Poodle Forum banner

1 - 14 of 14 Posts

·
Registered
Joined
·
74 Posts
Discussion Starter · #1 ·
The initial consultation with our trainer led me down the rabbit hole of hyperarousal in dogs. I've been mulling over this for a couple of days and I wanted to pitch it to the forum.

At home, Loki usually works for treats. Sometimes the treats are his regular kibbles and sometimes they're his higher-valued treats (though his preferences flipped lately, it's a little weird). However, when he's outside, with the distraction of dogs, squirrels/bunnies, and people, he won't take treats from me (including chicken). But I can typically get his attention back and put him into a sit-and-stay with a ball. I can also get him to come back using a ball if he's pulling hard on his leash, which I can't with treats. However, calling him back at that state usually leads to a 50/50 chance of him excitingly mouthing at the leash, which he doesn't usually do.

Does this mean that he's more play-motivated and I just haven't been able to harness this motivation properly and stop him from tipping over his threshold? Or that because he is already so amped up and over his threshold when he's outside, it's much easier for him to redirect all that energy to something exciting ("BALL!! PLAY!!") rather than slowing down to focus on a treat? Or maybe he IS food-motivated and I just haven't been using the right treat?
 

·
Premium Member
Mia, Christmas in June 2010
Joined
·
2,719 Posts
This is an excellent question for @lily cd re .

Having owned an anxious and over-stimulated dog, I empathize with what you're dealing with. Are you asking about food versus play motivation because you're looking for a suitable reward during impulse control games?

With my dog, play was very stimulating, so I found using food reward to be more helpful when teaching him to self-regulate. If your dog is similar, then your trainer has probably already cautioned you to back off from any activity that triggers arousal and slowly and progressively work back up, always keeping him in a normal state. Every episode of hyperarousal reinforces that pathway - exactly what you don't want to do. You may have already been introduced to games like Look at That, The Relaxation Protocol, It's Your Choice.

As you said, there's a rabbit hole of information out there. Some of it is cataloged on this DogForum post on impulse control.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
74 Posts
Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Having owned an anxious and over-stimulated dog, I empathize with what you're dealing with. Are you asking about food versus play motivation because you're looking for a suitable reward during impulse control games?
Yes! Particularly when the distraction is high. I have been working on LAT, "capturing calm," and It's Your Choice with him since he arrived a few months ago. He's doing well in low distraction places (e.g. at home) - which are also places where he's relatively calm already. But I can't get him to focus enough with treats in high distraction places - So I'm wondering if he's already over his threshold in those places, or I'm using the wrong motivation.

Thank you so much for the link! The videos are very helpful.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
15 Posts
When I train my dog in obedience I use both food and play. I've got a dachshund girl (still looking for a spoodle) and she gets quite high with toys, whoever she saw the ball she used to start barking in order to obtain it. Dachshunds are very stubborn and she could go on barking for hours and hours 😅. In training I've found both useful: I prefer using food whenever I need to work on precision. Small bites of treats work great when you need to reward the correct movement or when you work in shaping. However, play works great for us when we need to work on speed and attitude, although we need to build precision first with food, since I find that with play alone she tends to be more imprecise. Before we found a good trainer that taught me how play should be used, I didn't think I could ever use play with her as a mean to motivate her: the first rule is that dogs should be taught that play is always better if it is a playing with someone and not playing by him/herself. As you would already know, toys that you intend to use in training should be always kept and never left to the dog all day long: they have to be considered high value items, so they need to be treated as so. Whenever my dachs goes crazy for the ball (and she gets so crazy that she forgets how to perform simple task as to sit down) I usually wait for her to stop and recollect herself, sometimes I turn my back and take a few steps away in order to distract her from her crazy barking of request, sometimes I say her "no!" or "eh-eh!" if she gets too high. I always and only reward a calm, focused behavior: she needs to listen to my directions if she wanna achieve the prize. It may seems frustrating in the first place, but with patience and consistency you will surely build a very good relationship with playing and dog toys in general. Another suggestion I could give you is to never steal the toy from your dog's mouth: work on your "drop it", reinforce that command with more play, and let him always see you as the source of all the fun.
I hope you find this answer usuful: please let me know your thoughts on it
 

·
Premium Member
Mia, Christmas in June 2010
Joined
·
2,719 Posts
But I can't get him to focus enough with treats in high distraction places - So I'm wondering if he's already over his threshold in those places, or I'm using the wrong motivation.
He's already over threshold. The key is to very slowly increase distraction, in very small increments. If you're using distance, sometimes moving one foot towards the stimulus is too much, so you have to go back the one foot, make sure you're solid, and then try moving forward 1 inch. The goal is to always keep him under threshold, not to figure out how close to threshold you can get without going over. So success is small increments and under threshold, and failure is over-threshold and backing off.

I worked on distance before I attempted more engaging stimuli. If you've done any BAT (Grisha Stewart), then staying under threshold is reward enough.

ETA: It shouldn't feel like you're competing for his attention. He should be relaxed enough to freely focus on you when you ask for it.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
74 Posts
Discussion Starter · #6 ·
When I train my dog in obedience I use both food and play. I've got a dachshund girl (still looking for a spoodle) and she gets quite high with toys, whoever she saw the ball she used to start barking in order to obtain it. Dachshunds are very stubborn and she could go on barking for hours and hours 😅. In training I've found both useful: I prefer using food whenever I need to work on precision. Small bites of treats work great when you need to reward the correct movement or when you work in shaping. However, play works great for us when we need to work on speed and attitude, although we need to build precision first with food, since I find that with play alone she tends to be more imprecise. Before we found a good trainer that taught me how play should be used, I didn't think I could ever use play with her as a mean to motivate her: the first rule is that dogs should be taught that play is always better if it is a playing with someone and not playing by him/herself. As you would already know, toys that you intend to use in training should be always kept and never left to the dog all day long: they have to be considered high value items, so they need to be treated as so. Whenever my dachs goes crazy for the ball (and she gets so crazy that she forgets how to perform simple task as to sit down) I usually wait for her to stop and recollect herself, sometimes I turn my back and take a few steps away in order to distract her from her crazy barking of request, sometimes I say her "no!" or "eh-eh!" if she gets too high. I always and only reward a calm, focused behavior: she needs to listen to my directions if she wanna achieve the prize. It may seems frustrating in the first place, but with patience and consistency you will surely build a very good relationship with playing and dog toys in general. Another suggestion I could give you is to never steal the toy from your dog's mouth: work on your "drop it", reinforce that command with more play, and let him always see you as the source of all the fun.
I hope you find this answer usuful: please let me know your thoughts on it
This is great information/example, thank you so much! Using food vs. toy for different purposes make a lot of sense. It sounds like I should put more effort into keeping him below the threshold first to just "program" some behaviors using food.
 

·
Super Moderator
Peggy Sue, Standard Poodle Born May 2019
Joined
·
8,820 Posts
My experience with Peggy is that if she's over-threshold, she needs an outlet for that energy. I can't just shut it down/expect her to calmly sit and take a treat.

I find that being playful is actually very powerful in those moments. It shifts the mood. And once I've diverted her attention from the trigger, I can gradually calm her back down.

Scattering treats for a sniff party also works well, as does "animating" the treat—zipping it past her nose, jogging backwards, etc.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
74 Posts
Discussion Starter · #8 ·
He's already over threshold. The key is to very slowly increase distraction, in very small increments. If you're using distance, sometimes moving one foot towards the stimulus is too much, so you have to go back the one foot, make sure you're solid, and then try moving forward 1 inch. The goal is to always keep him under threshold, not to figure out how close to threshold you can get without going over. So success is small increments and under threshold, and failure is over-threshold and backing off.

I worked on distance before I attempted more engaging stimuli. If you've done any BAT (Grisha Stewart), then staying under threshold is reward enough.

ETA: It shouldn't feel like you're competing for his attention. He should be relaxed enough to freely focus on you when you ask for it.
I definitely need to work on identifying when and where he's going over the threshold. To me, it often feels like he'll go from 0 (sleepy/won't-wake-up-even-if-I-play-with-his-paws) to 60 ("AHHHHHH!!! WHAT DO YOU WANT TO DO?! BALL?! TUG?! TRAIN?! YEAH I'VE GOT THIS LET'S DO IT!) without much warning, but I'm sure there's an intermediate phase/area that I'm not catching.

And you've guessed correctly, it usually does feel like I'm competing for his attention. When we're training, he's watching and listening to me, but it feels like he's very easily distracted.
 

·
Premium Member
Mia, Christmas in June 2010
Joined
·
2,719 Posts
I think this is something to talk though with your trainer. If you can record your sessions, that will help you. The key points surround how to increase stimulation while staying under threshold, and how to read your dog. Dogs can be very subtle in their cues, and it helps to have an expert help you spot the signs of overstimulation.

Have you done any BAT? It's Grisha Stewart's thing. I think her videos with Bean (roughly 5 years ago) are helpful, even with games like LAT. She's really good at identifying behavior.

And if you're not doing the Relaxation Protocol, now's a good time to start. Teaching him to love chilling on a mat is invaluable.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
74 Posts
Discussion Starter · #10 ·
My experience with Peggy is that if she's over-threshold, she needs an outlet for that energy. I can't just shut it down/expect her to calmly sit and take a treat.

I find that being playful is actually very powerful in those moments. It shifts the mood. And once I've diverted her attention from the trigger, I can gradually calm her back down.

Scattering treats for a sniff party also works well, as does "animating" the treat—zipping it past her nose, jogging backwards, etc.
Yes! I think the blessing/curse with Loki is even when he's over his threshold, he's 100% still willing to engage with you easily if you look like you'll play with him/if you have a ball in your hand, but all that frantic/eager energy gets redirected towards you in the form of a crazy, happy, bouncy poodle (tail wagging, ears flying - I'm convinced that poodles can fly). Where I'm failing right now is finding the breaks after I've successfully redirected the dog towards me (or as @Liz suggested, just stopping him from reaching that point).

I'll give it a try implementing a combination of everyone's advice, thank you!
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
74 Posts
Discussion Starter · #11 ·
I think this is something to talk though with your trainer. If you can record your sessions, that will help you. The key points surround how to increase stimulation while staying under threshold, and how to read your dog. Dogs can be very subtle in their cues, and it helps to have an expert help you spot the signs of overstimulation.

Have you done any BAT? It's Grisha Stewart's thing. I think her videos with Bean (roughly 5 years ago) are helpful, even with games like LAT. She's really good at identifying behavior.

And if you're not doing the Relaxation Protocol, now's a good time to start. Teaching him to love chilling on a mat is invaluable.
I'll definitely also talk to his trainer about this - It was a little difficult sometimes to describe his behavior during the consult (and she couldn't see the behavior in person), so I wondered if I mischaracterized him/his behavior. Her suggestion to tether him got him to settle so quickly at home that it made me suspicious that I've actually been failing him by creating some of his anxious/stressed behavior. I'll definitely record some sessions - that's a great idea!

We have not done any BAT yet with him, but it sounds useful - I'm checking out the video now.
 

·
Premium Member
Mia, Christmas in June 2010
Joined
·
2,719 Posts
Her suggestion to tether him got him to settle so quickly at home that it made me suspicious that I've actually been failing him by creating some of his anxious/stressed behavior.
It's great to hear that you're already seeing results. With my first dog, I was guilty of not understanding how my behavior affected her, and I wouldn't be surprised if most new dog owners are guilty -- even if you grew up with dogs, if this is your first "own" dog, there's a learning curve. It's not deliberate, we just have to learn how sensitive dogs are to our moods, and how some of the things we do make them anxious or over-excited.

PTP has a lot of good, recent experience with teaching her dog to lower arousal. For years I kept the crates up so the dogs could have a two hour nap in the afternoon. I found that an enforced crate time helped them stay calmer in the afternoons and evenings.
 

·
Premium Member
Joined
·
24,032 Posts
I just realized I had been mentioned as someone who might have insight here. Sorry I didn't take that in sooner, but I don't always look at the alert messages.

At any rate here are my 2 cents. If a dog will not even acknowledge a nice treat presented right in front of their nose they are WAY over threshold. There are many reasons not to allow the dog to get there including but not limited to: complete disconnection from the handler, complete inability to learn, potential for danger from strongly fight oriented reactivity, the dog becoming loaded with cortisol which persists for hours and which will extend refractory resistance to training and learning along with stress events that can impair immune function and other attributes of good mental and physical health.......You should do two things related to thresholds: first avoid going past them and second do training that will expand the nonreactive zone around you and your dog.

Many many people who have reasonably good attention and compliance with orders in their kitchen as a starting place. They probably also have some duration and distance layered on there too. The mistake many of those people make is in thinking that dog will give the same execution straight off if they take that show on the road. They rush through intermediate steps. Your pup is out orbiting Jupiter in terms of how overthreshold he is in those higher distraction places. Go back to basics.

The dog loses its head and the handler complains that they don't understand what is happening because this "never happens at home!" You have to take baby steps. Teach a behavior and when it is good in the kitchen you add duration then distance in the kitchen (in that order). Then you do all those steps in the living room, on the back patio, near the front door on the lawn, near the street on the front lawn, in the driveway. You work all of that as a person walking a dog passes your house. You play look at that if passing the house starts to cause reactive behaviors and that should start to decrease or increase the size of your non-reactive zone as needed.

Now you are probably ready to take the show on the road and go to a strip mall where there will be people but no dogs. Repeat the process until people don't get a reaction. Then you go to a mall that has a pet store and you make sure you stay far enough away such that you are far enough away to get no reactivity, then work on gradually getting closer to other dogs. Do not let your dog go reactive as then you will have to extinguish reacting again and reestablish the behaiors you have taught.

Dogs stink at generalizing which is why you need to take tiny baby steps early on and move around to change the picture to help your pup understand sit means exactly and only sit until it is under good stimulus control, meaning the dog is so well trained and has such deep understanding of the orders and your expectations that they will do as you ask with a strange dog right next to them. I trained Lily for stand stay near the front door of a PetSmart. She learned not to solicit pets or treats unless her feet were glued to the ground and her eyes were on me.
 
  • Like
Reactions: Skylar, Liz and DNi

·
Registered
Joined
·
74 Posts
Discussion Starter · #14 ·
I just realized I had been mentioned as someone who might have insight here. Sorry I didn't take that in sooner, but I don't always look at the alert messages.

At any rate here are my 2 cents. If a dog will not even acknowledge a nice treat presented right in front of their nose they are WAY over threshold. There are many reasons not to allow the dog to get there including but not limited to: complete disconnection from the handler, complete inability to learn, potential for danger from strongly fight oriented reactivity, the dog becoming loaded with cortisol which persists for hours and which will extend refractory resistance to training and learning along with stress events that can impair immune function and other attributes of good mental and physical health.......You should do two things related to thresholds: first avoid going past them and second do training that will expand the nonreactive zone around you and your dog.

Many many people who have reasonably good attention and compliance with orders in their kitchen as a starting place. They probably also have some duration and distance layered on there too. The mistake many of those people make is in thinking that dog will give the same execution straight off if they take that show on the road. They rush through intermediate steps. Your pup is out orbiting Jupiter in terms of how overthreshold he is in those higher distraction places. Go back to basics.

The dog loses its head and the handler complains that they don't understand what is happening because this "never happens at home!" You have to take baby steps. Teach a behavior and when it is good in the kitchen you add duration then distance in the kitchen (in that order). Then you do all those steps in the living room, on the back patio, near the front door on the lawn, near the street on the front lawn, in the driveway. You work all of that as a person walking a dog passes your house. You play look at that if passing the house starts to cause reactive behaviors and that should start to decrease or increase the size of your non-reactive zone as needed.

Now you are probably ready to take the show on the road and go to a strip mall where there will be people but no dogs. Repeat the process until people don't get a reaction. Then you go to a mall that has a pet store and you make sure you stay far enough away such that you are far enough away to get no reactivity, then work on gradually getting closer to other dogs. Do not let your dog go reactive as then you will have to extinguish reacting again and reestablish the behaiors you have taught.

Dogs stink at generalizing which is why you need to take tiny baby steps early on and move around to change the picture to help your pup understand sit means exactly and only sit until it is under good stimulus control, meaning the dog is so well trained and has such deep understanding of the orders and your expectations that they will do as you ask with a strange dog right next to them. I trained Lily for stand stay near the front door of a PetSmart. She learned not to solicit pets or treats unless her feet were glued to the ground and her eyes were on me.
Thank you! I really appreciate the step-by-step. This, and the insight from everyone, is very helpful.
 
1 - 14 of 14 Posts
Top