[nagdu] [nagdu' new dog, sniffing, and scavenging

Daryl Marie crazymusician at shaw.ca
Wed Jul 30 13:41:26 UTC 2014


Thank you for concisely putting into words what I have been trying to articulate.  While we may not always agree, I fully respect you and your decisions and experience.

I was very fortunate that Jenny was never in a kennel. She was with her puppy raisers, and then she was boarded with a family while she was doing guide dog training.  The scrounging was a habit she picked up in puppyhood and seemed to get out of during formal guide dog training, but pretty much the instant the trainer left us, she started it up. It's gotten loads better since we've been working on it (unfortunately most of our training is done on the fly because she won't dive for the food during planned training exercises); today she did get scroungy, so I had to tell her to leave it, took whatever it ws away, and told her to move on. She didn't, so told her no, sit. Once we were both calmer, on our merry way!

And yes, get to know your dog's posture. Jenny can be lightning quick to scrounge, but most times I can tell that she's going to do it before she does. I feel it and pull then slacken the harness handle as if to hold her back, tell her to move forward, and off we go. It seems to work for us, because she knows I will check if she's gotten a hold of something, and most of the time she has not gotten it at all or dropped it if she did get it.

Raven, I hear you about dog distractions! yesterday, Gizmo, the little dog downstairs at work, started barking at Jenny through the door. Unfortunately, jenny responded in kind. Once we got upstairs, I ate my lunch, and then we went down to do some training.  Since this is the first time we've had a dog-distraction session without a correction collar, I was curious to see what would happen. So gizmo started barking like crazy, Jenny got all tail-waggy and thrilled, and I said in a bright voice to come this way (or something similar). I had a treat in my hand, so when she did what I asked, I gave her the treat. Repeated this process several times in different scenarios (coming in from outside, or after a bit of time had passed), and each time she would rather receive treats and praise than get into a barking/distracted match with Gizmo.  The last go-round, she did it without the treats.

Now I just have to work with her on hubby-distraction!  Wish me luck!

----- Original Message -----
From: Raven Tolliver via nagdu <nagdu at nfbnet.org>
To: Nicole Torcolini <ntorcolini at wavecable.com>, NAGDU Mailing List, the National Association of Guide Dog Users <nagdu at nfbnet.org>
Sent: Wed, 30 Jul 2014 06:31:40 -0600 (MDT)
Subject: Re: [nagdu] [nagdu' new dog, sniffing, and scavenging

I think what happens to many dogs is they develop bad habits in the
kennels. Sending a dog to a kennel for 4-6+ months after 1 to 1-1/2
years of living in a house is similar to sending a child off to
college after working hard to ingrain them with good habits and
manners while they lived with their parents. The child will no longer
have someone supervising the way they live and maintain
themselves/their living space, so those good habits go to pot until
they're in an environment or circumstance where they're expected to be
more responsible and well-maintained.
Obviously, the trainers work hard with the dogs' manners in-harness,
but that one-on-one time is not as effective as it would be if the dog
was living in a home. This is one of the reasons why I am so ra-ra
kennel-free training. The larger schools can't do that, but it
definitely would put a dent in the dogs coming out of the schools with
bad habits.
When I first got the Golden Guy, he would pick stuff up off the floor
and out of low trash cans. My puppy-raisers said that it must have
come from him being a kennel dog, and that they had ensured that he
would not scavenge or beg. They told me to work on that with him to
undo any bad habits he developed in the kennels. With a few training
sessions after I returned to Michigan, I was able to remind him that
he knew better.
I have also seen dogs come out of the kennels eat their own feces,
jump up on people or furniture inappropriately , and do other
unacceptable behaviors.

Corrections will not fix a habitual sniffer/scavenger, or any kind of
habitual distraction. With a distraction like this, you need to
address the problem actively rather than retroactively. Corrections
are retroactive because you're addressing the inappropriate behavior
after it has happened. That  might be effective if the dog has not yet
reaped the unintentional rewards of being distracted time and time
again. Unfortunately, that's not the case.
You need to be a step ahead of your dog. Learn their body language so
that you know when your dog is about to go for something on the
ground. This information is important. Now, you can catch your dog
before they even act up. As I said in my earlier post, grab your dog's
attention and give an alternative. Sniffing can't happen if the dog
sits or keeps moving along. What I do with dogs is I start walking
faster, bouncing the leash, and speaking in an excited voice. "Come
on! Let's go, let's go!" The dog immediately refocuses and ignores the
I tried corrections with the Golden Guy when I first got him. He has a
moderate to high dog distraction. Corrections did nothing to help the
situation. If anything, it probably made it worse. When I switched to
positive methods, I was able to work with his distraction in a way
that didn't leave me frustrated, and feeling as though I had not
changed a thing. Positive methods made me think differently. What
would I rather my dog do than go for another dog? Well
I would like him to simply move past it. But we had to work our way up
to that. I tried to get him to keep moving, but I couldn't get him to
focus on his work. So I had to break it down into baby steps.
First, I would just have him sit whenever another dog would pass us
up. While he sat, I worked on getting his attention
with my voice, sound cues, and treats. Once I could get his attention,
then I reapproached moving past the dog. I first worked on this with
him on-leash and out-of-harness. Then I added the harness in after he
was able to move past dogs while just on-leash. Like I do with the
other dogs I train, I would walk faster past the dog, speak to him to
keep him focused: "Let's go, buddy. Good job. Good focus. focus,
buddy. good work!" and pause to praise him up after we passed the dog
because it's quite a feat! Now this does not work 100% of the time,,
but his distraction is 80% better than it was when we started working
together. And for those times when he will not cooperate, we just sit
and wait it out, or I heel him past the dog. No corrections needed.

On 7/29/14, Nicole Torcolini via nagdu <nagdu at nfbnet.org> wrote:
> Sometimes, corrections followed by rewards can help stop a behavior, but it
> sounds as though that is not the case for you. Is there anything in
> particular that he does when he sniffs? Are there certain things that cause
> him to sniff more than others? Is there anything that you know will get his
> attention? For example, it gets the attention of some dogs if you just stop
> dead in your tracks and drop the harness handle. Did they tell you what to
> do about the sniffing in class? I wonder if his puppy raisers let him get
> away with sniffing.
> Nicole
> -----Original Message-----
> From: Danielle Sykora [mailto:dsykora29 at gmail.com]
> Sent: Tuesday, July 29, 2014 6:21 AM
> To: Nicole Torcolini
> Subject: Re: [nagdu] [nagdu' new dog, sniffing, and scavenging
> Sorry it has taken me so long to respond. I agree with Raven. I want my dog
> to work for the possibility of rewards, not to avoid correction. Yes,
> corrections temporarily stop a behavior but they don't fix it over time.
> When I correct my dog for sniffing, he stops for the moment but will start
> sniffing again a short time later. He has always been sniffy, even during
> class.
> Danielle
> On 7/27/14, Nicole Torcolini <ntorcolini at wavecable.com> wrote:
>> Was he sniffy during class, or is this a new behavior?
>> -----Original Message-----
>> From: nagdu [mailto:nagdu-bounces at nfbnet.org] On Behalf Of Danielle
>> Sykora via nagdu
>> Sent: Sunday, July 27, 2014 9:51 AM
>> To: NAGDU Mailing List,the National Association of Guide Dog Users
>> Subject: [nagdu] [nagdu' new dog, sniffing, and scavenging
>> Hi all,
>> I returned home from GDF on Friday with my new dog, a male lab/golden
>> cross named Thai. Since we have gotten home, I have begun to avoid
>> using corrections, especially leash corrections. He tends to be quite
>> sniffy, especially in places with a lot of food. A firm "leave it"
>> usually is sufficient but it can be difficult to quickly get his
> attention.
>> Also, he will scavenge for food and pick up dropped items which he
>> really should not be eating. This behavior mostly occurs out of
>> harness, but it is still undesirable. Any thoughts on decreasing
>> sniffing and strengthening food refusal skills using positive methods?
>> Danielle
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