Dog training question re: TV

We have a relatively well-behaved pug named Spoon (requisite pic). He comes when called, he sits when told, he heels when needed, he is friendly with strangers and their dogs.

That said, he’s horrible when it comes to certain things on tv. Mostly it’s other dogs and horses. Ohhhh, not horses. The ridge of fur down his neck and spine sticks up, the grumbling and growling and barking start, then he tries to jump into the TV if we don’t stop him. I didn’t realize how often horses and dogs are on TV. We’ve tried correcting him immediately, tell him no, did the “scruff thing”, but he just goes nuts. I’ve tried to watch the Dog Whisperer to see if he’s done this before, but the pug won’t have that either.

So any advice on how to sooth the savage beast?

Poor pug, he’s a bit confused.

You’ve possibly (unknowingly) been reinforcing this behaviour, by laughing, trying to calm him down, or otherwise rewarding him with your attention when he engages in these actions. Instead of reacting to his bad behaviour, you should try and reinforce the good behaviour, which, in this case, is sitting or lying down calmly, despite what he sees or hears on TV.

Have you done any clicker training with your dog? I’d recommend getting him used to a marker (like the clicker, or a code word) meaning “this is good, and a reward is coming.” Then, start really slow.

Give him his usual cue for sit, then a new one, like “calm,” “look at me,” “easy,” - whatever you want to call it. Click and treat if he doesn’t move, and stays in his calm manner. Then, start increasing the distractions. Have the TV ready with a paused screen of a dog/horse; click and treat for his calm manner. Do this a lot - ten repetitions, ten clicks, ten delicious morsels - use a high value treat, whatever is his favourite. Mute the TV, and show him a few seconds of moving, but silent animals. Click and treat for calm. If he gets riled up, ignore his behaviour, and take him back to kindergarten - go back to the still screen, and let him “win.”

Gradually, you can work up to having him sit in his calm, neutral position while horses and dogs do their thing at full volume. You can also generalize the behaviour, so he’s not always sitting, he might be on your lap or on his mat, or wherever he usually is while you’re watching TV - when he knows the same rules apply, and he can earn the occasional treat for NOT reacting to the TV, the stimulus gets less and less important to him.

If you haven’t read it, Karen Pryor’s Don’t Shoot The Dog is a great intro into the craft of clicker training. Cesar Millan’s dominance theories (I think that’s the “scruff thing” you referred to) have been discredited.

I mostly agree with aramninty’s advice, although I like Cesar Millan and think that for some dogs in some situations, his methods are fantastic.
Of course, no such thinfg as one single method for every situation.

Your Pug doesn’t sound like Cesar Millan territory. :slight_smile: Just a dog who gets excited (look up prey drive) by stimulating visuals. You owners: stay calm. Do not reinforce this behaviour in any way. I do agree that by simply acknowledging it, you are reinforcing it.

Give Spoon an alternate behaviour. When X happens, now we do Y! Calmly! Always calmly. Perhaps with click:treat.

Also, in the spectrum of naughty dog behaviour this isn’t really a big deal. Anything you can do to reinforce calm/compliant = good /reward is useful. He eats once or twice per day: USE that. Sit/down/calm/wait before eating is a real no-brainer way to instill self-control. This doesn’t come naturally to most dogs but it’s a really, really handy starting skill.

Sounds good and thanks. I know it won’t get resolved overnight, but gotta start somewhere. I’m holding the treat of damacles over his head while we’re watching tv tonight :slight_smile: