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Old 08-27-2010, 10:23 PM
TAVS TAVS is offline
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Default When your back is turned

We adopted a dog last January who was less than a year old at the time. Marlin is pretty well trained, listens pretty well, is very smart, etc etc. I know a fair amount about basic training methods and also know that most feedback for dogs needs to occur within as little as a second and a half after behavior. Marlin is a great dog when we're looking. However, when we're not around, he has a habit of deciding that is a good time to break the rules. If there is any food item within paws reach, he'll get it. Even non-food items (for example a non descript engagement ring box or makeup pads) are at risk if we've slacked at all with exercise.

I am mostly concerned with the food-items. Since positive and/or negative feedback needs to occur at the time of the infraction, what techniques are available when the problems occur 100% of the time when you are not around.

Same problem with digging in the garden. He knows the rules, but turn your back for even a few hours and off he goes.
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Old 08-27-2010, 10:38 PM
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corgipower corgipower is offline
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Some dogs never get it 100%. They're opportunists and if they can get to something rewarding, they will.

When they're not reliable, the environment and the dog need to be managed ~ supervise the dog closely, keep him tethered to you if need be, confine him when he can't be watched and put anything enticing out of reach.

As for training, he needs to be solid on a leave it when you're there - the best training method is to use lots of high value reinforcement for him doing so and always make sure he has plenty of physical and mental stimulation. Also give him appropriate things to engage in ~ toys, chewies, etc. Then you can slowly start asking him to leave things alone while you step out of sight for a moment, then for a couple seconds, then a few more seconds. Slowly increase the amount of time he can leave things.

Same problem with digging in the garden. He knows the rules, but turn your back for even a few hours and off he goes.
Hours? That sounds like he gets bored and likely misses his people.
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Old 08-28-2010, 10:52 AM
TAVS TAVS is offline
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By hours, I would be referring to sleeping. Everybody sleeps yes? And yes, both our dogs sleep in the bedroom where we are.

As for the rest of the time, I actually work from home, so the dogs get people presence 95% of the time.
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Old 08-28-2010, 11:11 AM
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Maxy24 Maxy24 is offline
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I think corgi thought you were talking about digging in the garden when you aren't watching for "even a few hours". She thought you left the dog outside to themselves for hours.

I'd say prevent all of it that you can. Keep them in a dog proof room or a crate when you are gone or asleep. Keep counters clean. After the month of habbit breaking (preventing any chance of them rehearsing the behavior) you might start doing some direct training, teach a leave it command and then tempt them with food on the counter while you watch. If they eye the fod give the command and reward them for responding. Have a leash on so if he doesn't listen you can take him away before he gets the food. Then watch from the next room and do the same.

Maybe you can try some sort of deterrant on the counters. I know for the cats double sided tape (or a loop of duct tape so the sticky can be up) works wonders for keeping them off of things. They don't like the feeling but it doesn't hurt them (on long haired animals I might not do this). If you put it on the edge of the counters, where their paws would touch when they jump up, it might work. I don't know as I've never heard it done with dogs. Just make sure the tape doesn't come off on them.

But really prevention is the best bet

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Old 08-28-2010, 06:29 PM
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Doberluv Doberluv is offline
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The way dogs think in this kind of context is likely this: When you're present, getting into stuff is not safe. He might get in trouble. So, whether or not you think he "knows" is neither here nor there. "Getting it" is irrelevant.

When you're not around, it works to get into food and things because nothing bad happens. It's perfectly safe, there's a big pay-off and besides that, it works great! That's as far as it goes in his mind.

When ever there is an unworkable consequence to this behavior, you happen to be near by, watching. Cause and effect. You're present, the effect is that it doesn't work. You're not present, the behavior works. Dogs' whole world is cause and effect. You'd have to have the consequence for this behavior happen in both scenarios...when you're not in the room and when you are. You'd have to convince him that it is dangerous to engage in that behavior regardless of what else is going on, regardless if you're in the room. (motion detector things that poof out air or a siren) Of course, he may habituate to those things in time. Or you'd have to reward him for leaving things alone, first when you're present, then when you're absent, but just for a second, gradually increasing the duration. And you'd have to prevent him from getting reinforced by grabbing the thing you want him to leave. You'd have to reward him for leaving it with something much better than the thing he was wanting to get. And it would have to happen every time.

It can be done, but imo, it's not generally that hard to simply keep things put away and don't leave anything out ever...that he might like. Some dogs are easier to work this out with than others. My son's dog is quite good about leaving things alone on the coffee table when no one is in the room. Once your guy does it and succeeds, he finds out it works great...."woo hoo, I scored," the behavior will repeat. It's not that he's immoral or "knows but is just being naughty." It's the way dogs are. Period. They're hard wired to scavange and be opportunists and they don't have the same value system or morals that we have.

With the digging in the garden, you can't leave him unsupervised. But when you are around, you can give him a sand box with special toys and some biscuits buried in there. Let him be reinforced for digging there or in a designated area in your yard. PREVENT and/or distract him away from digging anywhere he pleases.

With anything.....prevention in the first place so he's not reinforced for that behavior is numero uno for importance. Short of that: interception if the behavior is already begun, distraction, giving an alternative, reinforcing (really good treat or toy, whatever he loves) for engaging in the behavior you want.
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Old 08-29-2010, 03:44 PM
Maura Maura is offline
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It would have been better if you'd stated your question when you first got the dog. But, you can still work with him.

I take it this is a rescued dog. If a dog has been starved (on the street, willful neglect) then food is a major issue. You can train him to leave food alone if you are in the room, but the minute your back is turned that bacon sandwich is history. You can manage this problem but don't expect to cure it. Food is basic to survival, and while some dogs have a hollow leg (beagles come to mind), most can be trained to respect sandwiches left on a table. If, however, your dog has been starved, he will probably never be trustworthy.

As for nonfood items, dogs that are mouthy (think retrievers) love to have something in their mouth. Make sure he has fun chew/carry toys that he can focus on. Also, consider what you are feeding. Dogs that are not getting all of their needed nutrition in their dog food often eat nonfood items, and they often get into the trash trying to fill out their needs.
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