A 5 min one?

    Can she stay whilst you walk around her?

    Run round her?

    Throw a toy over her?

    Treat well and praise calm behaviour. You can rev her up between exercises.

    At the end of the training, get back in the car and go home. You can try these kinds of things in other locations.

    When she can relax outdoors, you can try some short walks, but every few mins, ask for a sit, or down and get her focus on you. Reward her with a little game before moving on.


    The situation on your road sounds difficult. Again, remaining still and practising stays might help - though i would maybe save your road til later in the training and start off in an easier location.


    Do be sure she can do good sit and down stays in your house and garden first. Im assuming she can, as she is calm there.


    The other thing that you can do in your house is to rev her up with a tug toy or squeaky ball or something and then get her to hold a down - fling the ball around her, get it squeaking. Can she stay calm in your house?



    You can also buy fox/pheasant/squirrel aroma from gundog suppliers. Check online. They arent the real thing but might be worth having for practice.


    Some people suggest dabbing some on a cloth and tucking it into the dog's collar, supposed to reduce excitement for it if the dog smells it all the time.
     
  5. StormyThai

    StormyThai Moderator
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    Is she the same if you take her somewhere that isn't your road or the sea?
    In my personal view going by what you have mentioned I don't think this is a fox issue but without seeing the dog we will just be guessing.
    I'd suggest looking for a trainer to help to guide you in the right direction :)
     
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  6. SHSmith

    SHSmith PetForums Junior

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    Thank you very much tabelmabel, I will certainly try what you recommend. She has a good 'look at me' which works for a second, but I can see how the sit stay will help break the craziness for longer. Rewarding calm is also something I will try.

    I am going to discuss this with my training first week of January, as we have a session booked then.

    Until then I will work on avoiding triggers and training the sit/down stay and rewarding calm. I'm pleased that gives us something to work on. Many thanks.
     
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  7. tabelmabel

    tabelmabel Banned

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    At least it is something to try whilst you wait to see a trainer. Though stormy thai is far more experienced than i am so don't be too demoralised if my suggestions don't help. Hopefully just having something to try will help you feel a little more positive and tide you through til New Year.
     
  8. Mum2Heidi

    Mum2Heidi PetForums VIP

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    You’ve had lots of very good advice to work with.
    Knowing your dog’s character will help you choose which will be most suitable. Some respond more to deterring the unwanted behaviour, others to ignoring it totally and switching to something else - distraction.
    A couple of things I thought when reading.
    Work with the ‘look at me’ and get longer than a second. I worked on this with my little terrier Heidi. Eye contact is her ‘‘release’ for almost everything. After mostly every ‘sit’ - eye contact. She has worked it out for herself. If I ask ‘leave’ she may be focused on her ball or a treat and I wait. Eventually she works out - eye contact and gives it. Sometimes a glance and I don’t reward, then I get a full on stare:D. It’s been a godsend in many respects especially her attention to me.
    When you play the over exciting game, have a word you use to calm it down followed by a huge reward. That same word may help you when you’re out. Perhaps even a whistle.
     
  9. Twiggy

    Twiggy PetForums VIP

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    Hmm sounds as if it's become an increasingly annoying habit and the excitement, frustration and possibly anxiety is ramping up. I find the easiest way to deal with it is to remain still; don't talk to her, don't tug on the lead, just stand like a statue until she calms down and then say something like "good girl" in a soothing voice and proceed forward. You won't get very far initially before you have to repeat and it takes time and patience. I've got loony collies who would like to do the same but they have to learn to control themselves in situations as you describe. I do agility with two of them and they'd really like to go belting off the start line screaming their heads off so we do a lot of impulse control in the sit on the start line. Just to add there is no telling off involved and they are well rewarded with treats and/or tuggy if they sit nicely whilst I nearly kill myself running the first line of jumps (or whatever) on my own.....LOL
     
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  10. tabelmabel

    tabelmabel Banned

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    One other thing i forgot to mention - well, 2 now - is that filming yourself with your dog is a brilliant training tool. Just for your own use.

    Because some days you will come back thinking 'well, what a waste of time that was!"

    And then you look at your footage and - lo and behold- in amongst all the behaviour you don't want, there are just some little bits there where your dog actually did just what you wanted. And you missed it at the time!


    The other thing is to keep notes.

    This has been highlighted to me again today as i have listened to ian dunbar's talk contained within the dog training forum on cleo38's thread.

    At the start, it is baby steps. But if you don't observe and record your training in a measurable way, you will be directionless and not be able to see the improvements.

    Once, when i was in a training class, we had to recall our dogs and i remember a woman shaking her head and saying 'my dog doesnt recall at all'

    The trainer said to keep the dog on lead and call it the length of the lead.

    Success!


    Sometimes you are looking for that tiny thing - in your case it might be that you dog is calm for 3 seconds.

    If that is 3.5 seconds next time - that is measurable improvement!


    Good dog trainers can reward right at that moment the desired response occurs, thus increasing the chances of the dog performing that again. And they ignore the unwanted, so it fades out.

    Filming your training can just help you pick out any islands of calm amongst the chaos!


    Good luck!
     
  11. SHSmith

    SHSmith PetForums Junior

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    Thank you all SO much for your replies. I have several different things to try now.

    Tabelmabel, you make a great point about feeling directionless. Now with these tips, I have something to try and a direction to go in.

    Filming the training is a good idea too. We have been doing some Heel Work to Music online classes and we film that for the class, and just be watching that back it is so easy to see the training from a completely different perspective, it's been very helpful. So I'll try that too.
     
    Twiggy likes this.
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