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Mumsie

Re Training

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Willem   

Sometimes, Willem, when you are dealing with a sick or anxious, deaf, blind or traumatised senior dog, the text book training goes out the window and you provide compassion, care and whatever else it takes for that old dog to enjoy the last weeks, months or years of their life. If you have ever seen a dog come out of a shelter or puppy farm in the worst possible way, you would know that at that stage dignity doesn't exist. Survival does.

first: when you read my first post (#10) in this thread you will recognize that I'm actually carefully evaluating (all based on the information provided by the OP) whether it is worthwhile to a) apply additional stress to the dog for a long-term benefit, or b) whether comforting the dog (= avoiding any stress) for increasing his chances of healing would be the better option. The OP never said that the dog (11 years old) is dying - the health issue stated was a pinched nerv, which is usually not deadly, but could require to apply some adjustments to the environment of the dog to address his limited agility.

second: a statement like '...Feelings and emotions are not something that you can reward so responding when he barks isn't reinforcing the behaviour...' is in many aspects at least misleading - this is a public forum and this thread gets read not only by the OP and the people who respond (well, I admit that it seems that even some of the latter ones don't spend much time on carefully reading), hence why not pointing it out?...while this is a public dog forum, sometimes I get the impression it is more about 'comforting' and 'pleasing' the dog owners instead of providing some knowledge for people really interested in dogs.

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Jumabaar   

Some exercise therapy to assist with the physical aspects of this problem may also be worth looking into. I have had many success stories with doing strength work as well as putting in other measures to help in these situations. There is also looking outside the square for longer term solutions as well. I am happy to assist if you are looking for more information.

The crying is a symptom of feeling anxious. Feelings and emotions are not something that you can reward so responding when he barks isn't reinforcing the behaviour so if it does progress to changing the set up give him as much love and support as he needs to feel comfortable. Then the underlying motivation to bark will not be there and everyone will be sleeping soundly.

...??? ... barking is a behaviour and of course it will be reinforced by rewarding it with the right response. Similar like a dog that jumps on you seeking attention. If your response is giving him the attention he is seeking, the behaviour (jumping) is rewarded and he will keep on doing it. Of course there are always motivations involved that drives a dog to those behaviours, but it is for obvious reasons not a good thing to do if dog owners always show the 'wanted behaviour' the dog is asking for. Showing affection for a dog includes also to do the things which might cause short-term stress for the dog, but pay off in a long-term.

I am pretty confident in the research backing up my statement. I am also more than happy to have any member of the general public read that statement and hopefully try and look at the WHY the dog is barking rather than just trying to make it stop. Anxiety and stress in an elderly dog isn't something that I believe is ok at all when there are other options. And one of these options is to slowly work to make the dog comfortable and safe and avoid the barking all together. If the barking starts you have gone too far and you should go and comfort said dog to ensure that they do not learn that the situation is scary.

Your method on the other hand teaches the dog to give up and is called learned helplessness which I believe is cruel and once again unnecessary. I don't allow young dogs to bark due to stress and anxiety either. Instead I empower them and end up with confident dogs that don't bark (or jump on their owner).

This is the difference between dog training and dog behaviour and why dog trainers can get into trouble and make situations worse when there is an underlying reason for the symptoms i.e. barking caused by anxiety. Solve the anxiety and the barking will resolve.

We can continue to go back and forth but it is not really relevant to this thread other than to say that there are kinder options available. If you do want more information then perhaps look at some of the work done by Karen Overall who is quite amazing and puts animals welfare and quality of life first.

Edited by Jumabaar

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Snook   

My understanding is that you can reinforce a behaviour like barking but you can't reinforce fear or anxiety. That being said, I think you need to look at the reason for the barking and address that, rather than just ignore the dog until it gives up barking.

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Willem   

isn't it a little bit keen - without further information from the OP - to assume that the dog suffers from 'anxiety'? ...the dog is used to sleep upstairs, and was of course confused that he had to sleep downstairs now. Other dogs are barking and wag the tail when the owner arrives as they are just excited...the dog might have just standing at the stair case with a wagging tail and barking...'hey, what's with me?...get me up here'...

Not every behaviour is due to anxiety!!!

here a quote from a behaviourist (with PHD!) who adds valuable information (I don't mean this in an ironic way!!!) to this forum (and 'valuable' doesn't mean that I always agree with it): The thing is it's impossible to know what internally motivates an animal - scientists even have trouble defining what "play" actually is. I've read a few books on the subject and I'm a scientist and I train dogs. I've read pages of Internet discussions and arguments about "drive" and I think it's a waste of time if you're actually trying to solve a problem.

ETA for clarification: this comment was made in a discussion about 'drive'...fear / anxiety is just another driver behind behavior.

Edited by Willem

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Willem   

Some exercise therapy to assist with the physical aspects of this problem may also be worth looking into. I have had many success stories with doing strength work as well as putting in other measures to help in these situations. There is also looking outside the square for longer term solutions as well. I am happy to assist if you are looking for more information.

The crying is a symptom of feeling anxious. Feelings and emotions are not something that you can reward so responding when he barks isn't reinforcing the behaviour so if it does progress to changing the set up give him as much love and support as he needs to feel comfortable. Then the underlying motivation to bark will not be there and everyone will be sleeping soundly.

...??? ... barking is a behaviour and of course it will be reinforced by rewarding it with the right response. Similar like a dog that jumps on you seeking attention. If your response is giving him the attention he is seeking, the behaviour (jumping) is rewarded and he will keep on doing it. Of course there are always motivations involved that drives a dog to those behaviours, but it is for obvious reasons not a good thing to do if dog owners always show the 'wanted behaviour' the dog is asking for. Showing affection for a dog includes also to do the things which might cause short-term stress for the dog, but pay off in a long-term.

I am pretty confident in the research backing up my statement....

the / your statement I referred to is highlighted as above - I won't hold my breath till a behaviourist comes and confirms that this statement in question is at least not misleading.

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stellnme   

Sometimes, Willem, when you are dealing with a sick or anxious, deaf, blind or traumatised senior dog, the text book training goes out the window and you provide compassion, care and whatever else it takes for that old dog to enjoy the last weeks, months or years of their life. If you have ever seen a dog come out of a shelter or puppy farm in the worst possible way, you would know that at that stage dignity doesn't exist. Survival does.

first: when you read my first post (#10) in this thread you will recognize that I'm actually carefully evaluating (all based on the information provided by the OP) whether it is worthwhile to a) apply additional stress to the dog for a long-term benefit, or b) whether comforting the dog (= avoiding any stress) for increasing his chances of healing would be the better option. The OP never said that the dog (11 years old) is dying - the health issue stated was a pinched nerv, which is usually not deadly, but could require to apply some adjustments to the environment of the dog to address his limited agility.

second: a statement like '...Feelings and emotions are not something that you can reward so responding when he barks isn't reinforcing the behaviour...' is in many aspects at least misleading - this is a public forum and this thread gets read not only by the OP and the people who respond (well, I admit that it seems that even some of the latter ones don't spend much time on carefully reading), hence why not pointing it out?...while this is a public dog forum, sometimes I get the impression it is more about 'comforting' and 'pleasing' the dog owners instead of providing some knowledge for people really interested in dogs.

People here are providing knowledge - many people have great experience and knowledge of dealing with senior dogs, and everything isn't out of the dog training manual. The OP states the dog is 11 and has medical problems which puts it in the category of needing different advice than a one year old fit dog that is barking to come inside or go upstairs.

Yes, it is a public forum but that doesn't give you the right to be rude to people who just may know more than you do, and it's not about you all the time - the OP asked for advice and experienced people are answering.

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...I'm pretty sure it wasn't me calling others morons, thoughtless or idiots...

But you are being pugnacious and antagonistic.

How about, instead of telling everyone here what the text book says - you sit back and take it on board sometimes.

I personally found your comments regarding my responses extremely rude. Luckily I give zero f***s what you actually think and the more obnoxious you become the less likely I am to read anything you've said.

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corvus   

*ahem*

Behaviourist speaking. Everyone hold your breath.

The only way you can tell if an action is reinforcing a particular behaviour is to record an increase in the frequency, intensity or duration of the behaviour. It's possible to reinforce barking by responding to it, but there are a zillion nuances to take into account. Barking is the sound of a language, and it is often a behaviour that emerges in response to an emotional state and/or accompanying arousal levels. It drives me nuts that this is so often overlooked by trainers, because oftentimes the dog CAN'T stop barking. They get in trouble and all it does is cut them off from any owner support they might be able to access. If you think the animal is distressed, and responding to their barking seems to relieve that stress, reinforcing the barking is not something I would be worrying very much about. The priority is to address the distress. A compassionate carer IMO would acknowledge the dog's distress and immediately try to help the dog feel less distressed. That may result in more barking, or it may result in less. Do we care? There is a balance here between being available to your dog when they need you and helping them need you less and less. My advice is generally to meet the dog's most pressing needs first, which are generally making contact with their owner, and then work on reducing that need to make contact once they are less anxious about whether you will respond to them or not. Probably being consistent is more important than what you do.

So in summary, I support what Jumabaar stated. It's not strictly strictly accurate as a broad statement, but it's probably true in this case anyway. Some barking is attention-seeking, but even there, some attention-seeking barking should probably be responded to. For example, it may still be driven by distress. The sound of the bark is usually a good way to tell. It's just behaviour, people. If you find the barking is increasing, you can just backtrack and stop reinforcing it. If you stop giving attention and the barking keeps going or even gets worse (after the first trial or two - extinction bursts), you have a good case for assuming the dog needs you. Understanding what the dog is trying to communicate helps a lot. There are certainly ways you can compromise so you are responding to your dog and your dog can 'ask' for your support in quieter ways.

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Guest crazydoglady99   
Guest crazydoglady99

You rock corvus!

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Willem   

*ahem*

Behaviourist speaking. Everyone hold your breath.

The only way you can tell if an action is reinforcing a particular behaviour is to record an increase in the frequency, intensity or duration of the behaviour. It's possible to reinforce barking by responding to it, but there are a zillion nuances to take into account. Barking is the sound of a language, and it is often a behaviour that emerges in response to an emotional state and/or accompanying arousal levels. It drives me nuts that this is so often overlooked by trainers, because oftentimes the dog CAN'T stop barking. They get in trouble and all it does is cut them off from any owner support they might be able to access. If you think the animal is distressed, and responding to their barking seems to relieve that stress, reinforcing the barking is not something I would be worrying very much about. The priority is to address the distress. A compassionate carer IMO would acknowledge the dog's distress and immediately try to help the dog feel less distressed. That may result in more barking, or it may result in less. Do we care? There is a balance here between being available to your dog when they need you and helping them need you less and less. My advice is generally to meet the dog's most pressing needs first, which are generally making contact with their owner, and then work on reducing that need to make contact once they are less anxious about whether you will respond to them or not. Probably being consistent is more important than what you do.

So in summary, I support what Jumabaar stated. It's not strictly strictly accurate as a broad statement, but it's probably true in this case anyway. Some barking is attention-seeking, but even there, some attention-seeking barking should probably be responded to. For example, it may still be driven by distress. The sound of the bark is usually a good way to tell. It's just behaviour, people. If you find the barking is increasing, you can just backtrack and stop reinforcing it. If you stop giving attention and the barking keeps going or even gets worse (after the first trial or two - extinction bursts), you have a good case for assuming the dog needs you. Understanding what the dog is trying to communicate helps a lot. There are certainly ways you can compromise so you are responding to your dog and your dog can 'ask' for your support in quieter ways.

I actually agree with most of what you wrote (and I appreciate your effort), however, I still believe that there are some merits in being clear in what we as a responsible carer want to respond to.

For example I don't want that my dog - when left alone for a few hours - starts barking to call me (or other family members) because this behaviour was reinforced in the past. Hence I would be very careful in which way I would response to the barking - which doesn't mean that I wouldn't take the potential reasons for her barking into account! And it also doesn't mean that I wouldn't try to address any underlying motivations if they are obvious (e.g. anxiety), but I would definitely try to avoid that the dog would recognise my response (to fix the issues) as a response to her barking. In case the barking is driven by anxiety: responding to the barking and giving instantly company doesn't fix the underlying issue, it just results in a less stressed dog that stops barking (for the moment she has company), but it doesn't fix the anxiety itself. That is were the training becomes challenging and where every case needs and individual assessment and consequent approach.

(@ OP: ...my apology for getting a little bit off-topic here, but I think it still can benefit our understanding of dogs.)

Eta: ..spelling...

Edited by Willem

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Mumsie   

[post-33550-0-30456100-1461211690_thumb.jpg this photo was taken of Boags on our son's wedding day, the photographer just loved him and the way he stood to be photographed

Edited by Mumsie

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[post-33550-0-30456100-1461211690_thumb.jpg this photo was taken of Boags on our son's wedding day, the photographer just loved him and the way he stood to be photographed

What a handsome old man he is :) and privileged to be at the Wedding !

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Mumsie   

We do recognise that our dogs - we have 2 JRT's because you just can't have one - have different barks for different reasons.

Woof - I want come inside

Woof - pause - woof - have you forgotten me downstairs

high pitch bark - there is someone in my street

excited barking - we found a blue tongue lizard

sharp bark - tea time and you are still at your computer

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[post-33550-0-30456100-1461211690_thumb.jpg this photo was taken of Boags on our son's wedding day, the photographer just loved him and the way he stood to be photographed

Very cute. I'm glad you figured out the photo posting thingamajig. :)

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corvus   

Thank you, Willem, for sharing your degree of agreement with me. I'm sure that is useful information to someone.

Nearly every dog owner has to answer these questions themselves at some stage. If they get the dog as a puppy, sooner rather than later. My puppy has times when her whinging means "Where are you?? I'm all alone!" and times when it means "I want to sit in your lap and eat off your plate" or "I want to play a mad game of tug with you and pounce on you repeatedly while you are working." I don't have to respond the same way to all her demands, and I should not. Consistency doesn't need to be applied so broadly. But, if I want her to develop independence and confidence, then I should be ready to dash in and hold her paw when she thinks she needs it, just like your parents were right there when you first learned to ride a bike and they would catch you if you started to lose your balance. But equally, if I want her to learn to control her impulses, think through her frustration, and accept that sometimes she doesn't get what she wants, then I pick my times when I think she can handle this without it compromising her developing confidence and independence. And she has just decided she is going to taunt my older dog, so it's time to go and rescue her from her own developing confidence.

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Thank you, Willem, for sharing your degree of agreement with me. I'm sure that is useful information to someone.

Nearly every dog owner has to answer these questions themselves at some stage. If they get the dog as a puppy, sooner rather than later. My puppy has times when her whinging means "Where are you?? I'm all alone!" and times when it means "I want to sit in your lap and eat off your plate" or "I want to play a mad game of tug with you and pounce on you repeatedly while you are working." I don't have to respond the same way to all her demands, and I should not. Consistency doesn't need to be applied so broadly. But, if I want her to develop independence and confidence, then I should be ready to dash in and hold her paw when she thinks she needs it, just like your parents were right there when you first learned to ride a bike and they would catch you if you started to lose your balance. But equally, if I want her to learn to control her impulses, think through her frustration, and accept that sometimes she doesn't get what she wants, then I pick my times when I think she can handle this without it compromising her developing confidence and independence. And she has just decided she is going to taunt my older dog, so it's time to go and rescue her from her own developing confidence.

yes . Well explained :)

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