Sunday, December 7, 2014

Prevention is Better Than Reacting

I was just in the back yard with my 3 dogs. Two of them started air sniffing. Then a few seconds later, all 3 were running at top speed towards the other end of the yard. Obviously they smelled some kind of animal.


They came back when called. But it would have been better for me to get their attention when I first noticed the air sniffing. I could have used that opportunity to ask for some operant behaviors to prevent running off. Or I could have fed for the presence of the creature (counter conditioning and desensitization).
Air sniffing was just one example of a precursor to a possible undesirable behavior. Other pet guardians might notice
1. An ear flick in the direction of the thing that bothers the dog
2. Freezing
3. Wiggly nose
4. Tail drops on a dog whose tail is normally in the air
5. Tail raises on a dog whose tail normally hangs down
6. Lips turning into an O or C shape
7. Eyes start darting around or darting towards the thing that bothers the dog.
8. Mouth closes when mouth is normally open
9. Mouth opens when mouth is normally closed
10. Stops panting
11. Starts panting
12. Legs get stiffer or spread apart or weight shifts to front or back legs.
13. And my Murphy will sniff a dog's back before he humps.
14. Dog stands taller, chest pokes out, head leans forward, ears lean forward

Pet guardians can watch for these signs not just to prevent running off but to prevent the leash from getting tight (loose leash walking), prevent the family dog from chasing the family can't, prevent he puppy from herding the baby, etc..
Basically, look for your dog's "tell" and calmly and positively interrupt before the undesirable behavior happens.

See Murphy's "tell" for humping here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qsLzlCYSFtY and below



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