Tales of Teddy

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Training Teddy: Halt the Howling

As I reported earlier this week, Teddy has started howling when tied-up at the school gates. This is a new problem, up until now he has waited patiently, silently. What’s changed? “Like most dogs Teddy does not like being left,” says Kevin-the-Trainer. “Teddy has invented a way to get you to come back. He doesn’t know that when you leave him you will be returning soon, so he howls (which is the normal way for a dog to attract the attention of the pack) and then you appear. The howling works! To solve the problem you need to take the training away from the reality of the situation, into a more controlled environment. For example, attach him to a park bench and walk away a few metres. Stay in his sight. When you are away from him do not look or talk to him, instead read something, look at your ‘phone or chat to someone. How does Teddy behave? If he’s content that’s good. Keep doing this in different places (generalisation). If he howls, then you have a similar behaviour to what is happening at school and this is the place to start training him. Walk away a few metres and wait. If he doesn’t howl or bark try to get back within thirty seconds. Remember not to look or talk to him when you are away. Do not over praise him when you return, just stand quietly beside him. His reward is the fact that you returned. If he howls during the thirty seconds, immediately walk one more step away. If he is quiet walk one step closer so that he learns that being quiet makes you come back (operant conditioning).
At weekends and school holidays practice this at the school railings where he is usually tied-up. Try this method with many repetitions in different environments. Remember to stay within his sight and only aim for 30 seconds of success to start with.”
I do like a thorough plan and I intend to follow it over the next couple of weeks. Once Teddy has managed this, Kevin-the-Trainer is going to move us forward. Next step: me going out of sight.

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