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Nizinny Z Mazurow, France







Holiday Decorations and Your PON


Your PON loves your Christmas tree or other holiday decorations. However, there are risks of poisoning, choking,etc. if he gets hold of these decorations when you are out of the area. You can avoid tragedy by teaching your PON specific perimeters in this situation and other situations during the year.

 You need to make basic decisions as follows:

  • What is the exact location for your PON that is off-limits? You may decide to put a rope around the tree and teach him not to put any part of his body over this line.
  • Crates, baby gates or leaving your PON in another room when you are not home or watching him may help start the process of teaching your PON to avoid tragedy.
  • Decide on the timeout area that you will use during this training.
  • Now you are ready to begin. To teach consistency, your PON must never touch the tree when you are not watching him, or he will learn that it is safe to do so when you are not there. To train any behavior the most quickly, the closer you can come to a 100% success rate the better. If he is allowed to chew on the tree or lie under the tree, it will be more difficult to change the rules later. Start consistent, stay consistent!
To practice training sessions accomplish the following:
  • Put your PON on a leash
  • Walk him near the tree
  • Offer him a treat and everything appropriate, including walking by the tree, looking at the tree, sitting, lying down, etc.
  • If he takes ONE step over the defined line say, “fui! fui!” and gently guide him away from that location, and immediately praise him when his body is in a proper location away from the tree.
  • Continue practicing and make it more enticing for him to go near the tree, including throwing toys or treats in underneath it. Often when you want to work training, your PON behaves differently because you are watching him. Sometimes you have to entice him to make a decision while you are there and gently teach him it is not appropriate. 
  • The second time he puts a paw over the line, gently guide him away and then give him praise.
  • The third time he puts a paw over the line, say, “Timeout” and gently move him to the timeout location.
  • Wait 10-30 seconds and remove him, only if he is quiet, and repeat.
  • Once he is timed out one time, the next time he crosses the line it is an instant timeout. 
  • Continue until you can tell that he is thinking, “It sure doesn’t pay when I go near that tree!”

If you feel frustrated, focus on appropriate behavior. Start by giving feedback at least every 6 seconds including verbal feedback, petting, treats, and toys when he is behaving correctly. Keep him far away at the beginning and reward him for anything that is correct. Even if he is 15 feet away from the treat on leash, he should be rewarded, because that is one of the many possibilities that you want him to do in the future. If tomorrow he chooses to stay 15 feet away from the tree, that is great!

As you do more training, use more verbal feedback and less treats. Long-term, a big part of the reward is "staying with the party" and not getting timed out.

Timeouts can be very sensitive The concept behind timeouts involves teaching your PON that one behavior is correct and one behavior is inappropriate. You can use the crate as a timeout area. He will not start to hate the crate if he is normally comfortable in the crate. If your PON has Separation Anxiety, he probably can't be in the crate. That would not be fair to your PON. The recommendation for timeouts assumes that your PON is normally comfortable in the crate. So, for a dog that is ok with the crate, if he likes the crate at that moment as much as being where he just was, then it won't work as a punishment!

The interesting thing about timeouts is that they are technically a punishment. The definition of a punishment is to "add something aversive to stop a behavior". However, "punishments" do not have to mean being physical. That is never appropriate. 

To properly use timeouts, your PONmust understand what is appropriate. To accomplish this, make sure you reward a lot after each timeout for the correct responses, and manage him properly so he is not able to practice the inappropriate behavior when you are not watching him.