Doggie Daycare Series – Part 2: I’ve Been Mugged!

Train My Dogs Austin

By far, the biggest adjustment for me has been getting used to dogs jumping on me to get treats, toys, or simply out of excitement. As I mentioned in Part I, the dogs that come to the day school center have very little training under their belt. It took me a while to adjust to having dogs that don’t hesitate to jump at and dive into my treat pouch. My dogs have never attempted this so it took me completely by surprise. Having other dogs around creates competition and excitement amongst the group which leads to very little impulse control even though we work on it everyday.

Sturdy Treat Pouch

Finding the right pouch that can withstand pushy dogs has been a lifesaver for me. This treat pouch shuts tightly and opens quickly which is a necessary function while working with a group of dogs. I highly recommend it if you’re looking for something a little more sturdy yet still functional.

treat pouch Other than being mugged regularly, keeping my fingers has also been a challenge.

Delivering Treats Safely

The first few weeks I played around with how I could best physically deliver treats to the dogs mouths. I tried tossing them to avoid slobber and teeth, but risked giving the treat to the wrong dog. I tried holding the treats at the tips of my fingers to avoid the slobber, but found myself regretting that method very quickly when their teeth hit my nails. It was down to teeth versus slobber and I’ve concluded that I’d rather take the slobber than lose a finger! My new favorite way of delivering treats is by holding the treat to my palm with my thumb so the dog has to lick to get it. This picture demonstrates what it looks like:

treat delivery

While my hand gets completely slimmed when I deliver treats like this, I get to keep my fingers attached to my hand! I just carry a slime rag with me now to wipe my hands off regularly. Here are some great ways to deliver treats calmly:

Train My Dogs Austin

Train My Dogs Austin

Why Mugging and Hard Mouths Happen in Group Training

I want to go back and analyze why dogs become increasingly challenging when they are trained in groups. Individually, most of these dogs are well-behaved so how come they change when placed in a group situation?

When I give a treat to one dog and not the other because 1) I can’t physically reach all the dogs at once, 2) I want to reward one particular dog’s behavior, it creates frustration in the other dogs. This happens because when a dog doesn’t receive a treat and watches another dog eat, they may assume that their behavior was incorrect. If you have multiple dogs, I highly recommend this video by Emily Larlham on how to teach the other dogs to wait patiently while working with just one dog.

Frustration is something I learned about in detail during a seminar for horse clicker training. Learning is inherently frustrating – let alone when you’re competing for the teacher’s attention. With horses, it can lead to some very dangerous behaviors due to their size. With dogs in group situations, it can also be dangerous if your timing and reinforcement speed aren’t quite there yet, because dogs can take out frustration on each other or you! Even with great timing, the competition for my attention and rewards is frustrating for the dogs which leads to taking treats harshly and quickly. I usually counter act this by delivering treats with a closed fist then opening my hand up in the above position when they back off my hand.

Stay tuned for Part III!