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Flora & Molly

Overly friendly and getting obsessive

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So I took Molly with me to work today and it didn't go as smoothly as I thought it would go.
I work at a highschool and since classes are done now and I only had some students who wanted to look at the feedback on their test, I thought it would be perfect to bring Molly with me. The school is really close to a lovely lake, so I thought we could go there afterwards and swim (which we did and it was great).

This wasn't the first time I took her with me and the last few times went pretty well, she was really curious but heeled nicely through the hallway. (I always make sure to time the visit so she doesn't have to walk through huge crowds of students).
This time though, she was really distracted and wanted to be petted by everyone we walked past or I talked to. She gets into this flirtation-mode where she won't stay beside me in a sit when I ask her to, and keeps scooching forward, lovingly making eye-contact with the other person. When I try to put her back in a sit next to me she sort of flops down which makes it impossible to get her back in a sit. And then she starts scooching forward again or even pulling her leash trying to get to the other person (and she never pulls, only in this context). 
She tends to do the same thing whenever we are in the elevator in my flat, although that doesn't happen often because we usually have the elevator to ourselves. 
The thing that makes this difficult to deal with is that people tend to want to pet her because she looks so freakin cute. Of course I ask them not to and people are usually good about respecting that, but Molly makes them feel like they have this special connection and people tend to make loving eye-contact back and/or talk to her. Which is a very high reward. Sigh. 

If I have all the time in the world and people ignore her completely she will settle down eventually. But these encounters are short and people keep flirting back at her.

After today I decided I really want to work on this. I contacted a trainer and hopefully I can work on this in a group obedience class of some sort. But it might take a while before classes start again as the summer holiday is just around the corner. 

So does anyone have any tips to start working on this at home (especially ideas for the elevator...)? Or some words of encouragement? :P Should not let people pet her at all until we sort out this problem? I tend to feel a bit awkward when this happens and I start doubting myself, which of course makes me inconsistent. So sometimes when she calms down a bit I let people pet her, even though really I don't want anyone to pet her. Get your own dog :P I wouldn't mind so much if she wasn't so obsessed and knew when to quit. The obsessiveness just doesn't make it feel right to me. 
She is really good on walks and never approaches strangers when she is off leash. It is limited to encounters in close proximity when she is on leash and a stranger might greet me. 
I feel like she doesn't even really enjoy what she is doing, but that she is unsure and thinks this is what people want her to do. I could be wrong though and might be projecting my own feelings onto her about the situation ;) 

I won't take her to work again until we have worked through this issue, which only really happens once or twice a year anyway and is just for fun :) 

 

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So.  When I see this it is usually one of two things:

1-) Insufficient reward history for the behavior you are asking, when weighed against the reward of interacting with/being pet by strangers

 

2-) A kind of avoidance/displacement behavior, wherein the dog is actually stressed (by the environment + behavior being asked of it,  usually) and it's trying to escape that stress/pressure by seeking someone other than the handler.


So.  In either case the answer is basically 'work on reward history for focus/attention on YOU, and reduce reward available in the environment by not letting other people pet her so much. - not cut it out entirely but less).  And to be careful of the situations you put her in, in the meantime.

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I don't think that is it really. I don't let people pet her a lot. These interactions rarely happen, but if they do happen she is really obsessed to be petted. And by rarely I mean not even once a month where we would meet someone in the elevator. And then when we meet someone I usually don't allow them to pet her. So she might be petted by a stranger maybe once every three months, if I had to put a time stamp on it. Probably even less.
When we are alone in the elevator she is fine and sits next to me completely relaxed. Her focus in this situation is on me and in other more distracting situations she is equally focused, relaxed and confident. 

It really is the person that is triggering the reaction. And I am looking specifically for strategies to help her ignore/relax when someone enters the elevator/when I have to talk to someone when she is with me. The last one I could avoid mostly, but the first one I really can't. Or you know, I could get out of the elevator as soon as someone gets in, but that doesn't solve the problem. If I do that I have to do something else so I can eventually stay in the elevator. 

I could be working on sitting next to me in different situations until the cows come home, but that doesn't really help me because she can already do that everywhere else.  
 

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If she's not anxious, then it's highly likely insufficient reward history, or perhaps simply insufficient training.

Because you say you've been very inconsistent, I very much suspect the latter. You've essentially taught her that sometimes it is OK to behave like this. And if interacting with the other person and getting petted is rewarding to her, then the inconsistency results in elevating the reward's value . . . and probably contributes mightily to the obsessiveness.

Plus, I'm guessing that the times you give in and allow her to interact with other people you probably try to stop her and then give up? If so, you've taught her that when she behaves this way you may give in, and so she amps up the behavior to try to get it to work, again upping the obsessiveness. It's a Catch 22.

Inconsistency is one of the primary reasons for training failure. Really the only way to get a handle on this is to train and to do it consistently. She doesn't get to interact with other people at any time unless you give her permission to. You can use that permission as a reward for sitting quietly paying attention to you and controlling her impulses, though I wouldn't begin using that as a reward until she understands and is complying with the controlled behavior.

 

 

 

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40 minutes ago, GentleLake said:

If she's not anxious, then it's highly likey insufficient reward history, or perhaps simply insufficient training.

Because you say you've been very inconsistent, I very much suspect the latter. You've essentially taught her that sometimes it is OK to behave like this. And if interacting with the other person and getting petted is rewarding to her, then the inconsistency results in elevating the reward's value . . . and probably contributes mightily to the obsessiveness.

Plus, I'm guessing that the times you give in and allow her to interact with other people you probably try to stop her and then give up? If so, you've taught her that when she behaves this way you may give in, and so she amps up the behavior to try to get it to work, again upping the obsessiveness. It's a Catch 22.

Inconsistency is one of the primary reasons for trainingfailure. Really the only way to get a handle on this is to train and to do it consistently. She doesn't get to interact with other people at any time unless you give her permission to. You can use that permission as a reward for sitting quietly paying attention to you and controlling her impulses, though I wouldn't begin using that as a reward until she understands and is complying with the controlled behavior.

 

 

 

Yep.  This is exactly what 'insufficient reward history for the behavior you are asking'.    It's not so much that people are necessarily SO rewarding, it's that the reward history in not going to them isn't there, and the criteria for getting reward from you isn't clear. 

 

So, make it more clear and consistent, and make what you want -and attention on you- rewarding for her.  That will lower the relative reward of greeting new people and fix your problems. 

 

(I kn ow it's not as immediate and easy as that in putting that into practice and have sympathy)

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I understand exactly what is happening for you and Molly, because it's exactly what happened with Buzz. He was my 'I LOVE everybody!' dog. He approached everyone for affection, leaned against their legs, looked up adoringly. That dog knew how to work a crowd.

Finally I awoke to the fact that this was indeed not behavior I could allow. Some people don't like dogs, (who knew?) some people had dogs who didn't like other dogs, (I did know that) and sometimes I needed to go home right this instant and he wanted to stay and schmooze.

So I did what GL and Cpt Jack recommend. He got a special treat every time he came back to me. I worked on his recall in all different kinds of situations, not just when potential fans were available. I retrieved him, frequently would physically put myself between him and the Object of His Love, cue him to look at me and reinforce. And do the look at me for a couple minutes, reinforcing with food treats. I also would call him away from something he liked, such as playing tug or fetch, just for a few seconds, and then release him back to his fun.

Ask some friends to help you train Molly to ignore other people UNTIL and UNLESS you release her to say 'hi'. Tell other people that want to pet her that you're training Molly and to please not talk to her. If someone ignores your request, put yourself between Molly and that person and reinforce the heck out of Molly.

It is not easy and probably not quick. You might consider using a different word for 'come'. I used 'here' you could also use something like 'return'. Consistency is what works.

Good luck! Ruth & Gibbs

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Ah yes sorry I read the insufficient reward for "sitting next to me", but ofcourse it is the "stay with me when there are people". And yes, that is probably it. 
I've only had her for about a year now, before this she was my mother's dog. So I'm not sure where this started, doesn't really matter, the behaviour might have slipped in there somewhere.

My inconsistency mostly lies in the fact that I don't want people to pet my dog at all, but that goes out the window when other people are there, because I feel like people don't understand and think I am mean. I have never allowed her to go and greet someone when she is scooching and looking at the person, I would wait until there was a moment of calm and then let her. And then sometimes I wouldn't let people pet her. Plus I feel extra mean because the dog is SO into it. And then there is the nagging doubt that maybe I should let her because she enjoys it so much. 
I should stick to my guns though, I don't want strangers to pet my dog because it usually isn't the time or place. 

I'm glad to hear I'm not the only one @urge to herd. It is such a weird problem to me, because she does so well in other contexts. I can ask her to lie down and stay, walk quite far away while people are walking past her and she doesn't even look at them. It means she will be able to do it in the elevator as well.

And then I have this weird feeling that she doesn't enjoy doing this at all. I certainly am not :P 

I did some trick training in the empty elevator today which was a lot more fun than just standing there. I will incorporate looking at me eventually, I don't have that on cue yet, so I'll start on that at home. The freidns thing is a really good idea, plus I will have all the time in the world in the summer holiday (and my friends will too :) ).

Thanks for the advice, I really needed someone to point out the obvious. I was so frustrated when I wrote this, not so much with Molly, but with myself "why can't I train this?!" I have the answer now: because you haven't really been training, silly! ;) 
 

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9 hours ago, Flora & Molly said:

 

My inconsistency mostly lies in the fact that I don't want people to pet my dog at all, but that goes out the window when other people are there, because I feel like people don't understand and think I am mean. I have never allowed her to go and greet someone when she is scooching and looking at the person, I would wait until there was a moment of calm and then let her. And then sometimes I wouldn't let people pet her. Plus I feel extra mean because the dog is SO into it. And then there is the nagging doubt that maybe I should let her because she enjoys it so much. 
I should stick to my guns though, I don't want strangers to pet my dog because it usually isn't the time or place. 

I'm glad to hear I'm not the only one @urge to herd. It is such a weird problem to me, because she does so well in other contexts. I can ask her to lie down and stay, walk quite far away while people are walking past her and she doesn't even look at them. It means she will be able to do it in the elevator as well.

And then I have this weird feeling that she doesn't enjoy doing this at all. I certainly am not :P 

I did some trick training in the empty elevator today which was a lot more fun than just standing there. I will incorporate looking at me eventually, I don't have that on cue yet, so I'll start on that at home. The freidns thing is a really good idea, plus I will have all the time in the world in the summer holiday (and my friends will too :) ).

Thanks for the advice, I really needed someone to point out the obvious. I was so frustrated when I wrote this, not so much with Molly, but with myself "why can't I train this?!" I have the answer now: because you haven't really been training, silly! ;) 
 

#1 Bold Molly is your dog. She is not a toy, nor should she be available to any rude human who thinks they should be able to do whatever they want to with your property. Legally speaking, dogs are property.  If you don't want strangers touching your dog, it's your absolute right to say, 'No, thank you.' You can fluff it up with 'I'm training her right now' or something similar. As far as what other people think, it's none of my concern. Most of us who've had any kind of dog have had clueless & rude people be offended when they were told 'no, you can't touch my dog' for whatever reason.

#2 Bold Molly's life is probably not heavily impacted by not being allowed contact with EVERYONE! While Buzz would have loved to be the center of everyone's attention all the time, he didn't pine over refusals to let him meet and greet a stranger. He had a pretty darn good life and quite the circle of regular friends, whom he greeted with joyous abandon Every Single Time. If Molly has people that you know and that she likes particularly, no harm at all in her having a circle of special friends. Doggy friends are fine, as long as the human attached to the dog has basically the same concepts and expectations of their dog that you do of Molly.

#3 Bold I wouldn't like it either. And if you're uneasy and anxious, she's probably picking it up. It can create, IMO, a sort of feedback loop.

#4 Bold I can't see what I'm doing wrong or leaving out, because I'm 'inside' the process. It almost always help to have input from others when I'm stuck. 

So trick training in an empty elevator is a great idea. And with willing friends who will help, you'll have this down pretty quickly. There's sometimes a little back-sliding here and there, you just polish up that behavior again. Anything at all that you can do with Molly that engages her brain, teaches her to focus on you when cued, and allows her some time to just be a dog is awesome. It builds the bond between you.

Please let us know how you get on!

Ruth and Gibbs

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another thing that might help out, in addition to what others have said, is to install a very specific ritual for meeting people.

Such as, sit in front of them and they give her a kibble (that you've given them first)... or perhaps, a nose touch on their knees... or whatever seems suitable to you. 

Train this with a friend first so you can work out teaching her what the ritual is and what the cue for it is, without the potential overstimulation of strangers... then you can start practicing it with "prepared strangers" and move on from there. 

Dogs in general really seem to like knowing exactly what is expected of them rather than 'I know I can/should do *something* now, and I want to, but what?"
Good luck,

Pat P

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@urge to herd  Thank you, your kind words have really boosted my confidence. You are absolutely right, Molly doesn't pine over not being able to interact with people. Plus most of my friends absolutely adore her, so she receives enough love from them. 

We haven't met anyone in the elevator yet, but she caught on pretty quickly that we were doing "fun stuff" in the elvator, so she is very focused on me now. The classic "what do you want me to do next?" look. We met a girl while we were entering the building and it went really well. The girl looked at Molly smiling, so Molly wanted to greet her, I told her (in a friendly tone) "no, heel" and treated her when she walked away nicely with me. I was very pleased. Although this isn't the big problem area, because we are able to walk away in these kinds of situations. So Molly usually isn't in full flirt mode. Still, definitely a step in the right direction. 

My mother agreed to help me tackle the elevator problem. She'll enter the elevator on another floor to simulate a stranger getting on the elevator. Hopefully she can find the time to help me somewhere this week.

@Pat P I really like the idea of rituals. I have noticed that it really helps Molly to know exactly what I expect her to do. For instance, she has to wait on the doormat while I put on my shoes and coat to go out. 
At the moment, I don't want her to greet strangers at all. I just want her to heel or sit next to me depending on what we are doing. Which, I guess, is the ritual I want her to stick to. 
When friends come over I send her to her place and she has to stay there until she relaxes, she usually calms down when everyone sits and the greeting part is over. Then if my friends want to greet her I ask her to join us. This is still a work in progress, sometimes she calms down immediately, for instance when my mum visits. Sometimes friends stare at her and it takes a while. She does this sneaky thing where she goes up and demands to be petted everytime I leave the room. This is after she has had her share of petting :)  I keep forgetting she does this, because before she does this she is relaxing somewhere else, happy to be ignored, being the perfect dog. 
Again, she doesn't do this when my mum is here, but I guess that is because she used to be my mum's dog. So she knows the drill. Plus when my mum's here, her dogs are here and that creates a very different dynamic. 

 

 

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On 7/2/2019 at 5:33 AM, Flora & Molly said:

>>>>>I have noticed that it really helps Molly to know exactly what I expect her to do. For instance, she has to wait on the doormat while I put on my shoes and coat to go out.  At the moment, I don't want her to greet strangers at all. I just want her to heel or sit next to me depending on what we are doing. Which, I guess, is the ritual I want her to stick to. <<<
 

I wonder if it might be easier for her if you created a more specific action for her to do with you when there is a stranger nearby... perhaps a hand-target (single or repeated, depending on situation)? That way it gives her something to actively DO with herself (as opposed to sort of 'keep doing what she was already doing and just ignore them', which is harder for most dogs) and it lets her do it in the direction of YOU as opposed to them.  Then when you're someday ready to have her greet people, you can transition it to a hand- (or foot or knee or etc) target on them.  Just a thought, anyway.

-Pat

 

On 7/2/2019 at 5:33 AM, Flora & Molly said:

 

 

 

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My words of encouragement are that we are our own worst enemy and for me it’s been having the courage to insist that people don’t pet him until I say he is ready. Most people ignore me and so I have to get inbetween them and Merlin to make my point  

My good friend has followed my instructions consistently since he was a pup. She stands with her arms folded and we tell Merlin to go to his bed. He doesn’t at first but instead of repeating ourselves we all stand calmly until he does. Then he gets petted and then he gets excited and jumps up so we rinse and repeat. This week when my friend went to pet him in his bed (after all the waiting patiently for him to go there) he stayed and calmly let her stroke him without behaving like a goof ball. 

Well it’s taken nearly 14 months but we all agree it’s progress haha! 

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@Pat P  I have thought about asking something else of her, but I feel it will add some stress for her. Most of the issues I have worked through with her have been about getting over stimulated/stressed/not knowing what is expected. She might be able to do a hand touch, but I expect she'll be over the top doing it, making a lot of whiny noises (of the wooh wooh roo roo kind- hilarious but sometimes embarrassing) and I feel like that might be counter productive.

I have had some success when she sits next to me. No scooching incidents, although she does "smile" at them winningly. She looks back and forth between the strangers and me, which is huge progress to me.  We have been lucky though to only meet people that ignore her completely without me having to ask them to. Although this was we can slowly work up to people who are interested in her.

On 7/7/2019 at 9:49 PM, ShellyF said:

My words of encouragement are that we are our own worst enemy and for me it’s been having the courage to insist that people don’t pet him until I say he is ready. Most people ignore me and so I have to get inbetween them and Merlin to make my point  

@ShellyF This is exactly what I struggle with, I'm glad to know I am not the only one. Really the big difference in training Molly now is that I am more confident that it is okay if I don't want people to pet her. Now every time we meet someone I can see it as a training opportunity, which makes it fun instead of frustrating. 
Merlin sounds like Molly at that age :)  it took a while for her to calm down even when we wanted to pet her. 

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When she looks to you, reward and give attention to her EVERY TIME.

 

It really helps to think of dog training not so much as... stopping behaviors but of building them.  What do you WANT?  When you know that, reinforce the ever loving heck out of it.  Dogs are, like all biological creatures, animals that seek out what gains them reinforcement and avoid what causes them discomfort.   No, you don't need to reward everything forever, but when you're trying to develop a habit, the history of reinforcement is your friend.   And even thereafter the occasional bit of rewarding will keep the behavior strong.


It's very easy to anthropomorphize the heck out of dogs and think that they should do what you tell them because you told them. Because they know.  Because loyalty.  Because you're the boss.  Because they love you.


But reality is, even in people, all living things 'do what works to get them what they find rewarding'  - and avoid doing things that lead to negative/unpleasant consequences.  I don't like using the negative stuff much - I find it less powerful, but I will use it some - but really boil it down that far.  "What is the dog getting out of this, and how do I make what I want more rewarding/likely lfor the dog"   and stuff gets a LOT less confusing.

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2 hours ago, CptJack said:

When she looks to you, reward and give attention to her EVERY TIME.

It really helps to think of dog training not so much as... stopping behaviors but of building them.  What do you WANT?  When you know that, reinforce the ever loving heck out of it.  Dogs are, like all biological creatures, animals that seek out what gains them reinforcement and avoid what causes them discomfort.

  "What is the dog getting out of this, and how do I make what I want more rewarding/likely lfor the dog"   and stuff gets a LOT less confusing.

Bold is my addition. I'm fascinated by the various ways all animals, (I include homo sapiens here) change behavior. Cpt. Jack's statement above is the distillation of all behavior change.  With dogs it's fairly straightforward ~ what does the dog want that the human, and only that human in that moment, can realistically and consistently supply? Dogs like food, or a toy, or a good head scratch. Rewards for humans are much more varied.

Stay as consistent as you can, get her expecting something good every time she responds correctly to your cue. You can fade a food reward after a while and replace with a simple, "Good girl."

Ruth & Gibbs

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Definitely! Praise all around for her :)  she is really trying it out, looking back and forth, so I reward her everytime she looks at me. Either with loving eye contact and a pet or a treat. She seems to enjoy these equally (I am glad because I sometimes run out of treats).

I'm a teacher and it really works the same with my students. I can make my job a lot easier (and more fun) by creating a positive relationship and making my lessons enjoyable. Although sometimes you do have to send someone out, but before that happens the student always gets a chance to set things right (well usually, unless they do something utterly horrible).

 

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Flora, you're on the right path with your girl. I saw a video long ago featuring a dog whose favorite toy was an old baking pan. And if you do a search on Capt. Jack's posts, you'll come across one where she shows her boy going nuts for a can opener! Being open to whatever works for the dog is a Very Good Thing.

Ruth & Gibbs

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I'M BEING HELPFUL.

But yeah, seriously do what works.  Dog decides what's reinforcing just go with it.

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Thanks, guys.  He is nowhere near as smart as (my) Molly, but  he's a Very Good Boy (tm).

 

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Love that video. Reminds me of my Jester, who would exuberantly retrieve anything (literally anything) that anyone would throw for him. He would have been happy to retrieve a can opener. One time there was nothing for him to find for throwing in a yard when we were visiting a friend, so he brought me a leaf, spit it out at my feet, and backed up with his "you gonna throw that?" look. It was hilarious. Especially as he would have been perfectly happy to retrieve the leaf, even if it had only gone a few inches away.

(Disclaimer:  Jester was also trained to settle down and not ask for something to be thrown and was very obedient to that once told.)

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