Sunday, January 23, 2011

Training Shelter Dogs: Creating Cuddly Dogs

Many people are more likely to be drawn to the dogs that are insisting on social contact rather than the dogs doing their own thing or actively avoiding contact. We like to interact with dogs by petting them and having the dogs be near us.

Unfortunately, a lot of the dogs at our shelter were under-socialized as puppies. And so while most are comfortable with all the regular volunteers, the dogs don't actively seek out social contact even if they do recognize people as having great things. We need to get the shy dogs to enjoy being touched by the people they know well and then start to introduce new people as well.

If we had more volunteers or a stream of people coming to visit the dogs, I would start introducing other people being present or tossing treats now. But... winter. And no real indoor training space. We are working the dogs in their kennels, in outdoor play yards (brrr) or in the 3x5ish entry area.

I know I've seen several videos of this sort of thing... this is the only one I could find this morning.

To go to a very short summary: Small pet. Mark for still dog or dog moving into the hand. Feed. Repeat. Extending the duration or amount of petting when we need to increase criteria. If we are getting moving away, we go to a smaller amount of touching.

For about six months I've been working on this regularly with Griffin and he's now seeking out petting in various circumstances. Often when he's bored or really wanting to do something ( class!). He will come over and press himself against me and I do reinforce it with petting... it was a trained behavior and didn't start being offered until it had been trained.

1 comment:

Kristine said...

It's so great Griffin is now seeking out affection. Sadly, it is obviously not a thing that comes naturally to all dogs. Which probably prevents many from being adopted. Thanks for taking the time to work with these dogs as best you can.