We have another rescue pit, (12 yo female, incredibly calm and gentle), and they now play together very well. Playing with her used to get him so wired that he would turn to us and try to play as physically (not good). We weren't sure whether to stop him from playing with her until he learned not to ramp up, or whether suppressing his play-behavior with her would only make him jumpier (option two seemed more likely--4 mile daily bike rides and long walks weren't tiring him out, but playing with her does). So we clicked/treated like mad for good play with her, and that seems to have worked--he doesn't get as over- excited either with her or with us. And now, if he gets into intense play behavior with me, I can ask him for a sit, and he throws his butt on the ground fast as can be, instead of zooming at me."
that's exactly what he needed. Teaching "default" behaviors was particularly useful, so whenever Vanya gets excited now, he knows to offer a sit for attention, instead of lunging and grabbing for attention. (This meant a zillion click/treats for the behavior we wanted--ie, sits, and then 'leave its', and 'watch me's'). Radically increasing the rate of reinforcement also helped a lot, so we were giving Vanya a lot more help in understanding what we consider desired behavior. Working on the "Off-switch" game also helps a lot, and so does the "premack principle".
Now, just a week after working on the "Control Unleashed" exercises, Vanya's lunging and grabbing (and rough play with his dog-housemates, also a self-control issue) have decreased about 95%..."
Soon we were inadvertently doing a routine of sit/click/treat/ grab the arm/sit/click/treat/grab the arm ....He had figured out the best way to get a click/treat was to grab my arm, then offer a sit. Ow! Once I got the timing better, and starting
rapidly reinforcing his calm moments, we made it back inside (before running out of treats...) Even though he's a very friendly pit bull, there's still nothing like a pit bull dangling from your arm to make you want to realize how important timing is. I was trying to click/treat his moment of calming, but I think I was capturing his moment of excitement, not calming.
Back to trying this inside a bunch more...
be on my other side--I must be turning because something cool is over there, right?). Long walks would increase the behavior, and so would excited play with our elderly pit bull. After huge amounts of helpful advice from folks on the list, here's what eventually worked for us.
First, of course, I tried hard to learn the look in his eye that meant he was about to jump, so I could cue sit and then toss treats in the other direction. But if I missed that moment, tossing all the treats in the world wouldn't distract him from the great joy of jumping on my back. So:
1. instead of turning my back or folding my arms, I played "be a tree". This is what kids in school are now supposedly being taught as a response to excited dogs. You stand, head down, arms down, fingers laced--boring as a tree. Supposedly, you become so very very dull that the dog sniffs your fingers and soon wanders off in boredom, no longer reinforced by your turning around or folding your arms. I was doubtful, but I found that it did work surprisingly well.
2. I also taught Vayna that the "be a tree" posture was another cue for sit. I did this a zillion times
3. then whenever he jumped, I acted like a tree, and if he sat, he got a treat. Repeat a million times. If he gnawed at me, I looped his leash over a handy fence-post (we walked along fence lines a lot that winter) and stood like a tree just out of his reach. Pretty quickly he would realize he couldn't contact me, so he would sit for his treat. Repeat a zillion more times.
(I couldn't expect my farmworkers to have this kind of patience, so I gave them all cans of spray shield (citronella) to carry. After a couple spritzs of citronella in his face, just the sight of the spray shield can made him sit for his treat. I am, of course, not recommending this aversive to anyone--just reporting honestly that I didn't rely on 'be a tree' alone.)"
- Karen Overall's Relaxation Protocol
- Zen games
- Off Switch games in CU
- Give me a Break in CU (but I was never sure I really understood those--still trying)
- Lots of default sit work
- Freeze tag: an off switch game
- Nose work: at first just scattering his kibble in the grass, then food puzzle games, eventually home-grown tracking work which we still try to do often
- wrapping him up tightly at night (not in an anxiety wrap, just in a blanket--what a difference that made with night startles
- melatonin when he was waking up a lot at night and scanning the ceiling
- L-theamine now
- lots of long, slow walks in the woods where he could be off leash and sniff around
- lots of wandering around in the our fields, orchard and prairie
- lots of hanging out under the trees reading (well, I read; he stuck to his bones--he's smart but not that smart)